The 1990 Pro Set contains a number of hidden gems and a great RC, but is it worth anything from an investment perspective?
Known for a variety of error cards, expect to find misspellings, backward letterings, printing issues, mistakes with stat lines, design-element flaws, and image variations for many players.
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It’s a headache if you’re aiming to collect every card from the set. We’ve taken the time to identify five of the best options from the collection, as well as judging the release in terms of investment potential.
Best 1990 Pro Set Football Cards
At first glance, the 1990 Pro Set looks like a great collection. There are lots of memorable players, and the cards have a great design.
However, from 1987-1994, cards were massively overproduced, to the extent that the majority are worth little in the present day. Known as the ‘junk wax era’, it’s had a knock-on effect when factoring in for values.
That’s not to say that some cards aren’t worth a decent sum, just nothing like collectors would have guessed when it originally released back in 1990. We’d advise looking at graded copies, especially as the majority of cards from the set have a colored border.
1990 Barry Sanders Pro Set Rookie of the Year #1
Barry Sanders is a former Detroit Lions running back who played in the Pro Bowl for each of his ten NFL seasons. Named as the Rookie of the Year in 1989, he dominated over the next decade and ended as the MVP in 1997.
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The year after his exceptional rookie season, Sanders’ card from the 1990 Pro Set is the first we’ll look at. With gold borders on the top and the bottom, this special card was given to dealers and industry insiders at a trade show in Hawaii. It features a simple action shot of Sanders covering the ground with a football under one arm.
There’s also an error version (1a) which has no RoY trophy on the reverse.
1990 Al Davis Pro Set #786
Al Davis was the owner and GM of the Oakland Raiders for 39 years, from 1972 until his death in 2011. He oversaw three Super Bowl wins, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. Despite the franchise struggling towards the end of his run, his card from the 1990 set is exceptionally popular.
In a style you probably wouldn’t see today, this NFL Newsreel card focuses on the decision to keep the Raiders in LA. Davis is pictured during a press conference, and the card has four black corners that will show any and every flaw instantly. Highly rated PSA copies will sell for a significant amount.
1990 Emmitt Smith Pro Set RC #685
Emmitt Smith is the current NFL all-time rushing yards leader as he rushed for an amazing 18,355 yards during a long accolade-filled NFL career. The 1990 Pro Set contains a Smith RC that is next in focus.
As you may have guessed, you’ll find Smith rushing in the action shot, although the player is slightly obscured in the image due to his helmet. Once again, four colored corners make it difficult to find this card when looking at higher grades.
Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, making his card another viable option if you’re looking for long-term football investments.
1990 Santa Claus Pro Set #1990
Santa Claus is found in one of a number of niche cards that were released in the 1990 set. Listed as a Head Coach, he was included as a short print in 1990 Pro Set Series 2 packs. (Pro Set included Santa from 1989 to 1993, and there are some collectors who value the quartet.)
You’ll be able to spot MC Hammer if you look closely at the tree, and the card mimics Twas’ the Night Before Christmas on the back. Gem mint copies are expensive, and they’re some of the more popular graded cards from the set. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying its value.
1990 Vince Lombardi Trophy Pro Set
The final option is actually an early insert and will sell for decent money in the present day. With no card number, the 1990 Pro Set Vince Lombardi Trophy Hologram only had a run of 10,000 copies, while it shines in the light depending on the angle.
It features a holographic image of the sport’s biggest trophy, and it’s exceptionally difficult to find copies that have achieved a high grade. The smaller print run has translated to higher prices, and it’s coveted by collectors who still remember how rare it seemed back in the day.
Notable 1990 Pro Set Football Error Cards
Here are some of the more popular/expensive 1990 Pro Set Football error cards:
1990 Joe Montana Pro Set Error Card #2 (Jim Kelly 3,521 Error Yards)
1990 Pro Set Fred Marion Belt Error Card
There are a ton of errors associated with this card. So many that Sports Illustrated called it “The Greatest Football Card Nobody Talks About“.
1990 Pro Set Football Cards: Investment Advice
As with the majority of seats, only a tiny fraction of the cards are worth anything significant in the present day. The Vince Lombardi Trophy is one thing, as it was actually rare when it first released. The same can’t be said for Santa, but that’s the way it goes when looking at sets from the junk wax era.
The 1990 Pro Set has a lot going for it; there are fun cards, interesting inserts, and a number of memorable Hall of Famers included. However, that’s tempered by the massive print runs and the lack of parallels or variations. (Errors don’t really count, and they hold the setback in some respects.)
There is definitely some investment potential if you’re looking at specific cards from the 1990 Pro Set. The Smith RC should be on your radar, although you should probably look elsewhere if you’re hoping to maximize the ROI seen from your HoF rookie.
Instead, take a look at our list containing five of the most valuable football cards from the 1990s, or check out the Smith Score Supplemental Rookie Card (#101T) for a more valuable option.