Jerry Rice (10/13/62) is probably the greatest wide receiver in NFL history and a living legend in the sport. Rice spent the majority of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, winning a trio of Super Bowl rings and numerous additional accolades along the way.
He still holds a number of records, from most receiving yards to most receiving touchdowns, and he entered the Hall Of Fame in 2010. Known for his work ethic and his explosiveness, Rice is arguably the NFL GOAT. But is that reflected in the average price of his rookie cards?
Jerry Rice Rookie Season Stats: 16 games | 49 receptions | 927 yards receiving | 3 TDs
We’ve prepared the ultimate investment guide for Rice’s rookie cards, including a checklist, values, and three great options to look out for.
Along with his signature rookie card and the McDonald’s version, we’ve also listed a popular Rice card from his later years.
1986 Jerry Rice Topps Rookie Card #161
Featuring Rice decked out in a full 49ers uniform, the 1986 Topps is extremely valuable for a couple of reasons. It’s a key to the 1986 Topps set, and it’s the only real rookie card Rice has. There’s a green and white background motif, set to look like a football field. It’s a strange design, and the green does highlight any flaws or chipping. Centering can also be an issue, relating to problems when the cards were originally cut in the factory.
It might not have been the rarest option when it first released, but the card has picked up steam in the 34 years since. A PSA 9 grade sold for $586.00 in March 2020, while a gem mint version will go for over four figures. The quote on the back reads;
“Jerry’s 927 Receiving Yards last season set 49er rookie record. He was named to Pro Football Writers’ and UPI’s All-Rookie Teams for 1985. Jerry totalled 310 Catches for 4856 Yards at Mississippi Valley State”.
1986 Jerry Rice McDonald’s Rookie Card #80
McDonald’s released a massive 2,813 card set in the mid-1980s, with scratch-off coupons at the bottom of the cards that were issued in four different colors. This means that multiple versions of Rice are included, although they tend to be ignored by the vast majority of collectors. The reverse has heaps of information in a large quote;
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“Career: The 49ers thought so much of this gifted receiver, they engineered a trade prior to the ‘85 draft, moving into a position where they’d have a shot at him… Set 18 NCAA Division 1-AA records while compiling 4,693 receiving yards in his four-year college career… Was over 1,000 yards for three successful years… Scored 51 TDs while making 310 receptions.
‘85 Highlights: Started slow, finished strong… Established a 49ers rookie record with 927 yards in receptions… Caught 49 passes for 3 TDs and a club-leading 18.9 average… Also ran the ball 6 times for 26 yards and had a 15-yard TD run”.
1997 Jerry Rice Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems PMG #84 (buy on eBay)
The most recent option on our list, Rice’s 1997 Red PMG is limited to 150. It’s obviously not a rookie card, and there’s no quote on the back. Instead, there’s a different close-up image of the player, with stats along the side and the bottom.
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Both a blessing and a curse, the shiny background makes it more alluring, but it also ruins easily. The wax that holds the cards together isn’t ideal, while it’s another card that chips frequently.
An ungraded version recently sold for $1,742.00 after attracting 44 bids at the auction, while a BGS 9 grade went for $3,838.00. With no recent sales, a gem mint version of the PMG card has a current market value of $13,500.
Jerry Rice Rookie Card Value
Rice is by far the best wide receiver of all-time in the NFL and as such his rookie card prices should steadily rise.
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Jerry Rice Rookie Card Checklist
Jerry Rice has a single rookie card, hailing from 1986;
- 1986 Topps Jerry Rice RC #161
There’s also a card from the same year issued by McDonald’s, which isn’t seen as a true RC;
- 1986 McDonald’s Jerry Rice #80
Jerry Rice Rookie Card: Buyers Guide & Investment Advice
Investment Rating: Buy (4.6 out of 5)
Ownership Disclosure: None
Best Jerry Rice Rookie Card: 1986 Topps Rookie Card #161
It’s true that the majority of 80’s cards are hardly worth the price of the glue they were stuck together with, but Rice’s 1986 Topps is one of the exceptions to the rule. He holds too many records, he was so successful on the field, and he’s still popular, even now.
With a single rookie card, it’s not like you’re spoiled for choice. However, that does make it easier for collectors, and its age means that there is some scarcity. (The McDonald’s option is a fun piece of memorabilia, but it’s unlikely to shoot up in price significantly enough to make it anything more than a footnote.)
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On the field, there’s been nobody more adept at breaking records, and there’s a reason why Rice is seen as one of the very best ever. It’s clear that his cards are still undervalued when you consider his longevity and his legacy in the sport, and the fact that the majority of his records are likely to take at least a few decades to be broken.
Given the above, we think that his rookie card is a strong investment, especially if you’re looking at 8+ grades and over.