The Jerry Rice Rookie and Other Vintage Cards

There is more than one Jerry Rice rookie card, but I consider the 1986 Topps card to be the primary card to own. In this post we’ll take a look at that card — and we’ll discuss other Jerry Rice rookies and early key cards.

1986 Topps Jerry Rice card #161

1986 Topps - The Best Jerry Rice Rookie
1986 Topps – The Best Jerry Rice Rookie

The 1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card, #161, is one of the most sought-after football cards of the 1980s. Jerry Rice caught for more than 900 yards in his rookie year and went on to smash every lifetime receiving record. Even compared to today’s more pass-heavy offenses, his statistics are still monstrous. Rice played in the NFL for 20 seasons and had more than 1,000 receiving yards in 14 of them. He’s not just considered the best receiver ever, some have gone so far as to consider him the best football player ever. The rookie card of any Hall of Fame player has value, but there are some factors in play that make the Jerry Rice rookie exceptionally collectible:

Other Factors:

  • Insane Statistics: Jerry Rice rewrote the receiving record book as a player by putting up statistics that will always stand out. It’s almost certain that any discussion about great receivers will include Jerry Rice. This ensures he will remain relevant, and thus valuable, to collectors.

  • Colored Border: The 1986 Topps set featured a color border instead of the white border that many sets from this era had. Colored borders make any blemish on the edge of the card noticeable. This makes it very difficult to find gem mint cards from this set.

  • Centering Issues: The 1986 Topps set had centering issues. It’s very common to find cards from this set that are off-centered. Because of the green border and the centering problems, perfect Jerry Rice rookies are extremely valuable even though Topps made a lot of these cards.

1986 Topps Football Set Details

The 1986 Topps football card set featured 396 cards. The front design has a green background with white stripes. This was intended to be a play on the green grass of a football field with white lines. The Jerry Rice rookie is the key card in the set, but it also features the rookie cards of several other Hall of Famers including Reggie White, Steve Young, Bruce Smith, and Andre Reed. Reggie White and Steve Young both had 1984 USFL cards before this set. The set also had rookie cards of Boomer Esiason and William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

Each pack came with one card from a 26-card insert set, “1,000 Yard Club,” that featured players who rushed or received for 1,000 yards. Jerry Rice was not included in the set because he only had 927 receiving yards in his rookie season.

!986 Topps football cards are not rare, but they were printed on thin cardstock and the green border makes any damage visible. This set also suffers from centering issues, which drive up the value of well-centered mint cards.

1986 Topps Jerry Rice (#161) Card Details

  • Year: 1986
  • Manufacturer: Topps
  • Card no: #161 of 396
  • Name on Card: Jerry Rice
  • Position: WR
  • Team: 49ers
  • Height: 6′ 2″
  • Weight: 200
  • College: Mississippi Valley State
  • Drafted: 49ers #1-1985
  • Acquired: Via Draft
  • Born: 10-13-62. Starkville, Mississippi
  • Home: Crawford, Mississippi

Front of the card

Design: The front of the 1986 Topps Jerry Rice card #161 has a vertical layout with a predominantly green border. The border has white stripes going through it resembling the white stripes of a football field. A photo of Jerry Rice bordered by a thin yellow line takes up most of the card. In the photo Rice is looking to his right and appears to be waiting for the ball to be snapped. Below the photo is his name in yellow letters on a red background. In the lower-right corner his team name, “49ers” appears diagonally on a blue background.

1986 Jerry Rice Topps Rookie Front
1986 Jerry Rice Topps rookie card #161 – Front

Shop for a 1986 Jerry Rice Topps rookie card #161 on eBay (affiliate link)

Back of the card

Design: The back of the 1986 Topps Jerry Rice #161 is a horizontal layout and has a yellow border. The card number is in the upper left corner in a football and Rice’s name is directly beside it on a banner. The border of the card has sports “sketches” for a graphical element. The center of the card is a tilted rectangle that contains Rice’s size, biographical info, rookie year stats, and a blurb about his rookie year and college career.

1986 Jerry Rice Topps Rookie Back
1986 Jerry Rice Topps rookie card #161 – Back

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 (sic) 310 Catches for 4856 at Mississippi Valley State.

1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie (#161)

Jerry Rice Rookie Card Value

The Jerry Rice rookie card is one of the most valuable football cards of the 1980s. The chart below is from the popular card grading site, PSA. It shows prices for the Jerry Rice rookie card in various conditions.

1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card Auction Prices (10/22/21)
1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card Auction Prices (Source: 10/22/21)

Keep in mind that prices fluctuate. While PSA is a great way to find out the value of a card, we recommend going to eBay to see what cards are currently selling for on the world’s most popular auction site. Click here to view current auctions for the 1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie card.

Other Relevant Jerry Rice Cards

The 1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie card (#161) card is the only card in the hobby that is widely considered a Jerry Rice Rookie. However, there is an oddball 1986 Rice card floating around (with several variations) and a few other cards that warrant discussion in this post.

1986 McDonald’s San Francisco Jerry Rice (no number)

The 1986 McDonald’s Jerry Rice card was issued in 1986 and could be found at McDonald’s locations in San Francisco. It was part of a 24-card set that was released over several weeks. Because this card was released in 1986, some people consider it a Jerry Rice rookie card. The card has a tab that can be scratched off as part of a game. There were four different variations of the card with each having a different color tab. The first card distributed had a blue tab, then versions with a black, gold, and green tab were released. It is hard to find this card in good condition because many of them have the tab removed or have been scratched off. The blue version of the card was the first released and is slightly more sought after than the other versions.

1986 McDonalds San Francisco Set Jerry Rice card
1986 McDonald’s San Francisco Set Jerry Rice card (no number)

Shop for a 1986 McDonald’s Jerry Rice on eBay (affiliate link)

Verdict: Oddball Rookie Card

1987 Topps Jerry Rice #115

The 1987 Topps Jerry Rice card #115 is another early card that has collector’s interest. This card is the second-year card for Jerry and is significantly less valuable than his rookie. The photo shows Jerry Rice clutching the ball and preparing to throw a pass on a trick play. The photo was taken October 12, 1986, during a game against the Minnesota Vikings. The pass was incomplete, but Rice did complete a pass later that year for 16 yards.

1987 Topps Jerry Rice (#115)
1987 Topps Jerry Rice #115
Verdict: Not a Rookie

Shop for a 1987 Topps Jerry Rice card #115 on eBay (affiliate link)

1987 Topps Jerry Rice “1996 Receiving Leaders”

Jerry Rice was featured on the 1987 Topps Receiving Leaders card #228. It isn’t a single card, but it is an early and affordable Jerry Rice card.

1987 Topps "1996 NFL Receiving Leaders" #228
1987 Topps “1996 NFL Receiving Leaders” #228
Verdict: Not a Rookie

Shop for a 1987 Topps Jerry Rice “1996 Receiving Leaders” card #228 (affiliate link)

Jerry Rice’s Legacy

Jerry Rice is widely regarded as the greatest receiver and one of the greatest players of all time. At the time of his retirement, he held almost every receiving record by a large margin. His lifetime statistics include 22,895 receiving yards and 197 touchdowns. He spent the bulk of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, where he won three Super Bowls and played with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. He also spent time playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and finished his career with a short stint on the Seattle Seahawks. Jerry Rice was named to numerous Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams and was even named by NFL Films as the #1 player in NFL history. Here are some of Jerry Rice’s career accomplishments:

  • 13 time Pro Bowler (1986–1996, 1998, 2002)
  • 10 time All-Pro
  • 2 time NFL Receptions Leader (1990, 1996)
  • 6 time NFL receiving yards leader (1986, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • 6 time receiving TD leader (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993)
  • 2 time NFL TD leader (1987, 1993)
  • 3 time Super Bowl Champion
  • Inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of fame in 2007
  • Inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2007
  • Named #2 player of all time by Sporting News in 1999 (behind only Jim Brown)
  • Named #1 player of all time by NFL Films in 2010
  • 1987 AP Offensive Player of the Year
  • 1993 AP Offensive Player of the Year
  • Inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 2010

Get a Jerry Rice Rookie for Your Collection

Do you want to own a 1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie #161? If so, we recommend starting your search on eBay – the world’s #1 card trading place. Even if you’re not planning to buy one just yet, it’s fun to look at all the great cards currently for sale.

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All About Jerry Rice Rookies Infographic

Jerry Rice Rookie Cards Infographic
Jerry Rice Rookie Cards Infographic

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