Jerry Rice Rookie Card: Value, Investment Potential, Scarcity

January 31, 2022


The Joe Montana to Jerry Rice connection in the 1980s was one of the best-ever quarterback and wide receiver duos of all time.

Even despite the rise of some star-studded wideouts, Rice remains the consensus #1 WR in the history of football.

The Jerry Rice 1986 Topps Rookie card has seen renewed interest among football card collectors.

Rice rookie cards in high grade have seen the biggest increase in recent years.

In this piece, we examine the career of Jerry Rice while taking a closer look at his 1986 Topps rookie card.

Jerry Rice As A Player

I was a massive fan of the San Francisco 49ers growing up, and that Rice to Montana connection was unreal.

Jerry Rice and Joe Montana were a magical connection. Together they led the 49ers to three Super Bowl victories.  Rice paved the way for star receivers of today who idolized Rice -- guys like Deebo Samuel and Jamaar Chase.

Rice is still to this day probably the greatest wide receiver I've ever seen play the game.

Rice's charisma also made him one of the most recognizable figures in sports history - even after retiring from football.

Rice was a trailblazer, completely changing the script of how teams used receivers. 

As a young boy, Jerry Rice caught bricks in the air from his father, who was a bricklayer. 

"Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't.”

-Jerry Rice

The 49ers drafted Jerry Rice in the middle of the first round (spot 16) of the 1985 NFL Draft

Most fans don't realize that he was also drafted at #1 by the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL in the same year, but the league fell apart in 1986.

Following a tremendous college career at Mississippi Valley State, Rice got off to a good (but not great) start in 1985 with the 49ers.

Yet, it was clear early on that Jerry Rice might be something special. 

I think those bricks were a huge part of Jerry's success.  

Rice still holds 36 NFL records, including the most touchdowns in NFL history (208), receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), and consecutive games with one catch or more (274). 

Rice was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, alongside star Dallas Cowboy running back Emmitt Smith. 

Rice's career accomplishments are quite simply put, amazing.

Winner of three super bowls, 13x Pro Bowl selection, regular season MVP (1987), Super Bowl MVP, 6x receiving touchdown leader...the list goes on and on. 

1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card #161

Jerry Rice's official rookie card is the 1986 Topps Football #161 card.  

The 1986 Topps cards hit the shelves during Rice's second season with the 49ers.

The set features green borders designed to resemble a football field.

These dark green borders are prone to chipping, making the 1986 Topps set condition sensitive. Centering issues are also quite common throughout the set. 

PSA has awarded only 60 PSA 10 (Gem Mint) Rice Rookies out of all 25,000 graded Jerry Rice cards! 


The Jerry Rice rookie card was released in 1986 following a great season for Rice. As shown on the back of the card, he was named to the Pro Football Writers and UPI's All-Rookie Teams. 


There is one minor variation on the Jerry Rice Rookie card.  Each card in the set was printed on two different sheets. As noted by Beckett, there are four sheet variations, indicated by an A, B, C or D on the bottom of the card near the copyright. 

The Jerry Rice rookie card can be found with either a C or a D sheet notation on the bottom of the card. There is, however, no premium associated with either variation. 

1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card RC # 161 PSA 7!

$26.00  (2 bids)
End Date: Saturday Oct-08-2022 15:55:11 EDT


1986 Topps Football Jerry Rice ROOKIE card

End Date: Thursday Oct-06-2022 15:47:48 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $90.00
Buy It Now

1986 NFL Topps Jerry Rice Rookie RC #161

End Date: Saturday Oct-08-2022 14:49:02 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $69.99
Buy It Now

Aside from Rice, the 1986 Topps Football set has some key rookie cards from the 80s, including Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Steve Young, and Andre Reed. 


A Reggie White Rookie card, one of the other key rookie cards from the 1986 Topps set

How Much Is A Jerry Rice Rookie Card Worth?

The Jerry Rice 1986 Topps rookie card has surged in value over the past few years.

Football card collectors have continued to buy up high-grade copies of GOAT rookie cards, such as Jerry Rice.

Yet, there has been a significant correction in Rice's higher grade cards. As shown below, PSA 9 Jerry Rice rookie card prices have fallen by over 60%. 


Jerry Rice Rookie Values, PSA 9, courtesy Card Ladder

Because of the fairly extensive supply, collectors can find graded Jerry Rice rookie cards in NM-MT+ or lower condition for less than $1000.

Anything in super high grade, however, either PSA 9 (Mint) or PSA 10 (GEM-Mint) will cost a bit more.

Recent sales of PSA 9 Rice rookie cards have averaged $2500, while PSA 10 Rice rookies have been nearing the six-figure mark.


If you're wondering whether or not to get your Jerry Rice rookie card graded, I advise you to examine the potential grade of the card and use our sports card grading calculator to see if its worth grading.  

In many cases, it might not be worth grading unless the condition is super sharp. 

Remember that getting a PSA 10 on any card is nearly impossible

How Rare Is A Jerry Rice Rookie Card?

Here's the truth: the Jerry Rice Rookie card is not rare; in fact, the existing population is enormous, both graded and ungraded. 

Here's a look at just the number of  Jerry Rice rookie cards graded by PSA. 

** Note, look at the Population column for the number of cards graded by overall Grade.


PSA has graded over 25,000 Jerry Rice 86 Topps Rookie cards!

This does not include any ungraded or graded SGC or BGS copies, so we can only imagine what the total population might look like.

So, if you're a collector focused on finding vintage cards with low-existing card supplies, the Jerry Rice rookie card might not be an excellent investment.

If you want to own a Rice rookie card, I say go for it. Just know that the supply is a concern, especially if the demand for his card dips at all. 

Also, note that raw, ungraded Jerry Rice rookie cards can be purchased for under $100 on eBay, even in pretty nice condition. 

Is The Jerry Rice Rookie Card A Good Investment?

Due to the vast existing graded and ungraded supply, in my opinion, Jerry Rice rookie cards are a somewhat subpar investment. 

If you want to own a Rice rookie card, I recommend targeting a PSA 9 copy (if you have the funding, of course) since only ~1000 have been awarded a 9 (Mint grade) by PSA. 

Once you dip down to a PSA 8, over 12,000 copies exist; that's an oversupply situation that doesn't get me very excited. 

Overall Investment Potential: 6 out of 10 

Are There Fake Jerry Rice Rookie Cards?

Jerry Rice football card rookie reprints exist, although the ones I've encountered are lousy quality and relatively easy to distinguish from original cards.

Here's an example of a Rice counterfeit that is all over eBay. You can see how the card appears to be a low-quality photocopy with a brighter back on what seems like a different textured card.

rice reprint

Jerry Rice Rookie Card Autographs, Good Investment Or Not?

Jerry Rice has been a generous signer over the course of his career.

Thus, it is not all that hard to find an autographed 1986 Topps Rice Rookie card.

PSA has graded over 500 autographed Rice rookies. 


Depending on card condition, Rice Rookie card autos are fairly reasonable. On average, expect to pay $300 to $500 for one in good overall condition

Please be aware that on eBay there are a lot of reprint/counterfeit Rice Rookies for sale with an authentic Rice autograph.

PSA will grade the reprint Jerry Rice rookie cards. Here is an example.


Note how the card has a bit more shine versus the authentic card. Thankfully, PSA does note on the slab that the card is a 'Reprint'. 

These are real autographs, so if you just want a Jerry Rice signature, it's not a bad collectible for under $150. But, I wouldn't consider these reprint Rice autos as a good long term investment. 

1986 McDonald's Jerry Rice Rookie Card - Under The Radar Value?

If you're looking for a more obscure Jerry Rice rookie card, you should consider the 1986 McDonald's Jerry Rice card.

mcdonald's Jerry rice

It's not 'technically' considered a rookie card by collectors.

The reason? 

The cards were given away to diners at San Francisco based McDonald's restaurants and not released via wide distribution by a major card manufacturer. 

The bottom scratch off tabs can be found in four colors (assuming they weren't scratched off) - Blue, Green, Black and Orange. 

The cards have a fairly low PSA Population, as only 250 PSA graded copies exist. 


While PSA 10 (Gem Mint) copies are out of reach for many (easily $5000+), a PSA 9 Rice McDonald's card is more attainable.

I like these as a long term investment for Rice collectors. 

Jerry Rice Rookie Cards For Sale on eBay

1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card RC # 161 PSA 7!

$26.00  (2 bids)
End Date: Saturday Oct-08-2022 15:55:11 EDT


1986 Topps Football Jerry Rice ROOKIE card

End Date: Thursday Oct-06-2022 15:47:48 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $90.00
Buy It Now

1986 NFL Topps Jerry Rice Rookie RC #161

End Date: Saturday Oct-08-2022 14:49:02 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $69.99
Buy It Now

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