While many may debate the order, Joe Montana is clearly among the top quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Joe Montana ended his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, but the former great is most remembered for his days with the San Francisco 49ers. Despite retiring in the mid-1990s, Joe Montana cards remain very popular with collectors.
Joe Montana's immense popularity stems from several things that combine to make him of the greatest and most collected football players of all-time. First, his individual and team accolades put him in a special class of players. Montana finished his career with eight Pro Bowl selections and two regular-season AP MVP awards, along with four Super Bowl titles and three Super Bowl MVPs. He is also helped by his association with the 49ers and Notre Dame fan bases. Lastly, Joe Montana developed a reputation as a player who came up big in the most important games. This was very evident based on his dominant play in multiple Super Bowl wins.
Like many top players from the 1980s and '90s, Joe Montana's cardboard life is split into two different periods. His playing days were limited to mostly base and plain insert cards, while his modern cards follow the current trends, and are heavy on autographs. The earliest Joe Montana cards and modern autographs are some of the most popular cards for collectors.
Top Joe Montana Cards to Collect
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1981 Topps Joe Montana RC #216
Continuing the Topps pattern of airbrushed logos, 1981 Topps received a tremendous boost from the Joe Montana rookie card. As the sole rookie for the Hall of Fame QB, this is easily one of the most popular rookie cards of the decade. The thin green border clashes with the red and yellow text box, but the design works despite being from a 40-year-old product. Gem Mint copies carry an incredible premium.
1982 Topps Joe Montana #488
Already looking like a seasoned veteran in his second season, "Joe Cool" stands on the sidelines, taking a call with a coach in the booth. The card features a more ambitious design, including a helmet noting the team and a banner text box. Joe Montana actually has three cards in 1982 Topps, including a dual Passing Leaders card with Ken Anderson, as well as a card in the In Action subset.
1983 Topps Joe Montana #169
Marking a significant change in design, the 1983 Topps Joe Montana card cuts down considerably on the information provided on the card front. The team city, San Francisco, is nowhere to be found and the Topps logo even sat this year out. An oversized 49ers text covers the top of the card and a bright yellow text box occupies the bottom. Rounding out the card, an open-mouthed image of Montana fills in the middle. Regardless of the questionable design choices, the card is a great budget option from early in Joe Montana's career.
1984 Topps Joe Montana #358
Although 1984 Topps is more notable for two rookie quarterbacks who made their card debut, Joe Montana adds to the legendary checklist centered around Dan Marino and John Elway. Diagonal lines frame the card in an off-center manner and pertinent information is presented at an upward angle, from left to right.
1985 Topps Joe Montana #157
1985 Topps card for Joe Montana immediately stands out because of the horizontal layout and black border. The intense warmup image of Montana works well with his reputation and the large text combines with the overall look to create a lasting impression.
1986 Topps Joe Montana #156
While the rookie card for Jerry Rice is is most commonly associated with 1986 Topps, the man who threw many of those touchdowns to Rice over the years still remains an appealing option. The diagonal green and white border may not work for everyone, but the distinct look has a legion of fans. The only disappointing thing is the image choice for Montana. It is hard to believe that the "upset stomach" look was the best photo they had.
1991 Upper Deck Heroes Joe Montana #9 Autograph #/2,500
Part of a 10-card insert set that honored Joe Montana, 2,500 cards from 1991 Upper Deck Heroes carry the gunslinger's signature. The card shown below is the checklist from the set, and includes four different images of Montana in a portrait by Vernon Wells.
1996 Upper Deck Game Jersey Joe Montana #GJ3
As one of the very first relic cards in the hobby, 1996 Upper Deck Game Jerseys have already carved a place in collecting history. But when you include the jersey card for the recently-retired Joe Montana, it takes things to another level. The value is furthered by the tough 1:2,500 pack odds for the 10-card set. These rarely surface now but Montana has many other memorabilia cards.
Any High-End Joe Montana Autograph
Rounding out the list with premium cards, a key option for most Joe Montana collectors is a hard-signed edition from a modern set. Luckily for fans, there are quite a few choices even if the supply is more limited.
Any Multi-Player Joe Montana Autograph
In addition, collectors can spread the love around to more NFL greats with the various multi-signed card featuring Montana. The legendary QB can be found with his 49ers teammates as well as other top quarterbacks from NFL history.
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