Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver in NFL history and arguably one of the top football players of all-time. He currently holds most of the NFL receiving records and although he played for multiple teams near the end of his career, he will always be thought of as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Tremendous individual success and team success with the 49ers have made Jerry Rice cards some of the best collecting options among retired football players.
With a playing career that began in 1985 and stretched out to 2005, Jerry Rice has plenty of card options to collect. However, since that includes the "junk wax era" of the late-'80s and early-'90s, many of the top Jerry Rice cards came at the onset of his career and well after it ended.
The following list takes a look at some of the best Jerry Rice cards available.
Top Jerry Rice Cards
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The oldest and most valuable Jerry Rice card is his only official rookie card. The 1986 Topps card design may not wow anyone, but centering issues make Mint and Gem Mint copies a premium collectible. Despite that, there is still decent supply available, so ungraded copies can be found for under $20.
Although not as popular as the 1986 Topps, another Jerry Rice card was issued in 1986. These McDonald’s cards represent an additional opportunity for collectors to grab an early, albeit oddball, Jerry Rice card. The full set includes 24 cards, and McDonald’s locations in the San Francisco area released them over multiple weeks.
There are actually four different versions, each with a different color removable scratch-off tab. The tabs could be scratched to reveal various prizes. Blue tabs were distributed first, then black, gold, and lastly, green. Top value is reserved for the still-intact versions and blue is the toughest to find unripped since it was the first to release.
The difference between the 1986 and 1987 Topps designs is monumental and this is not necessarily a bad thing. The simple style relies heavily on a white border and small split text box at the top. Budget collectors can easily find this early Jerry Rice card on the cheap.
The Precious Metal Gems (PMG) cards were a late-'90s staple and remain very popular. 1999 Metal Universe Football includes a metal nameplate, rivets and Refractor-like finish for the Jerry Rice card. These rare parallels are numbered to just 50 copies.
Although Jerry Rice was included in the Player's Ink insert set in 1998, the 1999 SP edition has a more classic look. The base green version is the most common and a purple-bordered parallel is hand-numbered to 100. Both cards feature an on-card signature from Jerry Rice.
It is admittedly tough to get past the college jersey, but if you can, this Jerry Rice Upper Deck Legends revival is an impressive card. With the famed UD Legends design and on-card signature, the card is bumped to the next level because it is a short print. While the card is not numbered, Upper Deck revealed that Rice is part of the Group A subset, which drops 1:1,087 packs.
If the college jersey is a deal-breaker and money is not an issue, there is an NFL licensed SP update version for Rice from 2008 Ultimate Collection, but they are even more limited and pricey.
The low print run guarantees that not many will pop up for sale at any given time, but the large jersey pieces and aesthetic appeal make it a great Jerry Rice card.
Consistently an underrated Topps brand, the 2012 Five Star Autographed Patch card for Jerry Rice features an elegant look and adds a small patch alongside an on-card signature.
Jerry Rice enjoyed the opportunity to catch passes from not just one, but two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. This is one of several cards to immortalize the trio, and all are a great option.
Technically part of the Spectra design debut, the 50th Anniversary HOF Signatures were continued in National Treasures. Jerry Rice was one of the players featured in this on-card autograph set. The Refractor-like finish is dazzling in person, but does not display as well in a scanned image.