Top San Francisco 49ers Rookie Cards of All-Time

Top San Francisco 49ers Rookie Cards of All-Time

Top Vintage RCs

One of the few NFL dynasties, the San Francisco are in rare company based on their Super Bowl success and Hall of Fame talent. While most of their dominance took place in the 1980s and 1990s, the team features a long list of elite talent from across several periods. For collectors, rookie cards are a main focus and the 49ers feature some of the best options to chase. The following guide features the top vintage and modern San Francisco 49ers rookie cards of all-time.

As difficult as it is to compare players from different seasons, is it is even harder to do so across different eras of football. The vintage list below is limited to rookie cards from before 1980 and includes some of the top names in the history of the 49ers. The rank is based on the actual value of the cards, but the player's relevance was taken into account when values were close. It is important to note that value with vintage cards can vary greatly based on condition and vintage high-grades can sell for a significant premium regardless of the player.

View the top modern San Francisco 49ers rookie card on the tab above.

Top San Francisco 49ers Vintage Rookie Cards

Click on the listing or image to shop for singles on eBay. 

16. 1955 Bowman Billy Wilson RC #81

A six-time Pro Bowl selection for the 49ers in the 1950s, Billy Wilson was the receiving threat for San Francisco and quarterback Y. A. Tittle. His rookie is found in the colorful 1955 Bowman, which was the last Bowman product before the company was absorbed by Topps.

1955 Bowman Billy Wilson RC #81

15. 1965 Philadelphia Charlie Krueger RC #177

Charlie Krueger spent his entire 15-year career with the 49ers and was selected to two Pro Bowls. He also had his number retired by the team. Collectors can find his inexpensive rookie card in 1965 Philadelphia.

1965 Philadelphia Charlie Krueger RC #177

14. 1978 Topps Fred Dean RC #217

The most recent player on the vintage list, Fred Dean started his career in San Diego, spending several years with the team until he was traded to San Francisco. Although he only totaled five seasons with the Niners, Dean went to two Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls to end his Hall of Fame career. The plain design for Fred Deans' 1978 Topps rookie makes it one of the least appealing of the group.

1978 Topps Fred Dean RC #217

13. 1958 Topps R. C. Owens RC #64

Another player with a relatively short stay in San Francisco, R. C. Owens spent the first five season of his career with the 49ers as a key receiver for Y. A. Tittle. Owens was inducted into the San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame in 2011. It should be noted that his rookie in 1958 Topps actually displays Don Owens by mistake.

1958 Topps R.C. Owens RC #64

12. 1961 Topps John Brodie RC #59

A less-heralded quarterback from the 49ers' past, John Brodie was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, as well as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1965 and the MVP in 1970. His number was retired by San Francisco and he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame. John Brodie's card in 1961 Topps is one of the key rookies in the set.

1961 Topps John Brodie RC #59

11. 1966 Philadelphia Ken Willard RC #181

Ken Willard was a top rusher for the 49ers in the late-1960s and was selected to four Pro Bowl teams. Willard was actually drafted ahead of Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers in 1965. His rookie in 1966 Philadelphia is also where rookies for Butkus and Sayers can be found.

1966 Philadelphia Ken Willard RC #181

10. 1964 Philadelphia Jimmy Johnson RC #161

Not to be confused with the Cowboys' coach from the early-1990s, Jimmy Johnson was also the name of an elite cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers. The Hall of Fame defensive back went to five Pro Bowls and even switched to wide receiver for a short time. Johnson's 1964 Philadelphia rookie is rather humorous given the perplexed look on his face as he cradles the football.

1964 Philadelphia Jimmy Johnson RC #161

9. 1951 Bowman Gordy Soltau RC #67

Gordy Soltau was a wide receiver and kicker for the 49ers in the 1950s and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He spent his entire career in San Francisco and was inducted in the 49ers Hall of Fame. Collectors can find the rookie card for Gordy Soltau in 1951 Bowman.

1951 Bowman Gordy Soltau RC #67

8. 1967 Philadelphia Dave Wilcox RC #178

A Hall of Fame linebacker who played 11 seasons for the 49ers, Dave Wilcox went to seven Pro Bowls. The bright yellow border of his 1967 Philadelphia rookie makes it an easy set to identify for vintage collectors.

1967 Philadelphia Dave Wilcox RC #178

7. 1955 Bowman John Henry Johnson RC #42

Part of the "Million Dollar Backfield" with the San Francisco 49ers along with Y. A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny and Joe Perry, John Henry Johnson also had a memorable stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Hall of Fame fullback had one Pro Bowl selection with the 49ers and his rookie in 1955 Bowman is the point where values begin to climb on the list.

1955 Bowman John Henry Johnson RC #42

6. 1950 Bowman Frankie Albert RC #36

The very first quarterback for the 49ers, Frankie Albert was the starter for the first five years of the franchise before losing his job to Y. A. Tittle. Albert is also overshadowed by Tittle in 1950 Bowman, as both have their rookie cards in the set.

1950 Bowman Frankie Albert RC #36

5. 1950 Bowman Joe Perry RC #35

One of the best running backs of the 1950s, Joe Perry used his impressive speed to claim two rushing titles and three Pro Bowl selections with the 49ers. The Hall of Fame back spent two seasons with the Baltimore Colts before retiring in San Francisco. Another key vintage San Francisco rookie found in 1950 Bowman, Joe Perry's first card has the misfortune of capturing a very odd facial expression.

1950 Bowman Joe Perry RC #35

4. 1955 Bowman Bob St. Clair RC #101

The third and final key 49ers rookie from 1955 Bowman, Bob St. Clair also spent most of his high school and college career in San Francisco. The Hall of Fame offensive tackle went to five Pro Bowls and was a nine-time All-Pro during his time with the Niners.

1955 Bowman Bob St. Clair RC #101

3. 1948 Leaf Leo Nomellini RC #52

Born in Italy, Leo Nomellini was a Hall of Fame defensive tackle who also moonlighted as a professional wrestler for the NWA and AWA. The ten-time Pro Bowl selection played in every game for all 14 seasons with the 49ers. His rookie is available in 1948 Leaf and there are three different color variations of the Leo Nomellini card.

1948 Leaf Leo Nomellini RC #52

2. 1952 Bowman Hugh McElhenny RC #29

Hugh McElhenny played for four teams during his NFL career, but the bulk of it was spent in San Francisco. McElhenny went to five Pro Bowls as a Niner and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Collectors have two rookie options for Hugh McElhenny since 1952 Bowman came in both a small and large version.

1952 Bowman Hugh McElhenny RC #29

1. 1950 Bowman Y. A. Tittle RC #5

An elite quarterback in the 1950s and early-1960s, Y. A. Tittle played for the 49ers for a decade before ending his career in New York. The Hall of Fame QB was a four-time Pro Bowl selection in San Francisco until a trade sent him to the Giants.  Y. A. Tittle's 1950 Bowman rookie checks in at number one on the list.

1950 Bowman YA Tittle RC

Top eBay Listings

1948 Exhibit Football Card #49 Y.A. Tittle-San Francisco 49ers-Rookie
$65.00

1948 Exhibit Football Card #49 Y.A. Tittle-San Francisco 49ers-Rookie
$70.00

1961 Topps Football #059 John Brodie RC STARX 6 EX MT (CS28568)
$28.00

1948 Exhibit Football Card #49 Y.A. Tittle-San Francisco 49ers-Rookie
$72.50

1978 Topps Fred Dean RC #217 Football NM MINT
$17.95

Terrell Suggs 2003 Upper Deck Pros and Prospects Leo Nomellini RC AUTO Ravens
$10.00

1951 Bowman #67 Gordy Soltau RC EXMT+ X1269865
$14.66

1964 PHILADELPHIA #161 JIM JOHNSON RC EXMT *A12775
$20.00

1952 BOWMAN SMALL FOOTBALL CARD #29 HUGH McELHENNY HALL OF FAME ROOKIE CARD
$99.00

1952 BOWMAN SMALL FOOTBALL CARD #29 HUGH McELHENNY SHARP HOF ROOKIE UW
$100.00

1952 BOWMAN SMALL FOOTBALL CARD #29 HUGH McELHENNY WASHINGTON HUSKIES RC
$102.00

1955 Bowman #42 John Henry Johnson RC - San Francisco 49ers
$6.99

1951 Bowman GORDON GORDY SOLTAU ROOKIE RC #67 EX--49ers!!
$7.49

1955 Bowman JOHN HENRY JOHNSON ROOKIE RC #42 VG VG EX--49ers, Hall of Fame!!
$12.99

1978 Topps FRED DEAN RC ROOKIE #217 NM--Chargers, Hall of Fame!!
$7.99

1964 PHILADELPHIA #161 JIM JOHNSON SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ROOKIE NM FOOTBALL CARD
$30.00
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Top Modern RCs

While the San Francisco 49ers had some good seasons from the 1940s to the 1970s, the franchise cemented its NFL legacy in the 1980s and 1990s. With four Super Bowl wins in the 1980s and another in the 1990s, these teams and their star players are some of the most popular modern collecting options. The following list looks at the top modern rookie card for the San Francisco 49ers. Given the huge changes in the hobby from 1980 until now, the ranking is largely based on the relevance of the player.

Top San Francisco 49ers Modern Rookie Cards

Click on the listing or image to shop for singles on eBay. 

16. 2011 Playoff National Treasures Colin Kaepernick RC #327 Autographed Patch #/99

After a great start to his NFL career, including two straight NFC Championship appearances and one trip to the Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick has not seen as much success. Regardless, the athletic quarterback has tremendous potential and the starting job is still his. Kaepernick enjoys considerable hobby interest and among his many rookie options, the ultra-premium 2011 National Treasures checks in at the top.

2011 National Treasures Colin Kaepernick

15. 2006 Exquisite Vernon Davis RC #133 Autographed Patch #/225

2014 was brutal for Vernon Davis, but that does not change what he has accomplished in previous seasons with the team. The two-time Pro Bowl player has been one of the top tight ends of the last decade and a popular option for collectors. His top rookie can be found in 2006 Exquisite and includes a large patch and on-card autograph.

2006 Exquisite Vernon Davis RC #133 Autographed Patch

14. 2001 Playoff Contenders Justin Smith RC #141 Autograph

Although he started his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, Justin Smith truly blossomed once he signed as a free agent with the 49ers. Smith was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the top defensive ends in the league with San Francisco. "The Cowboy" has many rookie cards in 2001 products, but his signed Contenders card is the best overall option.

2001 Playoff Contenders Justin Smith RC #141 Autograph

13. 1989 Topps John Taylor RC #238

Sometimes lost in the star power of the 49ers franchise, John Taylor was a receiver and punt/kickoff returner for the team during one of their most dominant stretches. Taylor was a terrific complement to Jerry Rice, winning three Super Bowls and going to two Pro Bowls. John Taylor has three rookie card options in 1989 products and all are budget options. The Topps version slightly edges out the Score and Pro Set version as it is is the only one to not feature a green border, which clashes with the 49ers colors.

1989 Topps John Taylor RC #238

12. 1981 Topps Dwight Clark RC #422

Famed for his game-winning touchdown reception in the 1981 NFC Playoffs, Dwight Clark cemented his place in 49ers lore with "The Catch." Clark was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and won two Super Bowls with San Francisco. Collectors can find his rookie in 1981 Topps, which is also the place for Joe Montana's rookie card.

1981 Topps Dwight Clark RC

11. 1996 Bowman’s Best Terrell Owens RC #147

Always controversial, Terrell Owens had several strong seasons with the 49ers and appeared to be the heir apparent for Jerry Rice. He went to four consecutive Pro Bowls in San Francisco before leaving the team for Philadelphia and is considered to be one of the top receivers of the 2000s. Owens only has ten rookies in 1996 products and several mid-level options could claim the top spot, but his Bowman's Best card is arguable the best.

1996 Bowman's Best Terrell Owens RC

10. 1990 Topps Brent Jones RC #14

A largely unsung hero for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1990s, Brent Jones was part of three Super Bowl wins and was named to four Pro Bowls as a tight end. Many may not realize that Brent Jones actually started his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but never played any games due to injury. His 1990 Topps rookie only goes for a few dollars, but the Tiffany parallel can bump that price up a bit.

1990 Topps Brent Jones RC #14

9. 1987 Topps Charles Haley RC #125

Despite an unceremonious trade out of San Francisco, Charles Haley went to three Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls during his first six years with the 49ers. After several seasons in Dallas, Haley later returned to the team for two more years before finally retiring. His 1987 Topps rookie can regularly be found for budget prices.

1987 Topps Charles Haley RC #125

8. 2005 Exquisite Frank Gore RC #93 Autographed Jersey #/199

One of the few consistent faces for the 49ers for nearly a decade, Frank Gore was a five-time Pro Bowl running back for the team and is the 49ers all-time rushing leader in yards and touchdowns. Although it is not as aesthetically pleasing as many of the other Exquisite rookie designs, Gore's 2005 Exquisite Collection card is limited to 199 and has two small jersey pieces along with an autograph.

Frank Gore 2005 UD Exquisite

7. 1994 SP Bryant Young RC #6

Bryant Young was a force on defense for the 49ers and was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and four Pro Bowls. Collectors can find several base rookies for Bryant Young in 1994 products but his foil SP card is arguably the best.

1994 SP Bryant Young RC #6

6. 2007 Exquisite Patrick Willis RC #124 Autographed Patch #/225

The linchpin of the 49ers defense for many seasons, Patrick Willis has been selected to seven Pro Bowls and led the NFL in tackles in 2007 and 2009. Injuries have slowed Willis lately but he is still one of the top defensive options for the team. His best rookie is found in 2007 Exquisite and features a large patch and on-card signature.

2007 Exquisite Patrick Willis RC #124 Autographed Patch

5. 1984 Topps Roger Craig RC #353

The top running back for the 49ers during most of the 1980s, Roger Craig was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and won three Super Bowls with San Francisco. His 1984 Topps rookie is heavy on red and can be found for cheap.

1984 Topps Roger Craig RC

4. 1982 Topps Ronnie Lott RC #486

An all-time great in San Fransisco and for the NFL as a whole, Ronnie Lott is one of the top defensive backs in league history and a member of the Hall of Fame. Lott spent the first ten years of his career with the 49ers and was selected to nine Pro Bowls. He was also part of four Super Bowl wins. Despite all this, his 1982 Topps rookie is still very inexpensive.

1982 Topps Ronnie Lott RC

3. 1986 Topps Steve Young RC #374

When a Hall of Fame quarterback is relegated to the bench for several years, you know the team must be very good. This is exactly what happened in San Francisco as Steve Young was the backup for Joe Montana. Once he finally got his chance to start, Young was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl MVP. While 1986 Topps is the official rookie card for Steve Young, many collectors view his 1984 Topps USFL card, shown below on the right, as his true rookie.

1986 Topps Football Steve Young RC1984 Topps USFL Steve Young

2. 1981 Topps Joe Montana RC #216

Generally mentioned among the best quarterbacks in NFL history, Montana won four Super Bowls and three Super Bowl MVPs. Montana was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection with the 49ers and would have likely added a few more if the team had not made the decision to move on with Steve Young.  His 1981 Topps rookie is a hobby icon and high grades sell for thousands.

1981 Topps Joe Montana RC

1. 1986 Topps Jerry Rice RC #161

You could really have Montana or Jerry Rice at number one, but Jerry Rice did things that no receiver has ever done or will ever do and is considered by many to be the top overall player in NFL history. The 13-time Pro Bowl selection was a favorite for Joe Montana and Steve Young and won three Super Bowls and one Super Bowl MVP. Collectors can find his rookie in 1986 Topps, which featured one of the most distinct designs in the hobby. Love or hate the look, Jerry Rice makes the 1986 rookie card a clear collecting favorite.

1986 Topps Jerry Rice RC

Top eBay Listings

2014 Topps Platinum Jimmy Garoppolo Xfractor Refractor Rookie #143 RC 49ers
$15.00

2017 Absolute Football Rookie Force C.J. Beathard Jersey RC! San Francisco 49ers
$8.75

MARCUS LATTIMORE 2013 Leaf Draft - S.F. 49ers - South Carolina AUTOGRAPH RC
$8.95

2017 Panini Prestige #230 Rookies Reuben Foster San Francisco 49ers RC Card
$5.24

Jimmy Garoppolo 2014 Bowman Sterling Auto Jersey Relic Rookie RC Patriots 49ers
$59.00

2011 TOPPS LEGENDS CARD NO.162 COLIN KAEPERNICK ROOKIE RC, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
$6.74

JIMMIE WARD AUTO AUTOGRAPH ROOKIE CARDS RC NORTHERN ILLINOIS SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
$15.96

2013 BOWMAN STERLING #BSJRP-VM VANCE MCDONALD JUMBO PATCH ROOKIE RC #4 171 49ER
$9.74

1972 Topps Football #291 Steve Spurrier RC 49ers Ex Mint 6
$125.00

2014 TOPPS FIRE BRUCE ELLINGTON RC AUTO 49ERS
$8.99

2016 Contenders Super Bowl Ticket Will Redmond Auto RC #1 1 49ers Rookie MSU
$125.00

COLIN KAEPERNICK 2011 SWEET SPOT ROOKIE SIGNATURES AUTO RC 539 599 49ERS NEVADA
$94.05

A.J. JENKINS 2012 PANINI PULLOUT JERSEY AUTO RC 270 299 49ERS
$13.29

RONALD JOHNSON 2011 TOPPS CHROME AUTO RC #204 49ERS
$7.59

2014 Immaculate Collection Gold 10 AUTO PATCH Carlos Hyde RC #d 10 25 49ERS
$129.99

1986 Topps Steve Young RC nrmt to mint condition san Francisco 49ERS
$9.99
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Trey Treutel

E-Mail Author | 

Trey Treutel is an Ole Miss grad and a lifelong sports fanatic. He is a huge fan of the NBA and NFL, as well as soccer, college basketball and college football. As a kid, he collected football and basketball cards. In more recent years, he started collecting basketball cards again on a whim and has since expanded to other sports and entertainment options. Find Trey on Twitter at @datreute or Google+.


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