9 Amazing Facts About 1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card

9 Things You Didn't Know 1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card

I love talking about great sports cards, so breaking down some amazing facts about the 1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie card is right down my alley! A couple months ago, I shared 9 Amazing Facts About 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card over at The Athletic, which became quite a popular article! I even did a video on that subject!

That has inspired me to look at a few other iconic cards a little closer, so why not start with The G.O.A.T. among NFL pass catchers!?!

Not only is this Rice rookie card one of the most iconic and valuable football cards in history, but it’s place in the hobby is also indicative of Rice’s place in NFL history. You know I love discussing ’80s sports cards, like what would happen if the 1984 Topps Football set had both the NFL and USFL rookies in it? Or how the 1986 Fleer Basketball set is one of the greatest sets ever produced? I even have a soft spot for the 1985 Topps Wrestling Cards!

Why is Jerry Rice So Special To Collectors?

Rice was drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft. He quickly became one of the best receivers in the league, and he helped the 49ers win three Super Bowls in the 1980s, and he played in a fourth Super Bowl with the Raiders in 2003. He retired in 2004 as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver, with 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns.

Since Topps was the only football card manufacturer at that point in the mid-‘80s, this is Rice’s only true rookie card. Baseball had multiple manufacturers at this point, and while Fleer got basketball going in 1986, it was only after a 5-year absence of notable basketball card manufacturers.

From the ‘50s to the ‘80s, sports cards wouldn’t manufacture rookie cards until after a player’s rookie season. This would allow them to get a photograph of the player in their new team’s uniform, and it allowed them to have professional stats on the back of their card.

This Rice rookie card came out in 1986, but he was drafted in 1985, when he had his first professional season in football. It’s the same reason why the 1984 Topps Football set is so coveted, since that set has the rookie cards of great 1983 NFL Draft picks, like John Elway, Dan Marino and Eric Dickerson.

It wasn’t until 1989, when Upper Deck began, and they took a chance on Ken Griffey Jr., a player who had yet to play a game at Double-A, as the keystone card in their first set.

Amazing Fact No. 1: 1986 Topps Jerry Rice = Most Graded Football Card Ever at PSA

Despite being the most graded football card in PSA’s history, it’s not even in the top-20 among all graded sports cards.

In the fantasy football world, Rice should be considered the greatest fantasy football player to ever play. He was a first-round pick in more seasons than any other player ever, and the fact he did it as a wide receiver, in an era when running backs ruled the fantasy world, is absolutely incredible.

Amazing Fact No. 2: Just 60 PSA 10s

The only three cards in the top-100 most-graded sports cards with PSA that have fewer PSA 10s than the 60 Rice rookie card gems are:

  • 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson: 25 gems
  • 1993 SP Derek Jeter – 21 gems
  • 1994 SP Alex Rodriguez – 59 gems

But when it comes to Gem Rate, which is the number of PSA 10 gem mint cards compared to how many cards were submitted, the numbers are even crazier.

  • 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson: 25 gems out of 32,737 card submitted – 0.08% Gem Rate
  • 1993 SP Derek Jeter – 21 out of 23,061 – 0.09% Gem Rate
  • 1986 Topps Jerry Rice: 60 out of 32,993 – 0.18% Gem Rate

Amazing Fact No. 3: SGC is Even Tougher on Rice Rookies!

The odds of getting an SGC 10 on a 1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie card are even tougher according to the SGC pop report. They show 4,507 Rice rookie cards have been submitted, but there were just TWO that got graded a 10! That’s less than a 0.05% Gem Rate! Even if you include the five cards that were graded 9.5, you’re still looking at a rate of just 0.15% rate above a 9, which is less than the percentage of graded Rice rookie cards higher than a PSA 9.

Amazing Fact No. 4: There are TWO Variations of the 1986 Topps Jerry Rice RC!

There are two variations on this 1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie card. In those days, there were four sheet variations, according to Beckett, indicated by an A, B, C or D printed near the copyright on the bottom of the card back. Rice rookies were printed on either the C or D sheets, but there is apparently no difference in price among collectors.

Amazing Fact No. 5: 1986 Topps = Toughest ‘80s Set

The colored and striped border is an iconic look that still brings back ‘80s memories for Gen-Xers, but it is considered the most difficult 1980 Topps set to complete in PSA 10 condition. There weren’t a ton of non-white bordered football cards up to that point, although, they came off a 1985 set that was bordered in black. (That 1985 set was also a landscape card with huge lettering that really only missed some great rookie cards or else it would be considered an iconic set.) The 1986 set rivals the 1962 Topps set, with its black borders (and two picture format), as one of the toughest to get high grades of.

Amazing Fact No. 6: Even PSA 9s of 1986 Topps Jerry Rice RCs Are Rare!

The most common PSA grade for a 1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie card is a PSA 8, of which there are over 13,000 copies of, among the 32,993 cards graded with PSA. Unlike the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card, where there are as many cards graded above PSA 8 as there are below it, there are only 1,100 Rice rookie cards graded higher than a PSA 8.

Amazing Fact No. 7: The 1986 Topps Jerry Rice RC is Not the Only Rice Rookie Card!

One other Rice rookie card from 1986 that many people overlook is the 1986 McDonald’s Jerry Rice Game Card, which was part of a food giveaway game. You’d scratch off the bottom to reveal an NFL game, and if the card’s game winner matched who won that upcoming week, then you’d win a Big Mac, fries or a Coke. You can buy ungraded versions of this card on eBay for about $65.

Amazing Fact No. 8: Rice was Almost a Cowboys WR

The Dallas Cowboys had the 17th pick in the 1985 NFL Draft, and they were reportedly ready to pick Rice before the 49ers traded with the New England Patriots to take Rice at No. 16.

The three big receivers expected to go in the first round in the 1985 NFL Draft were the University of Miami’s Eddie Brown, Wisconsin’s Al Toon and Rice, who came out of little-known Mississippi Valley State. Toon went first to the Jets at Pick No. 10, and Cincinnati drafted Brown 13th overall. The 49ers tried to trade up to 13, but Sam Wyche was a former assistant coach under 49ers head coach Bill Walsh, and they both wanted wide receivers. (Interesting side point: Despite not being one of the top three WRs drafted, Andre Reed is the best rookie WR card after Jerry Rice.)

Amazing Fact No. 9: 1986 Topps = Most Expensive ‘80s Packs!

An unopened 1986 Topps Wax Pack is more expensive than any other unopened football wax packs of the 1980s. Here are the rankings, by cost, for unopened wax packs from Topps Football in the ‘80s, at BBCExchange.com:

  1. 1986 Topps – $100
  2. 1981 Topps – $70
  3. 1984 Topps – $50
  4. 1982 Topps – $24
  5. 1985 Topps – $21
  6. 1980 Topps – $19
  7. 1983 Topps – $14
  8. 1987 Topps – $11
  9. 1988 Topps – $5
  10. 1989 Topps – $5

Your cost if you wanted to buy one Topps football pack from each year of the ’80s

(I’ve thought about doing this!)? $319

Rice set the receiving touchdowns record in 1987 when he caught 22 TDs – in a strike-shortened season! He played in just 12 games that year! Twenty years later, Randy Moss would break that record with 23 touchdown catches with Tom Brady’s 2007 New England Patriots team. Rice’s 22 touchdown catches came among 65 total catches in 12 games, whereas Moss needed 98 catches in 16 games to get his 23 TDs.

Jerry Rice retired after 20 NFL seasons as the career record holder of many different NFL stats. But one I found particularly interesting was that he retired as the leader with 23,546 career all-purpose yards. Why is that so interesting? He never got more than 13 rushes in any single season, and he had ONE career kick return. As a wide receiver, literally all his yardage relied on another player getting the ball to him. Let’s look at the rest of the top-10 in career all-purpose yardage:

  1. Jerry Rice, WR – 23,546 yards
  2. Brian Mitchell, RB – 23,330
  3. Walter Payton, RB – 21,803
  4. Emmitt Smith, RB – 21, 564
  5. Frank Gore, RB – 19,992
  6. Darren Sproles, RB – 19,696
  7. Tim Brown, WR – 19,682
  8. Marshall Faulk, RB – 19,190
  9. Steve Smith Sr., WR – 19,180
  10. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB – 18,456

All the non-Rice players on this list were either pass-catching running backs (Payton caught nearly 500 passes in his career) or they were heavily involved in punt/kick return games.

Rice leads all players close to 20 years after he retired, when the NFL has turned into a much more offense-oriented league. His all-purpose yardage record stands as the most impressive one in my book.

What did you think about these 9 Amazing Facts About 1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card? (Don’t forget to check out my article about what would happen if the 1984 Topps Football set had both the NFL and USFL rookies in it?

To Top