Joe Montana’s 1981 Topps Rookie Card: Prices, Autos, Guide  

Joe Montana's 1981 Topps Rookie Card
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When Topps unveiled its #216 card in 1981, Joe Montana was not yet the iconic “Comeback Kid” known for his spectacular, game-changing performances. In reality, Montana was just getting his footing in professional football when this card was launched.

The year 1981 did not mark Montana’s rookie season. By then, Montana had already completed two professional football seasons. After being the fourth quarterback chosen in the 1979 draft, Montana played backup to Steve DeBerg in the 1979 season, contributing to all 16 games yet making fewer than two dozen passes.

The QB rose to the starting position by the time the 1981 Joe Montana Topps rookie card hit the market. The card’s portrait, featuring Montana in mid-throw donned in a white Niners jersey, became a symbol of hope for Bay Area football enthusiasts and a terror to opposing defensive backs.

The rise of Montana’s star power in the 1980s was timely for the card collecting industry, which saw an expansion with new companies and series entering the market. This created an opportunity for other 1980s stars like Jerry Rice and Lawrence Taylor.

Value of Joe Montana’s Rookie Card 

The 1980s, however, was also a difficult era for card collectors. Despite the thrill of having a seemingly abundant supply of top stars’ cards, companies overproduced in response to the growing demand, which inadvertently led to a decrease in value of these cards.

Luckily, the value of the Joe Montana Topps rookie card has remained resilient over time, largely due to his success on the field. Whenever a new quarterback is hailed as “The Goat” (Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Peyton Manning, and others), conversations about Montana’s legacy inevitably arise, adding to his card’s value.

Owing to his status among the sport’s legendary figures (similar to Michael Jordan in basketball), the value of his cards is likely to hold steady or even increase over time.

The worth of a #216 Montana card can vary significantly depending on its grade. Here are the average values of graded Montana rookie cards as per PSA:


|   Grade   |    Price    |


|   PSA 10  |  $57,450    |

|   PSA 9   |  $1,707.99  |

|   PSA 8   |  $306.56    |

|   PSA 7   |  $163.33    |

|   PSA 6   |  $103.91    |

|   PSA 5   |  $87.88    |


Check eBay for PSA graded Joe Montana rookie cards 

Joe Montana Autographed Cards

Unlike modern cards, most Montana cards from the 80s did not come with autographs. The autographed cards you will find typically feature Montana’s signature across his picture.

Joe Montana autographed cards exist in various forms, with some grades only certifying the authenticity of the autograph and others considering both the signature and the card’s physical condition. Unsurprisingly, cards with high grades for both the auto and physical state are rarer and more valuable.

A signed Joe Montana rookie card tends to retain its value more than its unsigned counterparts. For instance, a PSA 5 graded unsigned card might sell for just under $100, but a signed version of the same card can command a price ten times that.

Check eBay for signed Joe Montana cards 

Joe Montana Rookie Era Cards 

Apart from the #216 Topps card, other collectible cards from Montana’s rookie season feature the future Hall of Famer. In 1981, MSA (Mark Schecter Associates) released a 32-card set of football stars from the era, including Montana.

These MSA cards, more token-like than traditional card-shaped, were a distinguishing feature of MSA. They produced numerous circular cards for baseball players throughout the ’70s and included them in promotional deals. The football set that included the Montana token was inserted in loaves of Holsum bread and stocked on grocery store shelves.

Unsurprisingly, the most valuable football card of the era belongs to a player instrumental in Montana’s success on the field: the legendary wide receiver, Jerry Rice. A Gem Mint PSA 10 graded Jerry Rice #161 from the 1986 Topps series recently sold for $75,000.

Check eBay for Joe Montana rookie cards 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is Joe Montana’s rookie card worth? 

Joe Montana’s rookie card value varies based on the card’s grade. Low-end graded cards can fetch less than $100. Top-tier graded cards can be valued at several hundred dollars to nearly $60,000. These values are correct as of July 2023. 

What is the highest selling Joe Montana card? 

A 1981 Topps rookie card sold at Goldin Auctions in March 2022 holds the record for the highest selling Joe Montana card, closing at $103,200.

How many Joe Montana rookie cards were made? 

The 1980s saw a surge in card production, including Montana’s rookie card. PSA has graded nearly 30,000 Montana rookies, while BGS has graded 10,006.

What year did Joe Montana’s rookie card come out? 

The Joe Montana Topps #216 was released in 1981, two years into Montana’s NFL career.


The 1981 Topps Joe Montana rookie card is undeniably one of the greatest sports cards ever produced. Considering the critical role of the quarterback in modern football, Joe Montana rookie card values are likely to remain strong.

Whether you’re an avid collector or simply a fan of football, the Joe Montana rookie card holds a special allure. Not just an essential card due to its historical impact, it’s also one of the most popular cards within the hobby. 

Just don’t forget: it’s all about the condition. If you plan on investing in a Joe Montana card, ensure it’s been professionally graded and is in as high of a condition as possible.

Published by James Milin-Ashmore

Journalism gradate, freelance writer. Sports, tech, online security, collectibles.

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