There have been some great quarterbacks in the years since, but for those who grew up in the 1980s, no one compares with "Joe Cool." So no one was surprised when ESPN ranked Joe Montana as the 25th greatest athlete of the 20th century. Sure, some quarterbacks had better overall numbers. But let's get real; when the chips were down and your team was behind, there was no one you would rather have leading the charge. They called Joe Montana the "Comeback Kid" for a reason. Indeed, Sports Illustrated selected Montana as the top clutch quarterback. Ever. Here is one stat that captures Joe's spirit best. He once threw 122 Super Bowl passes without an interception. Montana lived for the big games.
He looked like the ultimate quarterback, and even the name fit that image. But if Joe Montana seems like too perfect a name for an all-American hero, you are on to something. His original family name was Montani, a northern Italian name. But it was Americanized when his ancestors came to the country.
The four-time Super Bowl champion, the ultimate winner, and the two-time MVP have great football cards from the junk wax era. We also threw in a couple of later high-end Joe Montana cards just for fun.
#13. 2019 Panini Absolute Joe Montana Kaboom! #K-JM
A PSA 9 sold for $550.
The Kaboom! series has emerged as, by far, the most popular insert in the hobby. The veteran cards aren't usually the ones you want to hit, but we will make an exception for Joe Montana. It shows the quarterback with arms held aloft in triumph, a sight we elderly football fans remember seeing so often in the playoffs and Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the population count for these Joe Montana cards is pretty low, at only 19. But if you want a version with more of a premium, there are only 5 copies of the Gold version, and there is even a Green 1/1 somewhere out there in this beautiful world of ours.
#12. 1990 Fleer Jerry Rice Joe Montana Superbowl MVP's #397
A PSA 10 sold for $750.
There are several awesome Montana cards with Jerry Rice, the best wide receiver of all time. However, the 1990 Fleer Jerry Rice Joe Montana Superbowl MVP's #397 has a certain authentic charm; the others are lacking. It showcases the two in their natural habitat, kicking ass at the Super Bowl. The two combined for 55 regular season and 12 playoff touchdowns during six incredibly memorable years together. Keep an eye out for signed copies because they will surely increase in value.
#11. 1983 Topps Joe Montana #169
A PSA 10 sold for $855.
The 1983 Topps Football set card design resembles the more famous 1981 set containing Joe's rookie card. The thin green border and the text within that yellow box are familiar and formidable, to be sure. But there are some significant differences, which were not too popular with collectors at the time. Most notably, the 1983 Topps Joe Montana #169 and the other cards in the series are missing the Topps logo. Therefore, it is not one of the most popular early cards of the "Comeback Kid."
But there is some upside here. There are precious few PSA 10s on this card. A mere 64 out of 3,519 cards. Therefore, the prices are likely to go up over time. They aren't making more PSA 10s of the 1983 Joe Montana card.
#10. 1982 Topps Joe Montana #488
A PSA 10 sold for $900.
With all the focus on the Montana rookie card, the1982 Topps Joe Montana #488 doesn't get the love it deserves. But we are here to change that. Are you telling me you don't want a picture of a sweaty Joe talking on the phone? Of course, you do! And the All-Pro logo at the top of the card reminds us how far our boy came in the NFL. It is also worth noting that this is one of three Joe Montana cards in the 1982 Topps Football cards release. However, it is easily the most popular of the trio.
PSA 10s for this card are more common than the famous rookie, but not so much because they came out a year later. But instead, because the centering on 1982 Topps was significantly better than it was the previous year.
#9. 1984 Topps Joe Montana #358
A PSA 10 sold for $967.
The 1984 Topps Football card set is probably the most beloved and sought-after in all of 1980s football collecting. However, Joe is, for once, not the star attraction. Two other absolute greats, John Elway and Dan Marino, have their rookie cards here. Still, the presence of our protagonist in any set is nothing to sneeze at. So, the 1984 Topps Joe Montana #358 card also has a vital role in the hobby.
However, the card is one of Joe Montana's least attractive. They managed to find "Joe Cool," looking pretty uncool. What is that slack-jawed expression he is wearing? Montana deserved a better photo selection than that! Meanwhile, the red on the borders clashes with the color of the seats on the stand unpleasantly. Note also that this Joe Montana card has twice as many PSA 10s as most of his 1980s Topps cards. So, its potential for long-term value may be more limited.
#8. 1985 Topps Joe Montana #157
A PSA 10 sold for $1,800.
Although not a very early card in "Joe Cool's" career, the 1985 Topps Joe Montana #157 tends to sell for a much higher price than most other 1980s cards for the Niners quarterback. Not including the rookie card, of course. What is the explanation for that? It does have a pretty low population count. As hardcore collectors know, keeping cards with black borders in good condition can be very difficult. Every little chip and imperfection shows all too clearly. There are only 56 PSA 10s around, although that is just a tad less than the 1983 Topps Joe Montana #169, which is also from an earlier year.
That means the design of the 1985 Topps football card is bringing in the big bucks. It certainly stands out as unique in the 1980s landscape. And speaking of those, it is set in that photographing position. The design once again deemphasizes the Topps logo. It also has the print running vertically when the card is horizontal. The whole thing is awkward, but the market has spoken.
#7. 1985 Topps Dan Marino / Joe Montana Passing Leaders #192
A PSA 10 sold for $2,575.
We don't always give these "league leaders" cards the respect they are due. But to me, nothing captures the spirit of the time better than these items. So, therefore, the1985 Topps Dan Marino / Joe Montana Passing Leaders #192 is my favorite Joe Montana cards and must also be yours. Submit! But seriously, you have the best quarterbacks of the 1980s (is it even a question) at their prime, going toe to toe in yards. It is a shame that Dan looks constipated in the picture. But is it really a junk wax classic without a terrible shot?
#6. 2016 Panini Flawless Joe Montana Dual Game Used Patch Auto /5 #16
A BGS 9.5 sold for $2,676.
If only we had Panini Flawless around when Joe was a rookie, right? Imagine a dual patch auto of "The Comeback Kid" from 1979. But I digress. Though not 44 years old, the 2016 Panini Flawless Joe Montana Dual Game Used Patch Auto /5 #16 is a gorgeous Jor Montana card. The classy patches from back in the day will guarantee substantial value for this item for decades. Meanwhile, there are only five of these around.
#5. 2004 Ultimate Collection Joe Montana Joe Namath Dual Jersey Auto /15
A PSA 10 sold for $2,750.
What do these two quarterbacks have in common aside from their legendary status and the name Joe? This card, of course! The 2004 Ultimate Collection Joe Montana Joe Namath Dual Jersey Auto /15 has game-worn patches and autos of the two Hall Of Famers. They also both won national championships and Super Bowls as quarterbacks, making them exclusive club members and the ultimate winners. Sorry, Tom Brady. By the way, if Joe Burrowwins a ring, he will join them. We can then look forward to a card featuring a freaky Joe three-way.
The card has a unique design with authentic modern art tones. I have never seen a card color scheme quite like it, and it works beautifully.
#4. 2018 Flawless Joe Montana NFL Shield Diamond Patch Auto 1/1 Masterpiece
A raw card sold for $4,549.
They didn't make cards quite this beautiful back when Montana was playing. Usually, veteran autos are kind of blah when you hit them in an expensive product like Flawless. But this card is so jaw-dropping, and Joe such a supreme legend, that no one would be disappointed to land this card. As a result, the 2018 Flawless Joe Montana NFL Shield Diamond Patch Auto 1/1 Masterpiece stands as the most attractive and desirable of all the latter-day cards of this Hall of Famer.
#3. 1986 Topps Joe Montana #156
A PSA 10 sold for $4,670.
Everyone loves the 1986 Topps Football card release for two reasons. First, it has the most jaw-droppingly awful junk wax-era design imaginable. What on earth was Topps thinking with that awful shade of green with tacky yellow stripes? But mostly because it has that unforgettable Jerry Rice rookie card. The picture looks like Joe is feeling up his gut and wondering, "Do I look fat in this uniform?" Still, the 1986 Topps Joe Montana #156 fetches some surprisingly high prices. It isn't for the love of the design. But the 1986 Topps Football cards tend to be wildly off-center, so finding a good copy of this card is tricky. There are only 23 PSA 10s and 261 PSA 9s.
#2. 2005 Donruss Elite Passing The Torch Joe Montana Tom Brady /50
A BGS 8.5 sold for $4,800.
Tom Brady grew up as a hardcore Niners fan in the Bay Area. He studied every move "Joe Cool" made, matching and perhaps even surpassing his idol. The 2005 Donruss Elite Passing The Torch Joe Montana Tom Brady /50 card commemorates the special relationship between these two extraordinary athletes. Okay, there are some consistent rumors that Joe doesn't like Tom Brady much. But that just makes the card cooler.
#1. 1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card #216
A PSA 10 sold for $73,500.
There is literally no way you could make a list of "Joe Cool" cards without a 1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card #216, right? Of course, the rookie card for this guy could be a total trainwreck, and people would still want it. And in this case, we are talking about the only legit Joe Montana rookie card available. But luckily, the 1981 Topps Football card has a great design, already reflecting the changing aesthetic values of a decade that redefined tastelessness. It is worth noting that Joe played his first season back in 1979, but Topps didn't get around to giving us a Montana card until 1981. And maybe that is a good thing because otherwise, this marvel of 1980s design wouldn't have the level of importance it does today. The thin green border and that text box shouldn't work. But somehow, the look is timeless and priceless. Well, there is a price on it. It's just high.
There are precious few PSA 10s of the iconic Joe Montana rookie card, with only 110 copies. And considering how beloved a player he is, the market is strong. So, a high-grade copy of this card is an excellent investment. The combination of Joe's popularity and outstanding design makes it one of the most popular cards of the decade.
The Final Word On The Top 13 Joe Montana Cards For Serious Collectors
Joe Montana cards are incredibly fun to collect. His early cards are junk wax wonders. You can collect lower-grade copies for next to nothing or go after his higher-grade cards if you want to spend all your cash in one place. Then because he is a veteran, you can get some incredible game-worn patch autos for relatively reasonable prices. Finally, because he is such an icon, you won't lose cards on "Cool Joe." An entire generation will never forget the magic he brought to the gridiron.