For four decades now, 1981 Topps football cards have been defined by a single, iconic hunk of cardboard.

So, there is no great personal shortcoming in not being able to name even one important piece of the set beyond the Joe Montana rookie card.

After all, the man who teamed with Bill Walsh to build one of the NFL’s great dynasties is hard to forget, and hard to overcome from a cardboard perspective.

1981 Topps football cards wax pack

But the 1981 Topps set is loaded with Hall of Fame pasteboards beyond The Comeback Kid, and it even features a couple other important rookie cards … believe it or not!

So, sit back and enjoy this list of the 12 most valuable 1981 Topps football cards, Montana included, as culled from PSA 9 values listed in the PSA Sports Market Report Price Guide.

Hut! Hut!

1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card (#216)

1981 Topps Joe Montana

Montana sort of has a reputation for being a scrapper, almost an underdog.

A lot of that has to do with all the comebacks he engineered over his career, and a lot of it has to do with the fact he was performing those miracles for the San Francisco 49ers.

In case you don’t remember, the Niners were nothing to write home about in the years before Walsh and Montana hooked up in the Bay.

But Montana was a supremely talented passer who led the mighty Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a National Championship in 1977 before he ever landed in The League.

Regardless of how you view Montana’s rise to prominence, there is no denying that the man is a legend, and this rookie card drove the football card market throughout the 1980s.

Today, it’s still a collector favorite and will set you back around $600 for a PSA 9 copy.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Jack Lambert (#155)

1981 Topps Jack Lambert

By 1981, Lambert had already won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers and established himself as one of the most dominant middle linebackers in NFL history..

There would be more glory in the next few years, including a career-high six interceptions in 1981, but both Lambert and his team were entering their decline phase.

Still, Jack remains strong in the hobby, and PSA 9 copies of his 1981 Topps card sell for about 50 bucks today.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Dan Hampton Rookie Card (#316)

1981 Topps Dan Hampton

Hampton was a rare defensive lineman who came to the NFL with a fair amount of hype and glamour when the Chicago Bears drafted him in the first round of the 1979 NFL draft.

After signing a big four-year contract that included a six-figure bonus, Hampton had a lot to live up to … and he did.

Splitting time between defensive end and densive tackle, Hampton became a four-time first-team All-Pro selection and a cornerstone of Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense that changed football.

A key member of that 1985 Bears team that won a Super Bowl and is considered by most to be one of the greatest squads ever, Hampton made the Hall of Fame cut in 2002.

Today, his 1981 Topps rookie card is a $40 item in PSA 9.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Walter Payton (#400)

1981 Topps Walter Payton

By 1981, Hampton’s teammate, Walter Payton, was already an NFL legend … the only questions were how many records he would own when all was said and done, and whether he would ever win a championship.

Sweetness, of course, eventually surpassed Jim Brown for the most rushing yards ever. And, with Hampton and other teammates in the fold, and under coach Mike Ditka’s leadership, Payton got his ring with that 1985 team.

Not surprisingly, collectors have loved Payton since he burst onto the scene in the 1970s, and this 1981 card is a $40 piece in graded MINT condition today.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Ozzie Newsome (#435)

1981 Topps Ozzie Newsome

In 1981, Ozzie Newsome recorded his first of two 1000-yard receiving seasons (the other coming in 1984).

That was pretty heady territory for tight ends, making Newsome one of just three TEs in the top 20 for receiving yards.

It also solidified his status as a big target for the Cleveland Browns and helped launch him on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

Today, Newsome cards are popular across the board, and this one checks in around $30 in PSA 9 condition.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Art Monk Rookie Card (#194)

1981 Topps Art Monk

Though Monk was always among the league leaders in receiving yards, he never was the top man in that regard.

What he was, though, was a steady high-performer who topped 1000 yards five times and played for 16 seasons.

Fourteen of those came with the Washington Redskins, who snagged two Super Bowl titles during his tenure.

A Canton bust has helped keep Monk’s cards in the hobby spotlight, and this RC is a $25 piece today.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Dwight Clark Rookie Card (#422)

1981 Topps Dwight Clark

Can you trace the origins of a great dynasty to one moment?

In the case of the 1980s San Francisco 49ers, you’d be hard-pressed to find any oldsters like me who don’t think the dynasty began with, “The Catch.”

If you don’t remember, that’s the play where Dwight Clark climbed, like, 30 feet high in the back of the end zone to haul in Joe Montana’s game-winning toss in the 1981 NFC Championship game against the mighty Dallas Cowboys.

Clark turned in a solid nine-year NFL career, but that one play forever made him a legend and his cards collector favorites.

Today, Clark’s 1981 Topps rookie card is a $25 buy in graded MINT condition.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps John Stallworth (#476)

1981 Topps John Stallworth

Stallworth was a bit of a forgotten man during most of the Steelers’ glory years in the 1970s, but he became a big part of the offense as the 1980s loomed.

To wit, from 1979 through 1985, Stallworth put up three 1000-yard seasons and missed a fourth by 63 yards.

All told, his 14-year career yielded 8700+ yards, 63 touchdowns, four Super Bowl rings, and a place in Canton.

Today, Stallworth’s 1981 Topps card sells for $20+ in PSA 9.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Kellen Winslow Rookie Card (#150)

1981 Topps Kellen Winslow

Winslow took the big-bodied, good-hands tight end model that Newsome brought to the fore and ran with it (after the catch!).

In 1981, the 6’5″ monster recorded his second straight 1000-yard season and led all of football with 88 catches. He was a key part of the famed Air Coryell offense with the San Diego Chargers, and a favorite target of quarterback Dan Fouts.

When he retired in 1987 at age 30, Winslow had redefined the TE position, and he remains a hobby favorite today.

That 1981 Topps rookie card of his is a $20 buy in PSA 9.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Walter Payton Super Action (#202)

1981 Topps Walter Payton SA

Payton was one of the most action-packed players in the game, so it’s only fitting that Topps included him in their 1981 Super Action subset.

As with Mickey Mantle in baseball, Topps likely wanted to squeeze in as many cards as possible of the game’s marquee names.

Mission accomplished with this “extra” Sweetness that hammers down around $20 in slabbed MINT condition these days.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Mark Gastineau Rookie Card (#342)

1981 Topps Mark Gastineau

A dominating defensive end, Gastineau was one of the first to make good use of the glitz that the new “sack” stat introduced in 1982.

The Jets showboat led the NFL with 19 picks in 1983 and 22 in 1984, and it all just added to the legend of this fiery competitor.

A high-profile lifestyle and All-Pro performances made Gastineau a hot name in the hobby, and his RC is a $15 card in PSA 9 today.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Franco Harris (#220)

1981 Topps Franco Harris

Like Lambert, Harris entered 1981 with most of his glory days already behind him.

But like Stallworth, there were still some excellent personal moments to come, including 987 yards in ’81, another 1007 in 1983, and surpassing 10,000 total on his way to 12,000+.

The 1981 Topps Franco card sells today for north of $10 in PSA 9 most of the time.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1981 Topps Football Cards (260-528) - Pick The Cards to Complete Your Set

$1.00
End Date: Sunday Aug-23-2020 12:08:31 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $1.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

1981 Topps Football Cards (1-259) - Pick The Cards to Complete Your Set

$1.00
End Date: Tuesday Aug-18-2020 15:38:41 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $1.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Pick From List: 1981 Topps Football Cards

$1.00
End Date: Saturday Sep-5-2020 20:03:11 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $1.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

1981 Topps Football Singles - complete your set

$1.19
End Date: Friday Sep-4-2020 13:49:12 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $1.19
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

1981 Topps Football Complete Your Set You Pick/Choose #1-250 Rookies Free Ship!!

$1.00
End Date: Sunday Aug-9-2020 18:15:33 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $1.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list