What do you see when you gaze upon a spread of Barry Sanders football cards?

The greatest running back of all time?

You would not be alone in that opinion, for sure.

A suitcase full of tantalizing what-ifs for the guy who retired at the top of his game when he was 30?

Inarguably.

And, even though Sanders left so early, he still had plenty of time to amass more cards than you could shake a stick at (try it — I dare you).

That’s why we’re going to limit ourselves here to 20 of the greatest Barry Sanders football cards from his first two seasons.

After that, it was all just SSDD, anyway.

1989 Detroit Lions Police Barry Sanders Rookie Card (#11)

1989 Detroit Lions Police Barry Sanders

Issued by the team in conjunction with Oscar Mayer, Claussen, and other vendors, the 1989 Lions “police” set featured 11 players plus head coach Wayne Fontes.

Card backs had a blurb about the player, a safety tip, and some sponsor information.

And, of course, the plum of the whole thing is an oddball rookie card of Barry the Great.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1989 Pro Set Barry Sanders Rookie Card (#494)

1989 Pro Set Barry Sanders Rookie Card

Newcomer Pro Set brought a new look to the football card market, with bright colors, lots of action shots, official team and league logos all over the place, and a focus on rookies.

Specifically, a focus on draft picks, which meant Pro Set pumped out a lot of big names in college uniforms while they were cutting their teeth on the NFL gridiron.

For Sanders, that meant a dramatic shot of the Heisman Trophy winner bursting out of the Oklahoma State backfield.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1989 Score Barry Sanders Rookie Card (#257)

1989 Score Barry Sanders Rookie Card

Like Pro Set, Score was new to the football card scene in 1989.

And, also like Pro Set, Score seemed to prioritize rookies with their “1989 ROOKIE” subset.

And so, we get a helmetless shot of a semi-smiling Sanders against a nothing background, but in what appears to be a Lions jersey (based on the color, anyway).

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1989 Topps Traded Barry Sanders Rookie Card (#83T)

1989 Topps Traded Barry Sanders Rookie Card

Topps fell behind their competition quickly in that first post-monopoly year, whiffing on major rookies like Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders, and …

… and Barry Sanders.

They corrected that wrong with a resting-on-the-bench Barry in their Traded set later in the season.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Action Packed All-Madden Barry Sanders (#47)

1990 Action Packed All-Madden Barry Sanders

Action Packed was sort of like Stadium Club for football, a year before Stadium Club for baseball was a thing.

All shiny and embossed and thick and chunky, Action Packed also gave us tremendous photography that was rich, clear, and … well … action-packed.

Beyond the base set, AP also issued this 58-card set celebrating the members of the vaunted All-Madden Team.

Of course Sanders was part of that.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Action Packed Barry Sanders (#78)

1990 Action Packed Barry Sanders

Oh, and gold foil … that’s the other thing Action Packed brought to the hobby.

Here, Sanders is trying to bust out of his golden plaque and away from the fancy design that looks pretty dated now.

Still, this is an early card of a Hall of Famer and can’t be ignored if you want a “complete” Sanders collection.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 British Petroleum Barry Sanders (#6)

1990 British Petroleum Barry Sanders

These cards were issued as part of a contest run by California BP stations (participating ones, at least).

Each card had a number on the front, and you could win money by matching up guys with the same number — Colts linebacker Duane Bickett matched up with Sanders at #6, for instance.

Prizes ranged from $5 to $10,000, which would buy you a lot of Sanders cards today — if you could find them.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Detroit Lions Police Barry Sanders (#6)

1990 Detroit Lions Police Barry Sanders

Detroit Police cards were back for 1990, and so was Barry Sanders.

This card features a mid-field juke from Mr. Hips that probably broke some poor defender in two, somewhere out of frame.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Fleer Barry Sanders (#284)

1990 Fleer Barry Sanders

Fleer joined the football fray in 1990 with a set that looked pretty darn nice and felt thoroughly Fleer-y.

There were lots of cards, too, both in the checklist (400) and in distribution channels (roughly 37.4 trillion).

So, these Fleer cards aren’t worth a whole lot today, but the Barry card carries great visuals.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Kenner Starting Lineup Barry Sanders

1990 Kenner Starting Lineup Barry Sanders

If you were around the hobby at the time, you already know that Kenner Starting Lineup figures were the bees’ knees in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Collectors and dealers lurked around the local Wal-Mart just waiting for the next toy delivery so they could bin-dive looking for a) the figures they needed to complete a set, b) the superstar figures, and c) the figures that should have been commons, so Kenner didn’t make many of them.

Sanders was in the superstar bucket, and his 1990 figure came with two cards — a yellow one celebrating his “ROOKIE YEAR” and a blue one that was part of the “1990 EDITION.”

Neither is worth much today, and you might be just as well off to go whole hog and buy a packaged figure.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 King B Discs Barry Sanders (#7)

1990 King B Discs Barry Sanders

If there’s one thing you can say about King B Discs, it’s that they let you know right away which year they were from.

This second-year MSA issue (almost) literally screams, “19 90“.

And, if there’s another thing you can say about King B Discs, it’s that the 1990 football set is fairly scarce.

You won’t find this Sanders disc too often, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll pay an arm and a leg for one.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Panini Stickers Barry Sanders (#257)

1990 Panini Stickers Barry Sanders

This is a typical sticker set from the 1980s or early 1990s, with smallish card/stickers that you could peel off and stick in an album.

There are 396 stickers in all — quite a few for a football issue, especially — and both US and UK versions … identical, except that the UKs have stats on the back.

Sanders appears thrice in this set (once on a leaders card with Christian Okoye and twice alone).

This is the snazziest of the three.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Pro Set Barry Sanders (#102)

1990 Pro Set Barry Sanders

Pro set was back for another go-round in 1990, and Sanders came along for the ride.

This is the Lions legend’s base card, but he also appeared at #1 as the “1989 PRO SET ROOKIE OF THE YEAR.”

You can’t go wrong with either from an aesthetic standpoint, and they’re as common as turf burns for Houston Oilers RBs, so you can’t really go wrong from a cost standpoint, either.

Why not get both??

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Score 100 Hottest Barry Sanders (#5)

1990 Score Barry Sanders

These are pretty much just the 100 best NFL players, in Score’s eyes, pulled from the base set, renumbered, and jammed into a 100-count boxed set.

So, this Barry looks just like the Barry below, except it’s number 5 instead of number 20.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Score Barry Sanders (#20)

The corollary is that this Barry is just like the Barry above, except it’s number 20 instead of number 5.

So that makes this Sanders’ 1990 Score base card, which means there are about a bajillion of them out there.

It’s not a bad looking card, which is good news, and it should come on the cheap.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Score Hot Cards Barry Sanders (#3)

1990 Score Hot Cards Barry Sanders

Hot Cards came issued as bonuses in packs of 100 regular 1990 Score cards … making the total haul 101 (math is my strong suit).

There were only ten Hot Cards in the checklist, and since you only got one with the 100 other cards you were buying, that made these Hot Cards hot items.

That has to be how the Score logic worked here, right?

But one percent of infinity is … anybody? Anybody?

Right.

Anyway, the truth is that this card probably is a bit more scarce than the other Score Sanders cards from 1990.

And, it’s kind of fun to see him orbiting the sun like that, don’t you think?

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Score Young Superstars Barry Sanders (#1)

1990 Score Young Superstars Barry Sanders

These were something different, anyway.

Young Superstars was a direct-from-Score item, 40 cards of young superstardom.

With black borders no less.

Looking at this Sanders card, I’m struck by two things …

One — that ref is going to tackle Barry.

And …

Two — this is what 1980s Donruss football cards would have looked like if they had existed.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Sports Illustrated for Kids Barry Sanders (#202)

1990 Sports Illustrated for Kids Barry Sanders

If you were a kid in 1990, or even close to being one and still had some sort of kid-like ties to your parents, chances are you nabbed an issue or two of Sports Illustrated for Kids along the way.

And, if so, you probably scored some of these SI4K cards.

If you lined things up just right, one of those cards may have been this sunny Barry Sanders.

If not, well, that’s what eBay and Amazon and couch change are for …

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Topps 1000 Yard Club Barry Sanders (#3)

1990 Topps 1000 Yard Club Barry Sanders

How many guys do you think gained 1000 yards, either on the ground or through the air, in the NFL in 1989?

There were actually 31, though Topps only saw fit to give us 30 in this glossy insert set.

And, yeah, rookie Sanders made the cut at #3 with his 1470 yards in Detroit.

But who was missing? That would be Eric Dickerson, who didn’t want to appear anywhere but Pro Set.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

1990 Topps Barry Sanders (#352)

1990 Topps Barry Sanders

This is your standard first base issue for a denizen of Canton, showing Sanders doing what he did best — carrying the rock.

This card’ll never set you free financially, but it’s a cheap way to add some legend to your collection.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Barry Sanders Hand Signed Detroit Lions Football Card

$5.50 (2 Bids)
End Date: Tuesday Oct-22-2019 11:02:19 PDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

Football Detroit Lions Barry Sanders Lot 75 cards!

$9.99 (0 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday Oct-23-2019 5:11:07 PDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1989 TOPPS TRADED FOOTBALL BARRY SANDERS ROOKIE CARD # 83T SGC 92 NM/MT+

$9.99
End Date: Wednesday Oct-30-2019 12:40:52 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $9.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list