A Barry Sanders rookie card is more than just a dusty old football relic that costs a lot of money. Heck, in some cases a Sanders RC doesn’t really cost much at all, anyway.

But no matter how expensive (or not) the card is, every Barry Sanders rookie card represents a significant chunk of history.

After all, here you have the guy many (me included) consider to be the greatest running back in NFL history, and one who left us all wanting more when he retired at age 30 in 1998 (though we got .

Not only that … Sanders’ debut AND rookie cards coincided exactly with the debut of several new football card sets after decades of a virtual monopoly for Topps.

What follows is a rundown of all those glorious Sanders RCs, plus a few bonus listings — you’ll understand why they’re here when you read those bits below.

In each case, I’ve also included the approximate current market value of each Barry Sanders rookie card based on sales for PSA 9 cards listed in the PSA Auction Prices Realized tool as of late summer 2021.

Things change fast in this market, though, so you can always check current listings on eBay and Amazon with the links included in each section and by clicking on the card images (affiliate links).

Now, with all that out of the way, it’s time for some Barry Sanders cardboard eye candy.

Hut! Hut!

(If you want to see even more early Barry Sanders football cards issued as he made his case for Canton, check out our article here.)

1989 Lions Police Barry Sanders (#11)

1989 Lions Police Barry Sanders

OK, so this card doesn’t hail from one of those new sets that debuted right alongside Sanders in 1989. Instead, this is the second regional set of “police” cards sponsored by Oscar Mayer and Claussen and issued in the Detroit area.

But, while a multiplayer card featuring Bennie Blades, Chris Spielman, Pat Carter was about the best the 1988 set could muster, the 1989 issue stepped up big time with an at-the-podium shot of Sanders in Lions powder blue, likely on the day Detroit made him the third overall pick in that June’s NFL Draft.

Today, this outstanding card sells in the neighborhood of $60 in PSA condition.

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1989 Pro Set Barry Sanders (#494)

1989 Pro Set Barry Sanders

If the Junk Wax Era hadn’t already been a thing — even if we hadn’t so named it yet — there’s a pretty good bet Pro Set would have invented the concept with their 1989 set.

This stuff was everywhere, and it was evident right out of the pack that the cards weren’t exactly Cadillacs of the hobby.

Still, it was super exciting to hold cards not made by Topps of individual players, and printed on white card stock instead of the mushy brown stuff we were used to.

It was slightly disappointing to see Sanders in his college uniform, but these were the days before Photoshop and digital photography at your fingertips at all times, so it was to be expected — that or airbrushing!

All these years later, there are probably millions of these RCs running around out there, but nice PSA 9 copies still trade in the $30-40 range.

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1989 Score Barry Sanders (#257)

1989 Score Barry Sanders

Score, on the other hand, bucked the trend of both the other football card companies and its own propensities in the baseball card market.

In particular, they seemed to take a sort of wait-and-see approach with their new venture onto the gridiron, with anecdotal regional reports from around the hobby indicating that Score football wasn’t quite as easy to, um, score as its counterparts in the market.

And, while, 1989 Score football is not scarce in any real sense of the word, this set has maintained an air of superiority among the year’s issues as the decades roll by, and the colored borders make top-end copies tough to come by.

In the case of the smiling Barry Sanders rookie card, that means a sticker price of about $140 in PSA 9 condition.

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1989 Topps Traded Barry Sanders (#83T)

1989 Topps Traded Barry Sanders

After nearly a decade of cranking out year-end update sets for the baseball card market and suddenly staring at a competitive landscape, Topps finally brought the idea to football with their 1989 Traded set.

Or, maybe it was Sanders himself who pushed The Old Gum Company toward the mild innovation, considering they missed on the Detroit rookie in their 1989 base set.

Whatever the case, Sanders’ 1989 Topps Traded card is the first to show him in an NFL game setting, even if the shot does feature him plopped down on a sideline bench.

Pricewise, it takes the ball at $30-35 in PSA 9 condition.

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BONUS!

Those 1989 cards represent the full gamut of actual Sanders rookie cards, but 1990 brought even more players to the gridiron pasteboard game. And, with those new entries came a rush of “first” Sanders cards for companies who weren’t on the field in 1989.

Here’s a rundown of those “bonus rookie” cards …

1990 Fleer Barry Sanders (#284)

1990 Fleer Barry Sanders

As the company who brought down the Topps monopoly in baseball ten years before, and with a long history of serving collectors in one way or another, Fleer was the headliner when it came to new entrants to the football card market in 1990.

They delivered with a crisp, modern design and solid photography front and back that even managed to stir up a little nostalgia with player images overlapping card borders like many of the great cards of the past.

For awhile, Fleer *felt* like it hit the sweet spot from a production standpoint, too, with a touch of scarcity here and there keeping prices solid and retail shelves generally sparsely populated, but with wide enough distribution to prevent an all-out frenzy on the secondary market.

As with most sports cards from the era, of course, time has shown us that there is enough 1990 Fleer football out there to fill the oceans several times over, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still an important milepost in hobby history.

And Barry Sanders’ Fleer debut shows real NFL game action, something none of is 1989 RCs could claim.

Today, expect to pay about $15 for a slabbed MINT copy of that first Sanders Fleer card.

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1990 Fleer All-Pros Barry Sanders (#4)

1990 Fleer All-Pros Barry Sanders

Once they had their full license to issue cards of individual football players, after years of their Super Bowl sets showing nothing buy Blimp-eye-view action from the Big Game, Fleer jumped in with both cleats.

Part of that leap included an All-Pros set inserted into wax packs, similar to the Future Hall of Famers and All-Star cards they had rolled out in baseball in the preceding years. With Sanders reeling off 1470 yards rushing as a rookie in 1989, you can bet he was included in both the All-Pro squad and this set.

Today, this about a $12 card in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Fleer Stars ‘n Stripes Barry Sanders (#44)

1990 Fleer Stars and Stripes Barry Sanders

Another tribute to the All-Pro players of they day, Stars ‘n Stripes featured 90 cards issued in small boxes/packs that included two candy sticks and eight cards.

If you were lucky enough to pull a Sanders, or to find one later, then you have a $15 card — IF it’s graded a PSA 9.

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1990 Action Packed Barry Sanders (#78)

1990 Action Packed Barry Sanders

In many ways, Action Packed rode the wave of hobby hype that Upper Deck created in the baseball card market the year before, then amplified the signal and hardened it up for the gridiron.

Positioning itself as a super premium brand, AP offered just six cards per foil pack, but each was thick as the belly of a 1980s lineman and featured an embossed image of the player in question, all with a metallic sheen.

These striking cards hit most collectors as more of a novelty than must-have additions to the pile, though, especially with a hefty per-card price tag. And, like all the rest, there are generally plenty 1990 Action Packed debut pasteboards to go around today.

Expect price tags around $20 for Sanders slabbed in PSA 9.

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

1990 Action Packed All-Madden Barry Sanders

Like Fleer, Action Packed wasn’t content to stick with just a base set in their inaugural year.

Instead, they teamed with Hall of Fame coach John Madden to produce a 58-card factory set of “All-Madden” team members … and, yeah Sanders was part of that group.

This card sells for about $15 in PSA 9 condition.

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🏈1989 SCORE BARRY SANDERS ROOKIE CARD PSA 9 MINT LIONS-OSU🏈

$3.25 (3 Bids)
End Date: Tuesday 10/05/2021 19:02:16 EDT
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BARRY SANDERS ROOKIE CARD 1989 Score RC Lions NFL Football

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End Date: Monday 09/27/2021 22:49:12 EDT
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1989 TOPPS TRADED BARRY SANDERS ROOKIE CARD RC

$9.99
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1989 SCORE #257 BARRY SANDERS ROOKIE.BEAUTIFUL CARD.

$35.00
End Date: Monday 10/25/2021 14:50:53 EDT
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1989 Score Barry Sanders Rookie Card RC #257 Lions Y859

$15.50 (9 Bids)
End Date: Tuesday 09/28/2021 01:05:38 EDT
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