Joe Montana football cards were the toast of the hobby all through the 1980s, and they remain near the top of the mountain more than 25 years after his retirement.

Montana was undoubtedly THE quarterback of the decade, and he made the 49ers a dynasty with four Super Bowl titles in nine years.

To celebrate that run of greatness, let’s check out the best Joe Montana football cards from the 1980s — two for each year (Topps + a toughie), plus a couple of bonuses.

Hike!

1981 MSA Holsum Discs Joe Montana

1981 MSA Holsum Discs Joe Montana

MSA was all over the “disc” scene in the 1970s, producing baseball “cards” for outfits like Burger King, Little Caesar’s, and Pepsi.

In 1981, they teamed up with Holsum bread to distribute a football issue, mostly in the Wisconsin area.

Therein lies the only non-Topps Montana rookie card we have, and he’s got his sly devil outfit on, complete with long curly hair, down-his-face moustache, and mischievous grin.

This is a tough card that will set you back $50 or more, depending on condition.

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1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card (#216)

1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card

This was the Don Mattingly RC of the football card market … the card of the breakout superstar that you could pull from packs the same season he was breaking out.

The card that drove the hobby all through the 1980s.

When this card was issued, Montana had eight starts over two NFL seasons under his belt.

By the end of the ’81 season, though, he was a Super Bowl champion and a budding legend.

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1982 Topps Joe Montana All-Pro (#488)

1982 Topps Joe Montana All-Pro

Montana is doing his best Joe Horn impression here on his second Topps cards, and the first after he became a household name.

Think he’s calling his mom to tell her practice went well? Or maybe President Ronald Reagan to talk smack about the Redskins?

My money is on a connection to Canton, getting an early start on specs for his Hall of Fame bust.

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1982 Topps Joe Montana In Action (#489)

1982 Topps Joe Montana In Action

Even after his amazing 1981 run, Montana didn’t have any sort of real oddball issues in 1982.

So … we’ll go with his Topps In Action, which the PSA Master Set Registry lists as the second most important of Joe’s card that year.

The most striking thing about this card? How old the photography looks, which I definitely take exception to.

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1983 Topps Joe Montana (#169)

1983 Topps Joe Montana

The 1983 Topps football set takes its design cues from minimalistic baseball issues of the past, like 1957 and 1967.

The crisp, large photos have always been popular with collectors, and this Montana is a classic, though its value lags just a bit due to being a double print.

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1983 Topps Sticker Insert Joe Montana (#21)

1983 Topps Sticker Insert Joe Montana

These “cards” were inserted into Topps football packs that fall and featured 33 of the game’s biggest stars.

Several card backs showed a piece of a photo that fit into a bigger poster-type deal depicting play from Super Bowl XVII when you put them all together.

These sticker-cards tended to yellow over the years, and plenty of them were unstuck and re-stuck as intended, making the Montana (and others) somewhat tough to find in top condition.

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1984 Police Joe Montana and Dwight Clark

1984 Police Joe Montana and Dwight Clark

“The Catch” is one of those plays that’s indelibly imprinted on the memory of anyone who saw it — live or on TV.

There is Montana scrambling to get free, there he is heaving the ball toward the back of the end zone, there the ball sails out of bounds … there come the outstretched hands of Dwight Clark, out of nowhere, to snag the pass and get his feet in-bounds.

Touchdown.

Niners beat the Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game.

This is how legends are born, and this scarce police-issue card brings Montana and Clark together again just as they were embarking on another Super Bowl run.

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1984 Topps Joe Montana (#358)

1984 Topps Joe Montana

The 1984 Topps set is loaded with big-name rookie cards — guys like Eric Dickerson, John Elway, Dan Marino.

While those hotshot youngsters were making a name for themselves with gaudy stats, Montana was working with 49ers coach Bill Walsh to put together another championship run.

After the season, the Niners dismantled Marino’s Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX, and Montana’s 1984 Topps card took on more meaning.

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1985 Smokey Bear 49ers Joe Montana (#2)

1985 Smokey Bear 49ers Joe Montana

This is a tough card to find, especially through online markets like eBay.

Featuring Montana with Smokey Bear in a “public service announcement” capacity, this was one of those promotional opportunities that came on the heels of the Niners’ second championship.

A fallback option if you’re set on nabbing a Smokey-Joe card but can’t find this one is the #1 card in the set, which shows the lova-bear with a handful of San Fran players (including Montana).

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1985 Topps Joe Montana (#157)

1985 Topps Joe Montana

The 1985 Topps football set is a love-or-hate proposition for most collectors — black borders make top condition tough to find, and the horizontal format make these visually different than other issues.

Having a classic shot of Montana on this card ameliorates much of that consternation, though, and this remains a popular card in the hobby.

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1986 McDonald’s Joe Montana (#16)

1986 mcdonalds joe montana 49ers blue tab

In 1986, McDonald’s issued team-specific card sets in several NFL cities, including San Francisco.

The cards are oversize and feature “Play & Win” tabs in various colors — orange, black, blue, green.

In non-NFL cities, McDonald’s issued “All-Star” versions of many of the same players, Montana included.

All of these Mickey D cards of Joe are popular, but the San Fran-specific issues are more scarce and valuable than the more widely distributed All-Stars cards.

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1986 Topps Joe Montana (#156)

1986 Topps Joe Montana

So, even though Topps went back to a portrait orientation for their 1986 set, this issue may be even more polarizing than the 1985 black-bordered beauties.

While the design is supposed to represent a football field, the green and red and white motif screams “Christmas” to many.

Still, this is a prime-time Montana card, so it’s always going to be popular with collectors, all the more so since the set holds a matching Jerry Rice rookie card.

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1987 Ace Fact Pack 49ers Joe Montana

1987 Ace Fact Pack 49ers Joe Montana

Resembling playing cards, with rounded borders and patterned backs, the Ace Fact Pack featured 33 cards full of 49ers players, lore, and stats.

These are tough cards to find, especially individually, but you can sometimes land a complete set … for a few hundred bucks.

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1987 Topps Joe Montana (#112)

1987 Topps Joe Montana

By 1987, football cards were starting to come into their own as a hobby, with rookie cards like Jim Kelly, Doug Flutie, Randall Cunningham, and Herschel Walker benefiting from the increased exposure.

Production numbers were creeping upwards, too — at least anecdotally — which means you should be able to find nice graded copies of this Montana card without totally breaking the bank.

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1987 Wheaties Joe Montana (#12)

1987 Wheaties Joe Montana

These cards were actually billed as “mini posters” when they showed up in boxes of Wheaties in 1987.

They measure 5″ x 7″ and make great display items, especially if you can snag an autograph on one. Of course, some collectors may prefer to go for a copy still sealed in the original plastic pouch that protected the card from all that gluten.

Either way, it’s a cool Montana oddball issue that any serious collector would love to have.

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1988 Monty Gum 49ers Joe Montana (#68)

1988 Monty Gum 49ers Joe Montana

In 1988, Monty Gum produced this licensed 100-card football issue for release in Europe (including England) as the NFL sought to continue to spread its influence.

The cards were small at 1-15/16” x 2-3/4” and came in three versions: sticker, paper, and cardboard.

The sticker version is the most scarce of the trio, and all of them showed team action, as opposed to individual players.

Still, you get a pretty clear shot of Montana (#16) on both cards #68 and #69.

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1988 Topps Joe Montana (#38)

1988 Topps Joe Montana

There’s nothing too spectacular about this card other than it’s a still-prime shot of a football god.

From 1985-87, the Niners didn’t advance past the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs, but Montana and Rice would have them back in the winners’ circle after the 1988 season.

That Super Bowl XXIII was another thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Cincinnati Bengals a reprisal of sorts of their Super Bowl XVI match-up.

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1989 Panini Sticker UK Version Joe Montana (#157)

1989 Panini Sticker UK Version Joe Montana

Continuing to push their presence across the pond, the NFL teamed with Panini on a parallel sticker set for the UK market.

While the US versions of the set and the Montana card are interesting but pretty common, the English issue is several times more limited — and valuable.

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1989 Parker Brothers Talking Football Joe Montana

1989 Parker Brothers Talking Football Joe Montana

Following on the success of their “Talking Baseball” game in 1988, Parker Brothers followed up with this football version the next year.

Along with the plastic stadium and cartridges that “talked,” the game came with a deck of cards comprised of 25 multi-player cards, nine single cards, and 12 play-action cards.

Montana landed on a single, and it’s one of his rarest issues.

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1989 Topps Joe Montana (#12)

1989 Topps Joe Montana

By 1989, football cards were just about as mass-produced as baseball, though the worst was yet to come in terms of the cardboard glut.

Still, this card features Montana right in the middle of his last two Super Bowl titles and nearing the end of his glorious run with San Francisco.

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1982 Topps Joe Montana San Francisco 49ers #488 Football Card Free Shipping

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Joe Montana 2019 Donruss ORANGE Jersey Number /16 San Francisco 49ers eBay 1/1

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1983 Topps #169 Joe Montana San Francisco 49ers PSA 9 MINT Graded Football Card

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