Looking at the title of this post, you might think you’ve discovered a typo: Joe Montana Rookie Cards? Everybody knows there’s just one Joe Montana rookie card … right?

After all, that 1981 Topps Montana was the first gridiron RC to explode during the 1980s hobby boom at the same time Super Joe was building his reputation as the greatest Big Game quarterback ever (yeah, times change).

And there were no other major card manufacturers at the time, with Fleer being the closest but relegated to producing team-focused, game-action cards rather than singles of individual players.

Truth is, though, that ’81 Topps classic is not alone on the field of Montana rookie cards, even though that field is nowhere near crowded.

Ready for the big reveal?

OK, then — here is the complete rundown of Joe Montana rookie CARDS, even if the concept still sounds wrong.

(Note: The sections below contain affiliate links to current Amazon and eBay listings for the cards being discussed.)

1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card (#216)

1981 Topps Joe Montana

This is the card everyone knows about, the one that shows a young Montana in his San Francisco 49ers uniform, warming up that right arm of his in the sunshine. It was a sight that would become iconic over the next decade as Montana and coach Bill Walsh (and countless other stars and superstars) lifted the Niners from the depths of the NFL’s second division to winners of multiple Super Bowls.

Along the way, Montana’s rookie card also helped raise football cards from the dark recesses of the hobby into the limelight — maybe not quite as brightly lit as the baseball card market, but certainly one that could sustain double-digit prices for even modern cards.

Indeed, with Montana’s RC leading the way, new superstars saw prices for their own rookies escalate all through the 1980s — Dan Marino, Eric Dickerson, Lawrence Taylor, John Elway, Jerry Rice, and on and on and on. All of their rookies became showcase fodder before the decade was out, and all of them could thank Montana and his RC for getting the ball rolling (not that the players themselves cared).

Today, with all of the hype around newer cards and younger generations of superstars, the Montana rookie doesn’t get as much focus as it did during Bird Leg’s prime.

Still, the modern market loves this card, and it has continued to increase in value — big time! — over the decades.

Through August of 2021, there had been about 53,000 submissions made to PSA for 1981 Topps football cards. Of those, a whopping 18,000 were Montana rookie cards.

And, while there don’t seem to be specific condition concerns with the ’81s in general, they’re still “old” cards at this point, so really top-grade specimens are tough to come by. Indeed, nearly 85% of the Montana cards submitted to PSA fall to PSA 8 or lower.

Not surprisingly, there is a big price jump as you move into PSA 9 and 10 conditions — here are the most recent selling prices for Montanas across the upper part of the grading spectrum, according to the PSA Auction Prices Realized tool in late August 2021:

  • PSA 6: $142
  • PSA 7: $223.49
  • PSA 8: $480
  • PSA 9: $2300
  • PSA 10: $44,280

No matter what price level you’re looking at, though, “the” Montana rookie card is a stone-cold hobby legend … even if it’s not the only Montana RC.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

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1981 MSA Holsum Discs Joe Montana

1981 MSA Holsum Discs Joe Montana

This is the “card” that upsets the 1981 Topps Montana applecart, and it really is a card, even thought it’s shaped kinda funny.

If you were a collector in the 1970s — especially if you collected baseball cards — or if you’ve done even a bit of studying about the issues of those days, then you’re probably already familiar with MSA cards, even if the name doesn’t sound familiar to you.

See, MSA stands for Mike Schechter Associates, a company that produced nearly countless sets of baseball discs during the 1970s, released in conjunction with products ranging from Papa Gino’s pizza to Isaly dairy to Burger Chef kids’ meals.

Lacking an MLB license meant MSA couldn’t show team logos on their cards, so they became famous for their airbrushed blank baseball caps.

Fast forward to 1981, switch sports, and add in some simple carbs, and you find MSA still chugging along, this time partnering with Holsum to release a series of football discs in loaves of bread.

The 32-card set was fairly loaded with quarterbacks, including big names like Terry Bradshaw and Ken Anderson, as well as a few other position players and younger QBs. Among those early-career passers was a kid named Joe Montana, who appeared in incognito mode with long hair and a longer mustache we seldom saw as his star grew.

Even though these discs are just as old as the 1981 Topps cards, their smaller size and firmer cardstock have left them in better shape, statistically speaking. To wit, PSA has graded 300+ of the Holsum disks, with more than 70% of them receiving a PSA 9 or 10 grade.

Indeed, there have been more 10s recorded than 8s.

The Montana disc comes pretty close to those ratios, too — a total of 78 cards graded, with 57 of them checking in at a PSA 9 or 10.

Only one copy of the Montana “rookie disc” has sold in PSA 10 condition, though, and it brought $400 way back in 2018.

More recently, PSA 9 copies are trading in the $350 range, with PSA 8s pushing north of $100.

Are these bargain prices, considering the costs of the 1981 Topps Montana card?

That’s a determination to be made largely in the eye of the beholder (collector/investor), but this 1981 MSA Holsum disc is most certainly undersold in its status as a second Joe Montana rookie card.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

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1981 TOPPS #216 JOE MONTANA ROOKIE FOOTBALL CARD BGS 8.5 NM-MT+

$229.50 (33 Bids)
End Date: Sunday 09/26/2021 18:52:53 EDT
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1981 TOPPS JOE MONTANA ROOKIE CARD # 216

$59.00 (20 Bids)
End Date: Sunday 09/26/2021 08:01:41 EDT
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1981 Topps Football #216 Joe Montana Rookie Card RC PSA 7 NM

$113.50 (5 Bids)
End Date: Sunday 10/03/2021 21:22:09 EDT
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1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card #216

$53.00 (3 Bids)
End Date: Friday 10/01/2021 10:54:01 EDT
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1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card RC #216 SGC 6 49ers Z96

$51.16 (10 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday 09/29/2021 01:32:58 EDT
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1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card PSA 8 NM-MT

$599.00
End Date: Monday 10/25/2021 21:25:06 EDT
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