During the early-to-mid 1990s, with the aid of my Tuff Stuff subscription, I used to appraise my entire card collection on a monthly basis. When I first started this process, I used paper and pencil to meticulously record any card valued $1.00 or more. As the decade progressed, things started to change. For example, I eventually replaced paper and pencil with Excel files, and I wasn’t able to complete a formal appraisal each month as I got older and busier with other pursuits. But not everything changed. For example, 1987 Topps Football was always one of the sets that I had the most fun reviewing. This was because I owned three cards from this set that consistently made the $1.00 cut-off: #362 Jim Kelly, #296 Randall Cunningham, and today’s Second Year Standout, #115 Jerry Rice. (As an aside, I recently got my hands on the July 1992 edition of Tuff Stuff. In that issue, the Kelly, Cunningham, and Rice cards were priced at $22.00, $16.50, and $11.00, respectively).
The Jerry Rice card in particular is great for several reasons. First of all, I really like the minimalist (yet memorable) design of 1987 Topps. Second, Rice’s card features a mesmerizing action photo – a characteristic not always found in 1980s base cards. The infield dirt at old Candlestick Park takes us back to a different era of collecting and the NFL more generally. An unknown Vikings player looks up from the ground, watching helplessly as Rice gets away. But what is Rice doing? Has he just caught one of his career 1,549 receptions, looking for open space downfield? Or are we catching a glimpse of the greatest receiver in NFL history doing something usual – looking to pass the ball? It certainly looks like he is gripping the ball as if he wants to pass. Perhaps we should investigate this matter a little further…
Consider Rice’s relatively obscure 1987 Topps Box Bottoms card. The yellow border jumps out immediately, but it’s the photo that provides the clue that we are looking for – for this card, Rice appears to have been photographed a split second after the photo featured on his base card. That’s right, these two Rice cards feature different moments of the same NFL play. And on this second card it is even more apparent that Rice was preparing to throw the ball. Pro Football Reference confirms my suspicions – on October 12, 1986 the 49ers played a home game against the Vikings, and Rice is indeed credited with one pass attempt (incomplete) during the game. By the way, he also had seven catches for 144 yards in a 27-24 49ers overtime loss.
As of right now, only 251 PSA 10 versions of the base card exist (the actual number may be smaller if any PSA 10 Rice has been removed from its PSA slab). Unlike most non-rookie base cards from the end of the 1980s, 1987 Topps Jerry Rice has been able to retain some financial value over time (final selling price for PSA 10 copies typically range from about $75 to $125 on eBay). In summary, 1987 Topps Jerry Rice is pleasing to the eye, features the Greatest Receiver of All Time in unusual circumstances, and is highly collectible (high grade versions can be tracked down, but it does take a little bit of work to do so). Throw in the novelty of the Box Bottom companion card, and it is easy to see why 1987 Topps Jerry Rice is indeed a Second Year Standout.
Word of the Day
amity – a feeling of friendship; friendly relations between nations or groups; an era of international amity