There's no question that this section is usually reserved for the vintage issues that many of us are familiar with. From T206's to 1933 Goudeys to 1952 Topps cards, it's usually the big boppers that steal the limelight. While most collectors have placed their focus on the sets and cards from days past, there are more and more collectors who are expressing an interest in assembling sets from the post-1975 era.

There are certainly some collector favorites from the modern era, with most of the attention going to the ever-popular 1986 Fleer basketball set. It's hard to ignore a set that features so many Hall of Famers, a few very tough cards and Michael Jordan's rookie! In baseball, there has been some early interest in the late-1970s and early-1980s issues. It's clear that the PSA Set Registrants are off and running in this area, and the modern PSA graded set collecting community is growing.

No, it's not about investment here -- clearly. The collectors are, for the most part, collecting these sets for the pure fun of it. The sets are feasible to complete and the cards are attainable in the highest of grades for those collectors who prefer to look at the best of the best in terms of quality. For those who cannot afford a 1952 Topps set, there's always 1981 Topps. If you cannot afford a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in a PSA Gem Mint 10, maybe you can own a 1982 Topps Cal Ripken in the same grade.

What about modern football cards?

Honestly, in the last three months or so, I have seen more interest in assembling modern football card sets than any other sport available. Maybe it's the assortment of key cards like rookie cards of John Elway, Joe Montana and Dan Marino. Maybe it's the fact that many of the football sets are smaller in number and, hence, more feasible to complete for the collector. Those two factors are certainly appealing but the most appealing aspect to collecting these modern football cards may be the pure rarity of PSA 10's.

Here's a quick comparison between the three major sports and issues produced from the same year -- all considered tough PSA 10's by modern card standards:

1986 Fleer Basketball - 1989

1986 Fleer Update Baseball - 369

1986 Topps Football - 89

As you can see, the football issue is about five times tougher to obtain in PSA 10 than both basketball and baseball -- and both are not easy by any means. Furthermore, it is generally understood that collectors and dealers do send the cream of the crop to PSA for grading so the numbers should have real meaning in regards to the difficulty.

Here are some more numbers to ponder revealing the rarity of some modern football cards in PSA Gem Mint 10:

 Total Cards GradedPSA 10'S%
1980 Topps Football 
#160 Payton All Pro18100
#225 Simms RC2744.014
 
1981 Topps Football 
#216 Montana RC672042.006
#375 Bradshaw15600
#400 Payton16800
 
1982 Topps Football 
#51 Munoz RC1152.017
#204 Bradshaw1241.008
#302 Payton1741.005
#434 Taylor RC7771.001
#487 Lott RC4400
#488 Montana9057.007
 
1983 Topps Football 
#36 Payton2452.008
#38 Singletary RC3392.005
#169 Montana10014.003
#294 Allen RC166314.008
 
1984 Topps Football 
#63 Elway RC1020426.002
#111 Long RC3891.002
#123 Marino RC12045140.011
#202 Marino League Leader 1172.017
#280 Dickerson RC15375.003
#358 Montana4773.006
#380 Green RC3222.006
 
1985 Topps Football 
#4 Marino Record Breaker11000
#157 Montana4146.014
#238 Elway47300
#251 Moon RC9318.008
#314 Marino All Pro16801.0005
 
1986 Topps Football 
#11 Payton2103.014
#45 Marino115722.019
#112 Elway8611.001
#161 Rice RC946936.003
#275 White RC4281.002
#374 Young RC26843.001
#388 Reed RC3135.015
#389 Smith RC3242.006

As you can see in all of these examples, PSA Gem Mint 10's are a real chore to find. Most of these issues, while not as popular, are clearly tougher than their baseball counterparts. As more and more weight is given to the PSA Population Report each day, the modern football rarities will continue to catch the eye of the hobby's most discriminating collectors.

Good Luck to the collectors looking for the best of the best in modern football rarities from the 1980s!


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.