John Elway finished as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Not only did Elway finish his playing career with four division titles, two AFC titles and two Super Bowl rings, but he went on to become the first player to win a Super Bowl as a player and later as a general manager after the Denver Broncos team he built was victorious in Super Bowl 50.
In fact, Elway might be the most successful superstar-turned-executive in professional sports history. While he may not have always put up the big numbers like some of the other elite quarterbacks have done, Elway was a winner and he would give the Denver Broncos a chance to win the game. He was one of the best quarterbacks from his era, so needless to say, John Elway cards and memorabilia remain a collector favorite.
While Elway spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos and now works in the front office, that is not how his NFL career started. Elway was drafted first overall in 1983 by the Baltimore Colts, despite objections from Elway. At this point, Elway decided to use his potential professional baseball career as leverage and forced a trade that sent him to Denver, where he would stay forever.
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Despite the rocky start to his career, Elway did put together a very impressive career. However, the top prize, a Super Bowl victory, eluded him. That is, until the very end of his career, as he won two consecutive Super Bowls before retiring from the NFL.
When Elway did finally hang up his cleats, he wrapped up a career as a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and was named the Super Bowl XXXIII MVP, as well as the 1987 Associated Press MVP. With a great career behind him, Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
As far as his sports cards go, Elway saw his popularity go up and down. While he was starting to fade out of the scene after retirement, winning Super Bowl 50 as the GM of the Broncos definitely brought some attention back to his playing cards.
Here we will look at 10 of the most valuable John Elway Football cards. The cards we will look at range from his rookie season in 1983 to after his playing career in 2021.
1982 TCMA Oneonta Yankees John Elway #13
Yes, John Elway had an amazing career with the Denver Broncos, but as we stated above, he could have gone down a totally different path had he chosen to become a professional baseball player instead. Elway was an excellent baseball player and was actually drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 1981 MLB Draft.
He spent the summer of 1982 as an outfielder with the Class A Oneonta Yankees. His rookie baseball card was produced as part of a 17-card team set by TCMA. This is definitely a seldom-encountered baseball card, especially featuring a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback on it. This was the only official minor league card issued for Elway, but since then, multiple Elway baseball cards have been released, including several from Topps.
While Elway was a standout on the gridiron, the Stanford grad initially pursued a career in professional baseball. He reported to the Oneonta Yankees of the New York – Penn League in 1982. His skill and athleticism had scouts thinking he would be a powerful threat and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was thinking the young star would be a starting right fielder with the big club by 1985. However, in 1984, Elway shifted gears and then appeared on another rookie card with the Denver Broncos.
1984 Topps John Elway Rookie Card #358
Yes, it was a bumpy road for Elway and getting started with his NFL career. However, by 1984, it was pretty clear that Elway would be hanging up his baseball cleats and sticking with football. His football rookie card was released with 1984 Topps and at that time, he was already the face of the Denver Broncos’ franchise.
The 1984 Topps happens to be the only rookie card released for Elway, so it remains very popular. While the Baltimore Colts drafted Elway with the first pick in the 1983 Draft, he ended up with the Broncos after demanding a trade. While he wasn’t putting up the numbers like Dan Marino at the time, he is still considered one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Elway’s 1984 Topps rooke card was produced in generous quantities. While there are quite a few PSA graded copies of the card out there, you will also find ungraded copies that are quite modestly priced.
1985 Topps John Elway #238
The 1985 Topps John Elway card is showing the now-familiar design, as it is complete with a black border and oversized last name. For the card, it features the distinctive horizontal front that shows a headshot of Elway with his name and team name running vertically up the side.
Some collectors have stated the card’s fragile black borders are easily chipped. Because of that, it can be more difficult to find this card in high grade than his rookie card. In addition to #238, Elway can also be seen on card #235 for the 1985 Topps set, as he is seen with the team’s running back, Sammy Winder.
1986 McDonald’s Bronco #7
A McDonald’s football card? This card was part of a 24-card team set that was issued in McDonald’s restaurants in the Denver area over a four-week period. During that four-week span, the restaurants issued blue tabs the first week, black (or gray) tabs the second week, gold (or orange) tabs the third week and green tabs the fourth week with the blue tab cards generally selling for the most.
With these cards, they included a tab at the bottom that customers could tear off and scratch for a prize. The cards measure approximately 3 1/16″ by 4 11/16″ with the tab intact and 3 1/16″ by 3 5/8″ without the tab. Needless to say, it is difficult to find any of these cards with the tabs intact.
The cards are numbered below by uniform number and there have been 14 orange-tab Elway cards submitted for grading, while there have been just eight with green tabs, five with blue tabs, and four with black tabs.
1998 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems PMG #7 John Elway /50 Broncos (PSA 8)
The 1998 Metal Universe Football cards gave collectors a wide array of backgrounds on the base set. There was definitely a more earthy feel to it, especially after the cosmic encounters that took place in the 1997 release. The 1998 release also featured some pretty out-there inserts, several of which have long odds, and this was definitely one of the most memorable gridiron releases of the decade.
For the Precious Metal Gems, they were numbered to 50, which was down significantly from the 150 total copies each card had in 1997. Previous years used bright colors, but the PMGs in 1998 with a circular pattern, as seen in the John Elway card. The card is definitely not as bold as previous years, but these cards still rank among the most coveted cards of the late 1990s.
2011 Upper Deck College Legends Autographs John Elway #18 SP
In 1997, the Upper Deck Legends set was released and was a very popular design. So, they played off that design and released the 2011 Upper Deck College Legends with a collegiate theme to the autograph insert line. The on-card autograph does give this card some more appeal. However, collectors were more interested in the short printed nature of the card.
Upper Deck never revealed the complete print run, but they did reveal that this Elway autograph was part of a 10-card subset. This 10-card subset combined to fall 1:1,087 packs. These were very rare cards, so the Elway cards do not appear that often.
2013 Panini Spectra 50th Anniversary Pro Football Hall of Fame Signatures John Elway #50
With the 2013 Panini Spectra, the main portion of the set covered veteran and rookie football players. However, the 50th Anniversary Pro Football Hall of Fame Signatures set definitely became one of the most popular inserts.
Besides the on-card signature, the Hall fo Fame lineup and the appealing design of the cards definitely attracted collectors. Of course, John Elway was featured in this set, as each card was numbered to 50 in honor of the 50th anniversary.
2016 Panini Flawless Dual Game Used Patch Auto Sapphire John Elway
Another high-end card from Panini, as the 2016 Panini Flawless Football cards took content and the price tags into a totally different place. With Panini sports cards, they tend to focus on premium content on the cards and collectors enjoy it, like the on-card autographs, patches and gems.
The Hall of Fame quarterback signed this Panini Flawless Dual Patch Autographs collectible. The front of the card features Elway in a blue and orange Broncos jersey. Also on the front, you see a pair of multi-colored game-used material patches. This is a limited edition card that Panini is known for creating.
2021 John Elway Panini Absolute KABOOM! #31
The Panini Kaboom! cards did not start with the biggest fanfare, but they are definitely one of the most sought after inserts for modern collectibles now. They are definitely a little less personal than many of the other big hit cards, but many collectors cherish these cards and the cards are chased by many.
For the John Elway card, the Hall of Famer was included in the 2021 Panini Absolute KABOOM! Green collection. The card face features charming, comic book-style text and design elements on the dazzling green prismatic background. This limited edition card is serial-numbered “1/1.”
2021 Panini Eminence Football Super Bowl XXXII John Elway / Davis Dual
If you are talking about high-end sports cards, then you have to be talking about the 2021 Panini Eminence Football cards. They have to be the top of the high-end sports cards with it’s luxury-level checklist.
What makes them so high-end? To start, no individual card on the checklist has more than 10 copies. That includes this Super Bowl XXXII John Elway / Terrell Davis card. The 2021 Panini Eminence Football cards featured more quality card options that focused on notable achievements, such as All-Pro, MVP, Pro Bowl, and Super Bowl successes.
Panini paired together iconic teammates on Super Bowl Champions Dual Autographs cards. Of course, they had to include Elway and Davis together from the Super Bowl XXXII champions.
John Elway is a legendary figure in the world of football. Not only was he stellar on the field, but he has proved to be as dangerous in the front office. Not many players can say that, so it definitely keeps Elway’s trading cards among the most valuable in the history of the NFL.
The versatile Elway is the only player in NFL history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 200 yards in the same season seven consecutive times. He was only the second quarterback in NFL history to record more than 40,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing during his career. At the time of his retirement, he ranked second all-time in three of the game’s most significant passing categories, passing yards (51,475), attempts (7,250), and completions (4,123).
While investing in football cards can be fun and exciting, you need to dip your toes into the pool at first. John Elway has some rare cards out there that can be worth some pretty good money. Because of that, they are expensive to buy and out of the price range for most people.
However, it never hurts to keep an eye out for great deals. If you can get your hands on one of the cards listed above, you could be making a pretty good investment over time.