My Top 10 Favorite NASCAR trading card sets

by Billy Kingsley - 10 cards (Last updated on Dec 13, 2012)

1. 1991 Maxx #4 Ernie Irvan

1991 Maxx...probably the set with the most production in NASCAR history, but my favorite...even if it doesn't include car shots. When I started collecting NASCAR cards in 1993, you could still find packs of these for a quarter, and I opened many of them. Eventually, I completed my set...and then another...and finally a third full set. I even gave one away for Christmas, to a NASCAR fan who's not a card collector.

When I discovered the sport, at Christmas 1992, Ernie Irvan quickly became my favorite driver and remains in my top 2-as my #1 favorite inactive driver.

2. 1989-90 TG Racing Masters of Racing #129 Jim Reed

I love NASCAR history...and this set had a lot of it, over 200 cards worth! It wasn't just the standard main drivers, either, but attempted to cover the real history of the sport. I was lucky enough to get the complete collection and most of the factory set.

Jim Reed, pictured here, is most famous for winning the 1959 Southern 500, but, more important to me...he's from my family's hometown of Peekskill, NY.

3. 1991 Galfield Press Pioneers of Racing #88 Tim Flock

Another set documenting the early history of the sport, this one mainly the 1950s, whereas the Masters of Racing set is mostly 1960s. Although the 1990s is my favorite decade in NASCAR history, (and pretty much everything else, too!) the 1950s are my second favorite era. This set is smaller, and doesn't cover as much as the Masters of Racing set, which is why it ranks as #3, not #2, on my rundown.

Tim Flock, the subject of this card, is my favorite 50s driver. I was mostly a casual NASCAR fan until 1998's 50th Anniversary celebrations, when I saw several interviews with Mr. Flock before he passed away that summer. He became my favorite 50s driver, although he did race as late as 1961. Jocko Flocko, the monkey he's holding, rode with him in several races, and even had his own "firesuit"-although the term had not yet been coined. Jocko became the only passenger to ever win a race, and one of only three passengers in a major NASCAR race- the other was a chicken, and a pit crew member. (A Jack Russell terrior rode in some races in the 40s, in the pre-NASCAR pioneer days as well)

4. 1998 Maxx 10th Anniversary #12 Jerry Nadeau

Maxx was always my favorite card NASCAR card company, and, looking back, I now realized I spent more time and effort on NASCAR cards when Maxx was around, and switched over mainly to NBA Basketball in 1996- when Maxx went out of buisness. Upper Deck purchased Maxx, and I think they did a pretty lousy job- except for two sets, both of which make my Top 10. As much as I love history, the 1998 Maxx 10th Anniversary set was a favorite of mine, as it reused the first 6 years' worth of Maxx designs. The original 1988 set is shown here. At the time, I had not hunted down any 1989 cards (I didn't find my first until 2009!) and the 1993 set used- the Premier Series, which was only available to Club Maxx members- is still not in my collection. (Though I am only 4 cards away from the Premier Plus complete collection, and despite green being my favorite color my entire life, I only have a handfull of the basic Maxx set from that year...but I digress)
There were two problems with the 1998 10th Anniversary set, however. #1 is that it was too small. Only 134 cards, which was combined between current Cup and Busch drivers, and some legends of the sport, wasn't really enough to accurately portray the history of the sport, or of Maxx. The second was that on some of the vintage car photos, they airbrushed out the sponsors, for some unknown reason.

This was the first set I ever created a paper listing of, something that I would eventually go back and create for my entire card collection. In fact, when I wasn't able to collect in 2007 and 2008, I missed entering the cards into the listing more than I missed getting new cards.

Jerry Nadeau, who was a 1998 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year contender, is from Danbury CT, which is very close to home. When I discovered that there was a local driver in Cup, I was thrilled. Jerry's also a good person, so I was definitly rooting for him. Unfortunatly, his career was one filled with bad breaks and raw deals-culminating with a career ending brain injury at Richmond in 2003.

5. 1998 Maxx 1997 Year In Review #60 Dave Marcis

1997 Maxx Year in Review- techically a 1998 issue despite having nothing at all to do with 1998- was sold in factory set form. As I've stated above, I don't think UD did a good job with Maxx, but they did a fine job with this set. Unlike the same old-same old from Press Pass, this set actually did what should be done all the time- it documented the entire season. Each race got multiple cards that told the story of said race, with photos from the race related to the text. It's brilliant, and set composition wise, it couldn't be much better. It also had the most car photos of any Maxx issue ever, which is my favorite kind of card to get.

This card shown is a Dave Marcis Special Paint scheme- it' a to get a nicely centered, clear photo of any Dave Marcis car at all, and a special paint scheme is rarer still. It was the first card I scanned when I began to work on scanning my entire collection, at the time roughly 85,000 cards.

6. 1994 Action Packed #123 Ward Burton's Car

1994 Action Packed...from the glory days of NASCAR cards. The set's composition could be's like they had all kinds of ideas for card designs, so instead of choosing one, they used all of them! The set is only 209 cards long so it's got a bit of a haphazard look to it, but I love it anyway. It's the highest ranked set I don't have complete, and I believe it's also the first set of NASCAR cards I ever did a box of. It's also, I believe, the only set to be issued in three series, although the 1993 Action Packed set, which I have even less of, may have been as well, I simply don't remember.

As for the card I chose, well, it was hard to choose. Almost every card in the set is awesome, so I went with what signifies the mid-90s best...neon! Orange! Ward Burton was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 1994, one of 10 drivers, the largest Rookie class in NASCAR history. However, Ward came up short to brother Jeff, who was crowned ROY at year's end.

By the way, the background is red and gold foil, but gold foil usually scans black, and did again here.

7. 1996 Upper Deck Road to the Cup #RC4 Rusty Wallace

Although I was never a really big fan of UD's NASCAR sets, they did a great job with this one. I ordered a box off QVC back in the day, which I wonder about now as I had a great local card shop at the time. I came up 4 cards short and finally was able to finish the set in 2009. Although they don't really scan well, the entire set is foilboard. The set also included cards of the cars, and even some Supertrucks, which were THE story of 1995...although most of the images in the set are from the 1996 season, the Truck subset is from the 1995 season.

As for why I chose Rusty, well, when I got into the sport Rusty stood with Ernie Irvan as my favorite drivers. Ernie has stayed at the top of my list...Rusty has not, although I am still a fan, he'd probably rank in my 15-20 area although my list changes constantly.

8. 1995 Select #19 Sterling Marlin

The 1995 Select was always a favorite of mine, I remember getting them by the pack at my local card/comic shops when they were new. The set design is great, and the foil enhances the cards in a perfect fashion.

The images on this set are actually from the 1994 season.

I don't have a favorite card in the set in particular, so this Sterling Marlin card got the nod for my list...gotta be a fan of Sterling!

9. 2011 Press Pass #63 Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Car

I am not a fan of Press Pass. I never have been- I don't feel they do a good job covering the sport of NASCAR, and one of the main reasons I was only barely connected to NASCAR cards for years, despite the fact that NASCAR is more important to be than anything else- is because Press Pass was the only brand with the NASCAR license from 2001-current. They, for the most part, can't be bothered to even give us car images, although they had gotten better for a few years, the 2012 and upcoming 2013 sets have sunk back down to the usual pointlessness of Press Pass's same-old-same-old.

2011, however, was a totally different story. They got it RIGHT, for the most part! Each Cup driver they had the license to use got not only a driver card, but a car card as well. Not only that, but the Nationwide and Truck drivers they chose got the same correct treatment. I normally prefer vertical rather than horizontal card layouts, and even that didn't detract from this set. It could have been perfect if they had just given us the crew chiefs and owners, but I've given up all hope of Press Pass ever truly getting it right.

It is also the longest single issue set in Press Pass history, at 200 cards. Still at least 100 short of being enough to cover the sport correctly, but it's the best they've ever done.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is my favorite active driver, he only had cards in three of my Top 10 sets, and the other two were from before he went Cup racing, which is my favorite division. This is one of his two standard paint schemes of the 2010 season, as Press Pass produces each year's set before Christmas of the previous year, so the sets never contain photos from the year they state.

10. 1999 Press Pass #9 Terry Labonte

When I had originally composed my list of Top 10 sets for my own website, back in 2010, this was the only Press Pass set to make the list. The standard set is way, way too small at 100 cards, with a short-printed subset that runs 50 cards longer. It barely made the list. But I do love the design- it's not cluttered by cheesy borders, something Press Pass foists on us nearly every year, and the photo selection is better than most Press Pass issues.

I have a lot of cards where the chrome foil for the name and car number is mis-aligned, which I count as seperate errors in my collection. So even though it's a short set, with part of the main set numbering as SPs (a concept I hate) the strength of the design is still strong enough to make the top 10 list-barely.

I also pulled a tire relic from my very first pack opened of the set- it was the first relic I'd pulled, and, I believe, the first one I ever owned, although it was still a few years before I created my paper listing where I keep track of the dates I get cards, usually. I'm OCD, and I don't think it's a bad thing!

Texas Terry is an icon of the 1990s in NASCAR- and the 80s and 00s too. I've been a fan my entire time in the sport, and he's my mom's all-time favorite driver.


Jun 22, 2013 - 1:53AM
Nice list. My favorite set is also the 1991 Maxx set. I started collecting at around Christmas of 1991 and that was the first NASCAR cards I got. My favorite driver was Alan Kulwicki and then Davey Allison. In the early 2000's I sold my entire card collection, but after my dad passed in late 2007, I inherited his cards and have been collecting again since then. While I never had the complete set, one day I will have the entire 1991 Maxx set. Another one of my favorite sets is one you mentioned- the 2011 Press Pass set. I agree with everything you said, and wish they had more shots of the cars, and had cards of the crew chiefs and pit crew.
Mar 6, 2015 - 8:48AM
I found a collection of Gold True Legend Cards series but cannot find value as most are going way back to beginning of Nascar- any advice for whom to look value for?
Mar 6, 2015 - 4:34PM
Billy Kingsley
I've never even heard of them, wecarter, Sorry!
Apr 25, 2016 - 12:05PM
I've got a leather NASCAR book with alot of cards in it and I don't know how to price the value of it or how to sell it. If anyone's interested I can list cards i have. I'm on a time limit so any help would be appreciated
Dec 26, 2016 - 10:39PM
Ive got multiple Complete sets of cards and im not sure how to price them
Oct 8, 2017 - 6:54PM

We have similar tastes in the 80' & 90's cards not only in NASCAR but other sports as well. I like the "whole cardboard" - no coated to last types - and printing that is not taken care of can actually start a bleed over. I've seen other guys have that bcz they didn't climate control their storing area and that adds some yellow too. I enjoy many of the Old drivers from back when NASCAR was more of a stereotyped fan base & (I can say this bcz I'm white & I was sort of like these people except for the drugs) but was a Redneck, All White, All Drunk, All Smok'n Weed & the women of the infields being partially clothed at all times! I didn't hang in that area etc and NASCAT wasn't really on TV each race for those of ya younger than 40 now. We had 3 channels in the low to mid 80's then Satellite came & we saw more. That said? NASCAR is the most patriotic, loyal, respectful, God fearing and praying to on the air group of athletes on earth & the fans evolved to RV'n family's that come together & park according to favorite driver areas to lower the likelihood of a good ole' fashioned arzz whoop'n contest ya know?

But today, Im a Huge Diecast & Race Used items and cards collector of the sport and I have autographed Diecasts and cards too. I find the sport to be one that leaves mess on the track and people act like civilized people ought to although the occasional idiot will arise, it's not like other modern era sporting leagues that seem to be playing while making political statements or the "Its all about me, give me the ball", types who don't have any loyalty to any team, teammates or basically chasing the money, records, individualism that ruins most for me. I cannot watch NFL games at all anymore although I'm a huge NCAA fan for life! 

My favorite card design ever as to semi-modern styles (today it's National Treasure types with simple fronts & backs with stats too) but from the 90's, are the - 1995 Upper Deck "SP"  - in all sports, not just one & I have plenty of them in The top sports formats. The foil added a lot of issues to the collector to keep them mint too. The names were along the left edge half diamond shape with the "TM" just pass the last letter of which if you really like to see small details, put a loupe on it and see. You couldn't hand a card in a sleeve to someone of you fingernail was anywhere near that surprisingly complicated foil patterning used that shows a micro-spot off easily if it's been pressed on or mishandled too.

I like foil edges on cards, they look great and when kept correctly they prove your idea of collecting to others when they look at yours bcz the slightest pressure on them will likenthat foil throw those flashes like a star at night right into your eye. They also contained what every sports card should and that is 3 types of photos of the player, action or a headshot  (or close) as well as player info, statistics that aren't partial and a small bit of information about the person on it so to really step back in time & see that player doing what they do.

I also like the NASCAR stuff that has similar items on them as to action, car, headshots etc that are on fronts an backs with 1 style on one side and another on the other as well as the car with paint scheme shown. BUT today I'm a huge Race Used & Autographed Cars collector as well as Diecasts that I will match the cards to the card via driver and paint scheme to display together in my cases in my home. It's a bit of several collecting formats together & they look great to me.


Thought I'd throw my 2 cents in here but obviously I've thrown like  $20  in bcz I get long winded or descriptive bcz I want others to know what I'm describing and See it mentally while doing so. I haven't added very many items to my Database Lists yet due to a brief time of changing card sleeves & cases so to not allow them to adhere to the card over time and some do, even in climate controlled areas like mine as well. It's a good idea to watch you brands like; U.D. "SP", Topps Chrome, Pannini Chrome, Bowman Chrome or cards with very high gloss coverages bcz over the years they are in those sleeves it just happens. The cards don't breathe all the time and the high gloss or cover layers especially on anything Chrome, will show literal vapor marks from as little of a climate temp change of say 5 degrees both ways. If your AC is off and it's 85 inside and then you crank it up and down to 72 or So, if the cards are exposed to areas that change that much vapor occurs and plastic traps it. HEADS UP - CHECK YOUR CHRONE CARDS 3 TIMES A YEAR OR MORE TO BE SAFE! You can take it out of some sleeve due the plastic having shrunken down like a skin on the card and when you attempt to push from the bottom so to slide it out, the sleeve will literslly fold over and bend it at times. I've seen the foul cards (again not my own) but they can rust if they get vapor on them & are sealing up as well.

Enjoy your lists & blog Mr. Kingsley & Have A Blessed Week Ahead to all! 

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This list was created by site member Billy Kingsley. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Trading Card Database.


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