This Seasonís Football Cards Already on Shelves
by Paul Angilly
May 25, 2004
Even while the NBA and NHL head toward the start of their championship series, the first of
the 2004 NFL football card sets are being released. SA-GE and Press Pass got the ball rolling
with their first issues (picturing 2004 draft-eligible players with their college teams) last
month, but the football card collecting season is now in full swing as the NFL-licensed sets hit
Hereís a quick look at the sets that are currently available, along with some of the ones that will
be released through the early part of July.
The basics: 210-card base set (150 veterans, 60 rookies found one per pack), now available.
The good: This is the first NFL-licensed card set of the year and itís also the first set to include
cards of players from this yearís draft with their NFL team name indicated on the card (players are
pictured in their college jerseys).
The bad: Prestige seems to be aiming for an upscale look befitting its name, but the cards actually
have a disappointingly bland design.
The ugly: Individually, the memorabilia inserts in this set look nice; but seen collectively, the eight
different memorabilia insert sets are just a little too much. Donruss/Playoff makes some nice cards, but
they all start to look the same very quickly and few remain in high demand.
The basics: 233-card base set (200 veterans, 20 rookies found 1:4 packs, "Lucky 13" rookies
numbered to 500), now available.
The good: One of the longest continuously-issued sets on the market, dating back to 1991, these full-bleed
cards are known for their clean designs and excellent photography.
The bad: Rookie cards are just short-printed enough to make set collecting inconvenient, but not enough to
be highly prized.
The ugly: Despite its long history, this brand is not held in high esteem by many collectors and tends to
be forgotten as other brands are released.
Topps Draft Picks and Prospects
The basics: 165-card base set (55 veterans, 55 prospects and 55 rookies found one per pack), due out this
The good: These days, a $3 per pack price with a rookie card in every pack is a good deal. The set is not
impossible to build and includes some good young players in addition to this yearís rookie class. The cards
also feature one of the most attractive designs of the early-season sets, with photos second only to Fleer
Ultra. Every box (24 packs) should include two autographed and/or memorabilia cards, which is also not bad
for this price point.
This issue also includes LaVar Arringtonís first licensed card with the Washington Redskins, plus a very
limited insert card including autographs from Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.
The bad: A parallel card in each pack sounds good, but thereís little demand for these cards.
The ugly: While one of the more attractive early-season sets, this issue will almost certainly once again
be relegated to bargain bins once the more high-profile sets from Topps are released later in the year.
The basics: 150-card base set (100 veterans, 50 "Showcasing Talent" rookies numbered to 599), due
out June 2.
The good: The memorabilia cards are attractive, and an autographed card numbered to 300 or less and two serial-numbered memorabilia cards are found per box. At least two of the "Showcasing Talent"
rookie cards are also found in each box.
The bad: The base cards have an overly-busy design and with just 100 veterans, thereís not any players in
this set you wonít see on better-looking cards elsewhere.
The ugly: An expensive product ($6.50 per 5-card hobby pack) that, like many of the early-season releases,
will likely be all but forgotten by collectors by the start of training camps.
The basics: 200-card base set (100 veterans, 100 rookies numbered to 500), due out June 23.
The good: An early-season premium product, Elite is known for its "Passing the Torch" and "Turn
of the Century" autographs, along with its "Throwback Threads" memorabilia insert. All return
and should he hotly pursued again.
The bad: The card design is just a little too metallic-oriented for my tastes. Iíve also never been fond of
card issues where half or more of the set is short-printed.
The ugly: Suggested retail price is $5 for a five-card pack, and unless you pull one of the limited rookies
or memorabilia inserts, youíre not going to get much return for your money.
Upper Deck SP Game Used
The basics: 200-card base set (100 veterans, 100 "Star Rookies" numbered to 499), due out July 9.
The good: You get what you pay for -- at a suggested retail price of $30 per pack, youíll get an extremely
limited autograph, memorabilia card or autographed memorabilia card in every pack. One in six packs (one pack
per box) will include an autographed or memorabilia card numbered to 100 or less.
The bad: With a pack price this high, EVERY pack should include an autographed or memorabilia card numbered
to 100 or less. Also, the problem with including 100 different rookies in a set this early in the season is
that very few of them are likely to play a major role with their teams this season. In fact, a good number of
the rookies pictured in this set will probably be cut by the end of training camps.
The ugly: A suggested retail price of $30 per pack for three cards. Thereís always the chance of pulling
an extremely valuable insert, but youíre more likely to find the cards are worth much less once you open
Shameless Self-Plug: UConn fans might want to check their local newsstands for a copy of the June
2004 issue of Beckett Basketball Collector magazine, out now. Not only does it feature a photo of former
Husky Emeka Okafor on the cover, it also includes a pair of short articles about the popularity of UConn
memorabilia written by yours truly. Look for the "Two Is Twice As Nice" article in the "Short
Prints" section on page 10, and also the short "UConn Goes For The Double ... Again" brief
on page 80.
About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and
has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a
dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly
sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The
Bristol Press and several other
daily newspapers in
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