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UConn Sets Will Rise in Hamilton Craze

by Paul Angilly
June 22, 2004

As one of the Detroit Pistons’ top stars throughout the playoffs, Richard "Rip" Hamilton became a household name across the country as his team captured the NBA title. But people across Connecticut probably will remember him more fondly as a key member of UConn’s first men’s national championship team in 1998-99.

In winning the title with the Pistons this year, Hamilton became the first player to earn a national championship both with the Huskies and in the NBA.

While there have been literally hundreds of trading cards issued of Hamilton during his five-year NBA career with the Washington Wizards and the Pistons, his first three cards can be found in the UConn team sets issued from 1996-97 to 1998-99.

None of those sets are impossible to find, but it may take some dedicated searching -- especially for the first two years. The 1998-99 team sets for both the men and the women seem to be easier to find than most other years.

But if those cards prove too tough to locate, there are plenty of other alternatives for collectors seeking cards of Hamilton pictured as a member of the Huskies.

Among the best come from 1999 Press Pass, 1999 Press Pass Authentics and 1999 Press Pass SE. All show him in action during UConn games and include his Huskies’ career stats on the back. The Press Pass SE set features a retro look, very similar to the 1972-73 Topps design. All three sets include cards personally autographed by Hamilton, along with various other inserts.

There are also five different versions of Hamilton autograph cards available with the 1999 SA-GE set. In addition to a regular card, Hamilton has a regular autograph card (numbered to 899 copies), a bronze parallel (numbered to 610), a silver parallel (numbered to 370), a gold parallel (numbered to 190) and a platinum parallel (numbered to 49).

Another attractive issue is the 1999 Upper Deck SP Top Prospects set (not to be confused with SP Authentic), including a base card, a parallel "Upper Class" version and an autographed "Vital Signs" card from Hamilton.

Collector’s Edge issued a "Rookie Rage" set in 1999, including Hamilton on a base card and various parallels and inserts, but those cards are not that attractive -- especially since the word "Connecticut" on his uniform has been airbrushed out of the photos.

Autograph cards of Hamilton from all six of the 1999 draft picks issues can be found for less than $10 -- a great bargain.

When it comes to his 1999-00 rookie cards, there are dozens of different varieties available, with two of the most popular and expensive (about $15 to $40) being his Upper Deck SP Authentic and SPx issues. All his SPx rookie cards also include an autograph.

Among my favorites: his Fleer/Skybox NBA Hoops Decade card, which has a nice picture of him making a breakaway layup and his complete UConn year-by-year stats and college career highlights on the back; and his Upper Deck PowerDeck issue, which is actually a small card-shaped CD-ROM that includes a video which can be played on your computer.

Hamilton made special appearances, pictured in his UConn uniform, as part of the "Class of ’99" subsets in the 2000 Press Pass and 2000 Press Pass SE issues. He also appeared on various inserts, including autographed cards, from those sets.

$500 Packs are Here: Speaking of Hamilton, he’s not in the base set but can be found on an "Autograph Exquisite Patches" card numbered to 100 copies in the new $500-per-pack 2004 Exquisite Collection Basketball set from Upper Deck, which was released on June 10.

Each five-card pack comes inside its own hand-crafted wooden box. Inside the pack is one veteran’s card from the base set (numbered to 225), one autographed rookie patch card from the base set (numbered to 225 or 99), an autographed patch card numbered to 100 or less, another memorabilia card from a variety of inserts and either another base set card, memorabilia card or parallel card.

Says the company in a press release: "This one of a kind product is geared toward the serious collector looking for unique cards of past, present and future stars."

Of course, in this case "serious collector" really means "fool with far too much money, which will soon be parted from him."

Most of the cards in the 78-card base set (which includes 36 rookies) are numbered to 225 copies, with gold and rainbow parallels numbered to 25 and 1, respectively.

The chase is already on for cards from the All-NBA Access Pass Patches insert set, which includes three cards, all numbered as 1-of-1. The two-player combination cards feature game-worn NBA logo patches from the jerseys of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan (the three cards are James/Bryant, Bryant/Jordan and James/Jordan).

The James/Bryant was offered on eBay last week and bidding had already topped the $60,000 mark with more than a day and a half to go by the start of this past weekend.

Other inserts include: Autograph Exquisite Patches, Noble Nameplates, Limited Logos, Scripted Swatches, Exquisite Number Pieces, Exquisite Number, Emblems of Endorsements, Extra Exquisite, Extra Exquisite Duals, Exquisite Triple Patches, Exquisite Quad Patches and Exquisite Foursomes.

A Quick Look Ahead: Some details about the 2004-05 Topps and Fleer Ultra NBA sets have been announced.

Topps will be a 249-card set, including all 29 rookies selected in the first round of this year’s draft. Rookie Photo Shoot autographed cards, limited to 50 copies each, will be available for the players attending the NBA’s annual rookie photo shoot.

Fleer Ultra will include 175 basic cards plus 13 "Lucky 13 Rookies" cards of the NBA’s lottery draft picks, limited to 500 copies each. The chase will be on for "Top 10" memorabilia cards, which include jersey swatches from 10 different players on one card, serially-numbered to 10 copies made.

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 Connecticut.

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