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Okaforís Cards Now Cheaper

by Paul Angilly
June 29, 2004

The Orlando Magic may have actually done UConn card and memorabilia collectors a favor by selecting high school star Dwight Howard over former Husky Emeka Okafor with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursdayís 2004 NBA draft. Instead, Okafor was selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Being the top overall pick would have made Okaforís upcoming rookie cards even more costly than they will now be. Not that Okaforís cards wonít still see heavy demand and high dollar prices, especially in this area (and in North Carolina), but now that Howard is the No. 1 pick, his cards will probably be the top chase for most collectors -- at least before the season begins.

For the immediate future, draft order alone will largely set the demand for next seasonís rookies. But watch out if and when Okafor plays with the USA national team in this summerís Olympic Games -- the more national TV exposure he gets, the higher the prices of his cards will go (unless, of course, he plays horribly).

While Okafor will immediately be looked upon as the leader of the expansion Bobcats, No. 3 overall pick Ben Gordon will face high expectations, but perhaps a little less pressure, with the Chicago Bulls.

Although he was a consensus lottery pick heading into the draft, Gordonís selection in the No. 3 spot will cause demand for his cards to reach a level just a notch below Howard and Okafor. While those top two picks should be well ahead of the rookie pack in terms of card prices, Gordonís cards will also be in high demand as "the best of the rest." Expect Gordonís cards to sell at about 60-80 percent of the value of Howardís and Okaforís cards in most sets.

UConn fans and collectors donít have to wait to start their Okafor and Gordon collections, either.

The 2003-04 Upper Deck Legends basketball set, scheduled for release last week, includes an average of one 2004 draft pick redemption card in every box (look for the cards that state on the front, "Selection #2" and "Selection #3"). The cards found in packs can be sent back to the company or redeemed online for cards picturing the top draft selections.

The 2003-04 Topps Finest basketball set, due out today, also includes one rookie redemption card per box, good for one of the top 13 2004 draft picks. The Finest redemption cards come in four variations: regular (serial-numbered to an undisclosed total), refractor (numbered to 250), gold refractor (numbered to 25) and "Gold Die-Cut X-Fractor" (numbered 1/1).

Two of the earliest 2004-05 NBA sets due out are Fleer Ultra (scheduled for a July 28 release) and Topps (due out in August).

Fleer Ultra will include Okafor and Gordon as part of its "Lucky 13" subset, limited to 500 copies each for the base set cards. The "Lucky 13" cards will also be available in gold medallion and platinum medallion (limited to 13 copies) parallels.

Topps will include Okafor, Gordon and the other 27 top draft picks as part of its base set -- although the promotional sheet Topps released doesnít make it clear if the rookie cards will be short-printed or not (the rookies in the 2003-04 Topps set were not significantly short-printed). There will also be black-bordered parallels numbered to 500 and gold-bordered parallels numbered to 99 copies made.

In separate boxes, Topps will also release a "1st Edition" version of the set (identical to the regular cards but with a 1st Edition foil stamp) through its Home Team Advantage dealers.

Connecticut Sun Team Set Issued: Area fans of professional womenís basketball might want to search for a copy of the 2004 Connecticut Sun WNBA team set, given out to just 2,000 fans at the teamís June 20 home game.

Even for a promotional giveaway item, 2,000 copies is a very scarce set and they were long gone well before tipoff of that game -- meaning that even thousands of the people who attended that game did not get a copy. Over the past week, only one copy of the set was offered for sale on eBay, so it seems that it will continue to be a very tough set to find.

The 18-card sets measure the standard 2Ĺx3Ĺ-inch size and came sealed inside a clear plastic wrap. The fronts have a nice design, with the featured player in color over the rest of the photo in black and white on one half of the card background and a red and orange sunset scene on the other half of the card background.

Card backs include year-by-year and career stats for veteran players and college career stats for the rookies. Also included is the playerís transaction history, height, weight, birth date, high school attended and college attended.

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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