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More Sets Hit Stores as NFL Camps Start

by Paul Angilly
August 3, 2004

With NFL training camps open, the 2004 football trading card season is already in full swing. Picking up from where I left off a couple of months ago (when I previewed some early-season releases), hereís a quick look at whatís coming out soon in football cards.

Upper Deck All-Star Lineup

The basics: 120-card set (including 90 veterans and 30 rookies), due out Aug. 3.

A closer look: A relatively inexpensive product, but not likely to be a very popular release. Basically, a thoroughly average set with rookies inserted 1:6 packs and one jersey card or autograph per box.

Fleer NFL Hot Prospects

The basics: 112-card set (including 70 veterans, 23 autographed patch rookie cards, 10 game-used patch rookie cards and 9 "Hot Prospects" rookies), due out Aug. 6.

A closer look: It is what it is -- basically a set designed to take advantage of early-season demand for autographs and game-worn material on rookie cards. Hang on to your money, thereís better stuff coming.

Upper Deck Power Up!

The basics: 110-card set, due out Aug. 16.

A closer look: This is one of those made-for-kids sets that never seems to appeal to collectors of any age. These downright ugly cards feature distorted photos with the playerís torso appearing much larger than his legs. The cards come in various parallel versions, each having a point value that can be used to play a game at the Upper Deck website, with prizes awarded weekly (presumably to whoever buys the most cards and therefore collects the most points).

Playoff Hogg Heaven

The basics: 150-card set (including 100 veterans and 50 rookies), due out Aug. 25.

A closer look: If you like cards printed on genuine leather, then I guess this set is for you. Youíll get 10 leather cards per box, on average. If leatherís not your thing, this is a good set to skip.

Upper Deck

The basics: 275-card set (including 200 veterans and 75 rookies), due out Sept. 3.

A closer look: Upper Deck is sticking with its formula for success -- attractive base cards, slightly short-printed rookies and enough autograph and game-used inserts to keep thrill-seekers happy. This is the 15th straight year for the Upper Deck brand.

Score

The basics: 440-card set (including 330 veterans, 70 rookies (one per pack), 15 League Leaders, 15 Pro Bowl players and 10 Highlights), due out Sept. 6.

A closer look: Look at these cards and it seems like 1989 all over again. Itís hard to believe that this marks the 16th consecutive year for this set -- the longest-running issue except for Topps. Cheap packs, a large set, a limited number of inserts (autographs and two different parallels) and a very attractive base set. Itís ironic that after raising the bar for quality football cards back in 1989, these days Score (now a Playoff brand) is the keeper of the flame for those who prefer attractive but affordable cards.

Topps Chrome

The basics: 275-card set (including 145 veterans, 110 rookies and 20 weekly wrapups), due out Sept. 13.

A closer look: The same Topps cards you know and love, but a lot shinier. Iíve never been a big fan of this set myself, preferring the regular Topps cards, but thereís no denying this setís popularity over the years.

Leaf Certified Materials

The basics: 233-card set (including 150 veterans, 25 rookies, 25 autographed rookies and 33 "Freshman Fabric" jersey cards), due out Sept. 29.

A closer look: No reason to pull punches here -- I hate this set. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. If you have to open a pack, do it in a dark room so the glare of the glossy metallic fronts doesnít blind you. Of course, if you get a jersey card, youíll have to turn on the light to see if itís a White, Red, Blue, Gold, Emerald or Black parallel -- at least five more parallels than was really necessary. These are the types of cards you see stacked on a dealerís table near a sign that says "any card, $1."

Fleer Platinum

The basics: 185-card set (including 135 veterans and 50 rookies), due out in October.

A closer look: As far as Iím concerned, the base cards from this set may just be the most attractive of the year -- possibly of the past several years. Simple, but effective. I only wish the set was bigger so I could see more of my favorite players on these cards. The usual assortment of autographed and game-used jersey cards are also randomly inserted, although in lesser quantities than higher-priced packs.

Bowman

The basics: 275-card set (including 110 veterans and 165 rookies), due out in October.

A closer look: A great set if you like rookies and donít like spending a lot of money, since they arenít short-printed. The bad news is that probably more than 100 of them will never see any real significant NFL action. Boxes include one rookie relic and one rookie autographed card each. And as if that wasnít exciting enough, you could also pull a limited (to 200 copies) autograph card from an NFL assistant coach! (Note the sarcasm.)

Bowmanís Best

The basics: 177-card set (including 80 veterans, 20 rookies, 47 rookie autographs, 5 limited edition rookie autographs and 25 rookie relics), due out in October.

A closer look: With one autographed or relic card in every pack, including rookie autographed and relic base cards (rookie relics have pieces of photo shoot-worn jerseys), this is your typical high-end, overly-priced set. On the positive side, the base cards are very attractive.

Also on the way: Playoff Absolute Memorabilia, Aug. 11; Topps Total, Aug. 16; Topps Bazooka, Aug. 30; and Playoff Honors, Oct. 20.

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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