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NBA Cards: A Look at the Year Ahead

by Paul Angilly
September 28, 2004

Continuing from where I left off last week, here’s a quick look at Upper Deck’s and Topps’ plans for the remainder of the season:

The newest 2004-05 NBA trading card set was due out late last week as Upper Deck’s popular SP Game-Used brand made its return, with one autograph or memorabilia card in every pack.

There is one autographed or memorabilia card numbered to 100 or less per box, along with one or two rookie cards. Also featured are Rookie Exclusives autographs numbered to 100, plus 1-of-1 NBA Logo Men patch cards and 1-of-1 dual Logo Men cards.

On Oct. 13, Upper Deck will release its second retail-preferred product of the season -- Pro Sigs. With a $2.99 suggested retail price, the product will include one signature per box.

The wood-textured Hardcourt brand will return in late October, including two memorabilia cards per box (one regular and one which includes a wood piece). Two out of every three boxes will include an autograph, which may be found on a die-cut acetate card, on a card including a laser-etched piece of wood or on an entirely laser-engraved wood card. Every box will also have a minimum of two rookies numbered to 1,999 or 999.

The company’s flagship Upper Deck brand will be out Nov. 19 with a $2.99 SRP. Along with its top-notch photography and Star Rookies found 1:4 packs, the set will include two memorabilia cards per box, with every case producing an autographed jersey card numbered to 100 or 25 copies. This year’s release will also mark the debut of the "Upper Deck Immaculate Collection," a super-glossy parallel of the base set found one card per case. Also making their debut will be "Master Press Proofs" press plate cards of 42 different top players, all autographed and numbered as 1-of-1.

Sweet Shot will be released during the first week of December, featuring "Signature Shots" autographed cards found 1:12 packs (one per box) -- twice as frequently as in past years. Also included will be the familiar Sweet Spot autograph cards with the signature on a simulated leather baseball piece, found 1:180 packs. In every box will be a rookie card numbered to 1,250 or 499 copies.

Upper Deck’s new retail-preferred R Class brand is due out in mid-December, with SPx and Finite to follow in late December.

Representatives from the company did not want to discuss any releases due out after December, but it’s a safe bet that collectors can expect some of Upper Deck’s most popular brands such as SP Authentic, SP Signature Edition and Ultimate Collection to return during the early months of 2005.

Next up for the Topps company is Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, with both regular and Chrome cards in each pack, due out on Oct. 18. "It was a very, very strong product, one of our strongest products when we introduced it last year," Topps spokesman Clay Luraschi said.

Topps will follow that issue with its Bowman Signature brand on Oct. 25. First introduced two seasons ago, the brand features one autographed card per pack and focuses on this year’s rookie class.

Included in that set is what is expected to be the first NBA trading card for Yuta Tabuse, who recently signed with the Phoenix Suns. The 23-year-old Tabuse looks to be the first Japanese-born player to make the NBA, and Topps recently announced that it has inked an autographed trading card deal with the 5-foot-9 guard. He will have an autographed rookie card in Bowman Signature Edition.

Topps Pristine is scheduled for a Dec. 15 release, once again featuring the pack-in-a-pack-in-a-pack concept. "That’s another very popular product," Luraschi said.

Designed for younger collectors, Topps’ Bazooka brand will return this season with an early 2005 release date and $1.99 SRP. Like this past season’s inaugural set, it will once again include fun elements such as stickers and mini cards, along with autographed and relic insert cards. "It’s a lot of fun (at a) low price point," Luraschi said.

Not surprisingly, the ever-popular Topps Chrome set, which parallels the regular Topps brand but includes additional short-printed rookies, will return for its ninth straight season in early 2005. "Chrome is always a big product every year, because it always features some of the biggest rookie cards," Luraschi said.

Another hobby staple, the Topps Finest brand, will return for its 12th consecutive season with a release scheduled for around draft time of next year. Just as the 2003-04 Finest set included redemption cards for players taken in the 2004 draft, the 2004-05 set is expected to include similar redemptions for the 2005 draft.

Although Luraschi would not give details about any sets other than Topps’ returning brands, he said, "We’re actually working on a couple new products we’re planning to introduce this season."

Fleer signs deal with Wade: Fleer Trading Cards recently announced an exclusive trading card deal with Miami Heat standout Dwyane Wade.

The contract allows Fleer to utilize Wade for autographed cards, along with game-used memorabilia cards for the 2004-05 NBA season.

Wade averaged 16.2 points in his rookie campaign, which made him the highest scoring rookie in franchise history. In the NBA Playoffs, Wade became one of only three NBA rookies in history to lead his team in points per game (18.0) and assists per game (5.6) in a single postseason. Additionally, Wade trails only David Robinson as the top rookie playoff scorer since 1984.

Along with autographs and game-used memorabilia cards, Wade will also be featured on selected Fleer NBA packaging, sales and advertising materials. He will also make an appearance on Fleer’s behalf. Details of this appearance will be announced at a later date.

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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