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Sets of Unsigned Draft Picks Due Out

by Paul Angilly
November 9, 2004

Although the first 2005 baseball cards will soon be here, there are still plenty of 2004 issues remaining to be released over the next couple of months.

In an effort to create greater demand for certain late-year issues, the Major League Baseball Players Association, as a one-year experiment, agreed over the summer to allow its licensees -- Donruss/Playoff, Fleer and Upper Deck -- to produce MLB- and MLBPA-licensed cards of players from the 2004 draft, even if those players are not on their clubís 40-man roster.

Normally, only players who have been on their teamís 40-man roster are eligible to appear in MLBPA-licensed sets. Since Topps signs every player that appears in its sets to individual contracts, it has been the only company in the past to be able to include draft picks that have not made 40-man rosters in its MLB sets.

There are some restrictions for Donruss/Playoff, Fleer and Upper Deck: Each can only include 2004 draft picks who have signed with their major league club in one set released before the end of the 2004 calendar year, with each company having to sign the players individually and none allowed to sign the draftees as "exclusives." There is no limit on the number of prospects a company can sign and include in its designated set.

Taking advantage of the opportunity, Upper Deck will release its new 2004 SP Prospects set next week. Featured prominently will be autographed cards of 300 different rookies and 2004 draft picks.

Due for release on Nov. 15, each pack ($4.99 SRP) will include five cards (four of them rookies or draft picks), with five autographed cards found per 24-pack box. The base set includes 390 cards -- 90 veterans, 50 regular rookies (one per pack), 100 non-autographed draft picks (three per pack) and 150 autographed draft picks, numbered to 400 copies of each (two per box).

Inserts include autographed versions of the 150 regularly non-autographed rookie cards from the base set, numbered to 400 copies (two per box). There are also 300 gold parallel autograph rookies numbered to 10 and 300 platinum parallel autograph rookies numbered as 1-of-1.

Dual, triple and quad autograph cards are found one per box on average, and include: Draft Duos (numbered to 175), Link to the Future (a draft pick paired with a current MLB star, numbered to 100), Link to the Past (a draft pick or two draft picks paired with a retired MLB star, numbered to 50), Draft Generations (a draft pick paired with a current MLB star and a retired MLB star, numbered to 25) and Draft Class Quad (four players drafted in the same year, numbered to 10).

Fleerís featured draft picks product is 2004 Fleer Hot Prospects, due for release this month.

The 120-card base set includes 60 regular cards, 10 "Hot Prospects" rookie cards numbered to 1,000 and found 1:15 packs, plus 50 "Signature Selections" autographed draft pick cards, numbered to 299 and seeded 1:10 packs.

Each sealed box contains 15 packs of five cards, including 1-5 autograph cards and one or two memorabilia cards (out of a 12-box case, seven boxes will have one autograph card and two memorabilia cards, three boxes will have two autograph cards and one memorabilia card and two boxes will have five autograph cards and one memorabilia card).

Inserts include "MLB Hot Materials" numbered from 200 to 500, "Draft Rewind" numbered to the draft pick number plus 100, "Double Team Jersey" numbered to 100, "Alumni Ink" dual autographs numbered to 15 and "Past, Present, Future" triple autograph cards numbered to 33. There are also extremely limited Red Hot parallels and 1-of-1 White Hot parallels of all regular and insert cards.

NBA, NHL retired-player sets coming: While baseball sets will be focusing on the future in the coming months, the NBA and NHL have recently reached deals with card companies to produce sets focusing on the past.

Fleer has acquired the license to produce retired player cards from the NBA, and the company plans to feature them in several sets this season. Those plans include insert sets featuring different retired player themes, with greats from every decade of the NBA.

There will also be a Fleer Greats of the Game NBA set that will exclusively feature retired players, set for release in the spring of 2005.

Fleerís basketball history dates back to the 1961-62 season when the first Fleer NBA set was released. Fleer rose again in 1986 when it released its 1986-87 set and it has been producing NBA cards every year since.

Meanwhile, with the NHL lockout dragging on with no end in sight, In The Game Inc., manufacturers of the "Be a Player," "In the Game" and "Parkhurst" brands of hockey cards, has announced it has reached a licensing agreement with NHL Enterprises to produce trading cards featuring retired NHL players for 2004-05. Tentative plans call for the production of as many as three different brands throughout the upcoming season.

In The Game has a history of featuring a wide array of retired NHL stars in most of its products since the companyís inception in 1998-99, including Bobby Orr, Maurice Richard, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, Raymond Bourque, Phil Esposito, Doug Harvey, Howie Morenz, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky.

The company reports there will be a continued emphasis on producing high-quality game-used memorabilia cards with low production totals. Autograph cards will also remain a major component in each brand.

The company has already announced plans for 2004-05 Heroes and Prospects, a set that will include retired stars along with minor league and junior league prospects. Details on other upcoming releases will be announced in the future. Among other concepts, plans call for the release of Ultimate Memorabilia 5th Edition.

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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