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Third Time is a Charm for Arena Football League Cards

by Paul Angilly
March 8, 2005

While the vast majority of trading card sets made in recent years feature baseball, football, basketball, hockey, auto racing and/or golf, there's always a handful of issues devoted to other "minor" sports such as soccer and tennis.

Thanks to Upper Deck, this year you can add arena football and bass fishing to the list.

Arena Football: Upper Deck announced last summer that it had reached an agreement to make cards for the Arena Football League and the company's first set under that license, 2005 Arena Football, is due for a May 11 release - a little less than two weeks before the end of the league's regular season.

Every retail box of 2005 Arena Football will deliver two game-worn jersey cards, and an autographed card will be found in every box. Other inserts will explore the history of Arena Football, the ArenaBowl and Arena Football alumni who have gone on to play in the NFL.

With sell sheets having already been mailed to dealers, it appears that the third time will indeed be the charm for long-time arena football fans that have been waiting for a major card set.

In 2001, Pacific Trading Cards had announced that it would be the exclusive licensee for the Arena Football League, but that reported three-year deal never resulted in any cards being made except for some promos.

Early in 2003, the AFL announced a new partnership with Donruss/Playoff to produce trading cards on a team-by-team basis for that season. Again that deal fell through, although Donruss did make a nine-card sheet of AFL stars (eight players and a checklist) that was available only with the 2003 ArenaBowl official program.

Although many AFL organizations have issued team sets over the years (including a five-card Connecticut Coyotes set given away at the team's last home game in 1995), there has never before been a major league-wide issue.

The 2005 Upper Deck AFL set is tentatively slated to include a 90-card base set, with eight cards per pack and 24 packs per box. There will be an average of two game-worn jersey cards and one autographed card ("Arenagraphs") per box.

Other inserts will include: "Arena Action," featuring action shots of arena league players (1:12 packs); "AFL Timeline," a historical insert featuring significant people and events in AFL history (1:24 packs); "ArenaBowl Archives," showcasing each of the 18 AFL championship games (1:24 packs); "League Luminaries," focusing on significant players and owners who helped shape the AFL (1:24 packs); "Cheer Squad Stars," picturing the 10 cheerleaders who participated in last year's ArenaBowl (1:24 packs); and gold parallels of the base set, numbered to 100.

Bass Fishing: The company recently announced it has reached an agreement with the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society (B.A.S.S.) to produce trading cards and collectibles. The 2005 Upper Deck Bass Fishing set is tentatively due for an April 28 release.

The card set debut places the spotlight on anglers that will compete for the Bass Master Championships in 2005. It will feature one foil insert per pack. Each hobby box will have two jersey cards and an autograph. Look for cards of Bassmaster champions such as Mike Iaconelli, Kevin Vandam and Jay Yelas.

Upper Deck Authenticated's B.A.S.S. Collectible collection will feature can coolers, sunglass cases, and trailer hitch covers all emblazoned with the B.A.S.S and Upper Deck logos.

Major League Soccer: Upper Deck will also produce a card set for Major League Soccer this season for the second consecutive year, due for a June 2 release - perhaps not by coincidence the 16th birthday of young teen phenom Freddy Adu.

While rookie cards of Adu were the highlight of last year's set, this year's issue will have a card of him in every pack, most from the special "Freddy Adu Rookie Flashback" insert set. Other inserts in addition to the 90-card base set will be "Goal Men" (1:6 packs) and "MLS Record Breakers" (1:12 packs).

There will be two game-used jersey cards found in every 24-pack box (5 cards per pack), including dual jerseys numbered to 50. Autographed cards hand numbered to 25 will also be randomly inserted (about one per four boxes).

New tennis set: NetPro, which produced a pair of major-issue tennis card sets over the past two years, is apparently now out of business. But picking up the slack is a new company called Ace Authentic, which has issued a new set for 2005.

The 2005 Ace Debut Edition set contains the first officially licensed rookie cards of Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Nadia Petrova, Tim Henman, David Nalbandian, Carlos Moya and Tatiana Golovin, as well as fan favorites Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi and Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The 99-card factory set, available for $19.99 plus shipping at, has a limited production run and includes one gold embossed parallel card serially numbered to 100. Also randomly included is a redemption for the first Maria Sharapova autograph card, also serially numbered to only 100 cards.

Correction: I made a mistake in my column from two weeks ago regarding new NBA card sets, stating that &quuot;UConn fans will find the full lineup of former Huskies currently playing in the NBA in the Topps Total set."

Actually, the checklist for that set does not include former Husky Kevin Ollie, now playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. While the Topps Total set was meant to include all 12 players on the active roster of each team, the checklist was apparently finalized while Ollie was on the injured list, where he has spent much of this season.

As far as I could determine, Ollie has not appeared in any NBA sets this season. His most recent card appearances were in the 2003-04 Topps (card #40) and Upper Deck (card #42) sets.

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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