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Ready for Some Football Cards?

by Paul Angilly
March 22, 2005

The 2005 NFL draft will be held April 23-24, but before then, collectors should already have the first cards of the year's new rookies - along with all the best returning veterans - in their hands.

The first set expected to hit store shelves and dealer tables is SAGE Hit, due for release in early April. The draft picks-only release features players in their college uniforms (obviously - since they haven't been drafted yet).

Former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky will be among the featured players in that release, with a regular card (number 7 in the 50-card base set), autograph cards in emerald, silver and gold (numbered to 250 copies) versions, a Q&A insert, a Q&A gold autograph insert (100 copies), "reflect" parallel inserts in regular and autograph (100 copies) versions, "The Write Stuff" inserts in regular and autograph versions (25 copies) and a game-worn jersey card.

Since early-season football card releases always have a heavy emphasis on quarterbacks and other "skill position" players, and since Orlovsky was invited to the Senior Bowl and is projected as a third- or fourth-round pick, expect him to be featured in most, if not all, of the card issues released, at least until late in the year.

There are two other former UConn players to keep an eye out for: linebacker Alfred Fincher, who played in the Senior Bowl and is projected as a second- or third-round pick; and defensive end Tyler King, projected as a third- or fourth-round pick. Neither is included in the SAGE Hit checklist, but they could appear in later issues.

As a Senior Bowl participant, Fincher is a good possibility for the Topps Draft Picks & Prospects set, also due out in April, which is touted as the only product to have Senior Bowl relics direct from the game.

The set will be the first NFL-licensed issue of the season, with 55 veterans, 55 prospects (non-rookies), 55 draft picks & rookies (one per pack) and five draft pick autographed cards in the 170-card base set. Boxes will include 24 packs, with five cards per pack at a suggested retail price of approximately $3. There will be one parallel card numbered to 199 or less and either two relic cards or one relic card and one autographed card per box. There will also be one chrome parallel card in every pack. Top players from the Senior Bowl appear on cards featuring Senior Bowl-worn jerseys and/or autographs.

Due on April 20 is the Press Pass draft picks set. A 50-card base set (including five short-printed "Power Pick" subset cards) will be complemented by autographed cards found at a rate of one per seven packs, plus game-used jersey cards found 1:72 packs.

The autographed cards will be found in three distinct levels: bronze (featuring each player's school logo), silver (featuring each player's uniform number and sequentially numbered to 200) and gold (with an Xs and Os pattern, numbered to 100). Also look for "Big Numbers" die-cut cards found one per pack, "Reflectors" parallels numbered to 500, plus "Paydirt" and "Showbound" inserts, among others.

SAGE Autographed will be released in May, with one sequentially numbered autograph or jersey card per pack (12 packs per box, 3 cards per pack). Playoff Prestige football is due out on May 11, with 100 rookies in the 250-card base set.

Like any Donruss/Playoff set, there are far too many inserts and parallels of inserts (and parallels of the parallels) to try to list or even care about, but here's the thumbnail look: Each box of 24 packs will include two autograph or memorabilia cards, 24 rookie cards, two base-set parallel cards and one each of the following inserts - Gridiron Heritage, Stars of the NFL, League Leaders, Draft Picks, Super Bowl Heroes, Fans of the Game, Prestigious Pros and one other limited insert.

A new product, Upper Deck Rookie Debut is tentatively due out on May 27. The 200-card base set will include 100 rookie cards.

Boxes of 28 packs (6 cards per pack) will include, on average, one "Debut Ink" rookie autograph card, one "Saturday swatches" college jersey card, one "Sunday swatches" NFL jersey card and two parallel cards numbered to 100 copies or less.

Coming on June 22 is Donruss Elite, which blends 100 rookie cards numbered to 499 or less along with active veterans and an assortment of retired superstars in the base set. Each box will have two autograph or memorabilia cards and 15 additional inserts or parallels. Among the retired stars featured will be Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway, Joe Namath, Earl Campbell and Terry Bradshaw.

Interestingly, of all the major football card manufacturers, only Fleer has not released any information about 2005 issues. I also cannot find any dealers offering pre-sales on any 2005 Fleer football cards, although I was able to find eBay dealers offering all of the other sets mentioned above. Last year, Fleer issued its Ultra set in mid-May, with Showcase following on June 2.

Topps to introduce "Originals Relics": Topps recently announced that it will launch an all-new relic (memorabilia) card innovation called "Topps Originals Relics," which will be randomly inserted as a box topper in 2005 Topps Fan Favorites Baseball, due out the week of June 6.

Topps will be featuring pieces of game-used items not on all-new card designs and technologies, but on original Topps vintage cards. The company has bought back vintage Topps cards of several Hall of Famers and retired superstars. Two identical cards will have a piece of game-used uniform or bat inserted between them to create a brand new card. Each card will include laser-etched printing, which will describe what type of game-used item is embedded into the card.

The subjects include: Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Andre Dawson, Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson and Gary Carter.

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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