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Ace Authentic Brings High End to Tennis Cards

by Paul Angilly
September 12, 2005

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Just in time for the U.S. Open, Ace Authentic recently released its 2005 Signature Series set - essentially the first "high end" tennis card set, with all the bells and whistles collectors have come to associate with baseball, basketball, football and hockey issues.

The Florida-based company made a name for itself selling posters, photos, calendars, apparel, autographs and other tennis memorabilia before issuing its first officially-licensed tennis card set early this year, taking over for the defunct NetPro company.

That 98-card Debut Edition, licensed by each player pictured, was originally sold as a complete factory set that came with one gold parallel card numbered to 100 copies. The set also offered a chance to pull one of 100 randomly-inserted redemption cards good for a Maria Sharapova autographed card. The Debut Edition is also available in 10-card packs.

Now comes the 2005 Ace Authentic Signature Series, with a 100-card base set including top players such as Sharapova (the women's No. 1 seed at the U.S. Open), Roger Federer (the men's No. 1 seed at the U.S. Open), Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Marat Safin, Justine Henin-Hardenne and 2005 Pilot Pen women's champion Lindsay Davenport.

What makes the set most significant is the inclusion of three autograph cards, three match-used apparel cards and two serially-numbered parallel cards per 30-pack box, with five cards per pack (available directly from the company at www.aceauthentic.com for $120, plus shipping).

The memorabilia and autograph inserts come in several varieties, including regular (base-set parallel) autographs numbered to 100 and regular apparel cards numbered to 500. There are also match-worn apparel pieces and autographs on three specially-designed insert sets: Court Kings and Queens, Signature Moments and Grand Slam Champions.

Court Kings and Queens inserts include either apparel swatches or autographs, including some dual autograph cards, all sequentially numbered to 100 or fewer copies. Logo swatch versions numbered 1/1 are also included.

Signature Moments inserts include either apparel swatches or autographs, some sequentially numbered to 100 or less, featuring some of today's greatest players and their classic on-court moments.

Grand Slam Champions inserts include both apparel swatches and autographs from a pair of past Grand Slam tournament champions, one on each side of the card, with the cards sequentially numbered to as few as 50 copies.

The cards look very attractive, but unfortunately (as has become the norm for most companies in the card-making industry) the autographs are on silver foil stickers affixed to the card, rather than signed directly on the cards.

A LOOK BACK: The new Ace Authentic Signature Series set is not the first tennis card set to offer genuine match-worn apparel and autographed cards, although it is the first to offer so many per box.

In late 2003, NetPro - which had a history dating back to 1991 - released its second 21st century set, called the International Series, which included either two match-worn material cards or one match-worn card and one autographed card (with the card itself signed - no stickers) per box. One out of every 10 boxes also included an autographed match-worn material card.

There were 10 different top players included in the memorabilia inserts: Andy Roddick, Serena Williams, Lleyton Hewitt, Martina Hingis, Pete Sampras, Daniela Hantuchova, James Blake, Venus Williams, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Anna Kournikova. Each had four different cards: an autographed apparel card numbered to 100 (with the letter "A" attached to the card number on the back - for instance the Roddick is card #1A), an apparel card numbered to 500 copies (with a "B" suffix), an autographed card (with a "C" suffix) and a non serial-numbered apparel card (with a "D" suffix).

Some of those cards still draw good bids on eBay, although most have steadily declined in value since the first few months after the set was released.

A look at some of the recent bargains found on eBay, with the winning bid (including shipping): James Blake autograph, $5.24; Lleyton Hewitt apparel card, $4.75; Venus Williams apparel card, $4.91; Andy Roddick apparel card, $6.74; Pete Sampras apparel card, $5.91; Serena Williams apparel card, $7.60; and a Martina Hingis apparel card, $7.49.

On the other end of the spectrum, an Anna Kournikova autographed card recently sold for $49.99, including shipping.

If you want a bargain, complete 100-card sets of the 2003 NetPro Premier Edition offering - including 10 short-printed cards limited to just one per box - can be found for less than $15, including shipping. That set includes the true rookie cards of many top players, such as the Williams sisters, Anna Kournikova and Andy Roddick, among others.

Before the company was reborn in 2003 (for just a short time, as it turned out), NetPro tried to kick-start the tennis card market with a pair of sets picturing men and women in 1991. One was a 99-card set of current players and the other was a 50-card "Legends" set of past greats. Both sets were labeled as "first series" products, but no second series was released for either line.

A nine-card promo set was created by the company for 1992, including cards for several players who didn't appear in the previous year's set (most notably Steffi Graf). But the planned full set for that year never emerged.

The company made one more go of it in 1993, releasing an attractive 99-card set of current players; but that proved to be the last major tennis card set issued until the company returned 10 years later.

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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