Once the king of all basketball sets, Upper Deck SP Authentic Basketball has been reduced to a limited number of players due to UD’s ability to only use players in college (or high school) uniforms. You’ll still find the games two biggest stars , and with LeBron James and Michael Jordan not ever signing for a Panini set, SP Authentic Basketball can still turn heads and make you want to crack a box.
The Base Set, which in the glory days of SP Authentic – you used to get mostly base cards in each pack. This year only has 50 players on the base set, including some names we’ve been coming quite familiar with when it comes to Upper Deck Set (other than MJ and LeBron). We’ve seen lots of Anfernee Hardaway, Allen Iverson, Dennis Rodman, and Gary Payton from Upper Deck recently – and my guess is that the NBA pension checks aren’t really as big as they need to be, so you’ll be seeing these players for a long time to come. The rest of the base set is mostly 2nd rate young NBA players or guys we haven’t even really seen play much yet. SP Authentic base set used to have gold and silver type parallel cards, plus sometimes a mini-set that was serial numbered – no longer. 50 cards on the checklist and nothing too special if you ask me.
What is new, is that practically every player in the base-set does sign autographs for a base set autograph parallel (which include the gold parallel most fans are used to). It looks like a few guys don’t sign including #22 Jeremy Lamb, #45 John Shurna and #47 Ricardo Ratliffe – but you have Jordan and LeBron autographs to go after.
There are the “Rookie F/X” cards inserted at a rate of 1 every 4 packs. However, the term Rookie on these is really odd – and most of time – players like LeBron and Jordan already have a version of this card in a previous years set. This is essentially an extionsion of the base set, as the cards numbering starts where the base set left off. Most of the players are veteran and even Hall of Fame players – which makes this a strange set to collect with the “Rookie” term attached to the set. Similar to the base cards, you will find autograph parallel cards of just about each player in the set.
Canvas Collection cards are Upper Deck’s play on Topps Canvas Collection cards that are often found in baseball sets. (Card companies all use the same 3rd party vendors that print, package and usually ship the cards for them – so when one comes up with a card design, you’ll see all the other manufactures try the same thing because it’s typically the 3rd party vendors technology). These cards fall about 1 in 8 packs and there are 45 different cards in the checklist. You’ll also find gold parallel versions and autograph versions as well.
By the Letter autographs is a familiar set in the SP Authentic lineup – and you’ll find lots of these, as they fall once per box. I have mixed feelings about letterman autographs. First of all, these are manufactured – the player never wore this jersey ….. in fact it was never a jersey at all – just a cloth letter piece made in mass quantities. The sad thing is, you often don’t know this if you were to open a pack or box of this product. Not to mention, some buyers on eBay are going to think LeBron and Jordan actually wore this jersey – which would make the card be worth much more. Not that these letterman autograph cards aren’t nice – or that I wouldn’t like to get a LeBron James, however it does cause some confusion for new and younger collectors – and that’s not always the best way to get people to stay in the hobby for life. Not to mention, the autographs tend to be small and squished on these – as the letters tend to be thin, barely leaving enough room to sign.
Home Court autograph cards are not that tough to get, and LeBron James and Michael Jordan are easier to get than Alonzo Mourning, Allen Iverson, and David Robinson. That’s actually what is cool about Upper Deck products these days. In the past, the odds to get one of their top athletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, LeBron James or even like Peyton Manning was really – REALLY – tough in some sets. Now it seems like Upper Deck knows their products aren’t going to sell well unless people are hitting LeBron’s and Jordan’s on a regular basis – considering the rest of the names on the checklist can be found in most Panini releases. However, you’ll see complaints on basketball forums all the time from old-school Jordan and LeBron collectors that aren’t happy their autographs are being watered-down a bit with each new set that is released. Luckily, Upper Deck isn’t releasing too many sets these days, but like we said – they tend to have more of the elite athlete these days.
There are a few smaller sets like Final Floor autographs and some Jordan brand gear, but the two last sets I’d like to touch on are the Sign of the Times and Nickname autograph sets. Sign of the Times has been one of the longest running autograph sets that I can think of (sadly looks like stickers for many players this year). You’ll see most of the same names you’ve seen already – but some names stick out including Mookie Blaylock (who got charged with vehicular manslaughter shortly after this set came out), Pooh Richardson, and Lonnie Shelton might be fun to track down.
Possibly the most interesting cards in the set we save for last. Nickname autographs – the names that really stick out are #AN-HM Harold Miner “Baby Jordan”, #AN-SB Shawn Bradley “The Stormin Mormon” and #AN-BR Bryant Reeves “Big Country” – these should be really interesting to see what premium collectors are willing to pay for these players inscription. Harold Miner autograph cards are not easy to find, my guess is that these will be popular with collectors and should sell well online.