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Collector Confesses His Pig-Headed Passion for 1995 Playoff Contenders Hog Heavens

July 20, 2012

I apologize if you had to hear about it on a now-deleted message board thread. Alas, that doesn’t make it any less true. I’m a collector. I have been since 1977. And last weekend I lapsed — big time — back into the lavish, leather embrace of an old love: 1995 Playoff Contenders Football and its magnificent Hog Heaven insert set.

I was hoping my wife wouldn’t find out, but I guess the horsehide’s out of the barn now.

It started innocently enough late last week when I discovered that our Panini America NFL product gurus are — cue the trumpets! — revising the Hog Heaven name for an autographed insert in the upcoming 2012 Limited Football. From there, it spiraled out of control.

Almost immediately, I was thrust back in time 17 years to my first torrid affair with this seminal insert and the seemingly countless number of 1995 Playoff Contenders Football boxes I opened chasing it. Something — everything, really — about Hog Heaven spoke to me back then. It still does.

The perfect design (highlighted by the etched-foil brilliance of the vibrant blue sky and accentuated with perfectly-placed gold foil); the nothing-but-leather backs and their comic-bookish player likenesses; the pungent pigskin scent that only real leather can emit; and the fact that Hog Heaven was one of the first inserts in trading card history to incorporate genuine leather (Playoff’s 1995 Absolute Pigskin Previews from earlier that year were the first).

For me, it was a dreamy (heavenly, even) combination of card-collecting characteristics that I couldn’t resist. I fell head over hooves for Hog Heaven, cracking way more 1995 Playoff Contenders than I could afford back then as a lowly editorial assistant at Beckett Publications.

Fast forward to the present again. By late Saturday night, all of this talk about bringing the name back in 2012 Limited Football had me looking for love on the Internet. I turned to eBay and quickly pulled the trigger on the John Elway and Shannon Sharpe gems from the set. For a grand total of $15.49 including shipping, I nabbed two of my favorite players from my favorite team from my favorite insert. It didn’t seem to matter at the time that I already had them. Hey, I’m a collector.

By Monday morning I had become the unwitting subject of a somewhat-heated, somewhat-humorous thread on the Blowout Cards forum that unfortunately has since been removed. My eBay ID was included in the thread, along with questions about, among other things, why, exactly, I bought those particular cards. Were they for a Panini America BuyBack program? Wouldn’t it be funny if the respective sellers sent me redemptions? (Full disclosure: I did laugh at that one.)

To be frank, the reason I bought those cards — and the reason I’ll likely buy more in the near future — is because I love them. Indeed, I’m a collector. Of Broncos past and present, of Tim Tebow, of both AFLs (the Arena Football League and the Australian Football League), of the UFC, of Eminem, of . . . many things.

And I’m not alone. One of the many great things about Panini America is that I’m surrounded every day by folks who are as passionate about collecting as I am. My office mate, Scott Prusha, collects Nebraska Cornhuskers, Dallas Cowboys and George Brett. Marketing comrade Chris Reed collects Oklahoma SoonersPanini Authentic’s Brian Bayne collects the Washington Redskins (and interoffice ridicule as a result).

The list goes on . . . and on . . . and on. The point, of course, is that many of us here at Panini America were collecting trading cards long before we were making and promoting them. It’s in our blood. It’s what we do. We build complete sets, we likely spend too much discretionary income on pursuing them (no freebies here) and, yes, we even chase down insert cards that we first fell in love with almost two decades ago.

You can’t believe everything you read on the collecting message boards, but you absolutely can believe this: I’m a collector — and proud of it. Let’s see a new thread started on that.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. chris ryker permalink
    July 20, 2012 9:37 am

    very interesting and insightful atricle. I didnt know about this insert set. Thanks for sharing Tracy!

  2. July 20, 2012 9:38 am

    well put Tracy…..I look through my stash soon and if i have any, they are yours!!!!

    Keep up the good work brother and i am really looking forward to the 2012 Limited release!

  3. July 20, 2012 9:49 am

    Wait, did I read that right? It is coming back in 2012 Limited Football?

    • July 20, 2012 10:13 am

      The insert name is coming back. It’s an autographed, rookie-themed set, but haven’t seen the design yet.

  4. Ryan / www.raymondberryautographs.com permalink
    July 20, 2012 10:02 am

    For those of you who weren’t collecting in 1995, these cards were HUGE! Elway and other big names were getting $100-$150 and sometimes more. Such a great set from a great time in collecting.

    • July 22, 2012 10:42 am

      When you get a minute Ryan, check out the 2:23 mark of my 6-14-12 Mailday on youtube. There’s something in there you might like but is NOT for trade or sale :)

  5. July 20, 2012 10:04 am

    Pretty groovy old cards! Gotta love a bit of nostalgia every now and then. Kind of creepy and wierd your e-bay was being stalked though :S

  6. Scott W. Prusha permalink*
    July 20, 2012 10:32 am

    I’m proud of my collection, one that includes more Eric Crouch, Ahman Green and Darin Erstad Auto’s than you can shake a stick at. I’ll take any and all, spares & dups are welcome here! Happy collecting everyone…

    • Matt Gilman permalink
      July 20, 2012 3:50 pm

      Forgot about Eric Crouch..WR/QB/whatever position he can attempt to make it on the field. To bad he didn’t have a very long career. But I love the 90′s inserts and always have no matter the player. Including Crouch. Ahman Green is a nice one!

  7. July 20, 2012 11:34 am

    I still remember to this day being 15 and tearing through a box at my friends parents card store! And there it was a Barry Sanders Pig Skin me and my friend went nuts!! At the time Playoff was a new product that most card collectors were obsessed over! Oh the good old days!!! Lol

  8. Matt Almond permalink
    July 20, 2012 11:35 am

    Tracy. Your a great guy, were lucky to have you as a member of the collecting community. It’s that passion that all you have in that office is what makes panini awesome…. God Bless and Prayers to the families in Colorado who lost their loved ones in such a horrific event.

    • July 20, 2012 11:39 am

      Really appreciate the kind words, Matt. Will you please let my wife know? :)

      Such a tragedy in Colorado. We’re with you in sending our thoughts and prayers to all of those impacted by such blatant disregard for others. Simply horrific.

      • Ryan / www.raymondberryautographs.com permalink
        July 20, 2012 11:46 am

        Unfortunately, that theatre and area have a very unsavory reputation. Can’t even go to a movie nowadays. SMH.

    • Kris Telford permalink
      July 20, 2012 1:17 pm

      Actually Matt your one of the best individuals in this hobby. Why are you not working for them yet?

      -Kris

      • Matt Almond permalink
        July 20, 2012 1:48 pm

        Came down to me and Bieber for Panini, and needless to say they chose Bieber.. I took my talents back to Ohio. Appreciate the warm words.

  9. July 20, 2012 3:16 pm

    That etched foil is so ill. Reminds of the best part of inserts in the 90s. You all should revisit that printing technology sometime.

    Fleer Ultra basketball had some insane etched foil designs in the early 90s. Defensive Gems & Power in the Key comes to mind…

  10. July 20, 2012 3:27 pm

    One of the all time sets for sure! I am lucky and have Aikman, E. Smith, Irvin, B. Sanders, Marino, D. Sanders and Reggie White in my collection. Glad to see them coming back!

  11. Matt Gilman permalink
    July 20, 2012 3:51 pm

    Awesome cards..love the 90′s stuff! I was in Hogg Heaven!

  12. Robert Fernandez permalink
    July 22, 2012 1:36 am

    Great story I love that you still collect the older stuff tracy

  13. Lukas Ham permalink
    July 22, 2012 4:59 am

    I love digging through old cards and finding some back from the 90′s. Hogg Heaven is very cool.

  14. July 22, 2012 10:44 am

    That’s a great set to collect Tracy, if I run across any I’ll be in touch. Good to see the name come back at least, there are some definite pros and cons for an on-leather autograph set if that is in fact the plan for the reboot so I’ll be very interested to see how it’s executed.

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