Contenders Football at 20: Panini America Previews the Landmark 2012 Edition
Bill Clinton was in the White House, the Dallas Cowboys were Super Bowl champions, and the likes of Whitney Houston, Kenny G, Billy Ray Cyrus and Garth Brooks dotted the top half of the Billboard album chart. For better or worse, that’s the pop-culture capsule that has come to define 1993.
In the NFL that year, top rookies such as Drew Bledsoe, Jerome Bettis and Willie Roaf drove Rookie Card sales in hobby shops and at shows across America. All three of those players have long since retired — Bledsoe with more than 44,000 yards passing, Bettis with more than 13,000 yards rushing and Roaf with a trip to the Hall of Fame. But one rookie standout from 1993 is still going strong almost two decades later: Contenders Football.
Although the maiden release of Contenders Football provided a welcome, more-upscale new addition to the collecting landscape in 1993, the brand saved its greatest contribution for 1998. That was the year Contenders revolutionized the football hobby by combining two things collectors loved more than just about anything — autographs and Rookie Cards — with perhaps the only thing they could possibly love more: Autographed Rookie Cards.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Contenders’ trademark Rookie Ticket autographed RCs have become the stuff of collecting legend during the last 14 years, with each new installment of Contenders Football annually ranking as arguably the most celebrated arrival on the football card calendar.
But 2012 Contenders Football, due out in early January, is perhaps a little more special than normal. OK, it’s a lot more special than normal. Contenders Football turns 20 this season — and Panini America officials will celebrate this landmark edition of the landmark brand in a big way.
Most notably (and perhaps most importantly), there’s the 2012 Rookie Card design that honors Contenders’ Rookie Ticket roots with a classic revisiting of the 1998 original, illustrated so eloquently by the Andrew Luck example above.
Each box of 2012 Contenders Football (24 five-card packs) will deliver five autographs (including at least two on-card), three Rookie Stallions (an homage to 1996 Contenders), three Legendary Contenders, three Rookie of the Year Contenders and three MVP Contenders.
The 235-card set will include 100 Season Ticket base cards, 100 Rookie Ticket Autographs and 35 RPS Rookie Ticket Autographs.
We’ll have much more on the historic 2012 Contenders Football in the coming weeks and months right here on The Knight’s Lance. Until then, take a look at this special sneak preview:
All information is accurate at the time of posting. Content is subject to change. Card images are solely for the purpose of design display.