It’s one of the few sports card issues that actually pre-dates the birth of some of today’s collectors. Heck, it's been around so long Joe Montana was in it. Back for another annual edition, 2012 Panini Contenders football hits the shelf today, 20 years after its debut as a Donruss-Playoff brand.
Panini rolls out the latest in a slew of new football card releases in the wake of the Super Bowl, hoping the positive vibe that came out of the just completed rookie-riffic season will drive sales. When the company first announced the return of Contenders last year, they said it would contain five autographed cards per box. That ante was pushed up to six signed cards just days ahead of the launch, meaning a pretty fair bang for the collector buck at around $140 per box.
Of course, it helps if you get impact rookies in your box rather than players who may be buried on the depth chart or spent the year on IR and the list will be large. Panini had 140 rookies sign for Contenders including top draft pick and spokesman Andrew Luck.
Contenders first arrived in 1993 with its ‘Rookie Ticket’ concept design but actually broke hobby ground in 1998 when it launched the autographed rookie card as we know it. This year’s product is sort of a throwback to those earlier issues with inserts like Rookie Stallions, which came aboard in 1996 and an overall design that will bring back memories of those early issues.
Each box of 24 five-card packs will have the six autographs (a mix of stickers and on card according to the company) and a variety of inserts. The popular Cracked Ice parallels will be one significant hit here and there are die-cut cards in the product as well.
2012 Panini Contenders will be a 235-card set with 100 Season Ticket base cards, 100 Rookie Ticket Autographs ( Look for Autographed Playoff Ticket versions, sequentially numbered to 99) and 35 RPS Rookie Ticket Autographs (Look for 1 of 1 on-card autographed printing plates versions. The latter represent the premier group such as Luck, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris. Solid Gold Rookie Tickets are out there along with Legendary Contender Autographs which feature past legends.