The 1998-99 season was a great one for basketball fans and for basketball card collectors alike.
The rookie class was as strong as any in the last 30 years with Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Jason Williams and a few other solid first-year players. The market was also turning out products full steam ahead with a seemingly unlimited selection. From low end to high end and everything in between, there were a number of envelope pushing sports card offerings that year.
One of the more unique sets from that season was the 1998-99 E-X Century Basketball release. With its high-end look and feel, the stylish acetate card base, the sharp imagery and the futuristic feel of the raised fonts, texts and graphics, this set was eye-popping in every way.
Quite possibly the sweet and sugary crown jewel of the entire product was the Dunk ‘N Go Nuts insert set. Issued one per 36 packs, they are one of basketball collecting’s most popular, yet attainable issues, provided you have the funds to snare a couple of the icons who are part of it.
Skybox was filling any and all Dunk ‘N orders without hungry collectors waiting in the drive thru line that stretched out to the collectibles highway. Still, to this day, one of the most beloved and collected insert sets of the era, Dunk ‘N Go Nuts was a beautiful word play tying America’s favorite donut (and coffee) shop together with the most spectacular play on the basketball court.
The checklist for the 20-card insert set featured a star studded cast that included Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Carter and others. With many 90’s insert sets, not every prospect turned out to be a star as evidenced by the inclusion of the likes of Michael Dickerson and Felipe Lopez.
The card design featured the words Dunk ‘N Go Nuts scrolling from the bottom to top of the card (in very close relation to the font and colors of the donut joint) on the left hand side, the player’s name and again the words Dunk ‘N Go Nuts are featured in the upper right hand corner of the card and the EX Century logo follows underneath. The team logo is featured with a tiny version in the corner of the card. Overlapping it all was a crisp image of many of the highest flyers and best dunk artists in the game …for the most part.
Printed on acetate stock means the card backs are basically a bleed through of the front of the card. The only actual information on the back of the card is the card number in the upper right hand corner and within the silhouette of the player picture from the front there is text within that image of the player featured. In a very odd choice of text, each statement appears to be a note or comment for the player featured on the card as if Skybox is writing a love letter to the player (see Jordan’s card below).
The back of the Kobe Bryant card reads “Kobe, seconds turn to minutes, then turn to days, then turn to weeks, or so it seems, when you fly through the air. It’s like you’re a human hovercraft, with a perpetually full tank of gas and we can’t forget that you also play with mad class, a nice touch.”
Take a look at Tim Thomas or some of the others if you want real eyebrow scrunching statements. To be fair, a few of the card backs were normal but a few were, well, not.
For everything these cards offer in a fun and unique design, many have questions the photograph selection for many of the players. Thomas is still in his warm-ups running a layup line. Bryant, who surely had plenty of other great images, looks to be getting ready to release a reverse layup. Tim Duncan appears to be releasing a floater near the hoop. One of the greatest dunkers of his era, McGrady is grabbing a rebound, and it looks as though Grant Hill was just releasing a layup at the rim. Come on now, the set has the word “dunk” in it for goodness sake.
Aside from nitpicking the negative photos there are some great images including Shaq throwing down one of his classic two-hand monster slams. Jordan looks to be finishing right at the hoop after going baseline past a poor defender or three and the Vince Carter card shows a great image of him throwing one down with two hands as well.
The classic dunks, slams, jams, stuffs and throw downs, were captured well on a number of the cards in the set.
One of the drawbacks within this insert set as with much of the 1998-99 E-X Century Basketball set is the yellowing of the acetate on many cards. There is no gold version. There is no elusive parallel. There is no hard to find one of one. Any yellowing is an unfortunate oxidization of the acetate on the card. Not a good thing.
The monetary value on these cards can be pretty substantial. Mint, graded copies of the Jordan card currently sell for north of $3,000 every time they are listed.
Raw copies of the Jordan card demand upwards of $1,500 apiece. PSA 10 Gem Mint examples of the Carter RC year card sell for upwards of $1,400 while PSA 9 copies go for close to $400. A rare uncut sheet featuring all 20 cards sold for over $11,000 at Goldin Auctions early this year.
The good news is that the lesser lights in the set can often be had for under $30 and some of the other Hall of Famers are still fairly inexpensive, so you can still own a card from this popular and great looking set for a minimal cost.
You can see current listings for Dunk ‘N Go Nuts cards on eBay here.
In 1998 many products were offering fun and innovative cards but Skybox E-X Century was towards the top of the technological advancements and this particular insert set stands as one of the best of the era. A quarter century or so later, it seems Skybox still has collectors running on Dunk ‘N.