The 1996 SPx basketball set was monumental for a few rather important reasons. It marked the first release for the ultra premium SPx Basketball brand. Using Upper Deck’s Holoview technology, it was the first all-hologram base set release as well as the first all-die cut premium basketball base set ever offered. Combining these envelope pushing aspects made it a sight to behold. It really is a card you have to hold in your own hands to fully appreciate.
The advertising showcased and framed the set as a next level, premium product that collectors could barely handle. The promotional material featured Michael Jordan– a wise choice to be sure– and a comparison of the product and dunking from the free throw line.
The base set consisted of only 50 cards which featured (mostly) the cream of the crop veterans and (mostly) top shelf up and coming stars in the league. As of right now, 18 of the 50 cards in the base set pictures a Hall of Famer.
The Holoview imagery was performed by, when applicable, video taping each player as they were sitting down…and spinning on a turntable. The individual images were then synthesized to produce what you see on the card which is a 50° three-dimensional holographic image.
The cards are found on high quality 32 point, thick card stock. Hobby boxes contained one card 36 pack boxes and retailed back in the day for $2.99 per pack.
The box art is a dark brown shade and the text is a gold oval with the now famous SPx logo inside with a brief description of what can be found in the product listed underneath in gold text as well.
The pack is a foil wrapper with nearly the exact same design as the box artwork with a little bit of silver foil sprinkled in. It offers a dark brown color with the gold SPx logo oval design work and the same text fonts, promoting the fact that you can find autographs, Holoview and die cut cards inside.
The base set design offers a colorful oval (do you see a theme here?) that coincides with the featured players team colors, that features the actual card image within, including a nice full color action shot and the Holoview imagery. The oval appears to sit on top of a silver rectangle with a pinpoint in each corner. The SPx logo is featured at the top center of the card and found in nice gold foil. The players name, team name and position are found at the bottom center of the card.
The card backs feature a full color image of the player in an oval in the center of the card with biographical notes below. The underlying colors of the card back coincide with the team’s colors once again as it blends well together. The card number is found in the upper left-hand corner and the team logo is found at the top center of the card back. The NBA logo and the famous Upper Deck hologram are found at the bottom of the card. The card backs themselves are attractive enough to be card fronts in many sets back in that particular era.
There are literally no true rookie cards in the set as its simply considered a 1996 set, not 1995-96 or 1996-97 offering, per se. There are a number of Hall of Famers featured including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill and a number of others.
The 50-card base cards also came in a gold parallel form. The gold cards were found one in every seven packs.
Aside from the base set there were very few inserts but what the product lacked in quantity it more than made up for in quality. A Record Breaker card that commemorated Michael Jordan’s eighth consecutive scoring title was found in this product. The card was a short print found one in every 75 packs. Today, higher grade copies sell for around $100 each.
There was a second insert card commemorating Anfernee Hardaway’s accomplishments to that point in the league that was found in every 24 packs.
As well received as the Jordan Record Breaker card has been, it’s hard to overstate how iconic and spectacular the Michael Jordan autographed card was in this product. A trade card found only once in every 35,000 packs or so, it is more of a piece of art than trading card. It was accompanied with a certificate of authenticity from Upper Deck as well as the UDA hologram and serial number.
The card #NNO Michael Jordan Autograph was the first Jordan autograph card inserted into packs. The other versions were signed as giveaways to participants of Michael Jordan sponsored basketball camps. The original pack placed versions carry the hologram in which the serial number begins with the prefix BAC or BAD.
Nearly every single mid-90s Upper Deck Michael Jordan autograph card has become iconic and the centerpiece of nearly any advanced collection and this example is definitely no different. Expect to pay at least several thousand dollars to own one. Two BGS 9 graded copies have sold this month–one for $13,320 and another for $14,400.
Orlando Magic mega star Penny Hardaway also had a sharp looking autographed card in this product and it was one that was far easier to find than MJ’s, found one in just over 1,300 packs.
There was one 10 card insert set titled Holoview Heroes which featured some of the top players in the game at the time including Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal. The card design was exactly the same as the base set with the exception of the words Holoview Heroes written down the right hand side of the oval and the lack of a nameplate at the bottom portion of the card. This insert set also incorporated the technology mentioned earlier and in doing so, was one of the nicest insert sets ever produced in the timeframe.
Except for ultra-high grade examples, most cards from the insert set–even Jordan–are relatively inexpensive.
Today, unopened boxes usually sell for $1,000-$1,500.
The 1996 Upper Deck SP Basketball set generally ranks towards the top of any list of significant sets of the 1990s. Despite its relative simplicity, it has a lot going for it with the debut of the SPx brand, the complete set done with Holoview technology as well as being the first set from start to finish that featured a die cut design. Coupled with the Jordan chase elements, it’s among the more important issues of the era.