The 1996 Upper Deck SP Football set was the fourth year running of the premium product offered each football season. With a hobby-only format, the 188 card, single series set featured what the company dubbed eight ‘super premium’ cards per pack in a 30 pack box. Packs had an SRP of $4.39, pricey for the time.
The box art and packaging featured Dan Marino in the marbling design found on the cards themselves. The design really did offer a high end look and feel.
Upper Deck turns their advertisements into art with some pretty spectacular magazine advertisements for the product. Look no further than the iconic San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver Jerry Rice in one of the outstanding advertisements.
Upper Deck hit the mark on most of the top rookies from that year’s outstanding crop. Linebacker Ray Lewis is missing, but the set includes slew of legendary receivers including number one overall pick Keyshawn Johnson, Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens. The RC list also included Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, Jonathan Ogden, Mike Alstott and Zach Thomas.
Many of the aforementioned well-known rookies were found in the Premier Prospects subset, which was a 20 card offering that opened the base set that season. The cards had a nice red foil backdrop on the majority of the face of the card with a fancy black and gray marbling design on the left hand side accompanied by the Premier Prospects logo. The SP logo is featured on the top right hand side of the card and the player’s name is featured in the bottom right hand corner.
Aside from the Hall of Fame rookie cards of Owens, Harrison and Ogden, base cards of eventual Hall of Famers and stars of the time such as Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Reggie White, Jerry Rice and a plethora of others are found in the set.
The base cards feature beautiful action shots of the player with the background of the picture in all foil. The player’s name is featured the top center of the card, the top right hand side and bottom are a similar marbling to the rookie subset but on the base cards on the right hand side there’s a small profile picture of each player. The SP logo is found on the bottom with the team name and position of the player.
The card backs feature a lot more silver foil with a nice large in action shot of the player with the player’s name at the top center the card number in the upper left hand corner underneath that you will find a nice quick paragraph about the player and below that you’ll find basic bio information and to the right towards the bottom of the card you will find a statistics bar.
Complete base sets of 188 cards can usually be had for $40-$60 today.
There are a number of spectacular inserts by the standards of the day that hold up pretty well even to this day, including the forward thinking Holoview found one in seven packs, with a special FX die cut version found 1 in 74 packs.
You could also find Focus on the Future inserts found one in every 30 packs while Explosive inserts were found in one in 360 packs. If you were really lucky you might pull an SPX Force found one per 950 packs with autographed versions found in one in a mind-boggling 8,820 packs.
The Explosive insert set was a 20 card offering featuring some of the biggest names and most explosive players in the game. The card design is a die cut ‘X’ with a round picture of the player in the center with the Explosive logo on the card and of course the silver foil we have come to expect.
The Focus on the Future insert set is another die cut set featuring the FOTF text on the left hand side, an action shot of the player and on the far right is a photo negative from a picture. The card even credits the photographer right smack dab on the front of the card, which is not common. This insert set features some of the young, up and comers in the league at that time. Obviously some hitting it big and some missing by a mile by the time it was all said and done.
The Holoview insert is one of my favorites of all time, especially from that era. This particular insert set features a full color picture of the player on the left hand side and on the right hand side is a spectacular 3D portrait image of the player featured. I always enjoyed the Holoview cards Upper Deck produced back in the 1990’s.
The Holoview Die Cuts insert set is just as you would imagine, almost virtually identical to the regular Holoview set with the exception of the cards being die cut. Most of the Holoview insert cards are very inexpensive.
The SPX Force insert set uses the same Holoview technology and features four outstanding players at each position on each card. The cream of the crop is most likely the running backs card that features Detroit Lions icon Barry Sanders, Dallas Cowboys all time great Emmitt Smith, multi-purpose running backs in history in Marshall Faulk and Hall of Famer Curtis Martin. There are autographed cards of Marino, Rice, Keyshawn Johnson and Barry Sanders, the latter being a redemption.
With the SP foil cards being extremely condition sensitive, PSA 10 and Beckett Gem Mint copies of key cards from this set can bring a premium with Owens stretching over $1,000 but 9s of the key rookie cards are very affordable, with all but Owens typically available for under $50.
The 1996 SP Football set was not necessarily landmark or groundbreaking but it was another great offering in the growing line of premium mid-1990s Upper Deck football products.
About Tony Reid
From the time he was a little kid, Tony has been a huge sports fan. If he could play sports, watch sports and talk about sports it was a great day. From as early as he was drawn to sports, Tony was drawn to collecting sports cards. Not much has changed over the years. He collects RCs of star players in baseball, basketball and football. He also has a soft spot for first autographs of MMA stars. If you want to talk to Tony about the greatness of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Ken Griffey, Jr. you can reach him at @reidrattlecage on all social media platforms.