1998 SP Authentic Football Offers Iconic Rookie, High Quality Autographs and Serial Numbered Cards

With its second offering in the SP Authentic Football line, Upper Deck increased the quality of the hits, offered serial numbered base rookie cards and even better autographs and inserts, making this a landmark release of the latter part of the 1990’s. 

The premium offering was found in Hobby boxes, featuring five cards per pack and a 24 pack box.

The packaging for SP Authentic features Miami Dolphins great quarterback Dan Marino.

The box offers the SP Authentic logo, a nice grayish overall color with the some info touting what’s inside–or could be–including redemption cards for autographed memorabilia.

There was also a single Dan Marino sample card offered for promotion.

The 1998 SP Authentic football checklist is 163 cards deep, with the first 30 cards of the base set focused on rookies through the “Future Watch” designation. All of the Future Watch rookie cards are numbered to 2000. The base set also features a die cut parallel, each numbered to just 500 copies.

1998 SP Authentic Peyton Manning Future Watch rookie 

1998 offered one of the best rookie classes of the decade.  Standing out above all others in number one overall draft pick  Peyton Manning. You will also find the best base rookie cards of Minnesota Vikings legend Randy Moss, Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame DB Charles Woodson, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor and the Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green. 

1998 SP Authentic Die-Cut Charles Woodson

All of the Rookie Watch cards carry a horizontal design,  featuring nice photo shoot images of the rookie featured. There is a secondary foil action image of the player on the right hand side of the card. The player’s name is found in a pair of boxes at the bottom of the card and their position is found in a white oval to the left. The words Future Watch run up the far third of the card in nice gold foil lettering. The now iconic SP Authentic logo is prominently featured in gold foil on the upper left hand side of the card. With an actual serial numbering to 2000 copies, this is one of the first products to offer a high-end base rookie card with a relatively low serial numbering system.

It’s hard to overstate the impact and importance of the Peyton Manning rookie card. It’s the best base rookie card in a super premium product of a player who grew to become one of the absolute greatest quarterbacks to ever pick up a football. Aside from al of those forces, the image is of high quality, almost as if it was destined to be the card of the guy. This card will forever find itself on the short list of the greatest football rookie cards of all time.  Expect to pay at least a few thousand dollars for a higher grade copy.

Rookie Time Warp piggybacks off the Future Watch.  Featuring stars of the day pictured when they were young, it consists of cards #31-42, with each also numbered to 2000 copies. Time Warp includes John Elway, Jerry Rice, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Deion Sanders and others. The cards have a large white border with the SP Authentic logo, the player’s name and position up top within various lines. The bottom of the card features the words Rookie Time Warp again stacked on various lines with the team name accompanying the text. There is a relatively small image of the player from his rookie year in the center of the card with a foil backdrop. The back features the player’s rookie year stats, career totals and career best statistics and a paragraph about how that particular player performed during their rookie season. The serial numbering is also found on the back of the card.

At card number 43 (Jake Plummer), we get to the actual base set. The base cards feature a full color action shot of the player with light foil striping at the top ,and bottom of the card with some of the image in the middle being the full color background. You will find the player’s name, position and team name at the bottom of the card and the logo again in the upper left-hand corner. 

The card backs offer a small, full color headshot in the upper left hand corner. To the right of the headshot you’ll find the players basic information and team logo below that you will find a nice year by year breakdown of the player statistics.

It probably comes as no surprise but there are a number of high quality inserts to choose from in this premium set. There was a new found focus on autographs and inserts and Upper Deck delivered a fourth quarter touchdown drive in this product. 

Maximum Impact is a 30 card insert set found one in every four packs. They offer a full color picture with a foil backdrop, a bronze stripe at the top and bottom of the card with the top featuring the words Maximum Impact. The bottom of the card features the player’s name and team. You can score icons such as Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, John Elway, Troy Aikman and also a nice rookie year Peyton Manning insert card. This insert set also comes with a parallel die cut version.

The Player’s Ink autograph insert set consists of 30 cards and are found one in every 23 packs with parallel cards of Player’s Ink Silver being numbered out of  just 100 copies and Player’s Ink Gold being numbered to the players jersey number. There are some heavy hitters in this set including Marino, Rice, Aikman and a nice rookie year Randy Moss autograph. 

The final insert set of the SP Authentic release is a 30 card Special Forces set, which are all numbered to just 1,000 copies. This set features some of the biggest forces in the league including then Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and another nice Peyton Manning rookie year insert.

In 1998 Upper Deck once again raised the bar with the release of the high end SP Authentic product. With the iconic Peyton Manning rookie card and even more outstanding inserts and autographs, this set left a lasting impression in the hobby and its a product that still offers amazing collectability and value today.

See 1998 SP Authentic Football on eBay here.

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.

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