April 2019 Spring Premium Auction - Rare & High-Grade Cards You Won't Find Anywhere Else
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/5/2019
The current high bids for the cumulative group of singles is currently higher than the total for the complete set (this lot is currently winning)

Playoff Corporation broke the mold in 1998 when it released its Contenders football card issue, an ultra high-end product that offered not one but “three unique 100 card base sets highlighted by different technologies, photography, design and numbering.” Each pack of the product contained one card from each of these three sets: Leather, Pennant, and Ticket. Most importantly, each rookie card in the Ticket base set featured an on-card autograph. In retrospect, Playoff essentially reinvented the rookie card with its 1998 Contenders Ticket issue, creating the hobby's first-ever set to offer autograph rookie cards as a part of its base checklist, a hobby innovation that beat the Topps Company’s famous 2001 Bowman Chrome baseball product by three full years.

Not coincidentally, the 1998 NFL Draft featured Peyton Manning, one of the most promising #1 picks in league history. To harness the unprecedented interest in this first-year player, football card companies plastered their products with Manning’s image, which can be found on cards from several hundred different base, parallel, and insert sets produced throughout his rookie season. Almost immediately, however, the universal consensus concerning which issue was Manning’s best and therefore most valuable rookie card was crystal clear: the 1998 Playoff Contenders Ticket Autograph.

Fast forward two decades, and Manning’s number one rookie card is now firmly established as an icon of the hobby and one of the single most valuable football cards in existence. With a production run of just 200, only six out of 58 total examples ever submitted to PSA have earned the grading firm’s top Gem Mint 10 designation. One of these sacred six sold in a 2018 Small Traditions auction for $50,207, edging out a 2017 Heritage Auctions sale for $48,000 and setting the stage for a 2019 PWCC Auctions sale for a stunning $71,989.

Playoff created another hobby icon two years later when it included Tom Brady in its base Ticket Autograph set. The 2000 Playoff Contenders Ticket Autograph cards were similar to the 1998 issue, only they boasted yet another hobby innovation initiated by Playoff in 1999, a holographically-enhanced parallel to the base set called Championship Ticket Autographs, which were limited to just 100 serial-numbered copies produced. In February 2019, the hobby’s highest graded example of Tom Brady’s Championship Ticket Autograph fetched a stunning $400,100 at auction, a record for a modern sports card sale.

In the two decades since the production of the famous Peyton Manning and Tom Brady Playoff Contenders Ticket Autograph rookie cards, the Contenders Ticket design has been replicated and recycled in dozens upon dozens of additional sets, not just in football but across all sports. To call the original 1998 issue merely innovative, therefore, is insufficient. Its classic and enduring design and its year-after-year, indeed decade-after-decade replication have made the design itself an icon of the hobby. In short, the 1998 Playoff Contenders Ticket set was a complete and total game-changer.

Unbeknownst to most collectors, what is most fascinating about the groundbreaking 1998 Playoff Contenders Ticket set, however, is that a serial-numbered parallel version to the first year's set, similar to but even scarcer than the following years’ Championship Ticket parallels, does in fact exist. As a promotion to its growing customer base in 1998, the innovators at Playoff Corporation challenged collectors to complete full sets of each of the three different Contenders sets: Leather, Pennant, and Ticket. Collectors could then submit their complete sets to Playoff for a redemption prize as well as a special treatment to their cards. Each "Registered Exchange" card would be stamped on back in gold foil with the number in which its set was received back by Playoff.

Offered here is the first of fewer than ten Peyton Manning Contenders Ticket Autographs to make it back home to Playoff's headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas. A crown jewel of the modern football card hobby, this Peyton Manning Contenders Ticket Registered Exchange Autograph is the first and only copy ever known to PSA. As shown in our scans, the card has been stamped "No.1" on back, which is especially meaningful given Manning's "No.1" status in the 1998 NFL Draft. As far as we've been able to research, less than ten total Ticket sets were ever registered, which makes sense given that only 200 of each of the the set's autograph cards were produced. With only seven or eight other copies in existence, this means that the Peyton Manning Contenders Ticket Registered Exchange Autograph offered here is more than ten times as scarce as the $400,000 Tom Brady Contenders Championship Ticket serial-numbered to 100. While Manning will never measure up to Brady's postseason success, he is nevertheless regarded as the second-best quarter back of all-time, behind Brady and ahead of Joe Montana and Brett Favre, and that's not going to change any time soon. The offered card has been extremely conservatively graded PSA 6.5 EX-MT+ due to some self-evident chipping around the perimeter, no doubt a result of the handling required for the Registered Exchange process, but it appears far closer to NM-MT or even mint condition in our opinion. It is perfectly centered and noticeably sharp, and it boasts an excellently preserved autograph. Some stray print on the front surface and a minor abrasion in the left border are the only discernible facets that might account for the harsh assessment from PSA. Regardless of its condition and its technical grade, however, it is so rare that it has taken two decades for this extraordinary card to surface at PSA, and we could not be more emphatic in our recommendation of this new entry on the Peyton Manning Master Set Registry. It was a once-in-a-lifetime pull for our consignor and his son, and now it is a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for even the most advanced Hall of Fame rookie card or Peyton Manning collector. Chances are, you'll never see it again.

Important Note: Until this auction, in over 20 years of grading the 1998 Playoff Contenders cards, PSA had graded only a small handful of the elusive and mysterious "Registered Exchange" cards from each of the three Contenders sets. With provenance that includes our consignors' original communications with Playoff Corporation, Small Traditions, LLC is very proud to bring to market full sets of each of the three different 1998 Playoff Contenders Registered Exchanges: Leather, Pennant, and Ticket. Each of the three sets is being offered in a separate lot, while the "big four" from the Contenders Ticket Autograph subset—Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Fred Taylor, and Hines Ward—are also being offered as singles. The cards will sell via whichever format delivers the highest bidding for our consignors, whether the complete set or the combined bids on the individual cards, plus the partial set without the "big four," which appears in the last lot of the current auction.

Bidding
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $5,000
Final prices include buyers premium: $15,888
Number Bids: 11
Auction closed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.
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