Let me start off this article by saying that I think licensing and exclusives are something that prevents true evolution in our hobby. These types of deals, whether they are sport specific or player specific cause a lot of problems that make things more difficult to progress the industry. I think there are some great products out there that deserve to be transferred to a fully functional stage as a licensed example, but we are left with half of the pie because they are not able to use the logos without league approval.
Here are some of my favorite cards that I wish were available in a licensed manner:
Upper Deck College Legends
Like many collectors out there, I am a huge fan of the 1997 Legends set. In fact, it goes down in history as one of the most widely collected football sets ever made. Since the release of the original set, Upper Deck has re-released newer examples of retired stars and HOFers, but nothing like what we saw with 2011 College Legends. These cards, all hard signed, are some of the more amazing examples of what a great retro product looks like. Of course, with no pro uniforms, many of the cards fall flat for collectors that don’t chase the college stuff. When you see the way they turned out in Ultimate, its easy to see why I would kill for a product like this under an NFL banner.
Leaf Pure Glass
I am a big fan of these cards, which will be available in baseball and more recently in football. These plexiglass cards have an incredible look to them because of the way the pictures are printed, almost like a shadowbox. The hard signed autographs make them even more desirable, and I sincerely hope that we will be able to see a program like this in a licensed capacity sometime in the future. They are just too cool.
Exquisite Dimensions Shadowbox
Even though Topps has done an incredible job with the Strata Signature relics, the Exquisite dimensions are a bit different. I think they are some of the best looking cards out there, and over the last two years have been a target of mine despite the college affiliation. I think that we will get to see some veteran shadowbox cards this year in Strata, but I would kill to see what the previous examples from 2011 and 2012 would look like with NFL logos and uniforms.
National Treasures MLB Rookie Auto Patch
I was not a huge fan of the first baseball foray into National Treasures, mainly because of the way many of the cards looked. I thought they were relatively boring in a lot of ways, especially in the hordes of ugly junk relic cards that were peppered all over the product. One card looked absolutely tremendous, and I wish we would have gotten the chance to see what it looked like in a licensed fashion. The simple design with hard signed autographs was pretty stunning, but wasn’t as successful as it could have been due to lack of MLBP permissions.
Fleer Retro Precious Metal Gems
These cards have been incredible in all the sports that they have been used for, including comic books, believe it or not. Another casualty of the lack of league licenses, these cards were another retro favorite of collectors. Although I don’t really think they are all that special, I am in the minority in just about every way, shape and form. Even without a pro license, the gems are selling for thousands in basketball, and would be selling for more if the pro uniforms could be used. I could only imagine what it would be like in other sports, instead of settling for college gear.
Its clear to me why league licensing is the way it is, as it is one of the more lucrative business ventures in sports. However, one can dream in the fact that we could really have some awesome cards if it weren’t an issue. These are just a few of the examples out there, imagine what is possible when everyone is on an equal playing field!