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Contenders Football at 20: Panini America Previews the Landmark 2012 Edition

October 13, 2012

Bill Clinton was in the White House, the Dallas Cowboys were Super Bowl champions, and the likes of Whitney Houston, Kenny G, Billy Ray Cyrus and Garth Brooks dotted the top half of the Billboard album chart. For better or worse, that’s the pop-culture capsule that has come to define 1993.

In the NFL that year, top rookies such as Drew Bledsoe, Jerome Bettis and Willie Roaf drove Rookie Card sales in hobby shops and at shows across America. All three of those players have long since retired — Bledsoe with more than 44,000 yards passing, Bettis with more than 13,000 yards rushing and Roaf with a trip to the Hall of Fame. But one rookie standout from 1993 is still going strong almost two decades later: Contenders Football.

Although the maiden release of Contenders Football provided a welcome, more-upscale new addition to the collecting landscape in 1993, the brand saved its greatest contribution for 1998. That was the year Contenders revolutionized the football hobby by combining two things collectors loved more than just about anything — autographs and Rookie Cards — with perhaps the only thing they could possibly love more: Autographed Rookie Cards.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Contenders’ trademark Rookie Ticket autographed RCs have become the stuff of collecting legend during the last 14 years, with each new installment of Contenders Football annually ranking as arguably the most celebrated arrival on the football card calendar.

But 2012 Contenders Football, due out in early January, is perhaps a little more special than normal. OK, it’s a lot more special than normal. Contenders Football turns 20 this season — and Panini America officials will celebrate this landmark edition of the landmark brand in a big way.

Most notably (and perhaps most importantly), there’s the 2012 Rookie Card design that honors Contenders’ Rookie Ticket roots with a classic revisiting of the 1998 original, illustrated so eloquently by the Andrew Luck example above.

Each box of 2012 Contenders Football (24 five-card packs) will deliver five autographs (including at least two on-card), three Rookie Stallions (an homage to 1996 Contenders), three Legendary Contenders, three Rookie of the Year Contenders and three MVP Contenders.

The 235-card set will include 100 Season Ticket base cards, 100 Rookie Ticket Autographs and 35 RPS Rookie Ticket Autographs.

We’ll have much more on the historic 2012 Contenders Football in the coming weeks and months right here on The Knight’s Lance. Until then, take a look at this special sneak preview:

All information is accurate at the time of posting. Content is subject to change. Card images are solely for the purpose of design display.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2012 1:03 pm

    YESSSSSSSSS. Luck in the style of Manning = awesome.

  2. Sport card collectors permalink
    October 13, 2012 2:40 pm

    Absolutely love this product! If ubr a fan of rookie autos this is the product to drool over. I really like this years design

  3. David Panopoulos permalink
    October 13, 2012 2:41 pm

    Oh the good ole days when the cowboys were champions! I hope things start to roll our way and bring back the glory! Have to get my hands on a Claiborne

  4. October 13, 2012 3:08 pm

    Another interesting football product coming out. I see the legendary contenders auto, will there be regular versions of the veterans??

  5. October 13, 2012 3:11 pm


  6. Helmutt permalink
    October 13, 2012 3:15 pm

    Is the white section going to be foil board, or stay white?

    • October 13, 2012 4:14 pm

      Almost certain that will be white stock, but will show the actual cards as soon as they arrive in house.

  7. October 13, 2012 3:18 pm

    YES!!!! This is how the tickets should look! Awesome job and can’t wait to break a box!

  8. Jamey permalink
    October 13, 2012 3:28 pm

    For my hobby money, this is the seminal Football autographed RC. It also just might be the single most recognizable rookie issue in the hobby due to design consistency. Panini certainly manufacturers some magnificent auto-patch rooks’, but the Contenders design is clean, I like the ticket graphic, and the issues hold their value on the secondary market. The Short-Print component simply adds a chase element, and ramps the value up that much further.
    I’m pleased Panini has refrained from trying to re-imagine this partiular release. Really sharp product!

  9. Phil W permalink
    October 13, 2012 5:21 pm

    I love the Panini Contenders line because of the designs and I can’t wait for this to come out so I can pull a Luck or Richardson auto. Also can’t wait for the Panini Unwrapped for this!

  10. October 13, 2012 5:42 pm

    I am loving these!

  11. October 13, 2012 9:06 pm

    Always a fan of rookie autos. Just wished when I was collecting there were the surplus they have nowadays.

  12. October 13, 2012 10:15 pm

    Love how clean the autographs will look on these cards. Also love that the simplistic yet informative design of the ticket cards.

  13. October 15, 2012 5:47 am

    WOW…totally in love with that Luck. Can’t wait to see the rest of the set, if they look half as good as what’s here it will be in the running for the best release out of the 20 year history. Thanks Tracy!

  14. Todd M. W. permalink
    October 15, 2012 7:42 am

    I think there should be 18 redemptions for ’98 Manning Contenders rookie auto ‘buybacks’.

  15. January 4, 2013 2:11 pm

    Gorgeous design. Hoping the white parts of the cards remain white, rather than foil. Tracy has Panini considered sprinkling a couple uber-high-end chase cards in the anniversary set, like a Tom Brady, AP, or Peyton Manning original buy-back auto? Buy-back autos in a set like this would be CRAZY cool. Anyway, thanks to the Panini Team for making my favorite product look gorgeous for my favorite rookie class! Can’t wait for my five boxes to ship!

  16. TexasTexanCC permalink
    January 6, 2013 10:33 am

    Will there be Autographed Super Bowl Tickets this year?


  1. Preview - 2012 Panini Contenders - Blowout Cards Forums
  2. Contenders Football at 20: Panini America Previews the Landmark 2012 Edition - Blowout Cards Forums
  3. Preview: 2012 Panini Contenders Football | - - Sports Card Blog - Your Source for Sports Card Info

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