Contenders football celebrates 20 years on cards

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By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Football Editor

Twenty years ago the first Contenders football product launched. Playoff started a product that would last decades with some of the most celebrated football rookies on cards.

Rookies from the 1993 set included Drew Bledsoe, Jerome Bettis and Mark Brunell.

Over the next couple of years, Donruss released cards of rookies on unique insert designs, looking to find something that would resonate with collectors.

Then came 1998 – the debut of Rookie Contenders Ticket, an autograph subset that became a mainstay even under Panini America.

That first set featured 99 cards but only 19 of them were autographed, according to the Beckett database.

Nearly all of the top stars in the NFL over the last 15 years have had their cards featured on a Contenders Ticket. But the autograph versions are where collectors really reacted to the chase.

In 1998, players such as Peyton Manning, Randy Moss and Hines Ward had autographed tickets. That year also had players such as Ryan Leaf. Not all winners, but still a highly collectible set as it marked the beginning of a popular set.

To this day, the Contenders Rookie Tickets are anticipated. This season highlights a fun rookie class with the likes of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Their Rookie Ticket Autographs are already going for a hundreds of dollars.

One of Luck’s Contenders Tickets sold for $1,100 on eBay, several others for $500. The only RG3 Contenders ticket that has sold so far has gone for $375, and a Wilson redemption sold for $300.

Popular Contender Ticket Autographs
Year Player
1998 Peyton Manning
1998 Randy Moss
1998 Hines Ward
2000 Tom Brady
2000 Brian Urlacher
2008 Matt Ryan
2008 Joe Flacco
2008 Chris Johnson
2009 Matthew Stafford
2010 Joe Montana
2010 John Elway

2012 Rookie Ticket Autographs to watch
Andrew Luck
Robert Griffin III
Russell Wilson
Doug Martin
Justin Blackmon
Luke Kuechly
Rueben Randle
Ryan Tannehill
Trent Richardson
Brandon Weeden
Doug Wilson

Susan Lulgjuraj is an editor of Beckett Football. You can email her here with questions, comments or ideas. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow Beckett Media on Facebook.


  1. langston
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    One thing that chaps my ass about all the boxes i have ever bought, especially this year. say a box comes with 3 Auto’s or Memorilibilia cards, there is always an abundance of rookies or players you’ve never heard of , I couldn’t tell you how many damn ryan broyles cards i have, he just got cut from detroit, why is there always an abundabce of most likely seventh round or even FA rookies that aren’t worth a poop, for example I bought a box of bowman sterling 2012 football, I get no name big rookies or stars, i get a ryan broyle/ashlon jeffrey combo auto, daniel thomas, i think a cryrus gray relic, my total on beckett was like a grand total of 100$ and I paid 330$ for the box, this is why i am thinking of giving up this hobby, b/c their is a 50/50 chance you will just get shat in a box.

  2. rick
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Agreed with the sterling. A friend and I opened two boxes of 2012 sterling football and the best card was a Russell Wilson rc!!! Yes a 300+ box! That was it!

  3. Tom Waldron
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Yes to Rick and Langston its always late rounders and 1 basic decent hit. I’ve actaully watched several CASE breaks and 1 rg3 was had in a bsic 6/12 case: same for Luck and I saw no buy backs which I thought was part of this release???
    Last year too many INTENTIAL sp’S wHICH REALLY P*** Me off (sorry)
    Chris and others on Becket yes it’s a Chase so to speak but in Value to the consumer it is a Gamble. All things considerd I’d rather buy packs and test my Luck??
    Not geting 140.00 from me– I was hoping for better Panini after all it’s 20 yr aniversary.
    TOM in VA

  4. Chris Wardner
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    Folks are nails on this one! Price point and checklist just don’t add up? Learned my lesson when in 1999 I pulled a Corby Jones auto. He was a FA and never made an NFL roster and then went to Canada. Customer service told me “oh well…we aren’t going to do anything to make this right” and I haven’t bought a box since. Jones is a lawyer now..maybe I should sue and have him represent me : )

  5. chaz B23
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    20 years from now that andrew luck contenders auto will be worth more than the 1998 peyton manning contenders auto

  6. t 19
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    To langston. First that wasn’t Broyles who got cut it was Titus Young. Broyles will be the third starter providing he comes back healthy from knee surgery. Second, I learned my lesson with boxes. The money you invest in them you can buy individual cards of the players that you really want online for the same or maybe less. I love sports and card collecting but unfortunately the card companies are in it to make the most money possible.

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