When Players Switch Teams

The recent signings of Michael Vick and Brett Favre, and the subsequent card announcements from Upper Deck, Topps, and Panini have got me to thinking about the whole first-card-for-new-team scenario. It seems that card makers have several options when it comes to players switching teams. Obviously the very late signings of Vick and Favre created a whole new host of problems when it came to including them in sets, so I am talking mostly about a basic trade or free agent situation. Just like almost any football card related topic, I am going to fall back to my Emmitt Smith collection for examples.

2003 Topps2003 Ultra
2003 Bowman2003 Gridiron Kings
Click each image for a full sized scan

1. The Old Jersey with New Logo Card This is probably the most typical trade/free agent card. For almost every product released, except high end cards released well after the season begins, companies use game action shots from the year before. When a player switches teams during the off-season, obviously there are no game photos to be used. Often a photo featuring the player in his old uniform will be used, but the card will show the new team’s name and logo. This is probably the cleanest way to take care of the new team issue, but it can get messy for team collectors. Do you obtain a card because the player is still in your favorite team’s jersey, or stay away because it has an enemy logo on the front?

2. The Press Conference Card This concept was used a lot for draft picks just a few years ago, especially in basketball for some reason. Personally, I hate these cards. I applaud the care companies trying to use the most recent photograph possibly, showing the player “happily” displaying his new jersey or team hat. However, these guys are paid to play the game. I do not care that Emmitt Smith can afford a fine Italian suit. I want to see him in pads and helmet about to cross the goal line or lay a devastating stiff arm. Forunately, these cards seem to be losing popularity amongst the card manufacturers.

3. The Practice Jersey Card This is another, better attempt at the companies trying to get the most recent photography possible to show the player as a part of his new team. Obviously for products released before the season begins, it is impossible to get a real game action shot, so a practice shot is the next best thing. Quarterback cards are probably the worst in this category because of the blinding red protection jerseys they often wear in practice, as seen in the recently released images of the new Vick and Favre Upper Deck cards. Some collectors seem to prefer these over other pre-season options, while others hate them.

4. The Air Brushed Card Now before I get too much criticism, I realize the Emmitt card above was probably not air brushed by a graphic design employee of Donruss. This just happens to be the only Emmitt card I have that shows him in a true Cardinals jersey before he actually played for the Cardinals. One recent example of a true air brushed card is the upcoming 2009 Topps Finest card of Brett Favre. Topps did not wait until Favre played a game (pre-season or real) to get this shot. They simply pulled an older photo and changed the jersey colors and logos. This was very common practice in vintage card sets when team jerseys and helmets were much simpler and card companies often used the same player photo year after year
(h/t Gellman and Nearmint).

What do you guys think? If it’s too early to get a true action shot of a player in his new jersey, which option would you rather see used?


One Response to When Players Switch Teams

  1. jswaykos says:

    I liked when the companies used to use an old photo but stamp “TRADED” somewhere on the card. When I was young I considered it a ‘bonus’ to my card.

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