Absolute Memorabilia Football has seen many other sets invade its niche of one memorabilia card or autograph per pack. What sets it apart is its wide variety of oversized swatches, multi-piece cards and subjects on the checklist.
For 2008, hobby boxes of Absolute Memorabilia contain four packs of four cards each with a suggested price of $40 per pack. The four hits in each box should include at least one autograph and one Rookie Premiere Materials rookie card.
Base Cards and Parallels
This is a set that is primarily focused on game-worn cards and autographs, but it also has some attractive regular base cards for 2008. Player photos for the 150 NFL veterans are set against a rainbow foil background with nice uses of gold and silver foil in the bottom bar that contains the player info. While some products that use this much foil can be a little hard on the eyes, this isn't one of them.
Three tiers of rookies encompass over 130 rookies. The first tier shares a design with the veteran cards and has a print run of 699 copies. The second tier is much scarcer with just 99 copies of each player and features autographed stickers. Spectrum parallels for the veterans and first 100 rookies come in three levels with numbering ranging from 100 down to 1-of-1.
Last but not least are the Rookie Premiere Materials (or RPM) rookie cards that have become staples of the brand. The cards considered to be the actual rookie cards are numbered to 299 and combine three player-worn or player-used swatches with an autograph - a change from previous years when the cards had only memorabilia. Signed stickers are used, which is a little bit of a bummer, but Donruss does a nice job of using three separate pieces of material for the swatches. The RPM cards also come in 16 other parallel levels with varied numbering.
I opened a random hobby box for this review and found eight veterans, one veteran Spectrum. The rookie haul included two regular cards, one autographed rookie (Sedrick Ellis) and a Rashard Mendenhall RPM rookie with two jersey pieces and a football swatch.
As you may guess from the name of this set, Absolute Memorabilia takes pride in its game-used and player-worn cards. They start with the parallel levels of the RPM rookies, which use jumbo swatches, autographs and various die-cuts to form different combinations. My box contained an RPM Jumbo Jersey Number w/ Football of Mario Manningham numbered to 100. It has an oversized swatch shaped like his number (82) and a football swatch.
Tools of the Trade does something similar with current NFL stars and past greats, using some of the same tricks as the RPM cards to form an eye-popping 18 different levels. These cards offer the chance to pull some really unique swatches.
The rest of the memorabilia lineup covers several different themes. College Materials, Star Gazing and War Room are dedicated to 2008 rookies, Gridiron Force and Absolute Heroes cover today's top names and Marks of Fame, Canton Absolutes and NFL Icons mix past and present.
Team Tandems, Trios and Quads offer multiple game-used pieces from teammates. All of the memorabilia inserts can be found in several levels with varied numbering, and some come with prime swatches (a.k.a. patch cards) and/or autographs.
With three of the hits in my box already coming from rookies, the final memorabilia card made it a clean sweep: a War Room Jumbo Prime Devin Thomas numbered to 10. The swatch is definitely jumbo - it appears to come from one of the jersey numbers - but it would have been even better if another color or two were present with the all-white swatch.
They're almost afterthoughts in a product like this, but there are standard versions of some of the memorabilia inserts. Previous Absolute Memorabilia sets have done this too, but it was a little surprising to see it this season because on Donruss' product description page, only Gridiron Force and possibly Tools of the Trade read like they will have non-memorabilia levels.
That aside, I found only one standard insert among the cards in the About.com sample box, an Absolute Heroes Donovan McNabb numbered to 250.
The Last Word
Football collectors hunting game-used cards have had an increasing number of options for brands with one per pack in recent seasons as several have gone in that direction. Absolute Memorabilia was there before most and outlasted others, and it continues to be one of the better examples of creative use of gear worn by the pros.
This season's base cards are likely to go overlooked but look very nice, and the addition of autographs to the RPM rookie cards certainly won't hurt. Those tweaks to an already successful formula have this looking like a fun break in 2008.