With autographed jersey letter and number cards all the rage, it was only a matter of time before card companies built brands around them. Topps did just that with Letterman Basketball, and it takes the same concept over to the NFL for Letterman Football. The namesake cards appear with a few different twists, and there's other autographed content to look for too.
Three-pack boxes of 2008 Topps Letterman Football should yield one Autographed Letterman card, one autographed patch card, one patch card, three rookies and six veterans. Autographed Letterman Booklet cards fall one per case.
Base Cards and Parallels
The shiny, mostly foil base cards in Letterman Football are split evenly between 50 veterans and retired players numbered to 949 and 50 rookies numbered to 419. All of them utilize a design that shows the player set against a large, ghosted-out image of himself, along with some horizontal lines on each side and a banner with set and player info at the bottom.
Parallels come in three versions of Refractors, with regular versions numbered to 99, X-Fractors numbered to 25 and Superfractors limited to one copy apiece.
This isn't the kind of set collectors usually choose to put together, which is good as packs contain just two veteran/retired cards and one rookie card each. I opened a single random pack to review and found Larry Fitzgerald, Vince Young and Redskins rookie receiver Malcolm Kelly.
The meat and potatoes of this set are the Autographed Letterman Patches, cards that feature a signature and an entire letter from a player's jersey nameplate. With every letter in the last name of 35 players available, there are over 200 different cards numbered to no more than 69 copies each.
Though the base Letterman cards don't take letters from game-worn jerseys, the one-of-one Autographed Authentic Letterman Patches do. Topps also takes the concept one step further with Autographed Letterman Booklet cards (falling one per eight-box case), which are giant hinged cards that unfold to reveal every letter in a player's name - one of which is autographed.
There are other autographed sets as well. Autographed Authentic Quad Relics feature an autograph and four pieces of player-worn material, while Autographed Jersey Number Patches and Autographed Team Logo Patches pair the signature with specially designed embroidered patches.
Finally, Rookie Autographed Patches have first-year players sign on cards with patches that look like Topps' official rookie card logo. They also come in dual versions that are hinged in the middle to reveal two players and their signatures.
My review pack had a 1:3 chance of turning up an Autographed Letterman, but it did not beat the odds. There was still a very nice autographed card inside: an Autographed Authentic Quad Relic of Broncos rookie Eddie Royal numbered to 75.
Patch and Relic Cards
With autographs in two out of three packs, the chances of coming away with one are pretty good. The third pack isn't necessarily a bad one though, thanks to a variety of patch and relic (Topps' name for memorabilia cards.
Unsigned Letterman Patches can be found numbered to 30 or less, along with game-worn Authentic Letterman Patches limited to a single copy each. There are also one-of-one Authentic Jersey Tags cards that include the entire tag from the front of 20 players' game-used jerseys.
Jersey Number and Team Logo Patches are just like their autographed brethren minus the signatures, and both are numbered to 30 or less. Authentic Quad Patches put four prime pieces of game-worn material on one card and are numbered to no more than 20.
There's one more variation on the set's theme that can be found by especially lucky collectors, and it's literally golden. The 14K Gold Letterman Cards are exactly what they sound like: solid 14-carat gold letters from the names of 10 past and present players. Each of the 64 different cards is a one-of-one.
The Last Word
It's a pretty safe bet that the hobby will eventually experience letter card fatigue, but for now they're still very popular and worthy of a set like this. The key is to keep coming up with new twists on them, and Topps does a good job of that here.
There are enough other goodies to ensure each pack is interesting too. At upwards of $150 a box, Letterman Football is not for everyone, but high-end collectors should find it an intriguing option and enjoy the letter hunt.