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Playoff: Absolute

My Playoff: Absolute Collection (Updated December 26th, 2022)

In 1995 the hobby got its first taste of "Playoff: Absolute"; the newest release from the Playoff corporation. It may have started off as a "Playoff" clone by the way it first looked, (See the 1995 Playoff Absolute: "Terry Kirby" #63 left). but believe me, this title was going to be an "Absolute" winner. The '95 release was a 200-card set with 4 insert sets. title. At first, I thought these insert sets were awesome, as a matter of fact, the "Pigskin Previews" was one of my favorite insert sets at one time, (See the 1995 Playoff Absolute: "Cris Carter" #5 below right). And as I mentioned on the other pages, the "Die-Cut Helmets" was Playoff's version of the "Helmet" cards, (See the 1995 Playoff Absolute: "John Elway" Die Cut Helmets #5 below left). Playoff's set was the best of the "Helmet" cards.

In 1996, Playoff continued their upward climb to the hobby's upper echelon I know the backs didn't have stats in '95, but they did in '96. So the only drawback in the '96 release was the set size; 200 cards, just doesn't cut it. I thought the card design 

1995 Playoff Absolute: “Terry Kirby” #63

1995 Playoff Absolute: “Cris Carter” Pigskin Previews #5

1996 Playoff Absolute: “Michael Jackson" #46

1995 Playoff Absolute: “John Elway" Die Cut Helmets #5

The '97 release brought a change to the Playoff design. Gone was the deep "Tekchrome" background, instead Playoff met up with AAA and decided maps were the up and coming thing to do, (See the 1997 Playoff Absolute: "Mario Bates" #24 below right).  The design still had a slight chrome look to it, but it wasn't overpowering. Playoff stayed consistent for the 2nd straight year having a 200-card set, but the real bonus was the insert sets.

1996 Playoff Absolute: “Johnson / Hardy / Rice / Ogden" Quad Series #31

Playoff always had really cool insert sets. The first of those being the "Honors" insert set which is a 3-tiered 9-card insert set that is spread across three releases; "Playoff: Prime", "Playoff: Contenders" and "Playoff: Absolute". Kind of a cool way to do it, (See the 1997 Playoff Absolute: "Reggie White" Honors #8 below left). The Honors set is another one of the long lines of felt cards too. I've always liked the felt cards and Playoff did a bunch of them.


For the 3rd straight year, Playoff continued with their "Quads" insert set, (See the 1997 Playoff Absolute: "Joey Galloway / Antonio Freeman / Rick Mirer / Anthony Johnson" Leather Quad #12 below left.). By going to Leather in '97 it showed that Playoff was willing to push the envelope. What did '98 or beyond have in store?

1997 Playoff Absolute: “Mario Bates” #24

In '98 Playoff started doing something that became a common occurrence in the hobby and that was creating 2 sets; one for the retail stores such as Wal-Mart and Target and a second set for the hobby outlets. I hated this tactic. I understood why, but I still didn't like it. The '98 Retail release of the "Playoff: Absolute" is shown below right, (See the 1998 Playoff Absolute: "Robert Edwards" #48 below right). I actually liked the Retail version better than the Hobby version for the '98 release.  The Hobby cards were huge blocks that had some major chipping problems along the edges. Regardless, both sets were 200-card releases with a hefty 9 insert sets.


Again, the '98 set had some really cool insert sets. Playoff rarely let me down when it came to their insert sets. Playoff continued the "Quads" tradition when it included the "Platinum Quads" in '98, (See the 1998 Playoff Absolute: "Bath / Frost / Quinn / Greise" Platinum Quads #15 below left). While not as cool as the "Leather Quads" from '97, the Platinum set was still really cool and the card stock Playoff used was very sturdy as well. The "Shields" was a pretty cool insert set too. Although I'm not a big fan die-cut cards, these were pretty cool, (See the 1998 Playoff Absolute: "Napolean Kaufman" Shields #15 below left). No other card says, "These cards are from Playoff" like the "Shields" cards.

1997 Playoff Absolute: “Reggie White" Honors #8

1997 Playoff Absolute: “Galloway / Freeman / Mirer / Johnson" Leather Quads #12

1998 Playoff Absolute (Retail): “Robert Edwards" #48

1998 Playoff Absolute: “Batch / Frost / Quinn / Greise" Platinum Quads #15

 in '96 was the best that Playoff released thus far, (See the 1996 Playoff Absolute: "Michael Jackson" #46 below right). The "TekChrome" look was still there; Just in color now. The '96 release continued with 4 insert sets most of which were pretty cool, (See the 1996 Playoff Absolute: "Johnson / Hardy / Rice / Ogden" Quad Series #31 below left).  

In 1999, the "Playoff: Absolute: title branched off into 2 different directions; the "Playoff: Absolute EXP" and the "Playoff: Absolute SSD" titles. They were both great looking releases. The only thing that could have been improved was the set size, again. Playoff needed to do better than 200 cards, seriously. The design of the EXP set was very cool, (See the 1999 Playoff Absolute EXP: "Marshall Faulk" #178 left)


Playoff also kept up with the huge # of insert sets in its releases; 7 in the EXP set and 8 in the SSD release. And, as always, some really nice ones too. One of my favorites being the "Team Jersey Tandems" set, (See the 1999 Playoff Absolute SSD: "Tim Biakabatuka / Muhsin Muhammad" Team Jersey Tandems #JT-11 below left.) At the, probably the largest jersey swatch ever included on a card.


One other insert set that I'd like to point out that was released in '99 was part of the SSD set. That set was the "Team Threads Quad", (See the 1999 Playoff Absolute SSD: "San Diego Charges" Team Threads Quad #TQ31 below left). Playoff had now continued the "Quads" set for 5 seasons; a very rare feat in the hobby.

1998 Playoff Absolute EXP: “Napolean Kaufman" Shields #15

The 2001 "Playoff: Absolute" set, which by the way, changed their name to "Playoff: Absolute Memorabilia", was what I leapfrogged the 2000 release for. The 2001 set was just that; memorabilia. The 2001 set was a pathetic 185-card set, but it made up for it with 8 memorabilia sets.

1998 Playoff Absolute: “Napolean Kaufman" Shields #15

1999 Playoff Absolute EXP: “Tim Biakabatuka / Muhsin Muhammad" Team Jersey Tandems #JT-11

In 2000, the "Playoff: Absolute" did something unprecedented; they increased their set size to 250 cards. It took Playoff 6 whole years and 3 different 

1999 Playoff Absolute SSD: “San Diego Chargers" Team Threads Quad #31

2000 Playoff Absolute: “Dorsey Levens" Ground Hoggs #GH-7

2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia: “Daunte Culpepper" Boss Hoggs #GH-15

Actually, it is 7 if you don't count the "mini-helmets" set. Yes, mini helmets!!  Now, I haven't collected any of the mini-helmets, I just don't have the room to store all of them. But if they are cards, you betcha.  The memorabilia card sets such as the "Ground Hoggs" set, the "Leather & Laces" set and the "Tools of the Trade" set were all classics. And I couldn't wait to start putting them together. The "Ground Hoggs" set, which is one of my favorite memorabilia set of all time is actually called "Boss Hoggs" for the 1st 25 cards, (See the 2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia "Daunte Culpepper" Boss Hoggs #GH-15 below left). 


I also liked the way Playoff designed and tiered the "Leather & Laces" set, (See the 2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia: "Jake Plummer" Leather & Laces Combos #LL-14 above left). The combos are definitely harder to find with some fo the cards #'d as low as 25.


The "Tools of the Trade" set was cool because of different pieces of memorabilia. In addition to the mainstays, jerseys, and pants, this set added face masks and gloves, (See the 2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia: "Steve McNair" Tools of the Trade #TT-17 right).


These 3 sets made this release one of my "Favorite Master Sets" of all time.

2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia: “Jake Plummer" Leather & Laces #LL-14

2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia: “Steve McNair" Tools of the Trade #TT-17

 titles to break the 200 card barrier. Unbelievable. With that being said, the 2000 set was the beginning of another step up the hobby evolutionary ladder.  Although I do not own the 2000 "Playoff: Absolute" main set, the 2000 release introduced me to one of my favorite memorabilia sets of all-time; the "Ground Hoggs insert set. The "Ground Hoggs" cards were classics. They were one of my favorite memorabilia sets in 2001 and each year Playoff released them, ( 2000 thru 2002), they were excellent. The 2000 "Ground Hoggs' set is the only set from the 2000 release that I've begun to put together,   (See the 2000 Playoff Absolute: "Dorsey Levens" Ground Hoggs #GH-7 below left). The initial Ground Hoggs set was a nice 30 cards and the player selection for the set was fantastic.

2002 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia: “Michael Strahan" Boss Hoggs #GH-11

In closing, the "Playoff: Absolute" brand was just an awesome title. Whether it's called "Playoff: Absolute" or "Playoff: Absolute Memorabilia" this set was an "absolute" winner. I've only gotten into the 2002 set so I've got a long way to go, but this title has continued into the modern-day. Panini acquired the "Donruss / Playoff" brand in 2009 and continued the "Playoff: Absolute" title. That should indicate just how great this title was. If I were to tell a new collector today just which title to collect, this just might be the one.

I have complete sets:

Playoff Absolute Series:

1) 1995 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Die-Cut Helmets Insert

    B) Pigskin Previews Insert

    C) Quad Series Insert

    D) Unsung Heroes Insert

2) 1996 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Metal XL Insert

    B) Quad Series Insert

    C) Unsung Heroes Insert

    D) X-treme Team Insert

3) 1997 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Honors Insert

    B) Leather Quads Insert

    C) Pennants Insert

    D) Pennants Autograph Insert

    E) Chip Shots Insert - Incomplete ( 190 / 200 )

4A) 1998 Playoff Absolute (Hobby) Set

4B) 1998 Playoff Absolute (Retail) Set

    A) Checklists Insert - Incomplete ( 29 / 30 )

    B) Draft Picks Insert

    C) Platinum Quads Insert

    D) Red Zone Insert - Incomplete ( 24 / 26 )

    E) Shields Insert

    F) Tandems Insert

5A) 1999 Playoff Absolute EXP Set  

    A) Team Jersey Tandems Insert  

5B) 1999 Playoff Absolute SSD Set - Do Not Have

    A) Heroes Insert

    B) Rookies Insert

    C) Team Jersey Quads Insert 

6) 2000 Playoff Absolute Set - Do Not Have

    A) Extreme Team Insert

    B) Ground Hoggs Insert

    C) Leather & Laces Insert - Incomplete ( 9 / 125 )

    D) Rookie Reflex Insert

7) 2001 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Leather & Laces Insert

    B) Ground Hoggs Insert - Incomplete ( 41 / 50 )

    C) Boss Hoggs Autographs Insert - Incomplete ( 5 / 8 )

    D) Leather & Laces Combos Insert - Incomplete ( 46 / 50 )

    E) Tools of the Trade Insert - Incomplete ( 47 / 50 )

8) 2002 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Boss Hoggs Insert - Incomplete  ( 14 / 15 )

    B) Leather & Laces Insert Incomplete - ( 49 / 50 )

    C) Leather & Laces Combos Insert - Incomplete ( 2 / 50 )

    C) Signing Bonus Insert - Incomplete ( 2 / 141 )

9) 2003 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Quad Series Insert

10) 2004 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Boss Hoggs Insert

    B) Marks of Fame Insert

    C) Team Tandems Insert

    D) Tools of the Trades Doubles Insert - Incomplte ( 2 / 100 )

    E) Tools of the Trade Trios Insert - Incomplete ( 18 / 100 )

    F) Tools of the Trade Quads Insert - Incomplete  ( 12 / 100 )

11) 2005 Playoff Absolute Set

12) 2006 Playoff Absolute Set

    A) Rookie Memorabilia Jersey Insert

13) 2007 Playoff Absolute Set - Do Not Have

14) 2008 Playoff Absolute Set - Do Not Have

15) 2009 Playoff Absolute Set - Do Not Have

16) 2010 Playoff Absolute Set - Do Not Have

    A) Ground Hoggs Materials Jersey #'s Insert

17) 2011 Playoff Absolute Set - Do Not Have

18) 2012 Playoff Absolute Set - Do Not Have

19) 2013 Playoff Absolute Set - Incomplete ( 135 / 240 )

    A) Hogg Heaven Insert

    B) Leather & Laces (Footballs) Insert - Incomplete ( 39 / 40 )

    C) Leather & Laces ( Shoes) Insert

    D) Plates & Patches Insert - Incomplete ( 17 / 40 )

    E) Rookie Jersey Collection Insert

    F) Rookie Premiere Materials Insert - Incomplete ( 37/ 40 )

    G) Rookie Roundup Jerseys Insert 

    H) Team Quads Insert - Incomplete ( 10 / 20 )

    I) Team Trios Insert - Incomplete ( 9 / 30 )

    J) Tools of the Trade Rookie Materials Autographs Insert - Incomplete ( 24 / 40 )

   K) Tools of the Trade Materials Autographs Insert - Incomplete ( 17 / 22 )

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