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Playoff: Contenders

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

1993 Playoff Contenders: “Wilber Marshall” #6

1994 Playoff Contenders: “Terry Allen" Back-to-Back #39

1995 Playoff Contenders: “Kerry Collins" Rookie Kick-Off #RKO7

1996 Playoff Contenders: “Ki-Jana Carter" Pennants #87

1997 Playoff Contenders: “Brad Johnson" Performer Plaques #21

1997 Playoff Contenders: “Jeff George" Pennants #6

1997 Playoff Contenders: “Brad Johnson" Performer Plaques #21

Playoff branched out in 1993 with another "Tekchrome" set, this one called, "Playoff: Contenders".  This set was so much like the "Playoff" title that sometimes even I get confused. That's not good. If you're going to come up with a new title at least make it completely different. It's not that I didn't like the "Contenders" set, but the Playoff brass, could've done better here. The initial release of the "Playoff: Contenders" set was a miserable 150-card set, (See the 1993 Playoff Contenders: "Wilber Marshall" #6 left). But it did have 2 insert sets, one of those being a 5-card "Rick Mirer" set. So maybe it's really only 1 insert set, then.

In 1994, Playoff continued with their "TekChrome" look, but this time they added the "Turf" bottom border which really looked awesome. So cool, in fact, that I've always wanted to included this set on my "Favorite Sets" list, but one thing kept it from that list; the pathetic 120-card set size that Playoff choose to release with that design. Playoff actually, dropped the # of cards in the set; from 150 in '93 to 120, (See the 1994 Playoff Contenders: "Irving Fryar" #5 right). This set was stunning, but I just couldn't get over the small set size. The '94 Contenders release started another Playoff insert tradition; the "Back-to-Back" cards, (See the 1994 Playoff Contenders : "Terry Allen / Jerome Bettis" Back-to-back #39 left).  The "Back-to-Back" insert set started in '94 continued in '95, then jumped to the "Trophy Contenders" set in '96. Although it only went 3 years, the "Back-to-Back" set left its mark on the hobby, and in some cases that mark may not have been good.

The '95 release was also a solid design. Although the top and bottom borders might have been a little bit, it didn't bother me, (See the 1995 Playoff Contenders: "Jeff Blake" #21 right). The '95 set jumped back to 150-cards; still way too small for me. The front design of the '95 still had the chrome look to it. Playoff must have heard my complaints about the pathetic 120-card set in '94 because in '95 Playoff increased their set size back to 150-cards.  Also the # of inserts the '95 release dropped by one from '94, but the sets got better; the aforementioned "Back-to-Back" set was back again and Playoff introduced the new "Rookie Kick-Off", (See the 1995 Playoff Contenders: "Kerry Collins" Rookie Kick-Off #RKO7 below left).  I thought the "Kick-Off" cards were a really cook rookie insert set.

In 1996, Playoff did something really different. Playoff created 3 separate "Playoff: Contenders" sets that were all totally different; a "Leather" set, a "Pennant" set, and a set called "Open Field Foil". Now when I first saw that, my thought was, "Wow. A 300 card set!" No. Three hundred cards. One hundred players. And a whopping total of 5 defensive players. There was no Pryce Paup, (17.5 sacks in 1995), there was no Orlando Thomas, (9 INTs in '95) and there was no Hugh Douglas, ('95 Defensive ROY), instead, Playoff thought it was best to include Ki-Jana Carter who missed the entire '95 season. Impressive, (See all three of the 1996 Playoff Contenders: "Ki-Jana Carter"  Leather #87 right, Pennants below left and Open Field Foil below). If it wasn't for the unique way this set was put together, this set would've been a disaster.  All the pictures on all 3 cards are the same, but all three sets were unique and how Playoff put the set together was different from the way sets were put together back then. And even though the "Open Field Foil" set didn't scan well, they really were cool. There were 4 insert sets included with this release and what I liked about what Playoff did was three of the sets fit into each of the base sets. There was a Leather insert set, (Ground Hoggs), there was a pennant insert set, (Pennant Flyers), and there was an Open Field Foil insert set, (Air Command). Very nicely done. So it's not that I didn't like the '96 release, I really did. I just didn't like the 100 players times 3. The player selection was just something that Pinnacle would've done.

1996 Playoff Contenders: “Ki-Jana Carter" Open Field Foil #87

I didn't care for the '97 release of the "Playoff: Contenders". The front design was new, sharp, and with the "TekChrome" look back, it just looked good,(See the 1997 Playoff Contenders: "Carl Pickens" (Front)#33 above right). The backside was a different story. What was that? It was such a disappointment. So bad, in fact, that this set made my "Least Favorite Sets" list for a few years, (See the 1997 Playoff Contenders: "Carl Pickens" #33 (Back) above right).  I know its different, but that doesn't mean I had to like it. Playoff jumped back to the 150 card set again in '97, Playoff just loved hovering below the 200-card level. One thing Playoff did right in '97 was the insert sets. They were awesome. My favorite was the "Performer Plaques" insert set, (See the 1997 Playoff Contenders: "Brad Johnson" #10 above left).  The "Performer Plaques" was a really cool die-cut set.  Playoff also continued their "other" tradition, pennants, with 2 insert sets. One simply called, "Pennants", (See the 1997 Playoff Contenders: "Jeff George" Pennants #6 above left), and the other called "Rookie Wave Pennants", (See the 1997 Playoff Contenders: "Jay Graham" Rookie Wave Pennants #6 left), was another really cool set. Playoff really had the "Felt Pennants" marked cornered. Everybody may have done a "Helmet Die-Cut" card, but Pennants were Playoff's baby.

1994 Playoff Contenders: “Irving Fryar” #5

1995 Playoff Contenders: “Jeff Blake" #21

1996 Playoff Contenders: “Ki-Jana Carter" Leather #87

1997 Playoff Contenders: “Carl Pickens" (Front) #33

1997 Playoff Contenders: “Carl Pickens" (Back) #33

1998 Playoff Contenders: “Wesley Walls" Ticket #13

In 1998, Playoff went back to well once again. They brought back the 3-armed set. The only one of the three from the '96 set to NOT come back was the "Open Field Foil" set. In its place, was the hobby landmark set, "Tickets". And what a record-setting set that turned out to be.  In addition to the "Tickets", (See the 1998 Playoff Contenders: "Wesley Walls" Ticket #13 right), Playoff included "Autographed Rookie Tickets" cards from the '98 draft class. I'm sure that had something to do with it. A "Leather" set was included again, (See the 1998 Playoff 

1998 Playoff Contenders: “Kevin Dyson" Leather #94

Contenders: "Kevin Dyson" Leather #94 above right), the only change being that this time around the set was a die-cut set. And Playoff couldn't go without a "Pennant" set. So one arm of the 3-armed monster was, again, pennants, (See the 1998 Playoff Contenders: "Rod Woodson" Pennants #8 below). The '98 pennants were probably Playoffs' nicest release. Playoff included 7 insert sets with this release, all of which are very nice sets. They also added their first Memorabilia set; a "Super bowl Leather" insert set.

1998 Playoff Contenders: “Rod Woodson" Pennants #8

1999 Playoff Contenders: “Chris Claiborne" RC Auto #159

1999 Playoff Contenders SSD: “Ricky Williams / Edgerrin James" Round Number Autos #RN2

In '99 Playoff continued with their new-found gold mine, "Tickets". The entire '99 set were "Tickets", ( See the 1999 Playoff Contenders: "Chris Claiborne" RC Auto #159 left). Also, Playoff added

1999 Playoff Contenders: “Dorsey Levens" Game Day Souvenirs #GS8

2000 Playoff Contenders: “Todd Collins" Championship Fabric #CF29

The 2000 Playoff set continued the "Ticket" format even though they dropped the "SSD" nomenclature in 2000. Again, Playoff still had problems with set size even into 2000. The 2000 set was 200 cards, 100 of which were rookies. If you were a veteran then only 100 of you were deemed important enough to be part of their set, (See the 2000 Playoff Contenders: "Joe Horn" #49 right).  However, the rookie cards, which by 2000, were what all sets catered too were 100 strong, (See the 2000 Playoff Contenders: "Laveranues Coles RC Auto #129 below

In closing, I obviously think the "Playoff: Contenders" brand is worth more than the stock it's printed on. I've invested a lot of time putting this title together over the course of the last 9 years. Although I'm only on the 2001 set, the "Playoff: Contenders" set continued until 2011. So if I was to give a new collector any advice about this title, I would have to say that the "Playoff: Contenders" brand is worth the investment. Or at least their time.

2000 Playoff Contenders: “Joe Horn" #49

the "SSD" nomenclature to their name in '99. Now "Playoff: Contenders" became "Playoff: Contenders SSD". Playoff included their 2nd memorabilia set in this release; Game Day Souvenirs. The "Game Day Souvenirs" insert set was awesome. I just love memorabilia cards that have larger than average swatches; this one had just that, (See the 1999 Playoff Contenders SSD: "Dorsey Levens" Game Day Souvenirs #GS8 above right). This is just a great set and the cards from this set are very hard to come by.  Another great insert set from this release was the "Round Numbers" insert set, (See the 1999 Playoff Contenders SSD: "Ricky Williams / Edgerrin James" Round Numbers Autos #RN2 left).  This is just a really nice set putting 2 incoming rookie autos on one card.

 right).  The 2000 release also had a really cool set called "Championship Fabric". The "Championship Fabric" insert set was a memorabilia set commemorating the Rams Super Bowl win, (See the 2000 Playoff Contenders: "Todd Collins" Championship Fabric #CF29 above left. These cards are very hard to find and when you do see one, they are extremely expensive.

I have complete sets:

Playoff Contenders Series:

1) 1993 Playoff Contenders Set

    A) Rick Mirer Insert

    B) Rookie Contenders Insert

2) 1994 Playoff Contenders Set

    A) Throwbacks Insert

    B) Rookie Contenders Insert

    C) Sophomore Contenders Insert

    D) Back-To-Back Insert

3) 1995 Playoff Contenders Set

    A) Rookie Kick-Off Insert 

    B) Hog Heaven Insert

    C) Back-To-Back Insert

4A) 1996 Playoff Contenders Pennants Set

4B) 1996 Playoff Contenders Open Field Foil Set

4C) 1996 Playoff Contenders Leather Set

    A) Air Command Insert

    B) Pennant Flyers Insert

    C) Ground Hogs Insert

    D) Honors Insert - Incomplete ( 2 / 3 )

5) 1997 Playoff Contenders Set

    A) Clash Insert

    B) Pennants Insert

    C) Performer Plaques Insert

    D) Rookie Wave Pennants Insert

    E) Leather Helmet Die Cuts Insert

6A)  1998 Playoff Contenders Leather Set

6B)  1998 Playoff Contenders Pennants Set

6C)  1998 Playoff Contenders Tickets Set - Incomplete ( 80 / 103 )

     A) MVP Contenders Insert - Incomplete ( 27 / 36 )

     B) Rookie of the Year Insert

     C) Rookie Stallions Insert

     D) Touchdown Tandems Insert - Incomplete ( 23 / 24 )

7) 1999 Playoff Contenders SSD Set- Incomplete ( 35 / 200 )

    A) Round Number Autographs Insert

    B) ROY Contenders Insert

    C) Touchdown Tandems Insert

    D) Triple Threat Insert

    E) Game Day Souvenirs Insert - Incomplete ( 13 / 15 )

8) 2000 Playoff Contenders Set - Incomplete ( 192 /  200 )

    A) Championship Fabrics Insert - Incomplete ( 24 / 45 )

    B) Round Number Autographs Insert - Incomplete ( 6 / 15 )

9) 2001 Playoff Contenders Set - Incomplete ( 136 / 200 )

10) 2002 Playoff Contenders Set - Do Not Have

    A) Legendary Contenders Insert

    B) MVP Contenders Insert

    C) Rookie Idols Insert

    D) ROY Contenders Insert

    E) Sophomore Contenders Insert


Playoff Trophy Contenders Series:

1) 1996 Playoff Trophy Contenders Set

    A) Playoff Zone Insert

    B) Rookie Stallions Insert

2000 Playoff Contenders: “Laveranues Coles" RC Auto #129

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