Non-Sport & Entertainment Trading Card News from Non-Sport Update

A Brief History of Olympic Trading Cards [Updated]

Written By: Laura Inglis - Feb• 05•14

{Editor’s Note: The article below ran shortly before the 2012 Summer Olympics. The article has now been updated with the latest entry into the long list of Olympic and Olympic-inspired trading cards, Topps’ 2014 U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team and Hopefuls}

It seems as if no matter what network you are watching, at some point during the televised Olympic coverage there will be a story about Olympic-related collectibles. Most of the time these stories focus on pins. You rarely, if ever, see any of these stories mention trading cards. Part of that may be because it’s not very often that licensed Olympic trading card sets are produced. There are plenty of NBA, MLB and multi-sport trading card sets that have Team USA cards in them, including Upper Deck’s Goodwin Champions and Topps’ American Heritage, but as far as sets that focus on the games themselves, there have been less than 10 sets produced. Just in time for this week’s Opening Ceremonies, here’s a brief history of what’s come so far:

Cassius Clay card from 1983 Topps set

Greatest Olympians (Topps, 1983) This 99-card included cards from sports legends such as Muhammad Ali, Jerry West, Cy Young, Bruce Jenner, Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, George Foreman, Dorothy Hamil and Joe Frazier. You can find sets for around $20.

Cards from 1991 Impel Hall of Fame card set

U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame (Impel, 1991) This is a 90-card set that features many of the same athletes that were in the Topps’ release from 1993. Like many cards produced in the early 1990s this set was overproduced and you can find boxes for around $15 – $20 and sets for less than $10.

Card from 1992 Impel set

U.S. Olympicards: 1992 U.S. Olympic Hopefuls (Impel, 1992) This released attempted to capitalize on the excitement of the “Dream Team” and featured cards of Team USA basketball members in most of it’s advertising. This 110-card set didn’t just focus on basketball, other sports were represented as well, although it was released before the Olympics which is why the subtitle included “Hopefulls”. It was also the beginning of trend of including past Olympic stars as well as Olympic hopefuls in card sets. The main reason being that getting the cards in stores during the Olympics requires the cards be produced before the teams are finalized. Autograph cards were randomly inserted which made the set popular, although you can still find unopened boxes for under $30.

Greg Louganis card from Upper Deck 1996 set

US Olympic Champions OlympiCards (Upper Deck, 1996) This set contains 135 base card set plus 44 insert cards. Following the example of the 1992 Impel release, this set contained past Olympic stars as well as athletes who were hoping to make Team USA. Unopened boxes can be found for around $40.

Looney Tunes Olympic Cards

Looney Tunes OlympiCards (Upper Deck, 1996) There are only 45 cards in the base set for this release features Bugs and his pals as athletes in various Olympic sports. Boxes contain 36 packs with 8 cards per pack. There were also insert cards, unopened boxes can be found for under $30.

Card from 1996 Collect-A-Card set

Centennial Olympic Games (Collect-A-Card, 1996) This 120-card set is more historical and artsy and less athlete based. The fronts of most of the cards feature Olympic sites and posters while the backs list winners of various events such as as the 4 x 100 meter relay races. There are athletes such as Bart Conner and Wilma Rudolph pictured on some of the cards, but for the most part, there is much more poster art. This should be a popular set for those who enjoy Olympic History. Chase cards for this series include 20 pogs, 20 poster cards and 12 torch cards. There are 36 packs in a box and box prices range from $15 – $20. The 120 card base sets sell in the $8 – $15 range. Chase cards range from $5 – $10 each.

Tyson Gay patch card from Topps 2012 set

US Olympic Team and Hopefulls (Topps, 2012) Hobby boxes promise 3 hits (autograph or memorabilia cards) per box. This is a set filled with insert cards including autographs, relic cards, patch cards and stamps. You can currently find sets for around $10, hobby boxes close to $100, retail boxes $63 and blasters (8 packs) for $20. If any of the athletes have a recording breaking 2012, like Michael Phelps did in 2008, look for the prices to rise on this product.

London 2012 Olympics Official Sticker Collection (Panini, 2012) This collection focuses on the athletes from Great Britain. The set is made up of 250 base cards, 50 glitter foil cards, 40 super foil cards and 10 ultimate foil cards. Unlike the US release, this also includes athletes from the Paro Olympic games. In addition to the stickers, Panini also produced an album to go with the stickers. Unopened boxes can be found for around $60, you can find individual sticker packs for $2 – $3 each.

2014 Topps US Olympic and Paralympic Team and Hopefuls Memorabilia Card

2014 Topps US Olympic and Paralympic Team and Hopefuls Patch Card

US Olympic & Paralympic Team and Hopefuls (Topps, 2014) Similar to Topps 2012 release, each hobby box comes with 3 hits (one autograph and two memorabilia cards) per box. Blaster boxes (typically found at Target and Walmart stores) promise 1 hit per box. In addition to autographs from current Olympic athletes, there is also a US Olympic Champions subset which includes autographs from the likes of Peggy Fleming and Brian Boitano. Memorabilia cards include athlete-worn swatch cards, US Team Patch Cards, US Olympic Team 2014 Patch Cards, and US Olympic Team Logo Pins. Other inserts include Games of the XXII Winter Olympiad, Venues of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and Olympic Heritage.

In addition to the sets listed above, there have also been sets released for individual US Olympic sport teams. In 2000, there were Team USA sets produced for Volleyball, Table Tennis, Softball and Wrestling. When searching for Team USA baseball, be careful as there have been trading card sets produced for Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, not the Olympics. The US Womens Soccer team also has had trading card sets that are related to the World Cup and not the Olympics. There are other Olympic trading cards not covered here but our list covers most of the highest profile releases.

Enjoy the Opening Ceremony and the Games!

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2 Comments

  1. Alan Miley says:

    There were also a lot of earlier Olympic-related issues. Several pre-WWI issues included Olympic athletes. For example, there are several US Olympic HOFers in the T218 Champion Athletes and Prizefighters. In Germany, tobacco mail-in sets of 200 were produced for both the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, including Jesse Owens famous victories. There were several different German sets highlighting the ’36 (Berlin) games. Helene Madison, US Olympic HOF swimmer is even included in a German gallery of beautiful women, most of whom are movie stars.

  2. dboz555 says:

    Did you know the U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame (Impel, 1991) set had two versions? There was a version given out in packs at PX’s and BX’s during this time frame. It is basickly the same set but you can see the difference in the colors. The ones from the PX’s and BX’s are a little darker in color on the front and the back. Also some of the pictures on the back are different. The also came with a Coca-Cola Match and win game piece and how to play card. I kept all mine, unfortunately I never saved an unopened pack.

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