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Schwartz: Welcome To Your Football-Card Fantasy

By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns

The times they are a-changin'.

There was a time, especially when I was a kid, when you opened up a pack of sports cards to see if you were lucky enough to get any of your favorite players or any of those elusive cards that completed your set.

It was also cool to check out the stats on the back of the card and put aside those "doubles" if you wanted to make some trades with your friends.

But this is 2014, and the landscape of sports-card collecting continues to evolve.

For its 2014 football card set, The Topps Company has partnered with Fantasy Football to include fantasy football stats on the backs of cards.

"I think it's going to be something new, especially for people who are currently collectors," said Marc Stephens, marketing manager at Topps.  "It's something new.  We're trying to keep cards relevant and fantasy is such as huge phenomenon. It just seemed like a great match."

Eli Manning
Eli Manning (Credit: Topps)

All 440 base cards in the set will include a player's Fantasy Football Position Rank (FFRP) and Fantasy Football Points Per Game (FFPPG). There will also be special "Insert" cards in the set.  Fantasy Focus cards will feature the top fantasy football performer and Fantasy Strategy cards will show which players you should target in your fantasy draft.

"Card collectors are obviously passionate sports fans, so our relationship with Topps helps reach more of this audience and differentiate from our competitors," said Ben Gaedy, the NFL's director of integrated sales.

Muhammad Wilkerson
Muhammad Wilkerson (Credit: Topps)

The base set also includes veteran and rookie base-card variations.  Other insert sets are Power Players, Greatness Unleashed, 1000 Yard Club, 4000 Yard Club, 1963 Topps Minis, Autograph Cards and Relic Cards.

Click here for a complete checklist of the 2014 set.

As far as the locals are concerned, there are plenty of Giants and Jets players in the set. Among those representing Big Blue are Eli Manning, Victor Cruz,AntrelRolle, Jason Pierre-Paul and first-round pick

Odell Beckham, Jr.
Odell Beckham, Jr. (Credit: Topps)

For fans of Gang Green, Geno Smith, Eric Decker, Chris Johnson, Muhammad Wilkerson Sheldon Richardson and first-round pick Calvin Pryor are among the Jets in the set.

Calvin Pryor
Calvin Pryor (Credit: Topps)

The front of the card looks like a typical Topps football card. When you flip over to the back it will not only have football stats, but it will also have two specific stats that you'll see them highlighted: fantasy points per game and fantasy ranking.

All it took for Topps to get the NFL involved was a simple phone call.

"We partnered with fantasy," said Stephens.  "It's their stats on the back of the card.  When we came to them with the idea to do this, they were more than happy to provide us the stats to put on the back of the card."

Including the fantasy stats in the set is a smart move by Topps, a company that has been an industry leader since it was founded in 1938.  The fronts of the cards still cater to the old-school collectors, but now the backs expose the cards to a new generation of collectors.

Let's face it: You can get a player's stats just about anywhere these days. But fantasy owners of all ages are always clamoring for new ways to find fantasy stats.

"I just think as we continue to try to get the next generation into it, we need to do our best to make sure that it's still relevant," said Stephens. "Kids are playing fantasy and it just seemed like a cool thing to do."

Very cool, indeed.

So when you open up your pack of 2014 Topps football cards, you aren't just looking to see what players are in there. You just might also get a leg up on the competition in your fantasy league.

The cards have come a long way since they could be seen in the spokes of bicycle wheels, but these are not your father's or grandfather's cards anymore.

You can follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan.  You can also follow Topps @Toppscards and on Facebook here.

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