If you’re planning on devoting time, money and energy into the sports card hobby, it probably doesn’t hurt learning a little about its origins! This article will focus purely on the history of Select, and the imprint they’ve created in the football trading card world. There have been plenty of memorable trading cards and sets minted prior to Select’s tenure, but that is a story for another day!
As a small company based out of Sydney, Select started business in the mid 1980’s originally as a magazine publisher, which then evolved into creating stickers with various licenses. In 1990 however, Select were handed the license to AFL stickers, and minted their first set of stickers published under the brand of Scanlens. However in 1993, the Australian Rules Football trading card license became available and voila, the first ever Select Footy Card set was released. The inaugural set was very basic by design and structure, heck the founder of Select (Grant Copley) drew up the cards himself! It included a base set of 192 cards with the addition of 4 signature cards; Stephen Kernahan, Tony Lockett, Stewart Loewe and Jason Dunstall.
What needs to be remembered in the era of 90’s Select cards, is the sheer volume that was printed of each release. In 1994 over 25 MILLION cards were produced, which then increased to 28 MILLION in ’95, and then peaked at a whopping 33 MILLION cards produced in 1996! We are talking in the region of 100,000 boxes of each series available year-on-year. Compared to current times, there were only approximately 8,400 boxes produced of Select Optimum 2022. This is the
main reason why we haven’t seen a spike in prices for a majority of the 90’s inserts because of massive quantities printed. However, you’ll find that a lot of the signature cards numbered to 200 and 500 are harder to come across than the more modern signature cards because of the distribution model of releases and the potential that some signatures never survived nor were circulated!
The 1996 Hall of Fame release was really the set that put Select on the map as a manufacturer of sports cards! Including a base set of the first 100 inductees into the AFL Hall of Fame, its premise has stood the test of time. The set also featured signature cards of some bonified legends of Australian football; Ron Barassi, Jack Dyer, Polly Farmer, Leigh Matthews, John Nicholls, Bob Pratt, Dick Reynold and lastly Bob Skilton. Also embedded into this release was a “Grand Redemption” card which when redeemed, entitled you to a copy of all 8 signature cards! Due to the sentimental value of this set, you don’t see too many sealed boxes listed on the secondary market, nor do you see many of the signature cards swapping hands. It’s crazy to think that a portion of this nostalgic product was thrown away, never to be seen by the hands of collectors!
Across the next two decades, Select were created many memorable sets and insert subsets. Some releases that immediately come to mind include 2001 Authentic, 2002 Exclusive, 2005 Dynasty, 2010 Prestige, 2017 Future Force and 2019 Dominance to name a few. I’ve purposely left out the Supremacy series, as that will be explained in greater detail below. Some sets that have fared best with collectors in recent years also include, Draft Pick Signatures, Captain Signatures, Brownlow Medal, Coleman Medal Signature Cards & Booklets, Influentials and the Future Hall of Fame insert!
The 2019 Supremacy release was another landmark set for Select. It was their first official attempt to provide a ultra-premium product to AFL collectors, much like the Flawless and National Treasures releases in US markets! Repeated in 2021, the Supremacy series included tonnes of memorable cards such as the Signature-Patch Booklets, Premiership Glory Signatures, Premiership-Brownlow Double Signatures, Franchise Futures, Quad Coaches Signature Booklet and the MASSIVE Quad 1000+ Goal-Kickers Signature Booklet, featuring Gary Ablett, Doug Wade, Jason Dunstall and Tony Lockett. Supremacy is considered by many as the pinnacle of AFL card-collecting with many of the cards found within the set worth several $1000’s of dollars!
Looking at the current landscape of AFL trading cards, it’s ironic how fast releases sell-out nowadays when some releases more than 5 years old didn’t sell out for years! Dominance 2020 was the first Select release to sell-out on release day, and since then releases have been snap selling within minutes. Goes to show how fast the community is changing! Childhood collectors are returning to the past-time they once loved, whilst the next generation are finding a new passion and adding their own twist to collecting. Gone are the days where the only way to collect is by master-setting a particular team or even release! Whilst team-collectors are still strong in numbers, newcomers aren’t afraid to invest in certain cards, speculate teams and players, or collecting every card of their favourite player. The AFL trading card hobby is primed for exciting times in the years to come!