As the 90s were coming to a close, the fine folks over at SkyBox must have been jamming out to some of the legendary music from the 60s Summer of Love. Why do I say this?
Well, it is pretty clear they decided to go for a groovy theme with their 1998-99 cards. Two parallels, in particular, really highlight this theme: Slam Funk and Soul of the Game. Today I’ll be reviewing Soul of the Game.
Since this is a late 90s set, you have a good number of outstanding 90s players, including Jordan, Kobe, Garnett, Shaq, and more. The card design is pretty simple. The background of the card has the words “SOUL OF THE GAME” in all caps stacked on top of each other. The words have a wave-like design and they are printed in foil lettering that transitions in color as your eye works its way down the card.
Overlaid on top of the background is an action shot of each player and overlaid on top of the player is the player’s name in a font that is difficult to describe, but it seems most similar to the opening credits spray paint style font used in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Lets check out some of the players featured in this set.
Kevin Garnett (SG7)
The Garnett card is pretty nice. It features an image of KG showing his on court intensity mid-yell. He’s sporting an all white T-Wolves uniform. Right now there are three ungraded copies selling on eBay, and they look to be selling in the $50-$65 range, so pretty affordable for a lower end collector like myself.
Allen Iverson (SP12)
The Iverson card is also quite nice. It shows AI driving to the hoop for a lay up in an all-black Sixers uniform. One issue I have with the Iverson card is that on some of the cards it looks like part of his face gets cut off ever so slightly by the “O” in the word “Soul”. It isn’t super noticeable at first glance, but it is sometimes there. Given this flaw is more or less pronounced with different copies of the card, I’m lead to believe this was an issue they ran into during printing. Perhaps the more centered cards, like the one below, didn’t have this problem, but other cards I’ve seen on eBay do seem to cut off Iverson’s face a bit.
Like the Garnett card, the Iverson also sells in a range of around $50-$60 on eBay. There have only been three PSA transactions in the past few years, and the PSA 8 that sold this year sold for $18.50 while the PSA 9 that sold this January went for $32. Given the PSA 9 sells for around $30, I wouldn’t pay over $25 for an ungraded copy of the Iverson card.
Shaquille O’Neal (SG8)
I’m glad Shaq was included in this set (he should be in every late 90s and 2000s set), but I am not a fan of the photo of Shaq chosen for this card. It ruins the card for me and there are plenty of better Shaq card parallels.
What I don’t like about the photo is you don’t get a good shot of his face, it isn’t a great action shot (is he pulling down a rebound… I don’t know), and the shadow from his arms covers what little you can see of his face.
At the moment, this card looks to be selling a bit higher than the other two mentioned. There are currently three cards listed on eBay for Buy It Now prices between $65-$75. I love Shaq, but I wouldn’t pay that for this card.
Kobe Bryant (SG6)
Even though I was never a big Kobe fan growing up, this to me is easily the best card in the parallel set. It features an image of Kobe bringing up the basketball and he is wearing the Laker’s 1998 away jersey, which was mostly purple and had the 3-D effect with the #8 (for a cool article about every Kobe jersey ever, check this out).
There are also no blatant design flaws like with the AI card. On the copy I have (this is the only Soul of the Game card I own), it does look like Kobe’s left pinky finger gets cut off by a fraction, but it is hardly noticeable and you really have to really scrutinize the image to see that.
This card is easy to find on eBay for the most part, however, it is often mislabeled as card #8. The #6 and #8 on the back of this card for the card number look very similar and its a common mistake, but trust me that Shaq is #8 and Kobe is #6.
There are not many auctions for this card, but the ungraded copies currently on eBay sell in a very wide Buy It Now range of $200-$1500. There are a decent amount of PSA graded cards, and the PSA 9s sell in a fairly tight range of roughly $100 to $400. The median price for the past five PSA 9s is $257. PSA doesn’t list any history for PSA 10 sales, so there much be very few available.
Going back two years, the PSA 9s were selling in the $22 to $32 range, so like so many other cards I’ve seen recently, this card too has exploded in value and trades at nearly 10-times what it was selling for just two years ago. I’m sure some of this is a result of Kobe’s untimely passing. Rest in peace Kobe.
Michael Jordan (SG1)
Yes, its a Jordan parallel and yes, it is also the most expensive card in this set, but I’m not wild about Jordan’s Soul of the Game card, mainly because of the poor photo.
The Jordan card features MJ in the all red Bulls uniform and it looks like he is going up for a lay up. However, Jordan is also leaning back in this photo and you don’t see much of his face. In fact, really all you get is a shot of his open mouth as he attacks the rim. It just isn’t that great of a shot of him so I’m not a big fan of this card.
This card is fairly common on eBay, but like the Kobe card, it is sold in a very wide range. After my most recent price check on eBay, I noticed ungraded copies selling for around $400 on the low end up to around $1,000 on the high end. With an ungraded copy, I’d look closely for quality, but I don’t think I’d pony up anything over $400 for this card.
The PSA 10s for this card sell for thousands of dollars, and the two that sold in July, 2020 sold for $2,500 and $3,000, so this is an expensive Gem-Mint card. As you’d expect, the price comes down quite a bit when looking at the PSA 9s. The two PSA 9s that sold in July sold for $510 and $599.
Going back to 2018, the PSA 10s were selling around $500 while the PSA 9s were selling for around $200, so the 10s are up around 400% while the 9s are up around 150%. Under normal times that would be exciting, but during the current Covid card craze, those numbers are fairly pedestrian.
All in all, this is a decent parallel set. I wish they’d used a few different photos for players like Shaq and Jordan, but the Kobe card is nice and the overall look is pretty cool. There are 15 total players in this set, and I skipped over a few stars like Pippen, Penny, and Rodman, so if this caught your attention you should absolutely check out those player’s cards as well.