ESP released its top of the line 2014 Elite series in late July 2014. With only 6,000 boxes released (each containing 24 packs), Elite was a very limited release when compared to say 2014 Traders (27,000 boxes, 36 packs per box). This meant Elite’s production run was 15% of what Traders was! The RRP of a packet of Elite($6) was also higher than Traders ($4) which also reflected the premium product.
Product scarcity was the reason Elite did not find its way into NZ supermarkets, service stations and corner dairies. Network Services, the NZ organisation responsible for distributing other releases such as Traders around these various outlets, chose not to import Elite into NZ. One can only assume the quantity required by Network Services was not available once the primary Australian market was catered for. The only source (and in very limited supply) of Elite was from an Auckland trading card company.
The main reason Elite is held in such high regard by serious collectors is the limited edition signature cards. The 2014 release mirrored 2013 where 16 League Sensations and 16 Young Gun Signature serial numbered cards were released into packets, each at a ratio of 1:72. With only 130 of each card produced, collecting them all is truly an achievement and a very expensive task to boot. In 2014, the #1 serial stamped card from each League Sensation was withheld by ESP, instead replaced by a redemption card. This entitled the lucky finder to a framed and autographed jersey as well the corresponding #1 League Sensation signature card.
ESP have copped a fair bit of criticism from team collectors for their redemption card idea. This is due to the redemption card essentially being a 1/1 card, that is, a one of a kind. Only one Parramatta Eels collector can own the Tim Mannah redemption card, but what about the other 100 collectors that just collect Eels cards…..they can never have a master set of every Eels card produced if there is a 1/1 in existence. The latest news on this is ESP have acknowledged that issuing the 1/1 was a mistake and this is something they will not replicate in future releases as its not in the best interests of collectors.
The full 2014 Elite release was made up as follows:
– 144 card common set;
– 144 card silver parallel set (each card 1:1);
– 144 card gold parallel set (1:3);
– 48 card Pride & Passion set (1:6);
– 32 card Master & Apprentice set (1:12);
– 24 card World Cup Heroes set (1:24);
– A Woman in League Redemption card (1:48);
– 24 card World Cup Heroes parallel set (1:72);
– 16 card League Sensation Signature set (1:72); and
– 16 card Young Gun Signature set (1:72).
Similar to Traders, the 2014 version of Elite featured an extra level of parallel card, this time the 1:3 gold parallel. South Sydney golds proved hard to come by on the secondary market due to a combination of Souths 2014 Premiership win and a few serious Australian collectors stockpiling these cards.
The Pride & Passion and Master & Apprentice cards were standard low end insert sets with the latter quite an attractive card. Each club had two players feature, one being a veteran campaigner and the other a rising star. At 1:12, there were two Master & Apprentice cards per box.
The box hit was a World Cup Heroes card, not hugely desirable in the hands of Kiwi supporters as the set celebrated the Kangaroos success at the 2013 World Cup. With only 250 of each card produced, this wasn’t an easy set to collect.
The Woman in League redemption card entitled the finder to a 9 card set of those players nominated for the NRL’s 2013 Harvey Norman Favourite Son Award, (including Warriors captain Simon Mannering). Redeeming the card was a simple process and required the card to be sent to Sydney where after a month or two it was returned (with a hole punched in it) along with the 9 card set.
As discussed, the League Sensations and Young Guns signature cards were highly sought after. ESP did a good job with player selection, although the League Sensations were each clubs 2013 player of the year.
Finally, the World Cup Heroes parallel card was also a 1:72 hit per card. Each card was limited to 80 so collecting this set of 24 was much harder than a signature set (16 cards each numbered out of 130). ESP let themselves down here by not individually serial numbering each parallel card. Any card with such a limited release (say less than 150 – 200 cards) ought to be serial numbered as this very much adds to the collectiblity of the card and arguable the cards long term value. ESP has said there was no particular reason why the parallel World Cup Heroes were not serial numbered, so lets hope they take consumer feedback on board in future releases and serial stamp limited releases.
So all in all another great release by ESP, they really are putting Select to shame as most of their releases from 2010 onward (excluding 2012 Dynasty) were pretty ordinary.
The focus of collectors has now shifted to 2015 Traders, with production nearing completion and the first shipment due in Australia just in time for the Newcastle card show on 15th February 2015.