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Absolute Memorabilia

The Absolute Memorabilia brand of trading cards was created by the Donruss Playoff Company in 2000. Originally designed as a football product, the brand was later released in other sports including baseball and basketball. Designed to capitalize on the still relatively new innovation of incorporating player worn and game used apparel into trading cards in short print runs, the brand was extremely well received in the market by collectors.

Evolution of the Brand

During the first few years of the 2000’s, with four major trading card manufacturers competing aggressively for collector’s dollars, companies were looking for ways to create extra value in their product offerings. Absolute Memorabilia was one of the first brands to utilize the concept of a box-topper, which consisted of a value added collectible item included in the product in addition to the trading cards promised. In 2002, the company created one such item and called it Signing Bonus. This piece was a framed 8”x10” piece of jersey material cloth displaying the featured players jersey numerals and an autograph. Packaged one per hobby box and produced in varying quantities, the pieces were serial numbered to create the concept of scarcity. Collectors went absolutely crazy for these bonus pieces and prices for unopened boxes and the pieces themselves escalated quickly on the secondary market.

The following year, in 2003, the brand was once again released with the value added piece, this time in the form of a glass etched plaque. These truly stunning pieces were also designed with embedded pieces of player worn memorabilia swatches within the wood base used to house the plaque. Limited numbers of each plaque were also distributed with player autographs. These items surpassed the previous year’s Signing Bonus in collector popularity and set off a 2-year window where manufacturers went to war attempting to one up each other in the value added box-topper game.


Since that time, the surviving manufacturers have significantly scaled back the use of value added items to sell products as a result of the obvious need to cut costs and increase individual brand margins. The Absolute Memorabilia brand will always be remembered for those cutting edge display pieces. The brand utilized its own name equity in the future by relying on memorabilia in ever increasing sizes, types of equipment and self-created rarity to bolster the product. The Tools of the Trade insert set was born from the Absolute brand and has incorporated as many as half a dozen pieces of unique player worn and game used apparel including jerseys, pants, shoes, gloves, caps, balls and more.

The Future

With the decline in popularity of memorabilia pieces in trading cards, it will be interesting to see how this legendary brand evolves in its next stage if it is to survive. Recent releases have seen the “Memorabilia” portion of the moniker dropped. One of the product configuration components that the current license holder (Panini America) of the name may look to is to revert back to one of the things that made the brand unique above and beyond the value added pieces. At one time, the Donruss Playoff Company, showed pictures of the actual apparel the containing swatches were taken from with details on the specific year or game the item(s) were worn or used. A commitment by the company to reintroduce these notes of authentication could go a long way to creating value in the bloated memorabilia card market.

Absolute Memorabilia Card Sets

Browse our database of Absolute and Absolute Memorabilia card sets, which features product reviews, set checklists, expert analysis, price comparisons, and more.