Christmas cards are a very specific thing. People take a picture of the whole family, print them on expensive stock, and mail them to everyone they know. The recipients carefully place them on the mantle above the fireplace. It’s a nice gesture all around. Kind of predictable, but nice.
In the world of sports cards, Christmas cards are more entertaining. It’s a chance to see some of your favorite athletes dressed up for the holidays. Maybe you’ll get a piece of the sleigh from when Shaq traveled around the globe in a single night to deliver presents to every child in the world!
Since it’s December 24, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of our favorite Christmas-themed sports cards.
2018 Topps Holiday — Ronald Acuna Jr. Bat Down
This is just a festive reskin from Topps, but it’s one of the most iconic baseball cards in recent memory. In case you missed our post on short prints, Ronald Acuna Jr.’s rookie card has two variations. One, the widespread one, his bat is pointing up. In the short print, his bat is pointing down.
This small detail makes a world of difference for collectors. The bat down version goes for a pretty penny and is one of the most sought-after modern baseball cards. Topps commemorated it with a few flurries and snowflakes for its holiday release.
1998 Upper Deck Holiday — Kris Kringle relic
We’re going to temporarily break from our self-imposed rule that these are cards featuring athletes. If Santa’s an athlete, then we’re all athletes. I’ve seen his 40-time. It’s not pretty.
But in 1998, Upper Deck released a relic card with a swatch of Santa’s furry suit. It’s pretty great as far as these things go. Actually, Beckett did a roundup of five times Santa got his own card. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on that Santa auto out of 35. I’ve gotta work on getting my name on his nice list before I start to worry about his elusive autographs.
2003 Upper Deck — LeBron James Winter League Card
For reasons unknown, this is not the LeBron James rookie card that everyone’s after. I don’t know why. It’s basically a perfect picture, with LeBron decked out in his “North Pole Winter League” uni.
I could be convinced that LeBron was forced to do this as part of a hazing ritual during his rookie season. It’s just a ridiculous card and that’s why I love it. I imagine all the veterans bustin’ his chops in the locker room after this photoshoot.
1999 Upper Deck — Ken Griffey Jr. Santa Hat
In case you hadn’t noticed the trend, Upper Deck used to love its holiday-themed cards. Now that it only has the NHL license, all of its cards have that blustery, frigid vibe.
This is probably my favorite of the Upper Deck Christmas cards simply because it’s one of the most beloved baseball players of all-time in a semi-goofy situation. I like the idea of getting a piece of the Santa hat Griffey wore, precisely because it’s not something he’d normally put on. When you get a piece of jersey, you know that the athletes wear a jersey nearly every single day. Here, you know that Griffey wears a Santa hat once a year at the absolute max.
1995 Pinnacle — Dan Marino, Emmitt Smith, and Steve Young
Pack it up, we’ve found the GOAT of Christmas sports cards. It could not possibly get any better than this.
Fifteen years ago, Pinnacle took photos of Dan Marino, Emmitt Smith, and Steve Young’s faces and hastily photoshopped them into identical Santa suits. Fittingly, all three look like they’re pulling their hand up for a big facepalm as if to say “What a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into!”
These are three of the best football players of all-time. Do they deserve better? Yes. Did we get one of the most unintentionally hilarious cards ever out of it? Also yes.