It’s February and that means that we’re set for the Super Bowl and some mass-marketing from SI.com over the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
And in reality the hype for both already has begun.
The last time we saw Ronda Rousey, she was suffering the first loss of her UFC career. Up next she’ll be in the annual issue for the second year in a row. More publicity won’t hurt her already-in-high-demand cardboard. She’s one of a long list of athletes to appear in the issue and part of an even longer list of models who appear on cards and have certified autographs and even memorabilia cards for collectors to chase.
For the traditional models, there actually were SI Swimsuit card sets released each year from 2003 to 2009 from Stellar Collectibles and then a later retrospective set. In those sets, we got autographs, memorabilia cards and even paint cards from photoshoots. Meanwhile, for many of the athletes who have appeared in the issue since, there are autograph appearances in sets like Topps’ Allen & Ginter (and many other sets) where collectors can also sometimes find the models. Kate Upton and Chrissy Teigen have been found there for example, and they sell very well.
Here’s a rundown of a few sports stars who we’ve seen in the issue.
Serena Williams — The tennis star (and her sister, Venus, in 2005) appeared in the issue back in 2003 and in 2004 and she recently was on the SI cover as its Sportsperson of the Year for 2015. She’s got 21 career grand slams — one short of the modern-er record — so the Swimsuit Issue really has little to do with demand for her cards. Surprisingly, she has fewer than 20 certified autos.
Lauren Jackson — Back in 2005 this WNBA star appeared in the issue not long after her Seattle Storm won the championship. Her career highlights include dominating play in Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League where she was a four-time MVP. In the U.S., she’s got seven All-Star nods, three MVP awards, three scoring titles and two championships. WNBA cardboard was a little more common during her prime years vs. today so she can be collected — though she has just five autographed cards.
Maria Sharapova — This tennis star was one of a few models to sign for SI Swimsuit card sets after her appearance in the 2006 issue. This can be an expensive card — just like her 80 or so tennis autographs but even moreso. (Her SI memorabilia cards are also expensive.) Not hurting demand for her cards is the fact that she’s won five Grand Slams, 35 titles and nearly 600 matches in her career.
Danica Patrick — She wasn’t in NASCAR yet when she appeared in the 2008 issue but we all know how dominating she’s been in terms of diecasts and autographed cards. She didn’t sign for the SI card set she appeared in, but the cards do sell pretty well. She’s got plenty of cardboard — including more than 300 certified autos — but Buzz bets a lot of her fans don’t even know about these.
Lindsey Vonn — This skiing star has two Olympic medals, four World Cups, six World Championships medals and a record 75 wins during a career that began back in 2002. She’s the most-successful female skier in American history and she appeared in the 2010 Swimsuit Issue. Olympians don’t have that many card sets, so she has less than a dozen different certified autos.
Natalie Gulbis — This former Arizona Wildcat joined the LPGA in 2002 and appeared in the SI issue a decade later. She’s got just one Tour victory but four total as a pro. Like others here, she’s also found herself with television and other appearances that keep her profile out there beyond just sports. Nearly half of her 300-plus card appearances are on signed cardboard.
Skylar Diggins — This former Notre Dame star was third-overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft and she appeared in Sports Illustrated the following year. In college she led her team to three Final Four appearances and two title games along with a 130-20 overall record. As a pro she’s averaged 14.9 points and 4.5 assists a game for what will be the Dallas Wings beginning this season. She’s got more than 30 different certified autos.
Alex Morgan — This U.S. Soccer star was in the issue in 2012 and 2014 but her playing career is far more impressive with U.S. Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year and a FIFA World Player of the Year finalist honors. In 2012, her 28-goal, 21-assist season was something only matched by women’s soccer legend Mia Hamm. She’s also been on the pop culture radar with a children’s book, an EA Sports game cover, TV appearances and endorsement deals with Nike and Coca-Cola. She has more than 40 certified autos for collectors to chase.
Caroline Wozniacki — This former No. 1 player was in last year’s Swimsuit Issue along with Rousey. She’s won 23 career titles and nearly 500 matches in her career with plenty of marketing deals to also keep her in the spotlight. Her most-recent certified autographs have arrived in Leaf Trading Cards releases though she had a decent number (50-plus) from Ace Authentic in past years.
Other athletes from the issue who you can collect because they, too, have cardboard include: Steffi Graf, Gabrielle Reece, Nikki McCray, Sheryl Swoopes, Anna Kournikova, Venus Williams, Amanda Beard, Jennie Finch, Maria Kirilenko, Hannah Teter, Ana Ivanovic and Natalie Coughlin.
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