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Leaf’s 2023 Pro Set Metal Football Refreshes A Classic Release

2023 pro set metal release

The first edition of Pro Set Metal Football was not as well received as Leaf would have liked. Therefore, they have rebuilt the set to focus only on autos. By doing so, the company hopes to overcome some of the shortcomings of the release, like the fact that these cards are not licensed.

Does it work? Read our 2023 Pro Set Metal Football to find out.

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History of Pro Set

Veterans of the hobby remember the original Pro Set company well. It was an upstart company that joined the card game during the peak of the junk wax era. They were one of several new actors jumping in towards the end of the 1980s, most notably Upper Deck.  Ludwell Denny formed the Dallas-based company in 1988.

The company was very ambitious and managed to score production agreements with the NFL, NHLNASCAR, and PGA Tour. I remember them best for the awesome English soccer set they produced in the early 1990s, Pro Set Soccer 1990-91 and 1991-92. Indeed, they pioneered American-style cards for European soccer. Something that Pro Set deserves more credit for.

In 1992, the company was doing incredibly well. They were run out of a large property in Dallas, with over 200 employees staffed. But when the “junk wax” era drew to a close, and the values of cards collapsed, Pro Set was perhaps the highest profile casualty of this development. They went under due to a hefty (for the time) $800,000 debt of unpaid royalties to the NFL Players Association. 

In 2021, a Twitter account called PROSETISBACK popped up on social media. It turned out to be a publicity stunt from Leaf Trading Cards, announcing the return of the beloved brand.

History of Pro Set Metal Football

But the set we are reviewing here is a tribute to the Pro Set NFL release. It was quickly their best-known and most successful in the United States. Their 1989 set was perfect. The design was one of the better ones of that era, dominated by hideous designs (I’m looking at you, late 1980s Score).

Not only that, but it also had a great collection of rookies. For goodness sake, we are talking about Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, and Deion Sanders. The rookie’s cards are labeled as Pro Set Prospects, which the newer Pro Set releases have also adopted.

One of the most memorable cards of the Pro Set Football releases from back in the day was the fabled Santa Claus card. For whatever reason, they labeled him as a coach. Are you running plays for the Elves or something? Hard to say.

The revived Pro Set Football was the most anticipated of the renewed releases under the Leaf administration. After all, that was most readily associated with the defunct company in the United States.

The newer Pro Set cards were made to order. That meant you ordered the cards you wanted, and Leaf would print that amount. That limited the population count, which is good in the current market.

The Pro Set Metal Football release was part of that initial wave of releases. It is a spin-off of what is (easily) their most popular product, Leaf Metal Draft Football. It provided chrome versions of the Pro Set cards and focused on delivering an autograph-heavy box.

Unlike most Leaf releases, there were base cards alongside the six autos. That wasn’t the only change from the classic release. Leaf also focused on providing an autograph-heavy lease with all sorts of parallels and refractors. The goal was to combine nostalgia with Leaf’s remarkable penchant for card design. The set came out again in 2022 and is now ready for the third iteration.

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Pro Set Metal Football 2023 release date

The current release date for 2023 Pro Set Metal Football is February 24th, 2024. Needless to say, that is not an optimal date. The first clue is in the fact that the set is for 2023, and the date is in 2024. Just barely, but still.

It is hitting the shelves just as the Super Bowl has concluded. Therefore, by Panini standards, it is positively early. But we would hope that Leaf could do better anyway. No one is excited about the 2023 rookies in 2024.

2023 Pro Set Metal Football release formats

The Pro Set Metal Football release is a hobby only. However, last year, Leaf also released a Jumbo Hobby Box version. But as far as I can see, they are only making the regular hobby box available now.

Hobby Box

  • 10 cards per pack
  • 1 pack per box
  • 10 boxes per case
  • A box presells for $180
  • A case presells for $1,800
  • Find 6 autographs and 4 base cards per box

Pro Set Metal Football 2023 pros

The reimagining of a bunch of tacky-looking nostalgia cards from the “junk wax” era in chrome trappings shouldn’t work. But it does. For younger collectors, the Pro Set design is refreshingly different.

Meanwhile, for those who remember Pro Set, these are great new-look versions of a familiar and beloved icon. The bottom line is that the design works on every level. I have always felt that Leaf has phenomenal designs.

Often lovely enough to make up for their unlicensed character. That element has bought it a solid spot in the Leaf Trading Cards release roster.

We can’t know for sure if this will apply to the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football set, but based on previous releases, the release has a good proportion of hits to duds. The same opinion prevails if you look at breaks or read reviews in forums.

For a $150 box, the Pro Set Metal Football hobbies are stacked. The 2022 Pro Set Metal Football release wasn’t quite as well received. Part of that may be that there were no rookies on the level of Trevor Lawrence.

Doesn’t everything in life seem to get worse as we get older? But it was still a solid release regarding bang for your buck. It is more than likely that the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football will be similar.

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2023 Pro Set Metal Football 2023 cons

We all know what the main drawback of every Leaf card is. The unlicensed thing. We all know that no matter how cool-looking a Pro Set Metal Football rookie auto may be, it will be worth a fraction of its equivalent from a Panini card.

Let’s look at an example. A 2021 Pro Set Metal Football Trevor Lawrence Red White And Blue Auto /10 raw sells for $270. Meanwhile, a non-numbered 2021 Panini Prizm Trevor Lawrence No Huddle Disco Auto, also raw, sells for three times as much. It is what it is.

But forget that. The keen observers at Blowout Forums noticed Leaf’s mistake on a fun novelty card. They made an Ed O’Neill card featuring him as Ted Bundy.

That is an excellent idea since the unforgettable character always talked about his high school football glory days on Married… with Children. The problem? They used a picture of Ed from his appearance in the 1994 film Little Giants.

Listen, Leaf, if you get your 1990s pop culture this wrong, you will have a swarm of angry middle-aged guys after you. Lucky for them, we are too tired and out of shape to do much about it.

2023 Pro Set Metal Football checklist

The original Pro Set release was a base-heavy extravaganza. But the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football is a Leaf release and is therefore judged primarily by its autographs.

We don’t have the complete checklist yet. However, Leaf is promising that there will be some great signatories here. They will include Anthony Richardson, Barry Sanders, C.J. Stroud, Deion Sanders, JJ McCarthy, Joe Montana, Jordan Addison, Peyton Manning, Puka Nacua, Steve Young, and Zay Flowers.

We are sure there will be many others as well. Whatever problems we have had with Leaf products over the years, the list of signatories is always great.

The rookie class of 2023 Pro Set Metal Football

The 2023 NFL rookie class was not a weak one. It was even solid in some spots, solid. For example, it had one of the deepest selections of tight ends in recent years. But let’s get real here: in the hobby, we only care about quarterbacks and the highest-tier running wide receivers and, to a lesser extent, big-time running backs. But ultimately, we rank the rookie class by quarterbacks.

The biggest name in this crop was Bryce Young. The guy certainly has a superstar quarterback name. But after great showings in college, the consensus is that he isn’t set up for NFL excellence.

He has undoubtedly been one of the weakest quarterbacks in the league all year, though there has been some mild improvement towards the end of the year. While he may bounce back to become a decent player, few believe he is star material anymore.

Since then, CJ Stroud has emerged as this class’s most talked about quarterback. Indeed, he has had one of the best rookie quarterback seasons in NFL history. Some are comparing his season to the debuts of Dan Marino and Andrew Luck.

He finished the regular season as one of the top ten quarterbacks by just about every list. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his season has been the consistency.

Rookies often have great stretches but struggle to maintain that form. But CJ has been reliable and showed up all along. Even when he wasn’t at his best, he never looked clueless. Stroud may save this class and make it desirable in the long term.

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Inserts  

There aren’t too many non-auto inserts in this auto-heavy release. But there are a few nonetheless. While we don’t yet have all the information on them, here are the ones we know will be included.

Goin’ Pro

These nice inserts showcase the best draft picks in the fulcrum of some supernatural sphere. While we have all seen inserts of this kind in the past, the execution here is quite good.

Autos

The Pro Set Metal Football release is heavily based on autographs. Indeed, each hobby box contains 60% autos. There are very few inserts of any other kind, as the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football is split between autos and base cards.

And, of course, the cards are what matters here. Unfortunately, this release doesn’t have as much info on the inserts and other unique cards. But there are some repeats from the products of previous years. Here are the autos we know will be included.

All of the autos are stickers in the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football. That makes them significantly less attractive in my eyes. In addition, we know that Leaf has had issues with its sticker autographs as well. However, you can’t expect on-card autos for this box’s price.

Action

These auto cards are real beauties. Each is a bit different. However, the typical one is a chrome-heavy, refractor-like auto card showcasing an impressive action shot. One thing that sets the Pro Set Metal Football Action autos apart is the large amount of space on the side of the autograph, with the athlete usually on the other side.

The visual impression it leaves is quite impressive. However, the Action inserts are rarely worth over $100, even when it’s a top auto.

HOF Pros

These are well-conceived veteran legend autos. The best ones come in beautiful rainbow foil parallels. The value is usually limited, like all Pro Set Metal Football cards. But they do better than you might expect on the market, possibly because the auto list in this product is usually quite strong.

Lit

These cards seem to emulate the psychedelic lighting of the 1960s. That is a surprisingly common concept for sports cards, by the way. Certainly not what the hippies had in mind when they suggested we “turn on, tune in, drop out.” It also comes in the more rare and amusingly named Lit AF version.

Leaf said of this /25 auto, “As the name suggests (ask a teenager if you don’t know what this means), this set is outrageously cool.” But remember that even the lowest-numbered and best rookies aren’t worth much more than $100.

Pro Set Metal Platinum

It is pretty easy to describe what the Pro Set Metal Platinum cards look like. They are a carbon copy of the Topps Sapphire releases.

As such, they are fairly attractive, though thoroughly unoriginal. We think Leaf is allowed the occasional rip-off because they tend to have their own concepts. These autos sell for a bit more than the others in this release because they have a sharper look than some of the others.

Pro Set Portraits

You will be disappointed if you were hoping for an old-school 1950s-style drawn card for this insert. Well, you probably weren’t, but I was. These are pretty unremarkable chrome close-up facial pictures with a sticker auto. Because these aren’t beautiful cards, their value is also somewhat lower than the other autos in this release.

2023 Pro Set Metal Football value

Few are buying the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football product hoping to make massive money. Nonetheless, it is always a consideration. No one wants to throw away $180. So, what are your chances of profit by stashing a box or getting your money back with a sound card?

Shop for boxes of 2023 Pro Set Metal Football on eBay

Wax

Pro Set Metal Football is a relatively new product. We certainly hope it sticks around for long enough to get a proper niche in the hobby. But in the meantime, there are only two boxes on the market, making it difficult to get a good read on the product’s value.

After all, it takes a few years before the total value of a box stabilizes and becomes apparent. Nonetheless, let’s look at how the boxes from the last two years have fared.

ReleaseValue
2021 Pro Set Metal Football$149
2022 Pro Set Metal Football$74.95

With all the caveats above, it is clear that (as expected) there isn’t a tremendous amount of value in this box. There is a fair chance that the boxes will eventually be worth their current selling price.

But it is unlikely they will have a far more significant value. There are better options for stashing packages in this price range. Considering that these are unlicensed cards, anyone would unlikely do so.

Singles

It doesn’t appear that there is any value to Pro Set Metal Football in wax form. But that is no surprise. People buy this set because it makes for a fun rip. But there are limits to how fun a rip can be if there is no chance of real value. So, how does it do in that regard?

ReleaseValue
2022 Pro Set Metal 90 PS Auto Pre-Prod Proof Bailey Zappe Crystal Green 1/1 (Raw)$1,500
2022 Pro Set Metal Proof Wave Snakeskin Aiden O’Connell Auto 1/1 Rookie Card (Raw)$500
2022 Leaf Pro Set Metal C.J. Stroud Rookie Card Auto Redemption Parallel$436
Trevor Lawrence Rookie Auto 2021 Pro Set Metal 10/10 Cracked Ice SSP (HGA 9)$225
2022 Leaf Pro Set Metal C.J. Stroud LIT AF Black Printing Plate Auto 1/1 (Raw)$225

It is not impossible to hit an excellent card that more than quadruples the box’s value. The biggest 1/1 auto cards can get an excellent price (for Leaf cards, anyway). While that is not particularly likely, it does make ripping this product much more fun.

It is good to know that you could theoretically make a bit of cash on this relatively inexpensive box.

The final word on the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football review

There is a lot to recommend for 2023 Pro Set Metal Football. The cards in this set are, as always, remarkably good-looking.

Getting 6 football autos this attractive from any other release for under $200 is problematic. As far as value is concerned, there is no reason to stash these boxes.

However, ripping is very fun with all these autos. There is even a chance of hitting a (relatively) big card. Indeed, Leaf generally has a much better proportion of hits versus duds than the more prominent companies.

Therefore, if you like football autos at a low price and are looking for a fun rip, the 2023 Pro Set Metal Football is a great choice. Assuming you don’t mind unlicensed products too much, of course.

Shop for boxes of 2023 Pro Set Metal Football on eBay

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.

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