Before I get rolling on this set: If this were a set name list, this card set would be in the bottom ten. Easily. The name is ridiculous and was a follow up to the 1997 Skybox EX-2000 set. Also a terrible name. The set line continued through 2003 with equally troubling and ridiculous names.
1998 Skybox EX-2001 Mark McGwire
There were several other plastic like cards issued sometime in the late 90s and early 2000s, but this set was always the best of them in my opinion. One argument against plastic cards is the fact that you can have any imperfections with plastic cards. Very true of card sets such as Topps Tek were the picture and design were printed directly onto the card surface. However, the Skybox EX cards always had a raised surface around the player picture that make it subject to the same imperfections as other cards. In fact, take a quick scan of secondary sales sites and you will see that there are graded cards from this set there are clearly imperfect.
The set itself was a 100 card set with an exchange card of Kerry Wood available for a total of 101 base cards. The Wood card might be the best card in this set. Since it was an exchange card and short printed there are obviously fewer cards available, but it also seems to be one of those cards that was an early release of a player, not a true rookie card, that people treat the same as a rookie card issue. The set and base cards can be difficult to locate and the boxes that are stilling floating around are often not cheap.
1998 Skybox EX-2001 Kerry Wood Exchange
The Skybox EX-2001 set did have insert sets and even some autographs. However, the real chase cards in this set were the Essential Credentials cards. I have had a few write ups about these cards in the past featured in a highlight about my Ray Lankford collection. The Essential Credentials were a double parallel set. The Essential Credentials Now and Essential Credentials Futures sets were serial numbered to different numbers with one set having an ascending run with the card numbers and one have a descending run with the card numbers. Complicated I know. There are several up on Ebay write now for triple digits, or close. The last completed sale was a Larry Walker out of 22 for more than $200.
1998 Skybox EX-2001 Craig Biggio Essential Credentials Now
Overall, this set was among the first plastic card sets out on the market and the best of the bunch in my opinion. The fad surrounding these cards has faded and there hasn't been a similar card release in a very long time. Since the set is fairly small it is not very difficult to assemble in a short time. It's a fun set build too.
Like the 1998 Skybox EX-2001 set? Not in my Top 50 for the past 30 years is the 1999 Skybox EX-Century set. I had thought long and hard about putting the 2003 Skybox EX set here, but I think the 1999 model edges it out. The 1999 issue of the Skybox EX set featured a similar design as the 1998 set, but I feel like Skybox did a good job of cleaning up the design a little bit.
1999 Skybox EX-Century Barry Larkin
Mainly, I like how the player name is written going down the side of the card and the team logo has been incorporated into the side of the card. Also similar to the 1998 set, the 1999 set was really about the chase for the Essential Credentials cards. The parallel sets were again set up the same way with the dual sets with varying numbers.
1999 Skybox EX-Century Essential Credentials
The other factor that made the 1999 Skybox EX issue was the insert sets. The earlier sets featured inserts, but they didn't fit the overall feel of the set at times. Later sets started to dabble with autographs and jersey pieces. The 1999 inserts I felt fit the feel of the set very well and were still in the mode of cool 90s inserts too. One of my favorite inserts was the Favorites for Fenway set which somehow tried to predict the All-Star teams for 1999. I guess they missed with J.D. Drew.
1999 Skybox EX-Century J.D. Drew Favorites for Fenway