Well austin, SP in the current Hobby world stands for Short Print, or to be more grammatically accurate, a short-printed card. These cards were not printed in the same quantities as other cards in a particular set. For example, in this year's 2009 Topps Heritage set, there are 75 cards that are short-printed, meaning that there are less of these cards than of the other 425 cards in the set. These cards are primarily seeded one SP card per pack, meaning that after finding all the regular cards, you might be a number of SP cards short of a full set. This is where the thrill-of-the-hunt mentality comes in, and many collectors eagerly search high and low for these SP cards to complete their set.
Now in a set like Heritage or Allen & Ginter, SP's are great. Both are tailor-made for the set collector as the short prints are relatively easy to find (after a lot of searching, of course). In a set like Topps Attax, short printed cards of the more powerful players can make or break how well a person does playing the game (if your opponent has a Barack Obama Topps Attax card, you might as well pack it in and concede).
For a basic set like Topps or Topps Traded/Traded & Rookies/Updates and Highlights...eh, not so much. In 2002, the people in charge at the Topps Company had this brilliant idea to short print the Rookie Cards that were to be included in the set. This would, in effect, raise the value of those players cards by making them more scarce and making people go crazy looking for them. It was a good idea, until it was time to execute it. Instead of printing less of the rookie cards, they printed and distributed less of the veterans and managers cards. The first 110 cards (enough for one sheet) were printed in less quantites than the other 165 cards in the set. And in every ten-card pack, there were nine rookies, and one veteran card. Imagine the frustration of opening a box of 36 cards, only to find that you were 74 cards short of a complete set, and the cards you had to look for would be found, in normal situations, in the common card bins at every card show.
Now the reason why I decided to answer this comment now instead of waiting until the Monthly Comment Mailbag was because of another comment I received from Steve Brown, writer of The Easy Life. Now he bought a box of 2009 Topps back in February, and posted the results here. Included was a Pee Wee Reese SP card. Now according to the comment that he left for me,
Was he serious? He was just going to GIVE ME THE CARD??? Well, I did respond to his comment with an e-mail and today comes:
To Steve of The Easy Life, thank you very much for the card. I am going to go through your want lists and send you as much as I can in return as a thank you. I really appreciate it.
So now, we are down to the final three cards...Barack Obama...Mel Ott...Thurman Munson.