The ‘Upper Deck’ is a little lower than it used to be

July 23, 2008 at 2:50 pm | Posted in My Cards, Upper Deck | 2 Comments

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that the product that drew me back into the baseball card collecting hobby was 2007 Goudey, an outstanding retro set that was produced by Upper Deck. I still vividly remember opening two boxes of Goudey on February 29, 2008 and falling in love again with my childhood hobby. After opening those boxes, I started watching video box breaks on YouTube to help me decide what other products to buy. It was there that I learned about SP Authentic, which included two very awesome “By The Letter” autographs per box. So I bought a couple of SP Authentic boxes, and I was absolutely elated when I pulled a Tim Lincecum “By The Letter” autographed card (although my other hits were Andy LaRoche, Chase Wright, and Joe Smith). I was quickly starting to consider myself an “Upper Deck collector” and I favored Upper Deck over Topps.

When I started looking at the first two 2008 baseball card releases, Topps Series 1 and Upper Deck Series 1, Upper Deck seemed like the clear winner to me. The photography of Upper Deck Series 1 (and subsequently Series 2) is fantastic, and it is a standard that all other cards should try to live up to. I happily started collecting Upper Deck and now I am close to having complete base sets of both Series 1 and Series 2. I’ve bought a grand total of two packs of regular Topps this year.

I also became a big fan of 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces and took a risk on two tins of 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic. I was lucky enough to get an autographed Carl Yastrzemski glove card #/15, which is still my best pull of all time, and a Tony Perez autographed card.

By this point, I definitely favored Upper Deck over Topps, and I couldn’t wait for more 2008 Upper Deck releases to come out…

Sadly, I have been sorely disappointed by the releases that came after Upper Deck Series 1. To recap:

  • Upper Deck First Edition. I really don’t understand the point of First Edition. The cards are exactly the same as the cards in Series 1 except that they are less glossy and less expensive. The only market for this would seem to be kids that can’t afford to buy anything else. It’s completely fine to produce a cheaper set for younger collectors, but why use the exact same card design, photos, and backs as Series 1? Why not produce a set like the old Collector’s Choice and make completely different cards that would have much greater appeal? This set doesn’t make sense to me and I have not bought a single pack of it.
  • Next up was Upper Deck Premier. The only thing that I really need to say about Premier is that one “box” costs more than $200 and it contains only one pack with seven cards. Seriously. I’ve bought autographed cards of Scott Kazmir (#/25) and B.J. Upton (#/45) from this set for about $15 each on eBay, so clearly the cards are not worth the price of the box/pack. Although the design of the cards is pretty nice, I wouldn’t even remotely consider buying a box/pack of this. And I wonder why this set is necessary when Upper Deck already has Black and Exquisite to satisfy the high rollers.
  • Spectrum. I actually thought long and hard about buying a hobby box of Spectrum. It was a new Upper Deck product and the price wasn’t ridiculous. But I couldn’t figure out why there are only 100 base cards, which makes it impossible for set builders to enjoy. Among those 100 base cards are only two Rays, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, so why should I bother? In addition, I was not a fan of the “Spectrum of Stars” autographed cards of celebrities, all of whom are far, far away from the A-List. Looking over the checklist of these, the only ones that I would even be remotely interested in (out of 54) are Ace Frehley and Peter Criss (from Kiss) and Henry Winkler (“The Fonz” from Happy Days). The rest would be worthless to me. In my opinion, if you’re going to put celebrity autographs into packs of baseball cards, make them of celebrities who people actually care about! If you can’t do that, then just stick to autographs of baseball players. The final nail in the coffin of Spectrum for me was when I bought a game-used jersey card of B.J. Upton on eBay and when I received it, I saw that a chunk of the surface of the card was flaking off, demonstrating the poor quality of these cards. Here’s the card. The area that is flaking off is hard to see in the scan, but the arrows show you where it is:
  • SPX. I was really looking forward to SPX. After all, Mario from Wax Heaven named 2007 SPX the best release of 2007. But the price tag of over $150 per box made me a little wary, so I checked out some video box breaks. I watched about 5-6 box breaks and didn’t find anyone who actually got enough value for what they paid. The product is filled with hits, but these are comprised mostly of game-used jersey cards that aren’t worth more than a few dollars each and the same mediocre rookie autographs that have infested many other releases this year. I’d estimate that the total value of the cards in a SPX hobby box is closer to $30 or $40 than $150. The base cards may look nice, but once again, there are only 100 of them. These include Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford, and B.J. Upton of the Rays. All are pictured in their old green Devil Rays uniforms even though SPX came out at the end of May after Upper Deck had ample time to take pictures in the new blue uniforms. The Upton base card is absolutely appalling. It features him in uniform #9, which he hasn’t worn since he was called up to the majors for the first time in 2004. That means that Upper Deck used a photo that was almost four years old:
  • SP Legendary Cuts, a set that has received a lot of attention for including cards that contain pieces of hair from dead Presidents, and for being the focus of a lawsuit from Topps. The lawsuit led to the cards supposedly being yanked from the shelves of hobby stores at one point, but they remained widely available on eBay and even at my local hobby shop. Boxes of Legendary Cuts are relatively affordable at about $100, but let’s face it, the odds are astronomically stacked against you getting a hair cut card or a cut signature card (those are probably being shipped straight to Beckett). So it’s $100 for 48 cards and you’re not even guaranteed an autograph of any sort. Upper Deck has taken down the checklist from its web site, but I’m pretty sure that there were only three Rays included: Kazmir, Crawford, and Upton. So why would I bother buying Legendary Cuts?
  • A Piece of History. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is one very cool card in this set. Other than that, it’s very lackluster. Another set with no point and only 100 base cards, just like Spectrum, SPX, and Legendary Cuts. And as a Rays fan, I’m stuck with the same three players that appear in the other sets: Kazmir, Crawford, and Upton (finally in the new uniforms though). And Evan Longoria isn’t even included in the 50 rookies! It’s bad enough that Upper Deck makes all of these sets with so few base cards to collect and that the base cards are simply filler for the supposedly desirable “hits”. But if they’re going to make these sets, at least they could change up the players. Why not put players like James Shields, Matt Garza, and Akinori Iwamura in one of these sets? And do I even need to mention how boring the card design is? To me, this is the most pointless of all of Upper Deck’s sets this year, and it really sent me over the edge with Upper Deck. Can anyone give me one good reason why anyone would want to buy a box of this set?

So in summary, after I strongly favored Upper Deck over Topps earlier this year, Upper Deck has almost completely turned me off with six pointless releases in a row. Their next release will be 2008 Goudey and it comes out next week. I can tell from the set details on Upper Deck’s web site that it will be significantly better than any of their last six releases. I love 2007 Goudey and I really want to love the 2008 version. However, I don’t really like the decision to make the cards standard sized and include “mini” cards that are the same size as the original Goudey cards. I fear that Upper Deck is trying too hard to turn Goudey into Allen & Ginter when to me, Goudey was a better product than Allen & Ginter in the first place. I am eagerly anticipating buying multiple boxes of Goudey though, and I sincerely hope that it can help turn my perception of Upper Deck around.

While Upper Deck has consistently disappointed me this year, I have become a huge fan of Topps Heritage and Topps Chrome. I am also very fond of 2007 Allen & Ginter and Topps Finest. I liked Bowman. And even though I wasn’t crazy about Co-Signers, it’s still better than what Upper Deck has been producing. I’m getting dangerously close to becoming a “Topps collector”. Let’s see what you can do to fix that, Upper Deck…

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2 Comments »

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  1. I really like the spirit of this post.

    Being a Rays collector though, why do you ever need to buy a box of anything? You can probably find people who will just give you autos and game used of Upton and Kazmir.

    I’m not baggin on the Rays, there’s just not that much secondary market value for Rays cards. You can probably buy all of the base and “hits” you want from every 2008 release for less than the price of one box of SPX.

    Coincidentally, I’m pretty sure I have plenty of Iwamura and Kazmir base from the last couple of years that I would be glad to send you if you would like. Just shoot me an e-mail šŸ™‚

  2. Charlie, normally I buy boxes of products that have a base set that I want to build. I find that if I buy a box of something just to get “hits”, then I wind up getting disappointed. For the other products, like the ones mentioned in this post, I just look for the individual cards that I want on eBay. You’re right that the secondary market for autographs and game-used cards of Rays players is not as big as it is for players on most other teams, but it’s growing. Check out how expensive Evan Longoria and David Price cards have gotten on eBay. I was lucky to buy a lot of autographed cards of Rays players before the season when their market value was lower.

    I’ll send you an email later to find out what Iwamura and Kazmir cards you have. I’d be happy to send some Cubs cards your way too!


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