The real problem with the Upper Deck “sponsorships”

October 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Blogs, Personal | 9 Comments

Over the last couple of days, I watched the video box breaks on Wax Heaven and Stale Gum of boxes that they received free from Upper Deck.  I watched as Mario and Chris opened boxes of 2008 Masterpieces and 2008 Ballpark Collection.  These are two products that I recently bought with my own money.  I spent more than $200.  I cannot even begin to describe how bad it feels to watch people casually open cards that they received for free that I as a collector paid real money for.  It was awful.  In watching the videos, I realized that the worst part of these deals, for me, is they make people feel really, really stupid for actually spending money on these products.

It’s not like collectors have been actually getting their money’s worth out of these boxes anyway.  The value of the cards in a hobby box is always lower, often significantly lower, than the price that collectors must pay for the box.  That’s bad enough.  Now if we read baseball card blogs, we see other collectors proudly opening the same cards for free.

Chris can give me the finger all that he wants, and Mario can refer to me as a “hater”.  People can come to this post and leave comments calling me all kinds of names and accuse me of jealousy.  I don’t care.  If I was jealous, would I have publicly declared several times that these deals are bad for the sports card blogosphere and bad for the hobby, and that I would not accept a deal like this if it was offered to me?  I don’t think so.

It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of bloggers and blog readers think that these deals are wonderful.  I’m fully expecting that in the upcoming weeks and months, we’ll hear that Upper Deck, or perhaps even other card companies, will be sending free boxes of cards to other bloggers.  I’m not sure where it will end, and I’m not sure if I want to be a part of it anymore.

I blog because it’s fun and makes me happy.  I don’t see how buying Upper Deck products can make me happy anymore, when I’ll feel like an idiot every time I see someone else getting the same products for free.  At the very least, I’m pretty sure that it will be a long time before I buy any more boxes of Upper Deck products.  I might decide to only collect Topps and the new offerings from Donruss-Playoff and Razor.  I might even decide to focus the blog more on baseball itself rather than baseball cards.  I don’t really know what I’ll do yet.  Who knows, maybe this feeling will blow over, and in a week or two I won’t cringe when I see other bloggers opening free products.

This post isn’t meant as an attack of anyone.  Many people are very happy about Upper Deck sending free cards to Chris and Mario, and if it makes them happy, more power to them.  I just wanted to express my feelings about the subject.  I thought it might be cathartic.



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  1. I absolutely agree. Free boxes are good for the people who break them, but reviews based on them are of little to no use to anyone who has to open their wallet to pay for the product themselves.

    People getting free boxes and opening them doesn’t detract from my enjoyment, nor make me feel like a sucker. I decide what to spend my money on, and sponsored box breaks don’t come into that equation. I get to see some cards I might not see otherwise, but we won’t be looking at the cards from the same perspective, so you won’t be looking for the same thing out of the box. Free boxes are nice for those getting the boxes, and they have their place – but let’s be honest – it changes things.

  2. I like the box breaks because they show me what I might expect out of a box. Frankly, based on the breaks, I will not be buying Ballpark or Masterpieces Baseball. I think the question to ask is: If you had seen these breaks before you purchased, would you have? If the answer is no, then the break saved you some cash. If the answer is yes, then it reaffirmed what you were going to do anyway.

    That’s why the beckett breaks were bad because they gave unrealistic expectations. I think both of your points are valid, but this is common practice in most industries, especially high margin industries such as car audio, home theater, dvd’s, cd’s etc. It is a marketing tool.

  3. Dave, all good points made and thanks for being mature about rather than throwing crazy conspiracy theories and worse.

    As much as I would like to believe U.D is just helping the underground blogging movement, the truth is this is a great opportunity for them to bring their product into the blogosphere.

    Wax Heaven is not a site about music and movies with occasional posts about baseball cards. It’s a blog started from the botttom up about trading cards that is now averaging from 1,800-2,300 unique page views per day.

    Stale Gum is not some 1-month old blog asking around for free product (not talking about you). He’s been around a decade blogging and writting about trading cards. Upper Deck knows this and has taken the opportunity to reach more people than ads in Beckett & Tuff Stuff can do.

    That being said, as you already know…about 97% of the “hits” I am giving away to readers of the site, and even collectors who don’t read Wax Heaven as a thank you and because I know there are others out there who might never get a chance to bust some of this high-end product.

    In the end, I win because I have material to write about; the reader wins because he has something to read and he has a chance to win something free; and Upper Deck wins because their product is spread out over the blogosphere that is full of collectors young and old. They don’t care about the reaction because the truth is all publicity is good publicity.

    Looking forward to reading your response.

  4. I admit, Dave, I’m still trying to understand your problems with the UD situation with Mario and Chris. You bring up a good point in wondering where this will all lead — whether other blogs will end up breaking free UD boxes, etc. And I can agree that having bloggers, who might not be as honest and trustworthy as Mario and Chris, busting free boxes would be an unpleasant situation. But I also think the blog community is strong enough that those bloggers would end up suffering because of the inevitable content problems that would arise from this. I know I certainly would stop reading if I spotted anything suspicious.

    Yes, UD sponsorship does change things. I haven’t been blogging long enough to know whether it’s change for the good or bad. It’s just change.

    I certainly don’t feel jealous or stupid because I bought a box and Mario and Chris didn’t. Like the Hamiltonian said, I buy what I want to buy.

    I know I shouldn’t say never, but I think there are blogs out there that will always stay true to what you envision in a baseball card blog. I know, for example, I won’t be busting the latest and greatest for free. I’m pretty certain I won’t be sponsoring anything. That’s not because I have a problem with that. It’s just that it’s not my thing when it comes to the hobby.

  5. Dave, your baseball knowledge and excellent writing are things I visit your blog daily to enjoy. I certainly wouldn’t mind a little more baseball chatter!!! Keep up the great work!

  6. I feel the same, sadly I have reached my limit of shitty pulls from over-priced box’s. I went to the card shop Friday and walked out doing something I have never done…. I didnt open up one pack or box of cards. I barely keep any of the cards I pull, most just go to fund more box breaks. With the economy as bad as it is, you cant get a return on the cards. Oh well, at least there is still fantasy football.

  7. I will still buy packs and cheaper boxes no matter what because I use almost everything I get for various giveaways, contests, etc. Some of these breaks lets me know if it’s worth it for trading and contests… Yeah, I’m weird…

  8. To be fair about it, Chris is the undisputed Dean of card blogging and Mario has really busted his tail on his blog the past year. So if there’s two guys out there who deserve it, it’s them. Plus they are giving away most of the cards which is cool. I can understand how it would feel pretty weird seeing them get several hundred bucks worth of free product after you’ve spent a ton on the same stuff yourself though. Thanks for expressing your concerns calmly and rationally though. One of the reasons I started blogging was because I was tired of forum internet drama, and the sporadic blogger feuds that pop up make me itchy.

  9. There’s a wide range of comments here, thanks to everyone who left one…

    I agree with those who said that Chris and Mario “deserve” the boxes if anyone does. And dayf, my guess is that you’d be the next blogger that Upper Deck will make an offer to. I’ve already seen that both Chris and Mario are being more objective than I imagined that they could be after getting free products from Upper Deck – so that’s good.

    My main point, and I think that most people understood, is that it’s tough to watch people get the same stuff for free that I paid a lot of money for. It does make me not want to buy Upper Deck products anymore, but that will be hard because they have put out some really good sets recently. I stand by my my statement that if I ever get an offer of free cards from a card company, I’ll say no. I wouldn’t feel right when so many other collectors are spending their hard earned money on the same thing. And I honestly would be afraid to say anything bad about the company that sent me the free stuff.

    Finally – to Brian (bapple2286) – thank you so much for your comment! Seriously, when I get a comment like that it makes the time I spend on this blog worth it. Your blog has become one of my favorites too!

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