2008/09 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Hobby Box break, packs 5-8

19 12 2008

Now that we’ve examined Upper Deck’s hockey card philosophy, let’s take a look at more of their cards.

Pack 5

15 Pavel Kubina
30 Erik Johnson
79 Brendan Witt
HH7 Hockey Heroes Sidney Crosby

08-09udcrosbyhockeyheroes

170 Dion Phaneuf
192 Erik Christensen
160 Duncan Keith
153 Jordan Leopold

I’m trying not to be catty in light of the last post, but apparently another innovation from the hockey industry flag bearer is to recycle old insert sets.  Nothing against Sid the Kid, but how about doing something to get us more excited about his future rather than trying to cast his lot with the past?

Pack 6

86 John Madden
49 Peter Mueller
42 Sidney Crosby

08-09crosby

HH6 Hockey Heroes Sidney Crosby
173 Adrian Aucoin
178 Jaroslav Spacek
162 Eric Staal
180 Phil Kessel

A nice looking Crosby base card, and the first Ranger sighting of the box, I believe.

Pack 7

89 Shea Weber
18 Tomas Kaberle
17 Alexander Steen

08-09udsteen

50 Ilya Bryzgalov
165 Rod Brind’amour
172 Corey Sarich
193 Ryan Getzlaf
HT10 Dany Heatly Hat Trick Heroes

Seriously, an all horizontal hockey set would be the awesome. Steen was a hyped rookie coming into the league, but has settled into a role as a two way player more than star scorer. He’s since been traded to the Blues, where’s he’s a third line center.

Pack 8

45 Tyler Kennedy
90 David Legwand
48 Petr Sykora
210 Mark Fistric Young Gun
161 Robert Lang
102 Mikko Koivu
190 Colby Armstrong
169 Jerome Iginla

08-09iginla

Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla (I kid you not) would be a household name if he didn’t play north of the border and on the west coast. He’s a two time 50 goal scorer, a Lester Pearson award winner, and has been hailed by many as the best player in the game. And how many times will he be on Versus’ hockey coverage? None. Way to showcase talent, guys.

The box so far:

Base: 56 out of 200 (28%)
Young Guns (1:6): 3 out of 50 (.06%) – Bogosian, Sbisa
Captains Calling (1:24): 1 – Brendan Morrow
Hat Trick Heroes (1:12): 2 – Joe Sakic, Dany Heatley
Hockey Heroes (1:12): 2 – Sidney Crosby x2





Upper Deck’s hockey hobby insight

19 12 2008

Every now and then, I buy a copy of Beckett’s magazine. And while at the local hobby shop purchasing supplies to send out more packages, I saw the December hockey issue on top of their sale stack, so I grabbed it, paid for it, and left wondering where I’d seen the cover before.

Inside is an article about whether Upper Deck’s exclusivity is good for the hobby.  For those that aren’t hockey hobby followers, UD has an exclusive contract with the NHLPA and that makes them the only game in town when it comes to current player releases.  Opinions on this vary, and you can quickly discover this by posting a question on any number of message boards that exist out there.

I was hoping for analysis like, “Before Upper Deck became the sole provider for the industry, sales of cards were at x levels, y was the average price for a box of cards, and z amount of collectors were involved. Now it’s a, b, and c.” But it took only a few paragraphs to realize it was the same article savaged here by Chemgod at Bad Wax, and that instead of data and insider thoughts I’d be getting quotes from the Beckett message boards and Upper Deck justifying it’s golden goose.

Here’s the part that stuck out for me, though.  It’s a quote from Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s hobby marketing manager:

…Upper Deck realizes the key driver for NHL card sales each year is the rookie class.  Given rules on when a rookie can skate, Upper Deck has successfully managed the rookies for NHL by cutting off the use of rookies so there are enough carry-over rookies each year to make early season releases interesting to collectors.  If there were other licensees in the market, it is likely this would be disrupted and would ultimately lead to less rookie value in most releases.

First off, when I was still collecting cards back in 1989 I could have told you that rookie cards are one of the key drivers for hockey card sales. I’m glad Upper Deck has taken this twenty year old idea and done little to try and change that. But it’s why the rookie cards are the main drivers in the hockey hobby that made me pause upon reading this: Upper Deck short prints them.

Rookie cards are the drivers of the hobby now because they are rarer then the rest of the cards released. Be they short printed in the base set, numbered to 1999 with an autograph on them, or numbered to 99 and encased with a vial of the player’s sweat, the reason these cards are sought after is because there aren’t enough to go around. Five years later, cards of guys who skated a lap around the rink during a shift and never saw NHL ice again are still selling for more than the base cards because us set collectors need them to fill a hole. That’s why they drive the hobby.

Secondly, there’s the idea that other companies would dilute the value by releasing rookies before Upper Deck was ready to try and capitalize on them. The nerve of a company in competition to try and get there first. And what would the outcome be? More choices, less demand for Upper Deck’s version, and yes, a slightly softer rookie market. But the other end result? Creativity. Upper Deck would have to find something else to keep people interested in their cards other than a quick and easy “mark it /199 and call it a day” attitude they seem to have now.

I’m not going to argue that we should return in the late ’90s era which saw a new set released for almost every day of the season. But Upper Deck’s hockey sales are good because they are the only game in town. Yes rookie cards drive the hobby and their cost is inflated, but popping that bubble and forcing new and exciting innovations to the hobby wouldn’t be a bad thing as Carlin seems to imply. Anyone can short print a rookie. Upper Deck would have to find a new lure for customers other than a contract that collectors had no say in.

So what’s my crazy idea? How about contracts to Upper Deck, Topps, and In the Game. Limit them each to seven releases a year, and see where a competitive market would go. That would be the same number of hockey releases for the 07/08 season produced by Upper Deck.

If Topps wants to put out seven low end sets, good for them. Seven Cup clones from In the Game? That’s fine, too. But force the companies to actually work in the market to find what collectors want rather then leaning on the crutch of the serial numbered rookie.

And for those worried that this would bring a tragic end to all things hockey card, limit the contract to a year or two. Reevaluate at the end of it. Use actual data that Beckett’s article skips out on. And if there is a crash, then we all know one company in charge is actually a good thing, and order can be restored.

If Upper Deck is so confident that they are the industry leader, they shouldn’t be worried about a few competitors with them on the ice. If anything, it will give them a chance to prove their true worth.