Dear Upper Deck,

4 02 2010

I’ve been trying to write about you and your newly released 2010 Upper Deck set for the last two days.  Every time I start to write something, it ends up sounding pompous and preachy, and I tell myself to get down off that horse and start all over again.  The nest thing I know, I’m right back on it.

Look, here’s the thing.  I’ve wanted to like you for a long time.  Ever since your début in fact.  When you started out you were a high-class (or so I thought) release that I just couldn’t afford to hang out with.  Subsequent issues came down to my level, or I adjusted mine so we could spend some time together.  I did the best I could and thought you were doing the same.

But there’s always been something there.  Something that never felt right.  Something that made me think you weren’t really in this for me, but for my money and my money alone.  Then finally a few years ago I read Card Sharks, and I realized I was right.

I think we all are familiar with those ’89 Dale Murphy reverse negatives by now.  And the ’91 french hockey ordeal, too.  And it’s not hard to find people who say you still owe them money from past contracts.  MLB says you still owe them millions.  This guy says he knows some people, too.

Truly the final straw was reading about your lawsuit with Konami.  Then after the judge finds you guilty of counterfeiting, your press release has no mea culpa, no apology, just a feeble attempt to diminish what you had done.

Then your 2010 cards are released, and, surprise, they are a big middle finger to the MLB.  And it didn’t have to be this way.  So you lost the license.  So what?  Just make a better card without those logos and team names.  Other companies have soldiered on and put out decent products without MLB’s  blessing.  There’s no reason you couldn’t have, too.

You would’ve been an underdog in the hobby world.  Most people I’ve read hint that competition is good and they hate the Topps exclusive deal.  In that case, you’d be the freedom fighter trying to put down the monopoly by producing quality cards that don’t break the law.  You could’ve been a victim.  Instead, you knew the law and chose to ignore it anyway.  And you chose to do so in a way that seems to suggest you just didn’t care.

Think about it.  You were an industry leader, not just a company that wanted its day in the sun but never fully got out of the shade.  People would have given you some benefit of the doubt when it came to your releases.  That Profiles set, for example.  It looks nice, and since it’s all profiles, there’s no way that set impedes on any agreement.  But you just had to try and get away with it, didn’t you?   It wouldn’t have been an Upper Deck release without that bold yet now misplaced swagger, I guess.

You’ve enjoyed that NHL exclusive deal for five years now.  You know the rules and you know if Topps or anyone else came anywhere near damaging that deal that you’d go after them.  So you can’t be surprised that MLB is doing the same.  And I can’t see this ending well for you, I’m sorry to say.

But I could be wrong.  You say there’s no law stopping you, and you’ll get your days in court to make your case.  And if the judge rules in your favor, the next letter I write won’t be some braggadocios piece claiming I was right all along.  I’ll accept that I was wrong and we’ll try to move on.

Because I know as long as I have money in my pocket, you’ll be happy to take me back.


Victory is mine!

15 08 2009

I’m a little impatient to get my son into collecting.  At two days away from 3, it’s clearly too early, but when we were looking at potential birthday gifts with him, I showed him a blaster of hockey cards and talked of opening it with him.  He enthusiastically shook his head up and down, so I grabbed it.  And a pack of Spongebob cards, too, just in case.  I was hoping for a 1:12 seeded sponge card.

The blaster was 2009-10 Upper Deck Victory.  It’s a set I never thought I’d collect, but now with a kid I can see the draw.  It’s cheap and relatively easy to put together.  $10 for a 66 card blaster?  I’ll bite.

When we finally got to the blaster box, my son could have cared less.  The Spongebob cards went over a little better mainly because of the sticker insert it contained.  No sponge card, though.  I can’t decide if I should get him a box of the stuff.

On to the hockey, and here’s what infuriates me about Upper Deck and why I will not miss them in the baseball world:  when it comes to hockey, Upper Deck is pretty much locked in.  I don’t like that almost every set has SPs in it, but the designs in general look nice, and, perhaps most important of all, when you open the cards, they don’t come out damaged. They release a fairly solid line of products each year.

It’s honestly the main reason I’m not to concerned about Topps exclusivity.  Upper Deck still pounds the crap out of hockey and does it very well, even with no real competition in sight.  They want to produce great cards so the NHL will stay with them and them alone.  And the NHL gets a quality product and has no reason to invite In the Game, Topps, or anyone else in the door.

The other thing I love is that it’s I don’t have 40 different sets to choose from.  Without looking, I’m guessing without adding it up there’s 12-15 releases in hockey – 2-3 low end, a bunch of mid stuff, and 2-3 high end.  I can sit in the middle and pick and choose what I want.

Or I can go low end and see what’s there.  Since you are all clamoring for Victory, here’s a look:


Did I say 66 cards?  I meant 67.  One oversized card in each blaster box.  This Ranger fan is pretty pleased that this was his. If only he didn’t have to stand on his head each game to give the Rangers a shot.  I’m not sold on the scoring for this season, either.


The base card.  Really nice looking, but I cheated by picking the best of the bunch.  The only complaint I have is the white space.  There’s too much of it.  Maybe a team logo somewhere?  And while my son wasn’t into the cards overall, he did like the shark on Setoguchi’s chest. It’s a start.


The rookies, seeded 1:2.  It’d be more kid friendly if these were just regular cards, but I guess Upper Deck figures that most parents foot the bill for their kid’s hobby, so why not fleece ’em if you can.

Hockey’s Future gives Petruzalek a B rating, which means he could crack the third line if he’s lucky.  And he’s signed a contract to play in Switzerland this year.  So much for this card paying for my son’s college.


And the backs.  My favorite thing is the pronunciation guide under the players name.  That’s mih-kigh-EHL gra-BAWV-skee to you.  Otherwise, nothing too exciting.  The head shot is lifted from the shot on the front, and there’s only room for stats from the last five seasons.  Not what I wanted from the Mats Sundin card I got.

So after not wanting anything to do with Victory releases in the past, I’m pleasantly surprised with this set.  I’m not sure if I’ll keep going with these or just trade them away and try again when my son turns four next year.  For this year, it may serve as a nice distraction for the next 48 days until opening night.

So I got me some of them ’89 Upper Deck cards

3 08 2009

One of the tougher aspects of blogging without time is that you sometimes plan out a post, upload images, and get ready to talk about the cards and then find yourself forced to be doing something else instead. Then a week later you stumble back on the images and wonder what you were going to talk about in the first place.

For example, I’ve got some 1989 Upper Deck cards that I’ve scanned and added to a post, but have no idea why I chose some of the ones I did. I know the overall idea was to celebrate the fact that my 89 Upper Deck wantlists have gone from “inquire” (meaning I needed a heckuva lot) to an actual list. That’s gotta make things easier on you generous folks, right? And if you are working on your set, then maybe we could, you know, trade or something.

Here’s a few of my more recent acquisitions in the quest for 89 Upper Deck:


So young.  So small.  He really seemed to bulk up in the later years, didn’t he?


I like the look on Darrell’s face here.  One of quiet emotion.  One of a man who went from leading the league in home runs in 1985 to struggling to top .200 and prove he still deserves a chance to play in 1988.  One who’s just been told his only option for baseball in 1989 was the then lowly Atlanta Braves.


Why did I scan “the Kip?”  I have no earthly idea.  Seems like a waste not to include it now.


This obviously would give me reason to mention Rickey’s HOF speech.  Instead I’ll mention how jealous of my brother I was back in the 80’s when he had a Rickey rookie and I didn’t.  And when I think 1981 Topps, his card is the first image that springs to mind.  That was a great looking card.


If you don’t have a Dale Murphy reverse negative card, you can write a letter to Richard McWilliam and he may print one up for you.  And if you haven’t read the book Card Sharks, you probably should.  The chapter on Bob Eubanks is classic.


Two cards that show players at the height of exertion.  I had no idea Yount was so ripped.  Yount is also the answer to the trivia question “Who is the first player elected to the hall in a Brewer’s uniform?”  If you win a free drink with that, poor a little out for me.


And finally, one of my favorites of the whole set, Orlando Mercado.  A man so busy playing 18 games in 1988 that Upper Deck only had one shot to capture his image on film, so they had two photographers snap two different angle shots of him at the same time.  Or perhaps they got a wax statue of the guy instead.  Wikipedia says Mercado, “became a local star for his play in the Portland Beavers Triple-A franchise in the late 1980s,”  but doesn’t back that claim up.  Anyone know why?

So there you have a few too many ’89 Upper Deck cards.  If you need a few more, send me your wantlists and I’ll be happy to look.

2009/10 Upper Deck hockey preview

26 07 2009

Yeah, I know I’m late with this, but I misread something that caused the delay.  I’m not sure Upper Deck even goes through the charade of releasing preview images because I could have told you what the base set would look like back in February.  It’ll be this:


Only with a hockey player on it.

The only thing about the preview images that excited me was this:


I mistakenly read that as “Young Guns” and thought that Upper Deck was greatly altering the design of the short printed rookie card subset in relation to the base set.  I was ready to review the whole base card-Young Gun relationship from year’s past because I was pretty sure it’d be the first radical design change for the Young Guns cards in Upper Deck’s history.

Of course, that says Top Guns.  So I’m glad I didn’t ever get the free time to waste on pointless research.

These are new, though:


Upper Deck goes all oversized on the one color jersey swatches and makes them case hits.  Uh, yea?  Also in the one-a-case department are the “Clearly Canadian Die-cut acetate cards,” which I believe is the first insert set sponsored by another company.  Okay, that’s not true, but what is true is my love of acetate cards, so I wouldn’t be sad if I pulled one.  I’m not going out of my way for them.  Other case hits includes Signature Sensations and the lamest of all, short prints of the All-World Team insert set, making master sets all the more expensive to chase.  Lamest.  Idea.  Ever.

I feel like I’ve talked about this too much already.  It’s pretty much the standard setup for Upper Deck hockey series 1.  And it should hit the streets in November at around 60-65 a box.

Another cry for help: 2008/09 Upper Deck McDonalds hockey

17 07 2009

I’m looking for this card…


2008-09 McDonald's #1 - Ryan Getzlaf

…only without the jagged teeth marks at the top.  Apparently, I’ve already got one with them.


Trading with Tunguska

1 07 2009

Is it really a trade when you haven’t sent anything back yet?  I’d forgotten all about working things out with Tunguska until a package of cards landed in my box.  Luckily I still had some cards I pulled for him aside and a brand new wantlist was enclosed in the box to boot.  Now when things return to some normalcy around here, I’ll have plenty to do.

To show how life continues to invade my collecting world, this box arrived mid week last week and I finally had a few moments to look at it today.  So to celebrate the opening of the NHL free agency signings, I got a crapload of cards for my 2008/09 OPC set.  Hoorah!


There are few visually interesting cards in this set, but the grimace on Sundin’s face helps qualify this one.  Mats will always be known as a Maple Leaf even after last years half season with Vancouver.  No word yet on if Mats will retire or come back for one more run.


Probably the only reason that Gaborik hasn’t signed anywhere today is injuries.  He’s averaged a little over 50 games a season over the last four years and played only 17 games in the 2008-09 season.   I guess you could say he’s well rested and ready to sign.  Rumors put everyone in New York, but the Rangers may be forced to take the risk without a clear goal scorer on their roster right now.


By far one of the uglier cards I got, only because Upper Deck chose to list Tucker with the Avs while leaving him in the Maple Leafs jersey.  I’m wondering after his off year last year if Avs fans would have rather seen him stay in Toronto, too.


Another frankencard, this time Erik Cole.  He resigned today with the Hurricanes, the only team he seems to want to play for.


Zherdev’s a guy who’s full of potential, but doesn’t seem to know how to use it.  He started out well, but really tailed off as the season went and ended up scoreless in the 7 game loss to the Capitals.  Not sure if he’s back next year or not, but I know the Rangers made an offer.  There’s rumors he’s off to Russia to play next year.


And finally, Upper Deck has no color pictures of Lanny McDonald?  Really?

As I was finishing this up, rumor came out that Gaborik wants $75 million over 10 years.  Yikes.  I just can’t see that happening, so it probably will sometime soon.

Thanks Tunguska.  I’ll be working on more cards for you soon.

*UPDATED*  Not really, but who knew Tunguska had his own theme song?

2009/10 OPC hockey preview

22 06 2009

There’s actually four hockey releases already announced for the 2009/10 season out there already, I’ve just been lax in bringing them to you.  So I figured I’d start off with my favorite looking of the bunch and a set I will probably struggle to collect once again – 2009/10 OPC Hockey.

Included again this year is a “Retro variation” that falls one per pack, a concept I thought dead thanks to Topps’ downer of a lawsuit.  I think I took more trade requests for my 79-80 OPC parallels then any other card type from last year.  I understand that Topp’s had to protect their creative property and all, it’s just too bad they couldn’t find a solution that didn’t ruin all the fun.


These base cards are bounds and leaps ahead of last year’s design.  Once again, there’s 500 of these, to go along with


the 100 card short prints, seeded 1:2 packs.  These look really good, too.

In fact, looking over the sell sheet, there’s only one real difference between this year’s and last year’s offering.  Last year there was one auto and four triple relics per case.  This year, it’s two autos and three quad relics per case. Other wise, it’s still 36 retro variations, a box hit (last year it was the Winter Classic, this year it Canadian hockey greats), the 18 short prints, 9 gold parallels, 1-2 retro parallels, and the 9 “OPC” inserts (trophies, team checklists, league leaders, and season highlights, I believe).

So what’s too keep me from rushing out and preordering right now?  This, lifted word for word from last year’s review:

Boxes are 36 packs a box, 6 cards a pack. One of those cards a pack is a “variation” card (more in a moment). That’s 5 cards. There are 20 other inserts scheduled a box, leaving you with 160 of the 500 regular base cards. The last 100 cards of the set come 1 every other pack.  You get 18 of those, so your total base card haul from OPC will be… 132 cards. Boxes sell for around $50, so that’s 200 dollars to hand collate a set, providing perfect collation.

Upper Deck’s done nothing to make this set any easier to collect. Last year my anger turned to accepting complacence in dealing with Upper Deck. With a nice looking base card, I may just bite the bullet and do this whole thing all over again.