Upper Deck: Where Do We Go From Here?

4 02 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

It looks like I picked a perfect time to walk away from blogging about the sports cards industry. In my short time away, Upper Deck was sued by Konami for an unforgivable act, released the final 2009 products with logos in full view, and were sued by Major League Properties just days after 2010 Upper Deck Baseball Series One began to hit stores.

I haven’t had an opportunity to view any 2010 products in person but judging by scans, this year’s non-licensed U.D release looks sharper than Topps’ flagship, even without a license. On the other hand, Topps’ flagship is no slouch and although there is officially no apparent competition, they seemed to have put in quite an effort to please collectors.

I have long been a supporter of Upper Deck products because they came out of nowhere and crushed the competition in 1989. Not only that, they introduced to the hobby game-used relics and pack-inserted autographs. Although both these gimmicks are now extremely overused and dull in my eyes, their entrance into the card market forced Topps, Fleer, and Donruss to step up their game.

With that said, this counterfeiting lawsuit made me lose all respect for the current version of Upper Deck. I’ve read ‘Card Sharks’ and even had a chance to interview the author of the highly controversial and eye-opening book and something inside of me wanted to believe those acts by the Carlsbad, California company were long gone, never to appear again.

I have nothing against creative use of logos in non-licensed products. These recent Upper Deck releases (Ultimate, Stars, 2010) look better than anything produced by a non-licensed company. To me, Topps vs. Upper Deck is a war and clearly U.D wants to do everything in their power to win — even if it does bring in even more lawsuits.

However, when the word “counterfeit” enters the equation, there is just no excuse and in my eyes and thousands of collectors’ eyes, Upper Deck will not get a free pass this time around. What they have done (and were forced to settle) is despicable and sadly makes me question the authenticity of all Upper Deck products from this point on.

I’ve always wondered about how easy it would be for a company to lie to collectors. In a time of an economic downturn and with a seemingly endless supply of lawsuits being hurled their way, what’s to stop Upper Deck from using leftover memorabilia and labeling it a “Babe Ruth Game-Used Bat”, for example?

Come to think of it, what’s to stop Topps or Panini from doing the same thing? It’s this kind of negative publicity that will make collectors stop trusting the card companies and help them decide to take their money and business someplace else. If Upper Deck does survive the latest rounds of lawsuits, they owe every collector an apology.

I will admire the beauty that is 2010 Upper Deck but it comes with a bittersweet taste.


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16 responses

4 02 2010
Newspaperman

Agree, the word counterfeit definitely changes things, but there are no allegations of counterfeit in this year’s baseball … I mean interms of cards, not cut autos as has been alleged in the past. I don’t think we should mix the two lawsuits, they are separate. The baseball releases are intriguing., This lawsuit will set a precedent for our hobby. If UD wins, any company that has a license with MLBPA can release cards that have logos showing on game-action photographs. That is one of the major issues at hand here.

4 02 2010
Newspaperman

By the way, that Ramirez insert would be so much cooler if the die-cut was around the flames, ala Pacific 95/96 Flamethrowers … still a good-looking card though.

4 02 2010
threeofakindcards

Hey Mario! Glad to see that you are back! When I heard that you left I made a small attempt to fill the void that you left. There is no way I can say I succeeded, but I will say that I found a new appreciation for the hobby through blogging and I look forwarding to continuing that. I’m glad that your back man and I look forward to reading your blog again! If you could, please add a link to my blog, http://www.threeofakindcards.com
Hope all is well!
Cesar

4 02 2010
Wax Wombat

Very well said, and you are right. As collectors, we now have to be very wary of what we are getting from all of these companies (exceptions being, oddly, Just Minors and Press Pass). It will be interesting to see where this current lawsuit goes. UD seems to WANT the bad boy image.

4 02 2010
Wickedliquids

Hi Mario – I agree, and ironically, I JUST made a post about this AND referenced the same book. I collect Goodwin now, but when I buy the short prints, I buy them with extreme caution; and if I hear something fishy going on with the Goodwin run, I’ll gladly sell off my collection, at a loss, in a heart beat!

4 02 2010
jswaykos

This reminds me of Quarterback Club vs Madden in the early N64 days. QB Club was licensed and was fun enough. Madden was NOT licensed but played WAY better.

4 02 2010
jl

Mario, good to see your back, I want to give my opinion on this it’s been bottled in me to long. Collectors think that these companies give a shit about you collectors, you are all sheep. This is no longer that kiddie hobby that sucked most of us in in the 80’s and 90’s this is a business. UD has no care in the world about lawsuits, or product, this all about how much they can bleed from the collector. I see so many collectors crying about what happens after UD leaves, the same shit that happened in the 70’s real collecting but even that will be tough with the overload of Relics that are 50/50 real. Upper Deck may be the best with photography but I have always questioned the reprinting of cards and the ethics of that company. Last year when Panni did this with baseball, I knew this shit was going to happen, with logos, UD just think because they are UD they can do anything, and Ulitmate proved that.

4 02 2010
Stephen

I like finally seeing that someone else likes the UD set better than Topps but have to disagree that them being shady takes away the legitimacy of the set – who gives a shit? if the cards are nice the cards are nice – If the violated a licensing agreement that doesnt bother me – it’s baseball cards not date rape.

4 02 2010
Matthew Glidden

Nice write-up, sir. It spurred a few thoughts of my own, which I wrote up in a response and pointed back to both this column and your interview with Pete Williams.

http://number5typecollection.blogspot.com/2010/02/commentary-on-upper-deck-situation-and.html

The notion of MLB making game artifacts (cards or otherwise) an internal business is also pretty intriguing.

4 02 2010
Eric

Glad to have you back.

5 02 2010
Tim Hertzog

Welcome back Mario! The kids and I missed ya!

After what UD has pulled I’m not sure I can ever trust them again. How do we know now if that really is a game used piece and not something off of the KMART rack?

5 02 2010
themojohand

Funny we are on the same page..

http://mojobeardy.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/did-you-know/

Check It…

5 02 2010
themojohand

I don’t get it Dad what’s so special about a card having a little piece of some ones dirty shirt on it?

My Seven Year Old..

5 02 2010
RobertS.

Using my non-lawyer thinking, I have reasoned UD has a good chance to win the lawsuit against MLBP. Now, it won’t mean that anyone with a MLBPA license can make cards with logos (re: Newspaperman comment), but if you go about it through the right channels it means you should be able to manufacture a card legally with logos.

So where does UD go from here? IMHO, keep making products following the status quo of 2010 UD Series 1 and signature stars and ultimate until MLBP delivers a cease-and-desist order until the lawsuit can be ruled, or if the lawsuit has UD shaking any, they’ll have to do a little airbrushing or different photo selection until the lawsuit is ruled.

now, Mario, I want to know what you think about the manufactured logomans in 2010 topps! 😉

5 02 2010
BT

Great to have you back, Mario. You have been missed.

Maybe you can do a piece on Topps Tribute and their Babe Ruth “relic cards.”
They are being presented as game used bats, but they are actually seats from the old Yankee Stadium.
Topps was contacted about the confusion and skirted around the issue.

16 02 2010
Jay McCracken

C’mon now you are surprised that McWilliams would do anything underhanded?
Pete Williams did a great job with “Card Sharks” and by the time he had finished he knew more about UDC than I did I I was the original VP of Sales

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