Why Did Upper Deck Abandon Its Comeback?

In early 2013, Upper Deck shocked dealers and collectors in attendance at the Industry Summit by proudly announcing their return to the baseball card market scheduled for release later in the year. Around this time, Upper Deck had secured a deal with MLBPA to produce two baseball products with the first being Fleer Retro and later, Sweet Spot Classic. This was huge news for collectors who were growing tired of the Topps baseball card monopoly or those simply unhappy with Panini’s offerings. Some lucky Industry Summit attendees were even rewarded with random Precious Metal Gems inserts of Mike Trout (Blue, Green, and Red). There is currently one on eBay for $2,000.

In case you’re wondering, at some point before the release of this product… Upper Deck slammed on the brakes and abruptly (also without notice) made a U-turn, canceling their long-awaited return to baseball without even as much as a press release or Tweet offering an explanation as to why. Dave & Adam’s Card World still has an active Fleer Retro Baseball page with a product breakdown but as you can imagine, no available boxes for sale. All that we really know was that a box would have yielded 100 total cards, four retro inserts, and six autographs. Sadly, a Fleer Retro checklist has never been made available by Upper Deck or anyone else for the matter.

2013 Fleer Retro insert

I am really surprised that Upper Deck’s return wasn’t with one of their own homegrown products. It is well-known that in Upper Deck’s final years in baseball, they absolutely did Fleer wrong. In the opinion of a 29-year collector, Fleer’s products were consistently at the top or close to it in quality during the entire decade of the 90s but by the time Upper Deck bought the license, they churned out forgettable, lifeless products which was the exact opposite of something the once great Fleer brand was known for. It almost felt like what Vince McMahon did when he purchased his rival, WCW. This new Fleer was a total burial job but with Upper Deck now giving the iconic company its due in 2013, all was well in the hobby world or so it seemed.

Unfortunately, my connections with Upper Deck carry very little weight these days. When I contacted my longtime source to discuss this matter, I was given a very short, “No comment”. Unfortunately, it appears we may never know what caused the cancellation of Upper Deck’s return to baseball. Was it low, early presells, negative feedback, or both? We can only speculate but from what I’ve seen online, people weren’t exactly thrilled about Upper Deck baseball cards without logos. You can read some feedback from collectors on two popular card forums here and here. Of course, message boards aren’t exactly known for positivity but it does give you a good glimpse back to that time and how collectors were discussing Fleer Retro.

This year’s Industry Summit is being held on September 2019. Unfortunately, it appears Upper Deck will have no exhibit or even any of their representatives in attendance. Perhaps they have yet to register? I guess this means we won’t be getting any 9th inning heroics from the company that ruled baseball cards out of the gate in 1989 and completely changed the hobby by beating the competition to the punch with each and every new innovation. It certainly appears for the time being, 2013 Fleer Retro will remain buried treasure as Upper Deck has seemingly thrown in the towel in the fight to compete, at the very least, with Leaf and Panini America.

While there isn’t much information on Fleer Retro, there is even less available on Sweet Spot Classic. We don’t even have a single mock-up to judge for ourselves whether or not the return of Upper Deck’s Sweet Spot had any potential. There are, however, several Fleer Retro mock-ups featuring players such as Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn, Bo Jackson, and many more. Frankly, too many to post here but you can see them all on my Twitter feed by clicking HERE. If you miss Upper Deck baseball products or simply want to see another company compete for the baseball card market in 2019, make sure to let them know in my Tweets, which Upper Deck reads and comments on frequently.

 

2013 Fleer Retro insert

5 comments

  1. I miss UD baseball so much. That being said… I’m not to disappointed by this news. I like seeing logos on my cards. Hopefully one day my baseball card dreams will come true and MLB will end the monopoly.

  2. I love how Bryce Harper has Detroit on there, along with a registered trademark. Oh! And the jersey number is clearly written in. I can see why this never made it to market.

  3. I was one of the few looking forward to the Fleer Retro release back in 2013, mainly because of the 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game Release (which is arguably one of the most beautiful auto sets ever created). However, there was so much working against this set that it would have been disasterous.

    A big reason why it was scrapped was because Upper Deck couldn’t airbrush, alter, or block any mlb marks in its products as a part of its lawsuit settlement with MLB a few years back. It also couldn’t use any trade dress or club color combinations, which significantly limits the types of photos that could be used in this release (all t hat really could be used was college and high school photos).

    Upper Deck had to also receive approval from MLB for the use of baseball jerseys, pants, jackets, caps, helmets or catcher’s equipment as part of the settlement.

    Throw in some of the more forgettable Fleer designs (which were being proposed for the set), and the product couldn’t deliver the quality they expected.

    I keep hoping that someone will just buy Fleer and do something great with it that won’t be subject to MLB’s lawsuit settlement. Maybe someday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s