Upper Deck: Where Do We Go From Here?

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.

Will you be buying ’09 O-Pee-Chee?

In case you’ve been living under Beckett’s rock, you likely already know about the return of O-Pee-Chee baseball and the lawsuit between Topps & Upper Deck over it. Last week I got a first-hand look at the Series Two O-Pee-Chee preview cards and I must say that I am incredible impressed.

Yes, it’s a “borrowed” design & yet another retro-themed product but from the details available, this is going to be a set-builder’s product all the way. For starters, boxes won’t yield automatic “hits”. In fact, there are just two autographs and four relics per case in 2009 O-Pee-Chee.

There are 500 cards in the set with a whopping 100 of them being short-printed and from my conversation with Upper Deck about O-Pee-Chee, it appears that this product will have a major supply located in retail outlets.

Could a cheap price point, major retail appearance, and a classy, old school design be enough to make OPC baseball a major success? Or is this just one more example of a card company forcing nostalgia down our throats?

O-Pee-Chee is expected to be released in June.

click here to see the card back

Can Upper Deck survive Topps’ lawsuit?

While I am not anything close to an “insider” when it comes to The Hobby, one has to wonder just how much the Upper Deck Company can handle during these already uncertain times.

Not only did they lose their most valuable asset (Yu-Gi-Oh), but in the last few months their new releases have not exactly been a huge success (Spectrum, A Piece of History, SPx).

When I first caught glimpse of the O-Pee-Chee inserts in 2009 Upper Deck I knew some collectors would not be pleased. What I did not know at the time is that Upper Deck owns the rights to O-Pee-Chee and is entitled to produce what they want. Isn’t that the whole point of owning a brand?

My personal opinion is that these cards look fantastic and while the tactic involved is a little underhanded, one would think it is perfectly legal. Still, using the O-Pee-Chee brand as an entire upcoming release might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Topps.

Seriously though, is this any worse than Upper Deck Vintage?


Upper Deck Scores Legal Victory Against Topps

Sports Card Company Firmly Denies Topps’ Allegations of Any Wrong-Doing

The Upper Deck Company won a legal victory today when a New York judge denied a Temporary Restraining Order sought by Topps to prevent the release of 2009 Upper Deck Series Two and 2009 O-Pee-Chee baseball card products.

Yesterday, the Topps Company filed a lawsuit against Upper Deck claiming copyright infringement. Upper Deck strongly denies the allegations and did, in fact, do its due diligence when researching, clearing and securing approvals to use the card designs. Upper Deck received necessary legal approvals and proper protocol was followed to ensure there were no infringements.

“Based on the tactics utilized by Topps thus far, Upper Deck questions the validity of this claim,” said Bernd Becker, Upper Deck’s vice president of Trading Cards. “We strongly disagree with the allegations. In today’s challenging economic environment, it seems petty and counterproductive to file such a frivolous suit.”