Monday, March 15, 2010

My olive branch to Upper Deck

Upper Deck and I have never been best buds. We don't see things eye-to-eye.

I come from a different place than Upper Deck or many of the collectors who have blogs. By the time UD arrived on the scene, I had been collecting for 15 years. I had established an allegiance with Topps, as had just about every collector who started in the hobby before 1980. Meanwhile, I held grudging respect for interlopers Fleer and Donruss.

But when Score and Upper Deck appeared, my attention was elsewhere. It certainly wasn't on cards. Early Upper Deck might have been innovative, but when you're 23 years old, it's difficult to get fired up over a tiny hologram on the back of a card.

Except for a March-to-September romance with 1993 Upper Deck, the company just didn't do it for me. Shortly after '93, no cards did it for me and I stopped collecting for a decade. While collectors raved over SP and die-cuts and the rise of relics, I didn't even know it was happening. Didn't care.

By the time I returned to collecting current sets four years ago, Upper Deck was running on fumes, living off its '90s achievements. The sameness of sets from year-to-year held no appeal for me. UD was good at high-end, but I didn't collect high-end because I couldn't afford it and it didn't fit in with my interests as a collector.

But now, thanks to a lawsuit settlement, Upper Deck is in a situation where it can not produce a baseball card set with logos or team names or team colors or anything connected with MLB.

There has been understandable lamenting from those who enjoyed UD over the years.

I have tried to work up some tears as well, but no matter how much I try, the tears won't come. I know that lack of competition is not good in the long run. I know that. But as someone who doesn't care about high-end sets, didn't collect Upper Deck in its heyday, doesn't prefer Upper Deck to Topps, and doesn't care much about UD's off-shoot sets like Goudey, expressing outrage for me, would be totally fake. It would not be true to my feelings. It would be disingenuous.

Fortunately, along came Ethan Orlinsky.

He's the guy from MLB Properties who uttered the now famous statement regarding MLB's settlement of the lawsuit against UD:

"The real winners today are the millions of fans who collect baseball cards. They will be able to clearly identify official Major League Baseball trading cards without any confusion."

I love condescension, don't you?

Orlinsky is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for MLB Properties. He's also a lawyer, which automatically makes me suspicious of anything he says.

From the very little I've read, Orlinsky is a rabid baseball fan. He was working for a law firm in London when a legal position became open in MLB properties and he jumped at the chance. Since that time, over 15 years ago, Orlinsky has become a major player in MLB operations. MLB relies on him quite heavily in many areas.

But don't ask me to get into the details about everything that he does. After all, I'm just a collector. I get confused by all of that behind-the-scenes mumbo jumbo. In fact, I don't even know the difference between an MLB-licensed card and an unlicensed card. I'm a mere cardboard-eating idiot.

The emasculation of Upper Deck couldn't get me fired up. But Orlinsky's statement could.

Now, I'm really not the confrontational type.

Thorzul called on folks to send their 2010 Upper Deck cards to Orlinsky. I didn't send any. I'd rather keep the few 2010 UD cards I have or send them to collectors who want them.

But I am doing something. It's a very small gesture. It will have no impact on anything. But it means something to me.

Whenever I find myself in Target or Wal-Mart or any place that sells cards, and I wander over to the card aisle, I make sure to do one thing each and every time.

I buy at least one pack of Upper Deck cards.

Right now, the UD pack I buy is last year's O-Pee-Chee set. I enjoy the set, even if I am severely conflicted over it. It reminds me of the days when I collected as a kid, and I am half thinking about completing it.

The OPC cards are certainly available. I see them everywhere. Apparently it wasn't that popular. I guess folks are fixated on glossiness and foil. But for as long as it is available, I will be buying a pack, every single time I walk in the store.

I have done this since news of the settlement, and I will do it for as long as UD is around in stores. When OPC is gone, I'll go for the 2010 base set or maybe a repack featuring 2007 Upper Deck. Ugh. Yes, I will sacrifice.

Remember, I don't really care for Upper Deck. In the past, unless it was a set like OPC or Timeline that I liked, I would completely ignore UD in the card aisle, because there was tons of other stuff that I preferred much more. But I want to make a statement, even if I'm the only one who knows what I'm doing.

Spending an extra 3 dollars on one UD pack might not be much of a gesture, but it's what I feel comfortable doing. And it's a tangible argument in favor of competition and against condescending PR releases.

It won't do much to offset Upper Deck's monstrous legal bills, but I'm not looking to bail out UD. They got themselves into this mess. A couple bucks at a time is all I'm willing to spare.

Do I recommend you do the same?

Nah. You do what you want. You're a collector. You have a mind of your own, no matter what MLB says.


  1. I have some Upper Deck factory sets in the closet, but that's the extent of my Upper Deck collection (except for some Giants cards people have sent me). I'm a Topps guy who will also occasionally buy Fleer, Donruss, and Score. Upper Deck just doesn't do it for me.

  2. nice.

    and as far as the OPC set goes, I love it. I agree with a lot of your reservations, but like it anyways. Besides, when was the last time there was a perfect baseball set? '76? '75? Ever?

  3. You always have an eloquent way with words in a down to earth style.I still buy UD cards also because,as you said, I am a collector.I think there should be more licenses but what do I know.I'm just part of the collector group who buys the product!

  4. enjoyed reading this post. good to see someone shares my feelings.

  5. I go the other way. I think Topps should make Topps base Brand, Bowman, Chrome, A Allen Ginter set and Maybe one more but that is it. I think the "confusion" part was there were so many manufacturers and so many sets that the cards are practically worthless.

    You have the Abe Lincoln variations in 2010 Topps and the are the talk of the town. More people will remember these cards and 10 years down the line they may actually be collectable and worth some things.

    I started collecting in 1972. I remember everyone was looking for a Vic Davillo which came out in the last series.

    From the 1980s, I remember how hot Fleer 1981 Valenzuela was or the 1982 Donruss Mike Schmidt wearing number 37 or 1984 Fleer Glenn Hubbard or 1984 Topps Dwight Gooden (though you had to buy the set)or 1987 Topps Mark McGwire and his 1985 card also. Worthwhile memories

  6. Excellent post. I agree, it's not an issue of UD going bust (as it were), but about how MLB went about it. I like UD - it's not my favorite brand (hello ITG), but it's not my least favorite (Panini, I'm looking at you!).

  7. Girls were the reason I got out of collecting when I was 16 (1993) and Upper Deck was the reason I stayed out of the hobby until my return in 2000. I blame them for the serial-numbered, patch/jersey/bat auto cards and the high prices of packs that followed. They turned wax packs into foil backs, and cardboard stock into high gloss stock. I hate these things!

    But I don't hate UD, really. I liked their very early ventures into the hobby (89-92). In fact, I liked all the brands of the early 90s. So much variety and each brought their own special thing to the hobby.

    This reply is going nowhere, but I do want to say this:

    Bring back variety!

    Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Upper Deck, Sportflix, Classic and Bowman. Bring back the update/traded sets that were only available in set form. Bring back non-glossy cardboard stock. Bring back the Rated Rookie, Diamond Kings, and puzzle pieces.

    One last thing...why doesn't a company like Topps produce it's base set of 792 cards and distribute it through two different pack types: One that only includes cards from the base set and one that contains base cards AND insets/relics/autos. The base wax would be obviously cheaper while the higher end would cost a few bucks more. Wouldn't this satisfy the average collector and the high end collector?

  8. This is a movement I can get behind.

    I can't say I fully understood the Thorzul movement. I understand and approve the motivation, but sending UD cards is sending the wrong message to me. It seems to be playing into their hands by giving them back the cards they don't want us to have.

    I'm still planning on buying Upper Deck if I like the cards - license isn't an issue. The more I see the OPC, the better they look, but I can't buy any more 2010 base set. That design is too horrendous for me.

    Great post. Captivating as always.