Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Biggest bust/improvement: Upper Deck

Almost a year ago, I compared all of the Topps base sets, from 1952 on, and wondered which sets were the "biggest busts" or "biggest improvements" when compared with the set that they followed.

I received a lot of feedback on that post, which led to a poll, which led to me procrastinating for about five months, which led to the final results.

During that whole saga, I threatened to do the same thing for the other card manufacturers, so I can then start a poll, procrastinate and finally -- dear lord what is he DOING back there -- spit out the final results.

Well, tonight's your lucky night. It's Upper Deck's turn.

Comparing the looks of past Upper Deck sets is a bit odd, because Upper Deck has never been about the design on the front. It's almost always been about the photo. But if you take a moment to look, there is a bit of a design on every set, or otherwise you wouldn't be able to tell one year from the next.

The sameness of sets is still a problem with UD, but I think we can get past that for this exercise.

For me, the best-looking Upper Deck set, by a trillion miles, is 1993. Nothing else comes close. Best photos, everything. Therefore, the biggest improvement is 1992 to 1993, and the biggest bust is 1993 to 1994.

But I'm way biased.

Other UD sets that I like are 1995, 2006 and 2008 (which is almost identical to '95). Upper Deck sets that are not favorites are '91, '99 and '07.

But I'm letting you decide here.

I'm going to leave this post up at the top of the blog for 24 hours or so, partly so you can leave a comment on what you believe is UD's biggest bust and biggest improvement, and partly because I'm not going to get a chance to post anything else until the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Once I receive enough comments, I'll put a poll on the sidebar, so people can vote on the choices.

But first a look at a representative card from each year of the Upper Deck base set, to make your choosing less brain-intensive:























Sorry about all the Dodgers from earlier this century. I wasn't collecting then, so all of my cards from those years are post-period Dodger pickups.

Remember, I'm looking for what you think is the biggest bust from year-to-year (i.e. 1996 sucked after 1995), and the biggest improvement from year-to-year (i.e. 2008 was way better than 2007).

I've added a feature on the sidebar linking to the biggest bust/biggest improvement for each of the card companies, as I plan to do this for Fleer, Donruss, etc., too.

So, I'll shut up for awhile now. It's time to comment. ...


  1. It's funny I was just putting together my Brewers Upper Deck Team set the other night mainly 89 through 99 and I have to say the 1999 set just blew me away. It just seems like something you'd find in a more premium set not a flagship release. I didn't collect much Upper Deck in the late 90's or early 2000's so it's interesting to look at them all side by side. So I'm going to say 1999 great 2000 not so great.

  2. I loved 1994 when it came out because it was a huge change from the previous offerings of UD. I was also a big fan of 2002 UD, for some reason. I think 1990 was a big bust, considering how huge 1989 was when it came out, 1990 looked like almost a carbon copy...

  3. biggest step down: 1989 > 1990
    biggest step up: 1994 > 1995

    1995 was a spectacular year for all four sports of Upper Deck as far as appearance across all four sports goes.

  4. 1993 Upper Deck is the best set they ever did and 1994 set is complete garbage all around. They even effed up the card stock. 1995 is another pretty nice looking set so I'll go:

    Biggest improvement - 1994 to 1995
    Biggest flustercluck - 1993 to 1994

  5. I love the 1991 set so much I'm trying to get it autographed. It was a tossup though with the 1989 set but I found that a majority of the photos in the 1989 set to be too dark for autographs. 1990 was boooorriing.

    I flat out hate the 2000 design. Hate everything about it.

    Biggest improvement 1990 to 1991
    Biggest bust 1999 to 2000

  6. Even though I missed it by eight years, I like 2003. I'm a big fan of team logos on the fronts of cards. 2002 plain stinks so I'll go ahead and be the odd man out:

    Biggest improvement- 2002>2003
    Biggest bust- 1995>2001 (everything in between is very forgettable)

    UD did great things in their first five sets and were pretty hit or miss until 2006. After that the designs are fairly decent until the end.

  7. 1993 is among the best looking sets ever made.

    Best improvement, 2007 to 2008.
    '07 looks like '92 Donruss turned on its side...
    '08 is almost the perfect card design, only thing that would make it perfect is removing the UD logo.

    Worst is from '97 to '98.
    '97 had some nice pictures. I prefer minimal borders, but if you must have one, like the wood grain, I prefer it doesn't block the photo at all.
    Then '98 is gaudy. lower case first name UPPER CASE last name... why? The UD logo is obtrusive as is that huge team name that covers the photo. A card should try never to have the design detract from the photo. '98 screams for my attention at every corner.

  8. 2008 is the best...

    worst could be either '96, 97, 98...

  9. and why are the skin tones so off in '93?? Everyone looks like they have carbon monoxide poisoning...

  10. I'm stoked you got around to this - I'd forgotten I was patiently waiting for it :)

    I agree 1990 is a big bust - though I think the Reggie auto makes that only true for the SET, not the PRODUCT.

    I really liked the 1994 set when it came out - though dayf is right, they screwed up the cardstock, the stuff was peeling on the edges. Particularly on electric diamonds. 1993 and 1995 are their best sets once I get past the aura of 1989, but since I liked 1992 and 1994, I can't vote for either. I think 1998 is awful.

    Biggest Bust - 1998
    Biggest Improvement - 1989, taking the easy way out, but it sure was better than 1988's UD set!

  11. 1993 was good, but it wasn't full bleed. 1995, 2006, and 2008 are definitely my favorites, and as far as sets with actual design to them, '04 is great. 1999 is my least favorite, because there's so much going on, and the photo feels confined in those compressing borders.

  12. Love the 93 set and will also agree with dayf.

    Oh, and IMO 89, 90, and 91 are so similar to each other that the 92 set was a welcome change. 96 and 97 are also real similar.

  13. I agree, 1993 is a great set. The '92's I'm not crazy about. The '91's are pretty good. From '95 on, all the sets look similar to me, so I am not a fan of those sets.

  14. I'm going to say biggest step up was 94 to 95. Biggest step down is 99 to 00.

    I didn't like 2010 at all but I'm not counting it in this.

  15. Biggest improvement for me was going from 2002 to 2003. Biggest bust was 1998 after 1997