For the time that I have been a collector in this hobby, I have always loved two sets above all others because of their consistent success despite longevity. The first set is obviously Topps Chrome, and the second was SP Authentic. Both brands have not only delivered year after year, but they have stood the test of time as the products with some of the most loyal followings in the business. When Upper Deck lost their NFL license, I thought that 2010 would be my last year following SP Authentic. Instead, the Patch Auto design for the cards continued to be amazing, and I was sucked in for another year.
After seeing the way the cards look this year, I have to say the allure of the cards is gone. Aside from the fact that it is close to impossible for me to get excited to purchase cards of players that are not in NFL uniforms, the design for the rookie patch autos has dropped to an all-time low. I get the idea that UD was trying to drum up a retro looking feel to the set, but in all reality, I do not think they succeeded at all, especially in the non-photograph part of the card. The borders, fonts and window all look very well below the normal standard that SP Authentic normally presents. I get a feeling as if UD is really feeling the budget squeeze, and the design team isn’t at the same level they once were.
Here are some of the cards posted so far:
When considering the product’s hits 2005-2009, it was unlikely that any set at SPA’s price point could compete. 100% on card autographs, amazing and understated designs, and a continued presence in the marketplace all contributed to overwhelming success that I looked forward to each year. I bought cards of every single player I collected, and I probably would continue in 2011 if the cards met the execution from previous years. Upper Deck will claim that the swatch window is bigger, so the cards are better, but this means little to me when the swatches are not game used.
Not everything presents a terrible situation in 2011 SPA, however. I absolutely love the look of the SPX jumbo jersey autographs, as they remind me of cards from years past that have always signaled a premium brand for the product. Not only do the cards look cool, but they play on the nostalgic connections that many collectors have to years of SPX as an Upper Deck staple.
Although the cards look good, I think it is a “sign of the times” that Upper Deck is being forced into this type of distribution plan for one of the products that has been on their calendar for over a decade. They also included the SP Rookie Threads jersey autos into the product as an added value, but it just screams desperation to me that these cards are not existing as their own product.
Overall, I fail to assign relevance to Upper Deck until they are able to re-enter the NFL market, because I cannot identify success with a company that cannot capitalize on the performance of the rookies during the games they play from this point forward. That’s my personal opinion, and from what we have seen with the rollout of this product, others feel the same way.