The End Of An Era – My Reaction To Upper Deck’s Departure From Football Cards

Now that everything has officially been announced and commented on by Upper Deck, I want to put a little perspective on this whole situation. The reason is that there seems to be two sides of the aisle on whether or not this is good, and I think its time to go over what this truly means for the industry and for the hobby. The reason I separate the two is because of their intrinsic makeup of the people that populate each group. In the hobby, the majority of the population is collectors who would collect regardless if there is an industry or not. They just want to better their collections, and in some cases make the most money off said collections. This part will probably live on for many years to come. The industry, on the other hand, is made up of manufacturers and hobby media whose sole purpose (aside from producing the cards) is to make as much money for their company and shareholders, all while keeping the hobby happy at the same time. This part has a limited lifespan, now possibly made shorter by Upper Deck’s inability to secure an NFLP license for their cards.

Now that we are familiar with the players, its time to talk about the game.

Basically, Upper Deck’s departure from football and baseball cards now puts some people, like myself, in a pretty ginormous predicament. As we saw with the first time this news was brought up a few weeks ago, there are a lot of people who love what Upper Deck puts out every single year. Those people are now left with a void that is unlikely to be filled with cards from Panini and Topps due to any number of reasons. Because Upper Deck was the only company that focused as much on design and layout as they did on set makeup and product development, we are now entering an age where stickers and poorly conceptualized sets will reign supreme. In fact, products with on card signatures of veterans and stars just went from 5 complete sets (Philadelphia, Black, Ultimate, SPA, and Exquisite) to a big fucking goose egg. Of course, Panini will lead you to believe that their signed manupatches are on card, but they are not, and we are left with 100% stickers for the foreseeable future. Sets that feature on card rookie autographs went from 5 complete sets and 9 partial sets, to 3 partial sets if Classics still features those terrible School Colors paint pens shit and Contenders comes back with the bubbly shit. National Treasures, if everything remains as is, will be the only set that features signed memorabilia cards, and they will be 100% rookies.

I get that there are people out there who don’t care about on card sigs, or even that the industry has basically regressed to the dark ages of 2004 and 2005, but this is absolutely terrible for those of us that live for them. Even if Topps were to come back on, they bring a product slate of huge foil stickers and triple threads. How does that replace a set like SP Authentic? It doesn’t. Basically, for the collectors who care as much about the way a card looks as they do about the relics or autos, we are left with one or two sets that I could see being a viable target for purchasing singles. I have a feeling that this may shrink the base of collectors who buy current stuff more than people think.

Another factor is the outstanding redemptions from a company that needs to issue them due to said on card signatures. There are many collectors out there who have a ton, and its very plausible they may get screwed on ones that they pulled or bought. That is not a good sign for anyone, although it is still possible that they may continue to pursue athletes to sign their outstanding cards. Basically, if you have some you have been waiting on, I would start an email campaign to get them replaced while you have the chance. Although there has been little comments on this from UD themselves, its better to be safe than sorry. If you are going to purchase UD redemptions, I would definitely think twice before doing so.
Most importantly, unless Topps is reinserted into the mix, the lack of competition for an already inferior Panini brand could result in a black hole of innovation and creativity. Remember, this is a company that puts out at least 5 sets (absolute, elite, prestige, gridiron gear, and limited) that are practically the exact same as the year before. Before they at least had to compete with both Topps and Upper Deck for industry market share, but now there is not a single reason to break away from their formula. Where else are people going to go? I understand that they have tried to improve upon content with adding minor amounts of on card stuff to sets like Contenders, but in just about every case, they have failed harder than a beginner skater on a high rail. Get ready for year after year of rehashed product with little more to offer than the previous year. It was the reason I hated Triple Threads originally, and its now one of the main reasons I wont need to buy any set from the official card manufacturer of Rainbow Foilboard City.
Upper Deck may have made some awful mistakes that probably cost them the company, but they never ceased producing cards that people went ape shit over. They were so many miles ahead of anyone in mid to high end, that it made Topps and Panini look like they were working with a team of five year olds. If you compare products from Topps and Panini side by side with what Upper Deck offered in practically every god damn set, the difference in quality was unfathomable. Topps may have low end cornered with the chromes and their flagship set, but they are still gone from the market as of now. When it came to everything above the low end price point, Upper Deck won every single race by multiple lengths due to their ability to secure on card signatures and create innovative ways to get fans what they wanted. Whether it was the introduciton of crazy amounts of player inscriptions, ridiculous 1/1s, or even something as simple as social media from a manufacturer, they took it to the next level. Say what you want about their business ethics, but its hard to deny that their shit was the Bentley of the collecting world. Sadly we are left with a Chevy now.

Adding to the plight of the collectors in this hobby, I don’t think this bodes well for the industry, either. When you practically chop off one of its appendages, it puts more strain on the other ones to maintain control. Though Topps and Panini have large companies behind them, those companies just lost an advertising vehicle that brought people back to the hobby or introduced them to it for the first time. Its not unlikely that someone hooked on cards would buy from all three companies, and now that they only have one company to choose from in each sport, there will be a drop off. Plus, if recent trends continue to be status quo, the quality of the products they can choose from will be sub standard to where they were just one year ago.

Basically, if you like busy designs, stickers, and foilboard on top of foilboard on top of foilboard, this is your football golden era. Have a blast with all the crap coming down the sewage line. I havent bought a box other than Chrome or Upper Deck in almost two years, and now I will be left to existing Upper Deck products to fufill that itch. Hopefully, Panini stops using the stock backgrounds on photoshop for once and turns it around soon. Then people like me will have something to buy again. Prestige, Prestige Chrome, Classics, and also Rookies and Gridiron Limited Treasures will not keep me interested.

I sincerely believe that the industry will find a way to trudge on in the landscape post Upper Deck football, but it will not be at an elite level any more. The cards that got me going and kept me salivating are gone and in most probabilities, will never be coming back. I will have to come to terms with that fact, but I doubt it will happen unt
il one of the other companies decides to pull their head out of their ass and deliver at the level that UD did. Upper Deck may continue to produce NCAA licensed cards, but I think my feelings on Press Pass and SAGE will supercede any shot I would give those products.

People, this is the end of an era, practically 20 years in the making. Thanks for the Memories Upper Deck.

My Initial Post Was Correct – Upper Deck is OUT of Football

Upper Deck just posted on their Twitter account that they no longer able to produce football cards after not being able to come to terms with NFL Properties. This isnt just some unconfirmed rumor anymore, and I am sad to say that there will no longer be licensed Upper Deck products in football. Although they may still be able to produce NCAA cards, they will not be producing anything with NFL teams or jerseys on it. This is a HUGE loss for the hobby, the industry and everyone involved, and you can bet that things are going to change.

I will have further thoughts on this tomorrow.
Fuck me.

UD Sneaks In Under the Gun, Renews NFL License for 2010 and 2011

I had reported a couple of days ago that UD was on a short road to losing their NFL license due to payment issues. My source(s) had all echoed this as likely, mainly because of the shear amount of money that was needed did not seem to be within their means in the time it was needed. I got word today that Upper Deck was able to secure the money, and get the license renewed for both 2010 and 2011, something I am EXTREMELY happy about.

From the article written about the recent change to the licensing, it looks like the NFL was going to give out four licenses, but decided to go back to two in order to keep the “watering down” to a minimum. Although I think that is a bunch of shit and the more the merrier, at least the big two are back in it.
Topps will remain on the outside looking in, though I doubt they are too concerned considering the huge victory that was won a few weeks ago.
Personally, I am glad that Upper Deck is back in the game because it allows for the good design river to continue flowing in the right direction. As collectors have shown on the numerous threads posted on numerous boards, there will be A LOT of people who are going to be very happy about this.
With Exquisite less than a week away, and many collectors eagerly awaiting its release, this news could not be better for those of us who believe that when it comes to producing the best cards, Upper Deck is the top of the mountain.

Upper Deck Responds To Rumors Of Loss of License

Just to update the situation, Upper Deck’s twitter account has responded to my post of the rumors that their NFL license is being cancelled due to a number of reasons.

First off, let me say that I am glad that they have responded to the post. I think to have official word is better than leaving it out in the open. My post of an unconfirmed rumor may have been premature, but I feel it was necessary to inform people of the chatter I had heard. Although there is a chance that the rumor may be true, I think there is just as much of a chance that it may not be per my post.
This hobby has been in a state of flux for the last few months, and part of that was viciously swirling around Upper Deck’s future. Although I believe that Upper Deck makes the best products on the market, their state of affairs has seemed disheveled as of late. First the Konami lawsuit, then the MLBP lawsuit, the cancellation of UD draft football and the rest of the baseball calendar, and most recently, reports of a new license for Panini in the once Upper Deck exclusive sport of hockey. Its tough to ignore the problems that seem to be plaguing the company.
I sincerely hope that UD continues to be able to produce football cards, as I dont think any other company produces products with the quality that they do. Despite this fact, not everyone is happy with their recent business practices, and it has led to some venom on the side of the collectors. It has also contributed to people trying to sabotage certain programs, and I can see if this is one of those rumors that may fall under that category.
I wish UD the best of luck in maintaining their brand, hopefully it will continue to be able to be produced.

DEVELOPING STORY: Upper Deck Loses Their Football License?

Well, I have some bad news for football collectors, news that I have been expecting for a few weeks now. I got word from the peanut gallery that Upper Deck is losing their football license due to non-payment on the fees or something to that degree. Although this news is speculative at this point, and very much unconfirmed, I have a feeling we will get the news later this month or early next month. After recent troubles, speculation on lack of funds has run rampant, and this should only add fuel to the fire.

With UD possibly leaving football for the foreseeable future, it leaves an open spot for Topps to return to the fold, which may be the other side of the announcement. It may also spell the end of a company who has produced the best looking cards of anyone in the football market in the last few years. With their baseball and basketball arms all but severed, Im not sure how much longer they will be able to stay viable. Football was a profitable brand, and Exquisite is looking to be one of the best products in a long time. As this news would suggest, it’s the last product they will make in the football market, something that makes me a very sad panda.

I cant really fault anyone but the top brass over at Upper Deck, as the management of the company has been piss poor lately. Where UD had finally started to build a good reputation among people, that construction was mostly destroyed with the news of the Konami lawsuit. Though Topps may return with fan favorites like their base set and the Chromes, we are also going to have a hole where Upper Deck’s MO of great looking cards and on card sigs usually fit. Its rare that a company has as many problems as Upper Deck has had in the last few months, especially with so many of them stemming from unethical and unsound financial behavior. I guess this is the nail in the coffin.

For me, if this situation turns out to be true, im pretty much done buying current football cards unless Panini and Topps change their tendencies to match my tastes. I doubt that will happen, so that makes me feel extra cynical about the future of what I will buy in the upcoming years.

Hopefully, I am wrong.