SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Upper Deck Football

Today marks a sad day, as this will be the last licensed version of Upper Deck football to be produced. That’s not saying it wont continue in some way in thew future, but for right now, this is it. I remember back in 1991 trying to rip through Upper Deck packs with my allowance to pull the triple exposure Joe Montana card, and every year since then, I have always cracked a few packs of the product. Now that the cards are live, its very bittersweet.

Here are some of the cards already listed so far:

2015 Upper Deck Jameis Winston Letter Auto

2015 Upper Deck Jameis Winston Die Cut Auto

2015 Upper Deck Marcus Mariota RC Auto

2015 Upper Deck Hines Ward Die Cut Auto

The main thing that Upper Deck has always done well is the photography for the set. Their photo choice has always been nothing short of dynamic, and this year is no different. Each card has a cooler photo than the next, and as a connoisseur of fine game shots, this product is always a treat. Although I dont think this is as strong a look as it was in 2014, the base still looks pretty good.

Here is what I dont really get, in regards to the use of stickers instead of going for hard signed autographs over the product. With Inscriptions being as awesome as it was, I would have really liked to have seen UD go all out for this set and get the autographs on card. Also considering that the autographs can literally be obtained the MOMENT the prospects sign with an agent, why not have every card done ahead of time so that no stickers are even needed?

There are hard signed cards in the product in the signed letters and a few other cards, and it goes to show that the opportunity was there. My favorite cards in the whole product are the SP Authentics on card autos, which were incredible last year too. These are retro themed inserts, and they strike all the right notes in all the right ways. Some of the better pre-draft cards that exist, even more so than some of the ones from Inscriptions.

Im not a fan of signed swatches in any way. The ink bleeds, and the cards rarely look good. This year is no different, even though the letters are a bit larger in thickness. I wish that they had taken a page from basketball, and layered the cards with acetate, so collectors can still try to spell out all the weird shit they love, and you dont have to deal with all the issues from signing so small on little pieces of fabric. They have also had rookies sign the side of the card too, either works better.

Overall, I still wish Upper Deck had their NFL license. I still wish Panini hadnt bullied their way into a CLC (NCAA) exclusive to take over what UD has built over the last few years. UD still makes great looking cards, and this is a shame we cant have them in the licensed market in some fashion.

Upper Deck Scores Major Win With Long Term Deal for Michael Jordan

Over the last few years, Upper Deck has done pretty well creating products under their exclusive for the NCAA. Since 2010, most of their success in basketball has been tied to one of two things – the first is their brand names, which are the best in sports, and the second is their long standing exclusive deal with Michael Jordan. Even though Panini has held the exclusive in the NBA for years, they cannot reach their full potential without the biggest name in all of Sports Cards.

Here is what Michael Jordan is capable of:

2009-10 Exquisite Michael Jordan Auto Patch /15

2005-06 Exquisite Michael Jordan Auto Dual Patch /23

2006-07 Exquisite Michael Jordan Auto Patch

2007- 08 UD Black Michael Jordan NBA 50 Greatest Auto

It doesnt stop with cards, as UD Authentic can still sell Bulls Jerseys and other licensed gear:

UD Authentic Michael Jordan Signed Jersey

UD Authentic Michael Jordan Signed Game Used Floor Piece

The Industry Summit has a deserved reputation as a colossal waste of time, but Upper Deck did make the most of it this time around. Today, they announced that they have managed to complete a new long term deal with Michael Jordan, something that I was personally shocked to see. Rumors had been flying around that Jordan hated signing autographs, and that he was ready to put down the pen and not sign for anyone any longer. Now that Upper Deck has found a way to keep him around, what does that mean now that Panini has taken away their exclusive?

Upper Deck has overused Jordan in recent years, mainly because he was worth so much to the success of their products. Coupling Jordan with their concurrent exclusive deal with Lebron James, and using them ad nauseum in their products is going to be a winning formula, especially considering how enormously unsuccessful Panini has been in cultivating brands of their own in the basketball space compared to UD.

Now that Jordan is back in the mix with autograph content, Im curious if this is a way to get the fish back on the hook in a potential sale of the company and its assets to Panini. Right now, Panini has only managed a few marginally profitable years in their run as the exclusive NBAlicensed trading card company, and it has a lot to do with collectors choosing to stick with Upper Deck, even if it means buying and selling only older products.

If Jordan is part of Upper Deck’s assets, getting him, the Exquisite brand (among others), and Lebron James in a deal for the company would be a humongous addition to the over-payment they have committed to the NBA for the exclusive deal in the first place. Jordan has not had an officially licensed new NBA card for almost 7 years, and collectors are literally foaming at the mouth for new stuff. If Panini could make that happen, all of a sudden they become much more able to market to people who have since sworn off their terrible looking and horribly conceived basketball products. Even existing Panini collectors would kill for officially licensed Jordan cards, and that makes this long term deal even more important.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Upper Deck has found a way to keep themselves relevant in a new era without any licensing. For as long as I can remember, Upper Deck has always produced some sort of licensed card during the year, but this is now a different era. Even though Panini does not produce the best cards in any sport, they will soon own the exclusive in all but 2. Now thanks to this deal, they will have to do it without their biggest target.

I am someone that despises exclusive licenses, and I still think part of the solutions to the hobby’s woes is encouraged competition among all brands for all players. But I completely understand why this deal is important for UD.

Is Upper Deck Inscriptions the Best Pre-Draft Product in Recent Memory?

Im going to be completely honest when I say that it is very difficult to make a pre-draft product that looks good and can hold value once the real licensed stuff comes out. Without the use of NFL teams or licensing, many collectors will tune out any set that they cant latch onto. Upper Deck has found ways in the past to keep things interesting, as for the last five years, they have been the only company to have college jerseys available for their use. Now that the license is transferring to Panini, they are going to have to start all over. That is not only terrible for the hobby, but showcases how Panini’s manifest destiny will continue to force out the best people.

When I saw Inscriptions, I was pretty intrigued by how Upper Deck decided to close out their license with NCAA. To aim to release a set that is so focused on on card autographs with added content is never going to be bad, and this has played very well as a result. Inscriptions is not only filled with some great cards, but they look better than anything I have seen in a pre-draft product, maybe ever.

Check out these cards:

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Jameis Winston Gold Wave Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Marcus Mariota Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Melvin Gordon Gold Wave Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Amari Cooper Black Prism Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions TJ Yeldon Red Auto

Each card has any number of varioations on what the players wrote, and continues to showcase that Upper Deck has not given up on their place in the hobby, even at the end of their time in licensed football cards. With autograph content being so common, there are no longer very many ways to keep content interesting and unique. For pre-draft products its even more difficult because collectors havent been able to identify with players quite yet, unless they are projected top picks. Adding inscriptions into the mix will add a lot of incentive to break boxes and buy singles, as the autographs are on a new level.

Some rookies take the signing a bit further than others, but overall this looks like a great group of signers. I am seeing some really nice prices for both Winston and Mariota, with guys like Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon and others all getting some major attention as well. Upper Deck has a great set on their hands here, and I cant even begin to describe how angry I am that Panini has used their money to bully UD out of the marketplace in the second sport in 10 years.

As mentioned earlier, Panini is going to release two pre-draft products of their own, which will likely not even touch what UD managed to do with Inscriptions. In fact, Panini will have to prove that they know how to pull their heads out of their asses, because it is becoming more obvious by the day that they almost enjoy the comfort of their own rectum.

Bravo to Upper Deck, as this one is a winner.

2014 Immaculate: Who Wore It Better?

I think its funny to compare these all side by side. They are almost direct copies, but Im actually good with copying as long as you do it well. So, the question becomes, who did it better – Upper Deck or Panini? You might be surprised as to who I side with!

2006 Ultimate Collection vs 2014 Immaculate:


I like the immaculate version except for the fact that the player looks so confined in the top part of the card. Upper Deck found a way to make the player seem more whole, although the cropped shield looks really weird.

2007 Exquisite vs 2014 Immaculate:

Again, Immaculate’s look good with the player extending down to the bottom of the card. Upper Deck did better with the swatch making the window fit right in line with the design. Almost a variation, but the whiter look is more high end to me.

Exquisite Notable Nameplates vs 2014 Immaculate:


I like both, but the Immaculate designs are nice take on this design. The Upper Deck version is a bit nicer in the way the full card looks, but the weird picture border is off putting on the Exquisite card.

2009 Exquisite vs 2014 Immaculate:


I like the Exquisite better because they didnt separate the signature area with that horrendous bar of gold. But save that, Immaculate looks nicer. UD with the cropped shields again!

2009 Ultimate Collection vs 2014 Immaculate


I like the Immaculate better. Pretty simple here. The gold foil works nicer, and though its a sticker, that’s not what I am judging here. Both should have avoided the separated area for the signature, but Panini’s looks nicer.

Immaculate has some nice cards, and I think everyone is going to have different opinions. Like I mentioned before, if you are going to rip something off, at least do it well.

On the Radar: 2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions

If you have been reading this site, you know how much I love autographs. You also probably know how much I love inscriptions on said autographs. When I heard Upper Deck was coming out with a product that prominently featured both of my favorite categories of cards, my ears perked up. Now that we see some examples, its going to be quite an interesting product indeed.

Upper Deck isnt the first to try a pre-draft inscription based product, but they are the first one to do it with NCAA CLC licensed cards. They previously did some awesome NCAA based inscriptions in 2014 SP Authentic. That adds a bit of allure to the product indeed.

Take a look:

2014 SP Authentic Sammy Watkins Auto Inscription

2014 SP Authentic Blake Bortles Inscription Auto SSP

2014 SP Authentic Zach Mettenberger Inscription Auto Patch /10

I mean, there are some really nice inscription cards out there over the year, but they usually dont come until later in the calendar:

2014 Inception Carlos Hyde Inscription Auto Gold /10

2013 Five Star Eddie Lacy Auto Quotables Inscription

2013 National Treasures Gale Sayers Auto Inscription

This will likely be one of the last products before Panini takes over the CLC license exclusive that granted Upper Deck the opportunity to produce licensed college cards. There has already been speculation that they will continue to produce unlicensed sets after it kicks in, but we have yet to hear any details. As a fan of Upper Deck’s sets and design style, I hope that happens.

Inscriptions is definitely going to turn some heads, and I like that they have previews of many of the top guys in the 2015 draft. There will be a lot of concern that the checklist will be diluted, but at the same time, college collectors are rabid in enough ways that it might not matter as much as it would in the NFL.

Leaf Trinity will be a direct competitor here, and its all going to come down to who can deliver more. Hell, there is no reason they both cant be successful. I like the design of this set A LOT, and Leaf has usually been around the same level. We will see how it all shakes out soon.

Check out the cool preview cards: