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.

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

  1. I agree 100% with what you wrote here! UD will never be replaced it was everything that was awesome about the hobby product wise… I especially will miss my beloved SP Authentic!!! RiP UD!!!

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