Over the last few years, Upper Deck has found exceptional ways to make a bunch of lemonade out of a pretty bad case of lemons. They found that when you have exclusive contracts with many of the top athletes in the world, all you have to do is use those contracts and products will sell. Whether that is Michael Jordan, Lebron James or even Tiger Woods, just having them in products will sell packs.
All Time Greats is the first real high end set to cross over between sports, and for the most part the concept was a great one. They managed to have enormous success last year in Basketball, mainly due to the fact that Panini had and still has no idea what Basketball collectors thrive on. This led to a vacuum on super high end products, and All Time Greats stepped in nicely to clean up.
Here are some of the top cards so far:
2012 All Time Greats Tiger Woods Auto / Ben Hogan Cut Auto 1/1 – Wow, this is one pretty incredible dual card.
2012 All Time Greats Barry Sanders Auto / Walter Payton Cut Auto 1/1 - Again, these dual cuts are ridiculous.
This year, although I dont believe the product is as nicely designed, it is still a pretty good looking set. As always, for a non-college collector like myself, the overall value of buying higher end autographs from these packs is not going to be there. However, people love Upper Deck, and regardless of what they stand for, or the product issues they have, their loyal following will stand by patiently through NCAA licensed sets to wait for them to get licensing back. All Time Greats, on card autographs for non-rookie players than many of the other companies combined, is a product that showcases what they do best.
That doesnt mean that all is well in Upper Deck All Time Greats Land, however, as I have seen what it means to have a B-R-U-T-A-L break of this stuff first hand. With one autograph and no relics at the price it is being sold for, there is a high propensity for dud boxes. The checklist is pretty stacked though, and there are a high number of Jordan autos in the product, but it is almost required that you break multiple boxes at a time to avoid getting skunked. I watched a six box case, and man, it was not pretty.
That being said, when you do pull a big hit, it will be a VERY nice card. Collectors complained that Jordan autographs have become commonplace now, but I cannot see a single reason why that is a bad thing when breaking a high end product. The more the merrier, as his autograph will never be devalued to the point where it cant make you question your overall pull from a box. Jordan will always be Jordan.
All Time Greats might not be a product that I am interested in, but I definitely see its widespread appeal to people who are either college or non-big four sports collectors. Hopefully, as things get sorted out with a more concrete product calendar at Upper Deck, we can start to get back to a time when Upper Deck was the top of the mountain. That may be a distant future, but as I said before, you dont need to please many people with a loyal following like they have built.