Sunday, April 19, 2009

What is Upper Deck really selling you?

Anyone who bought a pack of Upper Deck Baseball in 2008 was very familiar with the Yankee Stadium Legacy cards that were included in almost all of the sets.  It even continued into 2009 with updated cards in the 2009 UD Flagship product.  While Yankees fans, especially those dying for a chance to meet Derek Jeter, ate this up many other fans couldn’t care less about the cards.  Being a Red Sox fan, I think I had more fun during my recent root canal than I did pulling Yankee after Yankee in packs of cards.  Truth be told, I don’t even think that I would enjoy this set if the subject matter were Fenway Park and the Red Sox.

Things got really ridiculous with 2009 Upper Deck Baseball.  Along with the additional Yankee Stadium cards there is also an update to 2008 Documentary featuring all of the playoff games from 2008.  Then there are Historic Firsts and Historic First Predictors.  Last but not least is the 20th Anniversary set.  Yes, you may get 20 cards in a pack of Upper Deck, but most times you’ll get two junk cards from these insert sets in the pack.  The nice OPC and Stars of the Game inserts are a lot rarer.

If you’re looking to build the set then it looks like retail packs are the way to go.  For a hobby pack you’re going to pay $4 - $5 for 20 cards, two of which are probably non-base inserts along with the chance at the two jersey cards and one auto per box which aren’t all that great unless you are extremely lucky.  For the most part, those cards are non-factors unless you pull your favorite team or player.  The odds of that aren’t very great.  Retail packs contain 19 cards and sell for $3.  That dollar or more difference adds up quickly and you can use that extra scratch on eBay to purchase any of the OPC, Stars of the Game, Jersey or 20th Anniversary cards that you may want.  That way you get your set and insert cards that you want instead of a pile of trade bait.

Retail pack, price per base card: $3/18 = $0.166
Hobby pack, price per base card: $4/18 = $0.222

Right there you’ve got a six cent difference and it can be even more depending on what hobby packs are going for.

Things have gotten extremely ridiculous with the release of 2008-09 UD Lineage.  When I first heard about this set, I was pretty excited.  I love the design of 1991-92 Upper Deck and was excited to see current players framed by that classic design.  Once I saw that it was selling for around $100 a box, I got a little less excited.  You get two autographs per box, but the majority of the autographs will cost you a buck on eBay to acquire.  There’s a buyback redemption card, but the possible cards you can get from that are horrible as well.

Each pack has 8 cards in it and will cost you around four or five dollars.  If you’re a Michael Jordan fan then you’ll love these packs because you’re going to get one or two Jordan cards in every single pack.  There’s a Mr. June 23 card set that is only in Lineage and then a Michael Jordan Legacy set with a card for every game that he played in which will be spread out over 4 UD Basketball releases.

Since you average 2 insert cards a pack, that brings you down to 6 base cards per pack.  6 x 24 = 144 out of 200 cards.  There’s no way that you should be this far from completing a set like this after busting open a box.  That’s with perfect collation which is a rarity for Upper Deck.  If all 8 cards were base cards you’d have 8 x 24 = 192 which is a lot closer to a complete set.  Subtract a few cards for your autographs and the Rookie Standouts and you’re still close to a set.  Instead you get more insert cards that are all over eBay and are close to worthless.

Again, retail packs are the way to go if you want to put together the set of Lineage.  Hobby packs have 8 cards, but in almost every pack two of those cards are Jordan or Rookie Standout inserts.  You average 6 base cards per pack.  Retail packs are 6 cards with a lot less of the Jordan and Rookie Standouts.  So few, that you average just under 6 base cards per pack.

Retail pack, price of base card: $3/6 = $0.50
Hobby pack, price of base card: $5/6 = $0.833

Again, the difference in price adds up quickly and that extra money can buy you the insert cards that you want.  You won’t have a chance to pull any of the Jordan or LeBron autographs, but most people buying boxes won’t be pulling those either.  There are a lot of clunker autographs in this set.

Upper Deck’s hobby packs tend to be sports versions of lottery tickets.  The only problem with that is you’ve probably got better chances with the lottery tickets.  When you aren’t making it easy for set collectors and the “hits” end up being misses, who exactly are you trying to sell your product to?  It is no wonder that so much Upper Deck product can be purchased for a big discount a year after it is released.

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