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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2009-10 Upper Deck The Cup - A Royal Fail In the Set

This is old news to most of you but I just wanted to put in my 2 cents for what it's worth (probably 2 cents). 

Upper Deck announced that Lebron James will be making an appearance in one of their highly anticipated card releases.  Not a big deal, right?  Well, as we have all talked about ad nausea, Upper Deck doesn't possess a license to print the product that would feature King James.  They hold no authority to offer a card of his likeness sporting an NBA franchise, let alone an autographed one.  So how are they going to pull this off?  It's going in The Cup!! (check out the pack out photos over on the Upper Deck blog, some are great, some not so much).

When I first read about this a month or so ago on another "cards off the grid" kind of site, I was confused, baffled, a little tired, kind of hungry, but mostly confused.  Of course The Cup isn't the first product to mix sports in the same release.  It has been done, time and time again.  But for a premium product like the Cup to inter-twine what I would consider a "novelty" amongst $300-400 per pack/boxes?  This just seems crazy to me.  It's not just Lebron either.  They have Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, too since they are exclusive autograph signers for Upper Deck.  Now I may be blowing this a bit out of proportion since I have yet to see a checklist and don't know if these are the only three non-hockey subjects but to me, this is a feeble attempt at keeping it known to the collecting public that they have the power to issue any release at any time and shove their exclusivity licenses down our throats.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Despite it's hefty price/card, The Cup is arguably one of the most anticipated sets for the hockey collector's each year.  I however, have been unimpressed by The Cup as a whole and have never bought into the hype.  Admittedly, the price tag is what scares me.  I don't care if all the cards are numbered under 100.  I don't care that each has a signature or swatch/patch on it (or both).  I don't care if there is some infused DNA strand embedded in the card that someday can be extracted and used to clone super-athletes that will take over the world (What? That could happen). To me, I'm about getting the most bang for my buck and getting something that I think will fit in my collection somehow without having to dip into my retirement fund to obtain.  I have to be this way, with a wife and two kids and countless other ventures that exhaust me both mentally and financially.  In my entire collection, I possess three cards out of The Cup sets.  3!  And they are all base cards I ended up with through trades or bulk purchases. 

Premium products like The Cup price many of the "everyday Joe" collector's like me right out of their products because there is really no perceived intrinsic value in participating in a futile practice of obtaining 5-8 cards at $75-100 a piece. Of course, this is one person's opinion and I can see how you can easily find reasons to disagree with me.  And you probably should.

But that's not the point.  The point is why resort to another gimmick, especially in a Uber-Premium product?  The Champions set that was intermingled amongst the Upper Deck releases in 2009-10 starting with Series II and continuing through Champs, SPA, Ice, and SPx was hard enough for most collector's to stomach.  When you are anticipating a decent auto of an NHL superstar, rookie, or even semi-star and end up with a figure skater, something has gone terribly wrong.  But at least the "ice dancers" wear skates.  If I opened a pack of hockey cards that cost me a third of a mortgage payment, I better be getting some hockey awesomeness.  The last thing I want to see is a basketball card. 

There is no need for this kind of foolishness.  Most "targeted" collectors (because let's face it, that's what the audience is, a target) that will plunk down the cabbage to try their luck at pulling something "other worldly" like one of these maybe.... 

(obviously an older image from a few years ago, from

...are not going to care.  But someone should.  Even if I am really digging the Property Of... set that features name plate tags from game used sticks, and the patch work quilt concept on the logo patches that build an even bigger patch (did anyone else notice that last Ovie card was upside down?), it is still not enough for me to forgive an obvious lapse in judgment on the part of the UD team that dreams up these crazy schemes. 

So you don't have a license for another pro sport.  Save the basketball cards for a Legends set or a Signatures set that can showcase your exclusive license bragging fodder.  Don't derail the train that has been keeping hockey collector's salivating for quite a few years.  I guess what I really mean is, Upper Deck...try harder.  You have lost print licensing across the board quicker than I lose my sunglasses on every vacation I have taken over the last 10 years.  Hockey has been your only true strong point since 2004 and you have done it very well.  Stop with the gimmicks.  Stop trying to sneak other products into places they don't belong.