Baseball’s Rogue Card Set: 2010 Upper Deck

My greatest acquisition from this past weekend’s trip (alongside the internet’s Common Man) to TwinsFest in Minneapolis was not, if you can believe it, the baseball which now bears the authographs of (both!) Chris Herrmann and Alex Wimmers, nor the memory of a brief, but spirited, exchange with the very bad J.R. Richard. Rather, it was an introduction to the oddity that is the 2010 edition of Upper Deck baseball cards.

Apart from the autograph stations, the main attraction of TwinsFest is the copious amounts of baseball-related memorabilia being sold by the only slightly less copious number of baseball-memorabilia vendors. The Common Man has already documented his inability to restrain himself wherein the coveting of baseball cards is concerned. For the present author, however, the event represented the first time I’d thought of baseball cards at any length since probably 1992.

If these demographic reports right here are any indication, The Reader is very likely aware of Upper Deck baseball cards and their relation to the soul. Said Reader is, moreover, very likely unable to think of the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr card without feeling a sort of warmth — as of the sort provided by a fine brandy — in his or her bosom. That Griffey card was the first card in the first ever set released by Upper Deck — a set that, by means of its clean design and a higher quality card stock, surpassed considerably what the market had offered consumers to date.

Eventually, of course, Upper Deck’s competitors caught up. Then, in a frantic effort to outdo one another, card companies introduced all manner of inserts, parallels, and premium sets to the market. As the hobby became flooded and the means of production ever more costly, manufacturers started folding. Score produced its last set in 1998; Donruss, 2005. Upper Deck bought Fleer after the latter company’s 2005 release, made two more sets under that moniker, and then retired the Fleer name after 2007.

That left only Topps and Upper Deck as the two remaining card-making licensees of MLB — an arrangement that lasted for two more years.

Then, in August of 2009, Major League Baseball announced an exclusive licensing arrangement with The Topps. The stated purpose was to “streamline” the industry, but the obvious result was that Upper Deck — again, the only other remaining licensed baseball card-maker — would be ruined. While technically, owing to an agreement with the MLBPA, they (i.e. Upper Deck) could still produce cards with players’ likenesses, it is a truth universally acknowledged that cards without team logos are Mega Lame.

Upper Deck, however, announced that they would still be producing cards in 2010. The internet wondered if they (i.e. Upper Deck) might deal with the constraint in a creative way, as some previous manufacturers had, albeit in limited runs.

But this is where it gets weird: in late October, Beckett announced that they’d received a preview of 2010 Upper Deck cards “but not card images,” noting in that same post that “collectors anticipate[d] the unveiling of its first baseball line to be published without MLB team names and logos.” Over a month later, on December 2nd, 2009, contributor Mario of Card Collector Digest wrote that “while Topps Company has already showcased their designs for the flagship brand and Heritage, Upper Deck has been surprisingly tight-lipped.” Just the previous year, Upper Deck had released its first image previews at the beginning of November.

In fact, Upper Deck’s silence lasted another couple months, until, in the last week of January — just a week before the release of Series 1 of the 2010 base set — the company released the first images of the cards. Featuring players in uniform. And totally real team logos on those uniforms. Totally illegally.

The response of Major League Baseball was swift. In a statement released on Jaunary 28th, MLB announced that they “were surprised and disappointed that Upper Deck, a former partner of ours, would violate our contract by clearly using our intellectual property without our permission.”

However, at this point, it was too late. Upped Deck Series 1 was released the next week — also featuring uniformed and be-logo-ed players. A month later, Upper Deck and MLB settled a lawsuit, the terms of which permitted Upper Deck to continue distribution of of Series 1 — with the provision that they (i.e. Upper Deck) would “agree not to use MLB trademarks including team names and/or logos on its trading cards going forward.”

But Series 1 still exists, is the point. I saw, and bought, a bunch of packs of the cards at TwinsFest. It’s a set — half-a-set, really — that shouldn’t exist. And it’s very likely the last release by a company that reinvented and reinvigorated the industry.




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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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MikeS
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MikeS
4 years 4 months ago

Huh. I would have guessed JR Richard were dead. Good for him.

Kris
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Kris
4 years 4 months ago

Carson, I’m going to let you in on a little tip. If you want baseball cards, and are going to write baseball card related articles for tens, if not fifteens, of people to read, all you have to do is ask the company. As such, I’ve composed an email for you:

Dear Topps Trading Cards,

I am Carson from notgraphs. Notgraphs has a circulation of 13 of my close friends, my grandmother, and at least one guy with an asian name who may or may not be asian. With the release of Topps Baseball 2012 (Today!) (As in like NOW!) I find myself wanting it really, really, really bad.

Yours In Baseball,

Carson.

–Published Author and All-State Auto Insurance Client–

mattmaison
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4 years 4 months ago

I heard you mention this on the podcast and was hoping to hear more about the story behind finding the set at the event. It sounded like a fun event. Your recap of the history behind the set was a good read though. Common Man’s write up was enjoyable also.

john
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john
4 years 4 months ago

Wimmers looked good…Looks like he is focused for the 2012 seasons…

S
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S
4 years 4 months ago

Is the industry’s demise due to the rise of the internet — seems like that undercut much of collecting — or some other factor?

sc2gg
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sc2gg
4 years 4 months ago

The demise of the industry was due to ProSet.

The RoGuE
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3 years 1 month ago

I started making my own baseball cards (for friends only) using pictures and logos off the internet and then utilizing Photoshop and a good Epson printer. I use 4×6 glossy photo paper, print both sides on it and then “score” it in half and glue it together. Makes for a terrific card. Not very hard to do at all but impresses my friends and amuses my enemies. Most people initially thought they were commercial-quality cards. Well, actually they are better than commercial quality, if I do say so myself.

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