Early Reaction to 2013-14 Upper Deck Black Basketball

At the end of her hit song Anticipation, Carly Simon sings “these are the good old days” as she wraps up her anthem to the unknown. It is a sentiment often used in movies, novels, theater, etc., and it may well sum up how several collectors of high-end basketball cards feel regarding the recent release of 2013-14 Upper Deck Black Basketball.
Originally slated for a January release, the product finally hit the market several weeks late and Legends Lustrous Michael Jordancollectors whose anticipation had been raised by the delay bought in. Even now, some time after the initial release last week, several dealers report solid sales or show a sold out inventory on their web sites. Part of this may be due to the fact that it has been several years since UD Black has had its own basketball label, although it has been used as an insert in Upper Deck Exquisite products. Also, Upper Deck put a lot of effort into marketing and product creativity for the return of Black.

That marketing and creativity was no doubt partially motivated by the fact that Black is not a product for the average collector. Boxes sell in the $350 – $400 range, and for that outlay the buyer receives 2 packs per box with a whopping 3 cards per pack. Granted, among those 6 cards the guarantee is 4 autographed cards (with at least two hard-signed), but that still works out to at least $85 per autograph. At the time of this writing, only 11 of the last 100 autographed cards from this set sold on eBay were valued at over $80. It would seem that makes the box a pretty tough value.

Upper Deck Black Grant Hill book auto

Of course, returns from selling online are not the only measure of value. Collectors are often just as concerned with other aspects such as appearance, innovation, player mix, etc. But, again, the reaction from collectors has been much more “meh” than “wow.”

For a few years now Upper Deck has not had an NBA license for their basketball products. This has them relying heavily on their NCAA license and what seems to be a very limited amount of useable player photos. Even with the superstars  it is not always easy to have a good selection of college era pics, and this has caused many collectors to complain that the same photos get used again and again. That is a difficulty with a standard issue product, but when you introduce that situation to a high-end collectible the problem rises exponentially in many collector’s minds. Once again we are dealing with a letdown in comparison to the anticipation.
from sell sheet
This is not to say that everything regarding 2013-14 UD Black is negative. That is most certainly not the case. Among the few innovations found in the product are the Arena Art Signatures, a booklet card using the player’s home court. These cards, which include some tri-fold cards, showcase some of the most famous basketball venues in the country and the athletes that played in them. Indeed, these Arena Art cards are among the most attention getting on the secondary collector’s market, at least as it is represented by eBay.

Speaking of the prices set by what happens on eBay, the cards that have sold toward the top end since the products release are really not that big of a surprise. A small list shows that Jordan still rules the autograph-seekers list. Here are a few examples of the better selling cards on eBay as of this date:

  • Michael Jordan #’d/23 Tri-fold Book “Scenes” Signed In Gold Ink – three have sold in the $420-$450 range
  • Alonzo Mourning On-Card Autograph In Gold #1/1  – sold for a Best Offer less than $499
  • Triple Auto of Penny Hardaway / Grant Hill / Lebron James – sold for $299
  • A Redemption Card for Lebron James Old School Sigs #’d/75 – sold for $199.99
  • Larry Bird Arena Art Autographed Booklet #’d/30 – sold for $137.50 at auction
  • Bill Russell “Logo Signatures” Autographed Patch #35/40 – sold for $101 at auction

So, as you can see, the anticipation of what may be in those little black boxes may not be as exciting as the advertised product highlights. And even the prospect of a very special Michael Jordan card has its limits. One card that was listed on eBay that did not sell was a Michael Jordan autographed relic card, signed in gold in and numbered 5/5. It was unsold at $1,599.99 (plus shipping). It would appear that seller either wants to keep the card or their anticipation was way too great.

You can see 2013-14 Upper Deck Black Basketball on eBay here.