They may have only one major professional sports trading card license right now, but you’ll probably hear quite a bit about the Upper Deck Company this year. It’s been 25 years since their new license with Major League Baseball produced the foil packs that yielded the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card every kid who collected cards wanted to own. That early success spread to NFL, NBA and NHL cards, too and within a year, Upper Deck was the hottest property in the hobby.
Of course, one could also argue that collecting changed forever because of Upper Deck. Some of what transpired was good. Competition gave us better cards. We learned there was a lot more that could be done with trading cards if we were willing to pay a little more for a pack.
Some of what resulted turned off long-time collectors, however. Sports cards got too big for their own good and speculators who bought into the craze Upper Deck helped launch drove it into a bubble, which eventually popped, Pack prices jumped across the board. Greed was rampant and in some ways, it still is. A simple hobby became far more complex in the 1990’s and ridiculously complicated by the 2000s.
Upper Deck’s anniversary is definitely putting some media attention back on the hobby. The National Public Radio affiliate in Boise stopped by a local shop for a story that also included some interviews with Upper Deck’s president and with Pete Williams, who wrote the brook about Upper Deck and the hobby’s boom era.