Upper Deck Used To Mean Something Other Than My Seats For A Panthers Game
March 16, 2009, 12:43 am
Filed under: Card Collecting Is So Gay, Childhood Stories


Remember when trading cards meant something?

Every generation has their story. My dad used to play games with his baseball cards, and there were more than a few times Micky Mantle wound up in the spokes of his bicycle. When he went away to Vietnam, his mom  raided his closet and threw out all the useless pieces of cardboard that cluttered the shelves. Goodbye, Hank rookie. Twas nice knowing you.

When I came into the card collecting picture, I did so in the hockey market, in the middle of a revolution. Around the time I first got into it, everyone’s goal was to complete sets. You bought boxes and traded with friends until you had all 460 cards Upper Deck decided to produce. There were usually two series, so by the time you had collected all of series one, series two would come along and continue to feed your addiction. When the dust settled, you were left with an empty wallet, but a folder whose once clear pages were now filled with everyone from Teemu Selanne to Mark Fitzpatrick.

Slowly, with the help of some flashy insert cards, that era started morphing into the “Holy-Shit-These-Things-Might-Be-Worth-Something” Era. This time period, in my opinion, was the tits.

Die-cut, silver, gold, chrome, autographed, stamped and limited… I’d go through five boxes a day, hoping like hell to beat those 1:36 stated odds. And they were all worth some serious coin. ($25 to a 15-year old kid is a lot of money when you’re talking about cardboard.)

I still remember some of my greatest pulls.

A Rob Niedermayer Silver Skate (93-94 Upper Deck) originally captured my heart. It was my first ever insert, and though it wasn’t worth much at the time, it got me hooked. I suppose that’s what UD had in mind.

Some years later, I remember sitting at a card store and opening a pack of cards. I can’t remember what brand. As I peeled the wrapper back, I could see the face of Paul Kariya on a die-cut hologram, and knew, instantly, that it was worth close to $200. Awesome.

But something was wrong. The card wasn’t falling out of the package and into my hand as easily as the other ones. It was stuck. Turns out, the machine that seals the packages also sealed the bottom of the card with it. My $200 beauty was mangled and my hopes were crushed. Not crushed enough to stop wasting my money, though.

One of my most impressive pulls was during the ’01 NHL Draft. Vendors were selling packs of cards along the outer walkways, and I somehow managed to score two Piece of the Game cards in only two packs. (Amonte/Forsberg) The stated odds on the wrapper were set at something like 1:250. But that doesn’t take into account 19-year old kids, smart enough to feel the sides of the package for a card 5X the size of a normal card. Yes, I cheated. But I also left the arena up $400. (This would backfire on me a year later, when I tried the same thing at Target, only to realize that companies were now smart enough to put thicker pieces of cardboard in EVERY SINGLE PACK.)

My greatest pull though, was a Jaromir Jagr somethingorother from Upper Deck, numbered 72/100. (Fuck if I remember what kind it was now.) It doesn’t seem so special when you read it like that, but when you really think about it, there were only 100 of this card produced. Total. In the world. And I managed to find one. Not at a dealer or on eBay. In a pack of cards that I purchased, myself, for $1.50. It was my luck that found that card, and my luck who would get to profit off of it.

Those days, my friend, are gone.

Once upon a time, small, rectangular pieces of cardboard were worth something. Not anymore.

My dad once paid his rent with an Ozzie Smith rookie card. I’m not sure he could pay for lunch with it now.

Over the years, I kept a shoe box with all of my cards that were of some value to a teenage kid. Anything worth more than $15 or $20 would go into that box. I’m afraid to even open it now. That Jagr card is in there, because Beckett listed it at somewhere around $125 when it first came out. Less than a year later, the price was under $1. I wanted to puke.

I blame the industry for this. Oversaturating the market with 400 types of cards drove people crazy, and collectors grew bored of finding a piece of someone’s jersey in every pack they opened. Not to mention that if you do find a card that you may think is worth something now, you’ll have to send it away to be graded. Otherwise, it ain’t worth shit.

Fuck it. I think I’m gonna make a dartboard out of my Canseco/Griffey/McGwire rookie cards. At least then the cards will be fun again.

(In case you were wondering–and I have a strong feeling you weren’t–that card up there is the first one I ever owned. Now that you know that, your life is complete.)

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