The Upper Deck Company, LLC
(colloquially as Upper Deck
and Upper Deck Authenticated, Ltd.
in the UK), founded in 1988
, is a private company
primarily known for producing trading cards
The company also produces sports related items such as figurines and die-cast on top of having exclusive agreements to produce memorabilia (under the brand name Upper Deck Authenticated) with such sports superstars as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant, Andrew Bynum, Tony Romo, Albert Pujols, Grady Sizemore, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Ken Griffey Jr. Under the Upper Deck Entertainment name, the company also produces card games such as World of Warcraft, Marvel VS trading card game & Yu-Gi-Oh.
On December 23, 1988, Upper Deck was granted a license by Major League Baseball to produce baseball cards. The first case of Upper Deck Baseball Cards was delivered February 28, 1989, to George Moore of Tulsa's Baseball Card Store in Tulsa, OK. The Upper Deck Company sold out its baseball cards midway through this inaugural year, then pre-sold its entire 1990 baseball stock before the year began. The 1990 set included the industry's first randomly inserted personally autographed and numbered cards of sports superstars.
Paul Sumner, who worked in printing sales, came up with the idea for a premium card and hired Robert Young Pelton to design and produce a prototype. Pelton's agencies, Pelton & Associates and Digital Artists, was replaced by Chiat Day. Paul Sumner resigned with the understanding that he would be known as the "Co-Founder of Upper Deck", something that the company's owner and CEO, Richard McWilliam, recognizes to this day.
On March 20, 1990, The Upper Deck Company was granted licenses by the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players Association to produce hockey cards. The company also obtained licenses from the National Football League and the National Basketball Association in 1990, making the Upper Deck Company the first trading card company in 10 years to be licensed by all four leagues. In 1995, the company produced its first racing product. In 1996, it expanded its racing line when it absorbed Maxx. Upper Deck was also the first to insert swatches of game-used material into cards when it made jersey cards in 1996 UD Basketball. The insert set was called Game Jersey and a similar set followed in baseball the next year, where UD cut up game used jerseys of Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Gwynn and Rey Ordonez.
In July 2005, Upper Deck won the liquidation auction of former competitor Fleer-SkyBox International's brand name, assets, and business model, as well as the Fleer Collectibles die-cast business assets.
In March 2007, Upper Deck made an offer to buy competitor Topps and competes with Madison Dearborn Partners and Tornante Company. Upper Deck is currently in litigation to stop the sale.
Upper Deck originally included the year of the trading card set's release on its logo, with the "19" above "Upper" and the last two digits of the year under "Deck" (but both inside the green diamond). This was practice was dropped midway through the 1994 season. In 2008, Upper Deck retired the green diamond logo and replaced it with a new design that it could better utilize to market all of its products.
NBA Exquisite Collection
Upper Deck premiered its NBA Exquisite Collection
line in the 2003-2004 season. Each pack contained five basketball
cards; one veteran base card numbered to 225, one autographed rookie card featuring a piece of patch worn by the player numbered to 99 or 225, one game worn jersey card, one autographed/patch insert card, and a fifth card that was either a low numbered parallel or an additional autographed patch card. Suggested retail price of the product was $500
, making it the most expensive basketball card product ever produced at the time. (The few packs that remain unopened now sell for over $4,000.) Autograph cards include veterans such as Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. The most sought after cards from the line include the autographed/patch rookie cards numbered to 99 (LeBron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Udonis Haslem), the Limited Logos inserts which feature an extra large jersey patch piece and autograph, and the autographed/patch rookie parallels serial numbered to the player's jersey number.
Other Exquisite Collections Series
In view of the series' success, the company has released 2004-05 and 2005-06 basketball sets, a 2005 football line, and an analogous 2005-06 hockey line called The Cup. The football line, which includes autographed rookie 'patch' cards, is the most popular of the series. Variants of these cards, called the Gold Series, are limited to runs of 25 or 99 cards. The company's Exquisite-branded baseball series were introduced first as premiums in lower-end Upper Deck products (including the company's SP Legendary Cuts and Artifacts Baseball lines). In late 2007, the company added another line to its Exquisite Collections brand, focused on rookie players. This recent addition is retailed at $249 USD per pack.
Upper Deck Entertainment (UDE), a division of The Upper Deck Company, produces the English
, and French language
versions of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game
, a collectible card game
, licensed from Konami
, the Winx Club
Trading Card Game for girls, the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game
based on the popular MMORPG
, along with the Marvel Trading Card Game
and the DC Comics Trading Card Game
using their proprietary VS System
. In October 2005
, UDE introduced a trading card game based on Nickelodeon
's Avatar: The Last Airbender
series and the Pirates of the Caribbean
films. It has also released many non-game oriented sports-based and multimedia companion trading card sets.
Material cards from "Worn by the player" to "Used in an event"
Upper Deck has changed their practice of using materials that they certify as being "Worn" by the player depicted on the front of the card. The changes in wording on the backs of the cards now make it less clear as to how the materials were used, or if it had been worn by the player or anyone at all.
EXAMPLE: Steve Nash card 2004... (Back of card) On the front of this card is an authentic piece of a jersey WORN by Steve Nash as a member of the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA game.
EXAMPLE: Jermaine O'Neal card 2006 Exquisite...(Back of card) On the front of this is a piece of memorabilia that has been certified to us as having been USED in an NBA game.
Upper Deck also has removed from the front of the cards the word "Jersey" in game used cards. Upper Deck no longer acknowledges exactly what kind of material it is that they have inserted in the card, nor how it was used, and has eliminated the wording that it was actually worn by the player pictured on the front of the card.
Upper Deck Kids
In April 2006, Upper Deck created Upper Deck Kids with the slogan "Get More Than Lucky". Codes printed on the back of cards can be entered on the website to get points which can be redeemed for prizes. In April 2007, a monthly limit of 1000 codes was installed and adults were made ineligible to sign up. New prizes are usually added weekly. Prizes available in the past included autographed memorabilia, sports card boxes, screensavers, desktop wallpapers, video games & systems, among others.The website also encourages you to buy sports cards. Each prize is worth a different amount. Upper Deck Kids also has message boards where kids can talk about sports, trade codes, and gossip, etc. Also, a limit has been put on how many invalid codes you can enter. This due to multiple hackers that wrote code cracking programs in order to guess all of the possible codes and take all of the prizes for themselves. Additionally, 2006 Upper Deck product's codes may no longer be redeemed for points on the kids website due to avid "code sharing" amongst members. These 06' codes are often referred to as "accident codes". Code sharing is massive lists of free codes posted on third party sites that can be used to redeem huge amounts of points. Trading codes also takes place on the website as well. Also, in order to encourage kids to buy the most recent Upper Deck products, codes from the backs of cards that are older than six months now are worth half of their original rewards points value.
- Williams, Pete. Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child's Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business. Macmillan General Reference, May 1995.