Upper Deck makes a hole in one!
When Beckett recently announced that they intend to call the new Upper Deck Tiger Woods card his first "true rookie," I almost cringed. I can't handle the email. I don't want to have to explain to another thousand people which card is really Tiger's rookie. On the other hand, I completely agree with Beckett. The definition of rookie card has always been the first card made by a manufacturer acknowledged by the hobby. Sports Illustrated is a magazine and Grand Slam Ventures hardly fits the bill of a hobby mainstay so that leaves us six years later with Upper Deck.
UPPER DECK GOLF
When Upper Deck announced that they would be making a golf card set in 2001, the first question everyone had was "Will there be a Tiger?" Upper Deck quickly said yes and then sealed the deal by signing Woods to a big contract for cards, autographs, and memorabilia. I spoke to all my local dealers and was stunned to find only one who was planning on ordering the product. I don't normally tell people what to buy, but in this case I was pretty sure I'd be right. Fortunately, my instincts were on target.
Upper Deck has created a real winner. This set will be known for the Tiger rookie, but it's got so much more. With 200 cards in the base set and many of them are rookie cards (since there hasn't been a real golf set in a long time), just putting it together was fun. The inserts are nice and every pack has one Tiger Tales insert from a special thirty card Tiger set. Of course with Upper Deck the key to the checklist is often not in the base set.
UD Golf is loaded, but the trick is finding the good stuff. For their first ever golf set, Upper Deck decided to keep the odds tough, but the rewards big. Tour Threads is a 45 card insert set of golf shirt memorabilia cards seeded just one per 12 boxes. In addition to Tiger you could find shirt swatches from Sergio Garcia, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. If that's not enough, how about a 25 card set of Player's Ink autograph cards at an unbelievable one per 3000 packs! The early results from eBay are equally amazing with big prices on many of the Threads and Ink inserts.
Topps could have done much better. No one cares about autographed canvas prints. Why not a mini ball or even a jersey? Skip the graded cards. If people want their rookie cards graded then they'll send in the ones they believe have a shot at a 9 or 10. These are small problems, but the real problem with Reserve is the checklist. The autographed canvas checklist is full of minor stars that some collectors might enjoy, but not at a premium price. The use of rookie game players in place of real All-Stars in the game jersey set was a bad decision.
TIGER'S NEW ROOKIE CARD
It didn't take long for me to get my first email asking me what they should do with their Grand Slam and Sports Illustrated for Kids Tiger "rookies." I can't answer that question. I didn't buy any because I don't invest that way. Will the new Upper Deck Tiger cause the others to lose some value? Probably, but then again I believe they were heading down on their own. When I wrote about the Tiger rookies last October I showed charts of their prices. Excluding some wild prices on a few Gem Mint versions that have popped up in recent months, most of the Tiger prices have been going down quick. The reason is simple. There are just too many of them. Back in October you could search eBay for SI Tiger and find two or three current auctions. Today I see 50 with another 150 having ended recently.
With Upper Deck we have a Tiger rookie that we can count on. It's not being cut out of magazines. It's not going to be produced over and over for the next three or four years. It is available once in every three boxes (on average) and prices started around $80 before settling in at $50. I'm not going to tell you what to buy, but if you have a Tiger collection then you will want to own this card.
Is this a one shot product? I seriously doubt that. Upper Deck has Tiger signed and I'm sure they're planning on more. The real question is if any of the other manufacturers try to get involved. Without Woods I can't see any other company making a move to golf cards. This is not stopping Beckett from announcing a new price guide dedicated to golf, debuting in August. They plan on six issues per year so we'll have to see how they fill them.
What about other sports? Is there a future for tennis cards or another sport? I can't see it. Consider the fact that Upper Deck dropped racing from their product lines this year. NASCAR is one of the biggest fan sports in the country and only one company is left making their cards. Fleer has the WNBA. Upper Deck has soccer (including a new relationship with Manchester United of the English Premier League). These cards do great in a limited market, but it will take another dominant athlete like Tiger to bring another sport to our hobby. If it happens you can bet that I'll be opening some packs.
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