Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Morning of Rocking Out With Gregg Kohn of Upper Deck

Well, it looks like SCU is growing by leaps and bounds, and I am glad that we are reaching as many people as we do. I have known for a while that manufacturers and other associated people read this blog and it pleased me when Gregg Kohn, the Football Brand Manager at Upper Deck, stepped up and offered himself up as a guinea pig for my fledgling interview skills. It didn’t work out originally as our schedules didn’t coordinate, but we have kept trying, and it finally happened this morning. Ill tell you guys, I learned more in my 45 minutes of speaking with him, than I thought I could ever learn about this industry. He answered all my questions with the utmost honesty, and wasn’t afraid to put it in language that I use every day. With that, I wanted to first express my uptmost thanks for taking the time to speak with a nobody like myself. Thanks to Gregg, I do have some really cool info about the upcoming year, and some really interesting stuff about the process he goes through with each product.

First I wanted to start with the product I just stuck at the top of my list of things newbies should bust. SP Authentic is a favorite of many collectors, including myself, and Gregg had some awesome stuff to go over. First off, the coveted RC patches are no longer going to be seeded at 6 per case, but rather now at 8 per case. There will be a guaranteed amount of A listers and top RCs in every case again - something I think is beyond awesome - and he promised the cards look better than they ever have. He also clued me in to some new innovations that I think could be the best thing about this product. In those 4 boxes you don’t get the RC Patch auto you have a chance at a signed By The Letter like last year, but also a few new things. The first is retro RC Patch autos of people like Favre, Tomlinson, and others who didn’t have the chance to get a SP Authentic Patch auto. These will be ALL on card and should be ridiculously awesome. You will also have the chance at RC Leatherheads which include cards of the 2008 class that include pieces of old school leather helmets they wore during the RC premiere - again ALL on card sigs(or maybe on helmet?). The product should be about the same price point, so that is all really cool. Gregg said he would send some pics, so I am praying he does.

Secondly, I wanted to correct a mistake I made with Ultimate 2008, where I said they were re-inserting the 1997 Legends series that everyone loved. Its basically the "A Piece Of History" 500 HR club set from baseball, in that it is the most popularly collected set among Footballers, and just like the extension of the APOH set, they are actually extending this set to include players from recent years. They will be in the same format, all ON CARD, and should be awesome. I can still hope for buybacks of the old set, but this is good too.

He also talked about how Ultimate is changing to a new format with a focus on getting collectors more cards that rock, and I think it is awesome. The whole set features hard signed cards and is one of the 6-7 sets that UD will put out this year featuring on card stuff. He said its actually better to get on card sigs because they don’t have to pay someone to affix the stickers, they don’t look as bad, and they don’t end up with a backlog of 2004 stickers in the warehouse like I believe Topps has. Bravo to UD for that.

With Exquisite this year, they are not holding back, which is great. They are including 6 cards with all new designs for each subset - THANK YOU!! - and have even added a bonus for collectors who buy it. In each box, there will be a separate one card pack, similar to UD Black that will contain an "Exquisite Gold" card autograph. It will be either an auto or auto memorabilia, and should be ridiculously cool. It will have exclusive 1/1 content, and I think this could be huge. He also mentioned they have had Tiger Woods exclusively sign 5 patch cards, and as you can imagine they may be some of the most expensive cards ever produced.

He also mentioned revamps of SP Rookie Threads and SP Rookie Edition to include some new stuff that seemed really cool, hopefully he wont disappoint. At least we wont get weird gold and gray letters of McFadden and Ryan like we did last year, as this year they are all college team themed. He said it was tough to anticipate letters to build for the rookies because you don’t know what team they are on when you build them. They went with college because it ties the card to the player, and I think that is a good thing.

Moving on from the new releases, we talked about shifts in the industry, and him being a former shop owner, he showed a lot in his expansive knowledge of what is going on at our level. We discussed at length that the costs of getting sigs on the cards going up because a lot of players are realizing that in the only sport with 3 competing brands, they can play each company against the other. He even mentioned that Ahmad Rashad wanted 50 bucks a card, which I had to laugh at. He talked about catering more products to the shop people because with the state of the economy, its tougher to get a new high-end release out without hurting the people who sell it. I think this will mean more affordability for the collector in a trickle down fashion, and I was happy to hear that they consider each part of the equation. If stores have to dump a product because it is too expensive to sell, we lose in the long run. I guess that’s why Icons is so popular.

As Upper Deck collectors, we had a long string of years where the release calendar was ever changing. He mentioned that is why DLP has such success and failure at the same time, mainly because everyone knew what to expect. He said that now they have a better idea of success rate, they can head in that direction while still maintaining a lot of creativity. He said that one of the possible new products for next year will be Philidelphia edition, which takes a page from the Goudey sets in baseball. He didn’t have much, other than the product would have buybacks from the original sets.

I brought up a lot of how I felt about certain things, like non-autoed manufactured letters, and he had an interesting perspective. He said that rather than throwing more crap jerseys in a box, they thought they would include the letters as a way to add a little more value - which they did in Icons. He also said they were handcuffed by a lot of the celebrities backing out at the last minute, which is understandable.

We discussed a lot of the bad things like Chirography and Ultimate of last year, and he was definitely not afraid to admit his mistakes. That was more than refreshing, and he promised to make sure the quality of the products would be much more thought out. He said it was tough to imagine a street reception, and that’s why they are trying to stay away from needlessly high end products like Chirography was last year. Mucho bueno on that front.

The last thing we talked about was the Peterson patch I posted on a week or so ago. He said he wanted to create an exquisite database of the patches, but the cards and the people who would do that are in different parts of the country. They fly down to Texas to pack every card by hand, and he expressed they might start taking pictures of the patches they think might be questioned. He said that as far as he is concerned, the patch RCs will be much more likely to impress, and that they will do their best to protect the collector. He would put a design over the patches to prevent faking, but he said there would be more complaints about that than the actual douchebags who take advantage, so he decided against it. I agree.

I wish I could have you guys listen to the whole conversation, because it was so fucking awesome to have the kind of talk from a higher up I got from Gregg, and I must say I was thoroughly impressed with the stuff they were coming out with. If you guys have questions about some of the things I mentioned, feel free to email me as you like.

Ill say this, after speaking with Gregg, I am MUCH more likely to buy a UD product now that he has explained the blood sweat and tears that goes into every product they put out. I know he is connected to the hobby base level more than I expected, and he is beyond a nice guy. Thanks again for the time!


  1. all it takes is a little rocking out to get on your good side? Something tells me you just gave Beckett an idea.

    The people at U.D are class acts all the way. I know one of them very personally and he is always very generous with his time. Topps could learn a thing or two from them.

    Congrats on the interview!

  2. Class act is definitely the way I would describe it. Now heres to praying that he sends those pics! I cant wait.

  3. Good reading, appreciate it.

  4. Gellman, I think you are quickly slingshotting yourself into the position of best card blog around.

    Sorry Mario.

  5. Ouch!

    There is no official "best". I have found blogs with 10 posts, no readers or comments that put Wax Heaven to shame.

    I am just the most visited and at the rate Gellman's going I am going to have some serious competition soon.

  6. I think comparing blogs is like apples and oranges.

    Either way, I am beyond happy to get this interview posted. It was such a pleasure to be able to grill him. Nothing was out of bounds, and he answered everything.

    Too bad I didnt have more time!

  7. I love UD's stuff. Like I posted on my blog. I blew a load with Masterpiece baseball. They really make very very nice stuff for the most part.

  8. Great post. Congrats on getting the interview.