Monday, February 22, 2010

How Will 2009 Ultimate Measure Up?

Ultimate Baseball was probably one of the most successful sets of the year, for many reasons. The combination of look, content and price were all way above average, and it led to one of the biggest product frenzies in the last five years. Tomorrow (per Upper Deck's twitter), we get the football version, and I am wondering how it will turn out.

The content of the product looks to be similar, but football doesn’t have the historical backing of the sport like baseball does. The inclusion of a Ted Williams jumbo patch just doesn’t have an equivalent in football. Walter Payton and Johnny Unitas are in the same zip code, but the value of their relics cant compare. Does this mean that Ultimate will be unsuccessful? I doubt it, but it’s a factor.

One of the other reasons that Ultimate Baseball was so effective relates to a need for a product of its goal. It’s the same reason Prime Cuts was so awesome - no one had released a similar product in years. There is no Exquisite Baseball or National Treasures baseball the same way that Football has it, so when a product is released with ridiculous cards like this Ryne Sandberg (pulled on a forum), baseball collectors don’t know what to do with themselves. Triple Threads has tried for ages to cater to this demographic, but the lack of design skills makes it impossible to love the cards the way people are loving the Ultimate patches. Also, boxes of Ultimate started at almost 100 dollars cheaper than the Topps product, and delivered with better looking cards and on card content.

Basically, the main plus of Ultimate Football will continue to be the inclusion of higher quality signature and memorabilia cards over something like Limited or a similarly priced product. Cards like the Peterson Ultimate Patch will drive the product, unless they were able to duplicate the awesome patch designs out of baseball. Even with the Patch cards like baseball, the popularity will be much different, thanks to products like Exquisite, which have had these cards for years. The difference would be that people wouldn’t have to pay 500+ for a box.

Although I believe Ultimate will far succeed previous products from other companies with the amount of cool cards that are included, I don’t think it can live up to baseball. Even with inscriptions, jumbo patches, and all sorts of awesome stuff, Ultimate Baseball was the perfect storm that Ultimate fooball cannot be. That doesn’t mean that it isnt worth your attention, just adjust your expectations a little.


  1. Ultimate FB is only going to be decent if box prices stay around the $75-80 mark. With the BB version, UD could afford to get rid of many great patches because they are only releasing a few products per year in BB without the license. They were also able to get their guys like Jeter and Griffey to sign a lot.

    With FB, you are going to have a rookie-oriented product which is going to hurt value. You'll have a lot of the B- and C-level rookie autos. You also won't have the strong non-rookie auto subject list that the BB version had.

    And finally, FB will have the same 6 and 8-piece jersey cards that the BB version did. Those were awful in last year's Ultimate when they were 4 and 8-piece cards and this year should be no different. Even in the BB version, 6-piece cards with Ted Willams are selling in the $30 range. FB has no chance with the weaker lineup.

    Add to that a weakened 1997 Legends auto checklist and only 1 auto/mem card per 15-box case and it's not looking that good for the FB version.

  2. I think, besides how great Ultimate BB looks, people are attracted to the rebelliousness of Upper Deck. So, too, it might be the realization by the collectors/buyers that this could be the last time UD releases anything that good for baseball (or ever, if things go to the extreme in April). Also, this product came out just before pitchers and catchers reported and after the FB season, in effect becoming the first serious 2010 release (before Topps Series 1 and it's own little madness) even though it's labeled 2009.

  3. I may in the minority, but I've always been a fan of Ultimate football - good Favre patches, autos and auto/jersey cards. So long as this year's product has more of the same, I'll be a fan again.

  4. Why are we getting 2009 cards in March 2010.

    I could never understand, but I would always thought that game worn football should go for say 10 times game worn baseball because they play about 10 times the games.

    I realize there was a better chance of tearing a football jersey but I remember reading about how frugal the football owners were in the 1950s and 1960s and they would not easily replace torn jerseys.

  5. "Why are we getting 2009 cards in March 2010?"

    Because the market is inundated with crap products that release the earliest. The manufacturers wait until the end to release their "marquee products." They want collectors to feast on the crap products first, then they gouge you with the stuff you really want. That's why Limited, National Treasures, Exquisite, Ultimate, SP Authentic, Triple Threads, etc. all come out late. The companies don't want to blow their wad early and they know collectors won't wait out for the good stuff, so they release crap products to satiate the collector's hunger. Half the stuff they released between August and December was crap, but they don't care because they know collectors will buy it up.

    Each company puts out about 8-12 football products a year, when they should be limited to 5 or 6 tops. I mean, how many versions of Donruss Threads do we need? Threads, Certified, and Gridiron Gear are all the same damn product. Topps is one of the worst, because you don't even know what products they're going to release or when, because they only update their f@#king website once every two months! If it weren't for this blog, I would have blown all my money on Topps Chrome and then missed out on Finest.