Lately, however, something has gone wrong with UD. Very wrong.
Take this card, as Exhibit A.
As I understand it, this isn't even the design that Upper Deck had advertised. I believe everyone expected the famous 1971 black Topps design to be the standard for this product, like they did for the 2001 UD Vintage. Strike 1.
This is the first O-Pee-Chee card from 2009 that I've held and seen, and I am thoroughly underwhelmed by it. The card stock is very thin so that the card feels extremely flimsy, especially for a card-stock baseball card. Strike 2.
The photography, long the strong point on UD's resume, is terrible. Look closely at this picture. Overcast day. Low-lying clouds. Stands half-empty. No game going on, just warm-ups in the outfield. I get the impression that the UD staff photographer was in a rush to catch the next flight out of town and didn't want to hang around or come back to get a good picture.
Strike 3. Yer out.
(I haven't even mentioned the collation issues which plagued Goudey this year. I never seem to have that problem with Topps, in any of their products. Strike 4.)
Upper Deck has lost all of its competitive edge to the top dog, Topps, who is beating them in all phases of the game now. Topps design and product line are far more interesting and nicely varied. The products complement each other, not fight and diminish each other.
It puts out too many products, thinning its resources and losing focus on what it did best. How can a company, especially in strapped financial times like these, keep producing that many lines of cards while still keeping the photography stunning, the design interesting, and the features alluring? It can't.
I will, however, concede that I like the 2009 SP Legendary Cuts product, but that is certainly not due to the photography. I think the design is beautiful and interesting, and wouldn't mind collecting this set, but it is a specialty subset of the flagship product, and I've heard that the cut autos are few and far between.
In the end, I must say that this is the card that disappointed me and led me to hesitate when thinking about which product to collect. It is emblematic of all that has gone wrong with Upper Deck. I hope they can fix the problems, and I will be watching for a change, but watching from the Cheap Seats.