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Saturday, February 12, 2011

2006 Upper Deck, five years later

I'm staring at three cardboard boxes, which combined hold most of the complete 2006 Upper Deck set. I say most because it's missing a few regular cards and most of the series 3 SPs. When I finally finish this set (minus the SPs, first, and then eventually the SPs), it will be the largest base set that I finished. Now, before you get all excited for me, know I started with a a huge lot. But one of my collecting goals is to have a complete Upper Deck baseball set from every year 1989-2010, and this is the biggest hurdle in that race.

So what makes this set so great? Well, let's start with the size. The set was issued in three series. Series 1 and 2 were 500 card issues, and the update series was issued as a 250 card set. 1250 is a large number for a set. Upper Deck issued two other sets (2007 and 2009) with about 1000 cards each. Topps' largest base set was issued in 1993, at 825 cards (the largest Topps Total sets were the 990-card 2002 and 2003 issues). Stadium Club maxed out at 900 cards in 1992, Donruss and Fleer never broke 800, and Score hit 893 for a couple years. So by far this is the largest postwar standard-issue set. (Did I miss something? Let me know.)

Now, let's look at the checklist. With 1250 cards, everybody and their brother is in this set. There are tons of rookies, the biggest names being Prince Fielder, Jonathan Papelbon, Brian Wilson, Ryan Zimmerman, and Dustin Pedroia. Derek Jeter appears three times in the set (twice as checklists). Greg Maddux also appears three times - in series 1 as a base card, in series 2 as a checklist, and in the update set to signify a trade. But mainly this set is full of players. Obviously rookies make up a large portion of the set (without counting, the number appears to be somewhere around 200+ rookies). But other than checklists, there aren't really any "filler" cards like UD used to do (and in fact I love). Remember the 1993 Upper Deck "Teammates" subset? Nothing like that here. All Stars? Nope. Upper Deck saved those for the inserts.

Okay, lots of variety as far as players go, but what about value? The 2006 set is valued at $600 according to my January 2011 Beckett ($200 per series). Leave out the SPs in the update set, and the value drops $150. Commons price at 40 cents each. The common update SPs price at $2 or $8, so there's the $150 for the update set (and a large price tag for me to finish the set). But what about high value cards? Where are the keys to the set? The 2001 UD set is valued at $150, but the Pujols RC is $60 of that. Is there a Pujols-like RC in this set? Well, Adam Jones has an SP RC valued at $25. One of the Jeter CLs is an SP, and $12. And Dustin Pedroia's RC is valued at $12. Pat Neshek's RC is $8. Brian Wilson squeezes in as the only $5 card in the listings. The rest of the set books at $4 or less. So this is a set that is built for set builders, and that's reflected in the price.

As expected from Upper Deck, the photography is great and fills the whole card. Richie Sexson is just about to field a bouncing grounder, and you can make out the MLB logo on the baseball. Many of the series 2 cards feature spring training photography (especially Tampa Bay - who wants a bunch of dome shots?) and when there isn't action there's still something interesting happening in the picture (who's Ichiro high-fiving?). The design is simple - the Upper Deck logo in foil, a small team foiled logo over a black box, and the player's last name in large team colors. The player's full name and position is overlaid in foil over their last name. As usual, foil over an image can be hard to read (look at the image of Conor Jackson at the top). The vertical backs continue the blocks and team color scheme. A different headshot is in the corner, the card number next to that (which would have been much better in a corner, instead of off the corner). Vitals and a team logo finish out the top block. A short bio precedes the career statistics, both of which are black on white. Everything is pretty easy to read.

Pack rippers had plenty to pull. Parallels were gold (/299 or /99) and silver (/99 or /25) (including rookie foils /399, /99, /15, and /1). As expected, there are plenty of inserts, most of which feature relic variations. The first series featured a 100-card First Class Legends set, the checklist of which contained only five players (the first class elected to the Hall of Fame - how clever). The second series featured historic players in a much better manner - the All-Time Legends set contains 40 cards, but features 40 players. And found only in series 1 and 2 fat packs were Collect the Mascots cards, great for kids. The most worthwhile (and "unique", if there is such a thing) relic set is the WBC Collection jerseys, and the autographs were split between the rookie foils, INKredible, and Signature Sensations. This was the first year in a while that Upper Deck issued a large number of insert sets in addition to autographs and relics (although some of those sets featured relic versions).

Overall, this may be one of my favorite Upper Deck sets. If I had the money and the opportunity, I would have loved to open a case of each series and try to put together a master set (maybe sans the $200 Jeter autograph and $250 Ichiro WBC jersey). Granted, the design is very similar to prior years (and it reminds me a lot of the 1994 set) but it has a little for everybody - a great challenge for set builders with the usual great photography, the ability to pull a wide collection of inserts (for the kids, especially, buying the fat packs and other offerings in retail stores), and a good selection of autographs and jerseys.

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