It seems like just yesterday that the famous Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card was all the rage thanks to a new card company called Upper Deck, but the manufacturer's base brand is nearly 20 years old. The 2008 set is loaded with crisp action photography as always, plus a nice array of inserts.
Collectors will find 16 packs inside hobby boxes of 2008 Upper Deck Series 1 or Series 2 baseball, with 20 cards in each pack. On average, each box should yield two game-used memorabilia cards and one autographed card.
Series 1 Base Cards
When you have some of the best baseball photos in the business, it only makes sense to give them as much room as possible to show off. Thus, it's nice to see the full bleed borderless design for the 2008 Upper Deck base cards, because the pictures really stand out. There's a very small team color bar at the bottom, and the player, team name and position are all done in silver foil. And that's a problem, because all of the information is very hard to read against the photos.
There are no such issues on the card backs, which are very well done. Full career statistics and a player head shot are part of the package, and there's even room for a small write-up at the bottom. The 400 base cards in Series 1 consist of 350 players (300 veterans and 50 cards with the MLB Rookie card logo), 30 team checklists and 20 season highlights cards focusing on memorable moments from 2007. Parallels for the first 300 cards come in just one level numbered to 99.
One hobby box should provide about three-quarters of a full base set, as a random Series 1 box opened for this review produced 303 of the 400 base cards with no duplicates.
Series 1 Memorabilia and Autographed Cards
Many of the memorabilia cards in Series 1 utilize the designs from the first three seasons that Upper Deck Baseball had game-worn jersey cards: 1997, 1998 and 1999. Though they are nothing special by today's standards, long-time collectors should enjoy thinking back to a time when pulling a memorabilia card was a rare event. All three types of retro jersey cards can be found in patch versions, which definitely did not exist a decade ago.
Also in the mix are UD Game Jersey cards, with swatches shaped like the letter 'D.' Frank Thomas and Jim Thome are honored with 500 Home Run Club Bat cards since they reached the milestone in 2007, and five Milestone Memorabilia cards recognize players who recorded other notable achievements.
The autographs are spread over a number of different subsets, but they are all pretty similar except in card design. Signature Sensations, Inkredible, Upper Deck Signatures and Season Highlights Signatures all feature a mix of veterans and young players and are all unnumbered cards.
One set that stands out a bit is All Rookie Team Signatures, which features 20 players who were rookies in 2007.
My review box came in as advertised with two memorabilia cards and one autograph. I pulled a 1999 UD Jersey Design Jason Kubel and a UD Game Jersey Jason Bay, as well as an All Rookie Team Signatures Kevin Cameron.
Series 1 Insert Cards
The majority of the regular insert cards found in Series 1 also have some sort of historic bent to them. Star Quest is a revival of an insert set from the 90's that features 30 players in five different parallel levels.
A brand that dates back to before Upper Deck existed is celebrated with 1969 O-Pee-Chee Reprints, which put 49 current players plus Babe Ruth on a throwback design. Thirty-one of the cards have special 1-of-1 autographed versions, and Upper Deck also purchased thousands of original O-Pee-Chee cards from various years and inserted them in random packs.
Two other inserts have already received a lot of publicity both inside and outside the hobby. Presidential Predictors are caricatures of various 2008 presidential hopefuls placed in humorous moments from baseball history. Or at least they're supposed to be humorous - Upper Deck pulled the Hillary Cinton card after receiving some heat for its unflattering portrayal of her as Morganna, the kissing bandit.
One of the most ambitious insert programs in baseball card history also gets its start in this set with the launch of the Yankee Stadium Legacy set. Each of the cards recaps one game from the long and storied history of the "House that Ruth Built," and collectors can expect to find a few in each box.
I found four Yankee Stadium Legacy cards in the About.com review box, plus two Presidential Predictors and eight 1969 O-Pee-Chee Reprints.
Series 2 Base Cards
Series 2 doubles the size of the base set with 400 more cards. Most of them (300 to be exact) are MLB veterans, including a number of players who switched teams between 2007 and 2008. The remaining cards are 2007 Season Highlights, Team Checklists and cards with the official MLB Rookie Card logo, most notably Kosuke Fukudome.
As with Series 1, a single box of Series 2 gets you a good way toward completing the whole run. A random box of Series 2 opened for this review turned up 298 of the 400 base cards and just three duplicates, one of which was the Fukudome rookie card.