Upper Deck was founded on baseball, but in terms of sports that the company has dominated the most in collectibles history, it would definitely be basketball. Before Michael Jordan won his first title in Chicago, Upper Deck locked him up to an exclusive deal and he remains the company’s longest tenured spokesmen. That was just the beginning.
Over the years when it came to basketball, exclusive deals were important to trading card manufacturers and it seemed like Upper Deck was always on top of discovering the next great athlete. The company worked with Kobe Bryant in his prime providing collectors with a bevy of quality trading cards and the best in terms of signed memorabilia.
When the bidding war started for spokesman rights for LeBron James, Upper Deck made sure the company won that battle. And collectors won with that as the company produced what is today LeBron’s most expensive trading card with the 2003/04 Exquisite Collection rookie autograph patch card, valued at $12,000 according to the July 2013 issue of Beckett Basketball. Expect that value to rise after LeBron’s fourth NBA MVP, second NBA title and second Finals MVP award.
On occasion it came down to choice and picking which player would be the best in a draft class. For example Upper Deck chose to work with Kevin Durant early in his career while rival Topps chose to work with Greg Oden. Needless to say boxes of Upper Deck’s 2007-08 trading card products carry a premium over the Topps basketball product from the same year. And by in large, Upper Deck’s basketball releases remain the collector’s choice because of the tremendous value the company can deliver through exclusive autograph content from LeBron James and Michael Jordan in particular.
When it comes to picking the next generation of basketball talent, Upper Deck continues to deliver these talented stars to collectors led by King James. Count on that to continue. In the meantime, long live the King!