Late in January, Upper Deck launched a new promotion that will potentially change the way we collect hockey cards. Known as - Upper Deck e-Pack, the company’s initiative promises to bridge the gap between digital and traditional card collecting. While there are other online platforms such as Topps Bunt and Star Wars Digital, e-Pack is the first platform that allows collectors to build a digital collection while simultaneously adding physical cards to their inventory, thanks to a partnership with Check Out My Cards (hereafter referred to as COMC). Their objective is to provide hobbyists who may not have access to a local card store, or even those collectors who do, the instant ability to open packs, boxes, or even entire cases of cards with a few simple clicks. This is, and with no hint of exaggeration, something that can revolutionize card collecting.
At present, Upper Deck e-Pack allows collectors to access a single release: 2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1. If there was ever a product to try something so daring, this is the one. The signature Upper Deck brand this year is one of the hottest releases in the past decade, attracting new and lapsed collectors to the hobby while also seeing a resurgent interest from hardcore collectors. The allure of a Connor McDavid rookie card is a major selling point, and having the ability to pull that rookie card in any format is tremendously enticing to serious and casual collectors alike.
What is it and where do these cards come from?
Upper Deck stated on the launch of the platform that a portion of the Series 1 Hobby allocation was withheld from the market in order to populate the e-Pack system. While this revelation has ruffled some feathers among collectors and taken many by surprise, in order to make the system viable and attractive they had to include a sampling of the most desirable cards in the production run to get people clicking. Some people mistakenly stated that they thought that this new e-Pack wave of release meant increasing the production run or that their chances of hitting certain chase cards were diminished. Thanks to the willingness of Upper Deck on social media to provide clarification we know this not to be the case. Per Chris Carlin, the portion of the hobby allocation of Series 1 withheld for e-Pack is “SIGNIFICANTLY [emphasis in the original] less that what was put into physical packs, boxes and cases.”
The e-Pack allocation is not a new pie (i.e. production run) containing newly printed cards, with the exception of the e-Pack exclusive Code to Greatness and Instant Impression inserts so there are no new Young Guns, Exclusives, or any other additional numbered cards potentially hitting the market; rather, it is a small portion taken off of a single large pie. Of the 100 Exclusives cards and 10 High Gloss cards, some of those cards were withheld from the physical Series 1 Hobby allocation - they could be in varying numbers, or it could be an exact number corresponding across the entire print run. It would be unwise to speculate exact numbers, as Upper Deck has not and will not disclose that information, but they anticipate that the e-Pack release of Series 1 will sell out. In the very short time that e-Pack has been live, I have seen one individual hit a 2015-16 Upper Deck Exclusives Spectrum #239 Mike Condon YG #’d to just 10 copies and the 2015-16 Upper Deck NHL Draft #SP1A Connor McDavid AU SP:
What a thrill! It might be the only such copy available in this platform based on the physical e-Pack allocation distribution, and naturally it has people crossing their fingers for their own limited Connor McDavid card to come from their own digital e-Pack breaks.
Those people who complain that this 2015-16 Upper Deck NHL Draft #SP1A Connor McDavid AU SP card, or the 2015-16 Upper Deck Exclusives Spectrum #239 Mike Condon YG, or others like them diminished their own chances of pulling that exact card have it wrong. Proportionally, the odds of hitting an Exclusives, High Gloss or SSP card are exactly the same in e-Pack as they were in the physical release. If you go to the e-Pack Store page and click on the Odds (the little dice) you see the insert ratios of the e-Pack product. Compare them with the back of your Series 1 Hobby pack - the only distinction is the e-Pack exclusive inserts. Remember, it's all from one pie. If you buy a case of Series 1 Hobby from your LCS and a case of Series 1 Hobby from the e-Pack store, your odds of hitting any particular numbered card are identical. Assuming a standard break you will get: 72 Young Guns, a Signature Sensations, an Acetate Die-Cut, and 12 Game Jersey cards. Any other Series 1 Hobby hits, such as the Exclusives, High Gloss or A Piece of History memorabilia cards or the SP-1 McDavid and SP-2 Eichel, are equally randomly distributed in both physical and e-Pack formats. If you go into your break, regardless of size and regardless of physical or e-Pack, expecting to hit a specific card you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. With e-Pack, you never had a chance to pull 2015-16 Upper Deck Exclusives Spectrum #239 Mike Condon YG 2/10 from a physical box break. Conversely, with the physical allocation, you never had a chance to pull 2015-16 Upper Deck Exclusives Spectrum #239 Mike Condon YG #5/10, #6/10 or #8/10 from an e-Pack break. High Gloss Young Guns are a multi-case hit - they're not distributed one in every case, and the odds of hitting any one of them is very small. It is a tremendous stroke of luck for any collector to hit one of these cards when you consider how much of the product is made and how far across the world it is distributed. A small shop in Penticton, BC, may not even see one Young Guns High Gloss pulled from their stores while a big store in Edmonton may only get one or two Young Guns High Gloss out of the 500 total cards in existence. In my eight years of collecting and breaking wax, I've only ever pulled one Young Guns High Gloss, and that was in 2007-08 and it was 2007-08 Upper Deck High Gloss Parallel #481 Mark Fraser. It's been eight years since I pulled one - sure, I've come to own many regular set High Gloss of Canadiens players like Josh Gorges and PK Subban, but that's all from the secondary market courtesy of breakers who have opened way more wax than me and posted them online rather than simply stowing them away in your collection. Bottom line in all this? Don't be too flustered that one or two copies of a supremely short-printed card you probably weren't going to pull anyways was never in the physical release.
Why did the e-Card platform come out now?
Timing is everything. The 2015-16 hobby season is one of the most exciting in years, featuring a number of excellent rookies and established favorites like Carey Price (coming off a record-setting season in 2014-15 and his card prices have skyrocketed accordingly) bringing in a lot of new collectors. With the technology available, and heightened interest in collecting cards, launching e-Pack now is taking advantage of a hot market. On a scale relative to the release of the physical Series 1 product, having e-Pack launch two months after protects the traditional card stores that are the backbone of this hobby. Even with this new innovation, many collectors will still prefer to go to their local card store and buy their packs, boxes, and even cases in person. Nothing can really replace the rush of opening that last pack in the box and hitting an awesome personal collection card. Those Diamond Dealers deserve to have a window of exclusivity for the market. Upper Deck goal with e-Pack is not at all to replace them or drive collectors away from traditional methods of collecting. Indeed, their objective is to have the platform be a gateway to get more people involved in physical collecting. I have tried out the e-Packs, and while it is pretty neat, I cannot envision this overtaking my preferred LCS, Players Choice Sports, as my main source for breaking wax.
How does it become “real” cards in my hands?
This is, in my opinion, the coolest and indeed even most environmentally friendly part of the program: e-Pack takes base cards and packaging out of the equation. I don’t collect base sets, so being able to spend the few bucks to build a digital-only base set while still having the ability to bring home the hits is fantastic. I have a COMC account, which allows me to instantly transfer those hits to my account and request them to be shipped to me. In pairing e-Pack with COMC, Upper Deck is aligning with the most efficient and reliable online card purchasing site in the world. I say that with all due respect to the many collectors here on SCF (SportsCardForum.com) and across the Internet that I have dealt with. But COMC has an inventory of millions of cards that they maintain, and are able to process some very diverse and large orders in a very short time period. It took me about two minutes to link my COMC account to my e-Pack account and transfer a 2015-16 Upper Deck Shining Stars #SS24 Patrice Bergeron to COMC. That card is now listed for sale for the price of 60 cents.
Transferring those standard inserts and the Young Guns is just one aspect of e-Pack that has allure for collectors. Also featured with the initial release are the exclusive Silver Foil Board parallels that you can exchange your digital base cards to receive. If you collect ten digital base cards of the same player, you can “trade” those for this shiny new parallel. I was a big fan of Panini’s Icy Blue parallels that were included when they launched their Rewards website, grabbing a PK Subban 1/1 for my collection. These parallels will surely rival those in card collecting as chase cards. And this is the real test for a collector’s patience: exchanges can also be done with the Young Guns. By hoarding five Young Guns in your collection, you can swap those for the Silver Foil Board Young Guns.
The early return on these seems to be very strong, and rightfully so. Since the Young Guns can only be acquired through e-Pack purchases of packs, boxes, and cases, a significant amount will have to be spent in order to get five cards of the same player. 2015-16 Upper Deck Foil #228 Dylan Larkin YG sold for $350 USD on the date of release, which is substantially higher than the going rate for five copies of his regular Young Guns rookie. As with all their non-numbered inserts, Upper Deck will allow the market to determine how scarce these parallels are, with Chris Carlin stating: “the number in the market is completely dependent on the amount of people who combine their cards and have the parallels shipped to them so that is a bit of an X factor.”
What are some potential future avenues for this program?
There are two major activities I envision for collectors that I will discuss here: online trading and group breaking using e-Packs. Both of these promise to be very exciting ways for people to enhance their collecting. There is of course much more to discuss: Upper Deck is just scratching the surface with the Series 1 and Series 2 digital releases, and is in the process of gathering feedback from its network “to develop new and exciting ways to engage customers through a physical and digital experience.” Could digital exclusive releases be something that happens in the future?
Upper Deck has stated that a trading program will become available for e-Pack in the coming weeks (along with an app for Google Play and iOS users), allowing collectors to swap their digital cards to achieve their objectives. Upper Deck has stated that it will be a peer-to-peer system, which is fantastic for those of us already familiar with online trading. The platform will allow collectors to connect directly with one another to make specific trades—if my friend needs two digital cards of his favorite base player and I have them, and he has two Carey Price cards it’s a natural swap for two friends to help out one another personal collection. The system, when established, will allow collectors to trade in this manner and it will happen “securely and instantly.” This can have a carry-over effect to trading communities like SCF where people can post their want and have lists to set up deals to make on the e-Pack site. For online collectors, sites like SCF are already well-established resources for trading physical cards, and with e-Pack now they may be able to swap digital cards as well.
Online group breaks have become one of the major resources for people to acquire cards in the past couple years. Sites like breakers.tv and SCF affiliates like scctradingcards have become prominent through their offerings. One has to imagine that they, and others, will be incorporating e-Pack into their strategies. For team-based case breaks, the outcome can be instantaneous as one of the features of e-Pack is to just click a button and all the results from the digital case break can be displayed. Members can then have the cards securely and instantly transferred to their account via peer-to-peer swaps or the breaker can transfer to their own COMC account and have the cards disbursed physically or transferred to other members COMC accounts. It does add an extra layer of shipping that doesn’t presently exist with traditional group breaks, but consider other potential benefits. With a case break, the breaker will be close to having enough digital copies of the base cards to stack and exchange for the Silver Foil parallels. Participants in the break can receive those as additional hits to their haul, or, the special foil parallels can be raffled off among the members as a special bonus for their participation. The options to expand the frontier of group breaking are plentiful!
Upper Deck e-Pack is a game changer. Should the platform fully establish itself as a legitimate means for collectors to supplement their collections, it is going to change the way we collect hockey cards. Just as the Internet expanded horizons for collectors to make trades with people halfway around the world via trading communities like SportsCardForum.com, e-Pack expands the horizons of collecting itself. Among collectors, some people will be content to build a digital set. Others will dabble with the site and buy the occasional packs and boxes. Die-hard collectors who don’t have access to a local card shop will use this as their main source of building up their collections for the handful of Upper Deck products made available. Case breakers will be able to add exclusive cards to their collections while also broadening participation for group breaks.
The keys for Upper Deck, going forward, will be: making sure that information about the platform and the products with split production between standard releases and e-Pack is readily available; database integrity and accuracy; and continuing to promote the LCS and brick & mortar stores as the pillars of card collecting.
The “surprise” nature of e-Pack and the inclusion of a portion of the Series 1 Hobby print run has definitely upset some collectors. Rightly or wrongly, they feel that cards that should have only been in the hobby packs, boxes or cases were taken out of those cases to help sell the new platform. The lack of information in advance of launch shocked people and as expected they took to social media to denounce Upper Deck largely without having information made available to them or without having read what information Upper Deck did distribute on the day of the launch. Card collectors can be a fickle bunch, and the nature of social media allows them to vent their frustrations quickly and easily. Those collectors who felt “cheated” that there are only 7-9 High Gloss cards available from the physical release instead of the full ten may not have had that indignation had they been made aware of the program and its structure when Series 1 was released in November. While some understand that proportionally all the hit ratios and likelihood of hitting any individual SSP card remained unaffected by the reduced allocation, others simply view not having all cards in the physical product as problematic. Hopefully in the future, and Series 2 is not that far away, Upper Deck will do more to make collectors aware of this new reality.
Making sure that hit ratios and that all cards allotted to e-Pack are properly tracked and disbursed is going to be of utmost importance to the success of e-Pack. Should a situation somehow arise where two collectors end up getting the same limited card (i.e. something with a same serial number) it will be a major blow to the integrity of the system. Collectors are already on edge about numbered cards being removed from the physical allocation, so any digital errors will be compounded in perception of integrity. Upper Deck is confident that the e-Pack releases are limited enough that they will sell out, so collectors fully expect key chase cards to materialize out of the digital product. As previously posted we have seen a 2015-16 Upper Deck Exclusives Spectrum #239 Mike Condon YG 2/10 and the 2015-16 Upper Deck NHL Draft #SP1A Connor McDavid AU SP already appear out of e-Pack, and people will no doubt be on the lookout for more of these monster hits. With COMC handling distribution, collectors can take comfort knowing that their physical cards will be in good hands before they arrive at their doorsteps.
Lastly, I hope that we will not be seeing simultaneous releases in the physical and digital platforms or undercutting the cost of the physical product. Upper Deck staunchly defends their Diamond Dealer stores and promotes the brick & mortar as the lifeblood of the hobby. This is how it must remain. If Upper Deck wants to have e-Pack exclusive releases, or exclusive cards within multiple-release platforms like Series 1 and Series 2, that is fine—but they cannot overshadow the physical product. The prices are slightly higher than you would pay in store, especially when you factor in shipping. This is also good as it is a slight disincentive to buy online in large quantities, especially when you have a local shop where you can immediately get the cards in your hands and at a lower cost. By staggering the release and giving hobby shops an exclusive window to release the cards, hopefully it will encourage collectors to visit their LCS to (literally) get their hands on the product immediately. Series 1 release night was a tremendous time for myself and other collectors here in Kelowna--Players Choice was full of people opening box after box, case after case. Two young collectors, both under 10 years old, got the thrill of a lifetime when their dad got Edmonton in a case break that had two 2015-16 Upper Deck #201 Connor McDavid YG RC. You absolutely cannot replicate that experience with a digital product. Upper Deck has no desire to take that away from collectors. By continuing to promote the physical experience as the primary means, with e-Pack as a valued supplement, of collecting we will see a very interesting blend of the physical and the digital come together to bring us all into a new era of card collecting.
The article was written by Richard McAdam a.k.a. RGM81 from SportsCardForum.com. Read the original article and participate in a discussion about Upper Deck e-Pack - Welcome to the New Wave of Collecting: Upper Deck Introduces e-Pack.
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As for me
The Upper Deck e-Pack is the great way for me to buy a Hobby box on affordable price. On today's currency exchange the e-Pack Series 1 Hobby box costs 79.94 Euros, but in Taass.com where I have bought Hobby boxes previously the cost for a box is 150 Euros, the shipping is about 9.50 Euros. Previously I have bought a two e-Pack's, but today I decided to buy a Series 1 Hobby box and I wasn't disappointed. Well I didn't pull any valuable Young Guns or autograph or even patch, but 2015-16 Upper Deck Day With The Cup #DC3 Jonathan Toews with Beckett value $60.00 saved me from desperation.
As I remember I registered in Upper Deck e-Pack at the opening day and I was really skeptical about all that like everyone other, but now I understand that this is a great opportunity for card collectors outside North America. I even can't wait the trading feature becomes available.
Trade cards with me