Upper Deck's rookie mistake Tiger gives golf series a shot, but don't pretend it's his 1st card

Posted: May 31, 2001

After a two-year courtship, Upper Deck and Tiger Woods recently announced a deal that would open the doors for a PGA Tour release featuring the young superstar.

Woods' signing marks the initial phase in a major golf collectibles initiative on which Upper Deck is embarking this summer.

The golf venture has some obvious risks. Previous national golf issues by Donruss and Pro Set, pre-dating Woods, failed to find an audience; those cards linger in the $5-a-box bargain bins to this day. But by adding Woods to its product, Upper Deck has a better chance of scoring an ace than did either of the others.

The agreement makes Upper Deck the first major worldwide collectibles company to produce Woods trading cards and autographed collectibles.

That was the good news.

The bad news followed shortly thereafter, when Beckett.com, the pricing and grading authority, announced the Upper Deck card will be designated as his rookie card.

A press release from Hugh Murphy at Beckett said "careful consideration and analysis of the market led Beckett.com to its decision. The RC designation is supported by the card collecting hobby's recognition of Upper Deck as a trusted manufacturer. The national distribution of the product is due this month."

Doug Cataldo, from Glassboro N.J.-based Sportsology.net, a leading Internet hobby information source, was the first to sound his displeasure.

"This sounds to me like Beckett wants to redefine the Woods rookie card to cash in on grading and make it bank like PSA [another card grader] did with the Grand Slam Ventures card," Cataldo said.

And that's where he and I strongly agree. Beckett can't simply designate a card as a rookie card just because it feels like it.

A Woods card first issued in 1997 by Grand Slam Ventures is considered by the hobby to be the first legitimate Woods card.

There also is a Woods card floating around issued by Sport Kings that never got into full production but, nevertheless, exists.

Beckett says it will recognize the Sports Ventures card as an XRC (extended rookie card, whatever that means). The analogy it presents is the 1984-85 Star Company Michael Jordan XRC vs. the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan RC.

In both cases, the initial manufacturer was not recognized as an entrusted mainstream hobby entity.

Murphy's release also trumpeted the fact that Beckett Grading Services already has graded several of the Upper Deck Tiger Woods promo cards, including two designated as Gem Mint.

As the leading online destination for sports collectible enthusiasts, Beckett.com has a responsibility to collectors to play it straight and, candidly, this pushes the boundaries way past my comfort zone. Since Beckett also is the premier publisher of sports collectibles magazines, it simply should not be in the business of fixing prices and grading cards.

In a nutshell, this stinks! *

Send e-mail to mrhmerun@aol.com

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