With their 1989 baseball set, Upper Deck brought the hobby its first premium product. They backed that up with another innovation in 1990 with the first major chase card. But Upper Deck also innovated in how they marketed their products. All the major brands put ads in hobby publications and sports magazines along with providing sell sheets and pamphlets directly to dealers, but Upper Deck decided to target collectors directly in another way by distributing promotional/commemorative sheets.
This article kicks off a four-part series dedicated to these Upper Deck sheets, starting with those for baseball sets (later, I’ll cover hockey, basketball, and football sheets). There are two categories when it comes to baseball. In 1989 and 1990, Upper Deck provided Limited Edition Commemorative Sheets at card shows, announcing their entrance to the hobby, while from 1991-1994, they had commemorative sheets and Heroes of Baseball sheets that they distributed at sporting events. They’re all ~8 1/2″ x 11″ and blank-backed.
1989 Upper Deck Limited Edition Commemorative Sheets
In 1989, Upper Deck distributed a pair of Limited Edition Commemorative Sheets at two events to promote their first set. The first was at the 10th National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, held from June 29 – July 2. The sheets are numbered out of 25k.
Upper Deck gave out the other sheet at the National Candy Wholesalers Association Exposition in Washington, D.C., between July 27 and 29. This sheet is scarcer and costlier (probably because it includes the Ken Griffey Jr. card photo) than the NSCC one.
1990 Upper Deck Limited Edition Commemorative Sheets
Upper Deck promoted its sequel to the classic ’89 baseball set in 1990 in the same manner by distributing Limited Edition Commemorative Sheets.
One version was available at the Chicago Sun-Time Baseball Show, December 16-17, 1989, in Chicago, Illinois.
There are four variations saluting Street & Smith’s 50th Anniversary from the spring of 1990.
In July, another sheet was available at the 11th National Sports Collectors Convention in Arlington, TX.
And a final version, and the toughest to track down, was available at the 1990 All-American Sports Collectors Convention, August 31-September 3, in San Francisco, CA.
1991 Upper Deck Commemorative Sheet
Around this time, The Upper Deck Company replaced Equitable Financial Companies as the sponsor of Baseball’s Old-Timer Series – which was renamed the Heroes of Baseball Series.
The following article from The Journal Times in Racine, Wisconsin, from February 1991, explains that the 1991 24-game exhibition series benefits the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) and that Upper Deck would donate $10k to BAT for each of the Heroes of Baseball games that were set to begin on April 14.
So the next Upper Deck sheet is this single version dedicated to BAT, the Foundation of Baseball, and is numbered to 1500. Notice that it’s dated to 1991 on the seal.
1991 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Sheets
TCDB lists 23 total sheets in the 1991 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Sheet series, including two cover sheet versions with the schedule. One is numbered to 10k, the other to 20k, and both feature the same Reggie Jackson Heroes of Baseball card. The seal has a 1991 date, but the Upper Deck logo says 90/91.
The rest of the items were distributed at various events throughout the year. Interestingly, and perhaps it was based on expected attendance, the sheets are numbered to different totals. Here are a few examples.
1992 Upper Deck Commemorative Sheets
TCDB describes this series of five 1992 commemorative sheets as those distributed at Upper Deck-sponsored events but doesn’t include the Heroes of Baseball series, which they listed separately. The five events were the Yankees Second Annual Fan Festival (Jan/Feb 1992), Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (April 6, 1992), two versions were available at the All-Star FanFest in July 1992, and the last version honored the Atlanta Braves 1991-1992 Back-to-Back National League Champions.
1992 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Commemorative Sheets
The following article from the Tampa Bay Times, from February 1992, explains that in 1992, the Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball “tour” would be visiting all 26 stadiums plus Mile High Stadium (the original home of the Rockies who would join MLB the following season). Again, Upper Deck Co. donated $10k to BAT for each game.
TCDB lists 31 items in their checklist for this series of sheets. Here are a few examples, and again, serial numbering varied.
1993 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Sheets
Again, Upper Deck gave these sheets away during the Heroes of Baseball Tour. The checklist on TCDB includes 27 blank-backed sheets that again have varied serial numbering.
1994 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Sheets
The following article from the Journal News in White Plains, NY (March 1994) explains that Upper Deck was now donating $225k for every Heroes of Baseball game played to BAT and that in 1993, they donated $300k.
TCDB’s checklist includes just eight sheets in 1994 that the article explains Upper Deck gave away to every fan attending the various games.
I’m unsure what happened to the Hereos of Baseball series; Wikipedia implies the final game was played in June 1995 at Dodgers Stadium. And while the following ad from the LA Times from Tuesday, June 6, 1995, still includes Upper Deck’s sponsorship, the advertisement shares regular Dodgers games and the Saturday game against the Phillies at 7:35 (that they lost 3-0). I’m unsure if there was a Heroes game before the first pitch or if it was just a sponsored night where stars of the past appeared. Commemorative sheets aren’t mentioned in the ad for the Saturday game, and I haven’t found any from years after 1994.
Conclusion and Further Reading
You can find most of these Upper Deck baseball commemorative sheets for just a few dollars, but they hold a lot of historical value to the hobby and baseball. So whether you’re an Upper Deck card collector or just looking to make a display piece, these sheets would be an excellent way to spice up a collection or hobby cave. Ultimately, they’re a fantastic journey through Upper Deck’s contribution to the sports card industry. Don’t forget to revisit the blog over the next few weeks since I’ll be covering Upper Deck’s hockey, basketball, and football commemorative sheets, too.
Here’s a few more articles related to Upper Deck that you may have missed:
- First, if you missed the link to the 1990 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson Autograph article, in case you missed it in the intro.
- I also wrote a follow-up to the Find The Reggie promotion by exploring Upper Deck’s 1991 Autograph Heroes series cards.
- And last, if you’re interested in this era of cards, you might be interested in these 18 Awesome Early 1990s Baseball Cards.
Happy collecting, and don’t forget to sign up for The Post War Cards Newsletter!