Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nostalgic Box Break: 1999 UD Choice (Part One)

I'm feeling generous today- d'you guys wanna see the absolute WORST product I've ever busted a box of?

Oh, you guys are gonna need to buckle up. Seriously. This is one I've been saving for a few years. I've missed a few opportunities to post it, and I've been waiting for the exact right moment...which I think could be this one.

In 1999, Upper Deck decided they were going to retire their long-running rival brand to Stadium Club, Collector's Choice. This was met with outcries from fans, people who adored the product. So...Upper Deck compromised.

1999 UD Choice was their compromise. To this end, 1999 UD Choice is the Fant4stic of baseball card sets. It arrived at an odd point, it was made as a cash grab, it was doomed to fail, and it was a heartless, soulless way to attract fans of the original brand.

This hobby box contains 36 packs of 'CHOICE'...which was now even-more kid-engineered than its predecessors.  The base set, the ENTIRE BASE SET, is 155 cards, which means that opening a 36-pack hobby box of the product is kind of counter-intuitive. i might see if I can get a complete base set out of this, not that anyone would pay for it.

I'm going to open 9 at a time...that's all the pain I'll allow per day. Here are the first nine packs. Remember that I warned you:

 Pack 1-
Hall of Famers: 2/10
Future Hall of Famers: 1/10
Things That Piss Me Off: 5

I'd like to point out, first of all, that it looks nothing like any previous Collector's Choice design. It looks very formulaic, very basic, very white-driven. It almost looks like an Upper Deck Victory design, Upper Deck MVP design, COINCIDENCE, this set ended up being replaced by. It's almost like this product was a test-run for UD MVP that was essentially doomed to fail.

The photography is zoomed-back, and features a ton of pedestrian, commonplace poses, which is the exact opposite of what made Collector's Choice great. It's all too slick, too formula-driven, too...nice. Collector's Choice wasn't nice, it was relaxed, fun-looking.

 The backs...again, look like UD Victory. The stats are squeezed tightly towards the center, there's  TON of empty space, especially that little bit next to the logos. Did...did they just not know what to put there? Did they finish cramming everything in and think that leaving a third of the card with empty space was okay?

I will give them credit for the small inset of the player, as well as color-coding the cards with the minor color, the blue. But...this is still pretty pathetic.

 The horizontals aren't much better. In the past, horizontal cards gave us insanely quirky poses. probably the craziest pose in the pack, and this is insanely boilerplate.

 The Rookie Class subset is a little better, especially the wood-panel inset. But there's so much unused space in this card, especially with the photo-cut-out. Bad execution.

 The Cover Glory subset isn't much better, because 80% of the card is obscured by orange filtering, where only a small subset shows the actual photo. If you're going for an actual cover-of-a-mag thing, maybe we should, you know, be able to see the actual cover photo.

 Starquests are back in this set, which I don't have a ton of problems with, as the '98 CC edition went pretty well. This one, again, is kinda boiler plate, though I'll give the design credit for popping more than the base does. Great two players, too. Blue, is, of course, the commonest shade of SQ, so we'll be seeing a ton more of those.

 We did get a base-HOF-er in this, and it's Pedro Martinez, but...that's the best Pedro photo you could find, UD??

 Pack 2-
HOFers: 2/10
Future HOFers: 1/10
Guys That Showed Up in the Last Pack: 3/10
Things That Piss Me Off: 1
 More Starquests. These ones haven't really held up over time.

 Robert Fick looks really awkward in this one. Like he knows this product's gonna be crap.

 More Kerry Wood action, as he was pretty huge in 1998.
Randy Johnson's Cover Glory one is nice, but it'd be a ton nicer, especially for people trying to nab any Johnson-in-Houston cards they can, if we could see more of the main photo.

 Base heroes. Thome was still one of the strongest bats in baseball, Martinez was still helping the Yankees win titles, and Piazza was JUUUUUST getting started fulfilling his legacy in Queens.

 Pack 3-
Hall of Famers: 2/10
Future Hall of Famers: 2/10
90's Team Heroes: 4/10

Did a little better with StarQuests in this one- yes, A-Rod is A-Rod, but the Chipper Jones red parallel comes 1 in 23 packs, making it the 2nd-rarest. Still a pretty nice pull.

 Mark Grace is one of the best overall hitters of the 1990s. If he'd done it anywhere else but Chicago, maybe he would have gotten more HOF votes.

 The guy on the left was a living legend, a Padre til the day he died. The guy on the right was an Angels hero that never amounted to a great deal after his rookie season.

 Two legends. Derek Jeter was just getting started on his legendary career in the Bronx. Ken Griffey Jr., seen in this surprisingly awesome Yard Work insert, was just ending his equally-legendary reign in Seattle.
I didn't have a ton of problems in this pack aside from the ones I'd already discussed. I am, however, still very mad.

Pack 4-
Steroid Abusers: 3/10
Team Heroes: 3/10
HOFers: 1/10
Juan Gonzalez: 2/10
Nice StarQuests in this one. Scott Rolen was all over the product, as he was still in his 'greatest-ever' phase after his rookie season in '97. Jason Giambi's is a green parallel.
Bernie Williams had so many great cards with Collector's Choice...and here we go with a really commonplace shot.

TWO SEPARATE BLAND JUAN-GONE SHOTS. They're so similar, too. And one of them's supposed to be a subset.

Alright, at least this one's a pretty nice shot of Frank Thomas, feels more like something Topps flagship would use than Collector's Choice.

Pack 5-
Hall of Famers: 1/10
Guys We Literally Just Talked About Last Pack: 2/10
World Series Heroes: 2/10

At least the Kenny Lofton's a pretty good one, though...another really bland photo.

Scott Rolen and El Duque, in uninspired subsets. Even El Duque just looks tired and bored in his Rookie Class photo.

Andruw Jones, and a nice green, semi-rare StarQuest of Jeff Bagwell.

Pack 6-
Steroid Abusers: 2/10
Future Red Sox: 2/10
Hall of Famers: 1/10
I already pulled this Jim Thome StarQuest a few packs ago, but they were nice enough to give me another one. Ugh. Also, I got a Ken Griffey StarQuest, which is always a plus.

Man-Ram's photo at least has a little bit of life in it, but the grey tones do suck it out. As a bonus, Adrian Beltre's rookie card...ish. Like, people were doing his rookie cards in 1997, but this is still technically a rookie card.

Also for the KIDS, there's this insert set of HEADS-UPs, I think, of foldable little bobble heads of players. This one's of 1998 home run hitter Greg Vaughn. These haven't really aged well. It just look like headless Greg Vaughn is just spookily confused.

Pack 7-
Hall of Famers: 1/10
Steroid Abusers: 2/10

One StarQuest is of current standout and then-Dodgers prospect Adrian Beltre. The other is of the guy that had just chased Mark McGwire for the 61 race, Sammy Sosa.

...and HERE HE IS AGAIN! Man, with such a small set, you do get a ton of player takeovers. Also, a Cover Glory subset of Tony Gwynn, blah blah I can't friggin see him.

I'll give this Carlos Delgado one credit for being a bit more out-of-the-box than most of the photography in this set. It's still a bit lifeless though.

Pack 8-
Ugh: 10/10
Gary Sheffield's card does look cool, but I would have zoomed the photo in a bit more to get the full awesomeness. Nomar Garciaparra cards were just mailed in back in 1999, as they knew kids were gonna buy them.

Jeromy Burnitz and Ray Lankford were my highlights, so you can tell how thrilled I was with this pack. Maybe I was just thrilled to pull non-dupe non-star cards.

Pack 9-
Hall of Famers: 1/10
Future Hall of Famers: 2/10
Steroids: 3/10

Two of the most legendary infielders in major league history. Jeter's is a common, Ripken's is a rare.

Rafael Palmeiro was still in Baltimore in 1999 for some reason. Chipper Jones was still one of the greats in 1999, on the way to leading Atlanta to another Series.

On the top, you'll see a Cardinals prospect with a swollen head. On the bottom, you'll see a Cardinals hitter with...everything swollen, I'm guessing. McGwire's card is actually pretty good, but the league's infatuation with JD Drew in 1999 has not aged well.

I'll post the 2nd half of this relatively soon,'s not gonna get much better.


  1. The Yard Work insert set is awesome! I hadn't seen it before.

    1. That insert set may, in fact, be the one good thing about this product.

  2. Yep, I never liked anything about that set. I have a handful left, those are the first to go in trades. But fun to rip a box.