Friday, September 2, 2016

1998 Upper Deck UD3: It's Complicated

In 1998 just about every card company tried in their own way to redefine the “set” with new configurations and the introduction of extremely complicated tiered base sets. Donruss did it with Preferred, Topps did it with a newly-complicated version of Finest, and Fleer did it harder than anybody with Flair Showcase. Everyone jumped on the complication trolley, leaving many collectors (including yours truly) scratching their heads at what they just pulled from packs.

“Look! I pulled a Class 6, Level B, Rainbow Gold, semi-common domino
refractor polka-dot edition, Seat 12!”
"Is that good?"
"No idea."

Upper Deck’s foray into the inconceivable was 1998 UD3. And while ridiculous by most standards, this set was a cinch to understand in 1998.

What we have here is a 270-card checklist with three tiers of subsets in three different effects. So it’s really a series of nine 30-card subsets. On top of that we have a die-cut parallel that is also tiered and serial-numbered with the rarer cards appearing later in the checklist.

The result is that each card has three numbers: a set number (out of 270), a subset number (out of 90), and an effect set number (also out of 90).

I don’t want any heads exploding, so I’m going to stick with just the Griffeys. Here’s the breakdown:

Each player appears in only one of the subsets, Griffey’s being Power Corps (there is also Future Impact and The Establishment, but don’t worry about those), and each subset shows up three times in the main checklist, once per effect. Each of Griffey’s three base cards is the same subset card in one of the three printing effects, so there are three regular Griffey base cards. Each of the subset/effect pairings are also seeded at differing rarities.

Each of those three base cards comes in a die-cut parallel as well, doubling the number of cards for each player to six. Add two to that as there is also a blurry background Griffey cameo on the Jay Buhner Rainbow card and its die-cut parallel. Those, along with the Sample card and Blow-up box topper card, gives us a total of 10 Griffeys from 1998 UD3.

Here is the full Griffey checklist from 1998 Upper Deck UD3:

#S1 Sample
#60 (Power Corps Light FX)
#60 (Power Corps Light FX) Die-Cut #/2000
#60 Power Corps Blowups 5x7
#150 (Power Corps Embossed)
#150 (Power Corps Embossed) Die-Cut #/1000
#240 (Power Corps Rainbow)
#240 (Power Corps Rainbow) Die-Cut #/100
Jay Buhner #213 (Power Corps Rainbow) (cameo)
Jay Buhner #213 (Power Corps Rainbow) Die-Cut #/100 (cameo)

So let’s start at the top:

1998 Upper Deck UD3 #60 (Power Corps Light FX)

The first 90 cards in the checklist are in an effect called “Light FX,” which is a fancy way of saying “etched foil.” These are 1:1, making them the easiest Griffey pulls in the set.

1998 Upper Deck UD3 #60 (Power Corps Light FX) Die-Cut #/2000

The die-cutting and numbering are the only differences here from the regular card. It doesn’t add much design-wise. I do appreciate the pre-rounded corners, though.

1998 Upper Deck UD3 #150 (Power Corps Embossed)

The next 90 cards are all in the Embossed effect. The Power Corps in this effect are only slightly rarer than those in the Light FX at 1:4 packs. As you can see this effect is bordered in bronze.

1998 Upper Deck UD3 #240 (Power Corps Rainbow)

The last 90 cards are in the Rainbow effect which is really just a refractor. At 1:12 packs these are the rarest non-parallel Griffey base cards, but this effect also includes the rarest subset/effect pairing at 1:24 packs for cards from The Establishment subset. The gold looks good, too, I must admit. The die-cut for this baby is limited to only 100 produced, a super low run for its time. It’s probably very expensive, too, so I’m in no hurry to complete this one.

And to make things more complicated...

1998 Upper Deck UD3 Jay Buhner #213 (Power Corps Rainbow) (cameo)

It's a cameo! Junior is sitting in the background by the dugout, hat on backwards, watching his buddy at the plate. Yeah, it's pretty blurry, but come on - that is so our guy.

Here are all the Griffeys I need from 1998 Upper Deck UD3:

#S1 Sample
#60 Power Corps Blowups 5x7
#150 (Power Corps Embossed) Die-Cut #/1000
#240 (Power Corps Rainbow) Die-Cut #/100
Jay Buhner #213 (Power Corps Rainbow) Die-Cut #/100 (cameo)

As for the design, it was a hot minute before I realized this was even a base card. I was already used to UD3 and its base set made up of multiple subsets from the 1997 product, but this year’s set is much more complicated and frankly looks a lot less like a base set. I always mistook it for a multi-tiered insert - I think it’s that big “1997” on the card front and plethora of text boxes that make it look that way. Those characteristics just aren’t very base-y, ya know?

I don’t know where they were planning on taking this brand, but whatever it was didn’t happen. I suppose it should be no surprise that I’ve never seen 1998 UD3 mentioned on the blogsphere apart from this post. 1997 UD3 comes up every now and again, but I think a lot of folks are content to just forget 1998 UD3 even happened.


  1. "...1998 UD3 even happened"

    Or even know.

  2. Oh man, I loves me some UD3! I consider it the epitome of '90s bling, because some of the wild cardtech they used actually had a touch of class to it.