1993 Upper Deck Baseball Blank: A Lesson in Surprise

The time has yet again come to share the feel of frosty weather that only December can provide. Another year passes and I’m not alone in the reflection of time gone by. This year has provided me with a great deal of lessons learned and once again I am reminded that I am human. As humans, it’s expected that we make a few mistakes along the way. Mistakes are often paired with a period of introspection. This is the same introspection that breads questions such as: What are my mistakes?; Am I the only one that identifies my actions as mistakes or are there others that share similar feelings?, and finally, What can I learn from my mistakes? Questions that require a modest and open mindset.

Some mistakes go unrecognized, even hidden from the public. In this hobby, I am often reminded that I am yet to be exposed to novel errors. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I find myself in the most vulnerable position to be blown away by the surprise of a new discovery. This week, a reader sent me some interesting information regarding an intriguing example of yet another unknown production scrap escapee.

To my knowledge (don’t quote me) but my initial understanding of the basic premise behind the general production and manufacturing cycle of baseball cards progresses along something like the following lines:

  1. Large blank sheet is loaded into the printing press
  2. Large blank sheet is then printed first with black, then with color
  3. Large sheet now becomes a large uncut sheet of baseball cards
  4. Large sheet is cut into 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ individual cards
  5. Individual cards are packaged, distributed and sold accordingly

Consider the steps for a moment, then take a look at this card from 1993 Upper Deck:

1993 Upper Deck blank card
1993 Upper Deck blank card | Source: William Dugger

Take another look at the card pictured, really look at it. Where the heck does this card land in the production cycle?! If this process is in fact accurate the card you see here shouldn’t exist. The fact that it does leads me to adopt one of two options:

  1. My understanding of the production cycle is flawed;
  2. Something happened as some point during the production phase that skipped a step in the process

So what the heck happened here? Let’s assume that this was in fact an unintentional error. With that in mind, let’s rewind to step #1 regarding the sheet loading process. During this phase, I’m going to propose a hypothesis:

The sheet was loaded in such a way that a portion of the sheet was hanging off, possibly off by a factor of 1. For example, let’s say the sheet is 10 cards wide and 12 cards long. There are two cuts: length and width. The lengthwise cuts will be 12 cards long and the widthwise cuts will be 10 cards long. Let’s assume now that the sheet was loaded in such a way that a 12″ and a 10″ cut was hanging off the edge of the cutting margin. Review the following illustration for clarification:

Illustrated Theory:
Uncut Sheet diagram

The yellow box denotes the production print/cut margin or area. This is the area intended for the uncut sheet to be placed or loaded. Note the hang-off on the right and bottom axis’. This is the portion of the sheet that wasn’t exposed to the cutting and printing process. The dotted lines represent cut lines. On the lower right hand corner, you’ll see a lightly shaded box; this could potential be the cut that resulted in the production of this card. This is the portion of the sheet that potentially could have created the blank card you see here. Depending on how many sheets were loaded in this way, there may be other such cuts, how many survived the process is the big question. Is this the only one or are there others?

This theory would nix the probability of this card ever experiencing the feel of ink which in turn would account for its blank sides. This card made it past the print stage unscathed but somehow made it through the same cutting phase as the rest of the sheet. This is the part that confuses me. If this card had been cut, it would have been easily identified by quality experts and trashed. If I were the quality expert and I saw a long strip of blank uncut cardboard, I would be alarmed and immediately attempt to identify the origin of the mistake. What boggles me is that it was cut from a strip that didn’t even make it into the cutting quadrant. This proposed conclusion is only admissible in the event that my hypothesis is correct. Truthfully, I have no idea how this card materialized. That fact alone safely holds my interest.

Whatever the case, I can vouch for the majority here by saying that this card wasn’t intended for public consumption. And rightly so. If I bought a pack of 1993 Upper Deck and all cards looked like this, I would either feel ripped off or experience the extreme urge to run out and invest in a pile of lottery tickets. Each experience is of course, personality specific. On one hand, the entitled collector would likely experience resentment toward Upper Deck for slighting the customer with what we’ll safely call, “fake outs”. On the other end of the spectrum we have collectors who understand that which falls strongly to the right of the 99th percentile of the normal distribution curve is in fact something of an anomaly and hence holds significance by brute force alone. These are the same collectors that find these outliers as the enhancements that keep them driving and maintaining interest. It’s these outliers that provide an army strong barrier against any probability that will have us abandoning the hobby. In English, as long as there are errors like this out there to be discovered, I will continually be an interested and involved collector. This again has me wondering… what else is out there?

I would like to thank William Dugger, the owner of this card, for reaching out to me and supplying pictures of his card. If you have any information on the origin of this mystery, I would love to hear your thoughts and I’m sure William would like to know as well. You can reach William at: [email protected]

Question of the Day:
If pro and con are opposites, wouldn’t the opposite of progress be congress?

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