|Upper Deck 2018 CFL Box Front and Upper Deck CFL 2018 e-pack website image|
In 2018 Upper Deck issued their 5th set of CFL trading cards which marked the fulfillment of their original five year deal with the CFLPA to produce football cards for the league. As an added bonus (maybe, depending on your point of view) it was also the first year that CFL cards were part of Upper Deck's e-pack program.
For those unaware the e-pack framework is a well thought out and implemented digital card acquisition web application (no sign of the promised mobile apps that I could see) whose killer feature (from a collector's perspective) is that you can have all of the premium cards that you buy digitally, shipped to you physically. Additionally the folks at Upper Deck very wisely integrated purchase based incentives into the system to acquire multiple card types that are only available through e-pack.
You cannot access any of the base cards that you buy digitally, and presumably as a collector you don't care because you are after the premium parallels, autographs, memorabilia and e-pack exclusive rarer cards. This then highlights the killer feature (from the manufacturer's perspective) in that you are actually buying product, of which some large majority percentage of the total cards bought, the seller does not have to deliver (or even produce?).
Now there are stated odds of each type of chase cards produced for every set, and I have read online that the cards that are opened digitally on e-pack were withheld from being physically distributed, thus maintaining the stated number of chase cards in the total population. But logistically speaking the speed with which the system "delivers" your digitally purchased cards indicates that the whole operation must be digital. How that would then be accurately accounted for and synched with a theoretical monumentally huge accumulation of non-packaged held back cards, is something of a questionable mystery.
Whether Upper Deck actually holds back cards or whether their product legalese related to the scarcity of particular chase cards fully allows them to add as many different sources of the same types of cards as their business interests deem prudent, I don't really know or care. I'm just trying to inform collectors of what was once (potentially) made available to collect.
So signing up for e-pack is simple and then the next step is to buy digital packs, boxes or cases (for the latter two there are very skimpy discounts). As the packs are priced in US dollars I am pretty sure the cost is significantly more that buying the physical product. At least where I bought my boxes they were $105 CAD if I recall, and since I got them at a card show, no shipping charges. With the US $ exchange rate hovering near 1.35 at $91.99 per box that would translate to about $124 CAD. Many of the digital products have occasional sale pricing but I have not seen the CFL cards reduced as of yet.
One of the best things about e-pack is the capability to trade with other collectors. Most collectors specialize in certain teams or players or card types, so they generally have a lot of premium cards that they would rather exchange with others for their own specific wants. Once you have some cards (and they can be cards from the free pack a day of certain fringe card sets) you can examine others holdings and suggest trades, and they can do the same.
Another approach is to look for sellers on ebay offering the e-pack exclusive cards and either buy them outright, or purchase them from their digital holdings. But be careful with the latter as the cards can be transferred to you for free, but you will need to pay the Upper Deck shipping costs to get them actually mailed to you, and while this is a small amount per card, it adds up quick.
You can also transfer your cards to ComC which is a giant trading card sales agent conglomerate operating online and on ebay, and consign your cards for sale if you wish. While ComC may work out OK for sellers maybe, for buyers their shipping costs to Canada are outrageous, sometimes quoting near $25.00 CAD to ship one card! I guess what with all the dog sleds and igloos involved with delivering anything north of the border, you can't really blame them...
So what is the net effect of the e-pack program on the available CFL cards to collect? The physical product contained 1000 different versions of the base cards, 102 Autographs, 2 Manziel shortprints and 97 memorabilia cards for a grand total of 1201. The e-pack cards added 200 Blue versions of the base cards, 2 Manziel shortprints, 60 memorabilia cards and 800 printing plates for a grand total of 1062 additional distinct items to potentially collect.
But do you really need a sixth different version (Blue) of all of the same cards in the set? And almost all of the remaining 862 e-pack cards are short printed to 5 or less copies with 833 of those being singular 1/1 items, so only one person gets to acquire each card. In order to get any significant amount of these 862 rarities a person would have to spend a LOT of $$$ on e-pack (as some have), which from the manufacturer's perspective is of course the whole point of the platform.
Upper Deck is returning with a 6th set of CFL cards in 2019, and we will soon know whether or not collectors will be blessed with more e-cards this time around. For some that will be good news and for others it may be re-diculous.