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The LaDainian Tomlinson All-Star Vinyl, released this past season.

Go Figure
Upper Deck Energizes the Collectibles Market with All-Star Vinyls
March 4, 2008

You never really know for sure where or how the next collectible craze is going to start. Take Upper Deck’s hot-selling All-Star Vinyls. The popularity of these licensed sports action figures was born from a trend that began with the work of underground artists in Hong Kong and Japan in the late 1990s. It wasn’t until 2005 that Upper Deck saw the potential for similar pieces in the U.S.

“I came to the company to see what we could do differently with the toy segment,’ says Dave Sanders, Upper Deck’s Product Manager for Sports & Entertainment Figures. “At the time, we were in discussions with Nike, which was just about to kick off an ad campaign featuring LeBron James. The idea of All-Star Vinyls grew from there.”

The Derek Jeter All-Star Vinyl, due out at the start of the baseball season.

Upper Deck’s first launch—a 1,000-piece set of a James All-Star Vinyl—sold out almost instantly online. Sanders knew he had a winner on his hands. “Based that success,” says Sanders, “we went to the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.”

Since then, Upper Deck has released nearly 20 All-Star Vinyls, all limited editions. Among the most recent additions to the line are figures of Peyton Manning and Reggie Bush. Up next are Vince Carter, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant. After that, Upper Deck is hitting the MLB market with Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and David Wright.

“We expect a lot of excitement around our MLB line,” says Sanders. “These will all be first-time releases.”

For Upper Deck so far, the biggest challenge of All-Star Vinyls has been making the adjustment to selling collectibles at higher price points. The pieces generally go for between $75 and $100. The company has found two receptive audiences in existing vinyl toy collectors and mainstream sports collectors. Upper Deck has benefited from a symbiotic distribution strategy that combines direct sales from the All-Star Vinyl website and relationships with hobby shops, league stores and other retailers.

A print ad featuring the Brian Urlacher All-Star Vinyl.

Sanders is eager to see where else All-Star Vinyls will take Upper Deck. The company has exclusive agreements to produce pieces for Tiger Woods and Muhammad Ali. Upper Deck has also talked to mass retailers about a configuration suitable for smaller pieces at lower price points. Another spin-off is the Miniature Vinyl Platform, which will launch with the NFL.

“It has been a cool process to introduce something new and artistic that reaches out to a younger, more urban consumer,” says Sanders. “We’re showing that we can bring something fresh out of a more traditional category.”



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