Upper Deck calls its latest creation "cards for the 21st century," a billing with which few would disagree.
The company's recently-released Encore NBA cards include nine PowerDeck inserts randomly distributed in packs. The PowerDeck cards are 32-megabyte CD-ROM disks that can be played on most computers.
While other companies have made similar efforts in the past, PowerDeck is the first CD-ROM card that has the same dimensions as a normal trading card and requires no external adapter to be used. Put the card in a CD-ROM drive, and with a click of the mouse you can see everything from video footage to career highlights.
"Upper Deck considers these cards to be the cards for the 21st century," said Terry Melia, hobby media manager at Upper Deck, "It's leading collectors into the next millennium."
The debut of PowerDeck features Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Paul Pierce and Jason Williams.
"We're trying to appeal to not just the 30-and-under collectors, but older collectors as well," said Melia, referring to the inclusion of legends Erving and Jordan.
Encore Basketball cards retail for $3.99 per pack and the PowerDeck cards are randomly inserted in one out of every 47 packs.
The PowerDeck cards feature a mug shot and action shot of the player, his name, number, position and team. But once the card is put into a CD-ROM drive, it offers a slew of options. "These high-tech collectible cards offer superb video highlights and sound that create a truly unique interactive experience for fans," Upper Deck CEO Richard McWilliam said in a statement.
In addition to the game video footage and career highlights, the cards feature a photo gallery, music and Internet links to the Upper Deck and NBA Web sites (provided the user has Internet access). The Jordan card features the last 45 seconds of his final game.
Melia said PowerDeck cards for football will be available toward the end of summer - with baseball, hockey and motorsports versions expected to follow. He added that Upper Deck expects to improve on its PowerDeck debut in future versions. "We want to expand the video footage, and we'll just look to improve on the overall presentation as much as we can," he said.
Upper Deck produced similar audio-only CD-ROM cards about 18 months ago, but those required an additional adapter to work. Melia said the audio-only cards were well-received, but "we knew we weren't finished yet."
While the cards, which hit stores June 9, have not been available long enough to gauge interest from collectors, Melia said dealers have responded positively to the innovation. "Dealers are pretty pumped," he said. "The fact that these don't require supplemental components like the audio-only first required is an improvement. They're kind of stoked that it can be put in a regular trading card pack."
Eric Breier is a staff writer for the North County Times in Escondido, Calif. He covers a variety of sports events and topics, including a monthly sports collectibles feature.