At the start of the season, the NHL was the only major pro sports league to not have a digital trading card app. That changed yesterday when Upper Deck launched their new virtual trading card platform called e-Pack. Collectors can purchase digital hockey cards from their computer or, in the near future, from a mobile device running iOS or Android.
But these computerized cards come with a twist: any rookie card, insert, parallel, autograph or game-used jersey card pulled from a virtual pack has a corresponding physical copy that can be mailed to the buyer, making e-Pack the first of its kind.
"The natural progression was to bring hockey card collecting to a more convenient platform," said Chris Carlin, Senior Marketing and Social Media Manager. "Customers can open up trading card packs anytime, anywhere. It's an exciting way for people to engage in the hobby if they don't have a shop near them."
The 2015-16 Upper Deck Series One set is currently available on the e-Pack platform. Upper Deck Series Two, as well as one other yet-unannounced set, will follow later this season. While Upper Deck doesn't need to worry much about other companies making hockey cards -- they locked up exclusive licenses from both the NHL and the NHLPA -- their new e-Pack platform gives them a unique advantage over other digital card apps. Trading cards in Topps Bunt (baseball), Topps Huddle (football) and Panini Dunk (basketball) exist only in the virtual space.
"All of the other applications were basically selling air," Carlin said. "We felt that it was incredibly important to tie the digital experience to a physical trading card, because there is no replacing the thrill of pulling an autographed or game-used jersey card."
Should a collector pull an autographed or game-used jersey card via an e-Pack, they can have its physical counterpart shipped to them. Likewise, they can trade the card with other e-Pack users or sell them via online retailer Check Out My Cards (COMC), who partnered with Upper Deck for this initiative. COMC warehouses the physical copies of the virtual cards and also handles the shipping.
However, the common "base" cards exist only in cyberspace. Collectors who accumulate ten copies of any base card -- or five copies of a Young Guns rookie card -- can exchange them for a limited shiny foil version of the same card, which can be sent to them instead. This puts an interesting new spin on common cards, which normally have little interest and almost no resale value in the secondary market.
At $3.99 per e-Pack, the virtual cards cost more than cards found in stores. Collectors also have to incur the cost of shipping if they choose to receive the physical cards. Registered e-Pack users are given a free, three-card pack every day. Signing up to use the platform is also free at www.upperdeckepack.com.