New Upper Deck golf cards cash in on sports card boom

The new set are the first golf cards released by Upper Deck since 2014.
The Upper Deck Artifacts Golf cards are the first set since a Tiger Woods collection released in 2014.

Golf isn't the only pastime to boom during the pandemic.

You've probably seen the headlines about the value of sports cards going ballistic the past 12 months.

* Uncle Jimmy's baseball cards worth millions.
* Doctor leaves his family a collection worth $20 million.
* LeBron James rookie card becomes the most expensive NBA card ever sold ($5.2 million) just days after Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic's rookie card sold for $4.6 million.
* Mike Trout rookie card sets the mark for most expensive baseball card ever sold ($3.93 million).
* Wayne Gretzky rookie card sets the mark for most expensive hockey card ever sold ($3.75 million).

Can golf join the party? New Artifacts Golf cards recently released by Upper Deck have joined the fray. Yes, golf is mostly a niche sport, but sports card collectors are always looking to cash in on the latest rookie cards and most iconic superstars. This set features its fair share of both. Major champions Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas are the notable rookie cards for the men, and Lexi Thompson for the women.

"We've been blown away with the response," said Paul Zickler, Upper Deck's Sports Brand Manager. "With Tiger (Woods) being at the forefront, there are some really unique cards."

A brief history of golf cards

The Pro Set golf cards of the 1990s aren't worth much.

Golf cards don't have much a history. This is Upper Deck's first golf set since 2014 and only third overall.

The first golf cards - released by Pro Set in 1990 and 1991 - aren't really worth the paper they are printed on. They are readily available for purchase on eBay or other websites for less than $5 for the entire sets. They're flimsy and often poorly cut (pictured above). Not even the sentimental value of Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, is worth much.

I own a few because I'm afflicted with the sickness of collecting. They just sit in a box under my bed. I don't put them in protective sleeves or worry if they disintegrate in a fire. Make me an offer ... they're yours.

Upper Deck's first foray into golf back in 2001 does have some potential to become a good investment, though. A golfer I met who works at Pro Sports Authenticator, the hot card-grading company known as PSA, told me that the Tiger Tales set from that year is very undervalued and could someday spike in price. They're sharp-looking cards of Tiger in his prime.

Upper Deck's 2001 "Tiger Tales" set are popular golf cards.

Of course, Tiger is featured on the most valuable golf card ever made - a "rookie" card that was inside a 1996 Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine. If you've got the issue, give me a call. A card in top shape is worth thousands of dollars.

Golf cards go modern

The latest release from Upper Deck showcases all the trends that have made sports cards more valuable and more expensive. No longer are cards simply photos on cardboard. Some feature course-used sand, manufactured diamonds, real autographs, a ball marker insert and even a piece of clothing worn by a legend like Arnold Palmer.

In total, the Artifacts Golf collection features a 50-card base set, a 30-card rookie set, a Multi-Majors Winners Memorabilia subset, rare signed memorabilia cards and popular Diamond Relic insert cards. The Legendary PGA TOUR Course Relic cards include a pinch of sand and dirt taken from the famed TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, home of The Players Championship.

Prices vary depending upon where you buy them, but hobby boxes online are selling for $400 on up. Each box contains only 32 cards (8 packs of 4 cards each), but three cards are supposed to be "hits", either Memorabilia, Autographed or Diamond Relics cards. These prices are impressive considering golf doesn't usually generate much interest from the mainstream sports audience.

Zickler said he couldn't reveal how many cards were created, so nobody knows if they've been overproduced (which would lead to a decrease in value over time). Maybe there is a future for golf cards after all.

"It seemed like the right time," Zickler said when asked why golf cards were revived after such a long dormancy. "There are a lot of new players in the fold. Golf has been booming. There are a number of factors. We will continue to be interested in golf collectibles."

Are you interested in these golf cards or other golf collectibles? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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New Upper Deck golf cards cash in on sports card boom