What You Need to Know About Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA) Hologram Numbers

Since the company was founded, I have been a fan of, collector of, buyer of, seller of, and for almost a year from 1998 to 1999, the Autographed Product Manager of Upper Deck Authenticated. So I almost have to laugh when people who have never worked at UDA try to lecture me about UDA hologram numbers. This typically happens when a prospective buyer tries to look up an old UDA hologram number on the Upper Deck website. In the vast majority of cases, the result is a very unsatisfying, “We are unable to locate AUE31237 in our hologram database. Older hologram numbers and hologram numbers from shows have not been transferred over to our on-line database as of yet. Please contact our Customer Service Department at (800)551-8220 or via e-mail at ud_store@upperdeck.com to confirm the authenticity of your item.” And calling UDA doesn’t help sometimes. They still can’t verify the hologram number. Does this mean the autograph and/or hologram is fake? No, of course not. You see, when I worked at UDA 15 years ago, the hologram database WAS ALREADY INCOMPLETE. Now, add a decade and a half of the most corporate turmoil you can possibly imagine, on top of the manpower and technology it would have required UDA to completely update its hologram database, and the result is, untold tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of hologram numbers are unverifiable. There have been rumors of counterfeited and stolen UDA holograms, and I have spotted a few suspicious looking Michael Jordan UDA jerseys on eBay not that long ago. However, I would still say that the likelihood of any autographed item with a numbered UDA hologram on it being fake is way, way less than 1%, and I can’t say the same about any other manufacturer’s hologram or sticker. Now, if I were in charge of UDA, would I be concerned about this database problem? Sure — it doesn’t inspire confidence in your current products when older products can’t be verified. In fact, it sort of defeats the purpose of your “patented five-step process” when one of the steps, arguably one of the most important ones, can’t be independently confirmed. But realistically, how would UDA even begin to address the problem? It’s extremely doubtful that UDA even retains the paperwork necessary to update the database, even if they wanted to try. So what we’re left with is the industry leader in sports autograph authentication technology having a very incomplete database, and both buyers and sellers frustrated. If you want to pass on buying a UDA autographed product because the hologram number can’t be verified, that is your right. Just be aware that you’re almost certainly passing on an authentic product because of a company that meant well, but went through so many managerial, personnel and technical changes that something should have been important to maintain wasn’t maintained at all.


3 Responses

  1. Hello Mr. Chen, I am just sending this message to inquire about the article you wrote about “What you need to know about Upper Deck Authenticated.” I recently came across a Mickey Mantle ball that UDA was not able to verify by web or by phone, so I was hoping you could maybe offer me a bit of reassurance that I’m not purchasing a forgery. Has Upper Deck’s hologram ever been duplicated or forged? Is the hologram truly fool proof? I’m hoping as a former employee you might have a bit of insight. Thanks for your time, from one collector to another, I appreciate you taking the time to write this article to keep those of us with less experience informed. Thank you,
    -Justin Corman

    • Sorry took this long to respond. No, as far as I know UDA holograms have never been duplicated or forged. Possibly stolen, yes, but that’s more of an unconfirmed rumor than known fact. UDA could fix this issue by updating their database but so far they haven’t found it necessary.

  2. I just got this run around exactly from Upper Deck Customer Service for a piece that I bought back in 1997. It has their patented 5-step hologram stickers and everything about this piece looks the same as many other UDA pieces that I have owned. They just kept robotically stating that “Unfortunately Upper Deck cannot verify the authenticity of this piece at this time.” The only thing else beside this pat answer was a recommendation that I take it to PSA/DNA or some other third-party authenticator to verify it’s authenticity. Seriously?!?? Is that how Upper Deck stands behind their “patented verification program?” Between the lines, I read all of what is stated in this article…”we at Upper Deck didn’t have our —- in one pile up until a point and we’re abandoning anything and anyone who happens to have paid big dollars for any of our ‘patented five-step authenticated’ items before we did get our crap together.

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