Good morning folks, and welcome back to another Masterpiece Monday in Masterpiece Theater, only on Hipsters of the Coast.

Today we’re taking a short hiatus from the art and talking about ePack, Upper Deck’s very own distribution system for many of their trading card products. Somewhere around half of the total release of Marvel Masterpieces 2020 was available exclusively on ePack, and that creates a really interesting dynamic for fans and collectors. It’s such a large part of the product I think it’s worth talking about, especially as a new collector.

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In the matter of one weekend, more than 150,000 cards from Marvel Masterpieces 2020, of all rarities and varieties from this set, entered the marketplace in what was essentially an instant. In the six months since its initial physical release, cards were opened and trickled into the greater marketplace. And then with the flip of a switch, it was a fire hose, and the subsequent feeding frenzy sent collectors into trading hysteria. The set sold out completely in just over four days—the fastest ever for a Masterpieces set on ePack.

I’d like to talk a bit about my very first ePack experience: how it started, how it went, what I learned, and some tips and tricks for those reading this article in the future. First, some background.

Required Reading Listening

I would know nothing about ePack without my good buddy Ian Taylor, who before the initial launch of Marvel Masterpieces 2020 hopped on a video call with me one weekday morning and for a half hour, showed me all the ins and outs of how the system worked. From how to manage what you have, send trades, find wishlists, and everything in between, it was an exceptional crash course.

Taylor hosts a podcast alongside Norrin Radd, and you can listen to their two-part ePack 101 episode (Part 1 and Part 2) for some more background on ePack and how to navigate it outside of this specific article catered to Marvel Masterpieces.

The tl;dl is that ePacks can be bought by the pack, box (twelve packs), or case (twelve boxes), and each pack contains three cards, just like the physical product. For Marvel Masterpieces sets, each card opened in an ePack is a scan of a real card and is redeemable through Upper Deck to be sent right to your home.

Now, onto how this whole thing began. Well, sort of.

False Start

Marvel Masterpieces was initially slated to release at 12 PM EST on Thursday February 11, 2021. Upper Deck only gives 48 hours notice when ePack is coming, but I managed to all but clear my afternoon so that I could fully participate in the pack opening mayhem and race to trade for the cards I was looking for. I still hadn’t decided what I was going to purchase, as that fully depended on the price point from Upper Deck, but I was ready nonetheless

11:45 AM came and I was all set. Tabs open, notes made, credit card loaded in. But at 11:50, an email saying the product had been delayed, and it would be released sometime the following week. No worries, right? So long as it didn’t come out on Friday when I was headed out of town, nothing would be different.

Fast forward to Thursday night, and now the 24 hour notice noted that Marvel Masterpieces ePack would release on February 19, 2020—the Friday I was headed out of town. As an aside, I should also mention that the out of town trip was to propose to my now fianceé, and that I also found out I had shingles earlier that Thursday morning. Those aren’t particularly relevant, just to say I was a bit preoccupied heading into the weekend is the understatement of year.

But I digress. Let’s jump right into how this all hashed out.

Make Your Own Case

As I mentioned previously, my ePack participation was going to be entirely dependent on the price point. At the secondary market levels of $325-$350 per box, I would be in for a box or two, trade for what I could and hope to buy the rest. At the Upper Deck price of $250, the price that they sold physical boxes for directly, I could justify a case. I had access to a year’s worth of 0% financing, and the money already set aside from selling other collectibles throughout 2020.

A case would allow me to sufficiently chase what I was after, to “make my own case” if you will, and that was namely the Mysterio cards needed for my collection to go with the original artwork. These included the Silver Spectrum Autograph, What If Autograph, Metallurgy, Red Canvas Gallery, and any of the 1/1 printing plates that happened to turn up from these three cards. Prior to ePack only one SSA, one WIA, a handful of Metallurgy, and exactly two printing plates had shown up, so I knew that this would be my best and greatest opportunity. I figured I would need a case worth of fodder to trade, and when the price came out at $250 a box, I went all-in and secured my product. And then I hit the road; I’d have to wait to open, but I could still watch.

It was four or so hours before I could even check what had been opened, and was another six hours past that, around 10 PM EST, that I could finally open my packs. But as soon as I had gotten where I was going, I refreshed my “Mysterio” tab constantly through the afternoon. A canvas plate, Base plate, two What If plates, and multiples of the other four hits had already turned up. I sent messages straight away to folks, even before I had opened my things. The result ended, well, as good as I could’ve hoped.

The Wizard 1/1 Red Spectrum

When I finally opened my packs, I was happy with what I had pulled, not because it was full of things I was going to keep but because I knew I could trade these things for what I really wanted. The Wizard Red Spectrum was chief among them, alongside a Wolverine What If and Wolverine Gold Signature Parallel, an SSA, a What If Auto, a Kaleidoscope, Mirage #6, and several pretty good sketches. I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the other pulls, but I was not disappointed. It was time to get trading.

Hot Pursuit

Mysterio Black Canvas plate

First on the list was the Black Canvas printing plate. I discovered it was group member Dave DeMarchi who pulled it, and he was my first ePack conversation. Dave actually pulled the Cyan plate as well (crazy, right?) in physical packs, and had sold it to the person whom I purchased it from along with the Magenta plate. Knowing what I was doing, he held it for me until I could open my own cards, and by the following morning we had sorted out a trade that worked for both of us. It’s the best when fellow collectors know your intentions and help you get there—thanks Dave!

Mysterio Yellow Base plate

The Yellow Base Plate was next up. A sketch and a (very good) Metallurgy went their way for the plate and an okay sketch in it’s own right. The second plate was secured. Easy, right?

Mysterio Yellow Canvas plate

That following morning, if you can believe it, out pops the Yellow Canvas plate. I hadn’t even finished looking at everything yet! At any rate, I set off for this one, and the current owner was also new to MM20 and had the same Spider-interests I did. I offered a combination of physical and ePack options, and had to complete another trade with the legendary sketch collector Matt Fuller to make it happen. I sent a quantity of my sketches, which were mostly X-Men and right was he was looking for, for an equal quantity of hits including a Kingpin plate I knew would complete my other trade. I was able to acquire the Yellow Canvas plate, and had officially collected all four printing plates for the Mysterio Canvas Gallery card.

I also need to note what Matt traded me was instrumental in the acquisition of many of the rest of these cards. I literally couldn’t have pulled this whole collection off without his help, and will be forever grateful for how awesome of a collector and person he is.

Mysterio Metallurgy

I think the next card was the Mysterio Metallurgy, which also came from a group member, Matt Parks. Matt and I have gotten to know each other more over the last few weeks as well, talking art and sketches. He reached out to me knowing what I was doing, and we were able to sort out sketches for metal, ePack/physical hybrid trade and worked for everyone. He’s a great dude, and I think we’ll be doing a lot of trading in the future.

Magenta What If plate

Next on the hit list was a response from the owner of the Magenta What If plate. This again took a bit of back and forth, but after about 24 hours of addition and subtraction, a complex group of Purples, Oranges, Prelims, a sketch, a Metallurgy, an SSA, and a partridge in a pear tree put this trade together where we both were happy.

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The trades for two of the last pieces and collecting of the last two plates were more straightforward. A Tier 4 Gold Signature for the Red Canvas alongside a sketch, and a Kaleidoscope and sketch sent away for the SSA; done and done. I was able to grab the What If Auto for what I still believe is a very good price on COMC. The Blue plate was purchased from the owner the next day after it was revealed to help them recoup costs from what they spent, and after a month of sending messages to the opener of the Yellow What If plate, I finally got a response and came to a purchase deal as well.

I had essentially managed to turn a case’s worth of cards into my own personalized case collection of exactly the things I wanted, with hits left over and complete Base and What if Sets of cards #1-81. My collection wasn’t exclusive to just set cards either; after I was finished with my main goals, I turned my sights to sketches and jumped back into the fray all over again.

I’m saving showing off the sketches for a second Sketch Card Showcase, ePack edition once I receive them in hand, but I can tell you I was able to trade for more than two dozen “keeper” sketches and essentially replenish what I initially opened with those that fit my personal collection. More on those in a future article.

Etiquette and Trading Tips and Tricks

With my stockpile sojourn over, I want to talk just a bit about ePack etiquette (which could have its own article) and some trading tips and tricks I learned along the way. We can start easy:

The Golden Rule

Remember the Golden Rule we all learned as kids? This is just that, no more no less. There is nothing wrong with adding a bit of extra value to one side of a trade, but don’t send trades you wouldn’t want to be sent yourself. I’ve no problem over trading a bit for something I want and giving someone a little extra value for hooking me up, and have asked for a bit extra in return when sending the same. But there’s a limit, and we all know it.


I sent a handful of trades to folks I didn’t know over the last few weeks, that based on watching six months of prices and sales fairly closely, seemed even and fair. But not everyone has paid super close attention to the physical release, and values are much more subjective on ePack. It also turns out that a lot of people don’t read the chat below the trade, and sometimes those messages don’t go through; you can imagine how some of those look. These blind trades worked almost never, and I found that leading with a message, even just to say hello, increased not only the acceptance rate but left both parties happier in the end.

Sketches = Currency

This is something I talked with Ian in depth about, but it seems that sketches are ePacks equivalent to currency, and do carry a higher value across the board on the platform in addition to being very subjective in their own right. This makes Rule #2 too all the more important, as a $50 sketch to you might equal to a Tier 4 What If to someone else, making the trade you just sent wildly lopsided. In their eyes, you’ve now broken Rule #1.

Be a Human and Have Fun

I’m still very new to all this, but I think ePack trading etiquette is fairly simple. Treat your fellow collectors as you’d want to be treated and talk it out as you go to avoid misunderstanding. There will always be traders trying to take advantage of people, but by sticking to these few thoughts, for the most part everyone should finish up happy.


Before I wrap up, I don’t want to gloss it over or forget because this is important. The only guarantee in trading cards, Marvel or otherwise, is that there are no guarantees. When you see folks pulling incredible cards and sketches and posting them on social media or YouTube or eBay, the temptation can be overwhelming to overspend in search of something that may never come. But remember folks, this is an adjacent version of survivorship bias; people don’t post the pack that had no red flasher (a ringing bell and blinking light that shows you got a “hit”), or the box that was missing a sketch, or even the below average case that won’t get you your money back even if you sold every card. And there are plenty of those as well.

We only see the best of the best shared, so once again I must reiterate: only spend what you are able, and know that sometimes less can very well be more. There’s a fabulous community on Facebook, and for the most part folks are more than willing to help you collect what you want most.

Wrapping Up

My first ePack was truly like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I loved every minute of it. As someone who dearly misses the way Magic: the Gathering used to be traded, it was an absolute ton of fun amidst the chaos. My brain is hardwired for the hunt, and the way ePack facilitates this is unparalleled in modern day trading cards. I’m still “letting it ride” with my remaining hits and sketches, and just enjoy the interaction and community that’s come from it.

I hope you all had as much fun as I did, and for those folks new to ePack or reading this two years in the future in anticipation of Marvel Masterpieces 2022, remember those few pieces of advice. They’ll really help make your ePack experience extraordinary.

Looking ahead, I’ve gotten the call from the framer that all three Mysterio pieces are finished up and in their new moldings, but I may hold off on that article until the ePack and COMC cards make their way here over the summer so I can do a complete write-up. The plan will be to next jump into our Modern Masterpieces Art Review series that looks at the complimentary contributions of Jusko, Bianchi, and Palumbo across the 2016, 2018, and 2020 Marvel Masterpieces sets. These may take a bit longer to write, and I’ll probably move this column to once a month moving through the rest of this year; but we’ll see how the first one goes.

As always, you can keep up with all things Marvel Masterpieces 2020 by following me on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks and see you next time!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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