Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2016-2017 Upper Deck Black Review

I thought The Cup was the final product last season... guess I was wrong! Upper Deck Black gets the final product honors.

Black is a one pack/box product and is considered to be high-end. For around $200, you only get 5 cards. Thankfully, the cards feature on-card autographs and do away with the manufactured patch ridiculousness that was Black Diamond. I would happily purchase this Black product over that one.

I love the look of the cards. The base cards feature some great looking rainbow foil, as do the hits. The foil looks really amazing on the black backgrounds of the cards. Black has always looked amazing and this year's edition of it carries on in the same vein.

The pack/box that I opened had three on-card autographs, a base card, and a standard jersey hit. I'd have to say that overall I was satisfied with what I got out of it - of course, pulling an Ovi patch numbered to 10 will always leave you with a nice feeling.

Would I recommend this year's Black? I think I would.

The cards look top notch and Black has traditionally been a strong product to collect for well-to-do collectors. It certainly is high-risk and high-reward, but if I had to take a chance, I'd do it with Black.

Overall Score: 9.25/10

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2017-2018 Upper Deck Black Diamond Review

Now that the 17/18 season has been in full swing for a while now, Upper Deck has been ramping up its production of cards. Black Diamond has just hit the market with its premium format and hefty price tag. The change into a premium product has definitely come with mixed results. Let's hope Upper Deck has tweaked it to be more appealing to collectors this time around.

Base Card Design -
The Black Diamond base cards have a lot going for them. The white background with the old Black Diamond like foil in the background is really sweet. I do believe that these base cards are a worthy upgrade from what Black Diamond used to be with its thin foil stock. The side edge of the base card might be my favorite part with its white/black/white layered wafer aesthetic. My only gripe about the standard base cards is the team logo at the bottom. This portion of the card is obviously a placeholder for a relic on a higher-level format. I just wish it wasn't so apparently so. Base cards are limited to just 249 each, same as The Cup!

The back of the base card is in full color with some good looking designs. It's elegant, but not too flashy. I actually expected a little more from the back of the card as the product is Black Diamond. To me there should be just a bit more 'bling' to these backs.

The rookie cards in Black Diamond have been the Rookie Gems. Because Black Diamond doesn't have real numbering (the entire set is designated by letters), it can be hard to distinguish which cards are part of the main set and which ones aren't. To me, this Nolan Patrick Rookie Gem card isn't the true RC I want out of Black Diamond. Those would be the actual cards embedded with diamonds. Unfortunately, those cards are very difficult pulls. You only get a couple per case and they are numbered to only 99.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Black Diamond comes with one fat Black Diamond pack and one Exquisite pack. This product is completely high-end now, so collectors should expect to find nicer hits when buying it.

What an awesome patch piece!!! Too bad it's just a manufactured one. Sadly, these fake patches are back in high dollar Upper Deck products. When I'm paying a couple hundred dollars for a box, I want everything to be authentic. It's already bad enough there are photoshoot pieces on cards rather than game-worn. But these completely made-up patches are just too much... I personally don't like them and wish they were out of the product.

The Rookie Booklet Relic at least had some player-worn jersey pieces in it. Seeing that the booklet was numbered to 199 I knew it would just be a couple of jersey pieces. Booklets have been around for a while now so pulling one isn't that exciting unless you hit some great patches or autographs. I for one thing a book card is too much card for some regular jersey swatches. The tier above these standard jersey books feature and autograph and a patch with numbering to 99.

The lone autographed card in my box was this Signature Placard (Group C) of Derek Sanderson - certainly not the most excited player to pull. The signature is in silver ink on a black placard embedded in the card. I guess even these aren't technically considered 'on-card' autos, but at least they look nice. I just wish I had a better player to pull. Sadly these cards have no serial numbering.

My Exquisite pack yielded a nice looking player-worn patch of Haydn Fleury. The Exquisite brand is on par with The Cup and the cards look great. I love the foil used on it as it gives the card a very elegant feel to them. These patches do have a rather high numbering to them. This particular card was numbered to 299.

My box/pack of Black Diamond didn't feature anything that really stood out - especially not for the price. There are, however, some really sweet pulls available to be found. I'm sure they are few and far between though - which shouldn't be that case when it comes to a premium product such as this.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I really like the fact that Black Diamond switched to a premium format. It was a brand that needed to be different as the original product was getting stale. The one-pack per box format is a good idea, but it isn't implemented well. I think it would have been much better to provide less cards and have the price of the product be in the $100 dollar range - similar to some of the very popular Topps baseball products on the market today.

I definitely felt that I had bad value for the amount I paid for this box of Black Diamond. Upper Deck has some serious tweaks it needs to consider when thinking about this product next year.

As it stands now, I cannot recommend Black Diamond to many collectors. This is a high-risk, high-reward product that leans much to the high-risk side of things. Some of the cards in the product are outstanding looking, but there are too many cards (like the manufactured patch cards) that get in the way. The only way I can see getting more of this would be if it took a very serious nose dive in terms of price. Only then I'd begin thinking about it.

Overall Score -

Check out my break of 17/18 Black Diamond:

Friday, November 10, 2017

2017-2018 Upper Deck Series One Review

Everyone's favorite Upper Deck release has now... well... released. Series One is out and collectors will be eagerly buying it up to collect the new Young Guns, inserts, and even the base cards. Series One is a product that every hockey collector can purchase and enjoy. The price is right and there are plenty of desirable cards to find. This well-rounded set is always a hit!

Base Card Design -
Upper Deck base cards have always been clean and neat. This year's set is in that same vein. The focus of the card is on the photo. The team logo and player name nicely frame compliment the photo by not getting in the way. The foil accents and borders don't distract at all - they actually do a nice job of adding some nice flare to the elegant design. As always, the photos on the cards really stand out. They capture unique angles and great action shots - noticeably more so than last year. I feel the photos are a cut above and each card is really enjoyable to look at.

The card back is extremely clean, maybe too much? The font and stats are on there pretty small and there seems to be too much extra space that could have been utilized better. I still, however, appreciate that Upper Deck employs a full color back with the player photo. I also love the fact that there is a little write of for collectors to read. It's a great way to learn about the player featured on the front.

The star of the main Upper Deck set is the Young Gun set. Young Gun rookie cards are highly sought after by all collectors. One of the appeals of the set is the way they look. I'm always intrigued by what the next design of the Young Guns will be. This year's design is good, but I wouldn't say great. It follows the main set as the cards are clean, but there isn't anything about them that make them particularly special. I'd rank the look of these cards somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to Young Gun design.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Upper Deck boxes come with 24 packs. Collectors can expect to find plenty of insert cards, textured Canvas cards, as well as a memorabilia card. Upper Deck Series one does have autographs available, but they are pretty difficult pulls.

Like in previous years, the UD Portrait insert cards are back. These cards are all in monochrome and give collectors an up-close look at the player's face. This year's cards have a wider angle shot of the player whereas last year the headshot was much tighter. I like the wider perspective as it gives just a touch more context to the image.

Shining Stars add a colorful pop to the set. The standard Shining Stars are in a silvery reflective foil. Rarer versions like the red foil Ovechkin I pulled have a beautiful colored shiny background. The parallels are tougher pulls but I don't see these cards having a huge secondary market value as probably tons and tons of them were printed. In Series One you'll only find centers, left wingers, and goalies. Does Upper Deck have something against right wingers? Well, my guess is that they will appear in Series Two.

Centennial Standouts are inserts that commemorate the 100th anniversary of the NHL. The cards spans all eras of hockey and showcase some of the greatest players to ever play the game. This is a large set that has a design that could be used if it were its own base set is own release. Collectors who really love NHL history will love these and enjoy pulling all these cards together.

The Second Six insert set is an odd one to me. The cards look like base cards, but there is a foil logo at the top. The Second Six cards have a different back and are pretty tough pulls. Each card can be found one in a thousand packs! Yikes! There are other similar cards to these with some pretty hard pull rates. It really shocked me when I saw how difficult a pull it was!

The UD Canvas cards this year have a lighter look due to the yellow/orange motif in the border design. I like it quite a bit as it gives the Canvas cards a refreshingly different look than in years past. They sort of remind me of fall... which is great as that is the season we are currently in. These cards feature the signature texturing that they have always had. Base cards and Young Guns both get the Canvas treatment.

For collectors who just really want hits, Upper Deck throws in a jersey card at a rate about one per box. The official rate is 1:36, so there's no guarantee, but most boxes should have one. The UD Game Jerseys have been a staple in Upper Deck for a long time and they are nice hit to find when buying packs. These jersey cards don't usually hold too much value, but it's always fun to get a mem card.

As I mentioned before, autographed cards are in this product, but good luck pulling one. Clear Cut inserts are also here as well as other acetate cards. For being a mid/low level release, Upper Deck Series One really does have a ton of great things to find in it. The cards are tried and true and are great fun to collect.

Inserts/Game-Used/Auto Score:

Overall Value -
Upper Deck boxes come in at well under $100 each. It's a legacy product that doesn't rely on hits to have value. I love the fact that good Young Gun cards can be really worth quite a lot. Upper Deck Series One gives collectors the opportunity to really pull some great cards at a price that anyone can afford.

This years release continues the tradition of having a beautiful looking set with exciting cards to pull. Whether you buy by the pack, box, or case... there are good things to look forward to that aren't out of reach in terms of rarity.

Every hockey collector has to get their hands on some Upper Deck Series One. It really is a 'must buy' each and every year.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 17/18 Upper Deck Series One:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

2016-2017 The Cup Review

Well, here it is, Upper Deck's biggest, best, and most expensive hockey card product. Each pack/tin/box costs hundreds of dollars, and you only get a handful of cards per break. This stuff is really only for the high-end collector to bust. Each tin is extremely exciting to break... but you are not guaranteed to hit anything amazing (as you'll sadly see with my box)!

Base Card Design -
For most sets, the base cards are the most plentiful type of card you get. Not so in The Cup. Each tin comes with just one (or two) base cards. Each base card comes on very thick card stock and are serial numbered to just 249 each. The Cup only features players on note and includes legends such as Bobby Orr. In terms of the design, it's a pretty simple one with nice highlights of foil. The cards themselves don't pop or stand out too much, it's a very typical Cup design. They are just simple, elegant cards that are worthy of being Upper Deck's most serious set.

The back of the base card is also pretty typical. I do, however, really like that the cards have a little write-up for the featured player. Many high-end cards leave out many of the stats and information that lesser brands include. It's nice that The Cup at least has a good amount of information that collectors can scan over when looking at these cards.

The most popular part of the main Cup set are the rookie patch auto cards. These are usually a player's best and most desired rookie card. Each card has a generous amount of foil and a decent sized piece of patch material. The autographs are on-card in blue ink at the bottom of the card. Standard rookies are numbered to 249 while the upper tiered ones are limited to just 99. The '99 rookies' are extremely popular and can sell for thousands of dollars.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The Cup comes in a collectible tin. Inside is another smaller box that contains the 5 or 6 cards you get. The Cup is a hit based product, so just about everything you get in The Cup should be a memorabilia or autographed card. With a price tag of over $600, be ready to put a second mortgage on that house!

Expect all the cards in The Cup to be relatively low numbered with the autographs hard signed. This gold version of Ryan Pulock's autographed rookie is serial numbered to his jersey - a popular thing that The Cup has always done. I'm surprised that this card does not feature a gold border though. I think they used to do that with the gold rookie variants.

Sweet looking materials are a standard in The Cup. In fact, I really think you should be disappointed if you don't get a sweet looking patch in a Cup break. My best card out of the tin was probably this Jesse Puljujarvi. It's numbered to 99 and has a great looking patch piece in it. He's not the biggest rookie this season and is not a big star, so I'm a little disappointed that this was my top pull.

Getting jersey pieces out of a Cup tin is rarely exciting. I mean, they have jersey pieces in just about everything - so I don't consider them to be too special. This Ekblad quad is the lowest tiered version of this card. There are patch and autographed versions that are more rare and better looking. I'm not a fan of getting this type of card in my Cup break.

Sadly, there really wasn't anything amazing in my tin of the Cup. I've seen a lot of amazing stuff come out of this Cup already from online breakers. I can only afford one box of this product, so striking out is really a bummer!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I really do love the Cup... so while I didn't get anything great in my personal break of the product, I still think very highly of it. The good cards I've seen others pull show that the product has amazing things to get. This year's rookie crop has also been a pretty outstanding group - which means that pulling the amazing '99 rookies' and other associated cards can be very lucrative and special.

The Cup is not for everyone, but if it's something you can save up for or afford I would try and get it. This is a serious collectors product and is a ton of fun to open up. I say this every year, but it's true... opening up the Cup is an experience that I hope hockey collector gets a chance to do.

For those of you who can't afford a tin, you can 'build your own' by getting just the cards that you really want on the secondary market. Unless it's the huge rookie names, many of the great cards out of The Cup are quite a bit less than a tin would cost. If you're not the gambling type, I think that's the best way to go.

Overall Score:

Check out my tin of The Cup:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2017-2018 Upper Deck Artifacts Review

Upper Deck steps up its 17/18 product line-up with the release of Artifacts. Long a hobby favorite, Artifacts has a little bit of something for everyone. Collectors can find jerseys, tags, patches, autographs, and parallel cards galore in this product. It's always a fun and enjoyable break, but has been watered down in recent years as Upper Deck has guaranteed less hits per box.

Base Card Design -
Artifacts really knows its own image. The base cards this year fit in perfectly with the long line of Artifacts base that have come before it. The base cards are elegant looking with the perfect amount of foil to make the card pop. Everything about the base card is clean and cool. Artifacts has always been able to provide collectors with a premium looking base set, and I'm glad the tradition continues with this release.

Like the fronts, the back of the Artifacts base has had attention paid to it. The back design matches perfectly with the front of the card. It's always great to see some art in the background as it makes the card have a textured look. All the needed information is presented in an easy to read way and a nice paragraph of information is also included.

I thought this card was a parallel at first, but as it turns out NHL stars have their own subset within the main Artifacts line. The stars have a dark green background and are numbered to 599 each.

Legends, like current stars, also have their own unique subset within the Artifacts set. These cards are also serial numbered to 599 but have a grey (rather than green) background. Rookie cards serial to 999 are included after these Legends cards. All this serial numbering and short printing of the set makes it quite a challenge to put together!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Artifacts comes with 8 packs. The box states that buyers can expect 3 autograph, memorabilia, or Aurum cards. There was a time when Artifacts boxes guaranteed and autograph. These past few years, however, aren't like that. Nothing is guaranteed at all. In fact, according to the box pulling 3 Aurum cards out with no other hits could be something that happens! Now, I'm sure that doesn't happen, but it stinks that there are no for-sure autographs to be obtained with a purchase of Artifacts box.

Parallels, parallels, parallels. Artifacts has a lot of these! It is a huge challenge to find all the parallels of a single player in this product. Trust me, I actually did it one year! You'll have to study the checklist really hard to know all the parallel cards in the set. Not only is the base set full of multiple parallels, the memorabilia/autographed cards are as well.

Speaking of parallel memorabilia cards, here's a rookie base set parallel card featuring two jersey swatches. It's a nice looking card - especially since the jerseys are two different colors - but it probably won't have too high of a value. Better values come with nice memorabilia pieces such as tags and patches.

The Tundra series of memorabilia inserts has always put multiple players on the same card. Usually it's by team, but in some cases Upper Deck decides to put together players that have unique connections to each other. I like these cards and I think they are great for team collectors. I would happily trade this Flyers one for one from the Sharks!

Since Artifacts releases before any skaters have hit the ice, redemption cards have been inserted to redeem for rookies. These have been in Artifacts for years now. Collectors can expect to find a team's rookie (in my case someone from the Preds) or a wild card rookie which will remain a mystery until Upper Deck releases the list of names that corresponds to the cards.

My best hit from the box was a purple redemption card for the number II rookie. I have no idea who it will be, but it'll be a nice card as it will have both a patch and tag embedded in it. I'm pretty excited to see who this player I got will be. The only annoying thing is waiting until Upper Deck releases the names of the rookies!

Inserts/Game-Used//Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Artifacts was once the best bang for your buck product. It had a ton of great things to find and pull. Nowadays it's still 'ok', but I think the brand has lost some of the magic it once held. There was a time when I wanted to just buy box after box of it because I knew I was going to get autographs and patches. Those days are probably sadly long gone.

Artifacts is now a decent break. It's pricing is not as high as some other products, which still makes it a decent buy. I still enjoy purchasing it and I know many collectors will as well.

Upper Deck has given us a quality product in terms of look and design. There will certainly be cards that are drool worthy pulls. I would recommend Artifacts to any collector that is in its price range. It's the first 'serious' product for hits that Upper Deck has released for the 17/18 season. It's finally time to pull some sweet autos and mem!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 17/18 Upper Deck Artifacts: