#9 Playoff Contenders.
+ On card rookie autographs are the strong suit of Playoff Contenders. Four autographs come per box. There are a variety of insert sets to be found in Contenders this year – all either have a nice foil treatment or some other type of special textured enhancement. Collectors can chase the elusive Golden Tickets made of real gold this year. Boxes can be found for under $100 which gives it a very nice price point for a mid-range product.
- Rookie card autographs are not numbered, but limited. It can be hard for collectors to figure out if they have a short printed rookie or not. Different print runs make the values of rookies artificially higher or lower regardless of the rookie’s talent or hobby status. Some cards look like they were created for autographs, but don’t have them. There are no memorabilia cards in the product at all.
Final Comments: Contenders had a strong showing this year. This popular brand made a nice splash with its hard signed rookies, mysterious print runs, and golden ticket allure. Many collectors embraced Contenders and have enjoyed collecting it. At its price, it is a good buy and a fun product to open up. Contenders is best suited to match up with Upper Deck’s SP Authentic set, but it still has a way to go in order to match that set’s popularity amongst collectors. It’s off to a good start.
#8 SP Authentic.
+ SPA has always been a stable product and it continues on this year without fail. The Future Watch autograph cards feature on card autographs and are one of the three most wanted rookie cards of the rookie class. The design is clean and simple with limited patch cards thrown into the mix. There are many autograph themed inserts that provide collectors with an opportunity to get stars like Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and Gordie Howe. The best of the autographed cards come with multiple autographs.
- Purchasing boxes of SPA can be very hit or miss. It is a terrible feeling to spend $100 on a box to get three no-name rookies or a few low end Sign of the Times autos. There are also way too many base cards in the set. People who purchase boxes want the autographs; collectors end up having a huge amount of base sitting around. They are nice looking cards, but there’s just too much of it! It seems like a waste.
Final Comments: SPA is always strong brand that I would not hesitate to purchase. Yes, it can be a big miss, but the set is filled with desirable cards that will retain a solid value. The cards are elegantly made and look great. I feel that SPA is a product that has had slight improvement in design and execution every year it has been out – and that’s what’s keeping collectors glued to this product. SPA is a solid pick to collect. Buy multiple boxes and collect the set!
#7 Crown Royale.
+ This is probably the most eccentric and charming set of the year. The base cards are nicely done and stand out. Collectors are still trying to complete base sets of this product. Rookie cards are hard signed and the Silhouette rookies might be the most desired rookie cards of the year. Other inserts sets due hold collector’s interest as well, notably the Scratching the Surface autographs.
- The box price of Crown Royale has gone through the roof. There are nice memorabilia cards and autographs to get, but boxes yielding the vaunted Silhouette rookies (which are probably the main force contributing to the rise in price) are few and far between. Lots of plain single jersey swatches.
Final Comments: I am a big fan of Crown Royale. It’s one of the most intriguing sets to come out in 10/11. The royally themed insert sets are great. Everything is just so over the top! Unfortunately… so is the current price. I wish I had picked some up earlier. Panini has a very nice brand here and I look for them to improve upon it next season.
#6 Ultimate Collection.
+ This year’s Ultimate Collection has improved designs on just about every one of their card types. The cards are very modern looking – from the base to their most difficult to pull inserts. The jumbo patch cards feature some stunning and down right nasty looking pieces. Ultimate Signatures are very well done and would be a superb set to try and put together.
- Most people understand that this product is extremely hit or miss. A case contains 15 boxes so pulling the best cards from one by buying just single boxes is a quite a task. Because of so few cards per pack, the fun of opening one is over pretty quickly. This product comes right before The Cup. It’s a nice lead up, but is quickly forgotten about once its bigger brother comes out.
Final Comments: Ultimate Collection stays classy and features some beautiful cards this year. Box prices for this product tend to stay where they were when the product was first released, so it can be hard justifying the purchase of it after the excitement and newness of it are gone. Still, it’s a proven brand with a good track record. Single cards from this set are typically still sought after even when new releases are out. It’s a worthy purchase if you know the risks going in.
#5 UD Series 1 and 2.
+ Probably the most stable and solid set of hockey cards ever. The cards look great and feature top notch photos. The Young Gun rookie cards always hold up in value and are a hot item to chase. At a very nice price point you have the opportunity to get autographs, jersey cards, and even patch cards. The retro set parallel cards were a big hit with collectors.
- The retro cards bring nostalgia to the table, but I don’t remember the cards being so thin. It would have been really nice to have the retro cards feel exactly like what they did in the early 90s. As they are now, the cards are extremely flimsy and cheap feeling. The same old insert sets are back again this year and seem a bit stale. Jersey pieces on the jersey cards feel small and the design of them feel phoned in. Upper Deck series 2 hobby boxes are EXPENSIVE!
Final Comments: You can always count on Upper Deck Series 1 and 2 to be a solid product. It has a great price and is a product that you can open up at any time of the year with equal excitement. I would still be happy to open up a box to see what Young Guns were hidden inside today. This is a product that every collector can afford and is a must buy!