Base Card Design -
As with all years of UD Ultimate Collection, the base cards come on nice, thick card stock. The girth of the cards say, "I am a higher-end card". Upper Deck tends to use thick card stock on their best products. And I like that they do that - it makes sense to me - thicker card = more expensive product. Of course, The Cup comes in with the widest of all base cards. But that will be for a later review. Besides the thickness of the card, these Ultimate base cards have a lot going for them. The design is absolutely the cream of the crop. Upper Deck has always come up with modern, crisp designs... and this year's Ultimate showcases that fact nicely. The players on the front really pop out of the card - and this is by genius design. The background of the cards are actually a flat, matte finish. The players are glossy. The glossy player image on the matte background creates an amazing effect that really highlights the featured player. Wow, stunning. I could go on and on about how nice these base cards are, but you really have to just see them in person to appreciate the quality there. Oh, and each card is serial numbered to only 399.
Though the back of the Ultimate base cards do not feature any player images, they are still of the absolute highest quality. The background design of the card back uses the same color scheme and background design as the front. All the relavant information is there, and there is ample space for player stats. So often in the high-end product statistics are left by the wayside. It's nice to see Ultimate Collection provide career spanning amount.
As for rookie cards in Ultimate, there are three varieties - non-auto/399, auto/299, and auto/99. The non-auto rookie cards look very similar to their base card counterparts. Just about everything about them is the same except they trade the Ultimate Collection gold header for an Ultimate Rookies side logo. The non-auto rookie cards even share the same serial numbering as the standard base cards. Though pulling these rookie cards may not be too exciting, there are some gems to be found here like Carl Hagelin and Brendan Smith.
The autographed rookie cards feature a special logo and a slightly wider space for autographs at the bottom of the card. I really like the look of the autographed rookie cards. Some may say that the space for the autograph is a bit small, but in this case I think it works very well. The autographs are more compact, which in a way is more elegant. So from a design aspect, the smaller autographs work very nicely. Autographed rookie cards numbered to 99 come about one per 15 box case - not an easy pull! And there are 20 of them. Good luck getting the one you want!
Base Card Design Score:
There are so many things you can possibly get in terms of memorabilia cards and autographs when you purchase a box of Ultimate. Looking at the checklist, it is amazing to see the variety of hits there are. Each box will only come with two hits from that staggering list, so to really get a taste of what Ultimate Collection has to offer, you really need to purchase either multiple boxes or just get a case or two of the stuff.
In my box of Ultimate, besides the autographed rookie card, I received this Phil Esposito Ultimate Jersey card. Looking at the card makes me happy because it is so connected to the base design in Ultimate. I just love it when companies make the cards within their products truly cohesive in terms of design. And it's so much greater when the design kicks @$$. I appreciate that the Esposito features a jersey swatch that has multiple colors on it. So many jersey cards are just plain one color swatches now that they are boring to look at. These pieces definitely have some personality to them... and in person they have an old feel to them. You can tell these pieces came from something from another era. SO cool.
I wish I had a bigger sampling of hits to show off, but when you only get a box or two of Ultimate, you really don't get a ton of cards to check out. Trust me though, Ultimate Collection has some of the coolest and most desired cards of the year. Rookie NHL shield cards anyone? Droooool.
Ultimate Collection is a beautiful set of cards. If I had the money I would definitely get as much of the product as I could... because that's the only way to find the great cards in Ultimate Collection. For people who can spend thousands of dollars on this product (and yes, there are many who do this), I would recommend purchasing Ultimate by the case. Each case is guaranteed to have some pretty nice cards within. But each case has a whopping 15 packs. And that's what makes it a hard buy for collectors like myself who only have a couple hundred to spend on boxes of products when they come out. Buying 2 or 3 boxes out of a case is very risky, and the odds are slim in hitting the case hit. In fact, there are many boxes that are just plain awful within each case. And the odds of getting one of those is actually pretty good.... sadly.
So I like what Chris at D&P cards said to me today. He said getting a case of Ultimate is like getting a box of something else. He likened the case of Ultimate to a box with 15 packs in it. And thinking of it that way made a good deal of sense to me. Ultimate Collection is a high roller's product. For people like me, I'll take my chances on a box or two... but I know what I'm getting into in terms of risk when I purchase Ultimate. I have to prepare for the ultimate let down... but I could get the ultimate joy! But that's one of the reasons we do this whole card buying thing, isn't it?
Check out my box of Ultimate From D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca: