Base Card Design -
Upper Deck has traditionally kept the SP Authentic base cards simple in design. These cards are no different, but they are just a touch busy to me. The lines going everywhere throws me a bit off as there is a hint of an SPx vibe with these. I do like the clever use of team colors in the background though. SP Authentic has always done a great job of subtly putting in teams colors on the cards, and here it looks really nice. I used to put SPA sets together in 9-pocket pages, and the cards all together with the colors really made the set a joy to look at in the binder. In terms of foil usage, these cards have just enough so they the foil acts as a nice accent on the cards. It's just right.
Upper Deck does a magnificent job with the backs of these cards. The SPA back is filled with information that is presented in a dynamic way. The back includes a full-color player photo, team logo and colors, as well as a write-up to read. I'm really impressed with the efficient use of the space and wish more card backs were like these.
Every few packs popped out a Legends subset card. Replacing the player name on the card is the word 'LEGENDS' in giant foil font. The largeness of the font really accentuates the legendary status of the players represented on these cards. Rather than having the team color in the background, Upper Deck decided to use black as the accent color. The bold Legend logo and the black gives these cards a seriousness that I really enjoy. It's awesome how just a few tweaks can change the way a card is received.
Another subset in this year's SPA set are these Authentic Moments cards. We've seen these cards before and they are back again this year. I love the name of this subset as it works so well with the brand, but I personally feel these cards have too different a look than the entire rest of the set. I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy them even more if Upper Deck found a way to incorporate standard SPA design elements into the these cards. As they stand, they really stick out (like a sore thumb).
Just as in every year of SP Authentic, there are basically two tiers of Future Watch cards - the non-autos and the autos. The non-autographed Future Watch cards come earlier in the set and are numbered to 999, just like the autographed ones. Though these cards share the same print-run, lacking an autograph severely hamper the value of theses cards. Jack Eichel, one of this year's biggest rookies, would usually not be in the group, but his autograph rights are with Leaf. This card may hold some good value if it's his only Future Watch card.
The autographed versions of the Future Watch cards are the hot ticket here in SPA. Collectors with some money in hand will probably want to attempt to collect this set. I did it for a couple years before bowing out of that game! Of course Connor McDavid will be the huge catch this year. Finding him will be difficult as boxes only guarantee on FWA per box. Upper Deck has put some variations of these cards in the set this year. Some of these cards will have special inscriptions on them from the player. They will be specially numbered to just 30 copies each.
Base Card Design Score:
Upper Deck guarantees three autographed cards per box with at least one Future Watch auto. SPA has always been about amazing on-card autographs, so collectors should enjoy finding the autographs hidden in these boxes. This year's SPA has a huge variety of autographed cards to find. I looked at the comprehensive checklist for the product. It is enormous!
You really can't have SP Authentic without Sign of the Times cards. This popular autograph set has been updated... with tons of color! Wow, this was certainly a surprise to see. I'm not sure if I like it or not... but I'm leaning towards liking it. It's a pretty radical look for SPA, but perhaps the SOTT set needed a good kick in the butt to be more interesting.
Upper Deck is once again putting in retro cards into their SPA set. These cards harken back to 1995. I liked these cards quite a bit when they were originally released, but unless there's an autograph on the card, they don't really do much for me. I'd actually rather have buy-back autos in the set rather than these. Though I do like the look, I don't particularly have a big interest in these retro cards.
My best pull from this box was this very nice Auto Patch card of Matt Duchene. These cards are very similar to the Future Watch variations that are also in the set. A few years ago UD decided to spice things up and include veteran players with patches and autographs. No complaints from me! Collectors should be very pleased with quality cards such as these.
As I mentioned before, SPA has a wealth of autographed card types to find. There are even booklets now! It's incredible and I can't even list everything. Just know that when you get some SPA this year, there is huge potential in the cards you may get.
Overall Rating -
SP Authentic is one of the products this year that I definitely recommend buying. Yes, it did increase in price, but there really isn't anything that can compare to it so far this season. The amount of on-card autographed content is just too appealing to pass up.
With SPA, Upper Deck combines great design with the potential to pull great players. There is a mix of both veterans and rookies so I feel that this product has a good balance to it. You just can't say that about other releases this year.
I'm glad of how SPA turned out, and I'm sure it will be a popular product that will provide hockey collectors with a wealth of cards to lust and chase after.
Check out my box of 15/16 SP Authentic here: