Base Card Design -
The base cards in Black Diamond have a very nice look to them. They are not on super-thick stock, but the elements of the base cards are well-done. Each card is serial numbered to 249 and is adorned with foil. Most of the card is well-balanced save for the large team logo beneath the player image. It's obvious that there are parallel cards of the base set and that spot is meant for an autograph or memorabilia piece. It's convenient for companies to do this as it makes card design easier, but I'd rather the base cards be more unique. For me, this design choice just tells me that this is the basic version of better cards. Though I don't particularly like it, it's not too egregious of an offense. My favorite part of the base card has to be the card edge. I know, it's weird to say that, but the Black Diamond edges are so sweet! The edge is layered like a three part sandwich. Upper Deck has done this before with Black Diamond and it is a great premium touch. I prefer this to the all white giant stock of base cards from The Cup.
The back of the base cards have a well thought out look that is anything but generic. The angles used, especially around the player image is very nice looking and there are plenty of colors to make the back look engaging. Black Diamond has always been one of Upper Deck's more stylish brands, and I feel that these card backs do the brand justice.
Rookie cards in Black Diamond take on the single, double, triple, and quad diamond configuration as in years past. Unlike years past, however, getting a rookie card is very tough. Each of these cards has a gem embedded in it. Though I didn't pull on in my box, the cards look great from what I have seen. They have a mainly white color scheme that works very well with the diamond, upper-end motif.
Base Card Design Score:
Now that Black Diamond has gotten to upper echelon status, collectors expect hits when they open up the product. Black Diamond delivers autographs and memorabilia cards alongside cards that contain gems. Also in this set are manufactured patch cards and premium insert cards.
The one game-used patch card to come out of my box was this John Gibson card numbered to 50. I think this card looks very different than the regular base card, but if you put them side-to-side for comparison, you'll notice that they are the same - save for the patch piece and the black background. The patch piece is medium-small but a quality cut. The foil for the player image is nice and the card is on very thick stock - it is certainly premium - but I doubt this card will be very desirable except to the most die hard of Duck fans.
This Scheifele card looks like it would be a sick patch... but it's not. Upper Deck did this last year as well. The patch on this card is manufactured and are intended to be a puzzle that you can put together. Cards like this may appeal to some, but I think for most people they are a let down. I'd just as well not have these cards in the set. When paying upwards of two hundred dollars I want the real deal. This manufactured stuff just doesn't belong.
An interesting card that came out of the box was this Patrick Kane Run for the Cup insert card. I'd call this a premium insert as it is very thick, contains a lot of foil, and is numbered to just 99. It looks like Upper Deck put a lot of insert tech into this card as it also has acetate and a layered edge along with what I already mentioned. This is a sweet looking card, but I do have to ask myself again if I'd rather have something like this or an autograph. Unless the collector market deems these highly sought after, I think I'd rather have an auto (or at least a patch!).
My Exquisite pack got me a nice Rookie Draft Day card of Auston Matthews. I consider this the best card out of my box. It's not autographed, but at least it's of one of the top rookies so far this year. I do like the fact that it is an Exquisite card as well. I love that brand and am glad we in hockey collecting get to finally get some these past few years.
Sadly, my autograph card was a redemption card so I don't know what it looks like. There are a lot of different types of cards you can find in Black Diamond this year. Books are available as are other types of manufactured patches. There is a huge mix of content that really would take a close inspection of the checklist to get a good handle of what is available.
Overall Rating -
The cards in Black Diamond this year look pretty spectacular. I found myself really enjoying them and oogling over the way they looked and felt. What disappointed me about the cards were the value that was in the box. Sure, purchasing hockey cards will rarely net you back what you purchase in sealed products, but I just didn't think much value at all came out of the box - certainly not for north of $200.
The product contains too many manufactured items and not enough of what collectors want: autographs and hits. I wouldn't be surprised if the price of Black Diamond drops by quite a bit in the future. For it to be worth it the boxes need to take a significant dip.
I suggest waiting if you want to try Black Diamond. For this sophomore edition of the 'new' Black Diamond format, I think Upper Deck still has to tweak the product to get it right. I do like that Black Diamond is a premium product, it's just that it needs to be packed with cards that collectors find worthwhile in an upper-end brand.
Check out my box of 16/17 Upper Deck Black Diamond: