Saturday, March 3, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck Synergy Review

Upper Deck has released a brand new hockey card product called Synergy. I definitely applaud them for taking a step outside the norm and getting this product launched. Hockey collectors have seen the same products from Upper Deck time and time again, so having Synergy come out is a refreshing change of pace and a chance to see something different!

Synergy comes in a small box similar to what they pack Artifacts into. There are only 8 packs per box and only 3 cards per pack! So really you're not getting too many cards when purchasing this product. The box states that this product is PACKED with hits. When Upper Deck says hits I believe they mean cards that are non-base and not memorabilia or autographs exclusively.

The Synergy cards have a energetic look to them that is pretty different than other Upper Deck products that we have seen. The borders of the cards are a colored acetate while the main portion of the cards are foil board. The cards really pop and the shimmer and shine of the foil accents are sure to please collectors who enjoy a flashier design.

The acetate colors of the cards denote the variation of the base set the card belongs to. Red acetate cards are the most common. Slightly more rare are the blue cards, followed by green. Purple acetate versions are the toughest as they come 1:55 packs. The actual base set of Synergy is exceptionally rare. Standard veteran cards are numbered to 17. Tier 2 rookies are numbered to only 8! So in Synergy, the parallel set is the easier of the two to collect. I'd say getting the standard set with the serial numbering is next to impossible!

In terms of inserts, Synergy has a few different ones that include acetate cards and all-foil cards. These inserts add a nice little variety to the parallel cards mostly found in packs. Some of these inserts have parallels of their own that have serial numbering. These cards are more traditional in that it's the parallel card that is more rare.

Autographed cards are available in Synergy packs, but come at a rate of 1:40. That's one autograph per 5 boxes. Pretty tough to hit I'd say. The one insert card harder to pull than an autograph is the Cast for Greatness insert. These all metal cards come 1:67 packs. Apparently, there are also Synergy cards that can be found that change color depending on where you are. Upper Deck showed these cards off on their social media channels.

All-in-all, I'd say Synergy is an excellent release by Upper Deck. They've changed things up in this set and given collectors something new and interesting to purchase. The cards look great and are of high quality. High-end collectors will no doubt be searching for the true rookie cards limited to only a handful printed. Thankfully, Synergy isn't a product that is too expensive either. It's definitely not low-end, but has a price that should be comfortable for the average collector's budget.

Overall Score: 8.75/10

Thursday, February 1, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck SPx Review

Following hot on the heels of SP Game-Use released just earlier in the month comes SPx. SPx has traditionally been the wilder and crazier sibling in the family of Upper Deck SP card brands. This year, Upper Deck has chosen to pack in UD Black with SPx as well. I guess that means Black won't have a stand-alone release this year? We'll have to see. SPx comes in a 4-pack per box configuration with everything in the packs being hits... but are they really all 'hits'? You'll have to decide for yourself.

The box states that every pack has a hit in it. Well... in my definition of hit, each card should have either an autograph or memorabilia piece on it. And that's just not the case here. One of my packs had a rookie insert of Kailer Yamamoto serial numbered to 299. The only thing 'special' about this card is the serial numbering. To me, this is not a hit. Things I also don't consider hits are manufactured patches, acetate cards, gold cards, and the like. I'd rather Upper Deck say that each pack had an insert - that would make more sense.

In terms of design, the SPx cards look good and come on a very thick card stock. SPx isn't as wild and crazy as it once was - the design is refined and sleek with none of the 'over-the-top-ness' of some older SPx cards. The cards look great, but I do miss those zany SPx designs from years past. It really made the brand fun. It is, of course, just a matter of taste.

It's kind of funny that SPx comes in packs as there is only one card in each pack. I guess Upper Deck has to vary it up as many of the card products now are of the one-pack-per-box variety. I for one would have been just as happy with one thick pack. Just open the thing and be done with it! I'm sure there will be some people who buy SPx buy the pack, but I truly believe those are few and far between.

With only 4 cards per box, you really don't get a great sample of what the product's all about. Having UD Black cards included further dilutes the SPx cards when busting boxes. I don't mind the Black cards in there as Black cards look awesome, but really... where's all the SPx??? I guess it didn't help that one of my cards was a redemption. I'll have to wait and see what that card ends up looking like when Upper Deck sends it to me!

Judging from my SPx break, I'd say that SPx really isn't worth the steep price for a box with just four cards in it. Looking at what I got, I pulled 2 jersey cars, a serial numbered card, and an autograph with relatively high numbering. I'm pretty sure my pulls were status quo for the product.

Like many of the products that have come out so far, I can't say with certainty that this is a must buy. These middle of the pack products that Upper Deck is releasing right now needs a bit more inspiration to stand out and earn collector's money. SP Game-Used or SPx? I'd personally go with SPx as the cards have a more premium feel to them. None of those silly banner cards too!

Overall Score: 6.75/10

Friday, January 19, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck SP Game Used Review

SP Game Used has released for the 2017-18 season and it follows the trend of Upper Deck brands continuing to move away from packs and boxes to smaller, more condensed configurations. SPGU comes in the now familiar one pack per box form. For a brand like SPGU, this was a positive change in that collectors had tired of what SPGU was bringing to the table in years past. Though the brand is moving a good direction, is SPGU a worthy purchase in 2018? Let's see!

SP Game Used once came with 5-6 packs per box. Each pack was pretty pricey as they were in the twenty five to thirty dollar range. I always felt really bad for collectors who bought SPGU by the pack because more often than not, the guaranteed hit in the pack was a low-value standard jersey card. Box purchasers fared a little better as they at least got one or two non-standard jersey hits, but overall SPGU was a terrible value for what it was.

Upper Deck has finally realized that SPGU needed a change and they did just that. Upper Deck has pretty much taken the packs away and put everything into just one hit filled box/pack. I personally prefer it this way. Upper Deck has distilled what collectors really want into a neat little package.

SP Game Used has always been more of a higher tier brand, but this form of the product really  drives home the point that this is a product for people with money to spend. The box states that you'll set six cards per box/pack with four of them being hits or premium insert cards.

In terms of design, SPGU doesn't have too much going for it. It's by no means a flashy product. The cards look acceptable, but I wouldn't say there were exciting in any way. The reason for collecting SPGU is for the limited serial numbering each card. The true base cards and rookie cards are all limited to a player's jersey number. With some jersey numbers being really low, it means that some of the cards in the set are extremely rare and hard to find. This is a unique way of making SPGU cards exciting to collect. I know for player collectors, this model of card set design could have you tearing your hair out though. Imagine collecting a player who's jersey number is 5 or less.

Ouch! And good luck!

I've mentioned this before, but with a name like SP Game Used... I'd expect a huge focus on game used memorabilia in the product. In fact, it's terrible that anything not game used could be found in the product. That being said, there are unique items in SPGU that truly do come from NHL games. Embedded in some cards are pieces of the goal net, others have parts of banners that hung around the stadium. And even better than those are unique memorability items like parts of goalie pads as well as the standard patches and jerseys.

Sadly, there are still cards in the set that come from photoshoots rather than actually being used in a game. The Draft Day Mark insert set aren't bad looking cards, but those 'patches' are completely manufactured items. I really hope that someday SP Game Used really does live up to its name of having everything in the set come from actual NHL games. Wouldn't that be something?

All-in-all, SP Game Used is a product that can be a nice distraction for collectors... but like Trilogy released before it, this product could probably be skipped over by the majority of collectors. Unless  you're really looking for a low numbered rookie card, I'd say comb over sites like eBay to find the unique memorabilia cards from the set at a reasonable price. I hate to say it, but there really isn't much going on with SPGU, and you'd be fine waiting for the next product.

Overall Score: 6/10

Friday, January 5, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck Trilogy Review

The first set of the 2018 calendar year is Upper Deck Trilogy. It's a brand that Upper Deck has released for many years now and is familiar to collectors. Like many of Upper Deck's core brands, this one has definitely gone through some changes recently. Let's see what Trilogy is like this year.

Trilogy was once one of Upper Deck's higher-end brands. Not the highest like Ultimate or The Cup, but a couple notches below them. It had an interesting pack configuration that really capitalized on the brand name of Trilogy. I seem to remember three mini packs per box back in the day.

The most recent release of Trilogy deals away with all that. In fact, Trilogy is practically on-par with what Artifacts is. And Upper Deck isn't trying to hide it. The Trilogy and Artifacts box are practically the same in terms of look and content... and they are priced pretty much the same as well! I'm not sure if having two product so similar is a good thing. I've always liked the fact that there was a different product with different types of cards at nearly every price range.

In terms of the cards, the Trilogy base are very high quality. The cards have a nice thickness to them and come with plenty of shine. The base have a premium feel to them and the rookie cards are adorned with Upper Deck's awesome shimmery foil.

My box came with two autographs and a jersey card. Each hit was serial numbered - I like that. Though the autographs were of the sticker variety, they looked pretty nice on the cards. Typically earlier season releases are more sticker heavy, which I'm ok with.

I think my biggest complaint about Trilogy is that the cards are all too similar to each other. There isn't too much variety when it comes to the look of these cards. They have a foil look and similar designs. Good thing you don't get too many cards per box as I'm pretty sure you would tire of the quickly.

Overall I'd say Trilogy is a middle-of-the-road release. Sure, there will be nice hits sprinkled within the set, but I don't see this set as one that collectors will think about too much once other sets are released after it. I wouldn't fret to pass over it.

Overall Score: 6/10