Upper Deck's signature line of hockey cards is a model of consistency. When I left the hobby earlier this decade, UD Series 1 and 2 featured awesome photography and clean design. Now that I'm back I have found the same to still be true. The Upper Deck cards look great. You can definitely tell that they are a standard high quality UD card. The cards are made on nice glossy stock and the design is uncluttered and simple. The player's name is highlighted below their photo in silver foil. Below the name is a bar that corresponds to their team's color. A smaller photo of the player's head is also featured near the name along with team and position information.
The photography in Series One is excellent. Many of UD's other products feature great artistic designs, but Series One's best attribute is the great photography. There are many great action shots of the players but also unique poses and moments captured with the camera. I have a lot of fun just flipping through the base cards and taking them all in. Sometimes I wish UD would use more of their stunning photography in their other releases, but for now we'll all have to be content with what they put into their main line of cards.
Also part of the main base set of cards are the Young Gun rookie cards. These cards are sought by collectors year after year. At a rate of 6 per box and having a lot of rookies, getting the top ones can be a challenge. These cards always seem to retain a good value and are a solid pick up for rookie collectors. This year's offering prominently features the Young Guns logo at the bottom in foil. Compared to last year's 'modern-future-y' design, these cards have a more 'western-y' feel to them. I really think it's the lettering and foil highlights that make me feel this way. So far, I'm undecided if I like the look of these. As of now, I prefer last year's look for the Young Guns. In my two boxes I pulled a Brandon Yip Young Gun! Check it out!
Base Design Score:
Upper Deck Series One has a good amount of insert cards to chase. One of the most exciting inserts this year are the 20th Anniversary variation cards. Upper Deck has gone back to their initial hockey set and made cards that share the same design. You get about 6 of these 20th Anniversary variations per box. I thought they would be EXACTLY THE SAME as they were back in the 90's, but they only look the part. When you have one in your hand, it really feels like a flimsy paper thin trading card. Now, I remember the cards back then and the card stock they were on. This isn't it. Nonetheless, these are pretty cool cards, and I don't mind having some in my collection. I can see many people trying to chasing after this parallel set. There's even a super rare Brodeur card included as a special insert. They call it the 'missing link' since UD didn't have a rookie of him back then, they decided to make a card that he might have had if they had done one - a really cool concept. It'd be awesome to pull one, but at a rate of 1:2500, I don't think I'll be getting it anytime soon. Here's an example of one of these 20th Anniversary cards.
Another parallel card in Series One are the Exclusives inserts. These cards are the rare versions of the base cards. They come with a special gold foil stamp and are numbered to 100. There is also a spectrum version offered that is numbered to just 10. I was lucky enough to pull three in two boxes - one even being a Young Gun. Here's what these cards look like.
I'm not sure how popular these cards will be, but it's always nice to get a low numbered card of a star player. With the set being so large, star players can be a tough pull.
Just like last year, you get 2 game-used or autographed cards per box. The game used cards come much more often than autographs. In my boxes I pulled four game used jersey cards. These cards have a very pedestrian design and the piece of memorabilia looks really small when cut into a circle and among a mostly white background. I guess you can't expect the design team to come up with a killer design for everything, but I think this set deserves better.
Other inserts in Series One include The All World Team, Acetate Die-Cuts, and the Steve Yzerman Hockey Heroes set.
The All World Team insert set took a step backward in design this year. I really like having a nation's flag on trading cards and last year the flag had a prominent role on the front of the card. This year, the flag takes up a small space at the bottom of the card. These cards, like the game used cards, feel like they were just phoned in.
Unfortunately I did not pull out any Acetate Die-Cuts. These are traditionally difficult pulls. If I get one I'll post it up on this blog. They come at a rate of 1 in 288 packs. Not as hard as the Brodeur missing link card, but still a very difficult pull.
And finally, this year's Hockey Heroes inserts feature Steve Yzerman. The cards look the same each and every year. I've never been a huge fan of these cards, but I guess they do have a following so UD keeps pumping them out. This year I pulled the 'header' card. Here it is! This one looks pretty nice, I have to admit.
Upper Deck Series One gets a 7 for overall score in terms of inserts. It could have definitely been better if UD put more effort into their game-used cards and All World Team inserts. What really pulls UD1 up are the retro variation cards. They aren't perfect, but they have a great old school charm to them that makes them desirable.
Overall Rating -
Upper Deck Series One is a set that everyone should buy some of. It's a great set of cards to collect for both the awesome hockey photography and for future value. It's definitely a fun product to bust boxes of because of the varied types of cards in every box. For the past few months I have been busting higher end stuff... and you just don't get that many cards per box. You DO get a lot of cards in each box UD1. I'm just not sure you can go wrong with buying this product. It gets a very high overall recommendation from me.
(not an average)