Thursday, February 17, 2011

2010-2011 Upper Deck Series Two Review

Base Card Design -
Well, there's obviously nothing different between this and UD Series One in terms of base card and Young Gun design, but I will say that Upper Deck has continued to produce cards with the best and sharpest photography. The shots of the hockey players are great. There are the standard action photos, but there are also quite a few unique shots captured on cardboard that other companies don't usually bother choosing to put on the front of their cards (I'm looking right at you Donruss!). Instead of giving a review of the base design in this post, I'll just highlight some of the cards that stood out to me as I broke my boxes. If you'd like to check out a review of the card designs, feel free to CLICK HERE to go to the review of Series One I did in November of 2010.

So here we go! When flipping through the cards on my first break of the product, I could not help but stop at certain cards. Instead of just blasting through base cards looking for hits and Young Guns, I literally had to just stop and admire the moments UD captured on card. The cards are in no particular order.

Goalie cards are especially great this year. Check out Nitty making an awesome pad save!

I love how it feels like you're right behind Khabibulin as he enters the rink.

Another great shot of a goalie coming onto the rink... but from the other side!

Notice the sign behind Nathan.

It's great to see photographs of moments from before the action.

The cards above are just a few stand outs. I purposely chose the horizontal cards to put in this post because I really like the way they let you see a wide few of the action or poses. Here are some other cards I really enjoyed from this set. Sorry I don't have a scan of them, but if you get a hold of them let me know if you liked them as much as I did. They are:

Marc Savard, Alex Tanguay, David Booth, Dennis Wideman, Luca Caputi, Ben Eager, Rick DiPietro (with PINK pads!), Johan Hedberg, Brian Rolston, and Thomas Vanek.

The Young Guns design has grown on me a little bit since I reviewed it in November. I still like 2009/10's YG a little better, but I'll admit that these are pretty nice too. I'm going to up my original base card design score just a touch. Here it is.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Upper Deck has continued on with some of the inserts from Series One. Hockey Heroes and the Retro cards are back! I like the idea of the Hockey Heroes card set but I'm not a big fan of the design. For Series Two Upper Deck chose to feature Bobby Orr (Series One had Steve Yzerman). Obviously Orr is a legend so having him as the star of this set was a no brainer. This would be a fun set to put together through the years.

Retro cards also make a return. I think the retros are nice and would be a fun and challenging set to complete, but I'm just not a fan of how cheaply made the standard retro card is. It is SO cheap feeling and thin! I was fortunate enough to get a couple retro Young Guns in my break this time. It doesn't look too much different than a standard retro card. Back when Young Guns first came out they didn't have a drastically different design than the standard base card. They just featured a special Young Gun logo. If you don't look carefully at your retro card you might even miss that you got one!

One insert that was not featured in Series One were the Rookie Material jersey cards. This year's Rookie Materials card reminds me a little of SPx - I think it's because of the color scheme that they used. These cards are nice and clean looking and have a modern feel to it. My only complaints about these cards are that the jersey pieces are pretty small and that the name can be difficult to read.

Last year Upper Deck Series Two spiced itself up with adding Victory Update cards into packs. UD has chosen to do the same this year as well. There are lots of great Victory rookies this year and they can be pulled out of the Series Two packs. It's a nice added value to the pack - though usually the value of these rookie cards aren't that high. I'd say that collecting the update set is much more worth it than going for the initial release though. Ugh! The original Victory set had nothing of value to really make anyone want to get some!

Beside regular Victory Update cards, you can get gold and black variation cards too. The gold rookie cards are nice as the gold foil has a little bit of shine to it.

The inserts featured above are the common inserts that you can expect to pull out of a box of Upper Deck Series Two. There are other inserts that feature autographs and even acetate cards that are much more difficult to pull. Because of the variety of inserts you can pull in Series Two, I'm also going to up the score from what I gave Series One inserts.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Upper Deck Series Two continues where Series One left off. I think UD 2 tends to be a little less great traditionally than the Series One release because there are not as many stand out rookies in it, but this year there is a lot of variety in a Series Two box along with some great young talent in the Young Guns set. It's definitely a fun break and I highly recommend cracking open as many as you can!

Overall Rating:
(Not an average)

Check out these videos of my Series Two box breaks!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2010-2011 Upper Deck SPx Review

This year's Spx really surprised me. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, but Upper Deck has come through with a well designed product that is a great value.

Base Card Design -
First off, the base card. The 2010-11 base cards are horizontally aligned and feature geometric elements set amongst a dark gray/black/off white background. This is a sharp design that really looks great! Gold foil highlights the player's name, team logo, and the SPx logo. I really think that UD has come up with something very classy and modern here. It's a really dressed up based card! The more I look at it, the more details I see that I like. Whoever came up with this design gets a huge thumbs up from me! I can't really complain about anything. For people who like seeing the hockey rink and fans, I can see why this type of card may not appeal, but other than that I can't find any fault. Nice job here.

To collect the entire numbered set of SPx you'll have to chase limited rookie cards and a hard to pull subset called Flashback Fabrics. Above you will see an example of an SPx rookie numbered to just 499. This rookie card features a dark gray foil background. Instead of being horizontal, the card is upright. These rookie cards are not as eye catching as the base cards to me. I think the dark foil makes the card disappear a bit too much. The light greenish corner borders on the top and bottom right corners don't go as well with these as they do with their jersey card counterparts.

Speaking of which, here it is - the auto-jersey counterpart. These cards are nice because they feature both a piece of jersey as well as the player's autograph. It's strange, though, that these jersey autos have a higher serial numbering than the ones that don't have it. The white background on these cards really brighten up the look of it, and the background actually compliments the green corner borders. This is an eye catching card and the piece of fabric it comes with has a nice prominent position on the front of the card. As usual with rookie jersey cards now, the memorabilia comes from an event rather than an actual game. I'm not too picky about that, but there are many who really just want the game-used pieces.

Fortunately, there are actual game-used cards in the regular numbered set. These come in the form of a subset called Flashback Fabrics. These cards use a quasi-retro design. The Wendel Clark I got is a very nice and clean card. The colors on the card go really well with hockey, and having the player in black and white keep up the retro flair. The Flashback Fabrics set is a difficult one to complete though. These cards are case-hits, I believe, and there are autographed versions that are an even harder pull. Good luck with it if you're interested in getting them all.

Base Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
I've seen a lot of breaks so far of SPx and it seems like people are getting 5 or 6 hits per box. Most people expected 4 hits, so getting 1 or 2 more is great. I got 5 hits in my box and was quite happy. The standard jersey card in SPx is called Winning Materials.

These cards feature 2 jersey pieces. The basic design of the card mirrors that of the base card except with a lot less geometric business going on. I usually like a card that is cleaner and plain, but I feel that it would have been nice to fill in some of that white background with a design of some sort. They really could have just taken a page from the base card design and re-used it just like they did for most of the card, but they chose not to. In my opinion these standard jersey cards are nicer than the ones from Series 1 and Black Diamond.

Winning Combos cards feature 2 players instead of 1. These cards are horizontal and have a very similar design to the Winning Materials. I like how you can tell that these cards are definitely in the same card 'family'. My only complaint about the dual jersey card is that putting the team logo in a blank space of the card reminds me of what Panini does to take up room where there should be an autograph of game-used piece.

The final memorabilia card I received was from the Rookie Materials set. I think these cards are very nice looking. The light green background with the swirling geometric grid lines is a nice looking design element. The card is very modern looking and each part of the card comes together very well. Since I got Braden Shenn, my jersey piece was purple which complimented the colors used on the card perfectly.

My final insert was a limited SPx Finite Rookie insert card. The card is limited to just 499 and shares some similar design elements of the Rookie Materials inserts set - notice the left border in particular. It's a card that features a lot of foiling. I've noticed that in SPx, if a card doesn't have a memorabilia piece, it gets a lot of foil treatment. Well, I guess it had to have something!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
This year's SPx is definitely a great surprise. I wasn't too happy with SP Game-Used this year, and I wasn't sure if Upper Deck could pull it off with SPx - but they did. I would definitely choose SPx over SPGU this year. The value that comes from a box is so much better - on average. Plus, boxes of SPx are currently about $50 cheaper than SPGU. I think it's a no-brainer which one to choose for those on a budget.

Also going for SPx is the look and design of it. The cards are very well done this year. I think that SPx has always 'tried' to make a futuristic product, but with this year's cards I don't think they tried - they just did. UD has come out with a fantastic looking set that is fun to break with some good value per box.

I definitely want to pick up another box of this stuff!

Overall Rating:
(not an average)

Check out my box break from the Hobby Box below!