Friday, January 6, 2012

2011-2012 Upper Deck Black Diamond Review

Upper Deck has released the venerable Black Diamond set.  This staple of the Upper Deck line up has been around for well over a decade.  Has Upper Deck found a way to make this year's version different from the previous years, or is it the same old same old?  Let's find out by breaking open a couple hobby boxes

Base Card Design -
I mentioned to the local card shop owner that once you've seen a Black Diamond base card, you've pretty much seen them all.  Each and every year Black Diamond cards come to us with a thin (in a good way) all-foil hockey card.  Well, I can't say 'all foil'.  The player on the front is not covered in foil - which is a good thing, and a smart choice by Upper Deck because having the player without foil helps the featured player stand out from the foiled background.  This is unlike the Pinnacle Nufex cards that completely cover the card in shiny foil.  It's interesting to compare the two foil cards from the two companies side to side.  I actually prefer the Upper Deck card because the player is more prominently featured on the front of the card - it's less muddled.  But anyways, getting back on track...  As I was saying before, once you've seen a Black Diamond card you've pretty much seem them all.  They all have the same feel and look to them.  If you were to put all the Black Diamond base cards from all the years together and mix them up, I am sure collectors would have a difficult time figuring out which cards were from which year based on just the design.  Not that the cards don't have differing designs from year to year, it's just that they all look very similar to each other.  That being said, this year's design is quite nice.  The card has a very modern look.  I like how Upper Deck has chosen to use red, black, and silver as the main color scheme on the side border.

As per usual, Black Diamond comes in different tiers of rarity.  The single diamond cards are the basic card.  There are also double, triple, and quad diamonds to be found in boxes as well.  One significant change in this year's set is the way Upper Deck has included the star players in the tiered system.  In previous years UD had chosen to have minor stars as single diamonds and progressed upwards in star power as the diamonds increased.  Not so this year.  You can find mega stars of the NHL as single diamonds.  There are players like Sidney Crosby, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky in the single diamond tier.  It's nice that for this year, many of the big names are easily attainable.  The quad diamond cards actually also contain some of the major stars from the single diamond tier except they are featured in All Star jersey's.  So the quad diamond set of the stars is more of an All-Star subset.  Definitely an interesting and different idea from the minds at UD.

Rookies come in two different tiers: triple diamond and quad diamond.  You'll get a few triple diamond rookies per box and usually one quad diamond per box.  Both of the rookie cards look exactly the same save for the number of diamonds shown on the bottom left hand corner.  The rookie cards share similarities to the basic card except in two areas.  The first is the larger side border.  These cards have 'Rookie Gems' in rather large font.  It looks great, especially with the rookie photo.  Notice that the rookie photos are much larger and up-close than the standard cards.  Upper Deck has subtly made the rookies a bit more prominent on the card.  Very cool.  The second area of difference is the background texture.  The backgrounds of the rookie cards are much more textured than on the standard card.  Again, this makes the cards feel more 'weighty' and more important.  And of course they are - these are rookie cards for goodness sakes!

The back of the Black Diamond card is nicely done as you can see above.  It's a very modern back that features a nice head shot of the player.  All the basic information and stats are there along with a little write-up.  All the lines zipping around on the back of the card remind me of the movie Tron.  I can imagine zooming into the card and seeing those light bikes from Tron creating those lines on the card.  Ok I'll stop with the nerd moment now.  It is a very sweet looking card back.

Base Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
One of my favorite things about Black Diamond is that it contains not only the standard autographs and game-used cards, it carries hard to pull great looking insert cards.  As a hobbyist who collected a lot in the 90's, I was used to seeing insert sets with a lot of thought put into them.  Back then companies would do all sorts of things to make their best inserts stand out.  The hardest to pull inserts always looked the coolest and were the most desired.  Black Diamond has very cool inserts.  This year they have acetate Championship Ring, Hardware Heroes as well as the Lustrous Rookies inserts.

Though these cards don't have an autograph of memorabilia piece, I have found that collectors still covet these beautiful cards.  You can't really tell in the image above, but the Connolly Lustrous Rookies insert is on foil board and the smaller picture is of clear acetate - a stunning card to see in person.

Game jersey cards make their return to Black Diamond this year with a twist.  The game-used cards come in team sets of 4.  You can put the 4 cards together like a mini puzzle and create a large image of the teams logo.  On the Giroux above you can tell that it's the upper left hand part of the puzzle.  Definitely a neat idea here - nothing mind blowing - but just a simple and fun little thing that adds some charm to the set.  One thing collectors may notice is that the standard jersey card is down to 2 jersey pieces rather than 4.  Is this a big deal?  I don't think so, but maybe it may matter to some.

It may be difficult to from the scan above, but the Brandon Saad rookie card is a gold version limited to just 10.  Yes, there are the standard ruby (/100), gold (/10, and onyx (/1) parallel cards to chase down in this set.  You may also find parallel autographed versions of the jersey cards as well.  They are extremely limited as their print run goes to just 5.  Besides the 1/1 onyx cards, it's nice to have just a few parallel cards that are relatively easily attained.

UD Ice is once again back in Black Diamond!  Every box of Black Diamond will contain one bonus pack of UD Ice.  I have to say that Ice is like the opposite of Black Diamond.  The cards a are very bright and feature just a touch of foil highlighting.  The Ice cards look great this year and are a perfect compliment to the Black Diamond cards.   Many collectors have missed Ice as a stand alone product, but at least it is not gone forever.

Of course the main draw of the Ice bonus pack will be for the Ice Premier rookie cards.  Everyone and their grandmother will be tracking down the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/99.  That card will be worth a great deal of green.  But besides the value of the cards, the design of the cards are spectacular.  I think one of the reasons why these cards remain so valued and collected is because of the way they look.  These cards are slickly designed and attractive.  It's a perfect rookie card without any need for autograph or memorabilia.

Gemography cards and other unannounced insert cards can be found in Black Diamond this year as well.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
All in all I think I like Black Diamond better than I did last year.  Upper Deck has tweaked the product in some fun ways and has made it a more interesting break.  At 24 packs per box, it can be difficult to pull out nice hits just by buying packs so I recommend buying Black Diamond by the box.  And also purchasing by the box is the only way to get your hands on the Ice bonus pack and your chance at an Ice Premier rookie card.  To be honest, I think for some the Ice bonus pack will be the main temptation to purchase a box of Black Diamond.  The other stuff that comes in the box will be just gravy.  But I would caution discounting the things you can get in Black Diamond this year.  There are some beautiful cards that would be great additions to any collection.  So all in all, I'd so go get a box or two or three.  That's a pretty good dip into Black Diamond this season.

Overall Score:
(not an average)

Here's one of my Black Diamond breaks:


  1. I think black diamond this year did improve from last year, the jersey puzzle idea they did is really cool and I look forward to watching people complete that! I myself am going to try and complete one. The rookies I think do look better then last years, and the lusturious cards look really amazing! So overall UD did a great job with black diamond this year and I cant wait to buy a box next week!

    Thanks for the contest!


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Love The design of this years BD always a great product only thing I don't like is the paralells it makes it very hard for set collectors with all the double diamonds and single etc. Love the new design of the Lustrious rookies! and of course the Ice rookies are the best as always!


  4. Thanks for another contest and break Luke.

    I think BD is a pretty cool product. It's very different. I've had a hard time comprehending how the base set works, with all the different levels, but it seems cool, and adds value and collectibility.

    It's too bad the Rookie Gems don't sell very well, but I LOVE that they give an Ice RC in every box.

    Also, their jersey card idea they're using this year is very cool.

    Thanks again!


  5. Love the jersey pieces fitting as a puzzle. Looking forward to getting this for my birthday. Love the ice bonus pack. great review. YouTube- Danglindoctor

  6. This years upper deck black diamond is great. I am a huge fan of the base card design the autographs and rookies. The only thing I don't like about this particular product are it's jersey cards. The reason for that is that to me they don't look very good. I'm also not to sure I like thatvpuzzle piece idea either I'm still deciding. If there was something good I would have to say about the jerseys it would be that the players thatvthety have chosen are very talented,most of them well know and recognizable. When choosing a product to me having good players is a crucial faceteur and it is what usually what is one of my final decision makers. The autographs on the other hand( I haven't seen many) have a great design but are lacking the good players like they have on the jersey cards. If I were to rate this product I would have to give it a 8.5/10. Thanks for the contest.... BTAcollectibles

  7. Love Black diamond as always. Even though they've kept the same BD design for the bases. I personally like the Rookie Gems and Lustrous Rookie because they both contain value and are not overly produced. I love the Ice like they did last year as a throwback. When Ice was its own product I loved it a bought some singles and boxes. The only thing i dislike about Black Diamond is that there is 1/1 paraells and are hard as heck to find and the jerseys haven't upgraded since last years 4 pieces. But the rest of the smooth looking product makes up for that.

    Thx for the contest Luke!

  8. I just watched both your box break videos. Awesome break especially on Box #1.

    I bought a couple of packs from my local card shop this afternoon and I was lucky enough to pull a Jimmy Howard jersey card. Didn't expect to get a hit that good from two packs so I was quite stoked.

    The Base Cards look great as always for any Black Diamond Cards. Pretty tough for me to do a more detailed review since I only bought two packs so far. After watching your videos, I plan on purchasing a box very soon (perhaps even this weekend). I'm hoping to a get a Cody Hodgson Lustrous Rookie Card hit.

    Anyways, great review as always Luke!

    YouTube Username: marcjosefgonzaga

  9. This year I really like Black Diamond, I think I might want to try breaking it.

    What I like the most is how the game jersey cards for team sets all fit together as their logo like a puzzle. Also, I like how Panini included Ice in the product.

    Thanks for the contest!


  10. I have not been able to get my hands on this product, but the base design looks pretty cool. They kept the same type of design as last year, but they just made it even better!!
    For the price you get some rookies and a few quad diamonds.... not so bad. Last years Black Diamond, I was not very excited about, but it seems that every year Black Diamond does a great job!!
    Although, I think that they could have made it a higher end product this year, by adding a few more hits (memorabilia). They could have also added at least one auto a box. For the price it is not so bad.

    Thank Luke for the review, love reading it as you do such a great job! Keep it up with all the new products!


  11. I think Black Diamond Is awesome this year, they have a soild checklist, and great collation. They made those important 'little' changes that make a product great, the base and inserts look spectacualar, the Cup Championship rings, and Lustrous rookies especially. I love the 'puzzle' idea with the team jersey sets. I will definatly be hunting for the leafs set. :D I think Black Diamond is a great affordable product. Great job Upper Deck.

    - CanucksCollector

  12. Black Dimond is a great product and fun to open. With the ice bonus pack to sweetin the deal. But like leafsfan451 said before me and we were talking about this the over day the single dimond doubles and triples and quads its just to hard to collect. But being called black dimond why not have them as parreles right. Next I like the jersey cards maling a mini puzzle that was a good idea whoever came up with that probly got a promotion. The jersey cards also have a great look to them a lot better then last year in my eyes. The rookie cards are great as well they look super cool. And I like how there is only two parreles triple and quad dimonds. The rest of the stuff is cool and fun to get. But like Luke said you should probly be buying a box not packs. But if you just want to try it and dont want to have to put much money then packs are the way to go

  13. Black Diamond looks great this year. My cousin opened a couple of boxes today, although i wasnt there when he was opening them i seen what he got after, he got some pretty good stuff. what i also love about it is there is a little challenge with the jersey cards. in the background of them all there is a part of there respective teams logo. When you get 4 cards of 1 team you can connect them together and it is like 1 big cards. My cousin has 3 out of the 4 flames jerseys and they look really cool. I got my Lars Eller base (PC) off of him and they are really nice. love the design this year. The back of the card this year also looks great! Then with the bonus pack off 11-12 ICE its always fun to open! Except when you open 3 boxes and you get the same ice premier rookie in all 3 boxes, which happened to a guy on youtube. But besides that i think Upper Deck did a great job the year on the card designs!

  14. Black is a solid product that offers a lot double and triples quadrant some nice jsys if u like a lot of inserts and rookies black diamond is 4 u
    Happy to see pat tie Kane on the cover


  15. I busted two packs of this stuff today and I must say. The base cards are very sharp looking this year.
    The color scheme both of the front and the back just scream classy, while still being a cheaper and more affordable card.
    The foil has always been the calling card of BD, and the player sticking out just adds to the classy look.

    Also, I must admit, Black Diamond cards smell the best out of everything pulled so far (yes, I smell my cards.. the smell when you first pull them is amazing! Well, from UD at least).

  16. for me i dont really like black diamond...some boxes you will do ok and some you will wish you never spent the money.. i havent bought much of black diamond and i want to keep it that way. also the base card looks the exact same every year.


  17. I actually picked some of the product today at my local card shop. Black Diamond is a product that I always look forward to, but sometimes I think they go over board with the foil usage. This year I think they did a much better job! The base cards are clean and look good, its funny but i like the backs of the cards even more then the fronts :P

    I really like the idea that you can complete a puzzle if you collect your teams jersey cards, i am really looking forward to finding all of the Leafs ones! The design of the jerseys are much better! There are less jersey on each card but now it doesnt look over crowded!

    The Championship ring inserts are really cool looking! I saw pictures of them before they came out and i thought they looked really crappy but now that i see them in person with the see through parts to them it would be a really cool set to collect, you know if the leafs won the cup -_-

    The only thing I dont really like with black diamond this year is the rating system they used for the rookies... I dont see why Alex Stalok is a quad while Ben Scrivens is a triple. I also think you should get at least 2 quad rookies in a box because if you were to hit a quad and pull a player like Stalok then its kind of a crappy box...

    Over all I really like black diamond this year I would buy an entire box but the price is a little steep at my shop. I will probably pick up some blasters and maybe buy the jerseys on ebay! Overall very good and upper deck did really well with a product they usually have trouble with!

  18. Over all I like the look of this years black diamond. I've never been a huge fan of the extra foily card but this year I think they nailed it, also liked the puzzle piece jerseys.
    Thanks Luke

  19. Big fan of Black Diamond each and every year. Love the designs for inserts, rookies and base. After seeing your breaks, I will definitely be buying some for sure. The Lustrious Rookies/Stanley Cup Champions inserts are what I will be going for as I think they are really cool inserts overall. Great value.

    HockeyCardFan1000 on Youtube

  20. i really like this produce this year hockey0065 on youtube

  21. I think this product is a lot better than last year. I think by changing the way of the single diamond and quad diamond cards is really unique. Also I really like the look of the Championship Rings and the new Lustrous Rookies! I am definitely considering go out and getting a box or two of this sweet stuff!

  22. This years product of the Black Diamond is frekin awesome. One really cool thing i find are the jersey cards that connect like a puzzle. I don't dislike any of the designs in the cards and the color of the jersey at least are not to plain anymore (white jersey). I also think the Ice is really awesome to. All the new Champion cards are pretty cool except for the fact that I wanted the canucks on that card. Usually the Black Diamond cards have the same kind of regular base cards which I find is fine because they all look pretty darn good. OVERALL I GIVE THIS PRODUCT 8/10. In my opinion black diamond might even be better than UD seris 1 11/12. GREAT PRODUCT

    youtube username: teeheekid1

  23. base cards-7/10
    I like the look of the cards but every year there look the same. I like the look the foil gives it. But with singles, doubles, triples and quads they all have like no value unless you are collecting the set which is a 250 card set.
    rookie cards-9/10
    This year there is a great rookie class and I like the close up photography and the fact that there are only triples and quads. Also I think you should get a few more quad rookies per box though.
    insert cards-9/10
    I like the fact that they added more inserts to the product with the lustrous rookies, championship rings and hardware heroes. I think they have better odds because I've seen more rubies and golds.
    The jersey cards are cool the way they go together to make the team logo I think that makes up for there only being two jersey swatches instead of four
    The look of the autos are nice but there don't come up a lot.
    Overall I like the look and the insert I like that they add the ice cards to it

  24. this ones easy! i LOVE bd

  25. Dear LUKE,

    black diamond is one of my favouriye products of all-time. The base card design for me is too dark. maybe they could of had a light grey. it would of bumbed it up a little. for me its 5/10.

    the jersey cards i like alot. They are vibrant but not too much too set you off. I like the design alot. 9/10

    now the rookie gems. still to dark for me but the design is not bad. i like the idea of 3 and 4 diamonds. good job. 7/10

    my youtube is right here

  26. I like Black Diamond Hockey cards more than Black Diamond cheese strings, and let me tell you - I am a dairy lover!

    I also love the blow, and the contests. Keep up the amazing reviews and good work!
    YT- Skroeker24

  27. This year's black diamond is absolutely gorgeous. I think it is better than last year. I'm not a huge fan of black diamond, but I like how this year the jerseys sorts of form the logo of the team. It is a great idea for collectors to try to collect all 4 players of that team to form the logo. The rookie ice premieres as always looks amazing I really like the design this year. I saw your scan up top and it was the rookie card of connolly. I really think it is a nice design. I dont have much to say about black diamond because I'm not a huge fan, but I would rate it 7/10 this year :)

    - MrSport4life

    thanks as always for the contest Luke

  28. I think that black diamond looks like a fun product for younger collecters. You get to open a lot of packs, get a few parallel cards, and get a couple of jerseys. Not to mention how cool it would look if you get all four from a team. I think that it looks like a fun break and would give it an 8/10.

  29. Well black diamond was awesome. Every year I think it gets better and better. The extra ice pack is awesome and the look of it is amazing. I think its a step up from last year. Thanks as always luke for the awesome contest.

  30. hey Luke. I realy like this product this year. it looks very nice and i totaly agree with what you have said in your review.

    youtube name- (Priceforthewin)

  31. I love this years black diamond. The base is pretty much the same, but the inserts are nicer. I don't like how some of the stars are just double diamonds. The Jersery Puzzle is nice. UD Ice is the highlight of the set! Reminds me of artifacts. Anyways I like the product more than last year.
    Thanks for the contest!
    Youtube name (Victoryhockeycards)

  32. I love the new lustrous rookies I think they look really cool. I am not a huge fan of the base cards though every year they look very similar.

    Thanks for all the contests!!!


  33. Black Diamond is fairly solid set this year.
    I am still waiting on my box, and my decision on the overall thought, i do not like the base card design, aside from the fact i never have.
    I do think it is very cool that they insert the ICE bonus packs.
    Looking forward to opening the product and giving my final input

  34. I dont like BD, theres not very many hits and its just not exciting like artifacts. Its okay but i wouldnt waist the little money i have on it

  35. I like BD this year better then last years. I think the base cards have a nice sleek look. I would give the base cards 9/10. I like the inserts as well this year too. I like the Premieres and the Rookie Gems espiacially. I also like the new idea with the the puzzle logos foe the teams I like that it's very original. I would rank the inserts etc. 10/10. Overall I really liked this product so I would have to give it a 9.5/10. Good Job Upper Deck rkesler101

  36. In my opinion think this year's black diamond isn't that great looking. I don't like how the rookie gems look similar to the base cards. Doesn't look as much as an insert to me. I do however like the desgign of the Lustorous rookies and the Ice base cards/rookies (Need to find that Stamkos one!) Overall I think this year's black diamond is a 6.5/10.


  37. I think that Black Diamond is a fairly decent product. The thing I like about Black Diamond the most is the Rookie gems cards, they are one of my favourite things to pull that aren't crazy mem pieces or autos. The foil of Black Diamond is really nice. I can't wait to try out a few packs. As for Ice bonus pack, it is a nice added bonus to when you buy a box. The Ice premiers cards are a great looking card.

    Thanks for the contest!


  38. I hate Black Diamond because of the number of cards that aren't numbered. For the price you pay to get a box, you should have two numbered jerseys. I don't understand why UD doesn't do it for Black Diamond... Add to this Crosby 1 gem and other stuff like this, Black Diamond is under Victory in my ranking...

  39. Hi everyone! Contest is over but please continue to leave comments! Drawing will happen late in the day on 1.14.12.

  40. Hey Luke,

    I'm new to the hockey card scene after a 15+ year exile. I've been reading your blog all night and thank you so much! my knowledge in cards have expanded 10fold! However, maybe it's because of overload or something else but for a new collector. For both hobby and investment, I was hoping you could help me with a few mins of your time? I love talking hockey!

    My email is

    Again, thank you so much for this blog it's bloody awesome.