Monday, July 16, 2012

2011-2012 Upper Deck SP Authentic Review

After literally months of delays and waiting, SP Authentic has FINALLY arrived. This popular brand of hockey cards is one of the 'must have' products every year. It has been agonizing waiting for its release amidst continual release date push backs. Well, the wait is over and now collectors can get their hands on the celebrated Future Watch Autographed rookie cards and other SPA staples.

Base Card Design -
I have always loved the SP Authentic base cards. Some collectors have called them plain and boring, but to me, they are fabulous examples of what a modern hockey card should look like. This iteration is no different. The simplicity of the color scheme and geometric design work extremely well here. Each card has just the right amount of foil highlight, the font is just right, and the players pop off the card. When I first saw them I was really blown away by how stunning they were. In my review of Panini Contenders, I compared that product to this one. I have to say that in terms of card design, now that I see SPA up close, Contenders still has a ways to go because UD design is still up front and pacing the rest.

The back of the base cards have been designed with as much attention as the front. I am a big fan of the dynamic angles that the lines make. The design truly matches the front in a way that doesn't replicate it exactly. The backs will feature all the relevant player vitals along with up to 5 years of statistics. UD has also included a short write up on the featured player's achievements.

SP Essentials have again returned to the main SP Authentic set. This yearly limited subset has always given the main set of SPA a higher level of challenge to complete. In previous years, the Essentials were serial numbered. This year they are not. I'm surprised by this decision by Upper Deck. The serial numbering was a key point for these cards being collectible. I feel that without it they will not be taken as seriously by collectors. In terms of how the cards look, the SP Essentials are pleasing to look at, but they do remind me of an older SPx design for some reason.

As with all other years of SP Authentic, the rookies are broken up into an autographed group and a non-autographed group. The non-autographed Future Watch cards showcase the rookies on a dark grey ice background - again, a nice looking card. And each card is limited to only 999. The non-autographed FWA cards tend to be rookies that are not as hyped or celebrated as the autographed ones, but here we actually have some that probably should have featured an autograph - Carl Hagelin being one of them. But this could be due to the nature that SPA should have been out in March so the decision on which players got what cards may have been determined far in advance. By the way, if you wanted a Carl Hagelin auto rookie you would have to go to Contenders for it.

The autographed Future Watch auto rookie cards are, as the rest of the main SPA set, very well done in terms of their look and design. The autographed versions of the FWAs are brighter than their non-auto counterparts. Instead of a broken up ice look, the background 'beams' outward with the player being the source of radiance. Pretty cool. The portion of the card devoted to the autograph is a faded white area. It's a great place for an autograph. Some card designs have an artificial looking rectangle for the autograph placement. This can create a jarring effect that makes the design looked forced. That is definitely not the case here. With these cards, the space for the autograph is almost organic in nature in terms of how it is done. Seamless is another good word to describe it. Everything from the top to the bottom of these FWAs is pretty well done perfectly. One of my favorite FW designs for sure.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The main meat of SPA is the Future Watch Auto card, but there are many other inserts and hits to be had when opening up SPA. This year Upper Deck has proven again that their cards are top notch and desirable. Each box of SPA will contain 3 hits and a smattering of insert cards. FWAs count as hits, of course.

Here's a pretty common insert card shown above. Wait... what?!?! But that's a base card! No. It's actually an insert seeded 1 in every 2 packs. You'll notice that player pictured is Gabriel Landeskog, a rookie. Upper Deck this year has put in a rookie extended insert set that shares the same design as the base card. The only difference is on the back. Each rookie extended card has an 'R' alongside its numbering... and there is no write up below the player stats. I'm puzzled as to why Upper Deck decided on including this inset within SPA. To me, it seems absolutely unnecessary. For collectors of rare cards, there are red foil versions of these cards serial numbered to just 10. So that might be something to chase. But as I said before, I'm just not sure why this set is here this year.

A more familiar insert card is the HoloFX foil card. These have been in SP Authentic since the very beginning. Once these cards were heavily chased, but now are pretty much afterthoughts. Interesting to note that this year's HoloFX series features only rookies; there are no veteran HoloFX cards. As collectors have lost interest in these cards, it seems as if the designers have also lost some interest in them as well. The cards don't look particularly outstanding and don't have any cool features. I remember a time when the HoloFX cards had a rotating face of the player on it. Sometimes players would smile or wink at you as the card turned. Obviously that takes some work to get done. That kind of effort is too much for an old insert like this I think.

Seeded 1 in 288 packs are the die-cut versions of the HoloFX cards. Though these cards are tough pulls, they tend not to go for too much on the secondary market. I do like that the die-cut here is made to resemble an 'R'. I'm assuming that they did this intentionally because all the HoloFX are rookies. It's better than die-cutting a design of no relevance to the card as is done on some other products.

The Sign of the Times autographed cards are back this year and they continue to look very nice. Upper Deck has always produced good looking autographed cards for SP Authentic, and that tradition is continued with this year's set. Aside from just single autographed cards, collectors will find double, triple, quad, five, six, seven, and eight autographs on a single card. All of this is very cool, but collectors have found that getting the better autographs have proven to be difficult as star players are much tougher to pull than lesser ones. Odds range from 1 in 41 packs for the lowest group to 1 in 1,560 for the highest group, which would be group A. Cards with multiple autographs have even steeper odds.

Collectors will find all sorts of hits when they open their boxes of SP Authentic this year. Making a return are the Chirography, Marks of Distinction, and Immortal Ink sets. There are also rookie and veteran patch autographed cards as well as a new set called Signature Stoppers that obviously focuses on goalies. Collectors will even find 'left over' cards from last year's SPA set inserted into boxes as well. These are cards that Upper Deck didn't get in on time last year so they were inserted into boxes this year.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
SPA is SPA. If you've been collecting hockey at all in the recent past then you'll know what to expect out of this product. For me, I love this product mainly based on it's design aspects. The set always has a pleasing, modern look that entices me to buy it. I will in fact be going for the main set once again this year. I had also wanted to go after Contenders, but after looking at SPA, I feel that SPA is the right way to go for me.

SPA boxes have always been extremely hit or miss. Misses are REAL MISSES. So I caution collectors when purchasing a box of it. These boxes will range from $100-120, but often you may only get $20 of value out of it - particularly if you are shorted a hit, get cruddy Sign of the Times autos, or FWA rookie cards with low potential. Just know what you're getting into when buying the stuff!

For me, I always like to buy between 2 and 3 boxes and then collect the rest of the set off eBay and the secondary market. But I always hold out hope that I will get something amazing in the few boxes I do buy for myself! Best wishes on your breaks of SP Authentic. I KNOW you will get some!

Overal Rating:
(not an average)

Check out my box of 11/12 SP Authentic!


  1. I didnt really like how this years SPA had rookie that that look like base card that much I dont know why but i do like the the design of the inserts.

    YouTube: TheBlueSlasher

  2. Hard signatures always get me... Look so classy. Some of those inserts look really good as well. Perhaps they should get docked points for a delayed release?! Excellent review!

  3. I really like the card backs...very nicely done

  4. Got a Titanium feel to them, except UD lashed out with some foil! Haven't bought any Upper Deck stuff since Series 2 so I might chance a box or 3 of SPA.

    - Reebz0r

  5. I hasn't liked the UD products this year, but SPA have been a surprise to me. I liked it very much last year, and the clean design makes it to a very good product.

    Some things that I doesn't like thought is the Rookie Extended set (completely unnecessary, especially with the same design as the base cards), and the SP Essentials set. SP Essentials this year doesn't have a great design, and the fact that they are not numbered doesn't make them more attractive...

    Youtube: Majlfp

  6. I like SPA this year, i find that the sign of the times look great, especially sign of the times 2 or higher and alot of the rookie inserts like the holo-fx, the case hit "red die-cut", etc aswell. also FWA look great in my opinion!


  7. I like spa for this year. base cards are simple and clean. I like idea of ex rookies but they way they have them is dumb they look like base. but otherwise all inserts are very nice. i wish more hits per box lots of base. but nice lookin product

    Youtube: Capitals103

  8. i think its a pretty good product and i agree the base is nice.but as you said the value is HIT or MISS.and im not sure whats going on with upper deck and its packs in boxes always being in one row?i cant buy a box but i can buy a few packs(unfortunetly its not very good pack to pack wise)


  9. This year I have been mostly buying Panini products. I fell upperdeck products so far this year have been really weak. Series 1,2 have almost the exact same as spa base cards. I feel they are getting lazy this year with the base and inserts. The future watch patch auto are amazing though, like always.


  10. once again SPA is another bust. You could get good cards and you could get bad cards. I dont feel the value is their for 120 dollars a box and it is terrible to buy by the pack.

    sportsreviewcan on youtube

  11. hey luke. i always love sp authentic. but im not likeing thisyears cards.the rookie extended cards are not to my likeing but the future watch cards are really nice. i dont get why they have some players that are nonames as autoed future watches but dont have a guy like haglan as an auto future watch. just doesnt make sence to me. thank you for another amazing review and contest.

    youtube username- Priceforthewin

  12. I really didnt like it this year because you couldnt get patches as much or jerseys the easily, so i didnt like it!


  13. I do not buy SP hobby box because I feel It's a waste of money. It's too risky, the chances of getting a future watch patch is low when it should be high. The rookie cards don't feel like rookie cards for it says nothing on the front of the card. The future watch autos are nice but high numbered. Overall, I do not believe the product was at it's best this year.
    Youtube- Nothinbuthockeycards

  14. i dont like the base card looks . but i like the looks of the autos .youtube name - vancanuckman1234

  15. I think spa is pretty consistent with all of its cards. Great review by the way.

    Elyk Namhsuc (Joffrey LupulFan)

  16. Your review was awesome Luke. In my opinion I like the idea of the rookie extended series. It's a good idea because you dont get alot of base packs like last year's SPA. It's 1 in 2 packs and you get 12 in a box. So its a good idea.
    Youtube name:elijahking13

  17. I think SP Authentic did an okay job compared to all the others SP Authentic was released. First of all the base cards have a clean design and I think having nice base cards is key to a good product. I'm disappointed in this years SP Essentials because they're not numbered. The Future Watch rookies cards are probably the nicest rookie cards I've seen this year. The Holo Fx cards design is just design is just a liitle to much, but I like that they made Rookie Holo FX cards unlike others years how they mixed in the rookies with the Holo FX set.I love the Sign Of The Times autograph cards they are a very classy and just nice cards to have. I personally never buy SP Authentic boxes or packs because it's not a consistent product and beacause your most likely going to get an all base pack. My overall rating for 2011/12 SP Authentic is 6.5/10

  18. base- I think the base have a nice and clean design. They look nice and if I ever get my hands on them I'd try to get the whole set. 8/10

    inserts and rookie- There are not a lot of insert but they kept the sp essentials. I don't like how they didn't number them though. For the holo fx I like how they are rookies but I think they should have kept the veterans and make them harder to pull. I like the idea of the rookie extended 1:2 pack so if you buy single pack there are less all base but they should saay rookie on the front not just have a r in front of the card number.I like that they still have the future watch non-autos because you can't have to many off those in the set because it will be to hard to get them all and you wouldn't get as many rookies. 9/10

    autos and game-used- They still have the sign of the times which is great so all the autos aren't rookies and you can get 1-8 autos on one card. The future watch autos still look great but I don't like how they have redemptions. I don't think they need them they should have just printed them all. Having patches 2-3 in a case is a good amount so you have good chances of getting them. 9/10

    overall- This is a great product. You get 3 autos in a box and lots of rookies. 9.5/10

    youtube name- phxfan19

  19. I think SP Authentic did an okay job compared to all the others SP Authentic was released. First of all the base cards have a clean design and I think having nice base cards is key to a good product. I'm disappointed in this years SP Essentials because they're not numbered. The Future Watch rookies cards are probably the nicest rookie cards I've seen this year. The Holo Fx cards design is just design is just a liitle to much, but I like that they made Rookie Holo FX cards unlike others years how they mixed in the rookies with the Holo FX set.I love the Sign Of The Times autograph cards they are a very classy and just nice cards to have. I personally never buy SP Authentic boxes or packs because it's not a consistent product and beacause your most likely going to get an all base pack. My overall rating for 2011/12 SP Authentic is 6.5/10

    Youtube Username: MrHockeynut77

    I forgot to put my youtube username on my first comment.

  20. I always love the look of SPA! I love how they are always on card autos and very clean design. I really like the look of the rookie holo fx cards this year. I would recommend buying SPA this year!

    Youtube Name: GBforce12

  21. i love how the cards look i think theres to much base

    youtube username: dylandude48

  22. This year;s SP Authentic was amazing! they really dealt with the problem of having too many all base packs by adding in the Extended Rookie Set, which alot of people dislike because it looks like the base set, but I think that it adds alot more fun to breaking the product! The autograph cards are very nice and clean as always, and the overall design of the base and inserts are spectacular! Overall a job well done by Upper Deck for this years take on SPA!


  23. i love this product i love how there all hard signed although i haven't seen nearly as many nuge future watches pulled as i thought there would be


  24. I think your review is great! I always love the cleanness of the cards! I love the design!

    YouTube username: flamescollector

  25. i think the base design is great i also love the rookie extended there also seems to be one decent auto per box making it worth you dollar.

    youtube name:hockeykid968

  26. I don't like SP Authentic that much, you can get ripped off easily for how much you pay, but I do really like the Base Design, but not so much on the rookies...

    Youtube: Trey Haglund

  27. i like the look of SPA.. BUT.. im not a fan of having the RC's looking like base (the R numbering) , and the SP Essentials not #'d.. not too bad of a product though :)

    YT - canucks112785

  28. Very nice review as always! I really love the base cards in this product.


  29. I think SPA is one of my favorite products of the year from UD but I think this year I might be passing on getting it seeing more attractive items from Panini in the form of contenders and the upcoming Prime hockey which I am saving my money for ;)

    Youtube - arrivingfern57

  30. Hey Luke your review is great and I honestly think the product this year is amazing

    My YouTube name is : Thomas4life1

  31. I love this product but I think there should be some more inserts.

    Thanks for the Contest!


  32. This was my first year buying boxes, including SP Authentic. In Canada a box costs $130 to $140. That's $43 per "hit." Pricy! But the chance of hitting a big multi-player auto card is priceless. And you can't beat on card autos. I'm happy with the product.


  33. I can;t complain with SPA this year. In the couple of boxes that I have done so far, I pulled a very nice dual auto of two of the better americans playing right now in Ryan Kesler and Patrick Kane. The other hit BLEW me away!!! I absolutely LOVE the design of the Immortal Inks Set this year, and was lucky enough to pull one of Mario Lemieux! The silver ink this year just takes it to another level. I have heard mixed reviews of SPA so far, and see that the average box can be pretty weak. But I give big props to the design department on this one, easily the nicest card I own. One thing I think UD could have done to improve the product, would be to have Carl Hagelin and Marcus Foligno in the autograph set. I just found the FW auto set to be weaker than past years, and these 2 were very good players that should have some ink!! Here is hoping they are in Ultimate or the Cup at least, though I am not holding my breath. Great review, I look forward to reading more! It would be cool if you were to do maybe a football review, I know Panini Elite Football is coming out in the next week or so and should be popular, I know you as a Sharks fan, not sure if you break other sports as well.

    YouTube: MrMoocoww

    1. Sometimes Panini will send me other sports boxes to review. I just reviewed Prestige a few weeks ago and Past and Present basketball before that. I do keep up with the other sports too.

  34. Good clean base cards but i dont like that the chance of getting a patch this year is slim. But i always love on card autographs so i cant complan about the product this year :)

    Youtube: MrThendro

  35. The autos are nice but only 2-4 patches pre case and whats up with upper deck coralation sucks i went in to my card shop bought all the middle packs it was loaded but i probobly won't be buying this probably save up for prime. Youtube-muellerfan88

  36. This years Authentic is spectacular. Usually every year their base designs looks similar to the previous years however i thought that this year it was great. It looks sort of like a certified design. The thing that I am most amazed by is the future watch autos. Not only are they better than previous years, the design of the card is different, very different which i great because it looks good. This year they included like little rookie insert or whatever you call it which is fun because set collectors would want to collect that :p i love spa, but i alo hate it. Why do i hate it? well ever since i got a bad box of spa i've never toched it again, but the product is SICK.


  37. I personally think that 11-12 spa is a great product. Although there isn't a very good chance of getting patches the on card autos are still ver nice. UD has done a very good job with putting in rookie extended cards because it lowers the amount of base packs. Lastly i also think that UD has done an amazing job on the subset autos including chirography, and immortal inks etc.

    my overall rating is 9.5/10


  38. last years base cards, and even the FW autos was better looking in my opinion.
    but same design two years in a row. No thanks =) so i agree with your review..

  39. Very nice review. I just started collecting so I don't have any of these cards so I'd like to say that you really helped me to figure out that this is not the box for me. I also very much liked that you split it up to groups and graded the product in different parts and then the overall rating rather than reviewing the whole product and just giving it a overall review. Very nice review overall keep it up.

    YouTube: ryanadeli8

  40. Nice Review! I agree with you that the cards look quite amazing, the one thing i didnt like about the hits/ inserts is there isnt that many different ones! Also the two hit boxes are kindve annoying... Anyways Nice Review!

    Youtube: TTSportsCards

  41. I do like the card backs, anything with more than last year's stats and a write up is great! And although I like the hard-signed cards, I don't like the design of the FW and FWA at all. They are way to boring. I much prefer the Calder Contenders Autos from Panini to these. Same goes for the base cards, the fact that the background and text are not exciting combined with the fact that there is no background to the player picture make it look very boring. I think the price point is about right though, at least it's not a huge risk and you're likely to get some ok value with a box.


  42. I love the Design of SPX this year. It reminds me of Upper Deck Ice. I like how they added a rookie extended series which gives less base packs than normal. It was definetely worth the wait.


  43. my thoughts on spa. i like how they changed the design. its alot more updated and it really stands out. love the base design as well and i like how they added the rookies into the holo fx subset. the only two things i didnt like were how the sp esstinials werent numbered and i hate how all of the hits are just put into one stack and not spread out more evenly


  44. i think that spa is a pretty solid product. i dont like it as much as last years, but i still think that getting 4 autos in a box is a pretty good deal. 8 out of 10.
    - danboyle13

  45. I haven't been liking the Upper deck Products lately, but this one looks nice and I might want to pick up a box of it.

    Youtube Name: EOJ18

  46. great review very interesting take on spa fare rating as well. I will have to buy me a box

  47. I think that the design of the future watch is awesome. But, I don't really like the design ans the look of the base cards compared to the years before. I also think that it's a great idea to includ rookies in the base set.

    Thank you

  48. I actually really like the design this year, the landeskog was sick and the kassian was also pretty nice, I wish that SPA had some indication on the extended rookies though, thanks luke.


  49. I love BASE CARDS <3 but i dont like Rookies But holos and patches are awesome

  50. i think this years spa is great as i do with all past years, my favourite thing about this years spa is the way they shifted to more of a rookie product adding the rookie extendeds and rookie holo fx but i dontlike how the sp essentials look and how they arent numbered.


  51. Like the stuff but over done on the rookies. Too many subsets and very mediocre checklist on SOTTs. Step it up UD and this delay? Just plain pathetic. Panini is just a step behind you.

  52. This is a great product love it, it's awesome to see it get broke. The base is awesome and the look of the rookie holo fx is boss. The only 2 things is the over done rookies and how they look the same as the base, also Sp essentials weren't # 9/10


  53. SP Authentic always have the best rookie autographs. I think this year's designs are well created and better than last year's. However, I don't like the rookie extended cards because it can often be confused with base cards, unless you know the rookie. Also, the Holo Fx looks amazing as always. Overall I think this product is either a hit or a miss but it is still decent compared to many other products made by UpperDeck this year.


  54. This stuff seems promising, but I prefer memorabilia over autos, so I think I'll hold my money for prime.

  55. I totally agree that they have great base cards. I like to collect a lot of base cards because they are easier for me to get, so a product with a nice base card always interests me. I also really like the Holo Fx cards


  56. Jeszcze kilka miesięcy temu miałam podobny kłopot, jednak udało mi się go rozwiązać. Moja rada jest łatwa - sporo pracy oraz wiary w siebie, a na pewno się uda.