Thursday, April 11, 2013

2012-2013 Upper Deck Fleer Retro Review

...and here comes something totally out of the blue... Fleer Retro from Upper Deck! Well, I can't say it's  completely out of the blue, as it was announced many months ago, but this product was certainly an 'interesting' choice to bring to the hockey world by Upper Deck. It has had great success with basketball, and a solid football showing, so I guess Upper Deck wanted to see if the mojo would continue flowing with hockey. Does it? Let's open a box and find out!

Base Card Design -
I remember when Fleer was a huge player in the card market. They had their hand in all the sports - basketball, football, baseball, and hockey. Fleer was always an innovater in the card world. They came early into the premium card game with their Ultra product line (I loved their commercials that flaunted their foil highlighting and graphics), was a big part of the insert-era by being one of the first companies to offer one insert card per pack, and delved into creating elegant and beautiful cards with their Flair sets. Fleer was definitely a pioneer... but unfortunately they went under. Upper Deck came along and bought the rights to all things Fleer, and has been continuing the Fleer tradition ever since. Though Fleer, as I mentioned, was a huge part of the card collecting world, I always felt that it had it's grip more on basketball, football, and baseball than it ever had on hockey. And that's why I found it curious that Upper Deck would release this line for hockey card collectors. I'll talk more about this point when I reach the insert section. For now, an analysis of the base cards.

The base cards in Fleer Retro have the feel of what I think a modern day low-end Fleer card would be like. The base cards have a white border highlighted by some foiling and simple graphics. The cards are very simple and understated, which surprised me a little. Though I could definitely see these cards released as a low-end Fleer set, I always felt that Fleer designs had a little more pizazz to them - that they should be more in-your-face. As this set is supposed to be a retrospective... I would have liked to have seen a more flamboyant design to the base card. As they stand, they are not just understated... but underwhelming. I'm asking myself where the crazy graphics are, where is all the color, and of course... why am I not getting nauseated by them? These base cards are just too tame and boring. And the photography selection doesn't help too much either. That, unfortunately, was a part of things they did take from an old Fleer base set. The photography on the cards don't stand out in any way. The only thing that is interesting is that the set contains a huge mixture of retired and current players with all the same design (no sepia or black and white coloring for legends or that sort of thing). It's a trip to flip through the cards and see Gretzky then Couture then Bobby Clarke whiz by as if they were all playing concurrently.

The back of the card is much better. The backs have an Upper Deck Ice-esque-ness to them. The blue hued ice background looks sweet. The darker borders really give the backs some visual punch. Not only are there stats on the back, but also a short write-up too - that's always great to see. Though I do enjoy the backs, they don't match the front design in any way. It's just a huge disconnect. Looking at the front of the card I would have imagined the backs having a white background with minimal design elements. So though I like the card back, I'm scratching my head with what the designers were thinking of when drawing these cards up.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Fleer Retro comes with six autographed cards. There are no game-used memorabilia cards, but there are plenty of inserts to be found. And this is why I am curious as to why Upper Deck chose to produce this product for hockey. I have never found hockey collectors particularly crazy about insert cards. Sure, in the nineties they were certainly popular, but never to extent of basketball. Even now, nineties basketball inserts (particularly those of Michael Jordan) command big prices. Insert cards from the nineties of Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux don't even come close to those of Jordan... and in fact, Gretzky and Lemieux inserts can be found for much less than they were once valued. Currently there is hype around Fleer Retro Hockey in its initial release, but I will be very curious if Upper Deck will be able to capture hockey collector's interests with these insert cards after the newness of the product dies down.

A lot of the 'insert cards' found in Fleer Retro will actually be older Fleer base cards re-done up with their new checklist of players. Upper Deck has chosen a select few popular Fleer sets and have used their designs here. This Crosby is from an early nineties Ultra set. As a kid, I bought a lot of the basketball version of this product. I remember how awesome it was to have a fully glossed-out card with foil. The marble border was so classy! For older collectors like myself, these types of cards are really fun to pull.

Another older base card design Upper Chose to include were the old EX-2001 acetate cards. These super-premium cards look just as good as they did back then. When older collectors lament over how creative cards were in the nineties, I can imagine them referencing these cards. Again, I don't remember buying a hockey version of this card. My experience with this card design was when I collected football cards. I think I have a Peyton Manning card like this somewhere in an old binder tucked away... I find it funny that as I sort through this box of Retro Hockey that I am making more connections to other sports. And for collectors like myself who collected a variety of things over the years, this is definitely a treat to look through.

I will not go through all the different types of base card inserts, but for the most part Upper Deck did a nice job of selecting base designs to showcase. There were a couple issues that I did have with a few selections though. In terms of Flair, the Flair cards in Retro look great and share the exact design of the original cards... but they are way too thin. Flair cards were cut thick, so thick in fact that they used to not fit in toploaders very well - and I always thought that to be a hallmark of Flair. It was sad to see such a thin Flair card. And my only other gripe was with choosing three Fleer Ultra designs, with two of the Ultra designs (92/93 and 93/94) being almost exactly the same save for one having a blue/green marble graphic and the other with grey. With such a rich history of Fleer, there could have been a better choice to go with than that.

From Fleer Metal comes the Precious Metal Gems (PMG). These were the cards that everyone was going ga-ga over in Retro Basketball. The PMGs look like the ruby, emerald, and sapphire parallels in 12/13 Black Diamond. For each of these cards, Upper Deck uses a super shimmery and shiny foil. Apparently, this foiling drives collectors crazy because these parallels command ridiculous prices. If the same trend holds true for hockey, then Crosby and Gretzky PMGs should be a very hot item. I personally think the PMG cards will be very popular and get good prices on eBay, but I also think there is too much hype over them at Retro's release. The PMGs will be very interesting to keep an eye on as they make their way onto the market. Red PMGs are numbered to 100, blues to 50, and greens to 10.

There are many fun inserts to be had in Retro. This Golden Touch insert card of Marian Gaborik is an example of one of them. Many of the inserts found in Retro have flashy foil, crazy die-cuts, and sweet designs. Though I find these cards to be very collectible, I wonder if other collectors will too. I wonder if the entire focus will be on the PMGs, or will there be room for some value in these types of cards. Some inserts found within Retro come at very difficult pulling rates! Golden Touches are listed to be inserted at a rate of 1:108 packs! Another insert, Jambalaya, are inserted at a rate of 1:360!

In terms of autographed content, the majority of my autographs were in the form of Autographics cards. These autographed cards were some of the first to be available in packs. The designs are simple and nostalgic. My biggest gripe about these are that they are sticker autographs. The sticker really ruins the look of the card - they were not meant to have them. Retro has a tiering system for all their autographed content - be it Autographics cards, insert autographs, or base autos. Before trading away the autographs you pull in it, it may be a wise idea to check on the rarity of what you have. Here is a good place to do that: click here.

Here is an example of a base autograph, again a sticker. Though this card may seem like an easy pull, this Phaneuf comes 1:364 packs. And that's what I mean about making sure you know the rarity of your autographed card pulls. Sometimes Upper Deck short prints a player that you may not suspect would be short printed. They just do funny things like that sometimes.

The final card I would like to show from my break is this Akim Aliu autographed insert card. It is part of the Rookie Sensations set. Now THIS is what I call a retro Fleer design! It's just all sorts of ridiculousness with the giant water droplets and the words going every which way. Love it! More of this please. It's one of those 'it's so bad it's good' kind of things for me with this one.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Value -
I paid over $200 for this box of Fleer Retro. Was it worth it? Did I get my money's worth? Is this over $200 worth of cards? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I'm not sure if I could even get $30 for all the autographs if I wanted to sell them. I know there will be some people out there that say the hobby is not about the values and so forth. Well, I just have to say that sometimes you have to take that into account. Because, how else do you judge value?

Fleer Retro is a very high-priced product for what you get in it.

From what I have seen opened, the autograph content is very weak. Though there are six autographs per box, you'd be lucky to land a player of note. It's not like boxes that contain a Sidney Crosby auto will also have a Gretzky and a Stamkos. That's just not going to happen. If you get one player of note, you'd be already doing much better than most - better than my break for sure!

Value in Retro is not only contingent on autographs though. The PMGs are a big part of what make Retro appealing. The right PMG can go a long way in making the break worth it... but again... getting a great PMG is a very difficult proposition. I do have to say that hockey does have an advantage in having good PMG prices as compared to other sports as it's the only Retro product to feature the players in their official team uniforms rather than college ones. That, to me, adds desirability to the hockey PMGs.


I loved opening Fleer Retro. It was such a fun product! But aren't fun products supposed to be cheaper than this? I don't remember ever having to pay so much for Fleer products. The price point of Retro definitely diminishes the fun of opening it.

It's actually one of the most high-priced-high-risk-high-reward type products out there that you can get. At over $200 per box, I can't recommend this product except to the highest of high rollers out there.

Pick up what you need on eBay for a much better price.

Overall Value:

Check out my box of 12/13 Retro that I opened at DandP Cards in Sacramento, CA:


  1. The design is quite refreshing and different (in a good way), but it's the price point that's going to drag this product down. I find that the inserts are what will drive this product, the auto's are fillers in this and somewhat unnecessary. This product had the potential to be the hot selling insert-driven product that the hobby needs, too bad they had to insert the uninteresting auto's and drive the price up. I really wish that they would've left out the auto's and have an "insert-only" product for $80-$100 / box. That would be more to my liking.
    I'd love to see a retail version (blaster or tin maybe) with a chance at an auto and some cool inserts. I would definitely break some of that for a cheaper price and I'm sure you'd be a fan of that for Retail Review as well. UD should really consider doing something like that. Overall, I'm excited to pick up some PC cards from Retro on the secondary market for prices that my budget can afford. As always, love reading the review and thank you so much for the contest.

    -- GTAHockeyCards

  2. I think that UD Retro Hockey has always been a fun product to open and collect! Because if you buy a box you can get nothing good but you can get something very good! I also like this product because they never changed the sets from the time when hockey had so much talent and the inserts also lock pretty cool!
    Youtube-Irbehockey cardcolect

  3. Hey Luke,

    I gotta say I really loved the product going into your video (I had watched chris5784's video and he seemed to have a little more luck) but for the price I am not so sure anymore.

    There are a lot of things to like about this product, none better than the nostalgia you get when seeing the old fleer ultra cards. When you pulled the bure I was 10 again haha. I really like the fact that you can pull a bunch of different varieties of fleer products, it will make player chasing more fun.

    I am going to agree with you on the inserts though, nothing special at all, no great autos to be had, and only one numbered, you get better value in series 1 in my opinion.

    Anyways always a pleasure watching the videos and reading the reviews. Keep em coming!!

    Oh and thanks for the trip back to the early 90's!!

    YouTube - Dan Ezard

  4. I think the product is really cool. It's definitely a set with a focus on inserts (which in this day and age is a rarity), and man do those inserts kick some serious booty! The Metal Universe cards are spectacular, the PMG's are awesome, and the rest are pretty nifty. It makes me wish I was older and could collect back in those days.

    The autos aren't great, but if you hit a big one, hooo man will you hit a big one.

    As well, the great variety of vets and modern players, AND the variety of uniforms the vets are in make this seem like a fun product to bust.

    I'm going to take a quote from CnC: "It may not be a great product to bust by box, but it is a GREAT group break product."

    Trevor // Force // klowd1661 [yt]

  5. For me as a new collector the only time I've seen the retro cards in that style was in the nickel boxes at the card store. Overall I liked the product. Personally I love a large number of insert sets because it makes collecting them all more rewarding. But to me the price is was killed it. I understand why they charge it because 6 autographs is pretty hefty for a product but other than the autos it doesn't scream high end to me.
    Thanks Luke!

  6. I believe in getting what you pay for and this isn't really worth what you pay for. A bunch of sticker autos. I don't think anyone should buy this product, it's horrible, probably worse than classics signatures. At least those autos were on card and pretty. Kids can't buy this stuff, I don't care for the inserts. They should lower the price by $40 and make people happier and maybe make more sales. F that actually, lower it by $80. I can't buy it for less than $245 in a store. I'll get it when it reaches $165. SOLD!


  7. Very cool product that I probably won't be buying anytime soon but I may pickup a couple cards of the secondary market for my PC's.

    I gotta say it definetly brings you back to opening packs from the 90's just the price tag and the players have changed. It's intereted to see that they have put 3 or different years of Fleer cards in to 1 product. I just wish the price was the same as it was back in the 90's to have the same feel and let more collectors buy it. But that's ok since Between the Pipes is out next week and I be investing in that.

    YouTube: kosimitz

  8. Maybe the product base cards aren´t so cool looking but it´s nice to see some retro style cards. Also inserts aren´t so popular in hockey cards but there is space for this kind of product for that. The inserts are kind of cool looking and it´s nice to see sideways autos. It was cool to see cards where was for example old Vancouver jersey. Over all nice product. Maybe getting some cards for my collection.

    Youtube 64HockeyCards

  9. Very cool product but I really don't think you are getting enough "bang for your buck".


  10. Hey hows it goin?!!! This product a few months ago I thought was going to be really awesome and you could pull really good players everytime. The price is to high for what your going to get even if you hit a nice auto. I like how they bring it back from the old days. For me just seeing the base was enough for me saying I'm not going near this product and I can tell you didn't like it either. My favorite insert are those ex ones. I think it's neat to see through the picture. I saw this other product of basketball you should check out. I don't know how much it costs but it's called Marquee Basketball 12-13. On average in a pack youre supposed to get 3 rookies and a insert. Theres alot of Sacremento in there. In Fleer Retro it's weird because theres no jerseys. I know there wern't any back then but if they make jersey cards with the really cool inserts they have. They will attract more people I think. I would stick to something yo uhave opened before instead of trying this new one. I cant wait till July when Sp authentic gets realeased. I jumping on a couple of those boxes. classic comment here: GO SACREMENTO GO! What is the next product coming out? Your box breaks are amzing lol and your very generous. Thanks Again

    Youtube name- Riley Thomson

  11. Holy crap!! $200 for a bunch of inserts that aren't even numbered! The autos are very weak. It looks like they put in one veteran auto to try and make it look like your getting your money back. I thought this product would be in the $70-$80. This would be very nice if it was in that price range. I'm a lower end collector and some of my PC players are in here! Overall: 5/10

  12. When I first heard about this product I was really excited but now that it is out my impression has changed.

    The regular base card reminds me of Score from 11/12 I dont know if its how white the cards are or the little square box in the bottom corner. The one thing I like about them is the back of the card. It gives the best of both worlds, Stats for those hardcore junkies and a back story for the casual collectors.

    The Crosby Fleer is the one thing I do like about the product. Gorwing up purchasing Fleer products at the local store it gives you a nice flash back.

    The acetate cards look cool but are not something I would rave over. I do remember back in the early 2000's when they first came out if you got one it was like hitting a 3 colour swatch today.

    The Stamkos style base card is different. I like the idea that they had with it. I enjoy backdrop cards. The Fleer Ultra logo on the middle of the card to me ruins it. Its right on Stamkos and ruins his picture. I wish they would have moved it to the top left corner and made it smaller where there is nothing happening. I don't know if its just the Stamkos card that is like that or if they are all like that.

    The Fleer Metals I kinda like. As you mentioned they could draw alot of attentions and go for very high prices. My question is will the colour of the card remain on the card? By that I mean in 1998 UD choice the Star Choice cards would chip if you did not have them in cases. Are the Fleer version cards more durable?

    The Goldon Touch card I think looks really bad. The photo of Gaborik is really nice but the background if awful. If it was a real Gold Touch you would think it would be "Gold" and not puke green.

    The Sticker autogragh design is not bad but as you mentioned the autographed sticker does ruin the card it covers part of the gloves and shoulder of the player. It is very easy to spot out and once you notice it, it does not make the card look as authentic.

    The Phaneuf card I like simply because it is the classic fleer base card from the past but beefed up with autographs. It is really interesting how that card is short printed. You really do need to do your homework when you purchase this product. Check every product because something you think is a $2.00 cheap auto sticker could be a $50 auto sticker.

    The Aliu card is neat. It is everywhere you have to really look at it for a few minutes to see everything that is happening. I like that. It spells retro. Almost like a 1960's tie die party.

    Overall I would not go out and spend $200 for this product. Maybe after this product has been out for a while and drops in price I will get it. I love it as a hobby and don't worry to much about value but when it is a product that I do not collect as a set value matters.

    My rating is very close to yours I will give this a 5.5/10.

    I like the old school base card design it is a very nice touch to the product but I am not a big fan of all the insert cards.

    Youtube StarnsFan00

  13. Well, it was certainly fun watching you break the box of the cards. I had already seen another box break of this same product and it yielded the same results. I too thought the base could seriously be a bit better, it's like rivaling Score cards, the cheapest cards right now. I'm not going to lie, I do kind of like the inserts. I'm really not sure why they had to do have the two mini boxes inside the box? Maybe it was something they did in the 90's at some point/ they definitely have a 90's feel to the cards, as I do have a bunch of Fleer cards from the 90's of basketball. After reading your review, I realized that Michael Jordan inserts are worth a lot more than I expected apparently, and I remember looking through my old cards and finding one. i guess I better try to find it now and see how much it is actually worth. i know I kept it in good condition. Anyway, I think the auto's are really nice, it's too bad the players aren't too well known though. It's interesting that on the rookie auto, they don't have the name. I believe I remember seeing that.
    But wow, I will have to say that the value of this, is extremely high for the actual product. I would probably buy it if it was less than $100. I was hoping you would get some really good cards for having to pay such a big price. I think I will be a little less nice than everyone else and give this a rating of 4/10, with the overall price bringing it down the most. Thanks for your review!

    Youtube: Andrew Rhoads

    1. It wasn't the rookie auto that didn't have the name on the front. Oops. :p

  14. This is always a fun but pricey product. UD could lower it down to at LEAST $169, yeah but $200 for 6 autos that you expect to be not that great certainly that won't make your money back. But I wouldn't complain about it though. It is always nice to see your mailday videos and box break. The rating in this product is probably a 7.5 at LEAST and an 8.5 at MOST. Nice product as always.


  15. I really don't like the product. The "retro" look is bad for hockey cards. Also the pricing is ridiculous for what you get. I really don't like the no name on front autos. Overall I would give this a 3/10. Just because it has 6 autos.

    YT: 49ersfan619

  16. hey luke

    i love your reviews always great here my outlook on this years retro hockey(short but simple review) the base design i think is a great look for retro.but my favourite thing from retro is the metal cards those are awesome in person anyway love the product and love the review

    youtube username:JDjrtv

  17. Hey Luke!

    As always, another great review and as you said, sometimes you win some, and sometimes you don't. Sadly, I'm not sure if you won in this case. But I'm sure the experience was fun.

    As for the product. I would consider myself a fan. It's a little deep for my wallet but I like it. All the inserts are really cool but they don't take me back like it may for others since I am in my middle teen years and I didn't really get in the hobby to a large extent until last year. However, nonetheless, the inserts are nice. As for the autos, I would pass on some of the names but the design is nice. I think that is what Fleer had going for them in this, the design.

    Overall, I like the product. A little to pricey in my opinion but if you drop the price, it may be better.

    Thanks for the contest of course and keep up the awesome reviews!

    - NothinButHockeyCards

  18. I might join a GB of this product because of all the hits/inserts even though they might not be the greatest players! But I wouldn't buy a box for myself, I think it is way overpriced!

    YT: SuckYourHeadphones

  19. I really like the precious metal gems,but i think a box is really pricey.

    Youtube name is: vancanuckman1234

  20. I love the throwback styles into those 90's cards. The metal is my personal favorite. Why are they charging so much for a box? inflation hasn't risen THAT much since 1992!
    YT - Skroeker24

  21. This product look really sick imo! Though, the price point is definitely too high.

    YouTube- TheEdgeHead41

  22. Really? $200 for a box that should be around $80-100? WAY overpriced. Also, this is the first hockey product in a long time that I have to put together another rainbow of Alex Burrows. I do like the card design though, especially the inserts, even though they're not numbered.

    Youtube - mukmukfan89

  23. Very cool and old schooled product. Very similar to basketball and football, but wont get your money back because its to pricey for the amount of decent hits there are.
    YouTube: Graboguru

  24. you have excellent reviews .keep this excellent form up. the product looks amazing but the price drives it down a lot.If you got lucky you could get a couple of cards which would let you get your moneys worth back.for this product you are pretty much paying 2 dollars per card.Some products that is fine but this product it is not fine.Upper dect should make a version of this which is cheaper but has the same amount of autographs .Youtube username is Erik Karlsson

  25. I have to say I love and hate this stuff. I love the insert sets, but I hate the low end autographs. If you want to get your money back, you will never get it back.

    YouTube micerule934

  26. When I look at this the word that comes to mind is confused, it seems to be relying on a sports card history that belongs to other sports. That's not say I don't like what I'm seeing here, some of those inserts look fantastic, but I can't escape the feeling that the $200 price tag is based on how popular Retro was for other sports. It's a product that I'd have no hesitation getting a box of, if it weren't for that price. That said I'm curious to see how the PMGs go against Black Diamond Parallels - always loved the BD parallels.

    - reebz0r

  27. Great Review! I am not personally a big fan of this product. I find the cards there is too much going on, they are not very eye catching in my opinion. Also the price for this product is a tad to high for what you are getting.

    Youtube: Sports149

  28. Nice Review, I think this product did not live up to expectations after retro football and basketball. the design is not that great but buying a box of it isn't worth it. - TeamRGHQ2Sports

  29. hmm this product is kinda wierd i love the super foilily inserts but im not a huge fan of anything else in the product so idk not aa big fan... Thanks for the contest Luke!


  30. For 200$, I am going to have to stay away from this product. I have seen breaks online and nothing has wowed me from this product yet. I love getting autographed cards in boxes, but if the value in return is not there, whats the point. Most traders want to trade by book value and if the value isn't there, im not going to get much in return. The inserts are kinda of cool, but they don't make me want to jump up and order a box or a case. Great review Luke, keep them coming.

    YT- bmurphy1325

  31. Over 200$ for a few signatures and a numbered card is not what I call that great of a box the only cards that I saw that I liked in this overpriced box was the rookie sensations autographs so those will probably be the only cards I will buy from the whole box. I just think the design of the cards is ok and do they even have real autographs or just sticker because all I have seen is sticker. I just probably wouldn't recommend this product unless you pc someone and want to get it off eBay or something like that but thanks for the contest anyways luke lol.

    youtube: mncards22

  32. Glad to finally see a new review up again! I liked the product because it had lots of inserts which was a change of pace. The autographs where a little weak but over all i liked it.

    Thanks for the contest!

  33. I liked the product but some boxes werent ass good as others. I especially liked the ultra inserts. Great review. Thanks. Alex bugaria

  34. Well actually I don't think Fleer Retro is a product that match perfect together with hockey. Fleer haven't been combined with hockey as it have been with other sports, and inserts from sports like basketball, football etc. doesn't make the hockey collectors as enthusiastic as they can't relate to them.

    But still some cards are really cool, and I especially love the metal gems, with a really nice design and sick looking foil. Maybe a bit similar to Black Diamond but you can't get to much of the good things.

    The price point then? I only have one thing to say: why? Why put in six autographs of last years rookies and set the price to 200 dollars?! Well if the players would have had better recognized names it would be ok, but with ugly looking auto-sets and no-name players I can't find any reason to let the product be at such a high price point. Take care of your customers, UD!

    Youtube: Majlfp

  35. Good rating this product is a win some lose some product and I think it's not the best stuff out there so I agree with your rating
    YouTube braeden lockhart