Thursday, June 13, 2013

2012-2013 Upper Deck SP Authentic Review

Even with a shortened season and a limited hockey card release schedule, Upper Deck puts out their beloved SP Authentic brand to the delight of collectors around the globe. This year's SPA is like other products that have come out recently - it doesn't just contain SPA, but also includes nixed products from this season such as SPx, Upper Deck Update (basically Series 2), and MVP. SP Authentic is a product that many collectors look forward to each and every year (including myself), so I'll be eager to see what Upper Deck gives us in this iteration of this long-standing brand.

Base Card Design -
SP Authentic has long given collectors a clean, primarily white themed base card - and it does so again. Collectors have come to know what to expect from SPA base, and this gives us exactly what we thought we would get. To some, it may be too repetitive and boring, but to others, it's comforting to know that SP Authentic carries on a legacy of its own style. SPA is comfortable in its own skin - no doubt. The brand, and the base card design, exudes a confidence that others can rarely match. This year's look is again very modern with foil highlights. My only complaint about this card is the silver streak that bisects the middle of the card. I'm sure it's there to center the attention on the featured player, but to my eyes it just looks a bit off. The silver streak contrasts a sweet hidden circular design in the background, which is cool, but the execution wasn't to my liking. I probably would have done away with the streak and made the pattern silver instead - just my opinion... but all-in-all, the design team at Upper Deck has given collectors a solid effort once again.

Wow. Check out the back of the base card! After looking at other company's base card backs, I had forgotten how well they could actually be done! These backs have a full color picture (the same as the front, but including the background), a full write-up to read, and up to four years of statistics. They are outstanding in comparison to the other non-Upper Deck brands. Well done with these!

In year's past, SPA included a subset called 'Essentials' that was serial numbered. It provided an extra challenge for collectors as they went for the main set of SP Authentic. Those are gone and have been replaced by subsets called Authentic Moments and Team Canada Moments. These cards are not serial numbered, but come with a variety of different tiering. Some of the Authentic Moment Auto Parallel cards are especially difficult pulls. In all of these cases, these 'Moments' cards give SPA a very different feel. Gone is the stark background! Notice the full-on photography used here; they are of the quality of Upper Deck Series 1/2. In other words: awesome. These cards are a refreshing new addition to the SP Authentic brand.

Not gone, though slightly diminished, are the Future Watch rookie cards. Future Watch rookie cards have a huge following. These cards feature an on-card autograph, and are serial numbered to 999. Typical Future Watch sets can be upwards of sixty cards. This year there are only twenty-five FWAs to collect - that's less than half of the usual amount! Obviously, this is because of the rookie card restriction imposed this season by the NHL. That's too bad, because the Future Watch design this year is pretty sweet. Like the Moments inserts, these cards bring in a breath of fresh air to the product. I really like the light blue backing (it's similar to the base card, but the lightness of the blue just works better) and the Future Watch logo itself . There is ample space for the autograph and everything gels nicely together. I will definitely be going for a set of these as I'm sure many collectors will too!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
SP Authentic is known for it's autographed content. Each box will contain at least three autographed cards within. Although I didn't get one in my box break, about one in every three boxes of SPA will contain an SPx bonus pack. These packs will have SPx base cards as well as sticker-ed rookie jersey or patch content!

Going into the box break, I knew that Upper Deck Update cards would be included. This was a great idea since Upper Deck Series 2 was cancelled. It gives collectors a chance to finish off their Upper Deck series 1 set with players who were not included or were traded. The Exclusives parallels have made it into packs as well as evidenced by the Olli Jokinen above.

MVP base cards were inserted into Upper Deck Series 1, so naturally (I guess!) MVP cards had to make their way into SPA as well. My box came with two MVP rookies cards - Scott Glennie and Jason Zucker (above). I LOVED the MVP rookie design last year. It was black, classy, and understated. This year's is a bit of a mess to me. There are just so many lines on it... and the color scheme has a bit to be desired. But you know, the more I look at them, the more they grow on me. I'm not sure why! My initial reaction to them was: 'they are hideous!' But for some reason I've mellowed on them. I guess that's a plus!

An insert card that I did not expect to find was the 94/95 SP Retro card set. These classic cards make an appearance in this year's SPA set. I loved these cards back in the day, and I'm glad to see them here in this product. Standard 94/95 SP Retro cards are just like the Gretzky above - all foil and shiny. Die-cut on-card autographed versions are available to be found as well. For collectors who remember these, they will bring back fond memories I'm sure!

Sign of the Times have returned to this year's SP Authentic. This year's SOTT card has a golden background that makes it look more classed up than usual. There are three tiers of the single autographed SOTT cards. The Goulet I pulled in my box was a group B auto listed as being 1:428 packs! That really surprised me! As with the past, the Sign of the Times cards also come in mult-autographed variations. There are even some left over SOTT from previous years that have been inserted into the product.

There are many more inserts, autographs, and memorabilia cards to be found in SP Authentic this year. I'm sure collectors will have a blast ripping boxes in search of all the rarest ones.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
SPA is SPA. I'm sure collectors who have collected for a while know exactly what to expect out of this product. It's one of the most popular and anticipated cards sets of the year. 12/13 SP Authentic gives collectors what they want - hard signed content, Future Watch Rookies, and more.

Though there is a ton of great content to be found, pulling greatness out of SP Authentic can prove to be very difficult. It is a very hit or miss product - and this year, with a weaker rookie class, it may be more of a 'miss'. Hopefully, one of these rookies will break out and make this year's SPA a must-buy... but only time will tell!

If you're going to buy SPA, I definitely suggest purchasing it by the box (or case). That way, you definitely get something out of it - three things, actually (and a chance at a bonus pack to boot). With 24 packs per box, I have found it to be very difficult pulling hits out. Packs are about $5-6 each. And that can add up to a lot when you keep buying and buying hoping for a hit to come out.

I can say that recommend SP Authentic this year. Though the rookie cards may be lacking, Upper Deck has added in enough extra goodies to warrant its purchase. Let me know what you get in your boxes of SPA, I'd love to hear about it!

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of 12/13 UD SPA at D&P Sports Cards in Sacramento, CA:


  1. Didn't blow me away, but not bad by any means! May go pick up a few packs for myself!

    YouTube; MrCardCollector97

  2. Nice clean base/autos/inserts, really love the product, nothing over the top. Great job by Upper Deck!
    YouTube Username: MrHockeynut77

  3. This years SPA is probably my favorite SPA in a long time for many reasons. I really like how there is 1 insert in almost every pack, unlike previous years when you have to buy 4-5 packs to get 1 insert

    YouTube micerule934

  4. This year spa autos look incredible and the inserts are really good.
    Youtube Irbehockey cardcolect

  5. it is ok not the best i am getting a box of one of these artifacts sp authentic or roookie antholgy

    youtube cancks rule

  6. Well I guess now I know what box to get, this box was famous for fw autos now the rookies arnt that great. Rookie anthology>spa


  7. I love this product.This is the first time I have tried this product and I am happy to say that this will not be my last box of this product.Youtube username is Erik Karlsson

  8. This is always a fun set to collect. Especially the Future Watch autos. SPA is probably my favorite product so far

    Youtube: jtayl132

  9. Always loved SPA, especially the higher end autos you can pull out of the product!

    YT - MapleLeafsFan4Life

  10. With all the restrictions this year on the rookie class it is nice to see that Upper Deck was able to put together such a nice product this year!

    SP Authentic is notorious for being a hit-or-miss brand and while I am a fan of more of the veteran autos in the box, I also do think this year they deliver better value than in year's past.

    I really love the Authentic Moments. It's cool to relive some key moments from the last season or from history and I think collectors would go nuts for those cards. Upper Deck should have added autographs and mem to those AM cards.

    With the nixed products being included, it gives the collectors a new reason to finish their sets. I like that Series 2 is in here and just a lot of interesting stuff you wouldn't see in a normal year of SPA.

    Personally, the design of the Future Watch and the base seems like a re-tread design. But I love those Sign of the Times!

    Overall, good product but may only pick up singles I need from the product for my collection.

    Thanks again Luke for revivewing this product!

    YT: MotorCityAutographs

  11. Although the rookie crop is fairly low in value this year, SPA sees through. Great autograph set in the Authentic moments gold autos. Although, I am not a huge fan of the FWA autograph design, but it will mostly likely grow on me!

    Thanks for the contest, Luke!

    YT: Alex Parr

  12. Hey Luke!

    Another great review!

    I suppose you could say for this lockout it was UD vs Panini when it comes to SP Authentic and Rookie Anthology. So if I must refer to that, I would say Rookie Anthology did better. They win.

    The thing is, SP Authentic seems to be a hit or miss product whereas Rookie Anthology, there aren't too many absolutely killer boxes however, you can't really do bad. That really balanced out the product.

    That being said, SP Authentic also has barely and sub-sets or just sets. Rookie Anthology had a whole boat load of sets. It really made me like it. There were all sorts of products meshed in it that really rocked. The only thing is, which is funny, Rookie Anthology didn't have many cards from Rookie Anthology itself.

    So I suppose I am having a little debate and comparing which product is better but it seems like a interesting way to do it, right?

    SP Authentic's design was clean, as usual but a tad boring in my eyes. It just didn't spark. There wasn't much to look at. However, I believe the back of the cards are the most interesting part. Lots to read and just examine. You mentioned how you loved the back of the cards in this review. The photography was stellar as well.

    Maybe I need to see more of this product busted in order to enjoy it a little more thoroughly. Hows about you buy a case. Can you do that? Just trade a car or two for one. It's not like $1000 is a lot or anything. All jokes aside, maybe I just need to see more of this product. I do have a friend who got a John Tavares Die-Cut Autograph.

    Am I against this product? Never. But am I a huge fan? No. I do enjoy your reviews though!

    Don't forget to do the FWA set again!

    Thanks again!

  13. I am a big fan of the Authentic Moments inserts. The older ones, such as the Patrick Roy from 1993, was so refreshing to see as he was my fav player growing up. Such clean and clear photography, it's great.

    The gold pen autographs are pretty "awesome" (it says collect "awesome" autographs on the packs.. lol) but so subtle, I almost missed it. It's sharp looking though, in person, you can see the shine, just pretty.

    Hit and miss product like everything else. I actually bought another Rookie anthology box (haven't opened it yet) because I thought I didn't get anything spectacular or worth much so I wanted a second shot. I won't be buying another SPA though, because I was happy with what I got. Funny how my mind works, the opposite of what others would do I guess...

    yt: ryannturnaa

  14. This years product is nice. Not as good in the past but that was going to be a given with the lockout.

    The basecard design once again is very classic looking.

    The Authentic Moments is very cool. It is a mini set that I am interested in collecting. If fully complete it tells a great hockey storey.

    The future watch is always a hit. You cannot love it. Although this year it will cost a lot more to complete the set. Since SPA is SUPER SHORT PRINTED so box and pack prices will go up very soon.

    The Upper Deck Series 2 inserts are cool. I like how they didn't get rid of them entirely.

    The MVP Rookie design as cheap as the cards are is very nice. In my opinion it is the best looking MVP card ever.

    Overall I will give this product an 8/10

    Youtube Starnsfan00

  15. Really love the design compared to other years, but don't like the extra base series 1 cards that are added including the MVP rookies.
    Youtube- Graboguru

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. I like the product but nothing crazy. I give it a 7.5


  18. Good Job UD! SP is a keystone product for them!
    YT - Skroeker24

  19. I love the Sign of the Times design this year. Great review Luke! YT - CUB3Jsg22

  20. I like the product this year, not as much as in past years. I am not a huge fan of the UD Series 2 as well as the MVP rookies.

    YT: SuckYourHeadphones

  21. Sweet cards I like the sub sets and the autographs

  22. i think the sub-sets look sweet and the sign of the times but i am not i big fan uds2 cards but overall i good hockey card product

    yt name:alwamwejwemw breaks

  23. The only thing in this product that appealed to me were the base cards and the 94/95 retro cards. The other cards had unattractive fonts and the title for the future watch autos seemed to be placed too high. Thanks for the informative review, Luke!


  24. Cool cards...I really like the Upper Deck Update cards! My favorite insert of this year's SPA is the Sign of the Times (SOTT) cards. The base cards also have a nice touch as well.

    YT: desarge44

  25. This year SPA looks very cool. I love the simplicity of the base cards and the SPX cards look great. Definitely going to bust a few packs.

    Youtube: Sports149

  26. great product as always i haven't dicided to go out and buy one or not. i think it is a great prouduct that is still geting better. i also liuke the disign of the future watch auto's.
    youtube multihabsfan31

  27. SPA looks real clean this year in all their designs. Future watch autos look amazing, and inserts in every pack make SPA actually enjoyable instead opening a bunch of base packs. Great review!

    YT- bmurphy1325

  28. SPA this year actually impressed to me with all of the different inserts, except of just base packs. The Authentic Moments for example, does maybe not contain the greatest card design, but with great looking Pictures and facts those are a great way to replace those Essentials who did became a bit done. The 94 Retro are also a great set, maybe would have fit better in Fleer Retro (or did it join that Product too??) but I Think it's better this way since they are a good break to the common SPA cards. As you say the base backs looks great, and the RC autos absolutely ok. The SOTT, though is a step back in my opininon. The White, light design have been a good style for that set over many years, but with the gold background this year... Ugh.. I don't Think that's SOTT.. I don't like it! But still..SPA is very much like SPA.

    Youtube: Majlfp