Wednesday, May 16, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck SP Authentic Review

SP Authentic has always been a collector's favorite. In fact, for a long while it was my personal favorite set to collect. The clean design and opportunity to collect on-card rookie autographs were a big draw. SPA still has many of the hits that collectors know and love, but over the years it feels like Upper Deck has decreased the number of hits you can find in boxes of the product. SPA is still a great brand, but I wonder if the value is really there.

Unlike many of Upper Deck's recent products, SPA has remained very similar in terms of how it comes to collectors. SPA comes in a longer box configuration with three columns of packs. There are 18 total packs in the box with Upper Deck guaranteeing 2 autographs within it. With 18 packs to choose from, getting the hit would take a hot hand if buying by the pack. Two hits, with one of them guaranteed to be a Future Watch rookie, seems like less than what you used to get when buying SPA. In past iterations of this brand, I remember getting around 3 autographs per box. And that didn't seem like enough back then. Getting just two is just bogus!

While I feel that there should be more hits in SPA, the look of the cards are still top notch. The cards retain their elegant simplicity. I love the subtle team colors incorporated in the background of the card. The amount of foil is just right. These cards may not be the flashiest produced, but there is just something about them that absolutely screams quality. The backs of the cards are also quite nice. They are in full color and provide a good amount of stats and a write up to read.

The main draw of SP Authentic are the Future Watch Autographs. Hitting a great rookie from this set is like striking gold. It's a great feeling. Getting a rookie patch autograph would be even better! The only issue with this is that getting that one spectacular card is very daunting. With only one FWA per box, trying to land a top tier rookie is tough. And like I mentioned before, I remember getting about two FWAs per box just a few years ago. Getting just one is definitely discouraging.

While the hits have seemed to fall off in recent years, the number of subsets and inserts have gone up. One of the more unique inserts are the Upper Deck Bounty cards. They have a special scratch off plate on the back that reveals a code. Collect these cards and they can be redeemed for a limited set from Upper Deck.

Pink parallel cards are also found in packs along with Upper Deck updates and Milestones. All the cards look very nice (especially the Milestones), but they fall shot because of the lack of hits per box! I just want one more hit per box!!!

And I guess that's just it. Getting one more hit for the price of a box would have made this product very good, if not great. As it stands, I still think SPA is worth a buy, but it does seem less of a value than it used to be.

Overall Score: 9/10

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck Ice Review

Upper Deck's acetate-a-licious brand comes at collectors with on-card autographs and the chance to land one of the coveted Ice Premier rookie cards numbered to just 99. Ice has been a favorite among collectors for years because of its unique design and rare inserts. Let's see how Upper Deck continues the Ice tradition in this year's release of the product.

When it comes to the base cards, Ice has some of the best around. The all-acetate cards look great. The acetate has a blue tint to it so it is not completely clear. The player's name, team, and position are all collected on the left side of the card. On camera, the foil made the player's name a bit difficult to see but in standard lighting there was no problem reading it.

The back side of the card is well done as typically acetate cards leave little room for much. But Upper Deck has the experience now to make sure the backs of these cards don't look like an afterthought. They've done a nice job with the limitations an all acetate card can bring. Great job to the designers of this card as it comes together very nicely.

Since going to the all-acetate formula a few years back, the Ice Premier rookie cards have lost a little bit of their thunder in terms of their uniqueness in the set. I thought it was cool that the rookie cards stood out as the only acetate cards in the main set. As they stand now, though their design is different than the standard base, they don't really pop out of the set as they once did. I'm sure the big rookies will still be worth their weight in gold... but from a design perspective I think there is a little less luster here.

Boxes of Ice only come with 6 packs, and you only get 4 cards per pack. There really isn't much you get when buying a box. I feel that Upper Deck has really refined the product. Sometimes I miss the larger box with more cards, but in the end, I think the modern collector will be alright with having higher quality (but less) base cards.

In terms of hits, each box of Ice has an on-card autographed card and either a memorabilia or Exquisite card. I love that the signatures are on-card. The blue ink on the acetate imparts a sweet look. I am, however, a little bummed at the decision to make the Exquisite card a possible substitute for another hit. Their are Exquisite hits available, but my box had a plain old Exquisite base card - and that wasn't a very exciting pull.

Overall, Ice is a fun product to break with some very nice looking cards to collect. There are a ton of hits to find, but not a lot of hits when buying at the box level. Ice is a moderately priced product that can be attained by most collectors. I'd definitely give it a try as Ice is one of Upper Deck's better brands.

Overall Score: 8/10

Friday, April 6, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Platinum Review

After a few weeks of no new NHL releases, Upper Deck comes out with OPC Platinum for collectors to get their hands on. OPC Platinum is a brand that has been around for a few years. It's pretty friendly on the budget and offers collectors an array of parallel cards to chase. Hit collectors will appreciate that each box contains an on-card autograph to look forward to.

Each box of OPC Platinum comes with 20 packs. At four cards per pack you'll get eighty total cards after you're all said and done. In opening my box, I found that you'll pretty much get three base cards and 'something else' in each pack. That 'something else' could be a retro variation, parallel card, or a hit. OPC Platinum boxes come under that hundred dollar mark. I would consider this product to be in the mid-end range when compared to everything else that is out there.

The OPC Platinum base cards are completely foil board. Often times all foil cards in sets like these tend to bend, but these cards are slightly thicker in feel. I don't suspect that they will bend or bow as time goes on. In terms of design, the OPC Platinum base cards carry the same look as their standard OPC regular cards released at the beginning of the hockey season. The back of the card is nice and glossy as typical of a modern release, however, how cool would it be if these cards had the foil front and old school cardboard backs? Make it happen Upper Deck!

The variety in this collection of cards comes with the parallel cards. If you love chasing parallels and collecting rainbows, this is the set to do it with. The standard rainbow parallel has a refractor-like shimmer. These are the easiest to find as they fall one in four packs. Other colors have more difficult rates and some are even serial numbered. The Golden Treasures parallel is the top of the class as they are 1 of 1's.

Mixing it up a little are the insert cards found in OPC Platinum. Platinum Records, Destined for Glory, and In Action are all insert sets found within OPC Platinum this year. These insert cards share the same foil look as the base, just with a different design. Autographed variations of the insert cards can be found in packs, but they are usually pretty tough pulls.

Most of the autographs found in OPC Platinum will be the rookie autographed cards. These come about one per box and have a nice on-card signature. Upper Deck has done this for the past few years with OPC Platinum and it has been a nice draw for collectors to chase when busting boxes of OPC Platinum. Getting only one rookie auto in the box does make the chances of pulling a great one pretty difficult, however.

O-Pee-Chee Platinum isn't a bad product, but it also isn't that exciting. For me, there are probably too many parallels of the base cards. I tend to like cards that carry a lot of value, and the parallels here aside from the very rare ones seem to be just filler. Putting an entire rainbow of a player would be pretty cool looking though. I think OPC Platinum works best as a retail product. There are plenty of fancy looking cards and enough hits to be exciting at that level. As a hobby product, I'm just indifferent.

If you like comparisons, OPC Platinum has a very similar feel to Panini's Prizm product. If you like that set then this one should be right up your alley!

Overall Score: 7/10

Saturday, March 3, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck Synergy Review

Upper Deck has released a brand new hockey card product called Synergy. I definitely applaud them for taking a step outside the norm and getting this product launched. Hockey collectors have seen the same products from Upper Deck time and time again, so having Synergy come out is a refreshing change of pace and a chance to see something different!

Synergy comes in a small box similar to what they pack Artifacts into. There are only 8 packs per box and only 3 cards per pack! So really you're not getting too many cards when purchasing this product. The box states that this product is PACKED with hits. When Upper Deck says hits I believe they mean cards that are non-base and not memorabilia or autographs exclusively.

The Synergy cards have a energetic look to them that is pretty different than other Upper Deck products that we have seen. The borders of the cards are a colored acetate while the main portion of the cards are foil board. The cards really pop and the shimmer and shine of the foil accents are sure to please collectors who enjoy a flashier design.

The acetate colors of the cards denote the variation of the base set the card belongs to. Red acetate cards are the most common. Slightly more rare are the blue cards, followed by green. Purple acetate versions are the toughest as they come 1:55 packs. The actual base set of Synergy is exceptionally rare. Standard veteran cards are numbered to 17. Tier 2 rookies are numbered to only 8! So in Synergy, the parallel set is the easier of the two to collect. I'd say getting the standard set with the serial numbering is next to impossible!

In terms of inserts, Synergy has a few different ones that include acetate cards and all-foil cards. These inserts add a nice little variety to the parallel cards mostly found in packs. Some of these inserts have parallels of their own that have serial numbering. These cards are more traditional in that it's the parallel card that is more rare.

Autographed cards are available in Synergy packs, but come at a rate of 1:40. That's one autograph per 5 boxes. Pretty tough to hit I'd say. The one insert card harder to pull than an autograph is the Cast for Greatness insert. These all metal cards come 1:67 packs. Apparently, there are also Synergy cards that can be found that change color depending on where you are. Upper Deck showed these cards off on their social media channels.

All-in-all, I'd say Synergy is an excellent release by Upper Deck. They've changed things up in this set and given collectors something new and interesting to purchase. The cards look great and are of high quality. High-end collectors will no doubt be searching for the true rookie cards limited to only a handful printed. Thankfully, Synergy isn't a product that is too expensive either. It's definitely not low-end, but has a price that should be comfortable for the average collector's budget.

Overall Score: 8.75/10

Thursday, February 1, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck SPx Review

Following hot on the heels of SP Game-Use released just earlier in the month comes SPx. SPx has traditionally been the wilder and crazier sibling in the family of Upper Deck SP card brands. This year, Upper Deck has chosen to pack in UD Black with SPx as well. I guess that means Black won't have a stand-alone release this year? We'll have to see. SPx comes in a 4-pack per box configuration with everything in the packs being hits... but are they really all 'hits'? You'll have to decide for yourself.

The box states that every pack has a hit in it. Well... in my definition of hit, each card should have either an autograph or memorabilia piece on it. And that's just not the case here. One of my packs had a rookie insert of Kailer Yamamoto serial numbered to 299. The only thing 'special' about this card is the serial numbering. To me, this is not a hit. Things I also don't consider hits are manufactured patches, acetate cards, gold cards, and the like. I'd rather Upper Deck say that each pack had an insert - that would make more sense.

In terms of design, the SPx cards look good and come on a very thick card stock. SPx isn't as wild and crazy as it once was - the design is refined and sleek with none of the 'over-the-top-ness' of some older SPx cards. The cards look great, but I do miss those zany SPx designs from years past. It really made the brand fun. It is, of course, just a matter of taste.

It's kind of funny that SPx comes in packs as there is only one card in each pack. I guess Upper Deck has to vary it up as many of the card products now are of the one-pack-per-box variety. I for one would have been just as happy with one thick pack. Just open the thing and be done with it! I'm sure there will be some people who buy SPx buy the pack, but I truly believe those are few and far between.

With only 4 cards per box, you really don't get a great sample of what the product's all about. Having UD Black cards included further dilutes the SPx cards when busting boxes. I don't mind the Black cards in there as Black cards look awesome, but really... where's all the SPx??? I guess it didn't help that one of my cards was a redemption. I'll have to wait and see what that card ends up looking like when Upper Deck sends it to me!

Judging from my SPx break, I'd say that SPx really isn't worth the steep price for a box with just four cards in it. Looking at what I got, I pulled 2 jersey cars, a serial numbered card, and an autograph with relatively high numbering. I'm pretty sure my pulls were status quo for the product.

Like many of the products that have come out so far, I can't say with certainty that this is a must buy. These middle of the pack products that Upper Deck is releasing right now needs a bit more inspiration to stand out and earn collector's money. SP Game-Used or SPx? I'd personally go with SPx as the cards have a more premium feel to them. None of those silly banner cards too!

Overall Score: 6.75/10

Friday, January 19, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck SP Game Used Review

SP Game Used has released for the 2017-18 season and it follows the trend of Upper Deck brands continuing to move away from packs and boxes to smaller, more condensed configurations. SPGU comes in the now familiar one pack per box form. For a brand like SPGU, this was a positive change in that collectors had tired of what SPGU was bringing to the table in years past. Though the brand is moving a good direction, is SPGU a worthy purchase in 2018? Let's see!

SP Game Used once came with 5-6 packs per box. Each pack was pretty pricey as they were in the twenty five to thirty dollar range. I always felt really bad for collectors who bought SPGU by the pack because more often than not, the guaranteed hit in the pack was a low-value standard jersey card. Box purchasers fared a little better as they at least got one or two non-standard jersey hits, but overall SPGU was a terrible value for what it was.

Upper Deck has finally realized that SPGU needed a change and they did just that. Upper Deck has pretty much taken the packs away and put everything into just one hit filled box/pack. I personally prefer it this way. Upper Deck has distilled what collectors really want into a neat little package.

SP Game Used has always been more of a higher tier brand, but this form of the product really  drives home the point that this is a product for people with money to spend. The box states that you'll set six cards per box/pack with four of them being hits or premium insert cards.

In terms of design, SPGU doesn't have too much going for it. It's by no means a flashy product. The cards look acceptable, but I wouldn't say there were exciting in any way. The reason for collecting SPGU is for the limited serial numbering each card. The true base cards and rookie cards are all limited to a player's jersey number. With some jersey numbers being really low, it means that some of the cards in the set are extremely rare and hard to find. This is a unique way of making SPGU cards exciting to collect. I know for player collectors, this model of card set design could have you tearing your hair out though. Imagine collecting a player who's jersey number is 5 or less.

Ouch! And good luck!

I've mentioned this before, but with a name like SP Game Used... I'd expect a huge focus on game used memorabilia in the product. In fact, it's terrible that anything not game used could be found in the product. That being said, there are unique items in SPGU that truly do come from NHL games. Embedded in some cards are pieces of the goal net, others have parts of banners that hung around the stadium. And even better than those are unique memorability items like parts of goalie pads as well as the standard patches and jerseys.

Sadly, there are still cards in the set that come from photoshoots rather than actually being used in a game. The Draft Day Mark insert set aren't bad looking cards, but those 'patches' are completely manufactured items. I really hope that someday SP Game Used really does live up to its name of having everything in the set come from actual NHL games. Wouldn't that be something?

All-in-all, SP Game Used is a product that can be a nice distraction for collectors... but like Trilogy released before it, this product could probably be skipped over by the majority of collectors. Unless  you're really looking for a low numbered rookie card, I'd say comb over sites like eBay to find the unique memorabilia cards from the set at a reasonable price. I hate to say it, but there really isn't much going on with SPGU, and you'd be fine waiting for the next product.

Overall Score: 6/10

Friday, January 5, 2018

2017-2018 Upper Deck Trilogy Review

The first set of the 2018 calendar year is Upper Deck Trilogy. It's a brand that Upper Deck has released for many years now and is familiar to collectors. Like many of Upper Deck's core brands, this one has definitely gone through some changes recently. Let's see what Trilogy is like this year.

Trilogy was once one of Upper Deck's higher-end brands. Not the highest like Ultimate or The Cup, but a couple notches below them. It had an interesting pack configuration that really capitalized on the brand name of Trilogy. I seem to remember three mini packs per box back in the day.

The most recent release of Trilogy deals away with all that. In fact, Trilogy is practically on-par with what Artifacts is. And Upper Deck isn't trying to hide it. The Trilogy and Artifacts box are practically the same in terms of look and content... and they are priced pretty much the same as well! I'm not sure if having two product so similar is a good thing. I've always liked the fact that there was a different product with different types of cards at nearly every price range.

In terms of the cards, the Trilogy base are very high quality. The cards have a nice thickness to them and come with plenty of shine. The base have a premium feel to them and the rookie cards are adorned with Upper Deck's awesome shimmery foil.

My box came with two autographs and a jersey card. Each hit was serial numbered - I like that. Though the autographs were of the sticker variety, they looked pretty nice on the cards. Typically earlier season releases are more sticker heavy, which I'm ok with.

I think my biggest complaint about Trilogy is that the cards are all too similar to each other. There isn't too much variety when it comes to the look of these cards. They have a foil look and similar designs. Good thing you don't get too many cards per box as I'm pretty sure you would tire of the quickly.

Overall I'd say Trilogy is a middle-of-the-road release. Sure, there will be nice hits sprinkled within the set, but I don't see this set as one that collectors will think about too much once other sets are released after it. I wouldn't fret to pass over it.

Overall Score: 6/10