Thursday, January 21, 2021

2020-2021 Upper Deck Artifacts Review

Upper Deck Artifacts has long given collectors a beautiful set filled with hockey memorabilia to enjoy. Through the years, Upper Deck has changed the product in slight ways, but the design aesthetic has always been a staple of this brand. Collectors who purchase a hobby box of Artifacts are told that they will receive "hits in every box!" Let's see what this year's iteration has in store for us.

Product Thoughts
I sound like a broken record when it comes to the design of Artifacts because each and every year it's about the same. The cards are glossy and have a nice, premium appeal to them. The overall theme of Artifacts is of ancient finds, and the designers have done a magnificent job. They are so good with the Artifacts brand that I cannot tell which year is what just by looking at the base cards. Artifacts slots nicely in the mid-tier part of Upper Deck's card line-up. It's a nice set for any collector to enjoy as boxes typically cost around or under the $150 USD mark.


The double jersey hit is the classic Artifacts card. You get two swatches of game-used jersey. The appeal of these cards has declined significantly since they were first introduced. It's just not that exciting to pull jersey cards anymore. Though we're totally spoiled as collectors for thinking that game-used cards are just run-of-the-mill, it's a fact that cannot be ignored. These cards on the secondary market can be had for just a few bucks. 


Aurum cards are excellent looking cards, but Upper Deck has shot themselves in the foot by considering them hits. These thick cards have a scratch off in the back for collectors to uncover. With an entire set, these Aurum cards can be redeemed for a bounty. But don't sit on your ass as you try collecting them all as Upper Deck gives the fastest finishers better prizes. I've personally never cared about trying to collect these cards, and I haven't really heard of any other collectors really going nuts for these cards. If these were not considered hits I bet collectors would be much happier with this particular insert.


If you see a big thick card in the pack, you've most likely pulled a patch card. Artifacts has a ton of parallels of the base set - many with different combinations of game-used material. The lower the number, the better the material you'll find embedded within the card. The Jake Guentzel above has what appears to be pieces of the fight strap on it. It's a unique part of the jersey, but sadly these pieces are always just a boring white color.


To my great surprise I was able to pull a very rare 2/3 dual patch black parallel of Brad Marchand in the same box as the Guentzel. Upper Deck had to have made a mistake here as they are usually not the generous type when putting hits in products. I'm not complaining though, this is a really cool looking card!


If you know Artifacts, you'll know that there are always redemption cards inserted into the product. These scratch off cards will net you a rookie from the hockey season once Upper Deck makes the cards. The best ones are the autographed versions, so be on the lookout for those!

Positives:
  • Classy looking set with many different memorabilia types to chase.
  • Redemption cards for the current rookie class.
  • Boxes are moderately priced compared to other sets.
Negatives:
  • The packs seem to be very tightly sealed which could lead to some corner damage on cards.
  • Aurum cards are considered hits.
  • Standard jerseys just not the hit they used to be.

Overall Rating:

8/10

Thursday, January 7, 2021

2020-2021 Upper Deck Synergy


Upper Deck Synergy has been in the Upper Deck line-up since 2017, but I'm not sure that it has caught on with collectors. These colorful acetate infused cards are fun to look at and remind me a little of older SPx designs. It'll be interesting to see if Synergy has improved this year, and importantly, if collectors will start warming up to this product.


Product Thoughts
I was honestly biased before even purchasing the box of Synergy at my local card store. I haven't really liked the set - thinking that it is a largely forgettable one. Cracking open the packs of this years offering did change my mind a little as the cards are quite fun and look quite good. Back this year are the foil-y acetate base cards that are part foil/part acetate. The base cards have a nice, thicker stock, and it looks like Upper Deck has just thrown all the card technology they could at them. The only thing missing is a mini screen to show hockey highlights of the player pictured. The overall design of the base card is ok, but it's really the other cards you find in the product that stand out more for me.


I found that many of the cards found in the packs featured serial numbering. Usually in box breaks of mid-tier products you'll get one or two serial numbered cards in the entire break. Quite a few serial numbered cards were found in my box of Synergy. Serial numbering isn't anything new or crazy, and the numbering of the cards aren't low for the most part, but the serial numbers are a nice touch and I'm glad that Upper Deck chose to put the print runs on many of these cards.


There are a few inserts such as this Roaring 20's card of Kieffer Bellows that does not feature a serial number. These cards are my least favorite of the set as there isn't much that is interesting about them. The design is a bit generic - even with the full sheen of the rainbow foil - the card falls a bit flat in design and look.


Synergy comes with a number of different insert cards where you'll find the stars of the NHL. For player collectors, it's nice to have a few more cards of your player. Many of these inserts are sure to be affordable and easily found to put into a collection. 


My personal favorite cards in Synergy are the shiny pinkish purple SynergyFX cards. The pink really makes the card stand out amongst the others. Each of these cards are serial numbered to 349. They're not particularly rare, and could make a nice parallel set to chase down.


The one autograph I found in my box of Synergy was that of Elvis Merzlikins. It's a nice looking card save for the sticker auto. I would have much preferred the autograph to be on-card, but at this price point you should be expecting the autos to be of the sticker variety.

Positives:
  • Many serial numbered cards.
  • The designs of the cards are colorful and appealing.
  • The price point per box is reasonable.
Negatives:
  • Not a hobby favorite.
  • Cards are easily smudged.
  • This is not the product if you're looking for lots of hits.

Overall Rating:

7/10