To begin, I would like to thank the BreakerCulture team for the opportunity to voice my opinions on the sports card industry, I promise to do my absolute best and give all the insight I can. This is a hobby that I am extremely passionate about.! The first topic that I would like to discuss is the job Upper Deck has done on some of the hockey products it has released this year. To give a little insight before I begin, over the past few years I have not taken much of an interest in purchasing hockey card products. This was largely due to the fact that my local team the Toronto Maple Leafs were a struggling franchise and there was not much to look forward to in terms of collecting their rookies or veterans.
That all changed this past hockey season with the influx of Maple Leaf rookies such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, who all had fantastic rookie seasons and took the hobby by storm. Upper Deck was aware of the impact these players would have on the hobby and made some drastic changes to their staple products and they have been very positive from my point of view. This article will explain these changes and give a description of my personal box breaks.
Upper Deck Trilogy
The first product that I will look at is Upper Deck Trilogy. In the past Trilogy was a niche product and the average collector would most likely ignore it and focus on more popular products for a variety of reasons and one of these reasons are the undesirable subsets. For example, the puck autos of the 2015 release were done terribly and the autos clashed against the puck background, making the auto difficult to see. This subset also typically does not look all that appealing and as a result is not that collectible. Trilogy is also a product that does not do all that well on the secondary market and it relies on its content to garner interest. Subsets such as their Ice Scripts and Tryptichs, which are unique to their brand make it popular, but the main content of this product is typically not what hardcore hockey collectors are looking for.
Upper Deck made some strides in their 2016 release to make it more desirable to the mainstream market and the biggest change they made was making the puck autos more aesthetically pleasing.
The autos no longer clash against the puck back ground and the overall design is very nice and clean. On top of that, the collation of the product was also very nicely allocated and boxes either had two autos and two game used cards or two game used cards and one very nice auto that would be a personal collection keepsake for most collectors. Upper Deck also included very nice triple premium relic cards that are extremely tough to pull and look very nice. This set is limited 17 cards and includes rookies, veterans and current all stars.
I purchased four boxes of this product and three of the boxes had one autograph. I was lucky enough to pull two Hall of Fame puck autos of Patrick Roy and Bobby Orr and my other single autograph box had a Jesse Puljujärvi rookie autograph card. Needless to say, I was very happy with my break. Trilogy was a success this year to hockey collectors across the board and if this trend continues, it should continue to gain popularity to the hobby public.
Upper Deck SPx
The second Upper Deck hockey product to be released this year that I will discuss is SPx. SPx has always been a product that I was impressed with because of their futuristic looking design and Upper Deck went out of their way to make this year’s edition the best looking ever. The biggest change other than the design that Upper Deck made was making SPX a four-pack box with each pack including some sort of box hit. I have never seen this in any other product release as most high end releases have one pack, so SPX was trying something new.
Additions to the SPX brand were Shadowbox cards which are extremely cool looking and these came in both autograph, jersey and autograph patch variations. The Shadowbox set is exclusively a rookie based subset and the base Shadowbox cards without an autograph or jersey are considered to be the true rookie cards in this product. Other additions to the SPX brand include the Holo Shield subset which also came in autograph and autograph patch variations and includes rookies, veterans and current all stars. The final main new addition to the SPX brand are the Black and White Out autograph cards which once again includes rookies, veterans and current all stars.
SPX underwent a major overhaul, the biggest I have ever seen with a product in perhaps all the years that I have been collecting and for the most part, the changes were very well received.
My only issue with SPX is something that runs across the entire hobby, that is… getting value for your money. A box of SPX guarantees 1 autograph, 1 game used card, 1 premium base card and another card of one of the three. Sadly, this means that there are going to be a few boxes with only one autograph card and no one likes to feel cheated out of their money.
I opened two boxes of SPX for myself and thankfully both of the boxes had two autographs. They were a nice patch autograph of Toronto Maple Leaf prospect Nikita Soshnikov, a Holo Shield auto of NHL superstar Nikita Kucherov and autographs of Boone Jenner and Nikoloj Ehlers. My game used cards were of Phil Kessel and Arizona Coyote’s rookie Christian Dvorak and I also pulled a true rookie Shadowbox card of Hudson Fasching and a Holo Shield card of David Krejci.
Overall, my SPX break was not as good as my Trilogy break and I decided not to open anymore than the two boxes I did. Another determining factor in busting only the two boxes was because unlike Trilogy, SPX is a quick break being only four packs per box and the sting of opening a bad box is a little bit deeper than an eight-pack box of Trilogy. In addition, despite the positive changes that Upper Deck made with SPX this year, there is one pet peeve that I need to mention. Every card in the SPX checklist is of thick card stock and you will need thicker top loaders and one touches to store and display your cards. The Shadowbox cards are the thickest cards I have ever seen and I did not have a top loader or one touch to store mine in, so I just put it in a small 25 count box.
Upper Deck SP Authentic
The third Upper Deck release that underwent some significant changes is SP Authentic. Of the products that this article discusses, SP Authentic is the most popular and as it is one of the most sought-after hockey card products of the year. That being said, collectors would have been happy if SP Authentic did not undergo any changes at all, but like the previous two products I have looked at, the changes here were also nicely done.
There were two major changes with this year’s SP Authentic release. The first of these was the addition of Spectrum cards. These cards come in veteran and rookie classes with the rookies having three different levels with the level threes being case hits and including the big rookies of this past year such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Patrick Laine of the Winnipeg Jets. The addition of the Spectrum cards meant the exclusion of the Retro autograph subset which was a good thing in my opinion because despite their cool design, they do not have any other appealing quality.
Another change that Upper Deck made was to make this product more rookie based and they accomplished this by making the Sigh of The Times autograph cards more difficult to hit and made it more common to hit autograph cards from the very popular Future Watch Autograph rookie subset. At first, I thought that making the Sign of The Times autographs a tougher pull would lead to better sales on the secondary market, but looking at eBay sales earlier, this was not the case. Regardless, having any product more rookie based is a good thing and since the Sign of The Times checklist is somewhat lacking, it made sense to make these cards not as easy to pull.
I have opened two boxes of SP Authentic so far and they were pretty good. One of my boxes was a hot box and included four Future Watch rookie autographs and one of them was a Zach Hyman for my Toronto Maple Leafs personal collection. The other box had two Spectrum cards of Jeff Skinner and a Level Three of Jesse Puljujärvi and a Sign of Times autograph card of David Krejci, which was from last years release. Some of my other notable pulls from my break were a Jake Guentzel Young Gun and a Silver Skates insert of Patrick Laine numbered to 99. Once again, I was very pleased with my box breaks.
My only criticism of this years SP Authentic release is the inclusion of autographs from last years product.
In my opinion, this is a slap in the face to the collector and shows a sense of laziness and inability to pack these autos in last years product, so Upper Deck was forced to toss them into this year’s product.
Obviously, I have not seen every SP Authentic box and case break, but from what I have seen these autographs are of players that are not collectible at all, such as my David Krejci and Martin Biron who is no longer in the NHL and is an analyst here in Toronto on TSN. Noah Hanifin is also someone that has autographs from last year that are in this year’s product, but his autographs are not as common as the ones I have mentioned.
Upper Deck Series 1 & 2
Two other Upper Deck products that have been released this year so far are Upper Deck Series One and Two. No major changes were made to these products, but as always, they were done extremely well. I opened four boxes of Series One and stopped when I pulled an Auston Matthews Young Gun. I also managed to pull a William Nylander Young Gun and Young Guns of all the other Toronto Maple Leafs other than Zach Hyman. I stayed away from Series Two since the only card I was interested in was the Mitch Marner Young Gun card. The Canvas Young Gun cards are nice but not that appealing to me since they are not true rookie cards and they are a tough pull, averaging a couple per twelve-box case.
The changes that Upper Deck made this year to its hockey products so far have been excellent. Other Upper Deck hockey products that underwent significant changes in the past were Black Diamond Hockey which changed from its standard 24- pack per box configuration to a high end 1 pack product two years ago and that trend continued this year. Upper Deck Premier, Upper Deck Black and Upper Deck Cup Hockey have also yet to be released this year. These are three of Upper Deck’s highest end releases and I will not be able to purchase any of them, but I am sure I will enjoy their group breaks. In summation, Upper Deck did not have to do anything to the hockey products they have released this year, but they did and it shows that they care about the hobby and other companies could learn a thing or two from their example.