The 2011/12 hobby season has officially closed, albeit a bit late, and the 2012/13 hobby season has begun (with or without actual hockey) with the release of Upper Deck’s Artifacts.
Having had a little bit of time for The Cup to percolate, I’m here to give a review of Upper Deck’s yearly ultra high-end release.
2011/12 The Cup
Manufacturer: Upper Deck
SRP: $470-550/6 card tin
Release date: Upper Deck’s website says 8/23 but it was delayed a few weeks until about mid-September.
Overall, kind of meh. There are definitely things to like and others that look perilously close to previous releases or are just flat-out ugly.
Let’s start with the good. The base black tag/autographs(pictured to the left) are sharp as hell. The Foundations subset (with quad jerseys /25, quad jersey/autos /15, quad patch /10, and quad patch/auto /5) is definitely nice. The Rookie Tributes look nice but they’ve been done before. I’m also a fan of the Rookie Booklets and Scripted Sticks. The Trios and Quads (both have patch variations) are on that borderline of “not enough there” but manage to pull it off. I’m a fan.
As for the “meh”, I still like the idea behind the Programme of Excellence (focused on Team Canada of past and present) but the design doesn’t pop nearly as much as it has in past years. The vertical Dual Shield (seen at right), a first for The Cup, cards aren’t bad but they just don’t quite grasp me. The Honorable Numbers and Limited Logos aren’t bad but just seem a bit plain to me on the whole.
As for the bad? I hate the damn plates. I always have and always will. Lazy and ugly through and through. The base is pretty awful, too, even if the variations have sexy patches in them. Unfortunately, the mainstay of The Cup throughout the years, the Rookie Patch/Autos, fall into the same boat as the base. Just ugly.
For those not familiar with the hobby, value can be classified in two ways: was this a fun break? And what kind of secondary market value could one expect to find after busting open a tin of this stuff?
Well, as it pertains to the former: I can’t speak to that. $400-500 packs of cards are a little out of my reach so I asked around for opinions on those who do this. If you’re a thrill seeker, busting one or two tins after saving up for them, it’s a huge rush. Taking that kind of risk isn’t the norm. But if you’re a store owner or someone with enough disposable income to crack case after case? The fun seems to depend on just what pops out of the tins.
As for the secondary market, the consensus is that unless you pull a big hit (Rookie Patch/Auto /99, big-name player auto, etc) you’re in for a hurting. I would say this is more owed to the dilution of game used/autographed cards over the years than anything else. If you’ve seen one jersey card, you’ve seen 10,000 of them.
With a high-end release like this, you really want to see something worth your hard-earned money. And while there are a few portions of The Cup that certainly step up, this feels all too similar overall. Most of the same subsets, some looking the exact same as past releases (Rookie Draftboards). I will give props to Upper Deck in regards to one thing: hits that didn’t make it into last year’s release for various reasons found their way into this year’s. Included in that is a rare item in the hobby today: a dual autographed card with Sidney Crosby and another player (he has a clause in his deals with Panini and Upper Deck that state he won’t sign cards with another player’s signature on them). That’s a pretty big deal and it’s nice to see something NEW these days.
The ugly portion of any release. It’s just as ugly this year as any before. Despite the delays, there are a TON of redemptions. From the stars (Crosby, Gretzky, Ovechkin, Brodeur, Giroux) to an alarmingly large portion of the rookie crop (Larsson, Landeskog, Hodgson, Foligno, Coutourier, Read), there are redemptions galore in this product. Which would be fine if Upper Deck didn’t have such a spotty record fulfilling them. Who knows if you’ll ever get the card you were promised? And if not, who knows if you’ll ever get fair compensation for that card? Just an ugly, awful effort here.
Overall: This feels like the same old song and dance from Upper Deck. Same sets, similar designs and player selections, same over-priced product. Rating: 6/10