The 2015-16 collecting season is drawing to a close, but not before Upper Deck tosses some more product at us. After several years hiatus Upper Deck Black is back as a standalone product. This hit heavy product promises a total of 6 cards per pack/box, including 1 base,1 Lustrous Rookie Autograph, and 4 other auto or memorabilia cards. While the autograph and game used relics list is impressive, Upper Deck has fallen back into the hole they dug with Black Diamond and included large manufactured patch cards. Evidently they failed to listen to the complaints of their customers, which is unfortunate since, besides these manufactured patch cards, Upper Deck Black looks to be a promising product.
Upper Deck Black Base
While it is true that base cards are extremely limited in this product, with only one per pack, they do exist, and thus must be examined. The entire base set consists of 35 cards and are numbered /349, with 2 parallels, Gold Spectrum /25, and Black and Blue which is a 1/1. These cards appear to be well designed and will likely be collectable in themselves. With such a short list, this is one list that doesn’t shy away from names such as Ovechkin, Gretzky, and Roy, all of whom are featured.
Upper Deck Black Autographs
Upper Deck Black is an auto heavy product with no less than 8 auto only sets, and several auto/mem combos. So before we get into the memorabilia sets and the debate around manufactured patch, we’ll get the auto only sets out of the way.
Rookie Autographs Sets
Upper Deck Black offers 2 rookie exclusive autograph sets to chase, the Lustrous Rookies set, and the Signature Rookies Set. Lustrous Rookies is the primary set, with 1 being guaranteed in every pack. This 51 card set picks up the numbering system where the base cards left off. Cards #36-75 are numbered /299, while 76-86 are consider to be high series rookies and are /199. This high series is where you’ll find the likes of Larkin, Domi, and McDavid. Bizarrely, Upper Deck has chosen to include Jack Eichel in this set, despite the fact that his card are not autographed due to his exclusive signing contract with Leaf. On top of the regular version of these cards Upper Deck has issued a Gold Spectrum Parallel/ 25, and a Black and Blue parallel 1/1 set. It should however, be noted that not all cards are included in these parallels.
The second of the rookie auto sets is the Signature Rookies. This 11 card set is numbered /249 or less, with basic version McDavid, Panarin, and Ehlers being /49. The Gold Spectrum /25 and the Black and Blue 1/1 Parallels also apply to this set, but neither Andrew Copp nor Connor McDavid have 1/1s here. These are decent looking cards, as Upper Deck Black takes advantage of its name to create unique colour schemes.
Regular Autograph Sets
Shifting away from rookie exclusive sets we first find the Black Ice Signatures set. Here fin a mix of current and former NHL stars, mixing names such as Brent Burns and Connor McDavid with legends such as Guy Lafleur and Felix Potvin. This is an 18 card set whose base version is numbered no higher than 49. The Spectrum version is /5, while Black and Blue continues to be 1/1. Again McDavid is not included in the 1/1 version, nor is Guy Lafleur. Collectors seeking only the basic version should be aware that Bobby Orr and Mark Messier are both numbered no higher than 10, meaning they will be extremely hard to come by.
The Cup Coronations set pays tribute to former Stanley Cup Champions, focusing heavily on big name players. Here we can find autographs of Sidney Crosby, Joe Sakic, and Wayne Gretzky. The 14 card base version is numbered no higher than 99, with the Spectrum being /10, and the Black and Blue being 1/1. This time around the Black and Blue list is missing Doug Gilmour, Guy Lafleur, Joe Sakic, and Sidney Crosby. These names not having 1/1s is sure to be disappointing for fans wanting to collect them.
Pro Penmanship Sets
The Pro Penmanship sets prove to be the main autograph sets for Upper Deck Black (besides the Lustrous Rookies). A total of four different sets make up the grouping and fall at an overall average of 1:4 packs. Single player Pro Penmanship autographs make up the first set, which consists of 24 cards. These are the most common set of autos, with Group E falling as often as 1:8 packs. Despite this Connor McDavid is still a rare pull at 1:942. 2 parallels exist for this set; Spectrum, which is /49 or less, and Black and Blue, which is /5. It should be noted that Artemi Panarin only has parallel set autos and no base version.
Multi Auto Pro Penmanships
The 8 card Pro Penmanship Combos set is a dual autograph set, whose numbering goes no higher than 49. Here we see combinations that include Wayne Gretzky & Connor McDavid, as well as Owen Nolan and Joe Sakic. The Spectrum parallel for this set is numbered /25 or less, while Black and Blue returns to being 1/1. Excluded from the B&B set are the combinations of Bobby Orr/Ray Bourque, Alex Ovechkin/John Carlson, and Carey Price/Alex Galchenyuk.
The third Pro Penmanship set, as you may have already guessed is the Trios set. This 7 card set offers up name combinations like Price/Gallagher/Galchenyuk and McDavid/Ekblad/MacKinnon. These cards have varying print runs that cap out at 25. Spectrum version are numbered out of 6 while, Black and Blue are 1/1. Only 3 combinations are included in the 1/1 set, these being Tavares/Strome/Lee, Panarin/Linberg/McCann, and Kucherov, Johnson/Palat. It seems that Upper Deck is trying to avoid flooding the market with big names, either that, or they are just lazy, which is a distinct possibility.
The final Pro Penmanship is the Quads set. This consists of exactly 1 card. The combination of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Curtis Joseph, and Ron Hextall is impressive to say the least. With Spectrum versions /3 as well as the 1/1 Black and Blue this is sure to be a high reseller, with even the base version being /5. Goalie collectors may want to start drooling now.
Upper Deck Black Autographed Relics
Adding to the impressive stock of autographs, the auto/mem cards add an…interesting flair to the product. It is in these cards that we must question the authenticity of Upper Deck’s relics, with 1 set being clearly identified as manufactured. This raises the question of whether they are trying to sneak any other manufactured patches by us.
We may as well get the unpleasantness out of the way now. The Pride of a Nation Manufactured Flag Autographs set is a good looking card, with the player’s national flag featured prominently. Unfortunately this flag is not game used, which sucks, but in all honesty it could be worse. But it still calls into question the credibility of the patches in the rest of the product. Luckily these cards are also autographed, so at least collectors can grab themselves a nice Ovechkin, Orr, or Gretzky auto. The only parallel here in the Spectrum /5.
Rookie Auto/Mem Cards
Next up is the Rookie Coverage Relic set, which consists of 29 cards, with autographed parallels. These cards contain nice patches, which hopefully are game used. Group B cards fall at 1:3, while Group A is 1:30. Parallels are Gold Auto /60, Gold Spectrum Auto /15, and Silver Spectrum Relic /5. Please be aware that not all players are included in the autographed parallels. Players on the list include McDavid, Domi, and Fucale.
Continuing the theme of relic cards that have autographed parallels is the Rookie Trademarks Relics set. This 28 card set offers up names such as McDavid, Panarin, and Rantanen at varying odds. Most, but not all names have autographed parallels numbering /40 for the Gold Autographs, and /15 for the Gold Spectrum Autograph. The none autographed versions also include a Silver Spectrum Relic parallel that is numbered /5.
Regular Auto/Relic Sets
The Showcase Relics Jumbo Patch set is another memorabilia set that offers up a selection of autographed parallels to collect. The main checklist contains 48 cards, although not all of these are included in the autographed parallels. Autoed versions include the Silver Spectrum Autograph Patch numbered /15 and the Silver Spectrum Autograph Chest Patch numbered /10.
In these sets collectors can expect autographs of McDavid, Larkin, and Malcolm Subban. This list also includes many non-rookies such as Gallagher, Landeskog, and Huberdeau.
Showcase Relics also offers up a healthy variety of non-autographed parallels for collectors to look for. These include Chest Patch /15, Brand Logo Patch /7, and Diamond Club Patch /2. This is really the set that makes me question if all of Upper Deck Black’s patches are game used or not. Especially where the Brand Logo and Diamond Club patches are concerned. Brand Logos are usually tag pieces and not patches, whereas Diamond Club reminds me of the Black Diamond products, which were definitely manufactured. I question why Upper Deck does this, especially in a high priced product.
Star Relic Autos
Fans of big name stars can celebrate the inclusion of 2 relic sets with autographed parallels. The Upper Deck Black – Star Coverage and the Star Trademarks sets both make user of nice memorabilia pieces than can be accompanied by an autograph for short printed varieties. In the case of Star Coverage Relics we see a 17 card checklist that comes with 2 autographed relic version, and one premium relic set. The autoed version are /25 for the Gold Relic Autograph, and /10 for the Gold Spectrum Relic. The premium Spectrum Relic is numbered /5. Some players such as Jonathan Drouin only have cards in the parallels, and others do not have autographed versions. The basic list includes names such as Barkov, Hawerchuk, and Jagr. This could be a fun set to collect.
The Star Trademarks set is a very similar type of card with mem and 2 autographed parallels. The major difference is the orientation, with Coverage being horizontal and Trademarks being vertical. With overall base odds of 1:4 the 17 card set features names such as Ekblad, Ladd, and Cujo. Parallel sets include Gold Relic Autographs /15, Gold Spectrum Relic Autographs /10, and Silver Spectrum Relic /5. As is the case with Star Coverage not all cards are included in the auto parallels, and some are only available as parallels.
Moving past autographed cards we close out Upper Deck Black with a trio of straight memorabilia sets. The major draw here is the Black Tie Affair Redemption set. This set features a 100 card list of 1/1s, all of whom are players whose names have yet to be revealed. These cards feature a full card jersey collar piece with all of the accompanying lacing. I can only hope that given the size of these relics, and the fact that they are 1/1 redemptions, that these are authentic game used pieces. If so these are sure to sell for huge money, especially if Upper Deck is good on the redemption turn around period.
Last up for Upper Deck Black is 2 sets of closely related relic booklets. The Sixes Relics Booklets & the Sixes Relics Booklets Gold Patch both offer up 6 relic pieces each and come with a variety of player selections. The 24 card Sixes Relic Booklets fall at a rate of 1:4 packs and include such combinations as MacKinnon/Duchene/Landeskog/Iginla/Johnson/Varlamov and Coffey/Bourque/Messier/Bossy/Robitaille/Kurri.
The patches version of the set has a total of 30 cards that are numbered no higher than 10. These cards are the mega pull for booklets and have combinations that include Brodeur/Roy/Esposito/Hasek/Fuhr/Hall and Robinson/Lafleur/Carbonneau/Salming/Gilmour/McDonald. In my opinion these booklet cards could be some of the hits of the entire set, even though they do not include autographs.
Like many products there is a major risk vs reward actor for Upper Deck Black. The autographs in this set look spectacular, but they can be a hard pull against their regular mem versions. The promise of 1 Lustrous Rookie auto is helpful, but still risky, as not every rookie player is a Connor McDavid or Artemi Panarin. It would be very easy to take a major beating if the cards don’t fall your way. The addition of at least 1 manufactured patch set adds to the risk and personally gives me pause. I certainly am looking forward to see some of the product opened, but hold off on giving a final judgement. With a price of over $300 per box for 6 cards this is definitely not an amateur product. Collectors may want to toss their hat into a break or two, but may be best suited on secondary sales or trades if they are seeking specific players.
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