Sunday, 28 February 2016

Upper Deck Take Two - (Volume 1 Addition)

Well I finally got my hands on the 2015 Upper Deck CFL product and so this post will examine the sophomore effort and contrast it to last year's issue. The packaging alternatives were the same with large hobby boxes and smaller retail boxes

There is more differentiation in the boxes (pictures not to scale) this year with different images of
Bo Levi Mitchell being used for each box as well as for the foil packs contained within

One can assume from the similarity of card types and intentional distribution shortages that this strategy was successful enough for Upper Deck in 2014 so as to be replicated with a few new twists for the 2015 offering. The base set increased to 200 cards with four checklists for the Offensive, Defensive/Special Teams, Star Rookies and All-Star subsets.

The card design is sharp and perhaps a little more attractive than last year's issue.
There are a few quality control issues, such as Jon Cornish being identified 

as a Quarterback on the checklist card. 

Most if not virtually all of these cards will be bought by collectors by the box, and not by the pack as was common in the past. So the fact that some categories of the base set are harder to get than others means increased box sales as opposed to more and more pack purchases, either way a win for the dealers and Upper Deck and perhaps for the collector if you like that sort of thing.

Autographed cards are more prominent in this issue than last year's and appear with decreasing frequency across offensive, defensive, CFL marks and numbered (out of 25) All-Star subsets. Most of these are pretty rare and challenging to acquire.

Offensive and Defensive autographs feature the same card design and images as the player's normal issue but with gold instead of silver borders. 

Jersey and numbered (out of 15) patch cards are back again this season and it is nice that you are guaranteed two jersey cards in each box. My favorite cards are the OPC retro subset, the full colour backgrounds are very reminiscent of some of the old Topps sixties sets. These are seeded eight to a box and blank backed versions (the only subset category NOT mentioned on the boxes or company website) occur again, notably they are in addition to the eight card per box so they add to the population of OPC retro's. From what I have seen the blank backs are perhaps not quite as limited as in 2014.

This year's O-Pee-Chee retro set included two former stars - Pinball Clemons and Jeff Garcia. 

Now pictured above at right are my absolute very least favorite cards. These thick blank slugs are in every pack, except the ones where jersey or patch cards appear. Obviously they are there to prevent unscrupulous pack buyers from feeling the sides of each pack and determining which ones contain the goodies, and probably it is Upper Deck company policy to use these wherever thicker premium cards are part of the set (although the 2014 CFL issue did not have them). But this all seems pretty unnecessary for a market where pack by pack purchases are minuscule. Having purchased 3 boxes I am now the proud owner of 66 of these slugs.

Hey Upper Deck, how about a little creativity, say take 2 classic images of vintage B&W Grey Cup games and 2 classic images of more recent colour Grey Cup games. Make up two 5 X 10 puzzles where you need 50 of these printed on both side slugs to complete each picture, one side colour and one B&W. Then the collector needs 100 slugs for a complete set of double sided puzzle pictures of historical championship games, only now they are not slugs anymore but something else that might make me buy more boxes. Just one idea, anything would be better than blank nothing. Incidentally there are no slugs in the retail packs leading one to conclude that retail means direct to collector via the Upper Deck online website sales.  

Chase cards including 3 Grey Cup Moments (about 3 times less rare than the 2014 GCM cards), 1 CFL Heroes and a continuation of the popular O-Pee-Chee team and league logo crest patches
that look to be slightly rarer than last years logo patches 

Pinball Clemons makes an appearance as the first ever CFL Hero with Numbered (to 25) autographed cards (and un-autographed versions I believe but have not confirmed). Finally once again double sized blank backed cards (same image as the regular cards) ostensibly from the CFLPA have surfaced, so far only players from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A limited set of 165 All-Stars was released at the Grey Cup, despite the inclusion of All-Stars already in the regular base set and autograph subsets. Both boxes from 2014 and 2015 indicate time sensitive redemption cards need to be submitted before the respective deadlines, but it does not appear that redemption cards were ever included in either year.

All in all it looks like Upper Deck has created another solid addition to the CFL collecting landscape (minus a few quibbles) that will keep collectors busy for a while going after those short printed cards that particularly interest them. Ebay sales of the product are brisk again, and so the ongoing Upper Deck experiment with the CFL appears to be succeeding.