Hobby Musings: Cracking Upper Deck SP Authentic Hockey – With hockey season upon us, I had a chance to break into some 2018-19 Upper Deck SP Authentic Hockey. One of the mainstays of Upper Deck’s hockey stable, SPA once again blends hockey’s past, present and future. Asked about the product’s importance to Upper Deck, Chris Carlin responded, “We consider SP Authentic as a flagship brand for Upper Deck. SP Authentic and Upper Deck Series One and Two are sets that serious hockey collectors put together every year. The Future Watch rookies have always been a big driver for the product, but this release is really about delivering autograph cards to fans and some have some pretty cool inscriptions; like the Hertl you pulled.”
The Tomas Hertl card Chris is alluding to was the top autograph hit I pulled in my review box. A Sign of the Times autograph, the card featured an hard-signed autograph of Hertl. Hand-numbered to 51, it also included a sweet inscription from Hertl marked “Sharks Territory.” For anyone who appreciates the card as much as I did, be sure to enter the giveaway for it.
I also pulled a Future Watch autograph of Mitch Reinke numbered to 999. Like the Hertl, it was an hard-signed autograph. I like that Upper Deck is doing the on-card autos in SPA as they look nice on the card stock. They’ve displayed a pretty good commitment to getting as many on-card autographs in their products as possible, and it’s something that seems to be very appreciated by collectors who open the products. As an added surprise, I beat the listed odds of two autographs per box and pulled a third in a redemption card for Zach Hyman.
Autographs are arguably the biggest calling card of SP Authentic, but that’s not the only reason for the product’s enduring popularity. Asked why he thought the product continues to resonate with buyers, Carlin responded “I think it has a good formula for success and we don’t monkey with that much, only make some fine enhancements each year. Collectors appreciate that continuity and they know it is a brand that will always be there so it has a ton of brand equity.”
Besides the autographs, I found plenty of extra goodies in SPA, including a Lawrence Pilut Young Guns card. I had to look twice through the cards to make sure I unearthed everything the box had to offer. Besides the YG card, I came across a ton of inserts among other things. The base set also had a nice mix of current players and legends, as well as a few parallel cards.
Responding to my curiosity as the variety in SPA this year, Carlin said, “Our product development is always looking to deliver more value to fans, while also surprising them with unannounced content to positively enhance the pack opening experience. At the same time, we are aware of the currency challenges our Canadian collectors experience at this time, so it was also important to try to deliver some additional value with meaningful content.”
All in all, 2018-19 SP Authentic was a fun product to bust, especially given the extra cards to chase after in addition to the autographs and base cards. Upper Deck did a nice job of spicing up the product this year, and the additions helped add some extra value to the product. Your satisfaction with your own box will likely hinge a lot on the ink you pull, but there is certainly some high-end ink to land of players from several different generations of hockey.
While it’s fun to look back a little, it’s also worthwhile to look ahead to what the new season has to offer, especially with rookie classes. Asked who he thinks collectors should be keeping an eye on, Carlin offered, “I think it has to be the Hughes brothers. Both Vancouver and New Jersey are really set up to be very good teams this season. Having rookies like Jack and Quinn Hughes playing meaningful games (potentially in the playoffs) during their rookie season could create a lot of excitement around their trading cards for sure.”
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