Hobby Outposts from the North: Box Breaking and chatting 2020 Upper Deck CFL Football Cards – One of the biggest disappointments in Canada that has come as a result of Covid-19 was the all-out cancellation of the 2020 Canadian Football League season.

JT Strosnick, Upper Deck

JT Strosnick, Product Manager, Upper Deck CFL Trading Cards

As a brief backgrounder, The CFL has been home to some of football’s greatest stars over the years, both those who have played exclusively north of the border like Henry “Gizmo” Williams and Matt Dunigan and NFL big names like Warren Moon and Doug FlutieNot surprisingly, cards have been produced for decades of the league’s players, with Upper Deck owning an exclusive license in recent years.

Despite the season being cancelled, however, Upper Deck moved forward with their plan to create a CFL card series. Be glad – this year’s product does not disappoint.

Each box of 2020 Upper Deck CFL Football gives collectors three hits, with a guarantee of at least one autograph and at least one memorabilia card. There are some cool pick-ups such as patches, CFL logo cards and others amid this set, along with stellar parallels. Surfing through eBay listings and trade boards, you really get a sense of how much effort went into this set as you see beautiful designs and sweet jersey swatches.

The big feature in my eyes, though, was no UV coating on the base cards. This is going to make a lot of autograph hounds happy, who won’t have to “rub down” the surface of the card before sending it to one of the clubs or players for signing.

You’ll see the hits that came out of my box at the bottom of this article (including from the Grey Cup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers), but first, let’s get more insight on this year’s product from JT Strosnick, Product Manager for Upper Deck’s CFL cards.

JW: How was working with the CFL different this year, given that the 2020 season has been cancelled?

JS: We were definitely bummed to see the CFL season go, it’s such an exciting league with unbelievable fans. Fortunately, at Upper Deck we begin the creative process on our set about a year in advance. So we had already mapped out how 2020 CFL was built and what it looked like. Usually any issues we encounter with this set involve players in the checklist and which team they are featured with. It’s a tricky timing thing because we do start the process so early and the CFL has a vast amount of roster movement, even among its’ top stars. So sometimes it’s difficult to capture all those roster changes. But this year with no season, we saw a bit less difficulty in preparing that checklist. While the CFL won’t be able to step on the field, fans and collectors will have some CFL action in 2020, in the form of trading cards.

JW: With the league opening the opportunity for its players to sign on with the NFL, do you expect there to be an increase in attention from American collectors?

JS: With the way the collectibles world is today, I think collectors are searching for everything that might turn into something. I really hope that leads them to the CFL. Before I came to Upper Deck I knew very little about the CFL, but when I took over the product, I got into it. I really found appreciation for the style of play, the athletes in that league, and the passionate fan base. Even at the collecting level, it’s not a massive group, but they are passionate and they show that there’s value in these cards. I was blown away to see a lot of jersey cards or patch cards out-value a good amount of comparable cards of players in our hockey sets. In this day in age, you don’t know where the talent is going to come from, we’ve seen grocery store employees win Super Bowl MVPs or an accountant strap up the pads and shut down the Leafs. It’s only a matter of time before we see a CFL star make a big impact on an NFL team and that will definitely draw attention.

JW: What has the experience of working with CFLers been like for Upper Deck overall? Are you finding that the players engage very well?

JS: I personally don’t interact with any of the players, but that whole organization has been a great partnership. We’ve worked with some amazing people behind the scenes at the CFL to get things like the Game-Used Jerseys or Autographs you see featured in the product. They have been very accommodating and definitely engaged in working with us to help grow that brand. The players have always been great about getting autographs back to us and I’ve seen a few on social media pretty excited to see themselves on a trading card.

JW: What led to the decision of not having the cards UV coated this year?

JS: As you get to know an entity and their fan base a bit better, it’s easier to create products tailored for them. Internally, we looked at our CFL and CHL products, who was collecting those and how. Pre-Covid, I think the accessibility (or maybe willingness) of CFL players engaging with fans, was something you don’t see in most other major sports. In turn, we noticed a large collector base, especially team collectors, using these Base Set cards to get signed in person when meeting the athlete. With so much of that activity going on, we thought, let’s give them a card with a great signing surface. The result was taking the UV off the cards. I think it’s worked well, the cards still look nice, and autographs are laying down crisp. It brought another level of functionality to those Base Set cards. We do still have UV coating on our Memorabilia cards though, those really pop.

JW: What can we expect for CFL products down the line? Either additionally for the 2020 season or for 2021?

JS: Prior to the 2020 season cancellation we were discussing the potential for an additional CFL product and what that might look like. With the world the way it is right now, I’m not positive what the future holds. But I will say I was extremely excited with some of the discussions we had on that potential product, hopefully that comes to fruition. Other than that, you can expect CFL to keep being a strong product. Year in and year out we have autographs and game used jerseys of the top talent in the CFL. The set has definitely expanded in the last few years with Autograph Patch cards and even CFL Logo Shield 1-of-1 cards. One of my favorites our Jumbo Patch cards, featuring the Brand Logo patch on the players’ jersey.

Hobby Outposts from the North: Box Breaking and chatting 2020 Upper Deck CFL Football Cards – Image Gallery

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