Mid-November is a great time for hockey. The season has settled in and we start to find out what teams are good (Rangers) and what teams are bad (Canucks). Statistics start regressing to the norm (Auston Matthews is not scoring 328 goals) and we start knowing which rookies are going to stay (Jakob Chychrun) and which are going back to their junior team (Mathew Barzal).
It also means that Upper Deck is releasing the first series of its flagship base set. Other hockey card sets have already been released, most notable Upper Deck MVP and Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee (a moment to remind everyone that Upper Deck has the exclusive license to produce NHL-branded cards. Other companies can make cards, but can't feature the team names or logos).
As with years past the first series, which was released on November 10th, is made up of 200 cards featuring veterans and 50 cards depicting rookies who have played at least one game in the NHL. These rookie cards, labeled as “Young Guns” tend to be the most popular first-year cards of NHL superstars.
Here are a few recent eBay auctions of Young Guns from previous sets:
2015-16 Conor McDavid - $179.50
2005-06 Sidney Crosby - $498.47
2008-09 Steven Stamkos - $46.87
2014-15 Jonathan Drouin - $23.50
2015-16 Jack Eichel - $54.99
This year's big card is going to be Auston Matthews. Despite being on the shelves for less than 24 hours, prices for his cards are already hovering in the $150 range. This year's crop of Young Guns should be an exceptional one as it includes not only Matthews, but also Jimmy Vesey, Chychrun, Sebastian Aho, Jesse Puljujarvi and William Nylander among others.
The Lightning are represented (not all teams are, for instance there are no Los Angeles Kings rookies) by Brayden Point. One of the reasons this series isn't released until November is to give Upper Deck a chance to see which rookies would make the team. Not to get to deep into the licensing agreement, but unless a player has appeared in uniform in an official game, he can't be on a licensed trading card (hence no Brett Howden).
Other members of the team that are included in the base set are: Anton Stralman, Ben Bishop, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, and Victor Hedman. Don't despair Steven Stamkos fans, his base card will appear in Series 2 which is normally released in March. Upper Deck does keep some of their superstars out of the first series to keep interest in the second series among collectors.
A box of cards will yield 24 packs with each pack containing on average 8 cards (packs containing thick memorabilia cards usually have 6 or 7 cards in it due to the thickness of the cards. While the majority of the cards in a pack will contain mostly base cards there will usually be at least one insert card included as well. Insert cards are themed cards that aren't part of the 250 cards that constitute the base set. Yes, it can get confusing.
For instance, one of the most popular insert sets is UD Canvas. The cards are printed on paper stock that mimics canvas and the pictures in front have a painted look to them. There are three Lightning members included: Ben Bishop, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman.
Collectors tend to run hot and cold on inserts. Some, like myself, think that they are pack fillers and would rather see more base cards in a pack as opposed to pointless inserts that are quickly tossed aside. For instance there are at least 12 insert sets not including signature or memorabilia cards. Luckily (or unfortunate depending on your point of view) there aren't many Lightning players represented in these insert sets. In addition to the UD Canvas the “bonus” Tampa Bay cards are:
Clear Cut Foundations – Ben Bishop/ Nikita Kucherov
Clear Cut Superstars – Steven Stamkos
Goalie Nightmares – Nikita Kucherov
Shining Stars – Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Ben Bishop
Super Colossal – Brian Boyle
UD Portraits – Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov
UD Portraits Jumbo – Nikita Kucherov
There is usually one memorabilia card per box. Pieces of sweaters are cut up and glued to the card. While novel when first released in the late-90s the overuse of these types of cards has kind of glutted the marked and driven down their value. I have so many Adam Hall cards that I could probably stitch an entire jersey out of them if I wanted to.
There is a Nikita Kucherov jersey card that can be had as well as a “patch version” that only 15 were made. The patch version is just a larger piece of the sweater.
If you're the lucky sort you might pull a Signature Sensation card. These cards feature an autograph of the player and fall at the rate of about 1 per every 288 packs. Ben Bishop and Vlad Namestnikov are featured in this group.
Each base card also has a couple of parallels as well. Parallels are cards that look identical but have a feature or two that makes them different and tend to be extremely rare. The traditional parallels are Exclusives (only 100 of each card made) and High Gloss – a shinier verion of the base card of which only 10 are made. According to the pre-release in formation there is also a Clear Cut PETG parralel which is printed on acetate. These cards will fall 1 every 72 packs and will probably be heavily collected.
Prices for the hobby box are about $72 right now. That price should hold steady, but it will be interesting to see how stock is. With such a high class of rookies there could be early demand and there have been years where it's tough to get a hold of them after the end of November.
It is nice to see the Lightning represented well in this release. Upper Deck is in the business of making money and they won't produce cards just for regional fan bases. Seeing Bishop and Kucherov included in most of the insert sets shows that there is demand for them outside of the Tampa Bay area. It won't be a vociferous demand so prices should remain reasonable for Lightning fans looking to pick them up.