A Lightning-based look at Upper Deck 2018-19 SP Game Used Edition

Let’s pull some cards.

Over the past few seasons, we’ve reviewed some basic card offerings from Upper Deck. They were sets that tended to focus on the base cards with few inserts or premiums thrown into the packs. Today we flip the script a little bit with Upper Deck’s SP Game Used Edition. Now it’s the base cards that are rare and it’s the “hits” that fill up the packs. If you like cards with jerseys, netting and other pieces of equipment this is your jam.

Considered a mid-high level product, a box will set you back around $100. “Box” is a bit of a misnomer though. For a Ben Franklin you get, on average, six cards. That’s it. In fact, depending on what’s in the pack, you may get less than that. It doesn’t take long to rip open a box of SP Game Used that’s for sure. The six cards you get are two base cards (or parallel versions of the base card), three memorabilia or autograph cards, and one premium memorabilia or autograph cards.

Therein lies the rub of buying boxes like this. If you’re looking to turn a profit or get value out of it, that premium hit better be of someone like Connor McDavid instead of Mikael Granlund or else you’re better off just setting your money on fire. Of course, we’re not here to flip cards on eBay, we’re here to collect Lightning cards. So whose cards can you find in a box of SP Game Used?

The answer is - not many. There are only 100 base cards in the set and of those 100, three of them belong to the Lightning. That’s not a lot of room for players. Who makes the cut? Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy. That’s it. No Steven Stamkos and no Victor Hedman. Inserting Point over Stamkos is kind of odd since Stammer is one of the faces of Upper Deck Hockey. However, with Point’s breakout season it’s looking like a pretty good call. Don’t worry too much Stamkos super collectors, you get a chance to spend some money on this product as well.

The base cards are all serial numbered based on the player’s jersey number. Why? Because when you’re dropping a hundred dollars for six cards, you have to manufacture value for every piece of cardboard in that back. That makes this an extremely challenging for set builders. There are 86 copies of Kucherov’s base cards, but only 21 of Brayden Point. It’s even worse if you’re a Blackhawks’ fan because there are only two Duncan Keith base cards.

Luckily the parallels are a little more plentiful. For each base card there are seven different versions:

Orange Rainbow (serial numbered to 200 + most points in a season)

Green Snow Storm

Gold Jersey

Gold Spectrum Patch

Blue Autograph

Red Autograph/Jersey

Red Spectrum Autograph Patch

Getting one of each card for a specific player (aka collecting a rainbow) won’t be easy as the some of the parallels have low print runs. Nothing easily gained is appreciated, so feel free to appreciate the heck out of some of these cards.

No Upper Deck set would be complete without rookie cards and cards 101-200 consist of first year players. The Lightning show up two more times as Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli made the cut. Yes, the Joseph card is serial numbered to only 7. So good luck finding that.

And yes, the rookie cards have similar parallels to the veteran cards. The rainbow parallels are serial numbered to 200 + their birth year.  Their orange rainbow parallel cards are numbers to 100 + their draft year. So Mathieu Joseph’s orange rainbow parallel is numbered to 115 (100 + 15 since he was drafted in 2015).

Who cares about base cards? This is all about the relic cards. SP Game Used features equipment used in marquee events from throughout the hockey season. Insert sets feature cards from the Stanley Cup, Stadium Series, Winter Classic, and the All-Star Game. For Lightning fans, the All-Star game features the most cards of interest.

Vasilevskiy, Point and Kucherov all show up in various forms featuring their all-star jerseys. Stamkos, despite not having a base card, pops up in these sets as well that feature jersey pieces, laundry tag cards and jumbo swatches (bigger pieces of jersey). There are also autographed versions of the cards as well.

Stamkos also has a jersey card in the “A Piece of History - 50 goal club” insert set. He’s featured in the “Locker Room Essentials” set as well. Victor Hedman pops up in a manufactured relic insert titled “Banner Year - 2018 NHL Awards”. It honors his Vezina Trophy with a piece of a “banner” inserted in the card.

Cirelli gets the focus on the rookie inserts as he is featured in Draft Day Marks. Each card features an autographed manufactured letter of his name, so if you’re a big fan have fun scouring the collector’s world for all the letters needed to spell out “Cirelli”.

If you have some spare cash laying around, this is a fun, if brief, box to open up. Since the checklist is rather small (100 veterans and 100 rookies), chances are you’re going to get an autograph or memorabilia card featuring a legitimate star like Connor McDavid or Alex Ovechkin.

If you’re a set builder, stay far, far away from this set. The serial number scheme of the base cards make this an impossible task (except for those lucky two people who get Duncan Keith’s base card).

If you’re a team collector, you may want to stay away from this as well. Or be prepared to swap cards. With only six cards in a box, the chances of getting a Lightning card aren’t great so you would either have to sell off the non-Lightning cards to get funds to buy Lightning cards or swap them with other collectors.

If you are a player collector, the same challenges present themselves.

If you like opening a product that has a lot of autographs and memorabilia cards, but balk at paying $450 for The Cup, this is a pretty good set to break. This is the demographic that Upper Deck is aiming their set at. Decent autographs and jersey/puck cards at a somewhat reasonable price.

A listing of all of the insert sets and parallels can be found here.

Ok ok ok ok. Enough of the details. What did I actually get in my “box” of cards?  It was a mixed bag. There were no Lightning cards, but there were some pretty cool cards. I actually ended up with seven cards.

Juho Lammikko Authentic Rookie Rainbow Parallel #136/296

The rookie is currently with the Springfield Thunderbirds in the AHL but he has played 40 games with the Florida Panthers this year, recording 6 assists. He was drafted in the third round in 2014, fourteen spots ahead of Brayden Point.  He isn’t considered one of the Panthers’ top prospects as he slots as a two-way forward and penalty killer.

Michael Dal Colle Authentic Rookie Orange Rainbow Parallel #82/114

I’ve been a magnet for Dal Colle cards this year having pulled at least one rookie card in each box I’ve opened. The 5th overall pick of the 2014 draft he’s also split time between the AHL and the NHL. In 21 games with the Islanders this season, he has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). He’s a point-a-game player with Bridgeport with 34 points in 34 games (18 goals, 16 assists).

Noah Hanifin All-Star Skills Fabrics

It’s a nice piece of his red Carolina sweater. According to the back of the card it’s from a jersey he wore during the skills competition, it does not specify which event it was.

John Gilmour Authentic Rookies Red Autograph/Jersey

These cards fall about one every twelve packs so it isn’t the easiest card to pull. The red piece of jersey could be from one of the numbers on a Rangers jersey, or it could be from a Hartford Wolfpack sweater. The back of the card does not provide clarity. Gilmour player 28 games with the Rangers last season, but has spent all of 2018-19 in Hartford. Blue Shirt Banter had the defenseman ranked as their #23 player under the age of 25 prior to the season and he is having a strong season as he is currently third in scoring for AHL defensemen with 43 points.

James Neal All-Star Skills Challenge Relic Blends #21/125


Rasmus Dahlin Authentic Rookies Gold Jersey #499/499

It’s always nice to pull a serial numbered jersey card of one of the top rookies in the league. While the Sabres have faded a bit, the young Swedish defender is having a strong season. He will most likely pick up enough votes to finish second in the Calder Trophy race to Elias Pettersson as he has 37 points in 66 games. Not bad for an 18-year-old who looks about 12 in this photo.

Mats Zuccarello Winter Classic Materials Net Cord #30/35

This is a pretty cool (and thick card). Featuring a piece of the net used in the 2018 Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres it’s about as thick as three regular cards together.

There ya have it.

Which Card is Your Favorite?

Lammikko Rainbow0
Dal Colle Orange Rainbow0
Hanifin All Star Jersey1
GOOOOOLD Neal Jersey11
Gilmour Rookie Jersey/Autograph2
Dahlin Rookie Jersey9
Zuccarello Net Cord22