The 2012-13 release of Upper Deck's premier product just came out last week, and I barely had enough in my collecting budget to afford a box. My LCS owner was there when I stopped in, and was nice enough to chop a little off the price, which made it considerably cheaper than it is on-line. I guess what always kept me away from it in the past, was simply an unwillingness to take the risk. At five cards per box, that averages out to around $90 per card, one of those being a base card. After a successful collecting year so far, I felt like luck was far enough on my side, that I picked up a box, and hoped for the best.
Upper Deck has promised that this year's The Cup will have an autograph content that is focused more toward veterans and "legends" than in years past, and an effort was made to pick up autographs from players who either had never signed for The Cup, or hasn't in many years, like Peter Forsberg, Theo Fleury , Mats Sundin, and Pavel Bure. The Cup also has on-card autographs of players like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr, who are signed to exclusive deals with Upper Deck.
This year only, Upper Deck included in The Cup a two-card bonus pack of Ultimate Collection, which is a high-end brand that they were forced to cancel to to lockout limitations. Each pack contains one base card, serial-numbered to 399, and one hit.
Here's a video of my box break, with scans and a review to follow:
From the Ultimate Collection bonus pack, my base card was of Zach Parise, numbered 268/399. The Ultimate Collection cards are on a slightly thicker than normal card stock, which definitely gives them a high-end feel. The bulk of the card design is on the bottom, where the player image sits on top of a black, silver, and blue design which houses all of the front-of-card player information. The player image is glossy, which makes him really stand out from the matte background.
The hit from my Ultimate Collection pack was a Debut Threads Patch card of Scott Glennie, numbered 26/100. The first thing that jumps out from this card, of course, is the size of the patch. They also do a good job of matching the color scheme of these to that of the base card, substituting gold foil for silver. While this was the one hit that I pulled from Ultimate Collection, there are also other favorites from the set making their return, like Rookie Patches, Legends Autographs, and Ultimate Signatures.
For my base card of The Cup, I pulled a Johan Franzen, numbered 58/249. One of the first things hat you notice when picking up the base cards is just how thick they are. Despite not containing any memorabilia pieces, the thickess is just the same as most patch cards, and it takes a 180-pt. toploader to store these. The actual design of the card is simple, and elegant, which I like. They put some foil on the left side, but they really don't over-do the design at all. For something this nice, I like a nice, simple, clean design, and Upper Deck did a great job of that.
I also pulled a Gold Spectrum parallel of Anze Koptar, numbered 22/25. Like most parallels, you have the same design as the base card, but just a different color foil. The base cards are already low-numbered to 249, but Gold Spectrum really drops that numbering, all the way to 25, making each one of these a rare find. These are referred to as "Gold Spectrum," instead of just "Gold," because the foil has a kind of rainbow effect, when light catches it.
Each box of the Cup contains one autographed patch rookie card, and I pulled Gabriel Dumont, numbered 158/249. The rookies are very similar to the base cards, which I like, but they still distinguish themselves apart, flipping the foil from the left side to the right, and placing a "ROOKIE" distinction on the bottom. The top third of the card is used for the player image, which can only hold a head shot, and is faded towards the bottom, to leave room for the signature. Beneath the signature is a square-ish cut-out for the patch. Even though these cards contain "hit content" they are actually part of the set, and are considered to be "base cards." Now, all I will say about this particular card, is that for the money spent on this product, it is a bit of a disappointment to pull a plain, one-colored patch as one of your big hits. Of course, not all of them are this way, but I'd expect better from a product of such high regard.
The rookie auto patches are one of the Product's biggest drawing points, as these are considered to be the top rookie card of each player every year. Unfortunately, due to lockout restrictions, the only rookies used are those who debuted late in the 2011-12 season, and did not receive any cards in those sets. The rookie crop may be weak, but the cards of Sven Baertschi, Chris Kreider, and Jaden Schwartz, numbered to a low 99 copies, are grabbing some MAJOR money on the secondary market.
I also pulled three inserts from the box, the first being a Cup Foundations quad jersey card of Patrice Bergeron, numbered 11/25. One of the things that sets The Cup apart from all other high-end hockey releases, is just how low their inserts are serial-numbered to. At just 25 copies, this Bergeron card features four jersey swatches, one white and three yellow, which surround a diamond-shaped center. The area in the middle features a white space with a faded team logo, which is used for a signature on other versions of this card. Now that I look at it, the color scheme of these cards come really close to the Ultimate Collection cards I pulled. It doesn't bother me at ll, it's just something I noticed.
There was one more Cup Foundations card, this one of Pittsburgh Penguins winger James Neal, featuring four patches, numbered 7/10. Now THIS is a patch card done right. Despite each piece not being massive in size, the swatches are all cut in a way that multiple colors are exposed. They are most likely from either the sleeve numbers or the word "DALLAS" on the front of the jersey, but each one has three or four visible colors, which is what a patch SHOULD be. While some may not care, you can't deny that this is a better card that one that would contain the same numbering, but four plain-colored patch pieces. This is the kind of card you would expect from a product like The Cup, and the fact that it's a Penguin makes it that much better for me.
Lastly, I pulled an Emblems of Endorsment autographed dual patch card of Pavel Bure, numbered 4/15. This is a fantastic-looking card of a hall-of-famer. The card is low-numbered, features an on-card autograph, and has two patch pieces. Now, I know that the bottom patch is one-colored, but it has an uncommon yellow color, and the top patch is so different, that it makes me over-look the one-colored patch entirely.
Now, that top patch had me curious. I'm somewhat familiar with the history of the various Canucks logos and uniforms, and this doesn't appear to come from any of them. The next logical step, would be to look at the different patches that may have been added to the front or shoulders of the jersey to commemorate special events or anniversaries. The one I discovered that matches this pattern perfectly was the NHL 75th anniversary logo.
The swatch on my card, if you flip it upside down, comes from the bottom left of this patch. It's always cool when you can identify an odd patch on your card, especially when it gives you some extra information on the jersey that the piece may have come from, but it gets cooler from there. These 75th Anniversary patches were worn during the 1991-92 season, which was Pavel Bure's rookie year!!!!! So not only do I have a great player, great signature, and great patch, but I have proof that the memorabilia comes from Bure's very first season in the NHL.
I knew I was taking a major risk when spending this kind of money on one single pack of cards, but in my opinion, that risk paid off. With The Cup, you really get the best of the best when it comes to hockey cards, and while a few of the cards you pull may or may not be duds, each box I've seen opened has had at lest one or two cards that make you stop and say, "Wow!" While the price point is very steep on this product, if you can afford to take the chance, I would definitely give it a shot.