With the new hockey season well into gear, it's time for the new collecting season to begin. Of course, MVP, O-Pee-Chee, and Fleer Ultra have already been released, but I tend to stay away from the low-end products. I know there are some puritan collectors out there that hate the hit-centric guys like me, but it's tough for me to justify spending $65 on a box of cards, where my best case scenario is pulling a $5 Sidney Crosby insert that I could buy on Ebay for $2.
So for a collector with my interests and goals, Artifacts is usually the real "season opener" for me. Each box gives you 10 packs, and each pack will include something other than a base card. You'll usually get three memorabilia cards, one autograph, one rookie redemption, two serial-numbered SPs, and three serial-numbered parallels.
Here's what my box gave me:
The base cards, I would say, are typical of what we have seen from Artifacts over the past few years. There is a significant, yet simple use of foil, combined with an ice-looking background. You also get players falling into three categories: current players, retired players, and players featured in All-Star Game jerseys from past years.
The SPs are numbered /999 and fall into two categories: goaltenders (cards 101-120) and rookies (121-150). The rookies are all players from last year that didn't make it into 2013-14 products, so there aren't any major names of those 30 players. I got one each of the two SP tipes: Tony Esposito 531/999 and Tyler Wotherspoon 165/999
There are also a few parallels, which not only cover the SPs, but the regular base cards as well. Like most parallels these days, you're really just looking at an identical card, with a different color foil. My three were Dominik Hasek Ruby 292/499, Vladislav Namenstinkov Ruby 9/499, and Kyle Okposo Sapphire 11/85.
While, none of the rookies from this year are inserted into packs, due to the fact that they will have not made their NHL debut until after that cards were already produced, Upper Deck gets around this by including Rookie Redemption cards. Basically, you enter in the redemption, and after the season has progressed, and they are able to produce cards of this year's rookies, they will be made and sent out to collectors. Mine was for the New York Islanders, but it may be too early in the season to try and figure out who this might end up being.
The first of my four hits was a Brandon Gormley Rookie dual jersey card, numbered 17/399. As I said before, the rookie selection with such an early-season product is pretty slim, but at least with Gormley, I was able to pull someone who is getting some decent playing time at the pro level. He has seen ice time in 4 NHL games this year, and is on pace to far surpass the 5 he played in last year.
There can be some amazing autographs pulled from Artifacts, but there are also some pretty basic ones, like this Frazer McLaren Autofacts card. McLaren began his professional hockey career with the San Jose Sharks when they drafted him in the 7th round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and was claimed off of waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs in January of 2013. He is currently playing for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
This Gerry Cheevers/Phil Esposito Tundra Tandems dual jersey card is one that I absolutely love. For one thing, not only are there two different colored swatches, but the material itself is different, and is clearly from the fabric of an older jersey. They also did a great job of finding a picture of Cheevers that really shows his awesome stitched mask design. Also, is it just me, or is there any other hockey player who looked like an old man at such a young age as Phil Esposito? Stan Mikita, maybe?
While the best players out of the hits I pulled were Cheevers and Esposito, the best overall card goes to this Jonas Hiller jersey/patch card, numbered 61/75. Clearly, they were unable to update Hiller with his new team, the Calgary Flames, but I really don't mind in this instance. I'd much rather have the jersey, picture, and listed team coordinate, than have him listed as a Flame and pictured as a Duck. Let's also not forget just how amazing that patch piece looks. It clearly comes from the crest of the Ducks jersey and features four colors on the patch, along with the black of the jersey itself. It's pretty impressive to have that much activity on such a small piece of real estate.
That's it for box #1 of Artifacts. There wasn't anything earth-shattering, but overall, I got some pretty decent cards. By the way, I haven't bought any more, but say "Box #1," because I'm certain I will at some point. I love this product and I'm always good for a few boxes each year.