The release date was pushed back. Then delayed and then moved back again. But now Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 is here (we hope). But now that it has arrived is the beloved product worth the wait? Read our full 2021-22 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey review to find out.
The Upper Deck Series 1 & 2 releases are the cornerstones of the California-based company’s hockey flagship releases. Upper Deck first received the rights to produce NHL cards back in 1990 and have used that license to develop an enviably solid relationship with the professional sports organization. The company has since cemented its place as the home of hockey by obtaining licenses to the Canadian Hockey League, American Hockey League, and Team Canada Juniors.
The release remains the most popular and essential release in the hockey hobby calendar. We believe it will maintain this position for the foreseeable future.
All of the card manufacturers have been hit by the severe supply chain problems which have rocked the global economy during the pandemic. However, it is no secret that Upper Deck has been harder hit than most.
We reported here in December that the company: “announced back in October that 2020-21 Ice and 2021-22 Trilogy would be canceled entirely. Meanwhile, their flagship Series 1 Hockey releases were postponed. As of now, the release date for the hobby box is December 29, and retail is set for release in 2022.”
The flagship release was, of course, far too important to Upper Deck to even consider cancellation. However, the release has experienced repeated further delays. The Series 1 hobby boxes release has finally been set for February 24, 2022. The other formats will follow later. We have the announced dates next to each format below.
The main attraction of Upper Deck Series 1 is its position as the hockey release of record. It occupies a similar spot to the vaunted Topps flagship baseball releases. As such, it contains the proper rookie cards of most up-and-coming NHL stars.
The Young Guns series is most important in this regard, representing the standard rookie card for most major hockey stars of recent years.
Series 1, even more than Series 2, is very much mass-produced. With the limited demand for hockey cards in mind, that can often militate against high value. We will discuss value further below in more detail.
Another long-term complaint is that Upper Deck does not engage in proper quality control regarding this product. In particular, the 2020-2021 release was a disappointment to hockey collectors. Many consumers have received an unacceptable number of miscut cards and chipped and generally subpar singles within the packs.
One major complaint hockey fans have voiced is that this year’s design is unappealing and somewhat impractical. In particular, the Young Guns cards are hard to read, with the lettering appearing on the side moving from the bottom to the top of the card. Indeed, you find yourself flipping the card to read it better.
Other observers have noted that the odds of hitting big cards are smaller in this release than they were in previous years.
The first release from Series 1 is the Hobby Box. Unfortunately, we do not have the full details of all the release formats yet. However, we assume they will not be dramatically different from previous years.
Upper Deck also has a successful e-pack program, which allows you to virtually purchase and trade Series 1 cards. You can read my article on that initiative here. The e-pack version of the 2021-22 release is expected at some point in March.
The base set for Upper Deck Series 1 includes 198 cards, not including 49 Young Guns and three checklist cards. The main checklist has yet to be released. However, we will update the article as soon as we get our hands on it.
As always, the main draws are the rookies. Cole Caufield is the name you hear thrown around the most right now. But, of course, that is no guarantee that he will pan out. Just look at all the hype that surrounded Alexis Lafrenière last year. And now, many consider him the biggest bust in living memory.
This year’s release includes many of the veteran inserts associated with the Upper Deck flagship release. However, there are some new varieties thrown in to try and keep the set fresh.
The flagship release’s most famous and beloved inserts are the Young Guns. Although not everyone is happy with the design, the set will undoubtedly retain its considerable cache nonetheless. Of course, everyone will be hoping to land a Cole Caufield #201 card.
These cards can be found in 1:4 packs. Here is the complete Young Guns Checklist:
201 Cole Caufield
202 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
203 Olle Alsing
204 Dakota Joshua
205 Jamie Drysdale
206 Kyle Burroughs
207 Tarmo Reunanen
208 Mike Hardman
209 Wade Allison
210 Marian Studenic
211 Keaton Middleton
212 Joe Veleno
213 Wyatt Kalynuk
214 Garrett Pilon
215 Morgan Barron
216 Radim Zohorna
217 Jack Ashcan
218 Joshua Dunne
219 Logan Thompson
220 Brinson Pasichnuk
221 Arttu Ruotsalainen
222 Tanner Jeannot
223 Spencer Knight
224 Ross Colton
225 Filip Gustavsson
226 Jeremy Swagman
227 Calen Addison
228 Simon Benoit
229 Daniel Walcott
230 Mattias Samuelsson
231 Zac Jones
232 Trevor Zegras
233 Jeffrey Viel
234 Lane Pederson
235 Marc Michaelis
236 Tanner Kaczyński
237 Jeremy Davies
238 Jackson Cates
239 Tyce Thompson
240 Parker Kelly
241 Alex Barre-Boulet
242 Rasmus Kupari
243 Cam York
244 Matt Kiersted
245 Michael Houser
246 Shane Pinto
247 Kole Lind
248 Jacob Bryson
249 Joey Keane
250 Trevor Zegas / Cole Caufield – Checklist
Most of the cards in this release are not particularly colorful. But a healthy dose of gaudy verve with its fluorescent aesthetic and variety of parallels.
These trippy-looking cards present players known for creativity and star status. They feature players in multicolor representation and can be found at a rate of around 1:14 packs.
The veteran UD Canvas insert set is back. This series is reminiscent of the Topps Stadium Club aesthetic with its beautiful full card imagery. This year the inserts include 6 Young Guns cards and a few autos as well.
Using the full card style of Canvas, portraits focus on the facial expressions of your favorite players. The insert has long been a favorite in hockey flagship, but it also includes a rare Black & White Editions version this year.
Other inserts include Honor Roll (1:12 packs) and Hundo P (1:12 packs).
This year’s release brings back the classic Honor Roll insert, featuring the top stars on the ice.
The set has relatively few parallels, certainly in comparison to the main Panini and Topps Releases. Nevertheless, several varieties are available in the 2021-22 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey release.
Like its baseball equivalent, hockey flagship is not a high-end release designed to accrue large amounts of value. Instead, it is the bread and butter of the everyday collector. Nonetheless, the hobby is often seen as an investment, and there has traditionally been money to be made on flagship rookies.
So how does this product usually hold up in terms of value?
The marquee item in terms of saving wax is usually the hobby box. One of the nicer things about the hockey flagship is the affordability of the hobby boxes. After all, you can’t get many basketball or football hobby boxes for under $150 nowadays.
But the critical question is, what value does it maintain after sitting on the shelf for a few years?
|2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Hobby Box||$1,249.95|
|2016-17 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Hobby Box||$725|
|2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Hobby Box||$165|
|2018-19 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Hobby Box||$300|
|2019-20 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Hobby Box||$170|
The 2015-16 box is a massive outlier. However, it benefits from being older (as in pre-card boom) and containing the vast Connor McDavid rookie. The 2016-17 box benefits from the same element of age and the presence of perennial NHL All-Star Auston Matthews amongst the Young Guns.
However, the more recent prices are probably a more realistic representation of the value of the series. The box should be valued at around $300 if Cole Caufield or one of the other Young Guns pans out. Meanwhile, you can expect it to stand at around $160-170 if none of the rookies become superstars.
So when all is said and done, you won’t lose money on an Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Hobby Box. But you are unlikely to hit the jackpot with one of these either.
|2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Sealed Blaster||$395|
|2016-17 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Blaster||$170|
|2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Blaster||$50|
|2018-19 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Blaster||$45|
|2019-20 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Sealed Blaster||$40|
The story here is similar. The older blasters from years with marquee stars do very well on the secondary market. However, more recent years have sold for modest prices. Still, if you buy one of these babies for $20, you are likely to double your money after a couple of years. So, it certainly isn’t a bad investment.
What happens if you rip Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 products? How likely are you to get your money’s worth? Perhaps the best way to estimate is by looking at how some of the chase cards perform on the market.
All the cards are PSA 10 unless indicated otherwise.
|2015-16 Connor McDavid Young Guns||$470|
|2016-17 Auston Matthews Young Guns||$1,420|
|2017-18 Alex Debrincat Young Guns||$250|
|2018-19 Jordan Kyrou Young Guns||$236|
|2019-20 Cale Makar Young Guns||$717|
The biggest stars have very strong Young Guns cards. A PSA 10 of a superstar will always be a wise investment, and the value should appreciate over time. The trouble is that beneath the veneer of the absolute top players, most Young Guns cards (even those of excellent players) are not always worth grading at current PSA prices.
Few collectors get rich from flagship hockey products. But when you invest in these cards, you know that this isn’t some fly-by-night release without a clear future (I’m looking at you 60% of Panini products). Instead, it is a storied series that hockey fans take very seriously. As a result, boxes appreciate over time, and the strongest rookie cards command respectable prices. So think of Series 1 as a strong performing bond rather than a blue-chip stock in investment terms.
But most importantly, there is something timeless and appealing about the brand. It connects effortlessly with years of hockey tradition, much like Topps flagship is grounded in baseball history. We only hope that Upper Deck enacts the quality control befitting their flagship product. Hockey collectors deserve no less.