Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Upper Deck 2016 - (Volume 1 Addition)

Ahh-yihh-yahh-yihh-yahh...wah-wah-waaaah
Readers of a certain vintage will (hopefully) recognize part of the soundtrack to the third installment of the Sergio Leone / Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns trilogy, 1965's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

This month I am going to review the 3rd installment of the Upper Deck CFL trading card years,
2016's Issue and point out the aspects that I feel are the good, the bad and yes, a few ugly with the product.

Only one style of box and wrappers were produced this year,
instead of the two styles from the previous 2 issues. 

The Good: Continued focus on the previous season's Grey Cup Champions, with action graphics and attractive design. Elimination of the pointless "Retail" box style with a lesser number of packs.

The Bad: "2015 GRAY CUP CHAMPIONS CARD" referenced on the side panel, a typical American spelling mistake with regards to the cup, albeit a minor issue.

The Ugly: none.


This year's base set includes 163 cards with two checklists split into the standard Offensive, Defensive/Special Teams and All-Star categories with the last two being 3 times and 6 times scarcer than the Offensive cards. No Star/Rookies subset this year either.

The Good: Great photography, good player selection and a full set of the first 100 Offensive cards in every box, as has been the case every year.

The Bad: A couple of my cards were damaged out of the pack, the fact that they were the short printed cards and not the common Offensive cards was almost enough to push this into the Ugly category for me.

The Ugly: The Upper Deck website displaying card images that don't match the final designs. Hard for a collector to know that the cards pictured (presumably) do not exist, especially if somebody comes upon the pictures many years from now.


On the left are the actual Burris base card and the actual Venable OPC Subset card and on the right are the mockups from the Upper Deck website. At the present time I have no idea if this practice had also occurred for the prior two seasons.

The Good: The OPC Retro subset is one of the most popular & funky components of the product and strikes a nice balance between being slightly scarce (1:3, 8 per box) but still eminently completable. The blank backed variations are also back.

The Bad: The retro subset team logos (except for Calgary and Ottawa) look kind of strange all surrounded by a red background and the card fronts tend to pick up a certain amount of black marking from the backs of the printed subset cards, On the other hand these sorts of characteristics perhaps make them a more authentic throwback to the OPC designs and card quality issues of yore.

The Ugly: none.


Once again copious amounts of memorabilia swatch inserts and autograph inserts as well as the pretty rare Grey Cup Champion insert (1:384 packs!) are represented in the set. Oh, and each pack but the ones with the special cards still comes with it's very own blank slug...


The Good: You still get on average two jersey cards in every box, it never seems to be the players I want, but you generally get two either way. On top of that you normally score at least one of the other types of limited insert cards in a box as well.

The Bad: It's hard to checklist these subsets to know what is available as Upper Deck only has the 2014 CFL set checklisted on their website, Which is actually a slight improvement over the attention the CFL often gets on other vendor websites who sell CFL licensed products, but you wouldn't know it from the complete absence of mention on their product web portals.

The Ugly: The return of the slugs, see my post on Upper Deck Take Two - (Volume 1 Addition) for more on this topic.



This year's new feature is short-print parallel limited numbered  (# of 10) High-Gloss cards, for every base card (although the box bottom fails to mention that the All-Stars are included). There are also short-print parallel autographed cards for the base Offensive and Defensive/Special teams cards and short-print parallel autographed limited numbered (# of 25) cards for the All-Stars,
yes it's that easy...


The Good: This largely depends on your outlook on a bewildering profusion of very limited chase cards, if you like that sort of thing its good. At the very least Upper Deck is not scrimping on the details for the CFL product and it does provide me with a challenge to checklist it all properly.

The Bad: While I typically believe the more CFL collectibles produced the better, this amount of card variations seems to me to be too many, completing a team set even would be a considerable undertaking, never mind a complete master set.

The Ugly: The cost associated with the short printed cards on the secondary market (ebay) means it would take hundreds or even thousands of dollars to put a dent in a substantial want list of high-gloss and autographed cards. Or you could buy cases of product and spend the same amount that way.



The OPC short print logo patch cards are back this year, and for the first time redemption cards for rookie and veteran update sets were inserted in packs. Finally another separate All-Star limited printing small set was made available late in the season. 

The Good: Great to see redemption cards that were stated on boxes since 2014 actually appear, also I got one in one of my boxes. These have been trending on ebay for over $100 lately so there is clearly strong interest.  

The Bad: The redemption fulfillment time period is 12-16 weeks, so that puts us well into the current year and seems like a long time to wait. The logo patches look like they might be starting to get recycled which is a shame, because there are a ton of logo variations from days gone by that could potentially be rendered.

The Ugly: If I don't get my Rookie set, it will be ugly, but after 123 days (which is more than 17 weeks), the image below at least gives me some hope:






Overall I'm going to rate Upper Deck's 3rd CFL effort 3.5 "Tuco"s out of 5, (...sorry shorty).

Long time collectors may be unimpressed with the glut of special inserts but there is no denying that the potential to score a valuable insert card and then flip it on ebay for a decent return is partially responsible for the popularity that these cards enjoy. If that helps to promote the players, the league and the sport then it has to be viewed positively.