Upper Deck has made a name for themselves over the years, mainly thanks to some amazing design work and their affinity for designing blockbuster high end products. Even though they have lost their NFL license and their NBA license, there has yet to be another player performing at the old standard. To illustrate, look at 2009 Ultimate collection, 100% on card delivering enormous hits at less than 100 bucks a box. Doesn’t happen now, and likely wont for a long time. For the first time in a long time, Ultimate is back, and I think the results are pretty entertaining to say the least.
Here are some of the examples:
First off, I am not a huge fan of the booklet auto rookie cards, which don’t really make good use of the two card fronts. I think that booklets, to be successful, need to offer something that cant be done on one card. Signed single auto rookie cards are everywhere, which I am sure was the main reason for doing booklets, but it doesn’t seem necessary.
Although the cards look really nice across the board, the use of event used swatches for current, retired, and HOFers continues to be a negative for me. This was done earlier in SPX and other products, and I would much rather have autos only. Football is a hobby that functions on swatches, so I can see why they want them, however that does not give them a pass to make these types of cards. I don’t approve, and from the feedback I have heard, its quite the widespread feeling from those who know where the swatches come from.
My favorite cards of the product aren’t new at all, but that only speaks to the iconic nature of the design. The 1997 legends autos have been a part of Ultimate for years now, and I continue to love what they bring. Its an iconic set that deserves continuances and this is a great vehicle for it to happen. The cards are extremely rare, but the ones I have seen look awesome.
That being said, these cards with hard signed autos are designed very much in the Upper Deck way, which I love. Even with the move to NCAA cards, the design team has made the most of it, which only seems to futher separate this set from other unlicensed products. I would even go so far as saying it looks better than just about every Panini product put out so far, with only a few exceptions. That should be quite the message for Panini to get, as they cannot feel comfortable putting out the shit they do when Ultimate looks as good as it does.
I would love to say that Upper Deck has it all figured out, as in some ways, they do. On the other hand, they are still at a clear disadvantage without an NFL license, something I would love to see rectified very quickly. I know that is unlikely to happen, but one can dream.