2011-12 Hockey Cards: Year in Review

With the 2012-13 hockey card collecting season around the corner–actual hockey season pending–now is a good time to take a look back at some of the sets released during 2011-12.

Many online sellers like DA Card World and Blowout Cards have dropped the prices on boxes of 2011-12 hockey cards. Likewise, many eBay sellers will try to sell off their 2011-12 sets for bargain prices before collectors get too focused on buying the new cards. This makes for an advantageous time to go back and pick up anything you missed out on.

Below are 9 micro reviews of the various sets from the 2011-12 season.


O-Pee-Chee

2011-12 O-Pee-Chee #25 - Eric Staal
What’s up with the giant O-PEE-CHEE logo, anyway?

Since they started leasing the name in 2006-07, Upper Deck has never done a great job with the O-Pee-Chee brand of hockey cards. Sure, it is named “O-PEE-CHEE,” and we all like that. It is a brand name that will always have equity with hockey card enthusiasts.

But the cards almost always feature a mediocre design and (except for 2006-07) are printed on substandard card stock–ugly gray, cereal box card stock instead of nice, white stock like Score or Victory. And let’s not forget the ridiculously large O-Pee-Chee logo.

Part of O-Pee-Chee’s appeal–besides the name–is the large set size. 500 base cards and another 100 short-prints will keep anyone busy for a while. But only 50 of those 100 short-prints are rookie cards; the other 50 are cards of retired legends, which frankly seems like filler. Since O-Pee-Chee came out early in the 2011-12 season, all the big name rookies like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog were not initially in the set, but later added as part of an update set (which was found in Upper Deck Series 2).

Final Rating: 3 out of 5A nice, big set to build–but do we really need 50 legend cards?


Enforcers (In the Game)

At least it’s okay to show the CCM logo.

The older I get, the more I feel that fighting is unnecessary in hockey. And yet, I have nothing but fond memories of Bob Probert, Dave Manson, Basil McRae and Stu Grimson beating the tar out of each other.

That said, Enforcers was a “must have” set for me to collect.There were 90 base cards,plus 86 different autographed cards as well as single and dual memorabilia cards.

But for others–who are opposed to fighting or just can’t get into ITG’s “logo free” brand of hockey cards–this was definitely a set to skip.

Since ITG does not have license from the NHL, they cannot show team logos. So, like many of their other sets, Enforcers uses close-ups or portrait photographs. The company did something interesting, though, in order to show famous fights: they had an artist illustrate 38 different “Bloody Battles.” Still no logos, but at least there’s some action.

One upside to Enforcers was the 5 autographed and 2 memorabilia cards you got in each box. But again, given the limited appeal of the product, only a handful of these cards (mainly the sticker autographs of deceased players like Bob Probert) have any true demand on the secondary market.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5At $65 a box, this is going to be an expensive base set to put together. And given the limited appeal of enforcers in hockey, most of the hits are the stuff of dollar bins.


Parkhurst Champions

My eyes are being stabbed by bright colors–AND I LIKE IT!!!

As much as I criticize Upper Deck, I also give them props when props are due. And here, props are definitely due. Parkhurst Champions was a great set that took old ideas and made them feel new.

Upper Deck took two popular sets–Parkhurst and Champ’s–and combined them into Parkhurst Champions. It was truly the peanut butter and chocolate of hockey cards; two great tastes that taste great together.

Parkhurst Champions 100-card base set featured some of the best NHL players ever. The full-color photographs are heavily saturated, making the colors practically pop off the cardboard. The short-printed subsets were unique–full-sized painting cards and old black-and-white wire photographs. And then there were the small, cigarette-size cards, just like the mini cards put into Champ’s sets.

Parkhurst Champions has history, nostalgia and variety working for it. You also got 1 to 3 autographs per box, and there were no memorabilia cards to inflate the cost, which was already a bit steep at around $90 per box.

Rating 5 out of 5Maybe not the most original set, but definitely one of the nicest “all time greats” sets in recent years.


Score

2011-12 Score #118 - John Scott
Even John Scott had a card in Score’s set.

Score seems like a set that could “kill off” both O-Pee-Chee and Victory. Like O-Pee-Chee, it features a large, comprehensive selection of players that should appeal to set builders. And for kids, or those who don’t want to spend too much on cards, a pack costs only a dollar.

And yet, Score still doesn’t get any respect. I really don’t understand why Score has not caught on with the collecting community. For a buck a pack, you get a set that is the same size of O-Pee-Chee, but less expensive and superior in quality. Plus, you have better odds of getting an autographed card in Score than in O-Pee-Chee.

Score’s base set included Season Highlight and Playoff Highlight cards, making for a good retrospective of the previous season. It featured a great assortment of players (about 15 cards per team) as well as short-printed “Hot Rookies.” There were even super-short printed RCs, for those of you who like that sort of thing.

Score’s design is kind of plain, but we’ll let that slide a bit because at least the design is original and not a retro rehash. Score also does not feature a player’s complete statistics–only up to 10 seasons are shown. While this isn’t really expected of any set (other than O-Pee-Chee, naturally), doing so in the future might give Score the edge it needs to stand out.

Rating 4 out of 5Score scores a four. It is a really good set, so if you haven’t bough it yet now would be a good time. You can get a full box for less than $25, and sets sell on eBay relatively cheap.


Upper Deck

“I hope no one sees me like this…”

Since the 2005 lockout, Upper Deck has repeatedly been THE set to collect. Stunning photography has been Upper Deck’s hallmark since 1990, but the set also appeals to set builders and speculative collectors.

Yes, there are sets that are more comprehensive than Upper Deck, but at 500 cards the set is”comprehensive enough” for most set-builders. Young Guns rookie cards seem to be a high-enough tier of rookie card for collectors who do not need autographed, serial-numbered or memorabilia rookie cards.

The design itself of Upper Deck cards was a bit “phoned in”–QUICK! What’s one memorable thing about the card above? Other than the photo, nothing really. But that’s OK. Great photography and a great selection of rookies is all this set will ever need to be awesome.

Rating 5 out of 5Even if you buy just the base set, this is a set you will enjoy looking back at for years to come.


Upper Deck SPx

Dustin Byfuglien
Is that the Jets’ logo on your crotch, or are you just happy to see me?

SPx is one of those sets where the base cards were an afterthought. You and I both know that collectors buy SPx with the hopes of pulling a great jersey card, and could care less about the base cards.

But back in the 1990s, SPx at least had cool holographic photos on the card fronts to amuse us. Now, it is just the standard “player who is cut out and superimposed over some overly-designed background” type of card. In other words, like nearly every other set that costs $100/box.

And seriously, what’s with the groin-level gold team logo? It looks like a gold armored codpiece.

Rating 2 out of 5There are better base sets to collect than 2011-12 SPx.


Panini Contenders

Zdeno Chara
Panini should have also put Chara’s height, weight, hometown, last amateur club and parents’ name at the bottom to make it even more unnecessarily comprehensive.

One thing I like about Panini Contenders is that they put all the “card junk”–the name, the team logo, the company logo, and such–at the bottom, so as to minimize any distraction from the photograph.

However, much of the stuff at the bottom is unnecessary. Information like the uniform number and player position can easily fit on the card back. The conference logo is totally unnecessary.

Contenders guaranteed 3 autographs per box, which I always enjoy more than memorabilia cards. There were short-printed rookie cards, as well as short-prints of stars (Calder Candidates and Cup Candidates, respectively), making this higher-end set very much Panini’s answer to Upper Deck’s Artifacts.

The photos are not “over the top awesome” like Upper Deck Series One/Two,but they are still mainly action-oriented.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5You can probably get a base set for cheap. Or if you like autographs, a box might be an appealing chance to take.


Panini Stickers

2011-12 Panini Stickers #152 - Dwayne Roloson
Like a hockey card, only adhesive.

The first hockey set I ever collected was Panini Hockey Stickers, so I will always have a fondness for them. But that was back when you only had very few card sets coming out. Now, with the year-round barrage of hockey cards, Panini stickers all but get lost in the shuffle.

Panini Hockey Stickers cost $1 per 7-sticker pack.With 384 stickers to collect, you will need to purchase more than one 50-pack box to make a set. That wouldn’t be so bad if the collation of Panini Stickers wasn’t so terrible. One blogger I know¬† bought a box and got over 100 duplicates. In 2010-11, I bought 2 boxes and could not even finish one set without ordering additional stickers directly from Panini.

Nontheless, this year’s Panini Sticker set has a very nice design that utilizes an action shot, a close-up shot, the player’s name and the team logo, all in front of a non-distracting backdrop. There’s a bit of variety too, such as All-Stars, logo stickers and season highlights. Plus, a completed set looks great in the sticker album.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5Fun to collect–but competing it can become a bit pricey for what should be a “cheap” set.


Victory

2011-12 Victory #103 - P.K. Subban
Can you find the Victory logos on this card?

The only thing that Upper Deck’s Victory has going for it is that it is usually the first set to come out in a given season. Other than being first–and being cheap at $1 per pack–it does not have much else going for it.

Victory never improves upon previous years. It’s always the same thing: a cut-out picture of a player placed in front of the word “victory.” The set is only 200 base cards and 50 rookie cards of “leftover rookies.” Thus, a full set (base plus rookies) can be put together inexpensively.

An 80-card update set was inserted in packs of Upper Deck Series 2, including RCs of Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.Those will be more of a challenge to get; but again, even harder-to-find Victory cards are not that sought after or expensive.

Final Score: 1 out of 5Victory does not do anything that other sets don’t do better.

So, what sets did you collect during the 2011-12 season? What set or sets did you like the most? The least?

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

12 thoughts on “2011-12 Hockey Cards: Year in Review”

  1. Great reviews! I agree, Score is the best bang for the buck and one of the more enjoyable sets from last season. I am also a bit like Michael and I love Rookie Anthology too. Glad to see Victory is finally finished, and hopefully for good.

    1. I’m sure Upper Deck will find a way to foist Victory upon us. Perhaps they will insert 3 Victory cards in every pack of Upper Deck Series One, just to $&%* with us.

      1. Hahaha….very very likely….and they will surely include Victory logos superimposed on the backs of all player jerseys in a font larger than the player’s name!

  2. The cardboard stock and legends are the best part of OPC. To me, OPC is about the nostalgia of pre-card boom of the early 90s. The cardboard stock and legends play right into that. If it had the glossy stock, I’d think of OPC from the early 2000s and not from the 1980s and the set wouldn’t be as desirable for me. The card front design, the exclusion of the big name rookies, and not having up-to-date photos of traded/free agents are the only drawbacks. I agree with the score, 3/5, but I’d score it even lower if it had the same type of cardboard stock as the other sets.

    1. The funny thing is, the old OPC cards from the 1970s and 1980s were actually printed on NICER stock then they are today.

      Topps cards from that era used a gray-ish stock, while OPC used a more white/tan cardstock. OPC cards were always easier to read.

      But the new OPC cards are harder to read than the old Topps cards, and they don’t include complete stats.

  3. Sal, interesting read on the reviews. I’ll agree with the review on the OPC. The Legends part of the set is just filler, especially when the it appears that the same Legends are used every year. I’d also prefer a stand alone update set (like 08/09) rather than inclusion with UD Series 2 (which I don’t buy). In order to complete the set I have to locate and buy the update cards on the secondary market. Part of the charm of the set is the card stock, so I’ll disagree with you there. It reminds me of putting the sets together in the 80’s. I also don’t like the fact that the Marquee Rookies are SP’s therefore artificially driving up the value of cards of players who’ve only played a handful of games in the NHL (and who may never play in the NHL again). Lastly, I greatly like the retro parallel cards.
    Parkhurst Champions and BTP are a couple of sets I’d like to put together after the box prices have come down. When they came out they were too expensive for me. The Parkhurst set is a nicely coloured set where the photos pop out with some of the greats of hockey. And of course, all hockey card collectors like cards of goaltenders. I especially like the subsets of the year’s sets as I’m always interested in the original expansion.
    Lastly, I think UD missed it on Victory. The price point is correct but they marketed it incorrectly. It should be aimed toward the casual collector who doesn’t want to spend a lot or the young collector. Putting an entire set together should be easy at 200 cards. However, making the rookie cards 1 out of every 2 packs means having to purchase at least 100 packs. Plus, as you said, they are generally leftover rookies. Finally, the good rookies are in UD Series 2 which the casual collector may not be wanting to purchase to complete the set. I’ve learned my lesson with the 08/09 Victory. After finally putting together the base set I’ve got about another 10 of the update cards to complete the entire set. Meanwhile I’ve got a ton of extra base cards that noone else is trading for.

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