Coming out towards the end of the regular season was 2015-16 Upper Deck SPX, which has more or less been a part of the hockey collecting landscape since the 1996-97 season. This year, Connor McDavid — a.k.a. the guy who everyone wants a rookie card of — adorns the box.
SPX is geared more towards hit chasers, as building a complete set with all of the rookie cards would take a lot of time, effort and funds. This year, a box costs around $100 and has 10 four-card packs.
I recently opened a box and got…
39 Base Cards
The SPX base set has cards of both current and retired players. This year, Upper Deck didn’t overdo it with a giant X dominating the design. There is still an X-shape made from lines converging behind the players, but it is a bit more subtle. Hard to see because of the scan is the gold foil used for the player’s name, the team logo, the Upper Deck logo and the “swirly lines” behind the player’s head.
Another nice touch — that you won’t see from a scan — is that the player is spot-varnished, meaning that the part of the photo that has the player has a gloss coating, while the area surrounding the player does not.
There are 60 base cards; I did not get any doubles.
The card backs have five years of stats, plus career totals, as well as biographical data and a paragraph about the player. The layout is simple and the text isn’t too difficult to read.
3 SPX Rookies
The SPX Rookies have shiny backgrounds and gold foil that, unflatteringly, looks black when scanned. These fall one in every four packs, but I BEAT THE ODDS (booyah!) and got three in my box: Vincent Hinostroza (Blackhawks), Connor Brickley (Panthers) and Brett Pesce (Hurricanes).
However, SPX has different levels of rarity when it comes to the rookie cards in the set, with some being numbered to 299, 399 or 499 copies and having a jersey swatch and/or an autograph. So, putting together a full set of all the rookie cards would be expensive.
2 Stick Wizards
Stick Wizards are shiny cards that you get one in every six packs. I defied the odds once again (booyah booyah), and got two in my box: Jason Spezza (pictured above) and Matt Moulson.
1 Shift Change
Shift Change is a subset (but still part of the main numbered set) that seems to be an excuse to shoehorn in more cards of this year’s rookies, like Connor McDavid (pictured), Max Domi and Artemi Panarin, but without giving them the coveted “rookie card” designation. That still won’t stop me from sliding this McDavid card — issued in his first season, I might add — into a gold-lettered “Rookie Card” top loader. Try and stop me…
1 Trilogy Update Rookie
I wasn’t expecting this Trilogy — or TRILO3Y as the L33T kids call it –rookie card of Matt O’Connor, which is numbered to 799 copies. Of course, there are autographed Trilogy RC cards that have a lower print run.
2 Monochromatics Game-Used Jersey Cards
These Monochromatics game-used jersey cards are a nice break from the norm. Upper Deck took the SPX base card design, but gave it a black-and-white scheme, using color only for the player’s jersey. This selective use of color plays off of the color of the jersey swatch used on the card. This looks great on the Jordan Staal card, which uses a red jersey swatch. But the effect is lost on the Logan Couture card, which uses a black jersey swatch instead of a teal swatch.
1 Artifacts Rookie
Also catching me off guard was an Artifacts rookie card of Jake Virtanen. A Trilogy RC and an Artifacts RC? I thought this product was SPX. Anyway, the Virtanen card has a sticker autograph, two jersey swatches and is numbered out of 125 copies.
Now, those of you who are counting along at home will notice that I got a total of 49 cards, even though you are supposed to get four cards per pack. This is because, in many of the packs, there were more than four cards. If a pack had a jersey card, which is thicker than the regular cards, then it would have only three base cards. But if the pack didn’t have a jersey card, it had more than four cards inside.
What I like about 2015-16 Upper Deck SPX Hockey: The base card design feels modern and looks unique, without using an overt, giant X. The jersey cards have a cool aesthetic. Inserts like Shift Change and Stick Wizards remind me of 1990s inserts sets like Crunch Crew and Speed Merchants, and provide SPX some variety. Throwing in a few extra base cards here and there to “fatten” the packs a bit is a great move by Upper Deck, and preferable to getting decoys.
What I do not like about 2015-16 Upper Deck SPX Hockey: While I’ve accepted the practice of short-printing rookie cards, I don’t like it when some rookie cards are way harder to pull than others. And it gets even harder when you might pull “update” rookie cards from other sets like Trilogy or Artifacts.
SPX would be a more enjoyable break if it had a fourth hit; Contours, a new set this year, has four hits, with two being autographs, and costs about the same as SPX. And if opening a box of SPX, you would hope that the one-per-box auto/patch rookie card would be from the SPX set, and not a castoff from a different set. Still, the base card design looks swell, as do the Monochromatics jersey cards. Plus, there’s always a shot, albeit slim, of pulling a Connor McDavid rookie card.