Buying last season’s hockey cards is fun because you can usually find them at a discount, since most collectors are too caught up with the new cards from this year. Such is the case with 2016-17 Upper Deck Black. No, not Black Diamond — Black. Although the set is meant to be for the 2016-17 season, it actually came out in December 2017; that is, partway through the 2017-18 season. Upper Deck does that with its high-end releases so that it can get on-card autographs for the set, particularly on the rookie cards.
When Black first came out, a five-card box cost around $200. Right now, the price is closer to $180. That’s a lot for just five hockey cards, and it is understandable why someone might not want to drop nearly two bills on less than a half-dozen cards. But usually, the higher the box cost, the better quality the cards are. Does 2016-17 Upper Deck Black hold up? As Mr. Owl would say, “llllllet’s find out!”
I was so eager to bust this box that I didn’t take any pictures of it, but once you crack it open, there is just one really-thick five card pack inside.
Base Card #25 – Jake Allen
Yep, one base card – but a very nice-looking base card at that. It has shiny foil and is numbered out of 299 copies. The diagonal, holo-foil stripes are embossed, giving the card a little texture. The player’s photo is spot-varnished, meaning that it is glossy while the rest of the non-foil parts of the cards are matte coated. The card is 55 points thick, which is about thrice the thickness of standard Upper Deck Series One/Two base cards. There are a total of 40 base cards in the 2016-17 Upper Deck Black set, and I’m half-tempted to try and find them all.
Lustrous Rookies Signatures #53 – Anthony Beauvillier
Also serial-numbered out of 299 copies are the “Lustrous Rookies Signatures,” which are signed on-card and in silver ink. This front of the card is printed on plastic, so it lacks the texture of the base cards. At 130 points, this card is really thick — thicker than many jersey cards. I’m not sure why a non-memorabilia card has to be printed on such thick stock, but it does give the card a satisfying heft.
Color Coded #CO-CM – Connor McDavid
Wow! Two autographs in this box? And what an autograph to get — none other than Edmonton Oilers captain and superstar Connor McDavid. The card is as thick as the Beauvillier rookie card (130 points) and also has a plastic front Curiously, it is signed in light blue instead of silver. The design also looks like it would fit better in a set like Fleer Metal Universe, but with McDavid emerging from a nebula cloud. (Maybe this card is Stage Two, right after McDavid’s Thermal Threats card.) The Color Coded inserts are serial-numbered, but exactly how many differs depending on what player. Some are out of 99 copies, while this McDavid is out of /10.
Lustrous Ink #LI-MH – Mike Hoffman
…three autographs in this box? 2016-17 Upper Deck Black guarantees at least two autographs per box, so I beat the odds and got a third ‘graph in my box. Like the other two autographed cards, this card is 130 points thick– but for good reason here. The Senators logo and white number 68 are recessed, giving this card a shadowbox effect. Mike Hoffman’s portrait at the top is see-through. The card is signed in silver, has a plastic surface on the front and the back, and is numbered out of 175 copies. Oh, and there’s a generous amount of silver foil. I’m not necessarily a Mike Hoffman or Ottawa Senators fan, but I am a fan of this card!
Blackhole #BH-CS – Cory Schneider
The last card in my box of 2016-17 Upper Deck Black is this Cory Schneider “Blackhole” game-used card. This card is lame when compared to the others. Yes, the card has silver foil — but it is rather thin (75 points) for a jersey card, is not serial-numbered and lacks any gloss on the front. Perhaps the matte coat finish on the front of the card is to play off of the “Blackhole” idea, which could be negated by gloss. Or maybe it was to make the silver on the card stand out more. Regardless, this card is pretty run-of-the mill, and should be a lot nicer, considering that a box breaks down to about $35-$40 per card.
What I like about 2016-17 Upper Deck Black: You get at least two (or in my case, three) autographs per box. The autographs are signed on-card. The base cards and Lustrous Rookies are colorful and look really great The design of the Lustrous Ink cards is really creative. Overall, the cards in this box have a high-quality look and feel to them.
What I do not like about 2016-17 Upper Deck Black: The jersey card was a letdown. True, I am not a fan of jersey cards to begin with, but for $180 to $200 per box, any jersey cards inside should be multi-colored, or at the very least be serial-numbered.
The jersey card was disappointing, but everything else in 2016-17 Upper Deck Black was great. The base and rookie cards look nice, the autographs are on-card and the Lustrous Ink card is pretty epic. Plus, pretty much everything was serial-numbered out of 299 copies or less, giving the cards an air of exclusivity. And yes, I would still give this box 4 pucks even if I didn’t pull a Connor McDavid autograph. I’m not going to tell you to go out and spend $200 on a box of cards, but if that’s your jam, then give Black a shot. ■
Note: This article was updated to correct the release date of 2016-17 Upper Deck Black.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.