Best of the Worst: 2016-17 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey

Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends. Time for another edition of Best of the Worst of Upper Deck! Let’s all take a moment to appreciate just how far we’ve come with the photography and printing technology that bring us such stunning pictures in a little foil pack. The imagery is unparalleled with anything we’ve had in decades past; it truly does bring us closer to the game. 

Everybody over that moment of appreciation?

OK, good, now let’s make fun of them! 

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Box Break: 2015-16 Panini Anthology Hockey

Hi, have we met? Good, then you know I hate Panini. But I do love a good deal when it comes to hockey cards. A little while ago I found a “box” of Panini Anthology cards marked down from $125 to $45 “for a limited time.” Spoiler Alert: they’re still $45 everywhere. Now, before I get to the cards, let me tell you about the “box,” yes in quotation marks. Pandora’s Box was easier to open and frankly had less regrettable contents than this “box.” Here is what I had to do to get inside:

STEP ONE. Get my knife out and cut off the shrink rap.

STEP TWO: Slice open the plastic seal at the lid of the box.

STEP THREE: Open the box. 

STEP FOUR: Come the realization that the box was housing a smaller box…ALSO IN SHRINK WRAP!

STEP FIVE: Get my knife out AGAIN and slice open the second layer of shrink wrap.

STEP SIX: Open the INNER box.

STEP SEVEN: Shake the little box violently to remove the six cards housed inside that also has a block of polystyrene holding them in place with a vacuum seal!

So I’m already pissed off at these cards because of this and I haven’t even seen them yet. They must be something special and awesome for this much trouble and for a company to ask well north of a C-note in price.

God, you disappoint me so much, Panini. 

I’ve never opened a pack/box of cards that unsatisfactory to me as much as this and after that much work. You know when it’s the Fourth of July — or “July 4th and oh God is America attacking??” if you’re in Canada — and you see a rocket shoot off into the night sky, zipping in a squirrelly fashion and leaving a bright trail of sparks behind it? The sparks trail off into the darkness and you’re all like, “ooooh, this is gonna be a big one!”….aaand nothing, it’s turns out to be a dud that falls back to the earth unseen and unheard from again.  That’s this box of cards.

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Box Break: 2015-16 Champ’s Hockey

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I’ve always had a fondness for Upper Deck’s Champ’s cards; they have a very unique and classy look about them, especially since they’re rather low-fi with only a light gloss coat over a picture that is suppose to look more like a portrait rather than a photo, and an O-Pee-Che-esque brown cardboard back.  They’ve also always included strange insert cards such as historical figures, high adventure locations and animals. OK, it’s interesting to ME, but I’m a scientist, so maybe I’m just weird and you all think it’s a waste of space where yet another Hal Gill common card could be hiding.  You can voice your disagreement in a comment below.

Champ’s had been sleeping since 2009-10, so I was excited to see it return. Being burned by sets that had almost no cards featuring my favorite team, I did wait until a full checklist of the set and subsets came out before buying a hobby box at $100.  If there’d been a famine of Carolina Hurricanes cards, I would have waited until a sale and then gotten them for 25% off.  Thankfully that was not the case.

A box contains 20 packs. Each pack has six cards. A box averages one autograph, two memorabilia cards, four high series cards, six inserts and nine parallels/variants. I don’t know if it was just my box or if it is because this is one of the last sets put out for the season, but if you like rookie cards, then this box is your jam because I pulled 22! There are so many crazy things about this set that I’m getting lost in the details just trying to write about it, so let me back away and get down strictly to what popped up in the box break.

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An Interview with Hockey Card Photo Editor Austin Castillo

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Upper Deck photo editor Austin Castillo, left, poses with Philip Pritchard and the Stanley Cup. Among other duties, Castillo selects photos shown on Upper Deck hockey cards.

A few weeks ago, Puck Junk got some internet buzz with our Best of the Worst article about this year’s Upper Deck Series Two. That caught the busy eyes of our cardboard muses at Upper Deck, who enjoyed the light-hearted ribbing we gave them. We asked if we could interview one of their photo editors, because we want to know what goes into the production of hockey cards. What are some of the challenges that Upper Deck employees face to make cards that they’d be proud of?

Fortunately, Upper Deck photo editor Austin Castillo was kind enough to play Twenty(ish) Questions with us via email, and provided some pretty insightful and provocative things about the world of cardboard sports icons. Where do their new product ideas come from? What kind of guidelines do they follow for selecting card photos? Let’s find out!

Jim Howard: What is your job and what are your duties with Upper Deck?

Austin Castillo: My job title is Photo Editor. I maintain a huge archive of digital and film assets (slides and negatives) and pick the photos that go on cards, as well as some Photoshop work (CMYK conversion, color correction, etc.).

JH: How did you find your way into this field?

AC: I studied photography in college and then found the job via Indeed.

JH: To what extent do you edit the pictures?  Obviously color, contrast and brightness are tweaked as needed, but I’ve seen older cards where the ads on the boards were removed or altered.

AC: We generally don’t retouch the image too much, but we’ll airbrush out Continue reading “An Interview with Hockey Card Photo Editor Austin Castillo”

Hockey Card Gamble: A Seduction of Hits…and Misses!

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Hey, who out there likes to gamble? Maybe take a little trip to Vegas, or just a friendly card game between buddies? I don’t mind it from time to time, and now I’ve found a way to mix my love of inked cardboard and the thrill of laying it all on the line: case breaks!

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Eddie Lack Loves Tacos

Hockey players are people, too!

Eddie Lack loves tacosRemember when you were in elementary school and you saw your first grade teacher at the grocery store for the first time, and exclaimed, “Mrs. Dethnoll, what are you doing here?”

“I’m shopping for groceries, just like you!”

“You are? I thought you just lived at the school!”

juiceEven though we’re all grown-ass adults hacking away at our 9-to-5 jobs and drinking kale smoothies (ugh, seriously this stuff is gross!),  we sometimes forget that those of us on this earth living the dream of playing hockey for a living exist outside of the rink as well. Pro athletes have lives, likes and dislikes, clothes they enjoy wearing that don’t have an itchy fight strap, pets that need walking or scooping after, and, most importantly, food they love eating!

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Best of the Worst: 2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey

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Upper Deck Series One Hockey came out earlier this month, so it’s time once again to see which of these hot dogs come off looking like weenies — thanks to some intrepid hockey photographers and Upper Deck’s editors!

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Panini Presents: Another Confusing Card of Purported Value

headerPanini, my old foe…we meet again!

You know what grinds my gears in the card collecting world? Absolute laziness fortified with an attitude that no one will notice. On Friday evening, I’m sitting back in my dapper, leather high-back Georgian wing chair, enjoying a freshly poured adult beverage consisting of Scotch old enough legally buy itself and nothing more, when my phone pinged with a message.

“PiiiiiiiiNG!”

It was an email from an online sport card retailer that I frequent, directing my attention to a sale. I adjusted my pashmina afghan, tipped my yachting cap back on my brow, and dove in to see what wares awaited my eyes.

Shortly into the list, and much to my surprise, I saw a Ryan Miller card that looked familiar…eerily familiar. Continue reading “Panini Presents: Another Confusing Card of Purported Value”

The one you wish you could throw back

YashinWe all have regrets in life. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault but our own; sometimes fate just has a funny sense of humor. It could be a job we took that quickly turned sour; it could be that person you woke up next to the morning after a night on the town, celebrating your team winning the Stanley Cup. Or it could be great hit in a pack of cards that lights up your face…until you read the name. Continue reading “The one you wish you could throw back”