Upper Deck’s new print-on-demand hockey card set has potential & problems
Upper Deck debuted its new Game Dated Moments hockey card set for the 2017-18 season last Friday. Each week, Upper Deck will release between one and four cards in this set, based on what they deem to be the biggest news of the NHL from the prior week. Fans will be encouraged to give Upper Deck their input as to what moments they would like to see on Game Dated Moment cards, which are available to purchase on Upper Deck’s E-Pack platform.
Upon first hearing about this new set, I was excited. I remember the 1996-97 Upper Deck Hockey set because the photos on those cards had captions that told you what was happening, and on what date the picture was taken.
I also liked it when Upper Deck made Biography of a Season cards, though admittedly I have always had trouble finding those at my local card shops — only to have dealers try and sell me the same cards months later.
These also remind me of those “Season Highlights” cards that were commonplace in the old Topps and O-Pee-Chee sets in the 1970s and 1980s. Most oldschool hockey collectors love those cards.
Anytime hockey gets a new type of set, even if the idea itself isn’t particularly new, I get excited. Hockey cards are almost always overlooked, so I love it when they get the all-star treatment.
But my excitement for Game Dated Moments has cooled off a little bit for a few good reasons. My outlook on this set is now mixed, with some positives and some problems. Let’s examine the problems first.
Problem #1 – You have to buy cards you don’t want
First, in order to purchase the Game Dated moments cards, you have to purchase a pack of cards on E-Pack. So, in order to spend money, you have to spend money. A one-card pack of Game Dated Moments cards costs $3.99.
But that’s not good enough for Upper Deck, the NHL or the NHLPA; you have to buy an additional pack of cards, whether you want to or not, to unlock the Game Dated Moment pack. Fortunately, you can just buy something cheap like 2016-17 Compendium ($0.99/pack) or 2015-16 Fusion ($0.79/pack –and yes, they still have Fusion packs from two years ago).
Problem #2 – This is gonna get expensive
Second, FOUR BUCKS A CARD? Seriously, that’s pretty high if you think about it. I don’t have too much of a problem spending $4 on a card that I want, but Upper Deck was quick to put out four cards in the first week of Game Dated Moments. That means that anyone who wants to collect this set has already spent $16 — really, $15.96 plus the cost an additional pack. Assuming you try and do this on the cheap and buy a pack of Fusion to unlock the Game Dated Moments packs, you’re looking at spending $4.78 in a week that Upper Deck puts out one Game Dated Moment card, or $16.75 in a week they put out four.
Wanna bet that Upper Deck puts out four Game Dated Moments cards every week? The 2017-18 NHL season is 27 weeks long. The 2017 NHL Playoffs went 10 weeks. Assuming the 2018 NHL Playoffs also last 10 weeks, that’s a total of 37 weeks.
$16.75 x 37 weeks = $619.75
Yep, that means that Game Dated Moments may end up being a 148-card set — at a cost of $619.75.
Wait a minute…I forgot about the cost of mailing these cards to you. Check Out My Cards (COMC) will be handling fulfillment of the physical Game Dated Moments cards, like they do for E-Pack inserts. Whenever you transfer a card from E-Pack to COMC, and then have that card shipped to you, there is a $0.25 surcharge per card. Oh, and an additional $3.99 if you select the cheapest shipping method.
Assuming that the Game Dated Moment set tops out at 148 cards, our math now looks like this:
($16.75 x 37) + (148 x $0.25) + $3.99 = $660.74
That’s a lot of money for 148 new, non-vintage cards.
Problem #3 – Poor punctuation
Another problem I have is with the name itself: Game Dated Moments. It’s a fine name, but there really needs to be a hyphen between “Game” and “Dated,” since it’s a compound adjective, like “defensive-minded defenseman” or “one-trick pony.”
Game-Dated Moments…ahhh, I feel better getting to type it that way, even though that’s not how it’s spelled on the wrapper.
(Then again, the “wrapper” isn’t really a wrapper, since it is just a digital image and not actually being wrapped around any cards. We live in strange times, my friends.)
But there are some potentially positive aspects to Game(-)Dated Moments.
Positive #1 – Fan input
Upper Deck is encouraging hockey collectors to tweet Upper Deck’s Twitter account about what highlights and events from the 2017-18 season they would like to see featured on a Game Dated Moment card, using the hashtag #PickTheMoment.
Fans won’t have the ultimate say — this is to keep things balanced between the teams represented — but it is still nice that fans can influence and shape a set of cards that they collect.
Positive #2 – It’s a real set of cards
As much as I admire Topps for all they try to do with their Topps Skate digital trading card platform, having a card in my hand — or a set of cards that I can put into nine-pocket pages and look at in the future — means more to me than images of cards on my smartphone. The Topps NOW cards are great for baseball fans, because those actually get printed and shipped to collectors. The Topps NOW cards for hockey collectors are just “meh” because they exist only in cyberspace.
Yes, Game Dated Moments may be an expensive set to build, but at least it’s a real set of real cards. That means a lot to most of us who still collect trading cards.
Positive #3 – Hoarding is easy, might be profitable
Once you add one pack of cards to your cart on E-Pack, you can purchase up to 99 of each Game Dated Moment pack. I think someone who spends that much on a new, print on-demand card is crazy because the more you buy, the higher the print run is. Thus, these cards won’t really be scarce if everyone buys massive quantities of them, much like cards from the 1990s aren’t worth much for that very same reason.
But, hey, if you want 99 copies of a card that commemorates the Vegas Golden Knights’ first game, more power to you.
Then again, maybe Nico Hischier, who’s first-ever NHL card appeared in the set during its first week, has a breakout rookie year. That could increase the demand for this card. Or some collectors might jump on the Game-Dated-Moments bandwagon mid-season, and want to buy or trade for the cards that they missed.
In that case, buying a few extra cards may pay off later in the season. The collector who buys some extra copies of Game Dated Moments cards that become more desirable could possibly trade them for more valuable cards later on in the season. Such is the economics of sports trading cards.
Positive #4 – Bonus achievement cards
Throughout the season, Upper Deck will reward collectors who purchase all of the Game Dated Moments cards with seven different special achievement cards. These are detailed here.
Game Dated Moments isn’t even a week old, and as of this writing there are still four days to buy the first four cards on E-Pack. It is still too early to predict how this set plays out, and how well it will be received by hockey collectors.
Do you plan on buying Upper Deck’s Game Dated Moments hockey set for the 2017-18 season? Leave a comment and let me know why or why not. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.