When it comes to new hockey card releases, I am frequently a late bloomer when it comes breaking boxes. This year, 2018-19 Artifacts was no different. Released October 4, 2018, Artifacts is usually one of the first products to hit the market at the start of the new season (as well as MVP and O-Pee-Chee). I hadn’t had a chance to pick this product up until recently and I wanted to share my break and thoughts with our readers.
Continuing in it’s annual tradition of including memorabilia options as well as rookie redemptions, Artifacts gives collectors a chance at a variety of “hits” without breaking the bank. For around $100, every hobby box features eight packs with four cards per pack. A break should expect to feature three premium cards which will include a combination of memorabilia cards, autographs or an Aurum insert, the all-gold foil printed cards that return for another year (which I will get to in a minute).
There should also be four serial numbered cards that are short printed high numbers or tiered color parallel variations. Finally, each box will have one rookie redemption card; everyone’s favorite box hit, although I have seen a few breaks that went without one.
When Artifacts hits the market, the cards are easily identifiable from the other Upper Deck series because of their distinct design, but putting one year up against the next can pose a daunting task. Why? Because, although unique to it’s product line, the base card design doesn’t change all that much from year to year. The 2018-19 design features the player photo cropped in front of a marbleized background that has what appears to be an old globe blended into it. There is a lot of border space used on the card front as well, giving it a sort of “column” design feel. Other front side features are the player name, sweater number, and position at the bottom, surrounded by silver foil plant/leafy/paisley design.
The backs…well the typical gripe exists here. There is a cropped close-up of the same photo used on the front, followed by all the vitals of the player. From a career stat standpoint, the total seasons are abbreviated for space and there is a career total line. I believe some of the back space Upper Deck devotes to anecdotal info about the player could be used to show a full stat breakdown.
Cards 1-100 are traditional base cards and feature a mix of current stars and up-and-comers. The next 30 cards feature what Upper Deck considers Stars. These are serial numbered #/699.
The next 30 cards feature Legends, serial numbered #/599. These feature a selection of HOFers and team superstars that have since hung up the skates in the NHL (I say that because Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Datsyuk still play in Europe). There are a couple surprises in this mix too including Shane Corson, Tony Amonte and Brian Propp, all ex-NHLers we don’t normally see in Legends sets.
Finally, the base are wrapped up by 20 rookie cards serial numbered #/999, showcasing players that got their chance in the last portion of the 2017-18 season or playoffs. Casey Mittelstadt, Jordan Greenway, and Troy Terry highlight this crop of young players.
The parallel cards look just like the regular base cards but replace the silver foil print with the color of the variation. Each variation includes a serial number based on that color. This year features Ruby #/299 or 399, Emerald #/99, Aqua #/45, Purple #/20, and Black #/5. Each of these colors is further broken down by adding autograph versions or memorabilia versions. Although, not every card in the base set has the additional “hit” parallels available.
If you are still with me and are in that camp of “base is boring,” this next part is for you: the “hits.”
First, the set is called Artifacts since the primary inclusion of hockey memorabilia is the cornerstone to the checklist. As mentioned earlier, there are hit parallels of the base cards that feature autographs as well as multiple swatch memorabilia pieces that can be anywhere from a simple white swatch, to a patch or number piece, to a laundry tag or fight strap. Some of the autograph insert sets include such titles as Auto Facts, Top 12 Rookie Signatures, Honoured Hopefuls, Lord Stanley’s Legacy or Esteemed Endorsements. The memorabilia sets include titles like Arena Artifacts, Divisional Artifacts, Honoured Hopeful Relics, Lord Stanley’s Legacy Relics, Threads of Time, Tundra Teammates Duos and Quads, or Year One Rookie Sweaters.
If we are keeping score, I received none of the above inserts in my box. My memorabilia hits were a dual jersey card of Brayden Schenn and a pretty nice Rookie Emerald dual jersey/patch of Noah Juulsen.
By now, most collector’s are familiar with the idea of redemptions. Artifacts is one of Upper Deck’s products that features these for their rookies since it is an early release product. Like them or hate them, there is an opportunity to pull some of the big name players that aren’t first included in the initial release, including low serial numbered versions and autographs. Players that can be obtained via redemption include the likes of Brady Tkachuk, Rasmus Dahlin, and my pre-season pick (and still my pick) for rookie of the year, Elias Pettersson.
I pulled a redemption card for a team out of Western Canada called the Vancouver Canucks. You may have heard of them but if not, they have the young rookie I just mentioned above. Since Upper Deck has already released their “mystery” list of what the redemptions are, I will save you the suspense. My card can be exchanged for an Elias Pettersson Rookie. I was very pleased with this result.
Which brings me to my biggest gripe with this set. The inclusion of the the Aurum cards is nothing new for Artifacts. These gold foil cards are a flashy addition to a “hit” laden product. However, Upper Deck considers these to be “hits” as well. That’s right. If you receive an Aurum card, chances are you won’t receive more than two other memorabilia or autos. What would probably be just another insert in the other Upper Deck releases becomes a “hit” in a $100 box. Keep in mind, this card has no auto or relic piece, only the shiny gold print technology. I hardly think this should be considered a hit. I think many collector’s would agree.
To make up for that, Upper Deck has included Aurum as part of their Bounty Program, giving them slightly more clout (just not in my book). For those familiar with the SPA version, it is similar. Essentially, collectors can try to obtain all 48 cards in this set, which fall about 1:20 packs, with the All Star and Rookies being 1:640 (yes I said 640). Once collected, a code can be revealed after using a dime or quarter to scratch off the back (or your really long finger nails…eww). This code can then be entered online and digitally checked off the list on your account. All collectors that complete all 48 redemptions will receive cards #49 and #50, which will inevitably be the two top rookies or draft picks from this season. If you are lucky to be one of the first 25 collectors to pull off this seemingly impossible feat, you will also benefit from a nine-card all-white Aurum set with a Gretzky auto included, all numbered #/25. As of right now, if you can believe it, there are only nine of these left.
Overall, I enjoy seeing what comes out of Artifacts every year. My box here may not have been the best but I have seen many breaks out there that fared much better than I. The design is kind of stale at this point but very expected at this point in the game. The stats on the back is always a gripe for me but it has become commonplace in cards these days. I would have rated the product higher but the inclusion of Aurum as a hit soured my score a bit. ■
Tim Parish is a writer-at-large for Puck Junk. Follow him on Twitter @therealdfg.