SP Authentic is perhaps best known for its popular Future Watch autographed rookie cards — and its sparse, mostly-white base card design. Like many of Upper Deck’s other hockey cards from 2020-21, SP Authentic also had a very late release. In fact, SP Authentic was not released until June 29, 2022 — three days after the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals concluded.
Fortunately, though, SP Authentic was not cancelled like other sets for the shortened 2020-21 season. And that’s a good thing, because personally, I’ve always liked SP Authentic’s clean base card design and on-card autographs. And the Future Watch autographed rookie cards may be second in popularity only to Upper Deck Young Guns when it comes to hockey rookie cards among collectors.
However, SP Authentic is more expensive now, costing around $300 for an 18-pack box. Each pack has five cards, and each box guarantees two autographed cards.
I recently got a box of 2020-21 SP Authentic. Let’s see what cards were inside.
72 Base Cards
I absolutely love the base card design of this year’s — er, I mean last year’s — SP Authentic set. Most players are pictured in their colorful home uniforms, which really pops against the mostly-white background. Silver-foil circles and a splash of team-centric color behind the players add a little flourish, as does the silver SP Authentic logo. Another design touch that I’ve always appreciated about SP Authentic is that card fronts have a matte finish, but the players have a spot varnish on their photos — meaning that the player’s picture is glossy, while the surrounding background is not.
The back design 2020-21 SP Authentic is excellent as well. The player’s head shot and the team logo are in circles, mirroring the spherical design of the front. Player vitals, five years of stats and career totals, and a short biographical blurb are also included on the back. The card backs contain a lot of information, but do not feel cluttered.
My only complaint with the base cards is that I got doubles in my box. There are 100 base cards to collect, and while my box had 72 of the 100 base cards, 12 of them were duplicates. I don’t recall this happening in boxes of SP Authentic that I opened in previous years; if a box had 72 base cards, they’d usually be all different with no duplicates within the box. I guess spotty collation — as well as a year-long delay — is another thing we can blame on the COVID-19 pandemic.
3 Celebrated Moments Short Print Cards
Cards 1 to 100 are base cards, while cards 101 to 116 are “Celebrated Moments,” featuring a horizontal design and highlighting an important moment from the 2020-21 season. I got 3 of these cards in my box.
1 Future Watch Autographed Card
The big reason for buying SP Authentic is the Future Watch Autographed rookie cards, which are serial-numbered and signed-on card. You get one of these per box. My box had Peyton Krebs, who was a rookie with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020-21, but was traded to the Buffalo Sabers early during the 2021-22 season as a part of the Jack Eichel trade. As much as I like Future Watch Autos, this one of Krebs in particular kind of loses its luster a bit since he has since changed teams.
1 Sign of the Times Autographed Card
We might as well just get right to the second autographed card in my box — and this one was interesting, to say the least. Paul Bissonnette has not played in the NHL since 2014 — almost eight years — but is the co-host of the extremely-popular “Spittin’ Chicklets” podcast. He is also a studio analyst for “The NHL on TNT.” In other words, “Biz Nasty” is arguably more popular now than he was as a player, so this is a pretty sweet autograph to get.
3 Limited Parallel Cards
Oh yes, there are parallels. The “Limited” parallels feature red foil circles, a red foil SP Authentic logo, and a “red glow” around the player. Red design elements carry over on the back, too. Although I’m not always a big fan of parallel cards, it does give player collectors another card to chase.
1 Spectrum FX Bounty Card
Spectrum FX cards have a shiny foil front that looks much better in person. The back of the card has a scratch-off area that reveals a code for a “bounty program” where you can get a Gold version of the Spectrum FX set. There are 40 different Spectrum FX cards of veteran players. You get one of these per box.
1 Spectrum FX Future Watch Bounty Card
There are also 60 Spectrum FX “Future Watch” cards of rookie players. Some of these Spectrum FX Future Watch cards are harder to pull than others, and are either Level 1 (1 in 36 packs), Level 2 (1 in 90 packs), Level 3 (1 in 90 packs) or Level 4 (odds unknown). This Victor Soderstrom card is a “Level 2” Spectrum FX Future Watch insert, which only occur one in every five boxes…so I guess I did good.
4 True Leaders Insert Cards
True Leader cards feature the men who wear the captain’s “C” for their teams. I’m a sucker for captain-themed insert sets.
4 2000-01 Retro Insert Cards
Retro inserts use the SP Authentic design from the 2000-01 season — back when Upper Deck put a little more color in the set’s design.
The 2020-21 SP Authentic Hockey set delivers what it promises: two autographs per box and a great-looking, though somewhat minimalistic, base set design. My only sticking point is that, at $300 a box, SP Authentic is pricier now than it used to be. That’s nearly $17 per pack. It’s not cheap, and you only get one rookie card per box, so keep that in mind if you decide to take a gamble and buy a box or three.
Are you collecting 2020-21 Hockey? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■