By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

Another year, another release of Artifacts from Upper Deck. Not even the strict constraint to produce “only” 11 sets this year could stop the folks at Sea Otter Place from producing Artifacts again. This year, a hobby box of Artifacts includes 10 packs of 4 cards each and should yield 3 memorabilia cards, 2 rookies and 1 rookie redemption card as well as 1 autographed card and 1 rare parallel card. For this assortment of hits, you can expect to have to fork out in excess of $75 and it can even go as high as over $100 (in Canadian currency in certain hobby shops). Personally, every year I do crack at least a box of Artifacts and I was looking forward to assessing this year’s effort.

First Impressions

Upon first inspection, it appears that Upper Deck has played it rather safe. It doesn’t seem like anything will be ground breaking about this product. I guess their view is why fix something that is not broken. In the past few years in the hobby, Artifacts has been THE product to collect for parallel fans but with the arrival of Panini and Certified on the scene, those rainbow junkies have now got other options, will Upper Deck manage to keep its consumer base?

Description

As always, the base card design of Artifacts has got a noble look about it. With the various background colors and the ever present shiny bottom borders and team logo straight in the middle of the card, it oozes with class. The same shiny material is used to spell out the player’s name and his number and overall, this works very well. We can say what we will about Upper Deck but they do know their stuff. I especially like the design of the rookie cards with the player at the forefront against a backdrop that looks a little bit as if the sun is rising and it is in some way the dawn of a new day. As for the game-used cards, there is nothing really new about them, the Frozen Artifacts and Tundra Tandems cards have been around for quite some time and they still look more of less the same. The same comment is also appropriate for another staple set of the product the Autofacts autographed cards.

Box Details

Packs per box: 10
Cards per pack: 4
Base set: 200 (rookies, legends and stars included, a further 42 rookie redemptions can also be     added)
Price: $76.00 to $105.00
Check out the checklists here: http://sports.upperdeck.com/collectorszone/cardsethome.aspx?sid=56116

Sets

As per usual, Artifacts packs in the regular base set, rookies, legends, stars and rookie redemptions in the main set. On the memorabilia front, we have the “Frozen Artifacts”, “Tundra Tandems”, “Tundra Trios”and “Treasured Swatches”. Of course, all the cards are produced in various degrees of parallel and if you do check out the checklist page you will be almost overwhelmed by just how many of them there are.  The same is also true on the autograph front, as well as the usual “Autofacts” we are presented with plenty of autographed versions of base, legends and stars cards.

The Break

The box yielded the right number of hits for 2 rookies, 1 rookie redemption, 1 autograph card, 3 game-used cards, one parallel /25 card and 2 legends. It’s always a good start to get the right number of hits as for what the hits actually were well, here is the breakdown:

Legends: Wayne Gretzky 364/999, Phil Esposito 183/999

Parallel:  Tyler Myers 02/25

Rookies: P.K Subban 369/999, Nate Prosser 247/999

Autofacts: Sergei Shikorov

Frozen Artifacts: Bob Bourne 19/50

Tundra Tandems: Cam Neely and Marian Hossa 65/125

Jersey and Patch Parallel: Joe Thornton 43/50

Comments

While the box delivered all the hits it was meant to, one can start to wonder if Artifacts does not need a major overhaul when it comes to the game-used sets. It is a fact nowadays that the demand for game-used card is rapidly going down and so is their value. For Artifacts to maintain itself in the price range it is currently, there may be a need to be more adventurous and to bring something new to the table, or at least something new to the product. Collectors are hungry for new concepts and if Upper Deck wants to retain its share of the market it needs to take the lead in innovation. Furthermore, pulling a memorabilia card of a player/team that doesn’t get any hobby love these days is even worst than it use to be because their values (in trading or selling terms) are as low as they can be. From this break, I very much doubt that I will manage to find someone who wishes to take Bob Bourne off my hands.

As for the parallel nature of the product, some love it and some hate it. Personally, I would do away with it. I am a player collector and the last thing I want is to get many version of the same card with a different numbering. When I get cards of my PC guys, I want a different picture on them. That’s just me though, there are plenty of collectors who will have the opposite view.

I cannot fault the product on its design however,  when it comes to the base cards at least. They do look gorgeous and the card stock is thick enough. The shiny borders at the bottom of the cards further enhance the overall look and make for a product that is very pleasing on the eye. That being said, I am not overly keen on the black and white photography featured on the Tundra Tandems cards .

Final Ratings
Overall Design: 3.5/5
Value: 3/5
Fun: 4/5
Rebuy: 3/5
Variety: 4/5

Total: 70%

In closing, I cannot say that I have been particularly impressed by Artifacts this year. There is a new player on the ice and I really feel that Upper Deck should try to up its game and change things up a little. We need new releases, products that will interest us and that will pack hits that will make us curious and force us to buy the product.