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A Review Of The 2023-24 Upper Deck SPx Hockey Checklist And Why It Might Be Time To Retire This Brand

2023-24 upper deck spx hockey

The SPx brand is one of those, increasingly common in hockey, emphasizing the hits’ quality over quantity. With only five cards in each box, one of which is an autograph, you need to hit it out of the park with that one card to make the box worthwhile.

We know what you think; it could be a Connor Bedard auto. That is the draw for this release and all the other 2023-24 hockey card products. But how likely is that to happen?

Considering there is the possibility of hitting more than one base in 2023-24 SPx Hockey, are the other cards in this release worth the hassle?

Read the 2023-24 SPx Hockey review to find out more.

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History of SPx Hockey

As you know, and every article on Upper Deck is obligated to remind us, the company took the hobby by storm in 1989 with a revolutionary baseball release. That placed them at the top of the sports card industry for much of the 1990s. However, retaining their powerful position in the hobby was a challenge.

Upper Deck remained a superpower in the hobby throughout the 1990s by introducing several cutting-edge products. One of the best among them, easily, was the SPx line. It was first introduced in 1995 when the $4 packs first hit stores around the country. The company described it as “SP to the X degree.” Whatever that means.

That was an incredibly high price for a pack in those heady days of the Clinton economic boom. But there was a reason people bought the cards anyway.

Each pack contained a unique winking holographic card. While the other items in the pack were usually not exciting, those cards were truly beloved and excited people.

Then there was the design concept. At the same time, most cards were still produced with a traditional junk wax look. SPx was noted for its bold and futuristic concepts. For these reasons, SPx was a huge hit right off the bat. Or the stick, in our case.

At that time, Upper Deck had licenses for all the major sports. It was a simpler and less expensive time. Therefore, SPx Hockey was not the company’s main priority. However, it was among the inaugural releases and was popular with hockey enthusiasts from the get-go.

As time went by, holograms became less desirable as the hobby entered its autograph era. People also began to realize that SPx was overproduced and had too much emphasis on veterans at the expense of rookie cards. That is always a recipe for failure.

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Jacob Chyghru

Rebranding SPx

Therefore. SPx moved away from its early emphasis to more autos and rookies, rebranding itself as “SPx Finite.” One of the significant innovations of this release was the inclusion of numbered parallels (in fact, every card was numbered, a new and exciting element at that time). It was also a great answer to accusations that the product was overproduced.

Then, in 2001, Upper Deck once again predicted the future direction of the hobby by including memorabilia cards and, eventually, RPAs. By the early 2010s, you had an RPA in every hobby box.

The designs continued to be adventurous and often seemed to work better than other Upper Deck designs of the time. Indeed, the company appears to have put its best design teams on it.

However, over time, Upper Deck began to drop the number of hits. In 2016, SPx Hockey moved to a one-card-per-pack format, trying to increase its reputation for scarcity. However, that did not make up for an apparent decline in the hits department.

Upper Deck eventually also removed the guaranteed RPA from the hobby boxes. Then they also threw the guaranteed relic over board, remaining with one auto as the only promised hit. These developments were disconcerting and undetermined the popularity of the SPx release.

Nonetheless, it has remained a fixture of the hockey release calendar despite an apparent decline in its cache and desirability in recent years.

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Max Pacioretty 2023-24 Upper Deck SPx Hockey

2023-24 SPx Hockey release date

2023-24 SPx Hockey is currently slated for a March 20, 2024 release but may be delayed. That is a bit less than a month before the last game of the regular season is scheduled. That may seem pretty late in the season, but it is still a significant improvement over the 2022-23 SPx Hockey release, which saw light on September 27, 2023.

That was more than three months after the Stanley Cup Final, which saw the Vegas Golden Knights win their first title. That was an improvement on the horrific date of the 2021-22 SPx Hockey, which arrived on March 29, 2023 (!!!), more than nine months after the Colorado Avalanche won their third Stanley Cup.

While we would like to see SPx Hockey released earlier in the season, we have to acknowledge the valiant efforts by Upper Deck to bring the release date back to a reasonable time frame. They had allowed the schedule to get away from them significantly during the supply chain crisis.

But they seem to have it under control now. Indeed, the last time they had an earlier date for SPx Hockey was back in 2018-19.

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2023-24 SPx Hockey release formats

It doesn’t get much simpler than the release formats for SPx Hockey. It has long been a hobby box-only release. There is no reason to believe that the 2023-24 product will be any different.

Hobby Box

  • 5 cards per pack
  • 1 pack per box
  • 20 per case
  • 1 Autograph Card, 4 Memorabilia and/or Tech Cards, or Non-Auto Memorabilia Cards
  • Preselling for $174.95 per box
  • A case is preselling for $3,449.95

2023-24 SPx Hockey pros

As we have discussed, SPx has two traditional advantages over other comparable releases. It has always featured particularly bold and forward-looking card designs. That continues to be an advantage in 2023-24 SPx Hockey.

Whether it is the base cards or the inserts, the cards all feature compelling and very busy backgrounds. While in some releases, that approach can result in many eyesores, SPx has once again avoided that trap.

I was particularly impressed by the patch autos this time, each with a fresh look while retaining considerable eye appeal. Well done.

The other advantage SPx featured in its early days was the hits. Start with the holograms and continue with the guaranteed RPAs. That remains true to an extent.

You still have beautiful RPAs, autos, and relic cards in SPx. But as you will see in the cons section, they are not putting as much into these boxes as they should.

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2023-24 SPx Hockey cons

There is a significant problem with the current versions of SPx, which, in my opinion, overshadows all the advantages. We are talking about a five-card box. That means there is no set completion potential here, and ripping is a concise and (often unfulfilling) process.

Card companies traditionally make up for that by providing firm, guaranteed hits. Indeed, SPx used to do that, starting with guaranteeing one winking hologram card per pack. However, they have removed the holograms and the guaranteed RPAs. Now, the only hit you will receive is an auto, usually a veteran.

Therefore, the impacts no longer make this a viable hit-heavy product. In other words, if you have only five cards, they must be more robust to sustain this kind of release.

Furthermore, SPx has fallen back into the issue that brought about the demise of its original version. It has become a wildly overproduced product. Even worse, it has developed a firm reputation for printing too many copies, as we will see in the section on value, which has become a problem for the price of singles.

Even when there is a beautiful and seemingly desirable SPx card, the value is often surprisingly low, and that is one of the main reasons. In the past, Upper Deck fixed this problem by making every card numbered.

But that was a different era when SPx was one of their main releases. Now, it seems to be pretty low on their list of priorities.

Persistent quality control issues

The lack of care Upper Deck has put into this product has other adverse consequences. We can’t speak to 2023-24 SPx Hockey yet. However, there have been particularly egregious lapses in quality control in the past.

Often, people have received packs with fewer cards than advertised, which is a problem when there are only five cards per box. In some cases, consumers have reported receiving nothing but one of those cardboard decoys.

Sure, some lucky people have received extra cards. But that is more proof that there is insufficient quality control here.  That is entirely unacceptable, and we hope Upper Deck has fixed that issue.

Finally, the product has always had too many veteran autos. Making things worse, those are sticker autos. That is pretty common for lower-end products like this. But keep in mind that when you buy an SPx Hockey box at $175, you are paying $35 per card. Seems like enough to demand an on-card auto.

The rookie class of 2023-24 SPx Hockey

Connor Bedard completely defines the 2023-24 NHL rookie class. He is undoubtedly the most significant prospect since Connor McDavid (yes, Connor is now the ultimate hockey name) and is possibly even more hyped than the Oilers superstar. We have looked at his potential and cards in a previous article.

Spoiler alert. The hype is very much justified. As DraftKings says: “To put it simply, Bedard has accomplished pretty much everything you can accomplish up to this point in a young hockey player’s career.”

But are we talking about a rookie class that has one superstar and is otherwise thin? Not quite. There is no clear second potential superstar. However, plenty of talent exists in the 2023-24 rookie class. But we also like the no. 3 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Logan Cooley, who is one of the best skaters and puck handlers to come up in years.

Adam Fantilli is another guy to watch. He is a two-way forward who tends to dominate the game on either end, always in the thick of things. And there is more great talent here. All it takes is another big star to emerge alongside Bedard to make this a bumper cohort. I think that is likely.

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2023-24 SPx Hockey checklist review

We don’t have the complete checklist yet. But as we noted, it will have Connor Bedard. What else matters? It isn’t easy to complete the checklist, considering the few cards in each box. Perhaps that is why the number of cards in the SPx base checklist is traditionally relatively modest.

There are 200 cards in total. Upper Deck has learned from past mistakes of focusing too heavily on the veterans and now includes a generous 50% of rookie cards. Each of the standard base cards is numbered 299.

Parallels

The base cards are very light on parallels. Perhaps because those cards are an afterthought in this kind of hit-heavy (allegedly at least) release. There are the base parallels that will be included:

  • Parallax Purple (/149)
  • Radiance (/100)
  • Grand Finale (/50)
  • NHL Shield Die-Cut Hologram (/25)

A few select base cards also have more exclusive autographed versions. The potential auto versions include:

  • Autograph (veterans at a rate of 1:15 packs, rookies at a rate of 1:10 packs),
  • Autograph Patch (various numberings).
  • Autograph Premium Memorabilia 1/1

The return of UD Black through 2023-24 SPx Hockey

Upper Deck is well aware that SPx is a brand in serious need of a rethink and a makeover. Therefore, they are trying different things to bring this product back on track.

The 2023-24 release includes bringing back the UD Black line. It is pretty similar to the Panini Noir idea and has a sleek design that is primarily black (duh) based on its aesthetic orientation. It appears that these will be some of the most attractive cards in the release. Therefore, this is a welcome addition.

Among the UD Black cards are UD Black Lustrous Rookie Signatures, numbered 299. You will also find Steel Signatures available at 1:240 packs.

Other auto card options include Pride of a Nation, Obsidian Scripts, and Obsidian Rookie Scripts. For memorabilia, the UD Black line has Obsidian Jerseys, which are /149 for rookies and /99 for rookies.

We doubt this will give SPx Hockey a massive boost. However, the return of UD Black is a nice touch that sets this product apart from previous years.

Autos

SPx has a grand history of autographed cards, as one of the first products to ever regularly include them. In recent years, automobiles have taken on even greater importance as the only guaranteed hit in the product. Therefore, Upper Deck has included a nice selection here. The problem is the selection may be too wide. You are guaranteed one auto per box. But when that auto can be pretty weak, that is not much of an incentive.

Auto Holographs

Having holographs as one of the auto options in the SPx Hockey release is an absolute no-brainer. But they have not made the most of the potential here. These aren’t full holograms and don’t recapture the classic 1990s look that put this release on the chart. Still, these are nice.

They come in:

  • Red
  • Gold
  • Blue 1/1

Rookie Superscripts

What can I say about these autos? They are about as bland as any card in the SPx catalog, which usually has very stellar designs. There is very little in these designs. That does not help when there is an auto sticker.

A clean design with an elegant on-card signature is a nice touch, but that is not the case here. They also do not tend to have much value, but I have seen a couple go for over $100.

Rookie Jersey Autographs

Before the term RPA was widely used, Upper Deck called these cards Rookie Jersey Autographs, and the name has stuck since.

In the past, the best cards of this sort, like a Connor McDavid, could go for well over $1,000 each. However, that was when the prestige of the SPx release was far more significant. Today, few go for more than $100. How the mighty have fallen.

You can get these in different levels of rarity:

  • /375
  • /175
  • /75
  • Spectrum parallels: /75 or /35
  • Patch Gold Spectrum 1/1

2003-04 20th Anniversary Rookie Auto Jersey

As I was saying, the Rookie Auto Jersey cards have been around for a hot minute. In this year’s release, they are reprising the 2003-04 20th Anniversary Rookie Auto Jersey design.

How does it look? Exactly like you would expect a patch auto from twenty years ago to look. A bit conservative and nothing special. That

It won’t stop Upper Deck from reprising it.

It comes in the following:

  • /99
  • Spectrum (/25)
  • Patch Spectrum (/5)
  • Patch Gold Spectrum (1/1)

SPx Signature Fabrics

These cards are a bit more exclusive than most of the autos in this release. The most common variety arrives at /99. However, these cards are veteran-only, which somewhat lowers their desirability. The best cards tend to max out at about $50.

The levels of rarity are:

  • /99
  • Spectrum (/25 or less)
  • Patch Spectrum (/10 or less)
  • Patch Gold Spectrum (1/1)

X-Over Signatures

A new entry into the wide array of SPx auto cards, the X-Over Signatures look very attractive. It does not have much of a theme, but you can get away with that when it comes to autos.

It’s the inserts that need to be more thematic. But this may be a welcome addition to the roster. Not only because it looks good but also because these cards are scarce, with the most common coming in at a /15.

It comes in:

  • Base (/15)
  • Red (/10)
  • Gold (/5)
  • Blue (1/1)

2023-24 Upper Deck SPx Hockey inserts

SPx used to have a lot of great inserts back in the day. But as it moved to an auto-heavy release, they became an increasingly unimportant part of its appeal.

As a result, there aren’t too many inserts in SPx Hockey. But does that mean the ones in the product suck? Let’s find out.

Finite Rookies

In the late 1990s, SPx was relaunched as Finite SPx, a product wherein every card was numbered. It was a pioneering idea and helped save the release at the time. Today, there is not much left of that idea.

But Finite Rookies builds on that old concept by providing a rookie-only insert with only numbered versions. That is a nice touch, though unfortunately, the numbers are pretty high for most of these, as it starts with a base number of /75.

Here is the full list with parallels:

  • Base (/799)
  • Gold (/399)
  • Green (/199)
  • Platinum (/99)
  • Silver Spectrum (/49)
  • Gold Spectrum (/25)
  • Green Spectrum (/10)
  • Platinum Spectrum (1/1)

Shadow Box

These are old favorites in this release. They feature a classic-looking frame from many previous years. Though designs have varied. Many of them have been stunningly beautiful, especially the 2019-20, among my favorites.

The old Shadow Box inserts also tend to enjoy more value on the market than you would expect from this sort of insert.

But in 2023-24 SPx Hockey, they are getting a makeover. They are now calling these inserts the Starscape Shadow Box and adding that interstellar flavor. It has eschewed the traditional look for something more modern.

The design works and will be a refreshing change. You will find the rookies at a rate of 1:15 packs and the stars in one of every 1:25 packs.

You can also find Starscape Shadow Box cards in the following parallels:

  • Silver Spectrum parallels /99
  • Gold Spectrum /10
Luke Hughes Starscape Rookie Shadow Box

2023-24 SPx Hockey value

Last year, I published an overview of the best value releases among hockey cards. I ranked them according to overall value. I was pretty harsh in my conclusions about this product. I wrote:

Shop for 2023-24 Upper Deck SPx Hockey boxes on eBay

“The cards are beautiful, and the autos are on the card. But that doesn’t always guarantee market value. You can pick up a 2021-22 Upper Deck SPX Hockey Hobby Box right now for $120. How do these babies age? Honestly, more like beer than fine wine. You can still get a 2018-19 SPX Upper Deck Hockey box for $235. That is certainly not worth the closet space.

What about the four cards inside those cheap boxes? How do they fare? Kind of sad, to be honest. Let’s say you hit a 2021-22 SPX Auston Matthews Radiance FX auto /15.

One hell of a hit, right? As a raw card, you won’t get more than $255 for it. That means most of the cards are close to worthless. Upper Deck SPX isn’t a good investment, no matter how you look at it.”

Then, adding insult to injury, I placed this product 17th out of the 17 products I ranked. Check out the article to see what I placed first.

So, it’s fair to say that I am not a big fan of this release. Nonetheless, it’s worth revisiting the product with new and updated numbers to see how well it holds up now. We must also consider that the latest release has Connor Bedard, and the others did not. So, let’s see how well the product does with that in mind.

Value

The SPx Hockey is a release with few cards. Therefore, it should be hit heavily to justify that. However, the cache of this product has taken a hit recently. But that hasn’t stopped Upper Deck from raising the price somewhat.

All this puts SPx in a unique spot in terms of value. So, with prices up and the reputation down, is 2023-24 SPx Hockey a decent investment in either wax or singles form? We crunched the numbers for you.

Wax

Many products have seen a sharp increase in price over the past year. SPx Hockey isn’t one of them. But it has increased by $50 since 2022, a pretty large percentage for this traditionally modestly priced product. As we have seen, the investment potential for this product hasn’t been high. How are the boxes faring now with the price change in mind?

ReleaseValue
2018-19 SPx Hockey Hobby Box$179.95
2019-20 SPx Hockey Hobby Box$185
2020-21 SPx Hockey Hobby Box$109
2021-22 SPx Hockey Hobby Box$69.95
2022-23 SPx Hockey Hobby Box$84.99

It is common nowadays to see boxes that don’t break even unless you return to the pandemic boom. But the performance of the SPx Hockey Hobby Box is particularly egregious. The two most recent boxes are worth less than half of the product’s current price.

The last time it broke even was pre-pandemic and a relic of when SPx had a better reputation. For wax, this is a singularly lousy investment. It is rare to see numbers this bad for any product. Especially hockey, which is often a better investment.

Of course, with Connor Bedard this product will be worth more. But how much more? Twice as much? Maybe. But that would just mean breaking even. For other products, the yield in box value will be much higher. Therefore, there are better ways to invest in Connor Bedard wax.

Singles

We have seen that SPx boxes are not a good investment. But what about singles? After all, this is supposed to be a hit-heavy release with five quality cards. Are the best cards in this release worth the investment? Or has the sagging reputation of SPx brought that value down as well?

SingleValue
2015-16 SPx Hockey Rookie Jersey Auto Connor McDavid #169 /399 (BGS 8)$1,225.00
2021-22 SPx Connor McDavid Extravagant Materials Auto #EM-CM /25 (Raw)$355
David Jiricek 2022-23 SPx UD Black Lustrous Rookie Patch Auto Clarity (Raw)$266
2021-22 SPx Rookie Auto Jersey Trevor Zegras Auto /75 (Raw)$113.68
Juuso Parssinen 2022-23 SPx UD Rookie Patch Auto #4 /49 (Raw)$109.00

Plenty of SPx cards are worth a few hundred dollars or even more. The trouble is, they are all from a decade ago. It is hard to find any recent cards worth more than a box. Notably, few of the more recent cards, even the very good ones, are graded.

People don’t take these cards that seriously anymore. I will say that some of the bigger hits are stunning and you can get them at a reasonable price. So, in that regard, they are a good buy. But in terms of investment, this product does not deliver.

Final word of the 2023-24 SPx Hockey review 

The SPx product is in a crisis. That may sound dramatic, but it is true. It was probably the worst investment in hockey already, and now it has raised its prices and looks even worse.

But Upper Deck didn’t raise the price because of greed (in this case). The issue here is that the concept is flawed. You can’t have a hits-based product at a low price. It costs too much to produce these cards, between the patches and autos and the creative designs.

Honestly, you have a product that should be worth more simply due to its contents but has suffered from a collapse in its reputation. I am unsure if there is a way out of this problem for Upper Deck. It may be time to consider retiring SPx or announcing a reboot.

But we are not Upper Deck (thankfully). What do collectors like us need to know about SPx?

The first thing is that the more recent product has not damaged the older cards too much. People still have good memories of the good old days, which keeps the old items at decent prices.

As for the newer cards, they are dirt cheap and will likely not rise in value any time soon. But if you are looking for creative designs and autos for some of the most prominent hockey players, you can get them here for cheap. But expect no return on anything.

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Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.
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