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2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Review

2023-24 upper deck hockey series 2

We are all waiting with bated breath for the release of the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey. Sure, we love the flagship hockey product. But that isn’t it.

We will finally get Connor Bedard’s Young Guns in this release. That is almost enough to clinch it right there. The 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey release will be a big gun that few hockey fans will be willing to miss.

But what about the product more generally? Does it hold up as a buy? Are there going to be good Young Guns in this release besides the self-explanatory one? Read the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Review.

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History of Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey 

Upper Deck burst into the hobby with its landmark 1989 baseball release. It was printed on higher-quality paper than any cards we had seen. It also featured an exceptionally high level of action photography.

It was a breath of fresh air that raised the standards of the hobby for good. The popularity of that release allowed the Carlsbad, California-based company to seek out and receive licenses to all the major sports leagues in the United States.

The company jumped into the hockey game in time for the 1990/91 season, when we first saw the launch of Upper Deck Hockey. It was a set that redefined hockey cards.

Often released sporadically or with lower-quality sets, Upper Deck took hockey seriously. The Topps and O-Pee-Chee cards weren’t as attractive. Just as serious as baseball. From the start, this set was absolutely beautiful.

And we have to give Upper Deck credit for generally (with the odd exception) keeping that standard until now.

Changing the division

The initial set consisted of 550 cards. Because of its size, the Upper Deck Hockey is divided into two parts. But it wasn’t a Series 1 versus Series 2 situation to start.

Instead, the company released a Low Series, which held the lion’s share of all the cards. Four hundred of them, to be exact. Meanwhile, the High Series was made up of the other 150 cards.

That was a pretty awkward way of dividing the cards. So, Upper Deck adjusted the release into an equal-sized Series 1 and Series 2. Since then, the California company has released the set in this format yearly.

The introduction of Young Guns cards in their modern design towards the end of the 1990s played a massive role in the popularity of the flagship release. Those rookie cards have reached an enviable status, which rookie cards in other flagship releases cannot compete with.

2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey release date

2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey is scheduled for release on February 28, 2024.

That is a pretty reasonable time to release the second installment of the Upper Deck flagship. The 2023-24 NHL season started on Oct 10, 2023, and will last until April 18, 2024. If so, it should be out less than two months before the regular season ends.

That means Connor Bedard’s mania may cool down somewhat. But it’s still a reasonably timed release.

How does this compare to previous years? Last year, things were pretty bleak on this front. Series 2 dropped on April 5, 2023. That is a mere 3 days before the end of the regular season. The year before that was even worse.

The 2021-22 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey set was released on June 15, 2022. That was 11 days before the Stanley Cup was awarded. Dude, that was not cool.

We are now back more or less to when this product was released in those simpler days of 2019-20 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey.

Therefore, we salute Upper Deck for improving its annual schedule. Indeed, Panini has also made strides in this regard. It’s easy to complain when things go wrong. But here at Cardlines, we are tough but fair. Well done, Upper Deck. You listened to the collectors and improved things.

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2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey release formats

There is still some time until the official release of 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey.

Therefore, we do not have all the details about the release formats we would like. But based on what we do know and previous years, this is the lineup of release formats we can expect.

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Hobby Box

  • 12 cards per pack
  • 12 packs per box
  • 12 boxes per case
  • Look for 6 Young Guns® Cards, 10 Director of Boards, Ecliptic, Instinctive, and PC’s Cards (New!), 6 Honor Roll® and UD Portraits Cards, 4 UD Canvas® Cards (Includes Young Guns®, Retired & Program of Excellence Subset Cards), 3 Deep Roots Cards (New!), 2 Director of Boards, Ecliptic, Instinctive and/or PC’s – Sparkle Parallel Cards (New!), 1 Base Set – Clear Cut Parallel, UD Canvas® – Black & White Parallel or Fluorescence Red Card, 1 Base Set – Outburst Parallel Card (Veteran or Young Gun), 1 Monster Season or Glaring Card (New!), 1 Blue Dazzlers Card, and 1 Wildcard (Includes all Rare Ratio’d & #’d Cards) per box on average.
  • A box presells for $299.95
  • A case presells for $3,549.95

Blaster

  • 12 cards per pack.
  • 4 packs per box
  • 20 per case
  • Look for 3 inserts per pack on average
  • A blaster presells for $29.95
  • A case presells for $594.95

Gravity Feed Box

We know there will be a Gravity Feed Box for this release. However, its specifications have not yet been confirmed.

  • 36 packs per box
  • 8 cards per pack
  • A case will also be available this year
  • Last year Upper Deck Hockey Gravity Feed Box currently resells for $115

Tin Box

  • 12 cards per pack
  • 8 packs + 1 3-card Exclusive Dazzlers Bonus Pack per box
  • 12 boxes per case
  • Look for 3 inserts per pack on average
  • A tin box presells for $64.95
  • A case presells for $774.95

Retail Box

We believe a Retail Box format release will be released as part of the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey package. However, we do not have all the details yet. It is likely to contain the following:

  • 8 cards per pack
  • 24 packs per box
  • 20 per case
  • The 2022-23 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Retail Box currently sells for $39.95
  • Last year’s case currently goes for $599.95

2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey pros

The most significant advantage of this release is the inclusion of Connor Bedard. No rookie is a sure thing for superstardom, but this kid is as close as it gets.

We are privileged to have Bedard entering hockey while Victor Wembanyama enters the basketball world. It is just a great time for rookies. The problem is that Upper Deck knows that and has raised the price accordingly. More about that is below.

The other to like for this release is that it will be available on e-Pack. That is a great way to hunt for the Connor Bedard Young Guns card without leaving the comfort of your couch. Well, we do that by ordering anyway.

But this doesn’t even involve getting up to get the mail. You can buy packs online and open them. Then, you may request hard copies of the cards you hit.

Considering the high price of the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey boxes, the existence of e-packs may be a massive advantage. We don’t know exactly why the prices of this product are so high.

However, many believe it is because of the greed of distributors. We can test that theory when e-packs come online without an intermediary. Either way, it will undoubtedly be cheaper than many physical products. 

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2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey cons

The price for 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey is far higher than hockey fans are used to dealing with. There was a lot of rumbling when 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey came out at $130. The new boxes are well over double that.

Hockey collectors live in a different world from, say, basketball collectors. They are used to having the possibility of getting excellent hits without a considerable investment.

The prices for this product threaten to upsend that fun aspect of collecting this sport. And, of course, one of the reasons hockey boxes cost less is because the most significant hits do not go for the same massive prices baseball, basketball, and football cards do.

Therefore, the fear is that this high price for a flagship product could signal a new era for hockey cards. One where they are charged as much as other significant sports without enjoying the same value.

The truth is, the $300 Upper Deck charges for a flagship product are concerning. Topps baseball hobby boxes are relatively inexpensive. Are they going to start pumping those up to $300 when there is a rookie they feel can justify it?

We saw Panini do the same thing with Prizm (the flagship adjacent to them). The precedent is concerning. There is no way around that.

Upper Deck Hockey is not a high-end product

Meanwhile, this remains a flagship product. So, most of the cards are not worth much. The boxes are priced as if everyone will hit a Connor Bedard Young Guns card.

But in reality, most cases (which I will remind you are now going for OVER $3,500) will contain none or one. There is no way that buying a Connor Bedard Young Guns card outright will not be cheaper than buying enough hobby boxes (or retail) to hit one. And hockey fans are very aware of that.

It will be interesting to see if hockey collectors will pay these inflated prices because they are not used to that. If you look at the various hobby forums, they are full of folks saying things like, “I bought this every year, and now I am done collecting hockey.”

We know that message board dwellers are drama queens. And there are seemingly people saying that about every release recently. However, this is an incredibly dramatic price release among a constituency that is not used to paying this much money.

Therefore, some of these folks mean it. What may save Upper Deck is a crossover from other sports fans because everyone is excited about Connor Bedard, including very casual hockey fans, who do not usually collect.  

Quibbles aside from the price

The Upper Deck flagship releases had their share of problems, even at the traditional price. One common complaint was that, aside from the beloved Young Guns, there are few cards in the release with value.

After all, the base cards are virtually worthless. Most of the inserts are mediocre. There aren’t many autos or memorabilia cards. Furthermore, most of the Young Guns are also useless. That seems like an even worse problem at the current price points.

That comes down to a longstanding problem in this release. The inserts that are not Young Guns are pretty mediocre. Upper Deck should put more effort into this. After all, the flagship product carries the rest of their catalog.

In recent years, complaints over damaged cards have also become more common. There is a quality control issue with Upper Deck, and it seems particularly bad with the flagship release.

The company often replaces your cards, but getting your hits damaged takes the fun out of ripping. The complaint about Series 2 last year was particularly notable.

Even more quibbles

But even the local and quiet set builders are increasingly angry at these releases. Some note they keep getting the same cards at odds that do not make sense. At the same time, some of the base cards seem to be almost impossible to get. This is likely another quality control problem for Upper Deck.

The complete checklist isn’t out yet. But the information we do have includes no information at all on autographs. That would imply that they are not putting much stress on that element, which would be nothing new.

It’s fine when a cheap flagship product doesn’t produce many autos. But once you pay a good $300 per box, you expect the odd signature here and there. Similarly, this release doesn’t have much from the memorabilia side of the spectrum, either. That is a problem for this price point.

2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey checklist

We don’t have the checklist yet. We know Connor Bedard is in it. Unfortunately, so do Upper Deck and the distributors. But we don’t have all the other details quite yet.

Parallels

An expanded list of base and Young Guns parallels in 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey. New ones include the nice-looking Deluxe (#/250) and Outburst Red (#/25).

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Base (#251-450)

  • Outburst – 1:15 packs
  • Clear Cut – 1:48 packs (Hobby)
  • Deluxe – #/250
  • Exclusives – #/100
  • Outburst Red – #/25
  • High Gloss – #/10
  • Outburst Gold – 1/1

The rookie class of 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey

Luckily, we have the full Young Guns checklist in this release. Here they are:

451. Connor Bedard
452. Damien Giroux
453. Tyler Angle
454. Waltteri Merela
455. Maxence Guenette
456. Jackson LaCombe
457. Clay Stevenson
458. Nick Swaney
459. Joel Teasdale
460. Ty Emberson
461. Stanislav Svozil
462. Alex Laferriere
463. Matt Murray
464. Mackie Samsokevich
465. Tye Kartye
466. Emil Andrae
467. Luke Philp
468. Leo Carlsson
469. Hugh McGing
470. Matt Tomkins
471. Justin Sourdif
472. John Beecher
473. Hardy Haman Aktell
474. Zach Benson
475. Walker Duehr
476. Uvis Balinskis
477. Mikael Pyyhtia
478. Matthew Poitras
479. Bobby McMann
480. Tristan Luneau
481. Michael Kesselring
482. Fraster Minten
483. Samuel Knazko
484. Lucas Condotta
485. Arturs Silovs
486. Kevin Korchinksi
487. Billy Sweezey
488. Pavel Mintyukov
489. Ryan Shea
490. John Ludvig
491. Hunter Shepard
492. Dmitri Voronkov
493. Ilya Solovyov
494. Daemon Hunt
495. Nikolas Matinpalo
496. Connor Zary
497. Mason Lohrei
498. Marc Del Gaizo
499. Raphael Lavoie
500. Checklist: Bedard/Carlsson

Bedard has been ridiculously good in his first NHL season. That has removed the doubts people had that he had been overhyped. No one else is remotely in his league, but what else is new?

Of course, Upper Deck had to put a lot of talent in Series 1 to alleviate anger over delaying his Young Guns card to Series 2. So many of the best players already saw the light in that release.

Nonetheless, there are other promising rookies to look at here. Leo Carlsson is another great name on this list. The #2 NHL Draft pick in the 2023 Draft is already a regular for the Swedish national team at 19 and has a tremendous hockey brain and lots of upside.

Inserts

As we have mentioned, one of the main drawbacks of the Upper Deck flagship releases is the lack of good inserts. Aside (of course) from the legendary Young Guns inserts.

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Young Guns

Let’s start with the most solid insert of all. The Young Guns. They come in one per 2 packs, as usual.

We already listed all the players involved, and of course, Connor Bedard is the main guy you are looking for. New parallels are offered for Young Guns.  including Deluxe (#/250) and Outburst Red (#/25). Here are the parallels involved:

Young Guns (#451-500)

  • Outburst – 1:60 packs
  • Clear Cut – 1:144 packs (Hobby)
  • Deluxe – #/250
  • Exclusives – #/100
  • Outburst Red – #/25
  • High Gloss – #/10
  • Outburst Gold – 1/1

UD Canvas

Often seen as “the other good insert in the product,” UD Canvas cards are a nice consolation when you haven’t hit the Young Guns cards you were looking for.

The set contains an excellent selection of 150 veterans and rookies (#C121-C270). This release includes the Retired/Program of Excellence short prints. These did not feature in Series 1, so seeing them here is excellent.

Here is a full breakdown of the insert’s parallels:

  • UD Canvas: Base – 1:4 packs; Black & White – 1:48 packs.
  • UD Canvas Young Guns: Base – 1:24 packs; Black & White – 1:216 packs.
  • UD Canvas Retired: Base – 1:96 packs; Black & White – 1:864 packs.
  • UD Canvas Program of Excellence: Base – 1:96 packs; Black & White – 1:964 packs.
  • UD Canvas Printing Plates (1/1).
  • UD Canvas Signatures cards.

Now that we have got the good stuff out of the way. Here are the other inserts featured in this release.

UD Portraits (1:7 packs)

The UD Portraits series has been an excellent supplement to the UD Canvas insert. Some of the designs in previous years have been questionable (though always lots of fun). However, this time, Upper Deck knocked it out of the park.

They have the players decked out like soldiers and nobles in classic portraits. Do young 21st-century hockey players look pretty awkward with their faces superimposed on those images? Absolutely? Do we love it even more because of that? You betcha.

These cards come in 1:7 hobby packs. If you are lucky, you might pull a Silver Frame (/99), Red Frame (/25), and Printing Plates (1/1), which are also available.

Dazzlers (1:12 Packs)

The Dazzlers insert should be a slam dunk. It has a very panini-looking neon background for big stars. As we know, those cards can be beautiful when done right. These cards are also 1:12 packs, which are a bit more scarce than most Upper Deck flagship inserts.

But the execution is off, and the Dazzler’s cards are surprisingly unattractive. Therefore, the values of these inserts are also remarkably low. A missed opportunity here.

Day With The Cup (1:2,000 packs)

Upper Deck is trying to rebrand Day With The Cup as a longshot short print. This insert has appeared in several of their products before. It shows players enjoying loving and romantic moments with the Stanley Cup.

Think I’m joking? Just look at any of these cards and tell me I am wrong. It is now so hard to get, and these cards are so much fun, so I think they will have value, which is good because previous versions sold for very little.

Deep Roots (1:4 packs)

Upper Deck tells us this insert features the “foundational players” of the NHL. We are not sure what that means. Maybe you do? Just kidding.

The example shown in the promo kits features Nathan MacKinnon, who has spent his entire career as a center for the Colorado Avalanche. The image shows him with deep roots spouting into the ground, so it’s easy to see what they are getting at. The Deep Roots cards have a pretty deep checklist with 50 cards.

You can also get them in their purple parallel at a rate of 1:144 packs. While the cards are lovely, they are too common to have great value.

Ecliptic (1:6 packs)

The new Ecliptic inserts are pretty cool looking. They use the geometric ellipse shape to maximize effect by showcasing players in mid-stroke.

The new inserts are attractive enough that a low-numbered version could have some value. You can also find the Ecliptic cards in the Sparkle (1:30 packs) and Gold Sparkle (1:720 packs) form.  

Fluorescence (1:36 packs)

A far more successful effort than, say, Dazzlers. Flouresecne applies the simple concept of fluorescent light to the lettering. They come in the following variations: Red is the common, Gold (/150), Blue (/50), Pink (/15), and Green (/5).

The juxtaposition of the player’s works and these cards looks lovely. It also helps that these babies only appear in Series 2, giving the second part of the flagship release its flavor.

But the value, even for low-numbered cards, is shockingly low. Folks, give these lovely creations some love.

Highlighters (1:96)

These cards are meant to look like they were colored by the highlighters we used in high school. And they succeed. All too well. Those colors were not the height of aesthetics and did not work for hockey cards. It also seems like Upper Deck is a bit desperate for ideas here.

Also, why don’t the cards refer to highlights of the year or the career? Where is your eye for puns, folks? To make the cards more worthwhile, they start at 1:96 packs. They come in yellow 1:96 packs), Orange (1:288 packs), Pink (1:1,536 packs) and Green (1:4,608 packs).

Honor Roll (1:3 packs)

The Honor Roll inserts highlight the best players in the league, including some cherished veterans. They do so through a design that can be best described as “junk wax” chic. I like the retro look in principle, but these cards have very little value.

Monster Season (1:15 packs)

Are you a big fan of Connor McDavid? Well, so are the folks at Upper Deck! They dedicated a massive 82-card series to the Hart Trophy winner.

The set has a card for every single Edmonton Oilers game. It gives you a picture and a write-up for each game. It’s not much for value, but this could be fun to complete if you are a mega fan.

Population count

Did you like these Population Count inserts in previous editions of Flagship? Me neither. But they are back anyway! There isn’t a serial number or anything. But you can see prominently how scarce they are.

These cards look like they are graded and have a number on the top, which tells you how many copies of those cards are circulating. The Population count cards come in 1000, 500, 100, 50, 25, 10 and 1 denominations.

The concept isn’t bad, but the plain white design bugged me in Series 1. Hopefully, the execution will be better this time.

What about value? As you might expect, 1/1 of this does quite well, often for several hundred dollars. But any more common than that, and these cards underperform somewhat. It’s the design.

Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey value

I analyzed the most worthwhile hockey card investments a few months ago. At that time, I placed the flagship products in the respectable 5th place overall.

At the time, I wrote, “The prices for recent hobby boxes are meager. You can get a 2022/23 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Hobby Box for a measly $89. They do appreciate over time.”

But that is the pre-2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey talk. Now that the prices for the flagship boxes have almost tripled.

We will be looking very differently at the value of the product. Of course, prices may go down after this release. But we will believe that when we see it.

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Wax

It isn’t easy to imagine making a profit on flagship boxes at the current price points. But let’s see how hobby boxes from previous years stack up with the price increase in mind.

ReleasePrice
2017/18 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Hobby Box$179.95
2018/19 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Hobby Box$224.95
2019/20 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Hobby Box$249.95
2020/21 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Hobby Box$130
2021/22 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Hobby Box$53.95
2022/23 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Hobby Box$54.95

And there you have it. Not a single box in recent history resells for as much as the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey release is going for. That includes some ancient ones from an era when print runs were smaller and fewer people were stashing boxes.

Will Connor Bedard overcome that trend by the sheer power of his stardom? Maybe. But the boxes will likely sell for close to the higher end of this range rather than way beyond it. And what if Bedard is (somehow) a bust? We have concerns, folks.

Singles

Wax for flagship has never been the best prospect in the world. Now that the prices are up, it’s looking pretty bad. Therefore, the only possible saving grace is if the values from the singles can make up for that to some extent. But do they?

CardValue
2016-17 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Mitch Marner Young Guns Exclusives #ed /100 (BGS 9.5)$1,067.95
2005-06 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Alexander Ovechkin Young Guns (BGS 9)$825
2022-23 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Brandt Clarke Young Guns Auto (PSA 10)$599
2018 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Andrei Svechnikov Young Guns Exclusives /100 (PSA 10)$528
2022 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Juraj Slafkovsky Clear Cut Young Guns (PSA 10)$405

I should note that the one Connor Bedard card in the 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey sold at a fantastic price. There was a sale for $10,000 on December 19, 2023 on eBay.

That is why these boxes are souped up in price, of course. But the card is going at a premium because it’s an SSP and the only Bedard professional card out there. The Young Guns will do well. But not THAT well.

Aside from that, there are no monster cards in Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey. If you are very lucky and hit an awesome Young Guns card, you might have a few hundred dollars worth. That is fine for a simple flagship product. But at current prices, that is not what you expect.

The final word on 2023-24 Upper Deck Series 2

Lately, it seems every review has had the same ending. The price has increased, and I try to determine if the product is still worth buying. In this case, the dilemma is more painful than usual.

I have long been a massive fan of the Upper Deck flagship product. As a collector of other sports, I always admired how you can rip a Series 1 and Series 2 box and land an awesome Young Guns card for a minimal price.

Considering its current state, that could not last in the hobby. Will the costs of this product go back to normal? Hard to say. As anyone grocery shopping in 2024 has discovered, prices jump up far more quickly than they go down. Regardless of what inflation indexes tell us.

Putting aside the price for a minute, there is a lot right with this product. The presence of Connor Bedard in the Young Guns lineup is very exciting. Furthermore, the design is nice (as it usually is).

The inserts are more solid than they usually are. But the price increase does lay bare some drawbacks we used to paper over with this product. It doesn’t have many autos or memorabilia cards.

That means we rely on Young Guns (and to a lesser extent) on Canvas UD cards for value. Unfortunately, those aren’t worth that much on the market.

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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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