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2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey Review

The Skybox Metal Gems, a treasure trove from the late 1990s, are not just beloved cards but also highly valuable.

Their claim to fame is the exquisite Precious Metal Gems cards, hailed as the top inserts of that era. In this release, Upper Deck keeps the memories of its golden days alive.

This relatively new addition to the Upper Deck roster, introduced in 2020-21, is yet to establish its dominance in the hockey release roster.

But could it be the next big thing when it drops July 19th? Or will it remain a retro curiosity? Uncover the potential in our 2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey review.

History Of Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey

Upper Deck made a monumental entrance into the card-making scene with its 1989 Upper Deck Baseball release, setting new industry standards.

As the 1990s unfolded, competitors caught up, adopting similar techniques and materials. This necessitated Upper Deck’s repositioning among its peers, sparking a new era of innovation and competition.

The Metal Universe franchise, a testament to this era, remains a symbol of the industry’s evolution and Upper Deck’s resilience.

In the late 1990s, Fleer distinguished itself from the competition with its innovative approach.

In 1997, they unveiled the Precious Metal Gems inserts, often referred to as “PMGs.” These one-of-a-kind cards were part of the Metal Universe release, boasting a unique and captivating design.

Equally noteworthy was Fleer’s ability to create a sense of exclusivity, making these cards highly coveted. This blend of innovation and exclusivity continues to pique the interest of collectors and enthusiasts.

The comeback

Upper Deck was smart enough to purchase Fleer and revive this franchise for basketball in 2008-09. However, they made the mistake of changing the design.

It was now far less attractive than in its Fleer prime and proved far less popular. Nonetheless, Upper Deck has soldiered on with the Metal Universe product.

Over the years, the company lost the rights to all the major American sports, aside from hockey. Therefore, they could only issue these cards for hockey.  

For years, Upper Deck has paid tribute to Fleer and Skybox, the pioneers of the 1990s card revolution, in various releases.

In a bold move in 2020-21, Upper Deck resurrected the original franchise, giving birth to Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey. This was a daring embrace of 1990s nostalgia and a potential successor to the now-defunct Fleer Retro and Fleer Showcase products.

Despite losing the rights to all major American sports, Upper Deck has persisted with the Metal Universe product, keeping the legacy alive.

2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey release date

This release was unleashed on the unsuspecting public on April 17, 2024. That makes it a late-season drop since the NHL season ends in June. But let’s be thankful for products released during the season.

Significantly, since the first edition of this release, the 2020-21 version dropped on September 8, 2021, well after the end of the relevant season. The following year was worse, and 2021-22 was also a post-end-of-the-season release.

So, we salute Upper Deck for moving in the right direction. The late release dates certainly did not help garner excitement for this release in the past.

2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey release formats

This release traditionally combines retail and hobby editions. In previous versions, there were only hobby and blaster editions.

That also appears true for 2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey.

Hobby Box

  • 7 cards per pack.
  • 15 packs per box
  • 16 boxes per case
  • Look for 5 Meltdown, Constellations, T Tauri Star, Energetic Explosions, 3 Skybox Premium Prospects Cards, 3 2008-09 Metal Universe Retros Cards, 1 Soul of the Game, Premium Player, 9.461e KM Card, 1 #’d Insert Card, and 1 Z-Force Card per box on average.
  • The boxes sell for $199.95

Blaster

2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey pros

The real advantage, and the entire reason for this release’s existence, is the inclusion of the PMGs. Indeed, this iteration of Fleer/Skybox nostalgia revived the product’s original name, Skybox Metal Universe, to center those inserts.

When this product first dropped, people didn’t like the designs. Indeed, most people outright hated them. But to Upper Deck’s credit, they took much criticism to heart and improved the designs.

From the vaguely futuristic look of the inaugural 2020-21 set, they moved to one that respects the classics and has the traditional look we all crave.

After all, no one is buying a nostalgia product to be blown away by fresh new designs.

2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey cons

The reception for this product in the hobby has been relatively poor since the first release.

The price of $150 per box was considered high for hockey then. Meanwhile, many who bought in were shocked at the level of the quality control, which was exceedingly poor.

Customers reported dinged corners, scratched surfaces, missing hits, and many other problems. Many Upper Deck products have these issues, but this one seems a bit worse.

However, perhaps the biggest and most insistent problem is that people have been consistently unhappy with the reimagined PMGs. Most users believe they are pretty ugly. And indeed, some of the previous versions have been.

They were too busy in their designs. The new ones look much better because they have a more back-to-basic feel. Hopefully, that will mollify the critics somewhat.

The product also has sticker autos, which are never a good thing. But you can’t expect anything else in $200 boxes in the hobby. What do you expect in this economy, folks?

Rookie Class Of 2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey

This is the most anticipated and coveted rookie class in hockey for years. Aside from the presence of Connor Bedard, the best young hockey player seen in eons, it isn’t particularly loaded.

His presence alone will likely guarantee higher value for this year’s boxes for all products. Yes. Even this one. But there is always a lot of young talent coming into the league.

Other great players in this cohort include Marco Rossi, Matthew Coronato, and Brock Faber.  

2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey checklist review

The product has a base set of 200 players. The 200-card base set is divided into veterans (#1-100), stars (#101-150; 1 per pack), and rookies (#151-200; 1 per pack).

Parallels

The 2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey release has a very sparse lineup of parallels compared to most other releases.

Base Parallels

  • Blue Spectrum FX – 1:5 (Blaster)
  • Purple Spectrum FX – #/199 (Blaster)
  • Printing Plates – 1/1

Base Stars/Rookies Parallels

  • Blue Spectrum FX – 1:10 (Blaster)
  • Purple Spectrum FX – #/199 (Blaster)
  • Printing Plates – 1/1

Inserts

The inserts are why anyone buys Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey. Specifically, the classic throwback PMG inserts. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect with these cards.

Precious Metal Gems

The key to the popularity of the original PMGs from the late 1990s wasn’t just their excellent design. It was also the scarcity.

However, since the PMGs are the key to this entire product, there are more of them. This time, they come in four different variations:

  • Precious Metal Gems (classic)
  • 1997-98 Metal Universe Retros
  • PMG 2008-09 Metal Universe Retros PMG 
  • 2013 Metal Universe Retros PMG

Upper Deck has divided them into various tiers of rarity. Here is an overview:

Base/Stars/Rookies PMG Parallels

  • Red PMG – #/100
  • Green PMG – #/10
  • Gold PMG – 1/1

1997-98 Retros PMG Parallels 

  • Red PMG – #/100 (#11-100)
  • Green PMG – #/100 (#1-10)
  • Gold PMG – 1/1

2008-09 Retros PMG Parallels 

  • Red PMG – #/100 (#11-100)
  • Green PMG – #/100 (#1-10)
  • Gold PMG – 1/1

2013 Retros PMG Parallels 

  • Red PMG – #/100 (#11-100)
  • Green PMG – #/100 (#1-10)
  • Blue PMG – #/50
  • Gold PMG – 1/1

Other Inserts

The PMG cards are the real draw here. But there are other inserts as well:

  • 1990 Skybox Retro Metal (1:240 packs)
  • 2008-09 Metal Universe Retros (1:5 packs)
  • 2013 Metal Universe Retros (1:240 packs).
  • Jambalaya (1:960 packs)
  • Metal-X (1:480 packs)
  • Net-Rageous (1:343 packs)
  • NOYZ BOYZ (1:960 packs)
  • Martensite (1:160 packs)
  • Goose Eggs (1:400 packs)
  • 9.461e KM (1:60 packs)
  • Constellations (1:10 packs)
  • Energetic Explosions (1:14 packs)
  • Premium Player (1:38 packs)
  • Quick Strike (1:300 packs)
  • T Tauri Star (1:15 packs)
  • The Business (1:480 packs)
  • Vivacity (1:300 packs).
  • Skybox Premium Prospects (1:5)
  • Z-Force (1:15)

Autos

There are a few autos available here, coming in at an average of six per box. You can find the following:

  • Base Silver Autographs (1:120 packs)
  • Base Stars Silver Autographs (1:600 packs)
  • Base Rookies Silver Autographs (#/399 or #/199) cards
  • 2008-09 Metal Universe Retros Autographs (1:480 packs)
  • 9.461e KM Autographs (#/35)
  • Constellations Autographs (1:1,500 packs)
  • Energetic Explosions Auto (1:1,200 packs)\
  • Meltdown Autographs (1:1,000 packs)
  • Premium Player Autographs (#/25)
  • Skybox Premium Prospects Star Emeralds Autographs (#/25)
  • Soul of the Game Autographs (#/35)
  • T Tauri Star Autographs (1:1,000 packs).
  • For rookies only, you can find the Blue (#/50) parallels.

2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey value

Since the first release of Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey, there have been insistent complaints that this product is too expensive for its contents,

In our current era, there are no secrets from the collectors. They can see breaks and know their chances of hitting a big card. Traditionally, people have been very unhappy with what this product offers.

So, we know it has a pretty bad reputation. But sometimes products defy the common wisdom about them. There is no substitute for crunching the numbers.

Wax

There aren’t too many back years for this product. It first surfaced during the COVID-19 boom. But we can still try to learn from the few years we have.

2020/21 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey Hobby Box$104.95
2021/22 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey Hobby Box$54.95
2022/23 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey Hobby Box$64.95

As you can see very clearly, this is not a good wax investment. I would say more. It is rare to see a product that ALWAYS sells for significantly less than the price it fetches when new.

It shows that when collectors complain that this set isn’t worth the money, they have a point.

But that is a testament to the great value of Bedard cards and not this release. Indeed, you will probably do much better elsewhere with his cohort.

The one saving grace is that this box has Connor Bedard and will almost certainly be worth more than the previous boxes. It may even be significantly more valuable than the current buying price.

Singles

Does this release do any better for single cards? That is a good question to ask, since the boxes aren’t worth much, but you may want to pick up some Connor Bedard cards from this release, particularly if you are a fan of the PMG format.

2021-22 Skybox Upper Deck NHL Metal Universe Connor McDavid Neon Icon Auto SSP (Raw)  $222.75
2022-23 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey KYLE CONNOR Retro Red PMG /100 (Raw)  $40

Yeah, that is pretty much it. Not many sales of singles from this product at any price. There are a few more with an undisclosed final price on eBay.

But this is just a sad list. In all my time reviewing sports card products, I have never seen such a sad list of sales.

Final word of the 2023/24 Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey review

The Upper Deck Skybox Metal Universe Hockey product is in a league of its own when it comes to lack of value. Usually, weak releases have a few strong card sales, featuring big stars and 1/1s.

They have strong years for wax because of the rookie cohorts. But as far as I can see, this release has none of that. Sure, this year has Connor Bedard and should fare better. But how much better? I have little hope.

I don’t often write this kind of thing, but to Upper Deck: sometimes it’s good to know when to cut your losses. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, to revive Skybox Metal Universe Hockey. But it just didn’t work.

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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