If you ask hockey card collectors for a list of brands they look forward to every year, SP Authentic would definitely be on it. The 2006-07 edition once again focuses on autographed Future Watch rookie cards, as well as their more limited autographed patch versions.
Boxes of 2006-07 SP Authentic Hockey come with 24 packs of five cards each. According to the packaging, collectors can expect to find an average of one signed rookie card per box.
A total of 100 common card gives SP Authentic plenty of room to feature the top NHL players and some big names from the past, like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. The card design is a little out there, with a combination of stripes that looks like a big letter 'K' at first glance and floating plus signs in the background. The font used for team and position info is also very small and hard to read.
Things are a lot cleaner on the card backs, which even have notes on player accomplishments from early in the 2006-07 season, a small but nice touch. The review box provided by Upper Deck came up just one card short of a full set of commons, along with 15 duplicates.
The commons also have a parallel level simply called Limited, which is numbered to 100 copies. I found a single parallel of Owen Nolan in the About.com review box.
The next 60 cards in the base set make up a subset called SP Notables. These are numbered to 999, but if every box only contains one like my sample box did, it's going to take quite a bit of effort for anyone to collect all of them.
As mentioned above, autographed Future Watch rookie cards are the big draw for SP Authentic. This year 50 first-year NHL players signed for the set, and since all of the cards are numbered to 999, the chances of pulling one of the top names is a little better than in some other products where the rookies are arranged in tiers.
The Future Watch rookies also have a Limited parallel numbered to 100. But these cards also add a player-worn patch to the autograph, so they are kind of their own animal and should be in high demand. Alas, my review box contained only a single regular signed RC of Maple Leafs center Jeremy Williams, numbered 497/999.
SP Authentic squeezes some more rookies into the set with 40 more unsigned Future Watch cards. My box also contained one of these: Blake Comeau of the New York Islanders.
Finally, some boxes also have signed Future Watch rookie cards on last year's card design and numbered as part of that set. Players like Erik Christensen, who I found in my review box, made their debuts last year but not in time to get into 2005-06 SP Authentic. These cards make a nice bonus to the overall product, but with no warning or explanation about them, they could confuse some collectors.
A couple of well-known autographed inserts are present in 2006-07 SP Authentic. Sign of the Times autographs feature on-card signatures and come in several varieties: unnumbered single and Dual cards, Triples numbered to 25 and Quads numbered to 10. Dozens of former and current NHL stars are on the checklist, though a few of the bigger names are short prints.
Another insert long-time collectors know is Chirography. A total of 34 players signed 75 cards each, including Sidney Crosby.
Though the packaging and support materials don't promise it, collectors should find at least one autographed card per box on average. My review box yielded a Sign of the Times card of Kings defenseman Tim Gleason, but like the Christensen rookie it is actually from last year's set. Again, without prior knowledge of this development it's easy to see collectors wondering why.
The Last Word
There's nothing to suggest that collector enthusiasm for SP Authentic, always one of Upper Deck's top brands, is lessening. That being said, it can certainly be a boom or bust product to open, and the 2006-07 hockey set feels a little light on content when compared to its counterparts in other sports. The continuation of the autographed rookies and inserts from last season help a little, though it's worth noting that they don't include the most desired players from 2005-06.
All is certainly not lost for SP Authentic, since the signed Future Watch rookies and their patch parallels will no doubt be as hot as ever. This may not go down as the brand's finest outing, but it is good enough to have collectors looking forward to its release in 2008.