The Ultra name is well known to sports card collectors, so it's not surprising that it's one of the old Fleer brands that Upper Deck continues to use. For 2007, Ultra SE Football features the same borderless design and breathtaking action photos as always, but with a pretty significant twist: a memorabilia card or autograph plus a rookie card in each pack.
Hobby boxes of 2007 Fleer Ultra SE Football contain five packs of 15 cards each. Beside the aforementioned content, collectors can expect one short-printed Lucky 13 rookie card in each box.
Base Cards and Parallels
There's something to be said for not messing with tradition, and 2007 Ultra SE stays true to the brand's heritage. The base set kicks off with 200 NFL veterans sporting a classic design. Bold action photos are again in evidence, with only the Ultra logo in the upper right corner and the player's last name in cursive and full player and team info in smaller print at the bottom.
A total of 100 rookies round out the set. Cards 214 through 300 are regular rookie cards found one per pack, and they share the same basic design as the veteran except the photos are set against a red, computer-generated background.
The first 13 rookies are part of a popular subset from years past, Lucky 13. Unlike some previous Ultra sets, the Lucky 13 cards are not numbered, but they are short-printed compared to the other rookies, appearing at a rate of one in five packs. This year's Lucky 13 players are:
- 201 - JaMarcus Russell
- 202 - Brady Quinn
- 203 - Calvin Johnson
- 204 - Joe Thomas
- 205 - Adrian Peterson
- 206 - Marshawn Lynch
- 207 - Ted Ginn Jr.
- 208 - Leon Hall
- 209 - Dwayne Bowe
- 210 - Steve Smith
- 211 - Robert Meachem
- 212 - LaRon Landry
- 213 - Dwayne Jarrett
In a slight departure from Ultra's usual M.O., there are no Gold and Platinum Medallion parallels this season, but all of the base cards do have a gold parallel version.
Unwrapping a whole sample box of Ultra SE gave me 63 veterans and two gold parallels, four regular rookies and a gold parallel of Buster Davis, plus a single Lucky 13 rookie: safety LaRon Landry.
Memorabilia and Autograph Cards
Here's where Ultra SE got the most significant facelift, as the hobby version of the product sports numerous game-used and autographed cards. Many of the memorabilia cards are parallels to Ultra's regular insert sets: Feel the Game Memorabilia, Field Generals Memorabilia, Ultra Stars Memorabilia, Paydirt Memorabilia and Gridiron Legends Memorabilia. These cards are straightforward, unnumbered jersey cards, though the Legends cards do feature big names like Bo Jackson, Emmitt Smith and Steve Young.
The largest memorabilia insert, Ultra Dual Materials, offers two game-worn swatches on cards numbered between 199 and 15. The dual cards also have two parallels, including patch versions.
A trio of autographed sets are responsible for most of the signatures. Autographics, an old Fleer favorite, returns with sigs from 20 of the NFL's best. Gridiron Legends Autos are devoted to the stars of yesterday, while Signature Class cards (which also come in double and triple versions) have a nice blend of rookies and vets.
For collectors hunting for ink from 2007 newcomers, the regular rookies have autographed parallels numbered to 199, and the Lucky 13 rookies all signed between 50 and 250 cards.
My sample box produced the expected four jersey cards, with two Paydirt Memorabilia (Brian Westbrook and Rudi Johnson), one Feel the Game Memorabilia (Tedy Bruschi) and one Ultra Dual Materials (Trent Green). I also pulled one of the better Lucky 13 Autos, an Adrian Peterson card numbered to 50, but in redemption card form.
With the added emphasis on game-used and autographed cards, regular inserts get somewhat short shrift in Ultra SE Football. Most of the insert cards are non-memorabilia versions of the sets in the previous section, with the exception of Fresh Faces, which get up close and personal with 42 2007 rookies.
The About.com review box contained only two regular inserts: one Field Generals and one Paydirt.
The Last Word
Since Ultra SE keeps some of the elements that made the brand famous, the real question is whether or not the new elements work. The answer is yes... and no. It's definitely a treat to find a hit in each pack (and it helps justify a much higher pack price), but with other Upper Deck brands going the same route - like the forthcoming SPx - it remains to be seen if collectors find that Ultra SE has done enough to distinguish itself or if it just blends in with the crowd.
The latter result would be a shame, because from a visual standpoint the set still gets two thumbs up, and the easier to find Lucky 13 rookies are also great. Anyone who wants something even closer to the old Ultra can purchase the retail version of the product, but even in it's new form, Ultra SE Football is an interesting new take on a longtime favorite.