In the late 90's, the creation of the jersey card changed the way we look at cards. Options, prices, quality, rarity all were affected considerably. I feel that it was this innovation more than anything that really diversified the hobby. Gone were the majority of set collectors and in came the player collectors, jersey collectors, patch collectors, etc.
This set was a great reminder that there was good quality in base card collecting (and still is in my opinion).
1996/97 Upper Deck Series II
The first thing I notice when I look at these cards is the fantastic photography. Action shots, close ups, unique angles and original concepts made for a great foundation for a card set.
The series I set that year was 210 cards while this series II set is 180. Not all of the big names are in it (as they are all in series I), but there is still some strong player representation.
The other thing I notice from this set right away is the awesomely hideous third jerseys. The LA Kings 'McDonalds' jerseys and my favorite Canucks jerseys are highlights for me. A great stamp on the time period.
The front of the card is pretty simple. A borderless design with just a silver bar on the left and a gradient section at the bottom for a nice touch that I will talk about in a second.
The Upper Deck logo is in the top right and is in an embossed silver foil. Looks much nicer than the logo being just part of the photo. The same embossing is on the left side bar. The ice surface texture is subtle and looks nice. The team logo is in the half oval at the bottom. I would have liked a little punch of color here, but it's still ok.
Now, the addition of the 'game dated' moment is a really nice touch. It leads me to believe that the moment listed and the photo in the card are to match. If this is the case - very cool. Some of the moments are a little on the lame side, but still a really cool concept.
The back of the card is one of the better ones I've seen from the sets in the 90's.
The basic information is at the top. The card number could have been a little more separated, but that's very minor. The team name in the right corner looks a little bland (I think the logo would have been better here). A tinge of team color that was lacking on the front of the card. And yes...a different photo on the back.
What I am really impressed with though is the stats. Complete stats that go over the photo. The stat section is opac so if there are a number of years to list, you can still see the whole photo. For a guy with just a year or two, you get more of the photo. It works really well.
Some tidbits about the player is on the right side and can sometimes look busy (especially with the photo as the background...you know, the one from the front of the card. Tsk, tsk, a little too much, but thanks for trying). Again, logos fill the bottom - Ugh.
All said though, these cards look sharp, really sharp. Definitely more pros than cons.With this set nearing 15 years in age, it's a good bet that you would be able to get most of the set for a very low price. Only a handful of cards book for more than $1 and the majority are rookies. The big name in the set is the Joe Thornton RC (but on ebay, book prices for cards this old that have no serial numbering go for a song).
A quality set all around.
4 out of 5