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Retro Retail Review: 1998-99 UD Choice

November 9, 2011

Friday is one of the two biggest days in my hobby experience.  That day, of course, is Toronto Fall Sports Card and Memorabilia day (the second being Spring Expo day).

As such, I’ve been noticing that I have had a pretty significant itch to fully immerse myself in adding cards to my collection, both in wanting to buy cards to add to my various collecting projects and in wanting to crack open some packs and boxes, which is one of my favourite parts of this great hobby.

I have been picking up a handful of cards lately on eBay to help scratch the former of those two itches, but still hadn’t felt entirely fulfilled without scratching the latter.

So to help scratch that second itch I headed around the corner to the local Wal-Mart to see what they might have in stock at an affordable price.

For the most part those hoped for affordable options were not to be found.  Lots of last year’s products, but none of it discounted.  I did come across some boxes of 91-92 Pro Set, but the $9.00 price tag and the fact that it’s Pro Set didn’t exactly inspire me to pull  out my wallet.

Next to that unimpressive stack of 91-92 Pro Set boxes was a stack of 98-99 UD Choice boxes though.  Not expecting much based on the price tag on the Pro Set cards, I was very surprised to see the “60% Off – $8.00” stick in the top right corner.

Now that was a decent price for a quick fix of packs!  Then it got even better when I examined what the box for what I could expect to find.

36 packs in the box (or just $0.22 per pack).  6 Cards per pack.  Inserts at the following odds:

  • StarQuest Blue – 2:1…yes, 2:1. Potentially 72 of them in the box, if there were no greens, reds, or golds to be found.
  • StarQuest Green – 1:7. I could expect 5 of those.
  • StarQuest Red – 1:11. I could expect 3 of those.
  • Mini Bobbind Heads – 1:4. 9 of those should be somewhere in the packs.
  • Choice Reserve paralles – 1:6. Another 6 inserts there.

All in all, not a bad little return could be had for a minor investment, so needless to say I decided it was time to scratch the itch.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at what I found inside!


Ratings & Assessments

Base Set – 4 out of 5

When it comes to the true base set cards you’re not going to find anything flashy here.  What you will find is a simple, yet solid design with some truly great action shots included in the photographs used throughout the set.

Surrounded by a clean-looking white frame, the players’ photos occupy the vast majority of the card and are accompanied by the player’s name, the team’s name, and a UD Choice logo along the bottom of the card, with team appropriate colours included.

The card backs are flat-out awesome.  A small photo (typically a head shot) that is different from the photo on the front.  A full slate of statistics.  A bio of the featured player (assuming the player’s career hasn’t been overly lengthy).  Even trivia questions, including some that direct you to Upper Deck’s website for the correct answer, are found on the back of every base card in the set.

This is what a card back ought to look like, not the bland, boring afterthought we see in so many products released these days.

220 case set cards are accompanied by 90 subset cards broken down as follows:

  • 20 GM’s Choice (10 Team Roy, 10 Team Yzerman)
  • 10 Crease Lightning
  • 57 World Junior Showcase (featuring members of the World Junior Championship teams from Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the USA)
  • 3 Checklists

I particularly enjoy the World Junior cards in spite of the lack of (now) recognizable names, aside from a few, and the Crease Lightning cards.  The GM’s Choice cards, thought 10 of them do include Steve Yzerman, are a bit too repetitive for my liking.

All in all though, a good showing for an entry-level product.

Autographs – N/A

None available in this product.

Inserts/Parallels – 4 out of 5

Pretty happy about what I ended up with here.

2 full sets of the StarQuest Blues, along with 4 triplicates.  The 5 StarQuest Greens and 3 StarQuest Reds I had expected, including a Red of Yzerman (although I already have it).  The 9, rather ridiculous looking Mini Bobbing Head inserts.  All of this capped off with 12 Choice Reserve parallels, which came out at a rate double of what I had expected when I brought the box home.

Even better, 9 of the Choice Reserve cards were of players from the World Junior subset and 3 were from the GM’s Choice subset, including the best player in the set, The Great One himself.

Memorabilia – N/A

None available in this product.

Rookie Cards – 2.5 out of 5

This rating is as low as it is because of the actual crop of rookies included in the product as opposed to any lack of them being in the set.  1998-99 simply was not a strong season in terms of the number of rookies that actually became collectible over the long-term in any of the products released that season, let alone an entry-level, early-season release such as this one.

Quality Control – 4 out of 5

Aside from the significantly damaged StarQuest Blue of Ed Belfour shown below on which you’ll see a white scratch across the top of the cards in the blue foil, there is really nothing more to report on this end of things.  Thankfully that Belfour was one of the triplicates and ended up not impacting the complete sets.

Given the age of the product, the lack of protective packaging aside from the box itself, and the fact that it ended up at a big-box store, I was pleasantly surprised not to come across any transportation-induced damage to any of the cards in the box.

I had no issues at all in terms of product quality.  Every card that should have been in the box was and all were in mint condition, which is a rarity for me to witness based on my past purchases of Upper Deck retail products.

Overall Box Value – 4 out of 5

When a box only costs about $9 with taxes included and there’s 90+ insert cards and two complete insert sets included in that haul, it’s tough not to end up with a high overall value rating.

The StarQuest Red of Yzerman, along with the Choice Reserve parallel of Gretzky should help tilt the scales in the right direction from a potential profitability point of view, although I am realistic enough about how collectible UD Choice was to know that profitability was never a realistic outcome from this box in the first place.

My only complaint would be the lack of base cards means another box (or maybe two) will need to be opened before a set can even be contemplated and even then the collation will need to be near perfect.


As an aside, what are your thoughts about the “Team Yzerman” GM’s Choice subset cards?  Should I be considering these (and their associated parallels) a necessary part of my Yzerman collection or are these in that grey area of cameo cards that I discussed in a previous article?

As usual with the box breaks featured here on the blog, if you’re interested in buying or trading for anything you see above, all are available.  Post a comment, email me at, or connect on Twitter and Facebook.

Until Sunday, all the best in your collecting pursuits!


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