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When we first saw young Liam Fitzgerald in his fist-bumping video where he gave knuckles to his favorite Boston Bruins players, we thought he was just adorable. As we dug into Liam’s story further however, we also found out he was a very brave and courageous young man. Liam, who was born with Down Syndrome in 2006, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in 2009. His family supported him through aggressive treatment that lasted four years. Liam battled through endless ongoing treatments, infections, fevers, seizures and multiple trips to the emergency room while working hard to get better.

In May 2013, Liam took his final chemo treatment and proclaimed to the world he had “kicked cancer’s butt!” And after that, together with his family, they worked to create a fundraising campaign to help find a cure and ensure access to treatment for those suffering from the disease. The goal is to use the popular fist bump to “Bump Out Cancer.” You can donate to Liam’s cause through his page here: http://www.mwoy.org/pages/ma/ma15/lfitzgeral

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We first engaged Liam with one of Upper Deck’s Random Acts of Kindness packages where we sent him a variety of hockey cards (mostly of his favorite team the Boston Bruins), signed pucks and more. He was thrilled when he received them!

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At Upper Deck we wanted to do something even more special to honor Liam’s courage and we felt he was a perfect candidate for Upper Deck’s Heroic Inspirations campaign. In the past we have honored courageous youngsters involved in sports who battled through adversity like Jack Hoffman, Mandi Schwartz, Jaclyn Murphy, Jack Miller, Sam Tageson and Lauren Hill. Adding Liam to the mix just made perfect sense.

We worked in conjunction with Liam’s family and the Boston Bruins to surprise Liam on the same night Upper Deck would offer a team pack giveaway to fans in attendance. During the first time-out of the game, the team recognized Liam with the card.

There were some great images courtesy of Steve Babineau of Getty Images from the event as well. Afterwards we heard Liam couldn’t stop touching the big card. He couldn’t believe he had his very own trading card and he was thrilled to sign some copies for fans at the team store.

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Responses to the card on social media have been nothing short of amazing.

davidamesse – I love this, and I’m a Hab’s fan

Billy Feliciano - Very classy Boston, very classy…. (And that’s coming from a due hard NYR fan).

Joel Rogers - That makes me a Hockey fan!

Jesse Kurtti - Great job Boston. This is why I love this game.

Susie Lilley - Goosebumps!!

Trice Powell – I think I’m getting soft in my old age because every time I see beautiful stuff like this I cry… That was super awesome

Chris Malboeuf - From a Red Wings fan, very classy Boston!

Donald Schneider – I want his card, what a dude!

Cesare Montefusco - Only in the NHL!!!!!!

Tian Carney - Crying

When is a trading card more than a trading card? When it has the power to change lives and inspire others. We believe Liam’s first Upper Deck rookie card is sure to be a collector’s item that every fan should want to add to their collection. His mother shared, “We believe Liam has a higher purpose in life, one in which during his journey he makes a difference in the world.” There are a limited amount of Liam’s Heroic Inspirations cards remaining and they will share details on how fans can score those soon!

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The O-Pee-Chee name has been a staple of the trading card hobby for decades. Upper Deck felt it was time to bring the brand into the 21st Century by producing a more premium edition using a variety of cutting edge technologies. To run us through that, we sat down with Upper Deck Director of Product Development, Grant Sandground for a behind the scenes look at what it took to build the new 2014-15 NHL® O-Pee-Chee Platinum trading card release.

Question: Why has the O-Pee-Chee name been so important to the hockey trading card market over the years?

Sandground: “The base O-Pee-Chee brand provides hockey collectors each year with the most comprehensive checklist of players for any product we produce. It’s the perfect set for hockey fans to build every year. It’s history as a brand,  dating all the way back to the 1930’s, also makes it unique in the hockey market, providing memories of hockey trading cards for collectors of every age.

“With the all-new O-Pee-Chee Platinum brand, because the refractive parallels are so popular and such an integral part of the product, there are several pretty stunning parallel sets to chase. To that effect, we shrunk the base set down to 200 top stars (150 veterans and 50 rookies) to create the right balance for set builders and players collectors.”

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Question: This marks the first time in several years where collectors have been able to get a hockey card product on metallic foil board. Was this something you heard that collectors wanted to see from Upper Deck?

Sandground: “We’ve heard from dealers and hockey collectors alike for the past several years who have been clamoring for Upper Deck to produce a trading card set on metallic foil board. We wanted to take the time to do it right by providing a 100% hard-signed product with an array of eye-popping parallel sets.”

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Question: You did take a lot of time to bring this set to life for collectors by working with a variety of vendors to get the product right. What did you think of the final result when you started to see samples come in?

Sandground: “We had high hopes that the array of substrates, patterns and colors featured across the base set and parallels would provide O-Pee-Chee Platinum with some serious excitement from hockey card collectors, and we were blown away with how nice the finished cards turned out.”

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Question: Unfortunately scans and pictures do not really do these cards justice, you really have to see them in person to judge their beauty. Which cards do you think turned out the most stunning?

Sandground: “The 1-of-1 Golden Treasures are disgustingly awesome. I’m also smitten with the Blue Cubes (serial #’d of 65 copies per card).”

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Question: There are some pretty awesome die-cut inserts in this product, can you walk us through those?

Sandground: “There are three different die-cut Insert sets in Legends, Stanley Cup Champs and Superstars. Each insert features 20 subjects with seeding ratios of 1 in every 60 packs (cumulatively resulting in one die-cut insert per 20-pack hobby box).

“The Legends insert focuses exclusively on retired stars and the Superstars insert exclusively features active stars. The Stanley Cup Champs insert blends active and retired stars, featuring iconic moments from 1983 to 2014. All three insert sets feature 100% hard-signed autograph parallels limited to 10 or fewer serial #’d copies per card including signers like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman, Patrick Roy, Mark Messier, Martin Brodeur, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Jarome Iginla, John Tavares and Carey Price.”

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Anze Kopitar shows off one of his Stanley Cup Champs signed insert cards from O-Pee-Chee Platinum.

Question: The investment Upper Deck makes in a set like this isn’t all about autograph cards or memorabilia cards, but rather, very impressive parallel cards on different foil board. Explain why some of these cards can be more compelling than a jersey or autograph card for example?

Sandground: “Many collectors love shiny cards and the new O-Pee-Chee Platinum product provides some of the most beautiful cards we’ve produced to date. Other collectors just get tired of another memorabilia card and this offers diversity for them. Though autographs and memorabilia continue to be primary elements in most modern era products, we never lose track of our focus on trying to provide hockey card collectors with beautiful and different cards. The variety this product offers should be a breath of fresh air for a lot of collectors.”

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Question: There are however autograph cards in the product and they are all hard-signed. How difficult a decision was it to have this be a hard-signed product rather than using label autographs?

Sandground: “For us here at Upper Deck, it was a very easy decision to produce this product with 100% hard-signed autographs because we never even considered any other option. Putting sticker autographs on this metallic substrate is like putting a bumper sticker on a Rolls Royce. We challenged our Athlete Relations team to track down athletes for signings everywhere, including at events like the NHL All-Star Game. The end result is a product that provides collectors an opportunity to chase some of the nicest autographed hockey cards ever produced. When you couple the aesthetics with a lineup of signers including Upper Deck spokesmen Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr aside top rookie stars like Johnny Gaudreau and Aaron Ekblad, you’ve got a formula for a winning product.”

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Tyler Seguin shows off his hard-signed O-Pee-Chee Platinum autograph card.

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Shea Weber obviously likes the look of his O-Pee-Chee Platinum autograph card!

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Question: Sometimes sets with various different parallel cards give “player collectors” a panic attack. What do you think is the best way for a “player collector” to attack 2014-15 NHL® O-Pee-Chee Platinum?

Sandground: “As a company, we’re very aware of the effect that too many parallels can have on the market. We try to pick and choose well thought out spots in our hockey calendar for ‘parallel-focused’ products like Artifacts and now O-Pee-Chee Platinum. With Artifacts, the parallels are based upon providing a rich array of different memorabilia, upgrading in quality as the print runs get scarcer. With O-Pee-Chee Platinum, it’s based on the stunning aesthetics provided by the refractive substrates, patterns and colors inherent to the metallic rainbow stocks.

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“Obviously, the 1-of-1 Golden Treasures cards seeded within O-Pee-Chee Platinum pose the most difficult challenge a player collector can tackle, but many veteran player collectors have created sensible guidelines for how to build their collections by putting ultra-rare cards (typically #’d of 10 or less into a ‘wish list’ bucket whereby if they happen to stumble upon a copy and the price is right they scoop it up. For cards with print runs of 25 or more copies, we’ve seen an approach by many of these same collectors to ‘complete the rainbow.’ To that effect, though OPC Platinum provides a great chase for players collectors because the majority of the parallels feature print runs of 25 copies per card or higher.”

Question: Why is now the right time for Upper Deck to release a set like this?

Sandground: “I wish we could have done it sooner, but we wanted to make sure we produced a quality product that wasn’t rushed to market. We set our standards high for the aesthetics of the parallels and the delivery of the autographs (being 100% on-card). Our hope moving forward is that O-Pee-Chee Platinum becomes another of our benchmark brands in our hockey calendar.”

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Don’t miss 2014-15 NHL O-Pee-Chee Platinum when it arrives in stores on April 1, 2015!

The staff here at Upper Deck couldn’t be more excited about the release of 2014-15 NHL® O-Pee-Chee Platinum, but we want to hear what you think about the product. Share with us in the comment section below the element of the product you are most looking forward to. We will select one of our fans at random who leaves an approved comment to receive a FREE box of 2014-15 NHL® O-Pee-Chee Platinum as part of our Random Acts of Kindness program. The fan selected will be contacted on Monday, March 30 at approximately 10:30 a.m. PST. Open to fans in the United States and Canada only.

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Upper Deck had a lot of amazing items on display at the most recent Industry Summit, but the cards that got the greatest response were the 2014-15 NHL® Black Diamond Quad Rookie Gems cards. Collectors have the opportunity to score one of these cards by finding one of 25 exchange cards in packs of the 2014-15 NHL® Black Diamond.

There are a number of factors that make these cards so compelling:

  1. Each card is a one-of-one card. These are the only copies that exist.
  2. Every card is incredibly thick with a shadowbox type of display that includes four actual one carat diamonds.
  3. The cards will only be available through an interactive draft event which means anyone who pulls and redeems one of these cards has the same ability as any other customer to get the first pick in the draft and choose the player they want. Check out the event from last year:

  1. These cards are so unique and compelling, that they are in HIGH demand with collectors, usually going right into private collections. When they do make an appearance on auction sites, the prices for them are right in line with authentic high-end jewelry. Take a look at these links for two cards:

Morgan Rielly 2013-14 NHL® Black Diamond Quad Rookie Gems card

Nail Yakupov 2013-14 NHL® Black Diamond Quad Rookie Gems card

  1. What is most compelling is that less than 10 of the 25 cards have been redeemed so far which means there are still plenty more waiting to be discovered in packs of 2014-15 NHL® Black Diamond. Collectors have until April 9, 2015 to get their redemptions entered to participate in the interactive online draft event.
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Find and redeem one of these special Draft cards from 2014-15 NHL Black Diamond by April 9 and you will be invited to participate in the Diamond Draft event to score one of these one-of-a-kind cards!

Take a look at the incredible cards available in this event.

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Which player would you take first in the draft???

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Check out these seven tips on how to best collect Upper Deck cards:

#1 – COLLECT WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
The best part about collecting Upper Deck Hockey cards is that there are so many different ways to do it. Hockey fans collect sets, teams, players, rookies, autograph cards, memorabilia cards and so much more. Find what makes you happy and enjoy the hobby for the fun experience it provides getting you more involved in the game and the players you cheer for.

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#2 – DON’T TRY TO COLLECT EVERYTHING
Upper Deck produces all sorts of hockey card sets every year for a variety of different collector’s tastes and budgets. It can be a little overwhelming so focus on the types of products you will enjoy the most. Fans getting started or returning to the hobby should look at these trading card products in particular:

O-Pee-Chee – The biggest hockey card set of the year, cool retro designs and a low price point per pack!

Upper Deck MVP – Provides excellent value with quality cards, great photography, rare parallel cards, autograph cards, memorabilia cards and more!

Upper Deck Series One & Two – These two products release at the start and middle of the season and have something for every type of collector. The “Young Guns” rookie cards are some of the most popular cards in the trading card industry.

Fleer Ultra – An extremely popular set every year with collectors who chase rookie cards, “Fresh Ink” autographs, “Platinum Medallion” parallel cards, die-cut cards, memorabilia cards and more!

Black Diamond – This technology based set features less cards per pack than the others, but all the cards have the look and feel of insert cards with shiny foil on the front of each card. This set usually has a deep selection of the latest rookie crop along with autograph versions of their cards. Collectors also have the opportunity to pull super-rare (and incredibly valuable) exchange cards good for “Quad Diamond Rookie Gems” cards that feature four diamonds embedded in the card (one carat each)!

Upper Deck ICE – This is another technolgy based set printed on acetate and plexi-glass stock. These are not your father’s hockey cards! The “Ice Premieres” rookie cards are some of the most valuable and sought after cards of the year.

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#3 – COLLECT WITH OTHERS
One of the best parts of collecting hockey cards is the lifetime of memories you can make and relationships you can build by enjoying this hobby with others. Collect with your family and your friends while you watch the games together. It will bring you closer to the sport, closer to the athletes and closert to each other.

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#4 – ENJOY PLENTY OF WAYS TO PURCHASE UPPER DECK HOCKEY CARDS FROM AUTHORIZED SOURCES
You can find Upper Deck cards (both new and old) from a variety of sources. Upper Deck works to protect our fans by creating a secure network of approved dealers to carry our trading card products and memorabilia. When purchasing new Upper Deck cards from hobby shops, make sure they are an Upper Deck Certified Diamond Dealer. Getting into an authorized shop for Upper Deck is the best way to learn about the hobby as not only do they have a variety of products available, but they have knowledgeable staff that can help you get started.

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Hobby shops are a great resource to get started in the hobby of collecting cards and they frequently run fun events and giveaways!

You can also get new Upper Deck cards from larger retail outlets like Target, Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us and more. Those who enjoy the ease of shopping online can purchase through Upper Deck’s network of Authorized Internet Retailers or make purchases from Upper Deck’s online store (www.upperdeckstore.com). And if you want to split the costs on opening new products, check out Upper Deck’s network of Authorized Group Breakers who share purchases and open the product together in online chatrooms with streaming video. Purchases made from unauthorized channels do not fall under Upper Deck’s warranty policy.

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#5 – KEEP YOUR UPPER DECK CARDS IN MINT CONDITION
Try to keep your Upper Deck hockey cards in mint condition by protecting them in card holders, binders or boxes. Avoid having them in extreme temperatures and make sure they are stored in a high location to avoid issues of floods or little hands who may not know how to handle them. The better the condition is on your Upper Deck cards, the more collectible and desirable they may be. There are third-party companies that will grade and encapsulate cards for collectors typically on a scale of 1-10, but as long as you keep them in good condition, your cards will likely be desirable for years to come.

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Be very careful with how you handle your Upper Deck cards as the condition is tied directly to the card’s value.

#6 – DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN THE VALUES
Constantly worrying about what your cards are worth or what you can sell them for takes a lot of the fun out of the hobby. Yes there are plenty of valuable cards that can be found in Upper Deck packs, but that shouldn’t be the main reason you collect. If you are looking to get an idea of what some of your best cards sell for, your best bet may be to check completed online auctions on eBay. At the very least it will give you a feel for what similar cards are selling for currently in the market. Understand however that values fluctuate on cards based on player and team performance in particular. What a card sells for today could be drastically different than what they could sell for in a week, month or year.

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Collect the players and teams you love!

#7 – ENGAGE IN THE ONLINE WORLD OF COLLECTING AND TRADING

The trading card hobby is incredibly friendly and there are a variety of online groups that can help you on your journey to become an expert collector. Many you will find on your own, but make sure to connect with Upper Deck’s online resources for fans:

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And for more tips on collecting, make sure to visit our Collectors Zone!

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For shop owners who attended the annual Las Vegas Industry Summit, it was clear that Upper Deck was there to help them grow their business. Our corporate room was set up to show off all the different ways we could help retailers to better merchandise their shops, engage their customers and develop new collectors. Check out this behind the scenes look!

The Upper Deck Co-Op Corner was there to showcase all the things that owners could be doing in their shop, primarily by working through their Authorized Distributor, to better their store. We are excited for the opportunity to work with shops to bring a variety of tools like we showcased here to their customers.

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Certified Diamond Dealers were able to play Puck-O for apparel, boxes, notebooks, signed pucks & more!

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A cool photo opp Upper Deck life-size frame was also on hand as an item shops could invest in for their shop.

Our corporate area also offered attendees a nice place to relax and have some fun. Upper Deck hosted a viewing party on Selection Sunday and handed out packs of the company’s new March Madness Basketball product.

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Shop owners loved breaking packs of UD’s March Madness Basketball on Selection Sunday!

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Shops also loved seeing the INCREDIBLE line-up of Upper Deck Authenticated signed memorabilia on hand.

The ESPN Mint Condition team also made their way through to film three different segments with Upper Deck which will give a behind-the-scenes look at new products and initiatives for the company!

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Upper Deck had a huge selection of items on display for shops to check out, but ESPN also loved what the saw and conducted several interviews with UD staff.

Upper Deck also conducted the company’s popular Expired Redemption Raffle at the show and fans who scored cards should be receiving them in the coming weeks!

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The big moments came during Upper Deck’s Corporate Address where close to 200 Certified Diamond Dealers packed into the large conference room for staff to run through new products and programs for 2015 and beyond. There Mike Phillips (Vice President of Sales) and Jason Masherah (President of Upper Deck) were able to discuss UD’s long-term renewal with Michael Jordan. They shared that products like 2014-15 SP Authentic Basketball will be the last trading cards releases hoop fans will see with autograph content of MJ and LeBron for some time to give the market time to correct on the value of signed cards for two stars. Upper Deck is very serious about making sure autographs of these athletes are not oversaturated in the market.

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And then UD shared a tribute to a former attendee when we presented the Steve James Award to Kenny Der from Imperial Garden Sports Collectibles for his great work in engaging new fans and growing the category for fans that visit his shop.

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Congratulations Kenny!

Then the fun came in as Upper Deck gave these shop owners a fun preview of 2014-15 NHL® Fleer Showcase where they could also score some great prizes for their shops like these Upper Deck Authenticated Wayne Gretzky signed blow-ups!

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Shops loved getting an early preview on Fleer Showcase Hockey!

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And they were even more excited to score autographed memorabilia from The Great One!

The best giveaway from a shop owner’s perspective are the annual Upper Deck Industry Summit black boxes which yield 1-2 limited-edition autograph cards produced for this show! Most shops bring these back to use as prizes in their shops, but collectors can sometimes find these cards available on online auctions sites as some owners will use them to help offset the expense of attending the show!

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Another memorable moment was the NHL®, NHLPA and Upper Deck co-sponsored lunch. Shops got to learn about the great rookies this season like Johhny Gaudreau, Jonathan Drouin, Aaron Ekblad and more while also hearing about the exciting opportunities that exist next year for the highly touted prospect, Connor McDavid.

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The company closed out the show appearing on a panel with other manufacturers where key issues were identified so companies could work to improve them. In particular, kids-focused marketing initiatives were something retailers wanted to see more done around and Upper Deck plans to continue our industry-leading programs on that like continuing National Hockey Card Day, sampling at key events, distributing Upper Deck Educates teacher kits, supporting charities like Cards2Kids and continuing the popular Heroic Inspirations campaign which helps support kid-focused charities.

And since this event is all about making the hobby better, we want to hear from you. Give us your one great idea to improve trading cards for future generations that we can put into place in the comment section below. We will hook one of you up with an Upper Deck Random Acts of Kindness that includes one of these limited Upper Deck Industry Summit black boxes for FREE!

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