Sunday, August 21, 2016

Retail Review #218 (13/14 Panini Select)

Panini got a lot right when they made their way into the hockey card world. Their retail products were especially good as they seemed to give collectors exactly what they wanted - good value for what's inside. Select is a product that always intrigued me at the retail level. It's a brand that has hobby level packs inside a box you can find at a retail store.

Price - 

Packs - 2
13/14 Panini Select Packs

In thinking back to the last few Select breaks, I think I've struck out pretty hard in terms of getting a hit. I really hope that drought ends with this blaster today! With these packs being the hobby version of Select, it really shouldn't take that many purchases of the product to get hits. In fact, I think I was really encouraged to buy Select after opening up my first few blasters of it because it came with some nice hits.

This blaster will have a couple packs, let's see what it they hold:

Review -
Really Select??? Wow, just wow. This was a lame blaster - very similar to my recent experience with the product. I know you're not guaranteed a hit per blaster with this stuff, but I feel like I've missed more with this product than I've hit.

Purchasing a blaster of Select is exciting because of its hobby pack opportunities. At this point I'm beginning to second guess if I think these blasters can be recommended. Sure, these cards are high quality foil cards, but in today's hobby that just isn't enough.

Here were my top three picks:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Jonas Brodin Card No. FR-18
This was the only inset card from the blaster. I usually put the special inserts cards at number one if everything else is base, but this particular insert wasn't exciting enough for that.

#2 - Antti Niemi Card No. 54
He's not a Shark anymore, but I still have some fond memories of Nemo. He definitely brought the Sharks far into the playoffs in many years, but never could help them get over the top.

#1 - Patrick Roy Card No. 156
Roy is a legendary goalie and the best player I got out of the entire blaster. This is just a base card of his, but he beats every other card in this box.

Overall Value -
I hope that my luck with Select changes. These blasters should yield hits if you buy enough of them, I just haven't been so lucky with the boxes I have gotten my hands on.

Let me know what you thought of my break in the comment section below. Have you ever pulled anything good out of one of these? I'd love to hear about it.

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016-2017 Upper Deck MVP Review

Upper Deck has officially started of the 2016/17 hockey card campaign with the release of MVP Hockey. This lower-end brand has always been one of the first products out of the gate for Upper Deck. In recent years, MVP has really upped its content by adding inserts, autographs, and memorabilia cards into the brand. There are no guarantees to get one per box, but the prospect that they are there is great in and of itself.

Base Card Design -
For a low-end card, the design and feel of the MVP base cards is above expectation. The cards aren't plain, but rather have a design that is unique and well-thought out. In a small way, the shapes used in the background have an Ultimate Collection look to them. Yes, yes... it's a pretty far stretch for  a comparison, but I just mean to say that the base cards use design elements that aren't the run of the mill look. There's no solid border here - the design scheme just fades nicely into the card and gives a frame-like look that makes you focus on the player featured. Overall Upper Deck did a solid job on these cards and I think those who purchase MVP this year will enjoy them.

The back of the card mirrors the front design but eliminates all photographic elements. You basically just get stats and bio information. There's not much of interest to see here unless you need to take a look at how a player did between the 11/12 and 15/16 NHL hockey season. Something else collectors may find useful is the pronunciation of the player name located under their position in the center of the card. MVP is one of the very few brands that includes pronunciations. It's a great little addition since may people (myself included) struggle with the correct way to say a player's name on occasion.

Rookie cards in MVP share a similar design to the regular base cards save for a 'ROOKIE' logo located at the top of the card as well as a blue/gray color scheme rather than the bronze/gold look. The rookie color scheme is much better looking than the standard cards. The color works a lot better for hockey cards. The rookies in MVP are players that got a chance to play last season but didn't get featured on a card. These rookies tend to less popular than the ones that get playing time right when the season begins. There will most likely be an update to these cards in a later Upper Deck release.

At first glance I would have thought that the NHL Territory foil cards were special inserts into MVP, but they are actually numbered as part of the main set. The theme of these cards is the place in which the feature player plays. These cards have a nice foil background of the skyline of the city. They are nice cards that may be popular with collectors who enjoy cards with a strong team/city connection.

Leading Lights are another main-set-numbered subset that looks like an insert. These cards are also feature a foil background. Rather than focusing on a place, these cards honor players who were outstanding in different statistical categories.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
As MVP is a low-end brand, getting a hit in the product can be quite difficult. The only guarantees collectors get for hits is at the case level. Last year I was really lucky and got an amazing Wayne Gretzky Pro Sign autographed card. This year my box didn't contain a hit.

Making their return are the Silver Script cards. These cards have been around in MVP for a long time. I have always liked the look of these cards as they have a very nice looking facsimile autograph on them in silver. The facsimile autos on the fronts of these cards actually look like real autos signed in silver ink. Hopefully nobody gets confused and thinks hey pulled an autograph with these!

Colors and Contours make their way back into MVP this year. These nice looking die-cut cards confuse me as there are different color and level tiers. Collectors will have to really study the back of the packs to know exactly how rare of a card they pull from this set. These cards certainly stand out with their holofoil background, but I'm not sure how many collectors will actually take the time to find out how rare their card is.

New this year are puzzle cards. Puzzle cards are a variation of the main set. The front of the card is actually the puzzle piece. The back looks like the standard front of an MVP base cards except for card number and a few other back-identifying marks. I have never been too fond of puzzle cards, so I'm not jazzed about these cards at all... but they may appeal to some collectors who like the challenge of putting the entire picture together.

It would have been really nice to get a hit from this box, but I think a lot of my mojo was used up with last year's MVP. Though hits may be hard to get, they are certainly not impossible and should cone out at a nice pace if buying boxes of the product.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
It's always hard to believe it when MVP comes out as its usually out when card products from the previous season haven't been released yet. For collectors dying to move forward, MVP would be a fun product to bust.

MVP is a familiar product to collectors who have had a few years under their belt collecting. I think it's a product that has improved year after year - even if just a little with each passing season. There are some legitimately nice cards that can be pulled out of MVP.

MVP is not a product that will break the bank. Anyone can pick up a pack or even a box. After being used to paying $100+ dollars on boxes, it was pretty good paying under fifty for this hobby box.

A lot of high-end collectors will most likely avoid MVP, but this set of cards is great for more casual collectors just looking for something affordable to break and take a chance on.

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of MVP below:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2015-2016 Upper Deck Portfolio Review

It's pretty late in the 2015/16 hockey release calendar. Traditionally, this is the part of the year where the high-end products start releasing. When I heard about Portfolio, I totally thought that this would be a one-pack-per-box product similar to Panini's Playbook brand. This is actually nothing like that. I came into this product without any research, so finding out that it is a lower-mid end product was a surprise!

Base Card Design -
The Portfolio base cards look a little bit like the old Upper Deck Masterpieces cards released in 2008 with their brownish borders. Unlike those cards, however, this border is just printed onto the card so it doesn't really stand out. Since these borders look like a frame, the flat look kind of falls flat. The overall feel of the card is more on the low-end side of things. Fortunately, the photos on these cards make up for any design deficiencies. The pictures that Upper Deck used in this set rival even their Series One and Two offerings. There's tremendous action captured as well as unique moments and expressions on the players faces. The photos look great. I just wish the border did more to make the cards attractive rather than take away.

The back of the base cards have a no frills look, and I am just not a fan of the brown color used on the bright white background. Brown is an odd choice for a hockey product, and you can see here why it isn't really used often. Upper Deck may have been going for a bronze-frame color... that's the only defense I can give it... but because the printing isn't metallic enough, it just doesn't work. On a positive note, I like the nice written information about the player that is provided on the back. It's always nice to have something more than just the standard statistics given.

The standard rookie card in the set looks exactly like the base card except for a 'Rookie Phenom' logo above the player's name and a red colored border instead of the brown one. And the red border makes a HUGE difference in the look of the card. Though the overall design is still a little lacking, I think the red border looks leaps and bounds better than the brown one. The back of the rookie cards thankfully replace the brown with red as well, the the backs also have a nicer look too.

Usually, the base set would end with just the standard cards and a rookie sub-set, but in Portfolio there are some unique additions after those cards. Wire-Photo cards make a return again this year. I have always been a fan of the Wire-Photo cards as they bring things back to an older era of photography. Usually these photos are black and white and have a bit of grain to them. There are Wire-Photo cards in this set like that featuring older players, but the newer players like Connor McDavid have Wire-Photo cards that look a bit too modern and sharp. So the feel of the card is taken away a little bit. Also, these cards have a really bright white border. And that's a modern look too. It would have been nice to have these cards retain more of a cream or off-white style in my opinion.

At first glance, I thought these Color Art cards were parallel cards, but they are in fact a continuation of the cards of the main set. These cards lose the side borders and replace the top and bottom borders with a fade-to-white effect. These are decent looking cards, but the white portion of the cards remind me of lower-end cards like Fleer or Ultra. I think having them be full-bleed (like UD Series 1 and 2) would make for a better look. Both veterans and rookies have Color Art cards in the set. Black and White Art cards are also a part of the main checklist, however, I didn't notice any of those cards in my personal box of Portfolio.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Upper States that each box of Portfolio will have one autograph and one memorabilia card. That's not too shabby for a product of this type. If you do buy by the pack, you'll have to try and fish the hits out of the twenty that are contained per box. My box was nice in that it over-delivered on hits. I was able to pull an autograph and two jersey cards.

Single jersey cards aren't too exciting for collectors anymore as they usually don't hold much value. They are fun pulls, but you can usually find almost any player for just a few dollars. Though the dollar value may not be there, at least these cards look very nice. The Profiles Material cards are classy - I would consider these cards a definite step-up in design from many of the standard single jersey cards you find in other products. Upper deck has put a medium-small piece of jersey into these cards, but really dressed it up with the rest of the card elements.

Cards with multiple jersey pieces are harder pulls and expand upon the design of the single jersey card. The Dual Materials card of Filip Forsberg card looks very nice though the space for the photo has been decreased by a good margin. Quad piece and six piece jersey cards can also be found in Portfolio. Silver and Gold variations of the Materials memorabilia set contain nicer piece of material such as patches and straps.

The autographed card I pulled was of Mike McCarron. It's a rookie autographed card with a blue border. The autograph is blue ink and on a sticker. Overall the color and look is nice. The blue border is also much better than the brown of the regular base set. Autographs can come on rookie cards such as these or on any of the other subset cards such as Wire Photos and Color Art cards. Upper Deck has tiered the autographs to make some players easier to get while other are much, much harder.

I've covered the main memorabilia and autograph cards in Portfolio, but there are more to find. Hidden in the set are redemption cards as well. Lucky collectors who find them can redeem them for future rookies. The box also states that updated SP Game Used cards have been inserted as well.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Upper Deck Portfolio is a surprising product to me. I'm surprised that an affordable product has been released this late in the hockey card release calendar. This product is a fun buy especially if you appreciate photography. The shots that are portrayed on the fronts of these cards are really fun and spectacular. I could look at these cards over and over and enjoy the moments captured on them.

Purchasing a box, collectors can find a modest amount of hits to enjoy. It's nice that Upper Deck pretty much guarantees an auto and a memorabilia card per box. It's a relatively affordable product that may even be fun to get by the pack.

Will this be a must-buy product that everyone has to get their hands on? Probably not... but it really is a product that everyone can choose to purchase at their budget level - and that's what I appreciate about Portfolio. I'm happy that Upper Deck has released a product that everyone can enjoy.

Overall Score:

Check out my break of UD Portfolio here:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Retail Review #217 (14/15 OPC Platinum)

This morning I'm going to break a blaster of OPC Platinum. It's a mid-level brand that really makes the base O-Pee-Chee cards shine - literally! There's the possibility of getting an autographed hit, but most likely I'll just be seeing base cards and parallels.

Price - 

Packs - 6
14/15 OPC Platinum Packs

OPC Platinum belongs in the Topps Chrome category of cards. The basic set parallels the regular OPC release - but doesn't do so far all 600 cards. It'd be pretty awesome if it did though! With only 4 cards per pack, you're really not getting that many cards in this break. There was a time when this type of card was all the rage with even base rookie cards holding strong values. Those days are long gone though.

The best you can hope for in these blasters is an autographed card. If you're lucky enough to get one it will be of a rookie as that was the primary focus of the autographs in this set. Rare parallel cards are also finds to look for when busting these boxes. There are many different types of parallels, so make sure you know what you've got when you find one.

Let's open this baby up:

Review -
This was a very standard break of OPC Platinum. Most of the cards I pulled were base cards, but I did get some parallels and some retro cards as well. I totally forgot that there were retro cards inserted in this brand. They are actually difficult to call retro because the design and the foil make the cards have a more modern look.

There's not really too much to be excited about with this break. I am happy to get a Sharks rookie card as well as a parallel rookie card. I really wonder if one of these days I'll be lucky enough to find an autograph in one of these blasters.

Here are my top three from this box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Ryan O' Reilly Card No. 137
This parallel card of Ryan O'Reilly may not be rare or anything too special, but it does look very cool and was the best looking card in my blaster. 

#2 - Taylor Hall Card No. 38
Hall may have been my favorite player out of this blaster. It's nice that I was able to get the retro version of his card. The horizontal orientation of the card is actually quite nice.

#1 - Mirco Mueller Card No. 152
I definitely had to go home team homer this week. I haven't really gotten many Sharks rookie cards the past few years. I usually go out of my way to get my hands on some. Well, at least I have this Mueller card!

Overall Value -
Absolutely nothing to brag about with this blaster. It gave me the cards I expected and nothing more. This is not a blaster that would inspire you to purchase more blasters, but the price was right and I do think there are some good cards to be found in OPC Platinum, it's just going to be tough!

Let me know what you thought of my break in the comment section below. Have you ever pulled anything good out of one of these? I'd love to hear about it.

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Retail Review #216 (14/15 Fleer Ultra)

Fleer Ultra is a product I desperately want to like. It's a brand that was respected in the past that had some pretty sweet insert cards. Upper Deck chose to keep the insert theme as its main focus when it released 14/15 Ultra last year. Hits were hard to come by... even at the hobby level as they were not guaranteed if you bought a box.

Price - 

Packs - 8
8 x 14/15 Fleer Ultra Blaster Packs

I think Upper Deck considers Fleer Ultra to be a mid-level product. I say this because of it's price point relative to it's base Series 1 and 2 brands. At 19.95 for 8 packs, it's right there. I, however, considerate not even close to mid-level! To me, Ultra is squarely in low-end territory. The cards look low-end in design and nothing in the set has much value on the secondary market.

With UD Series 1 and 2, Young Gun rookie cards have the potential to hold some great value. There is no such cards like that to find here in Ultra. Blasters of this can now be found for about five bucks. That's probably the right price for these things. And that's how they should have been priced initially... well... maybe $9.99 on release. But $19.99??? You gotta be kidding me!

Let's go ahead and open up this blaster and see what I get:

Review -
This blaster was absolutely terrible. I saw base card after base card with only two Gold Medallion cards that I frankly didn't care for. It was a very disappointing break. I was hoping for a least one insert card... just one to save the day! Fleer Ultra has some nice inserts in the product that are all foil and some that also feature die-cutting. Getting one of those would have made this break more palatable. There really isn't anything that saves this break at all - it was terrible!

Let's still have a top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Joel Ward Card No. 190
He's not in a Sharks sweater on this card, but seeing Ward come out of the blaster was nice as i was reminded of the good work he put in for the team last season.

#2 - Zdeno Chara Card No. 10
Chara is a huge defenseman that has a booming shot. I like the photo chosen for him on this card as it shows him jawing at someone outside the framing of the photo.

#1 - Jordan Eberle Card No. 74
I enjoy watching Eberle play, and this card was probably my favorite photo shot in the pile of cards I got in the break. I wouldn't have been opposed to Upper Deck doing all the cards in this horizontal fashion.

Overall Value -
Even though this blaster was just five dollars, it sucked. There really wasn't anything positive here. I thought I may have gotten a photo variation card in the blaster but after checking I don't think I did as those cards feature Winter Classic photos. This was a sad break. I really hope things change for the better in next week's Retail Review. Find out with me in 7 days!

Let me know what you thought of my break in the comment section below. Have you ever pulled anything good out of one of these? I'd love to hear about it.

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!