Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011-2012 Panini Pinnacle Review

The month of December has seen no new hockey card products... until now!  Huge thanks to Panini for releasing Pinnacle just before Christmas and the new year!  I'm so glad that there is something new to bust open and collect.  Let's rip into a couple boxes of this product and see what comes out!


Base Card Design -
Pinnacle arrives with a smoothly designed, very clean base card.  Each card has a slick glossy feel on the front and a more matted type finish on the back.  The base cards are all horizontally oriented - which is actually great for showcasing the photographs of the players.  Like last year, Panini has placed some of the most unique pictures into this brand of hockey cards.  We'll talk more about that later.

 It's great to see actual action shots of the Jets!

The front side of the standard base cards all share similar elements to them.  Each base card has a team-color themed border with the player's name and position.  The Pinnacle brand logo is placed along the bottom right corner and the team logo is placed in the upper left.  Though I do feel this year's Pinnacle design is an improvement from last years, I am not thrilled with it.  As with many of Panini's products at this mid/low-end tier, the cards are very flat.  These cards need to have a bit of foil or texturing to them to liven them up.  I would have loved to see the Pinnacle logo, the team logo, or the bottom border with foil touches.  Panini has access to their foil Dufex/Nufex technology.  Adding some elements of that process to portions of the base card could have also upped the quality of the base cards.  As they are, the base cards are, like I said before, flat and a bit boring in the design department.

Unlike the bland design of the base cards, the photographs that Panini has chosen to put on the face of the base cards do stand out in a very positive way.  It was great fun to just shuffle through my stack of base cards and see the unique shots that were chosen for this set.  More than any other Panini set out there, this one is the one that you can tell a lot of time was spent in carefully selecting photos.  It definitely gives Upper Deck Series 1 a run for its money in terms of fabulous images.  Here are a few select images from Pinnacle that stood out to me.

I love this shot of Benn's concentration on the puck.

 Here's a great moment from the Winter Classic.

Stammer shows off the new NHL '12 cover with him on it.

The number one pick says hi to the number one pick.

Couture battling in front of the Colorado net.

 Good game.

Yep, this is what Sid the Kid mostly looks like this year :(

The back of the base cards feature the same photo as on the front.  Usually I am not a huge fan of using the same photo on the front and back, but here it's ok because there is a reason for it.


The back's of the cards tell the story of the photo on the front.  It describes the situation in which the photo was taken in so it makes perfect sense to have the same photo.  I am impressed with how Panini was able to include a write-up of specific moments during the NHL season and pair it with the appropriate image.  This is not done very often and I applaud Panini's efforts here.  Nice job Panini!  Clap clap!


As usual, the rookie cards get special attention within the main set of cards.  Each rookie card in Pinnacle is featured with Panini's Nufex foil technology.  Panini needed to spice up the rookie cards in this set because their initial offering last year was extremely weak.  Adding the Nufex foil to all the rookie cards does make them stand out - certainly more than just adding an ugly 'Ice Breakers' logo to the card like they did last year.  If you look closely at the rookie cards, you'll notice that they look exactly the same as the standard base card except with the word 'rookie' next to the Pinnacle logo.  There is actually no mention that these rookie cards are called Ice Breakers save for on the checklist.  I did find that a little odd.  It's not that big of deal though.  These cards look great, and you'll find 3-4 of them in each 24 pack hobby box. 


Something you will not find in each box of Pinnacle are the autographed Ice Breakers.  Rookies numbered 281-290 feature sticker autographs.  Here you'll find players like Mark Scheifele, Cody Hodgson, Gabriel Landeskog, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  I must say that while it's great to be able to pull autographs of these hot rookies, the way these are done does not impress.  The cards have a rectangular space in the middle of the card for the sticker autograph to go.  It is certainly an awkward design.  In person these sticker autographs remind me of a band-aid that's just slapped on the front.  There must have been a better way to do this.  C'mon Panini!

Base Design Score:
8/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each hobby box of Panini will yield about three hits and a smattering of different insert cards.  This year Panini has improved on past insert designs and created a few new ones for collectors to chase.


One of the new insertions this year are the Canvas Creations cards.  This must be inspired a bit by last year's Chemistry on Canvas cards, but instead of featuring two players, it features a fully painted card of just one.  This card is bright and has an elegant look to it.  As you might expect, these inserts have a textured front like a matte painting would have.  Fans of these types of cards will certainly enjoy this set.


The Tough Times inserts are back this year and have a new updated look.  This year the cards feature more information on the front.  This one of Wendel Clark has all the standard team and bio statistics as well as his career penalty minutes.  The look of the card is that of an old advertisement poster you might see on the side of a building.  I think it would have been great to make these cards have that paper feel to them to make them extra unique and completely fill out the theme the designers were going for.  Like last year there are autographed versions to be found.


Fans of the Game inserts make their return as well.  I think these cards look great (not just because Alyssa Milano is on the front of one).  I really like how bright and modern the cards look.  A huge step up from what they had previously.  


The space for the autograph is well done on these inserts.  I only wish they were so on all Panini's offerings.  Now why did I get Steve's auto and not Alyssa's!?!  Can these two cards be more polar opposite?


In terms of game-used cards, Pinnacle introduces Game Night cards.  These are pretty standard jersey cards with a nice background design.  This insert set reminds me a little of the Canvas Creations set.  Both have a modern elegance to them.  Though it's just a standard jersey insert, these look classy.  I think this would be a nice and relatively easy set to complete (unless there are short prints that I'm not aware of).  These Game Night cards also may feature autographed versions.


A more generic (and larger) set are the Threads cards.  I guess you could say this is Pinnacle's version of Certified's Fabric of the Game cards.  This insert set is all about the jersey and patch pieces.  The standard jersey cards are nothing spectacular, but the patch versions can feature some pretty nice pieces and are pretty low numbered.  The Spezza shown above is serial numbered to just 25.  This would be a very challenging set to assemble.  According to the checklist there are 90 Threads insert cards.  I have a feeling that people who buy Pinnacle blasters will be pulling these pretty regularly.


There are other inserts to be found within Pinnacle boxes.  Some that have made a return from last year are Team Pinnacle, Pantheon, and Yours Truly (originally from Zenith).  Some are new like Breathroughs (shown above), Pinnacle Black, Pinnacle Captains, and Starting Six Threads featuring 6 pieces of game-used materials.  Overall there is a whole lot to find when purchasing a box of Pinnacle.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
8/10

Overall Rating -
Pinnacle will be a brand that most can afford.  It is on-par with Upper Deck Series 1 in terms of pricing.  I have to say that the quality of UD1 is a bit higher than that of Pinnacle, but Pinnacle shines much more brightly in terms of the amount and types of different insert sets (with and without memorabilia) available.  I am a big fan of the photographs used in the base set and enjoyed being able to find autographed rookie cards.  What I didn't like about Pinnacle was the overall quality of card design.  It was a real roller coaster.  Some aspects of Pinnacle were extremely well done, while others weren't so much.

I think that Pinnacle is still trying to find its legs.  The 11/12 offering is an improvement over last years.  It's a fun product to open, but I would recommend only Pinnacle in smaller doses and certainly only by the hobby box.  Per pack it will be difficult to pull a good hit, and per blaster I have nightmares of getting no name Threads cards.

Pinnacle hits the market at the perfect time.  It's a nice, relatively cheap, product that can provide some thrills at a time when not a whole lot of new hockey cards are out.  Have fun cracking some boxes!

Overall Score: 
8/10
(not an average)

Check out my two boxes of 11/12 Pinnacle opened at D&P Cards in Sacramento.


Friday, November 25, 2011

2011-2012 ITG Ultimate Memorabilia 11th Edition Review

It's taken a while, but I finally get to review ITG's Ultimate Memorabilia 11!  I would like to first thank Youtube user tvtvrain (Miles) for helping me get the cards necessary for this review.  Without him, this review either would not have happened or would have been even more delayed.  Please go to his Youtube channel and check him out.  Amazing, amazing stuff there... and he's a big ITG fan.  Now, let's see what nastiness ITG brings to the table with their uber high-end release.


Base Card Design -
Each standard pack of UM11 comes with three cards - the first of which is the base card.  Even though there is no memorabilia or autograph on these cards, they are encased in ITG's special card holder.  Like all ITG encapsulated cards, the inset at the top gives information about what the card you have is: the product name/year, type, player, number of copies, and number in the production run.  For UM11, ITG chose to go with a very basic base card design.  The card is only two color tones - white and silver.  The artwork looks great, but to me the card is quite bland.  The silver ink is too close to the white background and gives the cards a very washed out feel.  It just doesn't stand out.  I would have preferred a bolder approach - perhaps a different choice than silver or to just have the player image in full color.  As it stands, what sticks out to me most is the foil green label above the card.


The back of the base cards are nice.  I definitely like the thin silver border over the thick one on the front - it's pretty classy.  Now I don't mind the back's use of silver ink like I did on the front.  It's very clean and regal, and works great with the paragraph.  I enjoy that the card features a lengthy paragraph of information about the player.  These cards do no contain any stat lines, but often these super high-end cards do not carry them, or even if they do, very minimally.

All the standard silver versions of the base cards are limited to only 62.  Yes, these cards are scarce!  In packs you may find other versions of the base cards such as gold ones or even 1 of 1 original artwork versions of the base cards.

Base Card Design Score:
6.5/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Similar to other high-end releases, this is where the meat and potatoes of the product are.  Aside from the base card, the other two cards within the pack are an autograph card and a memorabilia card.  Some cards will feature an autograph along with a memorabilia piece.  And every card will have an extremely low production run.


Shown above is a standard autographed card you might find in UM11.  It's of goalie legend  Dominik Hasek.  This card is numbered 8 of 9.  The design of this card is top notch.  In the past I,  along with other collectors, have had issues with how ITG designed their cards.  Not here.  This Ultimate Legend Autograph looks great from top to bottom.  The color scheme is very modern.  I love the shades of grey that ITG employs here.  There is something very industrial about it.  The single red border of the left hand side of the card is a great accent.  The lines flow well and every piece of the card is perfect where it is, from the picture, to the framed autograph, to the logos.  This card looks just as good as anything coming out of Upper Deck and Panini.  Excellent job here ITG.  This is the way modern cards look!


This Stan Mikita jersey card is typical of a jersey found in UM11.  It's probably the most basic type you will find in the product.  Even though it's just a single jersey swatch, it is still limited to only 24 copies, and contains a good-sized chunk of jersey.  What I love about this card is that the back indicates that the jersey did indeed come from a game-used Chicago Blackhawks jersey that Mikita wore.  It's such a bold statement to make in the current state of card production!  So many other companies use event-worn pieces in their cards, but ITG boldly tells the collector that their pieces are from actual games.  In terms of this card design, it's not the greatest, but it still looks good.  It's lines are reminiscent of SPx without all the foil highlights.


Now here's an interesting idea for a card - encapsulate a special moment in time.  This card highlights Dave Andreychuk's 600th goal.  He scored his 600th on November 23, 2002 on Corey Schwab.  The card has a piece of Andreychuk's stick and a swatch of Schwab's jersey.  I think this is a wonderful idea, but the execution of it could have been better in my opinion.  I like the fact that there is a picture of Andreychuk, because I know in the past ITG would put out cards with no player image on the front.  But I think it would have been even better to also include Schwab.  Perhaps turn the card horizontally and make it seem like a dual between the two players - I don't know - just an idea.  The best would be to have an image of the goal being scored.  Unfortunately ITG does not have an NHL license so probably getting a photo of the actual 600th goal would have been out of the question.  And that is really too bad.


One pack in every 10-box case of UM11 will be a hot pack.  These packs will contain some of the best patches from the product.  I was fortunate enough to pull a hot pack in the one pack that I bought of UM11.  Pretty lucky, but these cards look great and are limited to only 9 for modern players - 4 for vintage.  I think including these hot packs as a special surprise for collectors was a great idea.  ITG did a wonderful job of changing up the design to really represent what a hot patch should be like: RED HOT!  Changing the label to indicate the heat was spot on.  Over the entire production run of UM11 there were only 150 hot packs produced.

There are many more amazing things to be found in UM11.  The first that comes to mind are the 1 of 1 Ultimate Emblems cards.  If you don't know what those are do yourself a favor and see if you can find some pictures of them on the internet.  They will blow your mind.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
9/10

Overall Rating -
ITG's Ultimate Memorabilia 11th Edition is not a product for everyone simply for the fact that most people will not be able to afford a box.  Even one pack of three cards is significantly higher than a standard box of hockey cards.  But for those who want the best quality of memorabilia and the chance at some truly ridiculous game-used pieces... this is the product to get.

The best way of experiencing UM11 is to get a box or to get boxes of it.  Purchasing just one pack is a pretty risky gamble, but would suffice for just a taste of the product.  For those who can afford it, UM11 is a product that delivers great thrills when being opened.  It certainly ranks right up with the Cup and Dominion.

This year's Ultimate Memorabilia offering has improved in the design department, and I think this will attract more and more collectors to it.  It's not all the way there yet, but it's so close!  I'm really pleased to see ITG continue to step up their card design.  Particularly impressive was the Hasek autograph card shown above.  More cards like this will definitely catch the eye of collectors who value not only the quality of the memorabilia, but also of the way the cards look.

Overall Rating:
9/10
(not an average)

I pulled a hot pack!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2011-2012 Panini Certified Review

One of Panini's strongest offerings has hit the market - Certified hockey is out!  Will these cards bring strong value to collectors?  Will they measure up to the bar set by last year's set?  Let's find out together as we go through a box of 11/12 Panini Certified.


Base Card Design -
Before I got bought my box of Certified I had looked on the internet to get a feel of what the product was like.  One of the things that initially looked pretty weak were the base cards.  Now that I have them in hand, I can say I was wrong - looking at the base cards through a computer screen does not do them justice.  The base cards are very pleasing to the eye.  Like last year's cards, these cards are all on foil board, and the foil is done right.  The foil enhances the overall design, and is actually absolutely perfect for the card.  I really enjoy the upper portion of the card.  Each card has an ice background that goes so well with hockey.  The bottom of the card is straightforward and modern.  Very sleek and refined.  The base card looks elegant, feels modern, and is a step up from last year's design.  It's brighter, and the players pop out more.  Superb looking cards.


The back of the Certified cards have the same design notes as the front sans the foil.  The back of the card is functional but does not add anything great to the cards.  All the basic information that is needed is there, but I would have liked Panini to be more creative with them.  All of the cards feature just one line of player stats from the prior season and a small paragraph about the featured player.


Immortals are a subset of the base cards.  Panini has chosen to include a select group of players from the past to include within the main Certified set.  These cards are similar to the standard base cards except that they feature only black, grey, and white color tones.  It's a nice idea to highlight the fact that these player's no longer play in the league.  The word 'Immortals' is prominently displayed at the top of each card.  The cards are certainly bold, and do a good job of including retired players.  It's a fun way to add more of the older favorites into a set.  The Immortals are more limited than standard base cards.  In my box I only pulled one.  They are serial numbered to 500.


Rounding out the main numbered set are the Freshman Signature and Freshman Fabric Signatures cards.  The cards obviously feature the rookies from the new season.  Panini scores big here in that these are the first official autographed cards you can get of these players.  Artifacts had the auto redemptions, but these autographs are live and in the product.  The card I got from my box was of Senator's rookie Colin Greening.  It's great that the signature is on card, but the card is not serial numbered.  There is ample room at the bottom of the card for the player's to sign.  I'm not as impressed with this design as I am with the standard base cards.  The card looks a bit cluttered and inelegant to me.

Overall though, the base cards are extremely well done.  The main set of cards will be a challenge to put together, but will be an impressive feat and a fantastic group of cards to have.

Base Card Design Score:
9/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Certified will net you about four hits.  In my box one of the hits was the Freshman Signature card from the main set.  My other three were all from the same insert set - Fabric of the Game.


Fabric of the Game cards have been a long-running staple in Certified for years now.  This year's version gives some visual updates to this venerable insert line, but overall it delivers exactly what it did last year.  Above is a Brent Burns FotG card.  This is the most common version of the card, limited to 399.  It has a single square of jersey set amongst a wide white area.  The design, though updated, is not spectacular and doesn't really stand out.  The jersey looks very lonely amongst the field of white - it looks a bit sad to me.


The Lucic card above is a bit nicer in that there is a crazy patch in the cut out.  This patch literally is popping out of the card.  Without the patch craziness the cards suffers from the same blandness of the standard FotG cards.  This one is numbered to just 25.


The Subban above is yet another variation of the FotG cards.  This one features a die-cut of PK's jersey number.  Though it's nice to have some die-cutting, this particular type doesn't do much for me visually either.  The number pieces are very small.  I was surprised to look on the back and find out that this card was also limited to just 25.  Now there are FotG cards that fully utilize the white area of the card.  Some cards feature the team name, some feature stats, and some have NHL.  Those cards have a bit more of a 'wow-factor' to them.  My three examples from my box sadly didn't (save for the nice patch on the Lucic).

I am a bit afraid to see how many Fabric of the Game variations there are in Certified.  For people who collect cards of certain players, this set will be either 1. a super fun challenge or 2. a complete nightmare.  The Fabric of the Game set features many NHLers.  There are 150 players that have a Fabric of the Game card.  See if who you like has one!  My personally collected player, Logan Couture, does not have one.  I'm actually kind of surprised at that.

There are plenty of other game-used and autograph inserts to be found in Certified this year.  One of them is called Big Pulls Signatures.  This is a unique card in that the signature can be literally pulled out of the card.  The concept is to have a signature on fabric within a larger card.  You can slide the inner fabric card out and look closely at your autograph.  It's a neat idea.  I give credit to Panini for trying things like this out.  Are they going to be a hit with collectors?  Just a gimmick?  Time will definitely tell us.


Non-auto/memorabilia cards can also be found in Certified.  I found this Masked Marvels of James Reimer in my box.  These Masked Marvels cards show two images of the featured goalie.  One is a close-up shot of the goalie and the other is an above-the-goalie shot.  When I first heard of the Masked Marvels set last year I was hoping for an insert that featured the masks of the goalies more prominently.  I find that these cards are a bit lacking.  In my opinion, the areal view shot could be done away with and have the entire card feature a close up view of the goalie's mask.  In the past collector's have clamored over cards like that.  Last year these cards didn't get a lot of hype, and I don't foresee them getting much this year as well.

Other insert sets in Certified include Certified Potential and Gold Team.  These cards come in different variations be it with memorabilia or a more limited print run.


Speaking of variations, the mirror cards are back in Certified... but of course they would be!   The most common types are mirror red and mirror blue, but there are more challenging colors to look for too.  And of course some feature autographed variations and others memorabilia variations.  I could go nuts just thinking of all the variations to be found in Certified... so I'll just stop now.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
8/10

Overall Rating -
This year's Certified offering is strong - the cards are nice and they have a premium feel about them.  At $100/box, the cards are in reach of many collectors.  It's definitely a product that should be given a try.

In my opinion, there are parts to Certified that have surpassed last season's set, but other parts that left me wanting more.

On the positive side, the base cards are great.  For collector's who like to collect the main set or just base, the cards are beautiful and elegant.  Collector's who like to chase hits and get auto/memorabilia cards will also be pleased with Certified.  The cards you get in Certified are great trading and selling.

On the negative side, player collectors and set completionists will be pulling their hair out trying to find all the variations and limited cards in Certified.  There are just so many variations in this set!  And many of them have extremely low print runs.  It will be a tough challenge.  No doubt.  Get ready to hear all the moaning and groaning from player collectors!  Me included!

Overall Certified is again a must have product for hockey card collectors.  It's a fun break with plenty to look for inside.  Happy hunting!

Overall Rating:
 9/10
(not an average)

Check out my box of 11/12 Certified from D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2011-2012 Upper Deck Series 1 Review

The most solid product year in and year out has arrived!  Yes, it's Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey, complete with the most desired rookie cards, the Young Guns.  How does this year's release look?  Anything new for 2011-12?  You bet!


Base Card Design -
Upper Deck has always been known for their beautiful base card photography.  And this year is no different.  The design of the base cards really give the most amount of space possible for the photograph.  The cards let the pictures do all the talking.  And they are truly is a wonder to behold.  The images captured on these cards are really stunning.  There are a mix of close-ups, action shots, special moments, and candid shots balanced together to make a comprehensive hockey card set.  Just check out these cards!

Maybe Ovi should start over John Beck... just sayin'.

Hmm, a helmet would probably help lesson concussions.

 
Steve looks like he's pretty excited.

This is one of the Shark's most feared foes?!?

Yep, Mikka, that's called 'the sun'.

If I were to make one criticism of these cards, it would be the rounded looking 'globe' border of the vertically oriented cards.  This design idea reminds me of last season's Ultimate Collection base cards - which were great, but it just seems a bit out of place here.  And yes, only the vertical cards don't look as good to me.  The horizontal cards look great with this design.


The back of the card is very cleanly laid out as you can see.  The top of the card features an alternate photo of the featured player.  There is plenty of room for statistics and even a small paragraph of information for players who's stats don't take up the entire back of the card.

As usual, the hottest cards to come out of UD Series 1 are not the jersey cards, parallels, autographs, or other inserts... the hottest cards by far are the Young Gun rookie cards.  It's amazing that these non-numbered, non-autographed cards are so popular and sought after, but they are, and it's a fact: they defy the laws of collectibility.  


Each year I look forward to seeing what UD comes up with in terms of Young Gun design.  I've really enjoyed the look of the past few year's Young Guns - the classy curves of 08/09, the quasi-futuristic lettering of 09/10, and the western-looking 10/11 cards.  This year's look... is well... it's just... it's... sort of bland.  In fact, these YGs have designs that look very similar to the standard base cards.  It might be that UD is trying a more uniform set this year, and that's fine, but this year's design just doesn't get me excited about them.  They don't even stand out when searching through a new pack.  You sort of have to keep your eyes alert because of their similarity to the base cards.  I am sure that these YGs will be equally as desired and collected as ever, but this year's design leaves me wanting.

Base Card Design Score:
8.5/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
This year Upper Deck has inserted a few fresh new ideas into Series 1.  The first one I'd like to mention are the Hockey Heroes insert cards.  For years UD has chosen a great player and dedicated a set of cards to them.  It was nice, but it wasn't fun pulling them out if you weren't a fan of the player.  You just end up with a bunch of the same player and you don't really know what to do with the cards.


This year UD has decided to dedicate the set to multiple heroes of the 1950's.  It's a wonderful idea and let's you get a variety of players rather than just one over and over.  The cards look fresh even though they feature very old photographs.  If you're really lucky, you may even pull an autographed variation of one of these cards numbered to 15.  There is even a triple autographed Hockey Heroes card to be found!  It'll be great to see if they do a 1960's set next year or maybe even in Series 2.


Another new idea for Series 1 are the UD Canvas cards.  These cards are a special set printed on textured paper - similar to that of a painting.  Each card is numbered with a 'C' standing for canvas, I presume.  The UD Canvas cards feature even better photography than the base cards, if you can believe that.  I feel that each of these cards is a piece of work, and would look amazing together in a binder.  There are both standard Canvas cards and Young Gun Canvas cards to collect.


In terms of mainstay UD Series 1 inserts, there are many.  As in previous years, each hobby box of UD1 will come with 2 jersey cards on average.  This year's design is a far departure from the past two year's.  Instead of being very straight forward in terms of design, this year's jersey cards are full of vibrant lines and colors.  So far collectors have expressed positive views of these cards.  I like these cards because it's always fun to be able to pull a memorabilia card out of the boxes I buy.  They can make good trade bait!


Acetate cards can again be found in this year's UD1.  I was able to pull out a Clear Cut Honoured Members card of Milt Shmidt.  This year's card has a unique design.  The four corners are die cut in an odd shape.  I'm not sure what it's supposed to represent.  Do you have any ideas?  These cards are numbered to 100.  I wish that UD had put more color on these cards.  I understand that they are representing older legendary players, but the lack of color on these cards make them look flat and unappealing.
 

One insert set that I feel has been on the decline are the All-World Team cards.  I love the idea of the All-World Team, but last year's and this year's design fail to measure up to the 09/10 look.  This year's AWT cards are pretty generic looking.  The graphics on the card look dated.  Not to knock on Score... but this year's All-World Team cards look like it came out of that product.  It's probably time to re-boot this idea or can it for next year.
 

UD Series 1 has other inserts such as Signature Sensations, UD Exclusive cards, EA Ultimate Team cards, and more that can be found.  Most of these cards have been a mainstay in UD1 for some time so collectors are used to these cards.  They are solid inserts that will attract certainly attract player and team collectors.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
8/10

Overall Rating -
If you're a hockey card collector you pretty much have to buy Upper Deck Series 1.  UD1 is a fantastic product that you just cannot go wrong buying.  Even though I had a few issues with design here and there, I would still not hesitate to buy a box of UD1 whenever I could.  Getting 6 Young Gun cards per box on average is great.  They make fantastic trade bait and are almost always in demand.  It's fun to get jersey cards, and you always have the chance to pull a sweet autograph card as well.  Boxes will run about $70 dollars with packs being about $4.  Yep, the price is definitely right.

Get yourself a box now... duh!

Overall Rating:
9/10
(not an average)

Here's a box of UD Series 1 that I got at D&P Sports Cards in Sacramento, Ca.


2011-2012 Score Review

Low-end shmo-end!  Panini brings out a solid product that any collector would have fun busting.  Score comes at you with a ton of great cards and special surprises.  Unlike some low-end products, this one actually gives you a chance at some pretty heavy hits.  This year's Score is hard to beat at its price point!


Base Card Design -
Last year when Panini returned to the hockey card world they decided to give collectors products that felt like they did in the past.  10/11 Score had a very 90's look and feel to it.  This year it seems that Panini is staying away from the retro base set feel, and giving us an attempt at a more contemporary design.  The basic Score card is extremely clean and sparse.  It has the most minimal pieces of information on the front - player and team with the score brand and team logo.  That's it.  The team's colors give the photo a nice border highlight to encase the player.  I have to say that I enjoy the look of these cards.  They are very bright and feature nice photos of the players.  But how much do I enjoy the cards?  Well, I can't say that I'm jumping out of my chair for them, but they're 'good enough'.  They look nice and are pretty much what I would expect from this type of product.


The backs of the base cards give a complete career statistics of the featured player.  The design of the back lends itself very well for displaying information.  Impressive job Panini!  If there was one thing I would add, it would be nice to have a head shot of the player.  This, I believe, would really make the backs look like a full-statistical readout of the player that you might find on NHL.com or other information source.  I do have to commend Panini on the write-up of the player on the backs of the cards.  It's great to have a bit more than just numbers to look at.  These make for a fun read and help collectors learn more about their favorite players.


Included within the base set of Score are Season Highlight, All Rookie Team, and other subset cards.  The cards have a very similar design to the basic cards of the set save for a special graphic indicating the subset type.  These cards point out significant players from last season, and give collectors extra opportunities to pick up cards of the players they collect.  The Season Highlight cards are especially notable because they particularly point out special events that should be remembered.  One of my favorites is shown above.  It's Penguins Legend Mario Lemieux playing at last year's Winter Classic.  Awesome!


The Hot Rookie cards are back again to fill out the rest of the set.  These cards have been improved from last year's design.  The cards do a nice job of making the rookies jump out at you.  Notice how Cody Hodgson's image is in front of the Hot Rookies graphic.  It's a nice job by the designers to do little things like that to make the cards better.  I really enjoy how different these rookie cards are from the rest of the set.  They certainly stand out, and I think collectors will enjoy collecting these cards.

Base Card Design Score:
8/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
In the 1990's, card collectors were crazy about insert cards.  It was all the rage.  Inserts cards are far less prevalent now than they were back then, but Score does a pretty good job of reaching the amount of inserts you can get within a product since way back in the day!  The inserts you can find in 11/12 Score actually have their roots in the early 90's.


This Franchise insert card of Taylor Hall is a good example of a modernized 90's insert card.  I remember trying to pull Franchise inserts in high school... they were tough pulls!  These Franchise inserts actually probably match the same ratios as the ones in back then, but unfortunately, they don't have the same appeal or value they once carried.  The same goes for the stunning looking black and white Score B inserts.


Another thowback insert card type is this die-cut NHL logo insert.  It's hard to tell in the scan, but the top portion of this card is die-cut so that the NHL logo is pointy on top.  I wasn't sure how these cards would turn out, but I think they actually look quite nice.  The points on my Eric Staal card are razor sharp!  This is definitely an interesting and fun card to pull out of a pack.  I am sure younger collectors would especially appreciate a card like this one.  Another die-cut card available out of score are the Snow Globe inserts.  These cards come back this year with a slightly updated design.


And of course how can I not mention parallel cards when writing about Panini!?!  There are gold cards like the one shown above, black bordered ones, as well as the one-per-pack glossy cards.  I am very glad that this year the glossy cards have a special notation on the back that says it's the glossy version.  As a collector, I like to put all my cards in penny sleeves... and it was very difficult to distinguish the glossies from the regular cards.

Though I didn't pull any in the box I opened, I know that Panini has done some sneaky things with Score.  Last year there were French back versions that were rumored to be limited to 5 or 10 copies each.  This year I think there might be thicker photo variations of cards inserted into Score.  They might be as rare as the French backs.  I'm not sure though.  If anyone has specific information about this, please leave it in the comments below!  I'd love to know all of Score's secrets!

And finally, I love that you can pull autographs from Score.  There are rookie autographs as well as base card autographs.  They are a difficult pull, but definitely worthy of a chase since they are a pretty rare find.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
8.5/10

Overall Rating -
This year's Score improves upon last year's offering.  I am amazed at how much value and fun Panini has packed into this product.  It is a product that anyone can afford to buy, and there are amazing cards to be found within.  For autograph hunters, the base cards are a superior choice to get in-person or TTM autographs.  They are bright and have a great surface for autos.  Collectors like me who collected in the 90's will enjoy pulling inserts and remember what it was like to chase them back then.  And everyone will appreciate getting the opportunity to get a certified autograph from a pack that costs about $1.  I highly recommend getting some of this product.  Great start to the hockey season Panini!

Overall Rating:
9/10
(not an average)

Watch me open a box of Score!