Friday, May 25, 2012

2011-2012 Panini Past & Present Basketball Review

So much thanks goes out to Panini for including a box of their new 11/12 Past & Present Basketball for me to review in the package they sent to me. It was certainly a really awesome surprise! Growing up in the 80's, basketball was my favorite sport BY FAR. I lived in Portland, Oregon where the only thing going in sports were the Trail Blazers. I had all the Blazer gear back then, and had a PC of Clyde 'The Glide' Drexler, Terry Porter, and others. When coming back to sports cards a couple years back, basketball cards were a serious consideration for me to begin collecting again... well, obviously hockey won out (and I don't regret it at all), but getting the opportunity to check out a current basketball product is sooo awesome. Here's a rip into a sweet b-ball box of cards. Join me!



Base Card Design -
The base cards of 11/12 Past & Present lie squarely in the past in terms of their design. There are a few different variations of the base card, but they all have an old school look about them. Each of the base cards feature bold, bright, yet slightly faded colors. The design is very reminiscent of a product that could have come out in the 70's. This nostalgic looks is perfect for collectors like me who remember basketball from decades past. The base set is a mix of current and past players. Though there are players from many of basketball's eras, the set does not look or feel disjointed. The design scheme really brings it all together in a surprising way.

In terms of feel, though the cards look to be on an older cardboard type stock... it isn't. The cards are thin, but sturdy and have a slickness to them that almost feels like plastic. The card stock really works well on these cards. They look like cards from the past, but have a modern construction - great for a set called Past & Present.


The backs of the base cards feature bold sections of information. The design is again clean and retro. Everything is laid out nicely, but I can't help but feel it to be a bit generic. I'm not sure what it is - the fonts used or the graphics... but there is something about these cards that look like it could have come from the 'home' section of a Target store or at IKEA.

That aside, the base cards are well done and fun to look at and read. They alone would make me want to purchase a few packs for the fun of it.

Base Card Design Score:
9/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The box states that collectors will receive three autographed cards and one memorabilia card per box. For a mid-range product, this feels to be a fair amount of hits for the buck. Aside from game-used and autos, there are some really sweet looking insert cards as well.


In the 90's, inserts were all the rage... and basketball inserts were the best out of all the sports. There were great looking inserts of the 90's that are still extremely popular to collect today - just search eBay listings for hard-to-find Jordan inserts and you'll see what I mean. The inserts back then were colorful and eye-popping in terms of design. Sadly, inserts of the our era have been lack luster - especially in hockey, the sport I mainly cover. Well, Panini has re-upped inserts here in Past & Present. One of the most stunning cards in the product are the Fireworks insert cards. They really have to be seen to be appreciated. The featured player is on a black background with flames. The picture of the player and the flames have a special foil that shimmers in a fantastic way in the light. Check my video at the end of this review to get a look. This insert set is outstanding - we definitely need more cards like this... especially in hockey!


The Changing Times insert set is another insert that stood out to me. These cards feature players from different eras. In the background there is a large textured basketball that signifies what era the player was from. This Dan Issel card features the ABA's red, white, and blue basketball. Other players will have a basketball that represents the time that they played in. The fact that Panini decided to tweak the design of the cards within the insert set rather than just keep them all the same is awesome. To me Panini totally wins here in the attention to details department.


My review box of Past & Present had a Russell Westbrook game used jersey card in it. And it is certainly a generous swatch of jersey! Panini decided to postion a long pieces of jersey on the right side of the card next to the player. I have not seen a jersey card aligned like this before, but this works brilliantly for basketball as the length of jersey mirrors the tall players of the NBA. The white background and 'lined' image the player sits atop of re-enforces the jersey swatch. The whole card comes together in a way that makes sense.


In terms of autographs, I pulled two cards from the Elusives set. The idea behind this set was to include players that have not been featured prominently in a autographed sets before. Now this is both a good and a bad thing. The good is that the product allows collectors to find players of their favorite teams that may have been neglected over the years. The drawback is that these players are 'elusive' because they have not merited companies to make autographed cards of them. Either way though, the cards are well designed just as the rest of this product has been. The white background is great for that modern look. The only drawback is that the cards are sticker autographs. And traditionally, Panini tends not to hide the fact that they are stickers very well. I think once Panini does that, their sticker auto offerings will be better received.


Because of the NBA lockout at the beginning of the season, many things were affected, one of which was the release of NBA rookie cards. None of the products this season have had rookie cards in them. With Past & Present, Panini gets around this by offering redemption cards for rookies drafted in 2011. The one I pulled will feature and autograph on it, but there are non-autographed versions as well. It is still a mystery as to who I will receive, but it's nice to know that there will be a chance of getting a rookie from an 11/12 product. My guess is that these rookie cards may be labeled as XRC in price guides. These redemptions remind me of Upper Deck Artifacts and Be A Player rookie redemptions from hockey. Both those redemption programs were well received so hopefully these will be too.

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

Overall Rating -
Panini's 11/12 Past & Present Basketball really blew me away. This product is a fun product to bust - the cards are slick, look great, and have tons of variety. For casual collectors this product is something that should be picked up. Hits and inserts are prevalent within boxes as well as the opportunity to get some early cards of the 2011 rookie crop.

The value is there for these cards, but obviously for the high-end collectors this may not satisfy. Many of the autographs in the product may be of players of the past that aren't relevant or worth much in terms of re-sale value.

But for a collector like me, this product makes me want to buy more and more of it. I definitely highly recommend this to fans of basketball. It makes me wish for a hockey product of similar design.

Overall Rating:
9.5/10
(not an average)

Check out my video review of 11/12 Panini Past & Present:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2011-2012 Panini Contenders Review

Panini steps up their game with their just released Contenders hockey card set. Various tweaks and changes from last year have really improved the product. It's great to see Panini making strides to shake up their hockey card lines for the better. Let's see what a typical box brings us!


Base Card Design -
Contenders this year goes with an almost full bleed photography look rather than the ticket aesthetic of old. The cards are very bright and vibrant - perfect for a sport played on shimmering ice. The bottom border of the card has a subtle marbled ice background along with the main information box. All these aspects play well together to create a successful base card. The information box is actually one of the nicest aspects of the base card. It has the perfect amount of foiling to separate and highlight key pieces of information. One inclusion that usually isn't included is the conference (west or east) that the player contends in. It's a nice touch for a product that focuses on the playoffs as a theme. These base cards show me that Panini wants to up their level of quality in terms of design, and I hope their future products continue this trend.


The back of the base card doesn't excite me as much as the front does. It's much more muted. As you can see all the parts of the back are separated into a box layout. The design is functional, but bland. The backs contain the standard paragraph of information as well as up to 3 years of statistics.


Cup Contenders is a numbered subset of the main base set. Much of the card is similar to the standard base card except for the fact that these cards have a ghosted out white background rather than the full color photography and a large Cup Contenders logo atop the card. These cards add a little value to the product, but I don't see the need for them. It simply doubles up many of the players in the main set. These cards remind me of the Essentials cards within Upper Deck's SP Authentic line. They shouldn't be too hard to find for specific player collectors as they are all numbered to 999.


The Calder Contenders cards are the rookie cards found in the Contenders set. There are both autographed and non-autographed versions of the rookies. The lesser named rookies don't have the autograph treatment and are numbered to 999 whereas the bigger name auto'd rookies are numbered to 800. The number 800 is an odd choice as not many cards carry that serial numbering. My theory is that it makes the cards more rare than their SP Authentic counterparts (which are numbered to 999). Will collectors see that there are almost 200 less autographed rookie cards per player and cause the Calder Contenders to have a higher value? Time will tell... it should be something interesting to see. Speaking of numbering, this is something totally new for this line of cards. In the past it has been standard for Contenders to not number their cards and have collectors guess as to which ones were short printed. I for one like this change... a lot! And notice the serial numbering is on the front now... another great move! Lovin' it! Thanks Panini, these two improvements make a definite positive difference.

Base Card Design Score:
9/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The main draw of Contenders have always been the hard signed rookie ticket auto cards. This year it's the same, but with a few more interesting gems to find. Panini has introduced some new inserts for collectors to clamor over with this release.


The NHL Ink cards are nice looking standard autograph cards that can be found in Contenders. The large white background and silver foil along with classy font make this card very appealing. Add to that plenty of room for a blue ink autograph and you have a real winner here! Though these cards are unnumbered, they should make for a very attractive set for collectors to complete. My guess is that some of the NHL Ink cards will be short printed and harder to find, which could make completing the set a challenge.


The Calder Contenders insert shown above is a beautiful addition to the Contenders line. These cards are stunning to see. Each card is very thick (like it could hold a patch piece), and is limited to 100. The foil on the card has a rainbow shimmer to it that really elevates the look of these cards. Though they are amazing looking cards, they may be prone to chipping and damage. The all black background will show any imperfections on the face or edges. The Cup Contenders have a similar look to these cards but feature non-rookie NHL stars. Chris, the owner of D&P Sports Cards was lucky enough to pull a John Tavares silver ink autograph and patch. The card is a real beauty. Check it out in my video break of Contenders at the end of this review. It is a GREAT looking card.


Foil parallels cards are another inclusion in this year's Contenders set. This year Panini has really put aside a heavy handed foil approach to the cards, but these foil parallels sort of bring that back. The card looks nice and is serial numbered to 100. I'm glad Panini did not overuse foil in their hockey products, having a foil parallel card such as the one above works well when there aren't too many of them.

Collectors will find many more inserts in their boxes of Contenders. One that I will mention but have not seen in person are the booklet cards. Some booklet cards feature up to six autographs on them. They are sticker autographs, but are amazing pulls regardless that they are not hard signed. I definitely wouldn't complain if I were lucky enough to pull one.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
9.5/10

Overall Rating -
This year's Contenders blew me away. I honestly was not planning on liking the product much after what was released in 10/11. Last year, Contenders had the rookie ticket autos, thin foil board inserts, a few inserts with acetate and leather feel, no serial numbering, and a chance at an impossibly hard to find golden ticket card. It was a nice product, but not one that I was really interested in purchasing multiples of.

11/12 Contenders is a completely different animal.

This year the cards have been re-vamped to look classy. Both base cards and inserts have been vastly improved in the way of their design. Serial numbering has been introduced as well as game-used patch cards. And of course there is the possibility of multi-autograph booklet cards. Wow! This is the way to innovate and improve upon a product.

Kudos to Panini for doing such an awesome job. Boxes run slightly over $100. There are 18 packs per box with an average of 3 hits. I have no problem with highly recommending this product to any hockey collector. This year's Contenders oozes quality... go and get some!

Overall Rating:
9.5/10
(not an average)

Here's my break of 11/12 Contenders and a tour of D&P Sports Cards!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2011-2012 Upper Deck SPx Review

Finally, more and more hockey card products are being released! All three of the main hockey card manufacturers have released products within the last couple weeks. Upper Deck released it's much delayed, but much anticipated SPx brand this week. SPx has been a popular product for many years that has offered a mix of game-used and autographed cards. This year seems to continue along those same lines.


Base Card Design -
This year's SPx base design sports a deep grey color scheme. The look invokes a very industrial, dark feeling. The cards seem serious to me... not cool, not elegant, but... serious. Each card has the same background image for the player to sit on top of. The background image is composed of different geometric lines and shapes that result in a border that frames the player's photograph. Gold foil highlights a few key aspects of the card to give it a little shine. All-in-all, this year's design sits right there in the middle for me. I don't find myself liking or hating the design. But I don't see myself wanting to go after a base set of these cards - so perhaps I am leaning a little more towards a dislike of the design.

What does push me over negatively in terms of the base cards is the cropping of every single base card I have seen. Looking at the Patrick Marleau card above, you will notice that part of the helmet is cut off at the top. In fact, every base card I have seen has this same cropping. All the tops of the NHLers heads are cropped off the card. I spoke with the owner of D&P Sportscards in Sacramento and he told me that he didn't like the way the photos looked. I tend to agree with him. Looking at the card as a whole, there is plenty of space at the bottom to 'lower the card'. I wonder if this was a specific design choice. If it is, I have to say it's not one I agree with at all. I am curious to what others thing of this. Is this a deal breaker for you in terms of how the cards look?


The back of the base card follows the front. You can clearly see the same design elements. The stats of the player are featured in the middle where the geometric lines open up to frame them. There is no player photo on the back, but for this design, it is appropriate. The backs are very utilitarian, which echos the industrial feel of the entire set.


The standard non-memorabilia rookie cards come in an all-foil form. Each of these cards are serial numbered. Though the base cards looked dark, these look even darker - especially if the player on the front is wearing a dark jersey. Here we have Carl Klingberg of the Jets. His dark blue jersey is hidden in the black background of the card. The edges of the card are silver foil, but they have more of a grey/steel look to them. It's a foreboding design which relates to the base cards. As before, the card is not bad looking, but there is nothing that makes me really enjoy it.


The best looking cards of the main set are the rookie autograph and jersey cards. These cards combine elements of both the foil rookie cards along with the base cards to create a strong looking card. These rookie cards show an image of the player that doesn't have the top of his head cropped off. It keeps the rookie card border but eliminates the foiling on it. By doing this the card is much brighter and it helps everything on the card pop off a bit more. The jersey on the card further helps the card, especially if it is a bright color. The only downside of these cards are the sticker autographs, but this has been the SPx norm for years. Though, with such a delay in these cards, it would have been nice to get some on-card autos... but then again... that wouldn't be normal for SPx, right?


Flashback Fabrics finish off the main SPx set. This subset has always seemed a bit of an oddity for me as they feel more like an insert card - their look is so different. Most companies (and even UD in their other product lines) would have made them a separate entity, but they do have main set numbering. The Flashback Fabrics this year come in a gold background. The design lacks a bit for me compared to the way they were done in past renditions. To me the best Flashback Fabric designs are the ones that are over-the-top colorful and retro. This design is rather plain. I do, however, love the nod to the Back to the Future movies. I've got to give it to them there!

Base Card Design Score:
6/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The insert cards found in SPx have a similar feel to them as Upper Deck simply updates many of the same insert lines from previous years. Making a return are the hard to find Shadowbox insert cards as well as base parallel cards feature game-used materials.


The Finite rookie card inserts are back and look great. The Finite cards always have been well-designed. They definitely give the rookie cards in the base set a run for their money. These cards are all foil board and use multiple foiling techniques to create a well-textured and exciting piece of cardboard. The best part of these cards are the cool fonts used. They are very futuristic and remind me of what SPx did best - which was to create cards that had a future feel to them.


Rookie Materials are the standard photoshoot jersey cards found in many current products. These cards are nicer than ones found in other products though. I appreciate the large image of the rookie and the size of the jersey swatch is appropriate for a product of this price point. The use of foil on this card gives it a bit more class as well. Simple things like that really help a card along. Notice the gold foil box bordering the jersey swatch. Nicely done! These standard jersey cards do not have numbering. And one curious thing about these cards is that the front is horizontally oriented while the back is vertically oriented. That's a bit disorienting!


Winning Combo and Winning Material cards are the typical star player jersey cards found here. These cards are very reminiscent of the cards of the same name in last year's product. These cards are a bit lighter in color though... which I find odd since everything else about this has gotten darker. These cards don't fit in as well with the base set and other inserts. I would have liked to see more continuity throughout the entire product line. These cards are not terribly exciting to pull as jersey cards have completely flooded the trading card world. It might be time to re-think cards of this ilk.

Though my box contained only jersey swatches, there are patch pieces to be found in SPx this year. Many of the patch cards will feature very low numbering and should be very collectible pieces. Cards with both a patch and an autograph can also be found and they will be even more sought out and valuable.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
7.5/10

Overall Rating -
SPx has always been sort of a middle child in the Upper Deck SP line-up of cards. It's not the widely popular-to-all SP Authentic nor is it like its big hits brother, SP Game-Used. It falls in the middle with cards that could be popular to collectors if released at the correct time. Upper Deck usually releases SPx earlier, but by releasing it this late, I believe it leaves collectors wanting more than what it has to offer.

By now collectors are wanting on-card autographs of the rookies from the season.  Collectors also have the desire to get more patch pieces of the rookies. Many collectors are moving away from non-memorabilia type inserts to chase higher-end game-used cards. Not to say non-game-used inserts are bad, but those types of inserts work better as a warm-up to the really big hits to come as the hockey card season steam rolls to the end.

SPx offers very nice inserts (see Shadowbox cards) and standard sticker jersey rookie cards. But at this time in the year, there needs to be more... and collectors are used to having more by now.

At around $120-130 a box, SPx is a bit pricier than other products out there. It will yield some solid hits, but there are bigger products coming soon on the horizon. My recommendation would be to try a box or two to tide you over before SP Authentic releases.

Overall Rating:
7/10
(not an average)

Check out my box break of SPx at D&P Sportscards in Sacramento, CA:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

11/12 Panini Elite Video Review

Huge thanks go out to Panini for sponsoring this video break! I am honored to receive their newest products for review. Let me know what you thought about the video and how these can be improved!


If you don't mind, please check out Panini or Facebook and Twitter and give them a shout of thanks for the box on my behalf. I'd really appreciate that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

2011-2012 ITG Between the Pipes Review

Can an all-goalie card set exist in the hobby and have long lasting appeal? Well... of course! And fine folks at ITG have proven it year after year with their run of Between the Pipes cards. This set marks the 10th anniversary of BtP and it shows no signs of slowing down. If goalies are your thing, this is the obvious choice for you.


Base Card Design -
The 11/12 Between the Pipes base cards come in seven different subsets. Each subset within the main set focuses on a specific type of goalie. Though the designs of all the cards are unique to their subset, all the cards have basically the same feel. The basic card in the set is standard ITG fare - high gloss fronts with less glossy backs on standard card stock. These are not high-end base cards, but they are not meant to be. They are just right for the price point.

The first type of base card are the Future Stars. Because ITG doesn't have a license, these are not considered rookie cards. These Future Stars cards feature the youngest goaltender talent. Some of the included players are recognizable because they have cards in other brands' sets, but many are probably unknown players to most collectors. The design of the cards here is well done. I see ITG making an effort to modernize their cards a bit. The circular frame for the player photos doesn't allow for big photographs, but it does give the cards a sense of movement. The border color choice is a nice mixture of tan and muted green. There is not too much to criticize here - I am pleased with the way this subset came out.


The next grouping of cards showcase the current stars of the NHL. The only difference between these and the Future Stars is the logo and border color. The current stars get a violet/light purple border. I don't like the color choice nearly as much as I did with the cards before. Not that there is anything wrong with purple or violet, but these cards remind me of the female goalie cards ITG included last year. One thing that is great about these cards though is the photography chosen. Because ITG cannot show NHL logos they had to be very careful and picky... or good with air brushing. Many of these photos are closer up shots of the player's head or mask. The up-close view is cool, and for many of the cards you can definitely tell what pro team they are playing for without any of the markings.


Decades cards give the nod to players of the past. ITG gives these cards a retro feel and design. I am not in love with the look of these cards but I can appreciate what ITG was trying to do here. The concept definitely wins out over the design in this case. I think this was an ingenious way of incorporating a lot of goalies from many eras rather than just calling them all 'legend' or 'heroes', but the cards feel like they have too much dead space.  One nice design element that ties these cards to the rest of the base cards is the circular ring though. See how that is a theme throughout the base set? Neat, huh?


BtP shows some real American spirit with the Stars and Stripes subset. These cards scream American and boldly show off the stars and the stripes along with America's colors. The bottom of the cards have a subtle picture of the Capital Building. The cards are 'in-your-face' American, but that's a good thing. This group of cards stand out very strongly within the main set of BtP.


Not to be left out, Canada gets a themed subset as well called La Belle Province. This subset specifically pays homage to the province of Quebec. The cards here are not as bold as their American counterparts, but the blue and white color scheme stands out in its on way. I really enjoyed having these two country specific themed cards in this year's set.


Sporting a horizontal design, the next group of cards show off a tandem of goalies who helped their new franchises get off the ground. This subset is probably my least favorite of the cards found in this year's Between the Pipes set. They remind me of older ITG designs a little too much. This is a unique idea though - one that I don't think any other company would have conjured up.


Finally, the set ends with International Pioneers.  As the name suggests, these players are known for their accomplishments internationally. Since the players are associated with a variety of different countries, ITG does not have a specific country theme for these cards. Instead, ITG goes with a sort of western look. Though conceptually an odd choice, the cards look good and the theme works well. These players truly were pioneers in the world of ice hockey like the cowboys of the past were pioneers of America. Yep, this does make sense!

Base Card Design Score:
7.5/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of 11/12 ITG Between the Pipes should come with a minimum of 2 autograph and 2 memorabilia cards. There is the possibility of more though! I know because my box exceeded the expected allotment - never a bad thing!


The Masked Men insert cards are back this year and they have never looked better. Each Masked men card comes on a deep purple foil. Now I didn't like the purple borders on some of the base cards, but the purple foil on the Masked Men cards is a pleasure to look at. The color is a deeper purple that when shined in light gives off a myriad of reds and oranges. It's a complex look that I would have never expected to see. And if that weren't enough, all the cards are die-cut to look like a '10' in celebration of the ten year BtP anniversary. The '10' cut is very minimal and seems to take as little off the card as possible. These subtle cuts show a deft hand and a refined sense of design. I can't say enough good things about the Masked Men cards this year. Kudos!


A more standard insert card found in the set this year are the 10th Anniversary cards. These cards are also a celebration of the 10 years that ITG has been making Between the Pipes. The cards are nicely designed and I enjoy the dull gold that ITG used on the fronts of the cards. It's a classy design reminiscent of an old movie or Academy Award type poster.


In terms of game-used cards, the most basic is the standard silver level jersey card. Aside from featuring the color of the team the goalie plays for, I find that this insert is has the most generic feel of all in the set. These cards are just too similar to all the other year's silver level jersey cards. Even with slight changes in design, there's not too much to get excited about here. It'd be nice for ITG to revamp these types of cards so they have a more dynamic look and feel.


The standard autographed cards also carry the standard ITG look and feel but with a twist. These cards have a design that matches up with the Decades cards from the base set. This is something different that I wish ITG would have done with the jersey cards. It's great to know what era of player my autograph card features. I happened to get an autographed card from a player who played in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. While I didn't like the look of the Decades base cards, I do really enjoy the autographs. There's enough going on with the card that it doesn't look like anything is missing or lacking. And as usual, though the cards feature sticker autographs, it really doesn't look like it.


This Anniversary Jumbo Pad of Ron Hextall is the direction I wished ITG would go with all its cards. It is super clean and elegant. I absolutely love the way this card looks. The slightly textured white background allows the piece of memorabilia to stand out in a significant way. The drawn image on the card contributes to the classiness of the card. Everything about this card is flawless. The only unfortunate thing is that these cards are also some of the most limited cards in the set. The Hextall is limited to just 10 copies.


And I just HAD to point this card. ITG has again put in their redemption program called He Shoots-He Saves. If you collect these cards you can redeem them for a special card from ITG. So this year the cards are puzzles that you can put together and form a large picture. It's funny though when you get odd looking parts of the puzzle - like this forehead and hair image.

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

Overall Rating -
Though I am not a huge goalie fan, I appreciate a set like Between the Pipes. Each year ITG releases this set and somehow they make it a little better each time out. I find that incredibly impressive. The BtP sits right in the 'just about everyone can afford' category. Boxes will run about $90-100 each. Though that's on par with many other boxes out there, keep in mind that there are 18 packs per box so per pack price will be lower than cards like Certified and Artifacts.  Packs will be a tad more expensive than Upper Deck Series 1, but the odds of getting a 'hit' are better here.

I have no qualms about recommending Between the Pipes to all collectors. The substantial base set is great fun to look at and read, and the hits are well-done - especially the 10th Anniversary memorabilia cards and Masked Men inserts.

Congrats to ITG for a successful release! Here's to another 10 years of BtP!

Overall Rating:
9/10
(not an average)

Here's my break of 11/12 ITG Between the Pipes:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

2011-2012 Panini Elite Hockey Review

One of Donruss' most popular brands makes its return to the hockey card world. Elite has been a mainstay for sports like football and basketball for years now... finally, after a long absence it comes back to hockey. Did Panini make a smart decision by bringing this back, or should they have just left it with the other sports? We shall certainly see!


Base Card Design -
If you collected Elite hockey cards back in the late 90's, you will instantly see the similarities between the new Elite base cards and their original counterparts. They look and feel very much the same. The base cards come on a very thin foil board card stock, each card is completely foil. Unlike the nufex cards found in this year's Pinnacle, the foil finish on these cards have no texturing - they are flat and slick. Each base card is very shiny and reflect light very well. Panini produced a very similar feeling card last year in their Playoff Contenders set. Though the foil is nice looking, it is very prone to fingerprints. Handling the cards too much will mar the card. I suggest putting them all in penny sleeves to keep them looking great.

In terms of design, the Elite base cards take the simple approach. The players name and team grace the bottom of the card along with a classy looking Elite logo. The silver foil border frames the photograph of the players nicely. In some instances, the players actually break through the border and step onto the bordering, which is kind of a nice touch. The Elite cards are uncluttered and pleasing to look at. For those who like a very simple look, this definitely nails it. For me, I think the cards could have used a touch more flair, but overall the base cards are well-done.


The Elite backs have a simple and clean design to them. All the components that make up the back of the card are spaced out well so as not to be cluttered. You will find the usual information that is expected on the back of a hockey card along with a little write-up on the player.


The rookie cards in Elite share the same design as the base cards except that they have a blue border rather than a silver one. Though it's just a simple color change, the effect on the way the cards look is dramatic. I prefer the simple silver borders to these. In a way these cards stand out a bit too much. If I were designing the cards I would have chosen maybe a softer frosted blue color for the border to match the standard base a bit more while having them still stand out as rookie cards. The rookie cards also carry a 'rookie' logo above the player's name. Speaking of which, it can be difficult to read the player's name on the card card as the black font can get lost in the blue border. Some of the rookie cards will feature autographs. The designers have chosen to leave a white-out area for the signature - a nice and practical choice. The rookie cards are separated into two different tier levels according to the checklist. The short printed rookies are the bigger names such as Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Cody Hodgson.

Base Card Design Score:
8/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
A typical box of Elite will yield 2 autographed cards and 2 memorabilia cards. Also found in boxes are standard insert cards as well as parallels of the base set.


One of the standard insert cards found in Elite boxes are the STARS cards. These cards are unnumbered and do not have an autograph or jersey piece on them. One of the things that Panini has done with many of their sets (from low end to high end) is to include non-'hit' inserts. When Elite came out in the 90's, these types of insert cards were the norm - and many people would chase after them. It's nice to see these kind of cards back in packs, but I know that most collectors have moved on and don't pay much attention to this type of card. Still, the cards look nice and are fun extras for player collectors. The gold border of the card really gives it a premium/special feel. The Elite Series is another insert set that has the gold border look. Though probably not worth too much, they are sweet looking cards that help you feel a tad better than getting all base cards when opening packs up.


New Breed cards showcase rookies of the NHL. Single jersey versions of these cards to do not feature serial numbering, but variations with autographs like the Raphael Diaz shown above do. This particular card is numbered to 50. The New Breed inserts remind me of the Rookie Material cards from Upper Deck Series 2. I'm pretty sure that the swatches are event worn pieces. The backs of the cards say nothing to the effect that they were ever used in a game, rather they just say the player wore the piece at one time. The design of these cards is also uninspired. They sort of have a generic look about them, but still they are cleanly designed and fun to chase for rookie collectors. Unlike the UD Rookie Materials, these come in more tiers to chase. The Elite Materials cards are similar to these except they also feature NHL veterans. Again, collectors will have to chase all the different levels... simple jersey... autograph... jersey and autograph... patch version... etc.


More interesting than the standard jersey, patch, or autographed cards are the Prime Numbers cards. These cards have been designed to be put together like a puzzle. The Marc-Andre Fleury that I pulled is the left-hand side of the puzzle. On the right border of this card is a special die cut that will match up to it's partner, the middle card. A third card will attach to the middle card. The card is very thick and looks very nice with the rainbow foiling. Collectors will have a fun time collecting the three pieces. The total print run of ALL THREE CARDS is shown on the back of the card. So for example, the Fleury card I have only features a jersey and is numbered to 184. This doesn't mean there are 184 jersey cards, that means there are 184 total jersey, autos, and patch variations of the card. Collectors may not be familiar with how Panini chose to section off the cards in terms of the print run. So early on, if you see a crazy patch with an autograph on it selling for cheap... grab it! It's probably VERY LOW numbered. Be on the look-out!


Parallels exist in the Elite set for collectors to find. They are rather common to find within boxes. My box yielded 6 red die-cut parallel cards. The cards are the same as the base except for the red bordering and die-cut shape. As with the blue rookie borders, I am not a huge fan of the bold red borders of these cards - they are a bit much for me... and I'm not exactly sure what the die-cut is supposed to be of. Sometimes Panini seems do die-cut cards just to die-cut them. I've seen this in other sports as well. It's just something I am not a fan of. If you like it, that's great!

There are other inserts to be found in Elite, but I would like to mention one other that was interesting. Panini has included Social Signatures into the set. These cards carry special inscriptions of player's Twitter handles. I thought this was a pretty unique idea and I think it'd be great fun to pull one. Unfortunately, my favorite player, Logan Couture, doesn't have one... though he is actively tweeting on Twitter... maybe next year Logan!

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

Overall Rating -
Elite is a solid offering from Panini. Each box will net you a couple autographs and memorabilia cards along with a slew of inserts, rookies, and parallels. With 20 packs per box, Elite takes a little longer to bust than some of the products that have been recently released. I enjoyed opening my box and seeing all the different things come out.

I was skeptical about Elite upon hearing of its return to hockey, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by it - I particularly like the Prime Numbers cards. At around $100 a box, it is a solid buy that many collectors can afford. It's worth a shot to try a box or two of Elite. Best wishes on your breaks and let me know what you get out of it!

Overall Rating:
8/10

Here's my box of Elite from D&P Cards in Sacramento, CA!