Monday, May 4, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Credentials Review


New this year to the table is Upper Deck's Credentials product. Many people have drawn comparisons to Contenders by Panini... and for good reason. There are many similarities between the products in terms of how the cards are designed. Contenders is a fairly popular product still in other sports. Will the concept work for Upper Deck this year? Let's check out a sample box and see!

Product Thoughts
This set is pretty middle-of-the-road for the most part. The base cards are relatively plain with some shiny foil borders. The overall scheme of the base card doesn't stand out too much though. The white background is clean, but negates the foil effect somewhat. I'm sure parallel foil versions will have a lot more pop than the standard base. As for the look and branding, it's all pretty generic. If Credentials is going to be a long running staple of the Upper Deck line-up, it's going to have to stand out a lot more than it does. 


What does stand out in the product are the Debut Ticket Access cards. These cards have lots of foil on them along with serial numbering. These cards are head and shoulders above the look of the base. If you're lucky enough to pull an autographed one, you'll find that the signature is on card - which is a nice touch. The actual debut date of the rookie printed on the front is also a sweet little nugget of information that gives these cards a bit more cred.


As with most products, there is a heavy focus on rookie card content. The Rookie Science insert is a way to sneak in more rookie cards with a science-y twist. The back will have you back in science class learning all sorts of equations. It's a unique insert that I find to be a fun inclusion in this set. In terms of the look, it's not my favorite, but the concept is a new one for UD. If you happen to get an autographed version of this insert, it'll be a sticker auto.


I've got to give credit to Credentials for really making the set fit in with NHL games. The Rookie Science inserts take the physics of the game and put it on the card, and the Star of the Night inserts highlight the end of the game when the stars are announced. Very different aspects of a night of hockey, but both a large part of the game experience. If you happen to pull a few of these, notice that the number of stars on the card correspond to how many stars the player received on that given night!


A few unannounced inserts surprise collectors here in Credentials. These short prints have a fun look to them and celebrate some of the more fun aspects of on the ice action. The design here is good, but if the top and bottom portion had some sort of a textured feel, I think it would have been even better. Also be on the lookout for a colorful characters of the NHL surprise insert as well!


The insert card that stands out the most to me in the set are the Steel Wheel cards that are made entirely of metal. I could totally tell that this card was in the pack as the pack had absolute no bend to it. It's a nice card to have, but without numbering or an autograph, it makes me wonder how high the ceiling is for the standard version of these metallic cards.

Positives:
  • On-card rookie autos on some nice looking Debut Access cards.
  • Typically one auto per box, but I've seen boxes with two.
  • Variety of creative cards to look forward to.
Negatives:
  • Base set and branding are unremarkable.
  • Insert cards need something a bit more to them.
  • Pretty much a copy of Panini Contenders.

Overall Rating:

7/10

Thursday, April 16, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Platinum Review


O-Pee-Chee Platinum is a foiled up upgrade to the standard O-Pee-Chee product. The cards are great looking with lots and lots of colorful parallels to find and collect. Each box comes with one on-card autograph that I'm sure will be highly sought after. OPC Platinum is a product that many look forward to each year, and is a fun rip for any collector!

Product Thoughts
This is pretty much Upper Deck's answer to Topps Chrome. The configuration is the same, as is the idea of adding foil to a standard base set. But you know what? If the formula ain't broke... it don't need to be fixed! I've seen many collectors rave about OPC Platinum. I enjoy the product, but for me it doesn't carry as much weight as it would if it were a product in another sport. OPC Platinum tends to be released at a moderate price point... and it pretty much stays there. Similar products in baseball and basketball end up skyrocketing as the product dries up. I don't foresee that happening with OPC Platinum. It's a very good hockey product, but it won't reach the height in terms of insane value that its contemporaries enjoy.


The actual set of OPC Platinum is much smaller than the standard OPC set. I can only imagine if Upper Deck chose to foil up the entire standard OPC set. That would be completely INSANE! Collectors will find the best players from the standard set along with a slew of Marquee Rookies. The Marquee Rookie cards follow the exact same design as the regular OPC cards. These cards aren't rare or short printed and are readily available out of packs.


The most fun aspect of OPC Platinum has got to be the parallel cards. There are so many different kinds to find in the product. Some parallels are numbered while others aren't. Rarity goes all the way to 1/1. My two favorite parallels in the set are the sunset cards (like the Phil Kessel shown above) and the matte pink cards. With the sunset parallels, the entire background is removed and replaced with a gorgeous looking sky background. They are great looking cards that rival anything made by Topps or Panini when it comes to a parallel card.


Retro base and parallel cards can also be found in OPC Platinum. I'm a sucker for retro cards getting the modern treatment, but to me this years retro cards aren't retro-y enough. They look good... but the designers at Upper Deck need to study some old cards and get the look to be older. Nothing will be the time they made all the retros like the 1979 OPC design... that was really sweet.


There aren't too many of them, but collectors will find a couple or so insert cards per hobby box of OPC Platinum. While it's nice to get a few extra star players in the set, inserts for the most part are not sought after by collectors. Maybe one day the pendulum will swing around again in inserts favor, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.


If you can't get enough rookie action, you'll also find rookie themed insert cards. Just like the other insert cards, these won't be too sought after, but for player collectors they do bring a nice little extra to the table in terms of collecting.


The biggest draw in OPC Platinum is probably the on-card autographs found in the product. You only get one per box, so they are not an easy pull if purchasing by the pack. All the best rookies are here to be found. These cards are reason enough to pull the trigger on a box!

Positives:
  • On-card rookie autographs.
  • Gorgeous looking parallel cards.
  • Moderate price point.
Negatives:
  • Not great by-the-pack.
  • Parallel cards in hockey aren't scorchers like in other sports.
  • Cards are easily scratched.

Overall Rating:

8/10

Saturday, April 11, 2020

2020 Donruss Baseball Review


I've been a fan of Donruss since the 80's. My all-time favorite Donruss set is '86 Donruss because of the Jose Canseco rookie card. It is a card that I've always wanted since I was a kid and now thankfully own it in a PSA 10! 2020 Donruss features the '86 design as part of the main set, so naturally it's already on my good side!

Product Thoughts
Though I really love the Donruss brand, I am not a fan of the standard base card. The design is neither here nor there and has not excitement to it. It's boring. If I could talk to the designers at Panini, I'd tell them to make it so that each year Donruss would have borders that really stand out - like they did in the 80's and early 90's. These are the most popular and most recognizable Donruss sets ever made. If they just came up with refreshed border looks each year, I think it'd be a huge plus.


The rookies and veteran cards come with the '86 style design. These cards aren't exactly like their true '86 counterparts, but they get the job done. The original '86 cards had a darker color of blue. This lighter shade doesn't really do the cards justice. Still, I enjoy pulling these cards out of the packs a lot as the nostalgia factor hits high for me with these.


What's Donruss without the Rated Rookies and Diamond Kings? These Donruss staples are back and look good. The Diamond Kings use a darker blue for the borders, and that in-and-of-itself makes these cards look better than the regular '86 tributes. The Diamond Kings also take their design straight out of the 80's which is a great choice by Panini. My only suggestion for the Diamond Kings would be to make them short prints. As they are, they come too often in packs which makes getting them nothing special. If they were hard to get with varying unannounced print-runs, I'd see collectors trying hard to put the set together.


Panini has put tons of variations in their previous Donruss sets. Some have been subtle changes of wording on cards while others are obvious - like changing a player's name to their nickname. This year Panini makes it clear which cards are variations by replacing the black Donruss logo in the upper left corner with a red retro logo. If you see the red logo there you'll know it's a variant. For the retro '86 cards, the variants have their numbers shaded black with a reversed back. I'm glad Panini did this so that these cards could be easily identified.


One of my favorite things about Panini is their approach to retail products. Panini goes all in! You'll find a ton of special colored foil cards when you purchase mega boxes, blasters, and hangers. Panini gives collectors a ton of choice and many variations. Putting a rainbow together would probably be very difficult, but it'd look great in the end if you're able to pull it off.


Hobby boxes of Donruss typically come with 2 hits per box, but you'll also be able to find hits at the retail level as well. Mega boxes state that collectors should find an autograph in every one, and I've pulled hits out of blasters as well. Donruss isn't the highest-end product, but I really think it's one of the most fun products to purchase from any company. I just wished it had the Major League license. That'd put Donruss really back in the game with all collectors!

Positives:
  • Great at both the retail and hobby levels.
  • Hits are readily available in all forms of the product.
  • Has a nice callback to '86 Donruss.
Negatives:
  • No MLB license.
  • Does not hold a huge amount of value.
  • Forgettable base design.

Overall Rating:

8/10

Thursday, April 9, 2020

2020 Topps Opening Day Baseball Review


I wasn't initially going to review Opening Day, but with an abundance of time on my hands due to the stay-at-home order from the corona virus outbreak, I find myself with the time to review this product. It's probably Topps' lowest-end product, but surprisingly, there are some excellent pulls to be found here. I thought it'd be one-and-done with me, but I actually have purchased a nice handful of these cards.

Product Thoughts
Topps Opening Day shares a similar design to that of the standard Topps flagship set. The difference here is the Opening Day logo at the bottom of the cards. Topps uses the same photos that were in Series One here, and you do get a little preview of photos they will use for Series Two for the players that weren't in Series One. It's a bit lazy on Topps' part. I actually think the set would be a huge upgrade if there were photos unique to Opening Day in this set - it's a bit of a missed opportunity, and it makes Opening Day seem like a product that collectors can just skip over since the base cards are pretty much available with the Topps flagship products.


Unique to Opening Day are the insert cards. The inserts feature early season events such as Opening Day. You'll find photos of Opening Day 2019 here. I'm not a fan of these cards as many of them are boring stadium shots. I do wonder, however, what Topps will do next year. I'm not even sure there will be an opening day for 2020 - which is so sad!


My personal favorite looking insert in Opening Day are the Spring Has Sprung cards. These cards feature photos from spring training. Spring training is usually such an afterthought after the season begins that there are hardly any cards that depict it. I particularly like the Roberto Clemente card shown above. It shows him at a spring training game from way back. It's not everyday that you get a glimpse of pre-season action of older players.


Opening Day is a product aimed at kids and younger collectors. Sticker cards haven't really been very popular with veteran collectors, but kids may like them to put on their stuff. You can find sticker cards in opening day of many of the game's biggest names. The stickers are very thin and you can tell that they are not of the same material the standard cards are made from.


I am a huge fan of mascots and I'm so glad they have a chance to shine a bit with the mascot cards within the set. I have found, however, that Topps' doesn't collate their cards well and you end up getting multiples of the same cards over and over again - particularly the mascot cards. If you watch my break of the mega boxes, you'll see me pull the same mascots out in multiple. 


Something that veteran collectors will enjoy out of this set are the parallel cards. Mega boxes come with a special pack of red foil parallels, and you'll find blue parallels inside the packs. These foil cards look really great and feature a stamp that says "March 26, 2020" - the opening day that didn't happen. There are other parallel cards to be found as well depending on where you buy your Opening Day cards.


Sadly, the card shown above (an advertisement for National Baseball Card Day) counts as a card in the pack. So if you're not a fan of filler, you're not going to like one of your cards being replaced with this. Hopefully you'll avoid it and find some of the better cards in Opening Day such as the relic cards (some with actual dirt from MLB ballparks) or the Luis Robert SSP rookie card. Those cards are very tough pulls, but are unique and hold some nice value to them.

Positives:
  • Very inexpensive product.
  • Potential to pull some cards with strong value such as relics or SSPs.
  • Easy to find.
Negatives:
  • Photos are repeats from the flagship Topps set.
  • Topps did not collate the cards very well.
  • Finding a hit is VERY difficult.

Overall Rating:

7.75/10

Friday, April 3, 2020

2020 Topps Inception Baseball Review


I've never really been a fan of Inception, so I really never bothered to pick any up in the past. I have found that while this is a premium product, it's not highly regarded in terms of hobby value. This year I find myself drawn to the design and picked up a box to give myself an idea of what Inception is like to open. Let's see what I got!

Product Thoughts
I've seen breaks of this year's product already and I knew that I was a fan of the design. It looks like something that Fleer would have come out with in the 90's - just done better. It has a very artsy aesthetic that I enjoy quite a bit. I don't think this design would be in everybody's taste, but I've heard a number of breakers really liking it. It's cool that Topps went out of the design comfort zone a bit here. 


Inception is full of rookie content alongside a strong veteran presence. The rookies have the designated rookie card symbol on their cards. I seem to remember Inception being a heavy rookie-based product when it initially was introduced. Bowman Inception might be the better product of the two to go prospect hunting, but you can definitely get your rookie fix here as all the big names are in the set.


The standard Inception base cards have a white background, and those are probably my favorite looking of the bunch, but the numbered parallels add a colorful flair to Inception's look. The Bregman above is numbered to just 25. It's a nice pull to get, but to be honest, I was actually gunning for a pink parallel numbered to 99. I just think the pink that they used this year really pops. I might have to find some on eBay to pick up as singles.


Inception isn't a product that is priced too highly. It is well under the hundred dollar mark and you are guaranteed an autographed hit per box. The hit I got features a nice, clean signature on the card, but it's about as basic as you can find in Inception. The patch versions have an awesome look to them with a sizable piece of patch. Though they look spectacular, I have found the prices on these patch cards to be relatively reasonable on the secondary market.

Positives:
  • Great design this year.
  • Not terribly expensive.
  • High quality cards.
Negatives:
  • Not a ton of hobby love for Inception.
  • The design may not be to everyone's taste.
  • Very hit or miss.

Overall Rating:

8/10