Saturday, January 18, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Trilogy Review


Upper Trilogy is what I would term as a mid-high-end brand. It certainly isn't cheap, but the quality and types of hits in it aren't the most desirable. It ends up being stuck in an awkward space within the card collecting hobby. In years past, Trilogy had a clear theme of threes... now it's just its name.

Product Thoughts
Trilogy is released as a product in a vein similar to that of Artifacts. In fact, the box is about the same size. There are a few hits per box (typically 3), but with no guarantee of an autograph. When breaking a box, collectors will predominantly find base cards and Rookie Rendition cards. The base cards have a very typical design for Trilogy - but these cards have never been a collector favorite. 


Trilogy has their 'Rookie Premiers' line of rookie cards within the product. These come in three levels of collectability. The cards feature a full foil surface with serial numbering. As the levels go up, the rarity goes higher as does the closeness to the player in terms of their photograph. The most desirable versions of these cards would be the autographed ones. But just as with Trilogy as a whole, Rookie Premier cards aren't a huge hobby favorite. They are passed up by more popular rookie sets such as Young Guns and Future Watches.


Rookie Renditions are prominently featured within packs of Trilogy. I personally feel that there are too many of these cards within the set. The cards look 'ok', but the bottom portion of the card is taken up too much by the brand and set name. I find these cards redundant as there are already Rookie Premier cards for the rookies. These Rookie Rendition cards don't seem to have much of a purpose other than to flood this set with rookies.


If you're' looking for plain jersey cards, you'll enjoy these Rookie Rendition jerseys. Of course, these are just the lowest form of these cards. Better versions will feature autographs, patches, and low serial numbering. Unfortunately, most collectors will be stuck with these plain jersey cards in their boxes.


As if plain rookie jerseys weren't enough, the base cards have jersey variations to them as well. Though this is a plain jersey card, the design does look quite nice with the red color in it. Similarly to the Rookie Renditions memorabilia cards, these also come with many different levels of parallels that feature better and rarer materials.


Some collectors have really enjoyed the Signature Puck cards found in Trilogy in the past. I can see why as the puck is such an integral part of the game. These cards remind me of the baseball material cards that Upper Deck used to make. It's a decent concept and the cards are fun, but there is just something about the standard version of these that needs a little more pop. Or it could just be that the one I got was Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Positives:
  • Less expensive to purchase than in years past.
  • Lots of rookie content.
  • Chance to get tags and patches.
Negatives:
  • A product that collectors are lukewarm about.
  • Still expensive for what you get.
  • Boxes contain mostly jersey cards from what I've seen.

Overall Rating:

6/10

Monday, January 13, 2020

2019-2020 Parkhurst Review


Parkhurst has been out for a while now, but I have only just seen it at my local Wal-Mart. It's a Wal-Mart retail exclusive which makes it a pretty difficult find for me since hockey isn't big where I'm at. Parkhurst is a relatively low-tier brand that nets you quite a bit of cards. The pack opening experience harkens back to the days when there were actually quite a few cards per pack. Thankfully, there are more than just base cards to look forward to when opening up this product.

Product Thoughts
For me, white borders usually signify a lower-end product. Throughout the 90's and early 00's, lower-end cards had these white borders. I'm not a huge fan of them as they give the cards a cheap feel to them. The green Parkhurst color scheme is also a bit awkward on hockey cards. Green isn't a color that is particularly associated with hockey, so having it prominently splashed over the card makes for a curious choice. I just find that the cards have a dated look with design choices that aren't up to par for a modern card. I don't believe Upper Deck is trying to design a retro looking card here either. These cards are just stuck in the middle of nowhere.


Rookies (and All-Stars) have a special designation added to them. I do, however, get the same vibe as the standard base card. These cards look dated and the 'Rookie' addition just heightens the dated look. The font used is questionable to me. However... for some strange reason I like it... it's sort of pure cheese!


Opening up a blaster of Parkhurst will net you quite a bit of inserts and parallels. Thankfully, there aren't any pure base packs to be found. The inserts typically take on a shiny form with parallel cards opting for gold or silver borders. The standard inserts are very common, but some very low numbered cards as well as autographs can be found in the product.


I'm a bit mixed when it comes to this product. I am not a huge fan of the design, but somehow its cheesiness attracts me a little. I suppose it does bring back a small sense of nostalgia for cards made at the turn of the century. If I saw some again on my visit to Wal-Mart I'd probably want to pick up another blaster of it as it is a pretty fun break.

Positives:
  • Lots of cards to find in blasters.
  • Inserts cards can be found in just about every pack.
  • Not an expensive product.
Negatives:
  • Only available at Wal-Mart (and Upper Deck e-Packs).
  • Awkward design elements that seem dated.
  • Hits are very tough pulls.

Overall Rating:

7/10

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

2019-2020 Donruss Basketball Review


My best memories of Donruss as a brand are from the 1980's. Donruss always had unique looking borders that defined their look. Panini now as the Donruss brand and incorporates some of the fun aspects of Donruss' past. They don't have the same unique borders that they did when I really enjoyed them, but there is a lot to like in this lower-end brand.

Product Thoughts
Donruss and Hoops are similar, but Donruss is clearly the better product when comparing the two. The card stock is a little nicer and there is just a higher quality when it comes to the cards you find here. Like Hoops, Donruss is typically readily available at the retail level. The cards feature a white border giving them a clean, but relatively boring look. At the hobby level, boxes have traditionally been well under $100, but this year at release, they are going for about $180 or so. The hype is just so great right now! Thankfully, prices remain steadily low at retail stores - if you are able to find them on the shelves.


As the NBA season is in full swing now, Donruss features the new players in their NBA uniforms. Sadly, it looks like Panini wasn't able to get much in the way of action shots. The Rated Rookies are up against a black backdrop. The images have come from photo sessions the players do before the season begins. It's a nice look, but collectors are wanting to get some action shots on their cards now that basketball is in full swing.


Donruss brings a lot of colorful and fun insert sets to collectors. This Net Marvels insert of Lebron James mimics the look of a comic book. Another insert called Crunch Time looks like a cereal box. The designers seem to have had a lot of fun creating the inserts here in Donruss. The inserts really pop and are a joy to look at. It's sweet to find cards that include a bit of uniqueness to liven up breaks.


The parallels in Donruss are the Press Proofs. There are a number of Press Proofs variations that permeate not just the base set, but the the inserts as well. Press Proofs have the word "PRESS PROOF" printed right on the card. Press Proof inserts can be differentiated by gold foil along with the inscription. For the base set, press proofs are numbered at different tiers. Red foil Press Proof cards like the Darius Bazley above is numbered to 99. Different colors feature different print runs. Rookies are the name of the game when it comes to press proofs as desirable serial numbered rookies can be worth quite a bit on the secondary market.


Hobby boxes of Donruss state that collectors can find one autograph and one jersey card per box. That sounds nice except that last year it was 2 autographs guaranteed rather than getting a jersey. Lucky for me I at least found a rookie patch card limited to just 25. Most boxes, however, will feature a plain jersey swatch from a photo event. 


Standard autographed content like this Daniel Gafford aren't too exciting. The sticker on the highlighted area of the card isn't exactly an inspiring pull. What collectors really are looking for are the Next Day Autographs of the draft picks. These case level hits can be worth in the thousands of dollars. They are some of the most sought after autographs in the hobby. These alone make chasing Donruss meaningful!


Positives:
  • Excellent looking insert designs.
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other products.
  • Next Day autographs are very valuable.
Negatives:
  • The price is much higher than last year at the hobby level.
  • Mundane design at the base card level.
  • No longer guaranteed 2 autographs per box.

Overall Rating:

8.75/10

Saturday, December 14, 2019

2019-2020 Upper Deck Buybacks Review


Buyback products are definitely a thing. Upper Deck, along with other companies, have products that feature cards that have already been released re-packed for collectors to find. Some of the cards come just as they were when they came out years ago, other cards have added autographs and a certificate of authenticity. Each box comes with two cards - a Buyback branded base card as well as the actual buyback card.

Product Thoughts
The first card that you'll see when opening up a box of UD Buyback is the base card. The base cards remind me a lot of Black Diamond. There is plenty of foil as well as an etched background. These cards are tastefully done and come in a toploader sealed with an Upper Deck sticker. There are a variation of numbers that these base cards come in. I pulled a Martin Brodeur gold parallel serial numbered to 50. These base cards - while well made - aren't too exciting. It's almost as if these cards just shield that main hit from the box so it's more of a surprise.


There is a huge variety of buyback cards you can find. I've seen many Young Gun autographs come out of case breaks. A Young Gun autograph is an 'ok' pull, but there are some truly epic cards you can find here. Upper Deck touts the Connor McDavid autographs that they have in the product. Looks like I pulled the wrong Oiler!


I joined in on a group break and came away with this Nikolaj Ehlers RPA from Premier. This card doesn't come with a certificate of authenticity as it was already guaranteed in print on the back of the card. The card has a nice patch on it, but I wasn't very excited when I got this card. It really seems like something from left field. 

Positives:
  • A great way to find cards from older sets.
  • On-card autographs.
  • Both cards come with its own holder.
Negatives:
  • Expensive.
  • Some cards that have been inserted are questionable.
  • High risk product.

Overall Rating:

7/10

Friday, December 13, 2019

2019-2020 Panini Prizm Basketball Review


Panini Prizm hype is absolutely OFF THE CHARTS this year. Though Prizm is basically a mid-tier product, it is being priced at levels 2 and 3 times what it's suggested retail price is. And you know what? Collectors are buying it up like crazy still! For me, Prizm has been near impossible to find at the retail level and very pricey when it comes to group breaks and online purchases.

Product Thoughts
I remember when Panini first came out with Prizm many years back. They actually sent me a few boxes to review. I wasn't too impressed back then as I thought it was a Topps Chrome ripoff. Prizm hasn't really been huge for other sports, but in basketball, it is one of the premier products because basketball collectors are probably the most fanatical when it comes to parallel cards. And as of now, Prizm is the product with the most desired parallels.


Prizm comes in many forms at both the retail and hobby levels, and each product seems to have their own unique Prizm content. There are so many different types of cards! It can get really confusing where to find certain types. For the most part, many of the serial numbered parallels are found in hobby packs. A few very difficult to find serial numbered cards can be found at retail, but mostly they aren't numbered. Surprisingly, the most desirable parallels are the common silver ones. These unnumbered cards are found throughout hobby and retail and are sought after above and beyond other rarities. They look great and give collectors hope of actually getting a good one.


With Prizm it's all about the parallels. Panini has included insert cards inside of Prizm packs, but these are by far the least popular cards to find in the product. Because of the chrome nature of Prizm, all the inserts pretty much look the same. They are quite flat looking. It's hard to do a good insert in Prizm because of its nature. Even the parallels of the inserts aren't too desirable. I'd certainly take base rookies over these cards.


Autographs are even second fiddle to the parallel cards! Panini doesn't exactly put a ton of effort into these. The autographs are on sticker with a design that is pretty pedestrian. Sure, a big name auto pull would be great, but lots and lots of Prizm autographs are of vet or retired players that don't carry much value to them. 


Interestingly, at the retail level collectors can find jersey cards in blasters. Mem cards haven't been a associated with the Prizm concept much, but they do exist. I'm sure these cards have a ton of print run to them, but for those who want some cloth action, you can actually find it!

Positives:
  • Very hot and desirable cards - especially the rookies.
  • Parallel cards look really good.
  • Huge variety of formats to select from and purchase.
Negatives:
  • Very expensive and can be hard to find at retail.
  • Autograph content is mediocre.
  • Inserts are uninteresting.

Overall Rating:

9.5/10