Thursday, October 17, 2019

2019 Topps Gold Label Review


Topps Gold Label is pretty much a one-card-per-pack type of product as each box comes with one very nice looking autographed card. But to mix it up a little, Topps also throws in some nice base cards to give collectors a few more packs to open. The pack with the special gold framed autographed card sticks out like a sore thumb when opening the box... so be careful not to purchase packs of this on the secondary market (unless they are dirt cheap).

Product Thoughts
Gold Label is a beautiful set. It combines tastefully done gold foil with some amazing holofoil to create a truly modern masterpiece of a card. Each card contains two images that go well together. The cards don't look crowded. I'm really impressed by whoever designed these cards as they are extremely well balanced - not something easy to do given all the elements in play here.


I'm not a huge fan of the base packs that come with Gold Label, but they do contain parallel cards that have individual numbering. These parallel cards give the product a little more life, but I don't recall Gold Label parallel cards as anything people were really clamoring over. So while they are nice, I just don't see a huge demand for them after a couple weeks of release.


Gold Label also institutes a class system for the base cards. This tiered base card system has been done in the past, but I don't think it has ever really been that popular. I just think the base cards are so insignificant that nobody cares if a card is class 1, 2, or 3. In fact, the foil makes it hard to tell what class you have exactly unless you put the card at the perfect viewing angle.


By far and away the best thing about Gold Label are the framed autographed cards. To me, Topps should shave done away with the other cards and just put one of these per box. These cards look absolutely amazing with their heavy gold borders. The on-card autograph also shines on these cards. I'd say that design-wise, these cards are worth the price of admission.

Positives:
  • The gold border cards are extremely nice looking.
  • A box is relatively inexpensive with a release price of around $60.
  • On-card autographs.
Negatives:
  • I have seen a lot of terrible players come out of breaks.
  • The base cards, while nice, are pretty much an afterthought.
  • Confusing tiered system for the base cards.

Overall Rating:

7.5/10

Saturday, October 12, 2019

2018-2019 Upper Deck Clear Cut Review


Upper Deck and Topps both release an acetate product in the same week so for collectors who collect both hockey and baseball, the products can be compared in a head-to-head. When it comes down to it, the Upper Deck's offering is less satisfying, less of a value, and more expensive. That's not good.

Product Thoughts
One thing that Upper Deck Clear Cut has going for it is the look of the cards. Upper Deck has always done a magnificent job of making cards look nice and classy. The Clear Cut cards have a great looking frosted white portion that has tasteful foil highlights to go along with the blue on-card autograph. The one-touch that it comes in is sealed with the Upper Deck hologram which gives it a nice touch as well. In terms of design, Upper Deck gets a thumbs up.


Where the product falters is the price. Boxes of Clear Cut are about eighty dollars at the time of release. That's eighty bucks for just one card. Hockey has traditionally been weaker in terms of the value of cards when compared to the other major sports. So to pay so much more for a product doesn't bode well for the release. Topps' Clearly Authentic has the exact same configuration but at twenty to twenty five dollars less. If I had to choose a product, I would go for Topps all day long. Not only is it cheaper, but the potential to pull a card that is worth more is much higher with that product.


Watching break after break of Clear Cut, what I've seen the most of have been just plain 'ol rookie cards. If you just want to test the waters of Clear Cut and buy a single box, chances are you're going to pull a rookie auto. Unfortunately, the product is stacked with rookies that are not significantly worth anything. Finding a great vet or a high-end rookie is a very tough proposition. You're much better off just finding the player you like and buying the card as a single. The gamble here is too ridiculous.


I don't want to be a complete downer on the product. One thing that I did like about Clear Cut was if you got a redemption card, you at least got a Rookie Debut Canvas along with it - that way you didn't just feel like you got nothing but a long wait in you box.

All-in-all I was really looking forward to Clear Cut, but the reality of the product is that it just isn't worth the price. If the price were to reach the fifty dollar range I could see myself getting more, but for now... nope.

Positives:
  • Excellent looking cards.
  • If you get a redemption you still get a UD Canvas rookie card.
  • On-card autographs.
Negatives:
  • Expensive product compared to other sports versions.
  • Loaded with cards that won't have much value.
  • The breaking experience is over too fast.

Overall Rating:

4.5/10

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

2019 Topps Clearly Authentic Review


For the second week in a row, Topps has released a product that comes one card per box. 2019 Topps Clearly Authentic takes the 2019 card designs and gives them the clear treatment with acetate. The cares are all autographed on-card and come inside a protective one touch, sealed with a Topps sticker. Boxes of Clearly Authentic run about ten or so dollars more than their Archives Signature counterparts. Are they worth buying over that release?

Product Thoughts
The answer is YES. Topps Clearly Authentic does cost a little more than the Archives Signatures, but from what I've seen, the player selection is much better. Clearly gives collectors a mix of both current and retired players, and the collation of the stars in the product seems head and shoulders above Archives. If you're a fan of what acetate cards look like, this year's design works great. I wasn't a huge fan of the regular looking Topps base cards, but the borders - especially with the colored parallels look great.


Collectors can find retro designs such as 1984 inspired cards as well as 1952 designs and mini T-206 acetate cards. If you liked the 150 years of baseball inserts in Topps this year, you can also get acetate versions of those cards. There is an excellent amount of stars (especially retired greats) that can be found in these particular subsets. See one of those in your box and chances are you've got a good card in your hands.


Of course no modern release would be complete without parallel cards. Both the standard base set and all the special designs have parallels that can be found. The parallel cards are serial numbered depending on its rarity. Orange /5 and gold/1 are the rarest of the parallels.

It's good that Topps released this product after Archives Signatures because after seeing this, I wouldn't touch Archives!

Positives:
  • On-Card autographs.
  • Both current and retired players can be found in this release.
  • Good distribution of star power in cases.
Negatives:
  • More expensive than Archives Signatures (the other one card per box brand like this one).
  • Very quick break experience.
  • Still a relatively risky product.

Overall Rating:

8.25/10

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

2019 Topps Archives Signatures Retired Players Edition


Why does Topps break up their Archives Signature Edition into two separate editions? I have no idea (But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with making more money). This version of Archives Signatures brings collectors players who have already retired from the sport. Collectors will find one encased card per box for about fifty bucks. It's a quick break that will either leave you pretty happy... or pretty sad. Well... who are we kidding... usually pretty sad.

Product Thoughts
I'm typically a fan of buyback cards being autographed as well as the chance to find players that have retired. I'm a big fan of the past and love all the retro stuff. The problem with Archives Signatures Retired Edition is that the set is completely watered down. The boxes that I opened were terrible and the breaks I've seen already of cases seem pretty lackluster as well. I have yet to see a really big name come out of over 50 boxes of this stuff. Sure, there are 1 of 1's out there, but if you get someone who isn't a star, though it's a 1 of 1, the resale value on the card won't even be what you paid for the break. The only true winners from this (Besides Topps, of course) are those who are fortunate enough to pull a superstar like Jeter from one of these boxes. Otherwise, collectors aren't going to find too much to be excited about.


If you're really looking for a certain player or cards from a certain team, my suggestion is to simply find them on eBay or another secondary market source and pick them up that way. Some of the cards will run you as little as five bucks! Many of the cards will mostly likely be in the $15-$30 range - which is less than what a box costs anyways. I would much rather get a card of my choice for a few dollars than buy two boxes and get something like an Eric Gagne and a Charles Nagy... oh wait...

Positives:
  • Some retired players will be worth the chase.
  • Cards are signed on-card.
  • Each card comes in a cool one-touch holder with a Topps sticker to seal it closed.
Negatives:
  • Very difficult to find a card that is worth more than the price of the box.
  • Many so-so names to be found here.
  • Not much of a break experience.

Overall Rating:

4.5/10

Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019-2020 Upper Deck Artifacts


Oh, Artifacts... you used to be so good! I used to say that the real start of the collecting season began with Artifacts. Hobby boxes would contain autographs and there would be awesome patch cards coming out all the time. Those days are long gone. It seems as though there are hardly any autographs to be found with most boxes just giving out boring jersey cards. The Artifacts I've already gotten is all that I will be getting as this product is just a shell of what it once was.

Product Thoughts
Artifacts is a mid-tier product that has some nice base looking base cards. The base cards have a nice foil elegance to them though I'm not a huge fan of the design this year. It used to be that these cards were nice enough to collect all by themselves. At the retail level, that's pretty much all you got aside from one numbered card. This just doesn't cut it in today's hobby. Rather than moving forward and giving collectors more of an incentive to purchase Artifacts, it seems as if the brand has made quite a few steps backward.


Like every year, Artifacts comes before the NHL season begins. Collectors can find players that suited up last year and were held over for a rookie card until now. This is just like MVP and OPC that came out before except that the rookies now feature serial numbering on them. Artifact rookie cards have not been historically popular so while they are serial numbered, that doesn't make them that much more collectible.


What does set Artifacts apart from the other two already released products are the rookie redemption cards. These cards can be redeemed for a rookie card in the future. While most will net you just a regular rookie card, collectors can find memorabilia versions and autographed versions as well. The redemption cards of the top players in the draft can fetch quite a high dollar, but I don't like knowing that I'll have to wait a good long while before the card comes in.


Upper Deck has used the same parallel structure in Artifacts for years. You'll always find these two spaces for jerseys or patches or other parts of the jersey. I feel decently lucky to have pulled a jersey/patch card from my box. I've seen box after box of Artifacts and they feel as if they don't come out too often.


The Aurum cards have been a thing for a couple years now and I honestly am not a huge fan of these. These cards count as a hit in your box if you get one, and the best thing you can do with them is collect them all and redeem them for exclusive cards from Upper Deck. I feel like these cards are made so that collectors can buy more product to find a set. There are a lot of cards to collect in the Aurum set so I've never had the desire to even go for it. Upper Deck seriously needs to rethink what it will do with Artifacts going in to the future. As of now, it is a product that is just withering away.

Positives:
  • A chance to get rookie autographs in the form of rookie redemption cards.
  • You could do worse than 3 hits per box.
  • Moderate price.
Negatives:
  • Lackluster.
  • Aurum card redemption is too far fetched for most.
  • Seems to be in decline as a product.

Overall Rating:

6/10