Wednesday, April 1, 2020

2020 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Review


I'm a little late to the Gypsy Queen party this year, but I am so glad I was able to find a box! Gypsy Queen is a fun product with a retro design unlike most. There are plenty of fun and collectible things to find in the product, and I'm excited to check out what a hobby box can give collectors.

Product Thoughts
I generally am a big fan of retro products, but for some reason I don't think of Gypsy Queen as your typical retro offering. The design of Gypsy Queen is in the style of tarot cards. The stock on the cards has a slick, almost matte like feel to them. These cards truly make up a unique set! Many retro sets throw in cards from pop culture or history - think Allen & Ginter. This is not the case here. Gypsy Queen is pretty much all focused on baseball. You won't be pulling cards of eggs or presidents in these packs.


Gypsy Queen is very similar to your standard baseball set with a nice mix of veterans and rookies. The final short printed portion of the main set features retired players. Those cards come about one per hobby box. You'll find additional stars in insert sets like the Cody Bellinger above. This is where the tarot card theme really comes into play. This particular insert has rounded corners as well as mystic symbols all around it. 


I've never been a fan of odd-sized cards, so I'm not a huge fan of these Fortune Teller cards. These cards are the same height as a standard card, but they are much skinnier. I've heard there were more of these smaller cards in previous products - and some collectors miss them - but not me. I just never know how to store these cards and keep them in good condition. For now, they just kind of awkwardly sit in penny sleeves. If it's particularly valuable they would go into a top loader. 


Like Topps does, there are tons and tons of parallels and variation cards in Gypsy Queen. Some short prints can be difficult to distinguish while others are easy. This black and white variation card is an obvious parallel. They are also numbered to 50 on the back. I also pulled a Ronald Acuna Jr. card in a pack in my box break that came in the pack flipped the other way. It made me curious and wonder if it was a special card. Turns out it was a short print image variation. So with this set you really have to be on the lookout for these types of cards.


Everybody likes little bonuses, and in hobby boxes of Gypsy Queen Topps is giving us a Chrome version of the set. Collectors will get a 3-card bonus pack with the Chrome cards. Topps has included parallel versions as well with a chance at pulling Superfractors numbered to just 1. I love the added value of these cards and they look good too. The Chrome treatment on Topps cards never gets old!


Autograph collectors will appreciate that each box will have two on-card autographs inside. I love the fact that these cards are auto'd on-card. There are also new mem cards that feature cut-outs of line-up cards from actual games. It's a unique concept that be really awesome to pull. Too bad they are almost impossible to get!


Positives:
  • On-card autographs.
  • Not too expensive and an excellent mid-tier product.
  • Lots of interesting types of cards in the product.
Negatives:
  • Hard to pull hits if just purchasing by the pack.
  • Some cards have odd sizes that may not please every collector.
  • It can be easy to miss some variant cards in the set.

Overall Rating:

9/10

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck SPx Review


What's a 'budget high-end' product? I guess you could call SPx just that as a box of it costs about the same as a mid-tier product. The only catch is that there are only 4 cards per box with just ONE CARD IN EACH PACK! Only Upper Deck could think of something like this! They also claim that each pack is a hit, but Upper Deck counts numbered cards and inserts as 'hits' so their definition is a bit different than the average collector's definition of a hit.

Product Thoughts
SPx is a strange product and is configured in a strange way. This product could have easily come in a small box with one 4-card thick pack, but they chose to go with four actual packs with only one card per pack. I guess this does give collectors and hobby retailers that want to sell packs an option to distribute the cards that way, but I don't think there are too many folks opening this product by the pack. Most likely, a collector will just buy a box and rip the entire thing.


With only four cards, you're not getting a whole lot. Typically a box of SPx will include a base card and some other SPx cards. My particular box came with 2 SPx branded cards as well as 2 UD Black cards. The SPx cards didn't impress me too much. The cards have a busy looking background, but the cards lack the glitz and glam that SPx was known for in the past. The SPx cards come off a pretty flat for a brand that should really be more in your face with its design. My autographed rookie card came with a sticker autograph - which is always a bummer for a 'higher-end' product.


The UD Black cards in the box were much more impressive looking than the SPx cards. The foil on the UD Black cards is shiny and makes the card pop. Even though the Kirby Dach I pulled only contained a plain jersey piece, the rest of the card is designed so well that it kind of makes up for it. The Dach card is a very good looking card and actually elevates the typical boring jersey card that you find in so many products.


The Jack Hughes rookie I pulled was also a very sweet looking card. The UD Black cards stand shoulders above the SPx cards just in their design alone. I would have been thrilled if the Hughes had an autograph on it, but I can live with a very sweet looking numbered card of the number one pick. Here's to Jack turning it around and lighting the NHL on fire soon!

If I'm buying any more SPx, it's really for the UD Black cards. I think they should have done UD Black with the SPx cards as a bonus!

Positives:
  • UD Black Cards look awesome.
  • You can find UD Black cards in SPx.
  • Mid-tier price point.
Negatives:
  • SPx cards look underwhelming.
  • Sticker autographs water-down this product.
  • Upper Deck has a strange definition of the word 'hit'.

Overall Rating:

7.5/10

Friday, February 28, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck SP Game Used Review


SP Game Used released this week to provide collectors with 'premium hits'. The product is configured in a one pack-per-box format holding 6 cards. While there certainly are premium hits to be found, getting them proves to be quite the difficult task. To be honest, SP Game Used has never been a favorite of mine. But maybe this year's edition will change my mind!

Product Thoughts
So after opening my box of 19/20 SP Game used, my mind has not been changed. I still think this product is terrible. The numbering of the cards are all over the place with boxes full of weak hits. The base design overall is decent, but for a product called 'Game-Used' there just needs to be more... much more. Typically a box will have two standard cards in the front (a rookie and a vet). My box contained two rookies. Both were serial numbered, but both had very different numbering. It'd be wise to consult a checklist to figure out which variation you get.


A standard jersey card really isn't anything special. Other than for player collectors, the standard jersey hit is not an exciting pull. I'd much rather get a low serial numbered card than one of these. The jersey piece shown on the Trent Frederic above is a pretty small piece, but to really top it off, it isn't even game-used! The back of the card states that it is just a player worm swatch. Strike one for having game-used stuff in the product!


I was pretty excited to see a big fat card in the center of my pack. When I got to it I found a Banner year mem card. The enclosed material of this card was used in a banner at the NHL Draft. So... maybe a sort of cool NHL relic, but not a game-used relic. And this banner piece was BORING with just a flat orange color. For being the hit of the box, this was terribly weak. Strike two.


As SP Game-Used is considered a premium product, I expect some premium content. Un-numbered sticker autos are not what I'd call that. I've seen many boxes spit out these rather lazy auto cards. The design of the card doesn't even account for the autograph. They just stick it on the front of an Authentic Rookies card and called it a day. This is strike three for this box!


My only actual game-used content was in the form of this tiny game-used jersey piece of Ryan O'Reilly. The concept of this card is pretty cool, but the embedded nameplate is manufactured - not from an actual locker piece. Arg! What a frustrating product! I've been saying it for years... but this product needs a complete overhaul.

Positives:
  • Lots of rookie content.
  • Great if you like jersey cards.
  • Not terribly expensive.
Negatives:
  • Banner and net relics aren't really specific to any player.
  • Manufactured content like the locker room plate and name patch letters.
  • Many of the relics are not actually game-used. That's not good in a product called Game-Used.

Overall Rating:

5/10

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2020 Topps Heritage Baseball Review


1971 is the design that Topps is using for their Heritage set this year, and it is a looker! Last year's set was pretty mundane in design, so I'm glad this set bounces back with a striking look. Though the cards may look way better, the content in Heritage is pretty much the same. There are a ton of base cards as well as fun parallel cards to look for when you buy a box.

Product Thoughts
First and foremost, these cards look really good. The black borders give these cards a bold look that makes a statement. Everything on the card pops out at you. Though the black borders look great, they only look great if they are in great condition. Black borders can be chipped easily. If you don't take care of these cards when they are handled, you're going to get a lot of cards with bad edges.


As you open packs of 2020 Heritage, you're going to be seeing the same thing over and over again. You may think you're getting all base cards, but you really aren't. Topps throws action photo cards in as well as short printed high numbered cards. You're going to want to inspect the backs of the cards carefully to really know what you have. Some variations are extremely rare and have very high secondary market values.


While some cards are hard to tell apart from the standard version, others are easy. The white bordered parallel cards are obviously different. These card give a glimpse of what the card would look like without the black border. Yeah... it looks totally terrible. I'm so glad Topps went with the black!


There aren't many modern looking cards in Heritage, but the Chrome versions have that metallic shine to them that is unmistakable. These cards also feature serial numbering on the back. I love the way these cards look and actually wish they were easier to pull. Collecting a set of these Chrome cards would be awesome - I just can't spent the time and money to do that though.


Insert cards are easy to spot as they typically have a radically different design than the standard base. Sadly, these inserts come on the same card stock and don't have much going for them in terms of collectibility. I consider these cards just throw-ins to put more notable names in the set.


Some of the cards in Heritage feature historical moments and relics. Topps will often put cards into a product that highlight important events. The Flashback set does just that, but these cards won't have much collector interest. There are relic cards, however, that feature coins of different rarity. I bet those would be a fun pull!


You'll either find an autograph or relic card in every hobby box of Heritage. Heritage isn't a hit intensive product, but there are some beauties to find. Most of the boxes in a case will have a standard relic card. My first pack actually contained this on-card autograph of Will Smith. I almost couldn't tell it was an autograph card. Good thing I was going through that first pack slowly!

Positives:
  • Base cards look amazing.
  • Potential for some amazing hits.
  • Not particularly expensive.
Negatives:
  • Hard to tell that some cards are short prints.
  • Not a hit driven product.
  • Photos are uninspiring.

Overall Rating:

8.25/10

Friday, February 21, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Series Two Review


As mid-season hits the NHL, Upper Deck releases its second series from their flagship product. Upper Deck Series Two and Series One always compete for dibs on which one is better. From what I can tell, it looks like Series Two will be the better of the releases this time around. It's a familiar product, and one that collectors will definitely be buying in spades!

Product Thoughts
I've always found Series Two to be the more interesting of the two releases as it contains a huge amount of different inserts in the set. Not only do you get the players that weren't included in the first series, you also get updates from sets like OPC. Each pack you open will have some sort of an insert card in it - I have yet to see an all base pack come out of a hobby box. As this set is a continuation of Series One, it shares the exact same design for the base cards. I found the design of the base cards to be effective, but not my favorite that Upper Deck has done. They remind me a lot of 2008 Upper Deck. 


The Young Gun crop in Series Two looks to be a great one. There are several that collectors are chasing, particularly Cale Makar - the best rookie in the league so far. Time will tell which set of rookies will turn out to be the best overall.


Upper Deck parallel cards come in a few different forms. The clear cards are especially sweet looking. Secondary market values on the big rookies have very high asking prices as getting a good player is very difficult. Exclusives numbered to 100 are very popular as well as the high gloss cards numbered to just 10. 


Rookie Breakout inserts are back and I was able to pull a very nice one in Quinn Hughes. These cards stand out as they pop with color and a fun design. Though inserts don't tend to be that popular, the Rookie Breakouts are a hit with collectors and can command a high dollar value. 


It is very easy to pull out rookie content from Series Two as it is loaded with OPC update cards. There are a number to be found in every hobby box of the product. Though I didn't pull one, Rookie Material cards as well as dual Rookie Materials have been put into Series Two.

I really enjoyed opening up Series Two and hope to possibly get another box in the near future!

Positives:
  • Excellent value.
  • Lots of strong rookie card content.
  • Parallel cards have strong values.
Negatives:
  • OPC update cards can be boring.
  • The design could be better.
  • The Portrait inserts are still here.

Overall Rating:

9.25/10