Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011-2012 Upper Deck Artifacts Review

Just done with 10/11 cards and 11/12 cards have already come out!  There is no 'summer break' for hockey cards that's for sure.  Victory from Upper Deck has already been out for a while, but I haven't gotten my hands on any to review yet - when I do I'll post up a review.  For now, we're going to start off 11/12 with Artifacts!

Base Card Design -
Artifacts comes at us once again with a classy base card design.  Instead of the lofty clouds we had last year, we now have a more serious looking geometric background.  The stark tones Upper Deck uses gives the base cards a mature look.  In the 10/11 set, Upper Deck decided to vary the backgrounds between blue and yellow clouds - it made the set feel a little disjointed.  That doesn't happen this year.  In fact, these cards remind me a little of 10/11 Ultimate base cards in their classiness.

The usage of foil on the front of the card is just about perfect.  The brand name, team logo, and sides of the card feature the perfect amount of foil to make the cards look nice.  My only quibble about the foil is that the player's position and team name are etched into the side foil panels, which can be a bit difficult to see.

The backs of the cards are also well done.  There is a wealth of stats as well as a short write up of accomplishments.  It's nice to see that the pictures used on the backs are different than the ones on the front.  It's a slight detail, but it speaks volumes about the attention to quality and care in terms of design.

Among the main set of artifacts are Legend, Star, and rookie cards.  All three designs are almost identical save for the shading and color pallet.  The example of P.K. Subban above is a limited Star subset card.  It is limited to 999 copies.  For some reason this card reminds me of 90's decor.  The design just makes me think of something that I would see hanging in an office somewhere above a plastic potted plant.  It is a cookie cutter design that just doesn't look very good.  Can you tell that I am not a fan of this design?  These cards actually are similar to Star subset cards found in Artifacts prior to 10/11.  And I was not a fan of those either.  They cheapen the look of Artifacts.  I hope next year UD designers look revamp these cards or change them to something entirely different.

The Rookie and Legends subsets' color scheme actually makes the cards look better than that of the Stars subset.  It still has that office well-hang look, but it's more subtle... thankfully.

Overall the main Artifacts set is a tale of two opposites - great looking base cards and questionably executed limited subsets.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Artifacts boxes come with 3 memorabilia cards loaded within.  At least one will feature two or three players.  This year, the Tundra Tandems and Tundra Trios return with an updated look that is very different than last year.  One of the main problems last year was the difficulty in seeing the player and player names on the card.  This is not a problem this year.

The Tundra cards get a very bright make-over.  The primary colors of white and blue give each card clarity.  It is very easy to see the images of the players as well as their names.  As clean as these cards are though, I would have liked to see a bit more glitz put on these cards.  The base cards have more foil than these guys!  As they are, the Tundra cards really have to rely on the quality of memorabilia on it to stand out.  While there are some really nice swatches, the majority of these cards will just feature single color pieces.  That's why it would have been nice to dress the card up a bit more.

Base cards also get the jersey and patch treatment... and more.  There are multiple versions of the base cards.  Some feature just an autograph, some feature just jerseys, while others will have combinations of different things on them - even laundry tags!  There is a vast array of base card variations.  To get a handle on what is available, I would advise checking out Upper Deck's checklist for Artifacts so you know what to chase.  This will be especially important for collectors who only collect certain players.  Look carefully!

The main source of autographed cards in Artifacts will be from the popular Autofacts set.  I disliked last years design initially - but it grew on me.  This year's design is an immediate winner.  Like the Tundra Tandems, these cards have brightened up since we saw them last.  I love the large photo of the player displayed prominently in the center of the card.  It's also great that these cards have similar color choices to each other.  It really ties the whole set together well.  Now, the autographs found in Artifacts are sticker autos, but here on the Autofacts insert set, it looks properly done.  This set will be a nice one to put together.

Because Artifacts comes out before the first official 10/11 NHL game is played, Upper Deck has included redemption cards for the rookies.  I am usually pretty disappointed whenever I pull a redemption card from a pack, but these are different.  They are not put into the product because an athlete failed to get their autographs sent into the company on time.  These are more like reservation cards for the new rookie crop purposefully done so that the Artifacts set can truly have all the rookie cards it should have in the set.  And actually, this year's redemption design is quite nice too, it has sort of a retro look to it.  Besides these regular rookie redemptions, there are also special autographed rookie redemption cards limited to just 99 copies each.  This is a new twist that that I think is a great idea.  Artifacts rookies have never been a huge draw, but this might spice things up a bit.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Artifacts is a great first product to buy this 2011-2012 season.  It contains three hits and an autograph per box.  And boxes are reasonably priced.  It's a fun break, especially if you manage to pull out a really nice patch or two... or even three!  Artifacts comes at you this year with a strong base card design and clean memorabilia/autographed cards.  It's a solid buy, and I would not hesitate to purchase multiple boxes of Artifacts this year.  It'll be interesting to see how Artifacts stands up to everything else that is forthcoming.  Last year, I ranked Artifacts the third best product of the year.  It'll be tough to hold onto that title.  Does Artifacts have it in it to stand the test of time this year?  We will see.  But for now, have fun busting into your box!

Overall Rating:
(not an average)

See me open a box of 11/12 Artifacts at D&P Sportscards in Sacramento, CA!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hockey Card Rankings #1 and 2

THIS IS IT.  It comes down to a showdown between the best that Panini and Upper Deck have to offer hockey card collectors.  Many have wondered if the new kid on the block could dethrone the current king... was an tough battle, and the freshman made a valiant effort, but in the end the veteran holds the title of BEST HOCKEY CARD PRODUCT OF THE YEAR!

#2  Dominion.

+ Dominion is a very refreshing entry into the ultra high-end hockey card world.  The cards are cleanly designed and look great.  Panini gives collectors generous amounts of jerseys and patch swatches on these bad boys.  Some of the patches that I have seen are absolutely stunning.  Panini truly did save their best memorabilia pieces for this product.  There is a wide selection of players to be collected – many of which are new to the high-end market.  Booklet cards featuring up to 8 players are quite a find.  Oh, and the box it comes in is very classy! For a one pack super high-end product, it feels like you get a ton of cards per box – I guess you could say it’s a good value!  (The previous statement is a joke, if you didn’t get it, sorry!)

- There are a few too many plain jersey cards and parallel cards in the set.  Some of the subsets have names that are silly.  Price is out of this world for most collectors.

Final Comments: I’m glad Panini has their own ultra high-end product.  It brings new life to the hobby and makes things very interesting.  Dominion really surprised me this year.  I didn’t know what to expect of it, but I can say with confidence that it beat all initial expectations I had of it.  There is a little tidying up to do with this product.  Panini should address parallels and plain jersey cards, but Panini really only has to implement a few tweaks to improve upon this already great product.  If Panini takes a delicate approach to improving their top product it may soon be number one!

#1  The Cup.

+ High-end collectors LOVE The Cup.  Hands down it is in a league of its own.  Upper Deck’s top product has steamrolled along ever since it burst into the hobby world with its 05/06 release.  It is a trusted brand that holds the most desired rookie cards of the year.  Opening a tin of The Cup is an experience I wish all could savor.  There isn’t anything else that gives so much anticipation.  The Cup is loaded with high dollar cards and superstar players.  Upper Deck always chooses only the best to put in The Cup, and within in it you may find exclusive legends like The Great One and Bobby Orr.  Everything about The Cup screams premium and best of the best.  Even the base cards are like bricks!  This is a magnificent set to behold and is what all collectors clamor for.

- Hitting a bad tin of The Cup can make you cry.  The price of the cup is out of this galaxy for most collectors.

Final Comments: Last year’s Cup designs focused more on simplicity.  It was a different feel for The Cup and I wondered if Upper Deck was going to continue on that path.  They didn’t.  I don’t know if it would have been bad or not… but the creative geniuses at UD decided to take The Cup back in a classy, regal design – more akin to pre 09/10 designs.  It worked out great.  The Cup shows that it is the BOSS of all hockey cards.  The set feels epic.  It IS epic.  And collectors have shown this to be true because people are still cracking tins of The Cup.  Momentum has not slowed down even with competition.  It’s incredible to see just how respected The Cup is.  Even non-hockey card collectors stop and gawk when a tin is opened.  Just amazing.

Thank you for reading my hockey card rankings.  I hope you enjoyed it!  It was fun to recall all that Panini and Upper Deck brought us this past year.  I really appreciate both companies efforts in giving us these products that we enjoy so much.  My hats off to both companies.  I look forward to the new season of cards.  Victory is already out (I'll review it once I get my hands on some) and Artifacts will be releasing shortly.  I have a box incoming so be on the look out for my review of that in a few days.

To end, I would like to post some comments from normal hockey card collectors.  I asked collectors on Youtube to tell me what their favorite and least favorite hockey card products were this year.  The collectors have truly spoken!  Thanks to all who chimed in with an opinion.  Below are the actual comments and Youtube handles.

my favourite set from this year would have to be sp authentic i just love the future watch autos and all the nice patches my least favourite would have to be contenders for the price point getting four autos is nice yes but not when there all unknown rookies (thats what i got in my box) - MrSp0rtsfreak 

my favourite set is o pee chee because its fun to try to get all the cards since theres over 600 in the base set! my least favourite is donruss because its kinda hard to complete that base set because of ALL the doubles that you get in the breaks. - flyers1220cp 

My favourite 10-11 hockey set is Sp Authentic because all the autos are on card and my least favourite product is 10-11 Donruss because the cards look to plain and the cards dont have too much value. - HCC1817

I think the pinnicle set was my favourite, because i really liked the photos and cool jerseys. I hated the score set, it was overpriced, had no jerseys, and bad photography. - CanucksCollector

SP Authentic is the best because they have on card autos and the price point is very nice for many people. Zenith is the worst because the cards are plain and there are too many plain jersey cards. Only positive is the Dare to Tear. - warriorsmi 

Favorite set is artifacts love the patches they put very nice ones! also like how they sepratley made the base 1 type eastern and 1 type western just very nice cards as usual. worst is Black Diamond, too many paralells hate the singles doubles triples just too much of a bother - leafsfan451

My favorite set from this year is Between the Pipes. Clean base, likeable insert sets, a great variety of game used cards and a large group of autograph cards. My least favorite was Contenders. As a competitor to SP Authentic, it did not have real "gigantic hit" potential like SP Authentic did. As with panini products, there was a good amount of parallels and some iffy coalation of cases. - hockeyrocks8477 

Personally, I was a HUGE fan of Crown Royale. The stuff has great looking base cards and really delivered in quality. Not to mention the Rookie Silhouettes are gorgeous! I would say I didn't like Zenith that much. I thought the Daret to Tear was the only good promotion for the product. - gkolodziej1108 

My fave set would have to be Pinnacle! I've had such good luck with it.. and the price is decent for the hits you get. Also my least fave is SP Authentic.. It's a nice set.. but you get so many base packs. - JaredCowenFan

i think my favourite set this year was the artifacts set it basically always gives your money back and the cards have fabulous designs not to mention the great black autos /5 and all the rainbows you can complete. but i think my worst favourite card set this year was pinnacle although alot of people liked the cards and the designs i found that the designs of the card was dull i also found that there was no big chaser cards! unlike artifacts that is my favourite and least favourite sets!! - lolskateboarder

My product that i hate the most this year was opechee! SERIOUS UPPER DECK? opechee haha it's one of the worst products out there, you barely get anything and the cards arent worth a lot! :)
My favourite set/product for this year would have to be Artifacts, Why? good question because the base sets looked sick! it was very smart of ud to have different colours for eastern conference and western conference. Also you are guaranteed something in a box, there is no miss! you are guaranteed something in a pack, it is such a great product to buy single packs and boxes. Also for the price of a box it's worth it!
- MrSport4life

I loved Pinnacle this year because the blasters had a guarantee jersey which was decent for your money. As well, the hobby boxes had around 3 jerseys and 1 auto, plus a nice amount of rookies that sell pretty well if you hit someone good. I didn't like Victory because it's always the same low end product with not a whole lot of value. - UHF91

There are MANY more comments.  If you would like to see all of the comments (I'm looking at you UD and Panini!) or post your own, click HERE.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2010-2011 Hockey Card Rankings #3-4

Products ranked three and four are stellar offerings from both Panini and Upper Deck.  Each of them, coincidentally, come in 10-pack hobby boxes.  Both offer a wide array of desirable hits, and both of them are great fun to bust open.  One gets the edge because it has a more favorable price point.  But really, they are both neck and neck.  Here they are!

#4  Certified.

+ This first release from Panini really set expectations high for all their subsequent sets.  Certified has a premium feel to it, and there are plenty of hits to be found within each box.  Collectors have enjoyed chasing the numerous variations of cards, as well as the plentiful game used and autographed cards found within.  Certified came out very early on in the collecting season, but still managed to have autographed rookie cards of the most desired players – that was impressive.  Certified gives a very satisfying box breaking experience and has cards that still hold up in value and desirability today.

- The base set is difficult to collect.  I have heard stories of people missing a handful of base cards while others had multiple copies of those same cards.  Collation seemed to be an issue with Certified.  Box prices have risen to a point that makes me hesitant to purchase it.

Final Comments: Certified delivers in a big way.  The cards are designed well and there are plenty of things for everyone to chase in it.  The high-end feel of this product doesn’t come at a super high-end price, though prices for it have certainly risen since it first rolled into stores.  I really enjoyed cracking into Certified this year.  This brand has gotten off to a strong start that I’m sure can continue for years to come.

#3  Artifacts.

+ Artifacts breaks top 3 products in my opinion because it is such a fun box break at a very good price.  Weighing in at under $90, you get 10 packs with something in each pack.  The best aspect of Artifacts are the game-used cards.  Landing a dual or triple memorabilia card is not too difficult.  And there are some really amazing patch cards in the product to make it worthwhile.  Though not a high end product, the base cards feel premium and are elegantly designed.  The rookie redemption card makes for a little excitement, and the autographs are really just icing on the cake. 

- The design of the dual and triple memorabilia cards featuring multiple players could use an overhaul.  The color schemes make it difficult tell who they are, and the names on these cards are difficult to read. 

Final Comments: You definitely get a little bit of everything when buying Artifacts.  I would not hesitate to say that Artifacts gives you a great bang for the buck.  You get memorabilia, autos, redemption cards (and these are not the ones they put in because the athlete didn’t sign in time), low serial numbered cards, and great looking base cards all in one 10-pack box.  When collectors ask me for something affordable but nice I always turn them to this year’s Artifacts.  Great job on this product Upper Deck!

Tomorrow we'll see the top 2 products of the year!  Who do you think will be the card king?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2010-2011 Hockey Card Rankings #5-9

We are creeping closer and closer to the reveal of the best hockey products of the year!  These next products are all worthy of purchase, each have strong qualities that make them unique and collectible.  Without further ado, here are the card sets ranked five through nine.  Is your favorite set here?  Or is it still upcoming in the final four?

#9  Playoff Contenders.


+ On card rookie autographs are the strong suit of Playoff Contenders.  Four autographs come per box.  There are a variety of insert sets to be found in Contenders this year – all either have a nice foil treatment or some other type of special textured enhancement.  Collectors can chase the elusive Golden Tickets made of real gold this year.  Boxes can be found for under $100 which gives it a very nice price point for a mid-range product.

- Rookie card autographs are not numbered, but limited.  It can be hard for collectors to figure out if they have a short printed rookie or not.  Different print runs make the values of rookies artificially higher or lower regardless of the rookie’s talent or hobby status.  Some cards look like they were created for autographs, but don’t have them.  There are no memorabilia cards in the product at all.

Final Comments: Contenders had a strong showing this year.  This popular brand made a nice splash with its hard signed rookies, mysterious print runs, and golden ticket allure.  Many collectors embraced Contenders and have enjoyed collecting it.  At its price, it is a good buy and a fun product to open up.  Contenders is best suited to match up with Upper Deck’s SP Authentic set, but it still has a way to go in order to match that set’s popularity amongst collectors.  It’s off to a good start.

#8  SP Authentic.


+ SPA has always been a stable product and it continues on this year without fail.  The Future Watch autograph cards feature on card autographs and are one of the three most wanted rookie cards of the rookie class.  The design is clean and simple with limited patch cards thrown into the mix.  There are many autograph themed inserts that provide collectors with an opportunity to get stars like Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and Gordie Howe.  The best of the autographed cards come with multiple autographs.

- Purchasing boxes of SPA can be very hit or miss.  It is a terrible feeling to spend $100 on a box to get three no-name rookies or a few low end Sign of the Times autos.  There are also way too many base cards in the set.  People who purchase boxes want the autographs; collectors end up having a huge amount of base sitting around.  They are nice looking cards, but there’s just too much of it!  It seems like a waste.

Final Comments: SPA is always strong brand that I would not hesitate to purchase.  Yes, it can be a big miss, but the set is filled with desirable cards that will retain a solid value.  The cards are elegantly made and look great.  I feel that SPA is a product that has had slight improvement in design and execution every year it has been out – and that’s what’s keeping collectors glued to this product.  SPA is a solid pick to collect.  Buy multiple boxes and collect the set!

#7  Crown Royale.


+ This is probably the most eccentric and charming set of the year.  The base cards are nicely done and stand out.  Collectors are still trying to complete base sets of this product.  Rookie cards are hard signed and the Silhouette rookies might be the most desired rookie cards of the year.  Other inserts sets due hold collector’s interest as well, notably the Scratching the Surface autographs.

- The box price of Crown Royale has gone through the roof.  There are nice memorabilia cards and autographs to get, but boxes yielding the vaunted Silhouette rookies (which are probably the main force contributing to the rise in price) are few and far between.  Lots of plain single jersey swatches. 

Final Comments: I am a big fan of Crown Royale.  It’s one of the most intriguing sets to come out in 10/11.  The royally themed insert sets are great.  Everything is just so over the top!  Unfortunately… so is the current price.  I wish I had picked some up earlier.  Panini has a very nice brand here and I look for them to improve upon it next season.

#6  Ultimate Collection.


+ This year’s Ultimate Collection has improved designs on just about every one of their card types.  The cards are very modern looking – from the base to their most difficult to pull inserts.  The jumbo patch cards feature some stunning and down right nasty looking pieces.  Ultimate Signatures are very well done and would be a superb set to try and put together.

- Most people understand that this product is extremely hit or miss.  A case contains 15 boxes so pulling the best cards from one by buying just single boxes is a quite a task.  Because of so few cards per pack, the fun of opening one is over pretty quickly.  This product comes right before The Cup.  It’s a nice lead up, but is quickly forgotten about once its bigger brother comes out.

Final Comments: Ultimate Collection stays classy and features some beautiful cards this year.  Box prices for this product tend to stay where they were when the product was first released, so it can be hard justifying the purchase of it after the excitement and newness of it are gone.  Still, it’s a proven brand with a good track record.  Single cards from this set are typically still sought after even when new releases are out.  It’s a worthy purchase if you know the risks going in.

#5  UD Series 1 and 2.


+ Probably the most stable and solid set of hockey cards ever.  The cards look great and feature top notch photos.  The Young Gun rookie cards always hold up in value and are a hot item to chase.  At a very nice price point you have the opportunity to get autographs, jersey cards, and even patch cards.  The retro set parallel cards were a big hit with collectors.

- The retro cards bring nostalgia to the table, but I don’t remember the cards being so thin.  It would have been really nice to have the retro cards feel exactly like what they did in the early 90s.  As they are now, the cards are extremely flimsy and cheap feeling.  The same old insert sets are back again this year and seem a bit stale.  Jersey pieces on the jersey cards feel small and the design of them feel phoned in.  Upper Deck series 2 hobby boxes are EXPENSIVE!

Final Comments: You can always count on Upper Deck Series 1 and 2 to be a solid product.  It has a great price and is a product that you can open up at any time of the year with equal excitement.  I would still be happy to open up a box to see what Young Guns were hidden inside today.  This is a product that every collector can afford and is a must buy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2010-2011 Hockey Card Rankings #10-14

This next group of products are the card sets ranked ten through fourteen.  Some of the products in this grouping started off at too high a price point, but have settled to levels appropriate for what they give out.  Do you agree with where these products fall?

#14  Limited.


+ It was nice to have a higher end product come out earlier on in the hockey season.  Since there was no UD Black in 10/11, this was pretty much it in terms of higher end early season product.  Limited provided a chance to get some very low numbered cards as well as premium memorabilia pieces such as whole Reebok logos on cards.  You could also get a variety of autographed and memorabilia cards of rookies, current players, and retired players.  

- Looking back at Limited, the product feels like it wasn’t worth the price tag.  The card stock is thin for a premium card - I actually feel like the Certified base cards were better executed than the base of Limited.  Also, many of the jerseys and autographs were just stuck onto the front of base cards.  It didn’t look good and collectors have not shown much interest in collecting them.

Final Comments: At the time Limited seemed pretty strong – but that was because there was nothing else to compare it to.  Now that products like Ultimate Collection (probably it’s closest comparable product) and Luxury Suite are out, Limited just doesn’t feel like it measures up.  At this point I would go for the later season releases over this.  Panini was smart to release it when they did.  If they do the same thing in 11/12 they should be ok.

#13  SP Game-Used.


+ Getting a jersey card in each pack as a bare minimum is a nice feature to have.  The jersey cards and insert sets are very cleanly designed and attractive.  Putting together words using their letterman cards is fun to do and a challenge for collectors.    

- SPGU’s concept of one jersey per pack comes at too high a price.  Jersey cards are not worth what they used to be and purchasing a pack at about $50 is just too much.  Most packs will scarcely give you back $5 in return.  The rookie cards that come in SPGU, though limited, are not attractively designed and their selling price reflects this.  Collectors are cold towards these rookie cards.

Final Comments: SPGU is simply too risky a product to purchase for the price by the pack or by the box.  This product would be much better at the $125/box range, but most sellers have it between $150-200.  The letterman cards are fun, but the fact that they are manufactured and not ‘game-used’ detracts from them.  SPGU’s main attraction is supposed to be its memorabilia cards.  Unfortunately, collectors are cooling towards this kind of card unless it has a great patch or is with an autograph.  SPGU’s abundance of plain jersey cards is getting old… and fast.  This brand needs an image change STAT!

#12  Luxury Suite.


+ There are multiple hits per pack – all with serial numbering.  The cards are thick and cleanly designed.  Many of the stick piece cards look fantastic.  Autographs are on card.  The price of this product has drastically fallen.

- There are no base cards in Luxury Suite.  Panini attempts to give collectors only hits and rookie cards.  There are many rookies in this release – most of whom are not collectible, nor will they ever be.  Regular jersey cards do not hold much value and multiple memorabilia card swatches are very small.

Final Comments: Initially I would have ranked Luxury Suite much, much lower.  This product came with such high expectations, but fell from collector’s good graces because of it’s price point.  At its current available price, Luxury Suite is a very nice product with a good potential for nice hits.  There are limited rookie cards and some very nice memorabilia available.  I’d jump on it getting some now.

#11  Zenith.


+ The Dare to Tear cards are great fun.  It’s what makes opening Zenith exciting.  You are able to get National Treasure auto rookie cards as well as Elite auto rookie cards within the large tear-able cards.  On card rookie autographed cards are a very nice draw for this product.  The nufex enhanced insert cards look nice and some of the legend cards within the base set have interesting pictures (like Cam Neely as a Canuck).

- The Winter Warriors jersey insert is one of the ugliest and boring designs I have seen all year.  Mosaics jersey cards that carry only 1 or 2 jersey pieces when there are three total players on the card look ridiculous.  The base card set is very plain and boring.  Non-autographed rookie cards are hard to distinguish from the base set.  They are easily passed over if flipping quickly through the cards.

Final Comments: I feel the same way about Zenith as I do about Luxury Suite.  It had high expectations then came out at a price that was too high for what you got.  Now that current box prices have fallen, I feel it is a product worth purchasing – especially in trying to get a good card out of a Dare to Tear jumbo card.  If you get something good out of it, the rest of the box is like icing on a cake!

#10  SPx.


+ SPx surprises collectors this year with a distinctly modern design.  The base cards are classy and the rookie cards are bright and vibrant.  The rookie autographed with jersey cards are particularly good looking cards, as are the flashback fabrics.  Each insert that can be obtained in SPx this year has a superior design – from their Spx Finite Rookies to the amazing looking Shadowbox cards.  This set really stepped it up from the previous year’s offering and comes at an appropriate price point.

- SPx rookie cards will never be the most desired rookie card to get.  They fall in the middle of the pack even though this year’s look so nice.  Individually the base cards are nice looking, but all together – particularly in a binder – they all look completely the same and are, quite frankly, boring.

Final Comments: This year’s SPx offering gives collector’s a strong value and some great looking cards.  There is a nice assortment of autographs, jersey cards, patch cards, and the stunning Shadowbox insert set.  The price of this product has remained stable since it came out.  It’s not a product to heavily invest in, but does give fairly strong value per box and is a solid choice to pick up in its price range.  UD has found a nice formula and design this year.  Let’s see them continue to improve this product.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2010-2011 Hockey Card Rankings #15-20

With Panini's Dominion coming out last week, all 2010-11 NHL hockey card releases from Upper Deck and Panini are live.  Starting today, I will be posting my rankings for 20 NHL hockey card products produced this year.  We'll start with number twenty and work our way up to number one.  We'll find out which hockey product is king!  Feel free to disagree with me or give your own opinions on the matter... that's all part of the fun!  Each product will have positive aspects as well as negatives.  I will also provide opinion on what I think should happen with future releases of each product.  Here we go, starting with number 20...

 #20 Victory. 


 + A nice set for kids at the beginning of the year.  Very clean design.  Victory black and red parallel cards are a nice chase item for player collectors.  Victory black cards are especially collectible because this product is not seriously broken by many.

- Nothing to really chase for adult collectors.  Buying boxes to try and get a black parallel is a waste of money and will give you an endless amount of cards you’ll never move.  Hopefully player collectors will find the reds and blacks they want on eBay.

Final Comments: Victory needs to take a page from Score and at least put some type of interesting chase card into these packs.  Just because they are geared for young collectors doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any kind of hit at all in the product.  I bet kids would love to be able to pull an auto or memorabilia card from this type of product.  It would make their day – especially if this is the only thing they can afford on an allowance.  If you only have a little to spend on cards – go for Score.  And too bad Victory already came out for 10/11… there is not much change unfortunately.

#19 Donruss.

 + Donruss is a product that is easily attainable for most collectors.  There are plenty of jersey and autographed cards to be had here.  Some of the insert cards in this set have interesting textures that make for a unique collectible (Les Gardiens and Ice Kings).

- Getting anything spectacular (though possible) is pretty difficult from Donruss, even from a hobby box.  There are a ton of players in the Boys of Winter set, most of which are not highly collected.  The designs of the Donruss cards, particularly in the base set, are not appealing.  Rated Rookies should have been able to compete with Young Guns, but they fall flat and are unremarkable.  Price point is similar to UD Series 1 and 2, but cards do not have the same quality.

Final Comments: Donruss needs to go back to its retro roots.  When I say retro I don’t mean the 90s or early 2000s.  It should take a cue from their recent basketball release and have some really retro designs – like their old baseball sets in the 80s.  Donruss is a great name and I really hope that in the future Panini can use this as a platform for one of their ‘retro’ themed sets.  I would not spend any more money on this product since there are comparable products at the same price that are so much better.

#18 Score.

 +Awesome price point with a variety of inserts for every level of collector.  Whenever you buy a pack, blaster, or box of Score, you can always hope that there is something amazing in the pack.  Of course, more often than not there won’t be… but there is that hope!  And that hope doesn’t set you back too much either.  It’s great to have the opportunity to pull out short printed rookies, autographed cards, and extremely rare French backed parallel cards.  Score also has a nice 90s retro design that gives recalls fond memories from collectors.

- The glossy parallel cards are extremely difficult to tell apart from a regular base card.  I mixed up the cards once and gave up trying to sort the two types of cards out.  If you do end up buying a lot of this product, it can get very repetitive looking at a sea of base cards.

Final Comments: I would still buy Score right now in stores.  It’s a solid product that can yield some fun surprises.  Panini does not have to make any sweeping changes to this product.  A few tweaks and changes to keep things fresh for next year is all that it requires.  Score is a winner!

#17 O-Pee-Chee.

 + OPC is a solid buy at its price point.  There are a variety of parallel cards that are collectible but not insanely difficult to pull.  Blank backs can be slightly hard to track down, but definitely easier to find than Score French backs.  The base set is very large and comprehensive.  Rookies are attainable and hits are limited but not impossible to get.  The retro parallel cards are fun to collect.

- OPC does not have a huge WOW factor going for it.  I blame that on it’s lackluster base design.  The grey colored cards are not appealing.  Though it’s a challenge to make the entire set, its just not nice enough to go for.

Final Comments: OPC is a product that I do not buy a lot of.  If I saw it in a store I’d probably pick some up because I simply don’t have much of it and the possibility of getting something is there.  Upper Deck should take advantage of the OPC legacy and really take the retro theme and kick it into high gear with this brand. 

#16 Pinnacle.

+ Pinnacle has some really cool and wacky photos on the cards.  It’s fun just to look through the base set.  Nufex cards were nice to see back on cards.  The City Lights insert set was clean and meaningful – I always love it when card companies feature the team’s city on the card.

- The quality of the Pinnacle cards were too similar to Donruss.  It was just a hair better in my opinion.  Though nice, the City Lights checklist was enormous – just like the Boys of Winter in Donruss.  It was difficult to pull players of significance or that you wanted.  Pinnacle Pantheon cards were very difficult to get (one per case), but collectors have not embraced them as must have collectible cards – probably because of their design.

Final Comments: More was expected from Pinnacle than was delivered.  It’s a fun product to bust and the price point is decent – but it’s too similar to Donruss in many aspects.  In the future, I hope that Pinnacle embraces a more premium feel.  The sell sheet for next year’s Pinnacle is already out and they have another non-memorabilia case hit card.  I would love to see some success in the realm of collector’s interest with them.  They look great on paper – but only time will tell if they are what we want.

#15 Black Diamond.

 + The base cards are always nice to look at – nothing else looks like a Black Diamond card.  Very pretty.  The Hardware Heroes and Team Canada die cut insert sets are very well done.  Being able to pull a pack of Ice with an Ice Premier card is a nice draw.  This is the only way you can get an Ice ‘rookie’ of PK Subban, Tyler Seguin, or Taylor Hall.

- The autograph and jersey cards in Black Diamond seem like an afterthought in the product.  Both have mediocre designs that look like they came from 10 years ago.  The diamond tiering system seems a little dated.

Final Comments: Black Diamond is a solid product that has worked for Upper Deck for many years.  I’d appreciate a little more change in Black Diamond to get the interest level back up for it.  This product definitely has the most desirability in terms of its Ice pack box topper.  I would still buy it for that reason alone and have all the other cards in the box as a nice little extra.

Check back soon for the rest of the rankings!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2010-2011 Panini Dominion Review

The very last set of the 10-11 hockey card season was released by Panini this past week... Is this the product of the year?  Or does The Cup from Upper Deck still reign supreme?

Base Card Design -
All year long I have been wanting Panini to come out with a premium feeling base card, and this was their last chance to give me one.  Well, in short... they delivered!  At first I wasn't sure what to make of the cards as I saw people opening them up in video box breaks and scans.  The cards had a nice design, but viewing them through the a monitor does not do them justice.  These base cards have a very bright and modern look to them highlighted by excellent usage of foil to add a premium touch.  The brightness of the card and the shimmer of the foil they use just doesn't show up unless you see them live in your hand.

Panini employs a horizontal design for their common base card set.  The players are featured on the right hand side of the card on top of a marbled looking white background.  The player pictures really stand out prominently here.  On the other side of the card is a place for the card's information.  Here you will find the player's position, team, name, as well as the Dominion logo.  Everything about this card is executed beautifully.  Panini did not skimp on the usage of foil, but did not add so much that it lacked taste.  The designers have really struck up a well balanced card.  I enjoy looking at the base cards and admiring how cool they are!

Each base card is produced on premium card stock.  It has a thickness similar to that of Luxury Suite.  The base cards are thick, but not as thick as that of The Cup.  Does it mean it's not as good?  Well, not really, but I would say The Cup base cards get a slight edge in terms of feeling more premium simply for their beefy-ness.  Dominion cards, however, do hold an edge in terms of their rarity.  The standard base card is limited to just 199 copies rather than the 249 of The Cup.

Legends and rookie cards round out the main Dominion set.  The legend cards have a similar design to the standard base card except that they feature the year the player retired in the top right hand corner.  The rookie cards, however, have a very different look than the standard base.  There are 2 tiers of rookie cards: autographed cards limited to 199 and rookie patch autographed cards limited to 99.

As you can see from the example above, the rookie autographed cards limited to 199 are vertically oriented.  There are some similar design elements to the standard base card (like the rounded design element behind the player), but they aren't very apparent when just glancing at the cards.  Individually I think these cards are very nice and classy, but in context to the other cards they fall a little flat.  These cards do not feature as much of the foiling that the standard base cards have, and the background is a bit boring.  This is the only part of the main set that I wish had a bit more flair.

The rookie cards numbered to 99 mark a return to the horizontal format.  These cards are beautifully done and feature very large patches from player worn jerseys.  I have been impressed with many of the patches featured on these cards.  The cards are clean, tidy, and will make highly valuable collectibles.  Now unlike The Cup that features only a handful of the best rookies numbered to 99, Dominion has 20 players with the 99 card treatment.  It will be interesting to see which cards collectors will end up clamoring for as time goes on.  The rookie patch auto cards fall about one per 6 box case.  I was able to pull the Jacob Marstrom/99 shown above in a box of Dominion I bought from The Hobby Box.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Just like Upper Deck's most high-end product, Dominion's desirability lies in its rich amount of autographed and memorabilia cards. Dominion has a hefty amount of insert sets that have tiered levels of rarity and memorabilia quality.  I will not be able to speak on each individual insert set, but here is a sample that I received in my box.  It will give you an idea of the quality and types of cards you can expect in a box of Dominion.


First off, Panini really makes use of their base card design.  They take their base cards and change the foil color, add autographs, and embed jersey pieces to make a variety of base card themed inserts.  This can be a good and a bad thing.  It's bad because it can be dizzying trying to figure out how many varieties there are of your favorite player.  But that being said, if a collector does manage to get the entire rainbow of the player they collect it would be absolutely stunning.  This also provides for some serious collecting fun if you have the budget for it.

Above is an example of a Ryan Miller base card jersey variation.  I happened to get a jersey parallel base card, but there are many themed insert sets in Dominion that feature small and plain jersey pieces like this.  These jersey cards feel like box fillers.  It is not necessary to include cards like this because collectors feel they do not add any value to the product.  Sadly, these cards actually cheapen the high-end feel of Dominion.  Jersey cards like this can be easily found in numerous lower end products.  Hockey card collectors are already complaining a bit - and by 'a bit' I really mean 'a lot' - about the number of parallels in such a high end product.  It really isn't necessary to have so many different parallel, low-numbered cards, and plain jerseys.  They just dilute the product and make player collecting a nightmare.  Hopefully Panini will listen to collectors and address this issue in future releases of Dominion.

Dominion does have many positive aspects though.  It definitely fills in the void with players that Upper Deck has not included in their recent releases.  It's great to see many of the players who played in the last couple decades get back on some premium cardboard.  Hobby favorites from the 90's like Manon Rheaume, Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick, and Felix Potvin have cards in Dominion.  I am really glad to see that Panini has taken the time to get some of these players into their products.  It's such a surprise to be able to get these players again in a new release.  I never thought I'd see the day!  The 90's were a time when cards were overproduced so these players don't have many high dollar, desirable cards.  Well, now they do.  Kudos here!

You will find many interestingly named insert sets in Dominion.  Here we have a Brass Bonanza card of Ron Francis when he was with the Hartford Whalers.  Brass Bonanza refers to the old Hartford Whalers theme song.  This insert set and inserts like this in Dominion bring fun to high end hockey cards.  Panini definitely did right on this card.  The card is very clean and showcases the team colors of the old Whalers perfectly.  Even though I was never a Whaler fan, I really enjoyed pulling this card out of my box.  Fun themed insert sets like this are a welcome addition.  I don't think every new insert set is a winner in Dominion, but that's to be expected. I definitely applaud Panini's efforts in trying all these new concepts though - it's risky and gutsy to do such a thing.  They are injecting a different feel to high dollar hockey cards that has not been done before.  And that is totally refreshing.

Of course not all of the cards in Dominion are fun and games.  Dominion has its share of right-to-the-point-premium wow inducing cards.  There are so many cards in Dominion that have amazing patch pieces.  I have seen break after break where I have been simply amazed at the quality of patch on the card.  Dominion really shines in this area.  Panini boasted that this set was the best to date in terms of patch quality.  Seeing what they have put out so far, it's hard to argue against that.

A few of the cards in Dominion feature manufactured patches and manufactured name plates.  I have not pulled any from the boxes I have broken, but there are cards that replicate the All Star logo as well as mimic the silver plating of the Stanley Cup.  It will be interesting to see how collectors react to these inclusions.  I for one don't think Panini needs to put these into Dominion.  Having real player worn, game used, and autographed cards with a great design is definitely all that's really needed.  Nothing other than that is necessary.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
All in all Panini jumps into the high end hockey card market with a bang.  To be honest, I did not think Dominion would be a product that could hope to even touch The Cup - but it proved me wrong.  This product has a lot going for it.  The cards are beautiful and feature amazing patches.  I really enjoyed opening up my box and checking out the variety of players and themed sets.  This high end release brings new things to the table and holds a lot of fun surprises.  And I guess the word 'fun' is the most appropriate adjective here.  Dominion is a brand new product with intriguing elements that are a joy to see and collect.  It is certainly an exciting break if you can afford it.  If you have the money to spare, Dominion makes choosing it or The Cup a mighty difficult choice.  I'll let you decide what you want to do.

Overall Rating:
(Not an average)

Watch me break a box at my local card shop (D & P Sporscards in Sacramento, Ca)!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2010-2011 Upper Deck The Cup Review

The moment that so many hockey card collectors wait for all year has finally come upon us... The Cup has arrived... and it absolutely does not disappoint.

Base Card Design -
This is definitely the year of stark and cloudy looking Upper Deck base cards.  From the blue and yellow background clouds in Artifacts, to the faded out players in SPA, to the black and white Ultimate base, and now to The Cup... Upper Deck has certainly maintained a definite theme for the year.  And they all look GREAT building it up.  

I feel that this year's UD cards all have a certain seriousness to them.  They seem to all say, "We mean business, and we will stomp on all other cards this year!"  This certainly rings true for the Cup base cards.  Each base card is very thick - as thick as a patch card in any other product.  The card features a classy silver foil bottom edge with silver foil The Cup logo.  The numbering is placed just above the player's name and team, and each card is limited to just 249 copies.

The design is not as simple as last year's, but is still very simple and elegant.  I have to say that I prefer this year's to last.  The bright background really highlights the player image very well, and the black bottom gives the card a nice contrast.  You end up with a very sharp looking card as opposed to last year's where the base cards held a middle ground color-wise with its beige tones.

The autograph rookie patch cards are stunning this year.  I did enjoy last year's bold modern design, but these cards meld older cup design with new.  The cards remind me of SP Authentic's Future Watch cards - but with a more regal look.  The cards feature a deeper red border and plenty of foil to highlight the patch that is included in the card.  One qualm I have with the card is that the place for the autograph seems a little limiting, but other than that, there is no wasted space on the card.  Most of the rookie cards are numbered to 249, but the top rookie cards are limited to just 99.  Cards with only an autograph and no patch are numbered to 199.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The Cup is all about the themed memorabilia and autographed issues.  There are a ton of sets to chase in The Cup.  It would be difficult to write about each individual insert set, but I can highlight some of the best cards from my break as an example of what you can get when buying a tin of The Cup. 

The Limited Logos set is back this year and better than ever.  This year's design changes the window form a traditional rectangle to a shield look.  Only in a product like The Cup can you get crazy looking patch cards like the Anze Kopitar shown above.  Everything about the Limited Logos card just works.  The autograph placed under the player next to a huge patch looks awesome.  The simple colors do not take away anything from the beauty of the autograph and memorabilia... they only enhance it.  I cannot stop staring at this card in person!  Disappointingly, there are some Limited Logos that feature a full one color patch.  I guess those are truly limited - limited to just one color!  Hopefully you won't pull one of those. 

The Cup Foundations cards also make their return this year.  Instead of a horizontal design they have gone vertical.  It's a nice change from last year.  These cards are great to try and complete a 'rainbow' of.  A 'rainbow' is a the complete set of cards of a player from each print run tier.  There are Foundation cards that feature just jerseys or just patches, and there are some that feature a combination of autographs and memorabilia.   It's definitely a challenge to put together because the auto/patch combination is limited to just 5 copies!  The plain jersey cards are pretty affordable though and nice to add to any player collection.

Scripted Swatches is a cool memorabilia card to get.  These cards feature the autograph of a player on a cut out patch.  So it sort of marries the two types of chase elements.  Sometimes the autographs on these cards can get a little blurry because the ink soaks into the fabric, but here on this Taylor Hall it works beautifully.  Each Scripted Swatch card is limited to 35 copies.

Above is an example of the extreme rarity of some of the cards you can get in The Cup.  This Gretzky card is limited to only 5 copies and features a very unique set of patches.  Each patch on this card came from a jersey that Gretzky wore in an all-star game.  The photos reflect which all-star game it came from.  This is a very unique collectible, and you can pull stuff like this out of The Cup!

The Cup does have it's own set of parallel cards.  Above is an example of a rookie patch auto parallel.  The Cup has always had these types of cards - they are numbered to the jersey number of the player featured.  This one is numbered to 65.  This year Upper Deck chose to have hand-numbering on these cards.  I really like it.  It adds a bit more uniqueness to the card.  Although these cards are great, often times even though they are more limited than their regular/249 counterparts, they do not sell as high since they are not considered a true rookie card.  Obviously, if the print run is ridiculously low then it probably would.  I'm thinking that the Taylor Hall numbered to only 4 would be worth more than the one to 99.

There are many, many more inserts in The Cup.  It is definitely worth cracking a tin and seeing what unique things you will find!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
This product delivers in a BIG way.  There is hardly anything more exciting in the hockey card collecting word than opening a tin of The Cup and seeing what's inside.  Yes, The Cup can be a huge risk - especially if it is not a product you can afford.  For those on limited budgets, I would say save up for a tin and give it a go or wait until some of the excitement has died down and purchase singles.  No matter what you do, cards from The Cup hold their value well.  This year's Cup carries on the torch from its predecessors.  And it's a strong legacy.

It is the greatest product thus far, and will be difficult to topple.  Dominion from Panini will come out soon and it will be very interesting to see how it compares to UD's best.  Here comes a good fight!  Stay tuned for my Dominion review!

Overall Score:
(Not an average)

Check out my Cup Break!  Huge thanks to Chris from The Hobby Box and Chris from D & P Sportscards for carrying The Cup!  Both are amazing hobby stores!  Check them out!