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)!

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