Sunday, November 25, 2012

Retail Review #24 (12/13 Score Blaster)

Sadly, this week I ran out of stuff I had gotten from my online purchases, so I made the trek to the 'ol Target across the street in search of some cardboard. In terms of hockey, there was very slim pickings. My only option was to go with this blaster of Score. I was surprised that they had quite a few Score blasters on the shelf... maybe I'll be the one that buys them all. There has to be something good there... right?

Price - 

Packs - 11
12/13 Score Packs

Like I've stated in previous 12/13 Score reviews and breaks, I am not particularly fond of this release. I've found the changes made to it to be lacking - like it has taken a step back in terms of quality, value, and perhaps most importantly... fun. Seeing as there is little to no other hockey products to buy in my local area, this'll have to be it until more stuff comes in the mail (which I hope is this week!). Usually my local Target will have the latest Upper Deck set in blaster form, but it wasn't there. I wonder if the lock out has caused retailers where hockey isn't popular to cut back or not put in orders for hockey. That would suck if that were the case as I'm in exactly one of those areas.

Well, thank goodness there's the internet and the ability to purchase stuff online!

Well, let's see what I get in my 12/13 Score blaster box:

Review -

As usual with Score, there are quite a few packs to open when buying a blaster. Though the cards don't have a huge retro feel to them, opening the packs do as the quality and quantity of cards you get is like opening up Score packs from the past. The cards have a plain, non-gloss finish to them and feature a simple, uncluttered design.

Just about each pack in the box contained both an insert card and a gold parallel card. I say 'just about' because there was one pack that only had a gold card in it. That pack left me a wanting - I mean... it was just a little sad to bust that pack and see all base and a gold card. Though inserts aren't big money cards, they do add variety when looking through the cards. It's almost as if they are expected to be there. So when a pack is less one insert, it does stand out a little.

As usual, with no NHL season as of yet, it was hard to gauge the rookie cards I got in the box. I'll just have to keep them and wait on them. In terms of gold cards though, I feel I got a decent amount of good ones. In such a big set with so many players, it's hard pulling out the stars. But I managed to get Mark Messier, Jonathan Quick, and Marian Gaborik amongst others. Not too bad.

Insert-wise, I have to say only one really stood out to me. For that one you'll have to scroll down and check out my top three. It got the number one slot!

See the top three cards from the Score blaster box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Michal Handzus Card No. 395 (Gold Parallel)
Like I mentioned in my write-up, I felt like I received some nice gold cards in my break, but this is the one I like the most as it's a PC card that will join my collection of Sharks. As Handzus is a new Shark, there aren't a ton of his cards yet that show him in his new teal colors so adding this one is nice. If you look at the photo, you can see Brent Burns who came over with Handzus from the Wild. What a coincidence!

#2 - Jean Beliveau Card No. OS4
I wasn't sure what to pick for this spot, it really could have gone to a number of cards, but I chose this one of Jean Beliveau because of the nice vintage photo. It's cool seeing the old uniforms and the players without helmets on. I particularly like how Beliveau's head pops out in front of the 'The Franchise' logo giving the card a three dimensional effect.

#1 - Zdeno Chara Card No. C2
This was my no-brainer choice for best card out of the blaster. Though I'm not a Chara fan, I am a fan of Score Check-it insert cards. Maybe I'm just mesmerized by all the shiny stuff on a Score card. But you know what? It looks great! If more Score inserts were like this one, I may have liked Score a lot more. So many things work about this card. First, the theme of the insert is perfect for hockey. Second, the photo and graphics are well thought out, and thirdly, the red foil just elevates the card.

Overall Value -
Just like my other Score blaster opening experience (Retail Review #18), this one wasn't so great. Though I did like the Check It card, that was about it. I'll only open more of these Score blasters if I'm completely desperate to opening up some packs.

I am curious if the other Score blasters left at my local Target have anything inside... I wonder how long and how many blasters it would take before I pull an auto... or even a black ice parallel. You'll see if curiosity has gotten the better of me if you see another 12/13 Score blaster break I guess!

Let me know what you thought of my 12/13 Score blaster box down in the comments below. Have you ever gotten anything good from one of these? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Every Sunday look out for another exciting installment of Retail Review!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Retail Review #23 (11/12 Pinnacle Blaster)

This week I've got another Pinnacle blaster to open. Last week I had fun opening up a 10/11 box, now I get to try the 11/12 version. This blaster was a little pricier than some of the blasters I've opened in recent Retail Reviews... but it's also one of the newer ones. And this blaster states that there is a guaranteed auto or memorabilia card inside. Very nice! Can't wait to see what I pull. Here we go!

Price - 

Packs - 8
11/12 Pinnacle Packs

Unlike Donruss, the folks at Panini decided to bring the Pinnacle brand back for a second year. And like Panini, I've brought back Pinnacle for a second go around in Retail Review! While there were some definite positives in 10/11 Pinnacle, I did feel that it was lacking... especially in the base card design. I can say with confidence that Panini addressed some of these issues and came back with a much stronger product. Overall, the cards look better and the insert cards, too, are more desirable.

Stated on the front of the blaster is a guarantee of one hit. This is really cool because though I thought 2010 Panini blasters had hits in them, I was never sure of it. By adding a statement like that, it gives collectors some peace of mind in knowing that there will be something to look forward to when opening the packs. One thing that often scares me away from blasters is the fear of getting a pile of base cards. That guarantee puts my mind at ease and makes me want to buy these blasters because I perceive that there will be value in them.

Well, let's see what I get in my 11/12 Pinnacle blaster box:

Review -

This blaster was a blast (get it... blast... blaster... ahaha... ehhhh) to open. And it was the base cards that made it so. Panini chose to put in unique pictures of the players both on and off the ice. There were photos of players out of uniform, warming up, receiving awards, signing autographs, as well as some great action photos. Like with Upper Deck Series 1 and 2, collectors can have a lot of fun just going through these cards. I love this aspect of Pinnacle.

In terms of inserts, I received something in 6 of the 8 packs. Most of the insert card were cool. The only one that was a little disappointing was the Corey Perry Breakthrough card. First... well... it's Corey Perry of the Ducks... BOOOOO. And second, the card is lackluster in both design and concept. If these cards were foil or made out of acetate, that would be one thing. Plain stock with this design makes for a dud of a card type.

I found two Nufex foil cards in my packs - one rookie and one veteran. I had forgotten that the rookies this year were all given the special foil treatment. They look great - much beter than that putrid Ice-Breakers logo from 10/11. My veteran Nufex card was a bit of a surprise. I think Panini only inserted one veteran Nufex card per hobby box, so these cards may be a bit more rare than their rookie counterparts.

Here are my top three cards from the Pinnacle blaster box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Nik Antropov Card No. 80
I actually chose this card to represent all the sweet base cards in Pinnacle. Like I mentioned before, this set of cards is just plain fun to look at. There are serious action shots, historical moments... and then cards like this that are just a bit silly. I looks like Nik is doing a karate kick here. Too bad you can see the soccer ball right behind the Jets logo... otherwise it would look as if he were really doing some martial arts.

#2 - Jonathan Toews/Marcus Kruger Card No. 2 (Foundation Insert)
These Foundation cards can only be found in retail Pinnacle products. I remember having to find a Logan Couture/Joe Thornton Foundation card on eBay for my PC. These cards have an eerily similar look to The Path to the Cup inserts found in 12/13 Certified. It's definitely not exactly the same... but it's close enough. My thought is that whoever designed these cards really liked the design but they didn't get enough exposure being retail only in Pinnacle so they did it again in Certified. Just a guess.

#1 - John Tavares Card No. 10 (Threads Insert)
I was really expecting a scrub player in my blaster, so I was very pleasantly surprised when Johnny-T came out of my last pack. Though this is just the generic jersey card in Pinnacle, at least it's of a great player. In the years since his rookie debut, the Islanders have struggled. Tavares' values may drop because of where he plays... and that's unfortunate... but this is a nice hit nonetheless. Great for a blaster.

Overall Value -
Pinnacle is starting to win me over. I really enjoyed the cards in my blaster and would not be opposed to go for some more given the chance. The cards look great, rookie cards are given special treatment, and there are some cool inserts to be found.

Given a choice, I would certainly choose 11/12 pinnacle over 10/11. It's just superior product. I'm curious if Panini will chose to bring Pinnacle back for it's third year. I would say that it would be a smart choice after seeing the growth it has made. Maybe one day it will catch up to Upper Deck Series 1 and 2 - that's it's biggest competitor at the moment. We'll see!

Let me know what you thought of my 11/12 Pinnacle blaster box down in the comments below. Have you ever gotten anything good from one of these? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Every Sunday look out for another exciting installment of Retail Review!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012-2013 ITG Superlative Volume 3 Review

ITG comes strong with one of the heaviest hitters in their product line-up - Superlative. This super-premium release comes in a unique, very limited, package. The price point of this product is on par with Upper Deck's The Cup and Panini's Dominion. It's also equally exciting to bust into as well. Let's see what this book of hockey delivers!

Base Card Design -
What base cards? Unlike The Cup and Dominion, Superlative does not have any standard base cards. I think this is a great idea by ITG. While ultra-premium base cards can be collectible, they can clog-up a product. It's really sweet to open up a book of Superlative and have every card be a hit. EVERY CARD is very limited and has either memorabilia, an autograph, or both.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Well, like I just mentioned, Superlative is about only the goods. This is an extreme concentration of limited autographed and memorabilia cards. Each card comes in its own toploader sealed with an ITG sticker. All cards feature very low print-runs, however, some are so low that they have been individually hand-numbered. Excellent!

Perhaps the most lack-luster cards found in Superlative are the plain jersey cards. Though these cards only carry a jersey piece, ITG has given collectors a sizable chunk of it in the card. And while I usually harp on ITG jersey card designs, the Lindros above is very well done and has a more premium feel than the ones I have pulled from their other products. This card has a nice photo of Lindros, a bit of foil, and Philadelphia's team colors. The jersey piece is guaranteed to be from a Lindros Flyers gamer and has a print run of just 30.

Another only-memorabilia card is the Superlative Patch. Though I think the patch piece on these cards could have been larger, the card itself is designed beautifully. The space on the card is utilized smartly and the colors chosen on the card work well. This is simply a clean, modern, superbly designed card. This is the direction I'd love to see ITG move in with all their future products. I would definitely enjoy ITG cards if they were all like this one was in terms of design. It's definitely and ITG card, but without the 'third wheel' feel that ITG cards sometimes have.

Some Superlative cards will come with no photos on the front. I have seen creative ideas such as banner cards that celebrate players who have had their numbers retired in this product, but there are also cards like this Famous Fabrics Franchise Heroes card. With such hockey awesome-ness here, I really wish there were some player images. I'm pretty sure ITG can't use Gretzky's image, but there must be a better way to make these cards. Other than that, I do love this card for the hockey royalty on it... plus is numbered 5 of only 9.

Now here's a great way to handle multiple players on a card! The idea of having past, present, and future stars grouped together is a stellar one. This card design is all-ITG... it's familiar... but done in a better way. The colors used and the touch of foil give it a few notches over other ITG cards of similar design. Aside from design aspects, this card is notable because it features number one pick Nail Yakupov on it. ITG has had Yakupov in their products for some time now whereas Upper Deck and Panini haven't. For collectors wanting some high-end cards his, ITG is the only way to go at the moment. One more thing about this fabulous card... Pavel Bure. How awesome is that Canucks's jersey piece? Signature colors of the Canucks of the 90's. Oh, and this card... numbered 9 of 9.

Each book of Superlative features young rookie talent. I've already mentioned Yakupov, but many players yet to don an NHL uniform can be found here. This is both exciting and also a potential concern. While most of the cards in Superlative are of established, star players, these young players may or may not pan out to be great NHLers. But... I have to credit ITG for their inclusion because they act as a wild card in the product. For guys that become great players, these cards will have some extreme added value! Cross your fingers for these guys!

Now what can I really say about the Luongo shown above. That is one ridiculous piece of emblem - so many breaks and colors... wow! This card would be a showpiece type card for any Roberto Luongo collector. And in Superlative, there are many amazing patches, sticks, skates, and other pieces to be found.

Superlative is a treasure trove of crazy hits.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I just have to put this out there: Superlative is AWESOME. I've seen many breaks of it online... and it hasn't disappointed. The book that I bought was very solid, and I had a ton of fun and excitement opening it... just as much anticipation as with The Cup or Dominion.

The cards you get for your money have a super-premium feel. The autographs and memorabilia are carefully put together and created. I can tell a lot of effort was put into this product by ITG. It's like a labor of love. You just get that feeling upon opening it - it's hard to describe... but it's there... and it enhances the break so much.

If you can afford it... BUY IT! There are only 1,500 books out there. I'm sure they are going fast. I really wish I could get another one... but I'll just have to savor the cards I was able to get this time around.

Given a choice between a box of The Cup, Dominion, or Superlative... I think it'd be a coin flip between The Cup and Superlative. It's that good.

Yes, I'm gushing over this stuff!

Overall Rating:

Check out my book of Superlative Vol. 3:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2012-2013 Upper Deck Series 1 Review

Another year, another Upper Deck Series One! This signature line of hockey cards has arrived yet again. Hockey card collectors of all ages and spending levels can appreciate this release - it's always a rock solid product that is fun to open and packed with value. I'm looking forward to the stunning photography, sweet insert cards, and the ever popular Young Gun rookie cards that await me in my box - and I'm sure other hockey collectors all around the world feel exactly the same way. Time to get busting guys!

Base Card Design -
Upper Deck has again wowed me with their simple, yet functional and elegant base card design. I appreciate the fact that most of the card front is a full color photograph. The only addition to the card is a bar featuring the the player's name, team, and postion. And what a bar it is! The bar is is mainly a brownish hue separated by silver foil lines with white being the secondary highlighting color. I just love it. It gives a modern wood/natural-feel to the card that I would have never thought of doing in a million years. There's an earthy element here along with streamlined modern design touches - it's beautiful. Whoever designed this card needs to come over to my house and help me create the same feel. It's so slick. Add these elements to the best photography on available on cards... and you've got a winner. These base cards are amazing. If you're going to collect one set a year to commemorate or remember the hockey seasons, there is no other choice than Upper Deck Series One (and then, of course, Two).

The back of the card is typical Series One fare. A small picture of the player is placed in the upper left corner of the card. Most of the back is dominated by stats, but there is a little write up for collectors to read and learn a bit more about the NHLers. These card backs are purely functional and don't have the amazing flair in design as their fronts, but it's the way it has always been. Maybe one day Upper Deck will surprise us all with a completely revamped back... but I wouldn't hold my breath.

One of the most anticipated cards to come out each year are the Young Gun rookie cards. I always am itching to see what the design will be like. When I saw previews of the cards I was a bit disappointed as they looked rather plain... but seeing them live out of the packs is a different story all together. The Young Gun cards this year are bright and vibrant. The card is very modern and reminds me just a bit of the 2009/10 Young Gun design. While that year had a retro-futuristic feel... these ones just have a futuristic feel sans the retro. The Young Gun logo makes me think of the Battlestar Galactica logo just a little. And the red harkens to the main Cylon color (sorry for those of you who can't relate to the sci-fi references!)... but anyways... these cards are sharp! It's simple, it's different, and they're great. I just hope that we will have equally great rookies on these cards... we might have to wait for Series Two though.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Upper Deck always loads up it's Series One boxes with a large amount of insert cards. Each box will have memorabilia hits and a chance at an autograph... though those are much tougher to get. Inserts come in a variety of forms - from foil cards to textured to acetate. This year many collector favorites return. Let's take a look.

Coming back after a long absence are the Silver Skates inserts. Back in the early 90s, I remember wanting the die-cut Silver Skate cards SOOOO badly. In fact, I was extremely jealous of my cousin when he pulled an Eric Lindros Silver Skate out of a pack. Well, in my box I got two Silver Skates - Adam Henrique and Daniel Sedin. The cards are on all-foil board and are very shiny - sort of like the Certified cards I reviewed yesterday. While these cards are pleasant, they don't stand out like the originals did. I would have thought that Upper Deck would have given these the die-cut treatment as they had originally. That would have made the retro collectors like me salivate over them a bit more. Opportunity dropped here.

Unlike the Silver Skate inserts, the Canvas cards have an improved look to them. These cards feature even more unique photographs than their base card counterparts (who knew that could happen!). From what I have seen, the Canvas cards are horizontal and have a classy deep red border. Each card is textured and feels as a painting would. These cards are nice enough on their own to drive collectors into wanting a set of them. This would make a spectacular set to collect - it's great to look at and a challenge to put together - especially the rarer and higher valued Canvas Young Guns.

Chugging on year after year is the Hockey Heroes line. I've never been a huge fan of these cards, but apparently there are those that put this set together diligently each year. To me the cards could use a break, but I would never be opposed to pulling an autographed version of one of these cards. I believe the autographs are on-card and hand numbered. But other than those super rare gems, I usually just toss these cards in as extras when I do trades.

Game jerseys add a bit of value to the box. I'm glad that Upper Deck decided to change up the design just a little this year. Rather than the player amidst a graphic background, they are now featured in an action shot. I like it. It gives a bit more life and liveliness to the card that was missing in past iterations. These cards do not go for much... but sometimes Upper Deck is sneaky and super-short prints a player or two. Keep an eye out for that as well as their difficult to pull patch variations. The patches are serial numbered to just 25 each.

Upper Deck Exclusives numbered to 100 and Spectrum cards numbered to only 10 are popular parallel cards to find within packs of Upper Deck. Both versions are always a popular card to chase for player collectors. The Young Gun cards are especially hot. I always see prices of those ones rise.

Rounding out a box of Upper Deck Series One are the MVP insert cards. Upper Deck has chosen to include this now 'dead' set into Series One once again. Though MVP cards are fine looking, I personally didn't think they needed to be here. Are there really collectors out there clamoring for these cards? Maybe there was a petition out there demanding their return. I really don't know... but in my opinion these cards were completely unnecessary. I would have been happy enough without them.

As usual there are many more inserts to find in Upper Deck Series One. Though I didn't pull an autograph, I know they are out there for collectors to find. There are also serial numbered acetate cards randomly inserted. I guess you'll just have to buy some and see if you have better luck than me in pulling them!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
For the price of a box, I'd say there is some good value here. As I've stated in other reviews, the NHL lockout has hampered this product in terms of the rookie pulls... but I think there are other cards in Series One that are worth collecting. And this being a more value-priced product, it's easier to drop coin here than on other, more pricier rookie dependent products.

I had a lot of fun breaking the box and looking at all the cards. You really can't go too wrong with Upper Deck Series One... but if the NHL comes back... it'll be all about Series Two this year. I suggest having fun busting a box or two. If you like it, get some more. If you find the rookie selection too tepid, wait and hope for a better second series.

All-in-all though, I think Upper Deck has done a nice job with their flagship product once again. It looks great and boxes can hold a few pleasant surprises.

Solid as always!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 12/13 UD1 From D&P Sportscards:

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012-2013 Panini Certified Review

For the past two years Panini has given hockey collectors a strong product in Certified... and the question is if they have done it again with this third go around. This year Certified comes at collectors with a fresh base design and some new playoff themed cards to go along with their already established inserts. Let's see how it holds up as I break into a sealed hobby box!

Base Card Design -
This year's Certified base cards have received a complete overhaul in terms of their design. The entire card is still on foil board as in years past, but the shine is much more apparent with these as the background of the card is an almost totally silver look. I liked the look Certified had sported these last two years, but I am a big fan of the new design. It's fresh and different and easy on the eyes. A good word to describe the base is 'elegant'. From the shiny silver to the scripted team name, these cards show a lot of class. Gone are the more rigid geometric lines and blocks. This year the graphical designs on the card blend in more - it's a subtle and sophisticated approach that shows restraint and a delicate touch. I've got to give it to Panini this year for taking a bold step in changing a design that worked and making different... and more importantly... making it better. That's not easy to do.

The backs of the cards are very clean, and that's been the case with Certified all along. I do like, however, the inclusion of the player image in the background. That's a new element that I didn't expect to see incorporated into Certified... ever! It looks great though. The entire backside is clean and neat. Nicely done.

The Freshman Signature rookie cards make their return into the main set of cards. As much as I liked the standard base design, these cards left me wanting more. In terms of design, the card looks good for the most part. My only problem with the card is the huge white rectangular space they left for the sticker autograph. It's a bit glaring and sticks out like a sore thumb. And in my case here with Duck's rookie Matt Clark, his autograph has a bit more to be desired. Not only is his autograph not pretty, it got cut off at the top too. On a more positive note, the card is serial numbered. It seems as if Panini has heard the collective outcry of collectors wanting more of their cards numbered. Thank you Panini!

Rookie jersey autograph cards also have come back to Certified this year. Collectors will immediately recognize them as the design is a tweaked version of what they did last year. The most obvious design call-out is the 'rookie' die cut with the jersey piece within. It's certainly a nice looking card. I don't have any complaints about the design here... but I do have a concern about the player quality. Unfortunately, with the NHL's labor problems this year, the only rookies featured in the set are hold-overs from last year. This leaves out the biggest new names that collectors are most looking forward to. I'll be interested to see if any of the players in this group have any desirability in the hobby.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Certified comes with an average of four hits. My particular box had 2 autographed cards and 2 memorabilia cards. Also found in boxes are inserts and parallel cards. I was able to pull a variety of different card types in my box of Certified.

One of the most prevalent inserts in 12/13 Certified are the Path to the Cup cards. The Path to the Cup cards come in many forms and in a variety of rarities. These cards chronicle the path to the 2012 Stanley Cup, and will generally feature 2 players from opposing teams that faced each other during the playoffs. It's a neat idea that is definitely relevant to the game - it's great that these cards highlight significant moments during an important time in the hockey season.

A couple things about these cards confuse me a bit though. Panini seems to have gone to great lengths in making Certified the shiny foil card brand. And, well, these cards are not shiny or foil at all. They are on standard plain glossy card stock. It's not that they are ugly cards... they just seem very different than everything else in Certified. The other thing that has me perplexed is the jersey swatch size on the memorabilia imbedded cards. It's kind of neat to have the Stanley Cup die cut shape... but the pieces just seem a bit small. The trend card companies seem to be going on is making plain jersey cards more significant by having larger swatches. I would have liked a larger piece of both players' jerseys on these cards. But that's just a minor complaint. The Path to the Cup cards is a great way to pair up players who would usually not be put together on the same card.

The Mirror Red and Mirror Blue parallels are back along with other, more rare, color varieties as well. I have to say that the making the entire background the color of the variation is stunning looking. These cards really can be set apart from their standard base counterparts. Each of these parallel cards are individually serial numbered. Some cards will feature memorabilia and autographs. These are the cards that make player collecting a huge challenge. Go ahead and try to find all the variations of the player you are trying to collect, you'll be surprised at the daunting task ahead of you!

Besides the Mirror cards, another familiar face is back... the Fabric of the Game! Like the base cards, these cards have received a full foil make-over. The cards are recognizable and continue on a great tradition in Certified. Similarly to the Mirror cards, there are many different variations to collect. The most basic type of these cards is the plain jersey card like the Mikael Backlund card shown above. More rare types will have team names spelled out, patch pieces, or autographs. It's really fun seeing all the different types of Fabric of the Game cards that are available to find.

There are many more types of insert cards available to find in boxes of Certified. There are plain inserts like the Masked Marvel card above as well as creative inserts that feature a pull-out card within a card. Though there are so many things to find in Certified, it does seem like pulling anything that could be considered 'great' is few and far between. And though I think the hits in Certified this year are nice, I find myself wanting more from them in terms of both design and value.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Like I said in the beginning of the review, Certified has been one of Panini's most solid and reliable brands. This year's Certified is still a good product, but I have to say it is not as strong as it was the past two years. While I do think the overal card design has shown improvements (AMAZING base cards), other factors have detracted from Certified's appeal.

One factor that is not Panini's fault whatsoever is the NHL lockout. That has hurt the rookie cards within the product in a big way. Without the exciting young stars, it's hard to have the desire to break box after box. So in that case collectors have to look to the established stars within the product. And this is where it gets a bit tough. It seems to me that it is a difficult task to pull the big name guys. With a huge amount of players in the Fabric of the Game, Mirror Parallels, and Path to the Cup, getting a superstar player is rather difficult. And even when a superstar is pulled, a jersey card of that player probably won't be the most satisfying experience. I've seen cases of Certified busted already, and unfortunately I haven't seen a ton of value.

I would say if you enjoy the look of these cards, break, break, and break the product. For collectors looking for good value in a box, I'd perhaps try my luck with one or two... but not much more. And I probably wouldn't recommend a case unless getting multiples of cases. And even then... I wouldn't be sure. But, like I said, if you're going for looks, there is plenty of that here to enjoy.

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of 12/13 Certified here:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Retail Review #22 (10/11 Pinnacle Blaster)

This week I'll be opening up a blaster of 10/11 Panini Pinnacle. Back in the day, Pinnacle was one of the upper-end brands. This iteration isn't quite so lofty. Panini did try some unique ideas in this product though - some were really great while others were... well... not so much. I haven't opened this product in a while so I'm excited to see what this blaster will bring me!

Price - 

Packs - 8
10/11 Pinnacle Packs

After opening up a string of Upper Deck blaster boxes, it's nice to bust into a few Panini ones. I've found that Panini has made the chance of getting a 'hit' easier in their blasters. More hits in the blasters means more value in them - and I'm all for that! Though the hits may not be the biggest and best patches, I think standard jersey cards are very appropriate for retail level products. For non-collectors just curious to check out a box of cards, these make for an exciting pull.

Similarly to last week's box of Donruss, Pinnacle has a wide variety of insert cards to find. Though there are not the cool acetate cards here, there are sweet looking Nu-fex foil cards. These Nu-fex cards were special and unique as parallel cards in the 90s found within Pinnacle baseball packs, but not so much now. It's too bad collectors aren't as interested in these card variants as they were all those years ago. They look stunning. It would be so cool if collectors still chased them and if they still held some significant value.

In terms of rookie cards, Pinnacle has their Ice Breakers rookie subset. I guess these are supposed to be like Young Guns, but they fail in that they are ugly. If find that Panini really dropped the ball with these cards. It's the one thing I'd re-do if I were in Panini's shoes.

Well, let's see what I get in my 10/11 Pinnacle blaster box:

Review -
The blaster break was decently satisfying. I got quite a few cards and a sprinkling of special insert cards within my box. It was fun to recall that Pinnacle took a different approach to the card backs. Instead of a full spread of hockey stats, the back is a written paragraph about the image on the front. Kudos to Panini for thinking outside the box with that idea. It's definitely something I appreciate, I love it when companies try out different things.

As I expected, I was disappointed with the rookie cards. Not only did I not get any of the big names from 10/11, I was even more unhappy than I initially thought about the Ice Breakers rookie card design. The Ice Breakers logo looks as if almost no thought went into it. Panini could have really made Pinnacle a great rookie card brand if they did these cards right since the price point is on par with Upper Deck Series 1 and 2... but these cards just fall way too short to even be compared with Upper Deck's awesome Young Guns series.

And I'll mention one more thing that made my blaster break a little awkward... the base cards were every which way as I looked through the packs. Not sure what machine packed these cards, but it needed some reprogramming on that day for sure. I know this isn't truly 'bad', but it was a little pet peeve I found a bit annoying as I was looking through the cards.

On a more positive note, I was extremely happy to get a hit out of this blaster. The City Lights insert cards are very pleasing, and I'm glad I was able to pull one from this blaster.

Here are my top three cards from the Pinnacle blaster box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Drew Doughty Card No. 110 (Artist Proof)
I always found it strange that Artist Proof cards were more rare than their foil Nu-fex parallel cousins. While the Nu-fex parallels are in shimmering glory, the Artist Proofs just have a small stamp to signify what they are. In my mind, the cooler looking card should be the tougher one to pull. But anyways, off my soap box, it was nice to get an Artist Proof of a pretty good player. As you know, I love pulling parallels of noteworthy players... and Doughty is definitely a noteworthy defenseman.

#2 - Martin Biron Card No. 71 (Nu-Fex)
Though Biron is not a superstar, I like this card for a couple reasons... and that's why it's top card number two! The first reason is that it was my only Nu-Fex card in the break, and I'm a sucker for Nu-Fex. Nope, they don't scan well, but in person they are dazzling. The second reason is for the picture. In the photo, Biron is using his stick to pile up hats from a hat trick by Marian Gaborik. It's a unique image that card companies tend not to use - very unique!

#1 - Mason Raymond Card No. 17 From the City Lights Set
This Mason Raymond jersey card takes the top honors this week. This is a beautiful card showcasing not only Raymond, but the Vancouver skyline. There are a few instances of hockey cards showing off the city that the player plays in... and I've always loved those cards. I hope companies do more of these in the future. One last cool thing about this card is that it is serial numbered 459/499. Serial numbering is always a big plus.

Overall Value -
I'm not sure if I would be willing to shell out a full $20 for this blaster. Pinnacle doesn't really have the collectible 'umph' that other products in the same price range have. That being said, paying about $10 for this box is just about right.

I'm not sure how often I'd dip into the Pinnacle well. There are definitely things to find within packs and boxes, but all in all it was only a so-so type product. It's a fun rip, but probably only for occasions when you want to try something different at a low price range.

Let me know what you thought of my 10/11 Pinnacle blaster box down in the comments below. Have you ever gotten anything good from one of these? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Every Sunday look out for another exciting installment of Retail Review!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Retail Review #21 (10/11 Donruss Blaster)

Donruss was one of my favorite card companies in the 1980's... their cards always had cool designs that stood out. When I found out Panini was bringing Donruss back a couple years back I was very excited about it. I was hoping for a sweet retro product in the vein of the 80's. Well, that was not to be. I don't think the 10/11 Donruss line did too well for Panini as we haven't seen it back yet... but there were still some interesting things they tried to do a couple years ago that did have merit. I'm looking forward to revisiting 10/11 Donruss in this Retail Review.

Price - 

Packs - 8
10/11 Donruss Packs

Like the last Retail Review, this one was a no-brainer for me to try for price alone. At about $7 for the blaster, this will be a fun and cheap little break for me. Although Donruss is definitely on the lower-end of things, it is not a product that has nothing to look forward to. There are actually well-thought-out inserts as well as hits to be found.

In terms of inserts, I remember being able to find cards with unique textures and materials in Donruss packs. And that's how companies should make their inserts... they should stand out! Using unique processes to create the cards makes them interesting, and more importantly, worth collecting - and I think collectors appreciate it. So I'm hoping that some cool insert cards come out of my blaster. I always think back to the 90's and all the crazy, wacky designs that came out. It was awesome, and I wish some of that fun creative energy was still around in card collecting today.

In terms of hits, both game-used material and autographs can be found in Donruss. I'm not quite sure if there was a guarantee one-hit-per-blaster with these, but I won't expect anything. It'd be cool to pull a Fans of the Game autograph though. I know some people are not a fan of non-hockey autographs in products, but I personally liked the idea. Some of these cards actually are worth quite a bit!

Let's see what I get in my 10/11 Donruss blaster box:

Review -
This break turned out to be pretty satisfying, more so than my O-Pee-Chee break from last time. I have to give all the credit to the inserts I pulled here as they reminded me that cool inserts are just cool. And I even got a hit out of the blaster too! Though now I'm thinking that all Donruss blasters have hits in them. Not 100% sure still... but maybe. If so, they are an even better value!

The only disappointment with this blaster were the base cards, but I knew that going in. The base cards were neither here nor there in my opinion - showcasing a generic design. I didn't even get a Rated Rookie in the blaster. Oh well, I did get a few Sharks including my PC player Logan Couture... so that made up for things a little.

In total I pulled five hits or inserts out of my eight packs - not bad. My one hit was a scrubby jersey card... but it's still a hit so I can't complain too much. And I did end up getting a Fans of the Game insert of Willa Ford, but unfortunately it wasn't autographed.

Coincidentally, my top three cards this week all feature goalies, and here they are:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Johan Backlund Card No. 33 From Boys of Winter Insert Set
Usually I'd put the hit as number one, but I don't think this card holds up as nicely as the other two I got. The Boys of Winter cards are pretty generic looking. The design scheme works, but is pretty uninspired. These are the jersey-type cards you find in the dollar bins. Still, a hit is a hit! Maybe some Flyers fan will want this card.

#2 - Jaroslav Halak Card No. 15 From The Goalies Insert Set
Acetate is such a great material for a card. I really liked it when I first saw it in Classic sports card products in the early 90's, and it is still awesome on the cards here with this insert set. The Donruss Goalies set is special all around - from the acetate to the language 'The Goalies' is in... much thought went into these. They are sweet and Halak is a pretty darn good goalie. Nice pull here.

#1 - Patrick Roy Card No. 3 From Ice Kings Insert Set
Now this is a stunning card in person. This Ice Kings card of Patrick Roy has a lot going for it. First and foremost... it's Patrick Roy... and that should be 'nuff said... but this card also has a textured canvas feel to it that compliments an amazing artistic rendition of the legendary goalie perfectly. If there weren't enough, the card has an extra touch of class as the position and player name are given the foil treatment. This is an extremely well done card of a great player. Top card honors for this one!

Overall Value -
This was a great blaster box for the price. I enjoyed breaking it and checking out all the fun inserts that it had. This box actually really made me want to buy another to crack open... and I might just do that with my next retail order.

Though Donruss is a low-end product, I feel like there is good value within. Maybe one day Panini will bring it back and do it even better. For now, collectors looking for a nice little break can turn to the 10/11 release and have a go at it!

Let me know what you thought of my 10/11 Donruss blaster box down in the comments below. Have you ever gotten anything good from one of these? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Every Sunday look out for another exciting installment of Retail Review!