Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Absolute Football Video Review

Absolute Football has been a big hit with collectors for a few years now. It's a brand of premium football cards featuring shiny holofoil, autographs, and player-used (touched?) memorabilia. Collectors know what to expect and look forward to its release each year. Opening up a box yields you four APPLE TURNOVERS?!?!? Oh wait... that's just the way they package the cards...

Overall impressions -
I'm fascinated by Panini packaging. Panini Black football had the cube and ridiculously large pack... and this product has the four mini apple turnover type boxes within a larger box. When all is said and done and all the cards are out of their packs, they all become just a stack of cards... but still... I think Panini puts a lot of thought into their packaging, and getting into the product is half the fun of breaking. Each part that a collector unwraps could be called a 'barrier of anticipation'. The only thing I wasn't very keen on with Absolute was the clear pack wrapping within the smaller boxes. It's just weird to have clear cellophane as a pack wrapper don't you think? I do.

The Absolute base cards come on thinner foil board card stock, similar to Panini Limited. While I do like the overal design scheme of the base card, I'm not a huge fan of the type of foil Panini uses here. In light, the refracted rainbow effect only shows up in certain vertical bands across the front of the card. This effect gives the impression that the card is unbalanced. I would actually prefer the Certified foil-type here. That foil is flatter but has a more even look when light shines on it. Aside from that, everything else is cool. I particularly like the bottom of the card where all the information is. It's a solid design that is simple yet bold. The gold foil and white backing make a striking combo. Of particular note is the Absolute logo - it's very well done.

The autographed cards in Absolute are of the sticker variety. Obviously, it'd be nice to have athletes sign everything on card, but we all know that makes things more difficult for the card companies. The stickers that are used in this product are 'ok' as the sticker is pretty transparent (though it's still pretty obvious it's a sticker)... but my gripe comes in that the autographed versions of the base cards just have a sticker slapped onto the face of the card. Though cards like the Greg Jennings shown above has a bit of white space for the autograph, it's still not an ideal solution in making the sticker less noticeable. By now there are many card designs that hide the fact that stickers are used. I think Absolute attempt to do the same thing.

My rookie autograph was of Lion's defensive tackle Riley Reiff. Because of the position he plays, this card will probably never reach a high dollar value... but Lions fans and collectors would probably want to add this card to their collection. In football, as I've stated before, there are many, many rookie cards like this. They have to be in there, I guess, but it doesn't make for a very exciting pull.

On the event-used material side of things, Absolute does a great job of giving collectors some very nice looking cards. This Jarius Wright Rookie Premiere Materials card makes good use of foil and die cutting technologies.

Even better than the Jarius Wright Premiere Materials is this Star Gazing patch card of... yep... Jarius Wright! I guess this was a Jarius Wright hot box. Though the design on this card is very busy, all the components work together well to leave no wasted dead space. The patch in the card is also pretty good. It's two color, but there is seam showing and you can tell it came off of a number or letter from the jersey.

I don't think I got the best box of Absolute (maybe I would if I were a huge Viking or Jarius Wright fan), but I have seen some pretty awesome breaks of this product on Youtube. For about $150-$160, collectors can find four hits in four apple turnover boxes. To me, it's a bit steep, but collectors will find some pretty high quality cards inside. Absolute is a brand that has stuck around so there is already and established collector base for these cards. I would recommend purchasing Absolute - Panini has come out with some eye-catching cards in a satisfying rip. Not all boxes (like this one) will be winners... but that's a given. Panini has a good thing here with their Absolute brand.

Overall Rating:

Let me know what you thought of Panini Absolute or my review of it in the comments section!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Panini Black Football Video Review

It's a BORG cube!!! Or not. Sorry for the geeky sci-fi reference, but Panini's brand new Black football product comes in a exactly that... a cube. This super premium high-end card release comes with one extremely large pack on the inside. Collectors can look forward to finding a least three autographs and two other hits per box. A huge thanks to Tracy over at Panini for providing this box for review!

Overall impressions -
Panini has done a very nice job with the design of Black. And it starts with the awesome packaging. The packaging of the product is top notch - whoever designs Panini's boxes should definitely get paid more. Part of the fun of opening up a high end product is handling the box it comes in. With packaging as nice as this, collectors feel that they are opening something special and of great value.

As for the actual cards, they are very nice as well. Each box of Black will contain twelve cards. Of the twelve, seven are regular base, rookie, or insert cards that do not contain an autograph or memorabilia piece. Though these cards look sweet and feature a modern, tough design... I think getting seven (essentially base) cards is a bit much. It may be nice to get more cards per box, but having this many non-hit cards actually gives collectors a feeling that the hits within aren't concentrated enough. If boxes of Black had four or five base/inserts/rookies, it would make for a more premium opening experience. That being said, the cards do still look great. My only design change would be to have the cards be completely black, including the side edges! Total bad @$$-age right there. Just my two cents!

As for the hits, my box provided me with some more great looking cards... let's talk about some of the hits now.

I have to say that design-wise, there are some real winners here. The Rookie Patch Autographs are done nicely. They are clean and refined looking cards. The Mohamed Sanu card I pulled featured a crazy looking patch piece. I took some time and checked out eBay and saw that many of these Rookie Patch Autograph cards have unique patches imbedded in them. It's awesome when pieces of patch enhance the cards so well. The gold ink autograph was also a nice touch... I do, however, wish Sanu was given a skinnier pen to use. His auto is small, and the girth of his stroke is a bit too big for my taste.

Another card with amazing patch pieces was this Flacco/Rice Materials Combos card. I was stunned at how nice the included patch pieces were. Each piece had multiple breaks and colors. I'm sure Raven's fans would love to get their hands on this one. Though the Sanu and the Flacco/Rice are great looking cards, I would say that if I were to sell both, they would not go for too much - at least no where close to what the box price was.

My other inserts were just a couple more autographs and a jersey card. The NFL features so many rookies that don't pan out that it makes it really hard to get too excited about these pulls.

All-in-all, Panini has again done a really outstanding job of making a beautiful card product. As with all super premium card releases, they are a pretty big gamble if you're looking to break even or hit the jack pot. I have to say that at $200 a box, the price is a bit too high for essentially five hits (keeping in mind that usually three of the hits would be just 'filler' type stuff). Black is a product I'd love to buy many boxes of... but the price to value ratio is just a bit too skewed for me. That being said, I know that there will be many football collectors out there who will take that gamble in search for some beautiful rookie cards of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffen III as well as some of the other stand out rookies this season.

Overall Rating:

Let me know what you thought of Panini Black or my review of it in the comments section!

Retail Review #29 (2012 UD Goodwin Champions Blaster)

...and now for something totally different! Here's a blaster that I've been considering for a while now, and today I went for it! It's a multi-sport mashup from Upper Deck called Goodwin Champions. Hockey is definitely represented in this product, but is basketball, baseball, football, and assorted other sports... and even non-sports too. It should be a fun and unique break. Let's check it out!

Price - 

Packs - 12
2012 Goodwin Champion Blaster Packs

This will be my first time ever opening up this product. When it came out I was very temped to purchase a box to review, but I decided not to as I was short on funds at the time. But I'm very happy to have a blaster to check out today.

Goodwin Champions is a product much like UD Champs Hockey. The base cards come on non-glossy card stock, mini cards are a big feature of the set, and there's a huge amount of variety. I think it's very intriguing that though I'm mostly looking for the hockey related cards, there is a chance at a Michael Jordan (which I'd ABSOLUTELY LOVE TO HAVE), Tiger Woods, or other non-hockey autograph.

Also to be found are memorabilia cards and military machine cards. I'm not sure why Upper Deck decided to do a special insertion of military vehicles in the product... but they did! That's pretty odd to me. But it's an odd product... so it makes sense?

I'm not going to try and wrap my head around that one... let's check out this blaster!

Review -
Besides the blaster of Goodwin Champions, I also purchased 4 lose packs of 09/10 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey on sale for $1.59 each. WOW, these packs were great for the price! I was pleasantly surprised to pull out 2 inserts and 2 Young Guns in the lose pack mini break. The two cards that stood out to me the most were a Sidney Crosby Season Highlight card and an Antti Niemi Young Gun. It was a very satisfying little rip! Man, I hope to find some more of these loosies next time at Target! They actually had a bunch of 08/09 UD2 lose packs too... but I don't think there's much to pull out of those.

As for the Goodwin blaster, it was also a fun break. I may actually consider getting another box one of these days. The cards are just plain cool! Because it's mashup product, UD had to only choose the biggest names... and I feel like I pulled some great names out.

I didn't hit any autographs or memorabilia cards, but I did get the 5 stated mini cards. The best of the minis was Wendel Clark. The picture on the card is perfect for this tough as nails player - he looks like he just participated in a scrap. One of my other minis was a green bordered Lady Luck back. I'm thinking this one is more short printed than the others. I like this one too as it shows former NFLer Brian Bosworth doing some martial arts.

The strangest card I pulled was definitely the Military Machines card. I'm fine with military things, but it just felt a bit out of place here. The card itself was odd as it was the only card featuring full-glossy stock. It reminded me of the glossy inserts within O-Pee-Chee a bit... with military machines instead of athletes, of course.

I chose to exclude the UD1 break from my top 3. Here were my favorites from the Goodwin blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Sidney Crosby Card No. 49
I just had to include Crosby here. I was debating between him and The Great One, but I went with The Kid because he's been following me around in my breaks the past few weeks. And even in this break I pulled out multiples of number 87, so I figured it had to be him. This is a very different card of Crosby though, he looks pretty young in this rendition - a very unique picture from a very unique set.

#2 - Michael Jordan Card No. 123
Back in the late 80's and on into the 90's I was a HUGE basketball fan. I chose to follow hockey more closely as the NBA has totally lost my interest. I think it's because there's a lack of players like MJ. He was an amazing basketball player and (besides the gambling habit) presented a great role-model image for the younger generation. I would love to add a Jordan rookie or auto to my collection one of these days... but today I'll have to settle for this base card of his.

#1 - Sonya Thomas Card No. 45
How can I say no to THE BLACK WIDOW? At first I thought I had pulled a WWE card or something... but then I noticed the 'Professional Eater' at the bottom and instantly knew who I had. I've seen this girl eat a ton of hot dogs in eating competitions. She kicks @$$ in so many ways... and look at how small and skinny she is! This is a cool card for sure, and my favorite of the break.

Overall Value -
At $20, Goodwin is an 'ok' break. The packs were really enjoyable to open, but in terms of value, only blasters with hits in them would make it worthwhile. The mini cards are unique, but I wouldn't say they hold the same allure as a jersey or auto. I'm sure that there are collectors out there who love the mini cards - and that's awesome - but for me, they are cards I could live without.

I wish the blaster was less than $20. A quick check at shows that last year's blasters can be found for less than $13. I think that is something I would definitely go for - that price is much better than the suggested $19.99 it says on the box. I'll have to pick one of those up the next time I make an order (which will be in a while because I just put in a pretty significant retail order)!

Let me know what you thought of my 2012 Goodwin Champions 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, December 23, 2012

Retail Review #28 (12/13 Upper Deck Series 1 Blaster)

Yay! My Target got in 12/13 Upper Deck blasters recently and I knew I had to get one for Retail Review. I always love to break these blasters because of the Young Gun rookie cards found inside. These boxes are just about the right price for what they contain. I'll be looking for 2 rookie cards and few different inserts as I rip into these packs.

Price - 

Packs - 12
12/13 UD Series 1 Blaster Packs

This year's Upper Deck release is similar to last years. Collectors can find Young Guns, MVP base cards, Hockey Heroes, and Canvas cards. New this year are foil Silver Skates inserts. When Silver Skates were first introduced in the 90's, I loved them. They featured a sweet die-cut design that mirrored Upper Deck SP baseball and football inserts. The new Silver Skates are nice, but are not cards I'm very excited about as they are not die-cut and have a design that doesn't stand out. I'd wouldn't miss it if I didn't get a Silver Skate in this blaster.

The other two insert cards I could do without are the 1970's Hockey Heroes and MVP inserts. I'm pretty tired of the Hockey Heroes now... but I'm sure they are going to keep going into the 80's and 90's. Getting an autographed one would be awesome, but any standard one is just going to get tossed into a box. As for the MVP cards... I just don't think they look that great. They have a weird color combination to me that's a bit jarring and un-hockey-like.

I do, however, love the Young Gun and Canvas designs. The Young Guns are very slick. The red and white color combo gives it a very modern look. As for the Canvas cards, Upper Deck has again made these a sweet pull. They feature images that are as unique as the awesome base card photos.

I'm excited to rip into the 12/13 UD1 blaster. Let's see how I do!

Review -

I don't like it when the Upper Deck packs shred apart... some Upper Deck products have the shredding prone packs and some don't... this one did... ugh! It's not a big deal, but a pet peeve of mine when busting.

This box of Series 1 was exactly what I expected... no more, no less - so I felt pretty good about it. I didn't get shorted on any inserts and pulled a nice Canvas card. I particularly enjoyed opening the packs and seeing the photography that Upper Deck chose for the base cards. It's always a highlight of opening Series 1 packs. It's great enjoying the product for more than just card values.

As it happened, I didn't get a Silver Skates card (which was absolutely fine), but I did get a Hockey Heroes and two MVP cards. Well, that's ok as long as I got my two Young Guns!

Here are the top three cards of this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Joe Pavelski Card No. 41 (MVP Set)
OK, so I said I didn't like the MVP cards... but I had to include Pavs here at number three. Gotta support the team! That is all.

#2 - Casey Cizikas Card No. 235
I had to choose between the two Young Guns I pulled out of the blaster... and ended up selecting Casey Cizikas as my number 2 card of the break. Though not a huge name, I have heard of him more over my other Young Gun, Philippe Cornet.

#1 - Sidney Crosby Card No. C67
This was a nice surprise! And it marks the third Retail Review in a row with a Sid-the-Kid card in the top three. As I said before, I'm a fan of these elegant and classy looking cards. Usually I pull middle of the road NHLers... but not this time! Getting Crosby was awesome!

Overall Value -
For about twenty bucks you get a pretty good rip. Upper Deck is always a solid and dependable product to buy. This year's blaster offering will yield the standard two Young Guns, but also will net you some nice extras such as the Canvas cards. If you're lucky, you may even be able to pull a Canvas Young Gun. Though they are tough, I've seen quite a few of those pulled out of retail products.

I definitely would be open to buying more UD1 blasters. They offer a solid amount of cards and give collectors a fun and exciting break each and every time.

Let me know what you thought of my 12/13 Upper Deck Series 1 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, December 16, 2012

2012-2013 ITG History of Hockey Review

Other sports have recently had products packed with vintage rookie cards, autographs, and original art... and thanks to In the Game, hockey does too! This high risk, high reward product is a celebration of hockey's past. There are opportunities to pull cards that you never would have had the chance to otherwise. I was very eager to rip my box open. Let's see what it brings!

Base Card Design -
Well, there really are no 'base cards' in History of Hockey, however, one card out of the four card box is exclusive to the product - and that's the artwork card. These artistic cards are gorgeous! The good people at ITG commissioned artists to paint pictures that captured some of the biggest moments in hockey history. Each card has it's own title and memorabilia piece associated with the player depicted. It's a great idea done in a classy way. When watching breaks of History of Hockey, these are the cards that I look forward to seeing the most. I was fortunate enough to actually pull out an original art card. The card is actually painted by hand. Looking closely at it I can see the brush strokes and texture of the paint and canvas. It's awesome - it's a one-of-a-kind card. Not all the art cards inserted will be hand painted, most are standard printed cards made in the usual trading card fashion. These printed ones are either numbered to 40 (silver version) or 10 (gold version). Either way, original or printed, these art cards are very sweet, and are perfect for a product like this.

Base Card Design Score (Art Cards):

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The other three cards in the box were the ITG buy back card, authentic rookie card, and authentic certified autograph card. Since the original art card I pulled was a 'biggie', and since I believe these boxes were hand packed, the rest of the cards in the box were probably purposefully inserted to offset and even out the distribution of big hits throughout the production run - so please keep that in mind as you read my review.

The ITG buyback card was of Nino Niederreiter. Though Niederreiter has fallen off quite a bit in terms of collectibility, this jumbo jersey card of his is still pretty impressive. It came from 10/11 Heroes and Prospects. I'm a bit on the fence with this card. This card could be pretty nice if Niederreiter somehow becomes a huge NHL star... but it could just as easily just take up space in my collection if he doesn't. I think I would have been happier with a proven veteran player's autograph... but seeing how beautiful this card is... I couldn't complain too much - a big swatch of three color jersey is pretty sweet!

For my authentic rookie card I got Al Cameron of the Detroit Red Wings. I have to admit that I had no idea who this was. The card came from the 77/78 O-Pee-Chee release. Checking the price guide, I found that Cameron was unlisted... ouch! So he was definitely not a big name to pull. Examining the cards further I found that it was off-center, frayed, and had soft corners... triple ouch! The only thing going for this card was it's age... and even then... 1977... not that impressive. I have to say that this card was disappointing. It's definitely a dollar bin type card not worth the effort of getting slabbed and authenticated.

My final card was an autograph of Miroslav Frycer. Again, not a player that I had ever heard of. The autograph was PSA/DNA certified and slabbed. The card itself had some centering and fraying issues. Looking Frycer up in the price guide I again found that he, like Cameron, was unlisted. The only redeeming quality for me in terms of this card was that was of a Maple Leaf... so hopefully a Leafs fan will want to trade for it. My guess is that I would be lucky to get $5 from this card.

So like I said in the beginning, I am pretty sure my art card caused the rest of the pack to lack value... but wow... in terms of lacking value... there was definitely some value lacked here! ...especially for the price.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score -

Overall Rating -
ITG's History of Hockey is what it says it is... a history of hockey, in cards. On that criteria alone, History of Hockey fulfills its namesake as it brings original art takes on great hockey moments, includes opportunities to pull vintage cards, and has an array of game-used and autographed cards inserted within. There is even the chance of pulling authentic rookie cards of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Georges Vezina...

...but alas, the chances are very slim on a per box/case basis to get those particular rookie cards. Only a very lucky and select few will see those appear in their boxes. For most collectors, there will be cards of lesser known players or modern rookies (including, gasp, Upper Deck Victory ones). Because of this, History of Hockey is a HUGE RISK if you are purchasing with the idea of getting money back on your break. There are many cards within History of Hockey's checklist that could be found for under $5 on eBay or at card shows. I am sure that the allure of getting the huge rookie buybacks will be tempting to many, but being realistic, most likely the box the average collector will bust will not contain the value they are looking for. So I would urge collectors to really know what they are getting into when buying this product. I personally thinks it's a fun and exciting product to open... but I also know there is a huge risk with this product. I was ok with dropping the coin on one box... but I won't be doing another simply because of the expense versus the risk involved.

For me, it was just a roll of the dice. I like to try one of every product at least. Many products I would purchase again - with this one I have would have to hold off on at the price point it is currently at. For you collectors out there... if you're like me, I would recommend only getting one box and see what you get. It's definitely a thrill to see what lies inside a box of History of Hockey! Just don't put too much expectation on it... chance are you will be disappointed.

Overall Rating:

Watch me open up a box of History of Hockey:

Retail Review #27 (08/09 Be A Player Blaster)

Alright, round two of my 2008/09 Be A Player blaster breaks! I just love busting these things! They are quick and easy... and of couse, the price is definitely right. I'm excited again to see who's autograph will come out of this box. Will it be a big name or a no name - let's open this blaster up and take a look.

Price - 

Packs - 2
08/09 BAP Blaster Packs

I hope you guys are enjoying these blasters as much as I am! I actually looked into getting a case of these 08/09 BAP blasters for a Retail Review since the price was so reasonable, but we'll see. I do like to keep things interesting by varying the products up, so maybe I'll hold off on that idea... but it's definitely 'on the table' as something I may choose to do.

I won't talk too much about this blaster box as I've already said my peace about it in Retail Review #26... crossing my fingers for something great to come out though!

Let's rip into it!

Review -

Like last time, two packs just zooms by in a flash. I knew my first pack had the autograph in it so I decided to wait on it until the end. I guess it's more exciting that way. I was secretly really hoping for some sort of insert card in the second pack. BAP inserts are pretty rare, so I shouldn't have really expected to get anything... and I didn't! Oh well! I did get a nice base card in the second pack though. It'll show up in my top 3.

The first pack also had a pretty good base card too... one that has ties to the one in the second. These two players will be forever linked that's for sure! And as for the autograph, though he's not a big name and on a rival team, I can definitely respect this player for not only has outstanding play, but his strong religious faith.

So here they are... the top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Alexander Ovechkin Card No. 176
Ovi is one of the biggest names in the league, and he has a ton of superstar flair to everything he does. He plays a physical game, but still has finess in abundance. His production has come down a bit in the past few years, but card-wise, he's still a great player to pull out of a pack.

#2 - Sidney Crosby Card No. 140
Deja vu! I got Sid the Kid in my last blaster and here he shows up again... and in the two hole once again as well. Both Crosby and Ovechkin were the first players I saw when ripping open the blaster packs. I'm sure it was just a coincidence, but it remind me of how closely these players are thought of together. Both have taken very different paths, but both are NHL superstars adored by their fans.

#1 - Brian Rafalski Card No. S-RA
Though he was a Detroit Red Wing player, I don't mind pulling this autograph card from my blaster. Rafalski was an outstanding hockey player who's career was cut just a little shorter because of injury. That's not to say he didn't have a solid playing career though... cuz he did... and he did it with class. I have to respect him for his play, but actually even more so for his faith. I remember watching his retirement announcement and just being in awe of how humble and down to earth he was. If you'd like to see it, I found a clip of it here: CLICK HERE.

Overall Value -
Be a Player blasters are a super value. I think they are a fun purchase at $20... but at $10 they are a steal! Though it's hard to get a super star player autograph... they are there! But actually, BAP is great for getting guys that you don't see as much too. For team collectors, I love the fact that there are players included within BAP that sometimes wouldn't get an autograph card in another card release. That's pretty cool.

This particular blaster was enjoyable to open. Though no huge superstar autograph came out, I was very happy with the one I got. I'll always remember that there are good guys in sports... and Brian Rafalski was one of the best... even though he played for the dreaded winged wheel!

Let me know what you thought of my 08/09 Be a Player 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, December 12, 2012

2012-2013 Black Diamond Review

Upper Deck released their long standing brand Black Diamond this week in all its textured foil-y goodness! Collectors have come to expect certain things from Black Diamond such as their diamond tiered base set, Rookie Gems, and multi-swatch jersey cards. This year Upper Deck delivers what Black Diamond fans look forward to every year with a few new tweaks to keep things interesting.

Base Card Design -
The Black Diamond base cards are what we pretty much come to expect from this venerable brand. The cards are very thin and feature a textured foil background and finish. I've said this before, but I'll say it again... a Black Diamond base card can be difficult to differentiate from year to year. To me, Upper Deck is always able to retain the same feel of Black Diamond from year to year. In terms of brand constancy, Upper Deck nails it here... big time. For those who like things the way they are, it's probably a good thing, but for those who desire variance and fresh takes... Black Diamond can be a bit bland. But despite the sameness from year to year, the cards still look good. The players really pop off the card - it's almost a three-dimensional effect. It's definitely hard to see with the scan above, but in person the effect is noticeable. The graphics at the bottom of the card don't get in the way of the look of the card, in fact, it blends well into the overall aesthetic.

The back of the Black Diamond card is quite nice. There is a parallel design at the top of the card that matches the bottom of the front side. These little things always impress me. The backs have a 5-year span of the player's career as well as all the player's vitals. What I like most about the back, though, is the large close up image of the player that is included. It's the same image as on the front, but the close up view gives the illusion of a headshot photograph. It's a bold design choice that works well.

Black Diamond base cards come in different levels of rarity. The most common cards are the single diamonds. The Gretzky at the top of this review is a single diamond card. You'll notice that there is only one diamond shown at the bottom of the card. The back of the card also signifies it as a one diamond card on the upper left portion of it. Quad diamond cards are the most rare to get. These cards have all four diamonds present on the bottom of the card. Quad diamond cards show NHL players in their all-star uniforms. This is a repeat of what they did last year. In other past years, quad diamonds were reserved only for the biggest superstar names. Using all-stars as a theme is certainly interesting... I actually kind of like it as some of the all-star uniforms look really cool to me. I'm liking the giant old-school NHL shield logo Patrick Roy is sporting above!

The Rookie Gems rookie cards are back this year. As usual, they come in both triple diamond and quad diamond varieties. You can expect to find a few triple diamonds and one quad diamond rookie per box. The Rookie Gem cards are well designed, very condition sensitive, cards. Though not as popular as other rookie cards in other brands (ahem - Young Guns), these cards always have a sweet design. My favorite aspect of these rookie cards are the close-up photos that they use on them. I feel this photo technique makes the rookies stand out from all the other base cards.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Black Diamond will come with a variety of hits along with the single, double, triple, and quad base cards. There is a guarantee of two multi swatch jersey cards, but it's the other inserts within boxes that I feel are more exciting to pull. Each box also will have an Upper Deck Ice bonus pack inside.

The multi-swatch jersey cards are back with the same basic design idea from last year. The jersey cards are actually puzzle pieces that can create a large logo when four from the same set are put together. You'll notice in the Anze Kopitar jersey card above the partial LA Kings logo. Though it's a fun idea, I don't find myself that excited about putting all the cards together. I think one reason for that is the difficulty in displaying a full set put together side-to-side as intended. There's just not a practical way to do it. And I don't think card protection companies like Ultra Pro would go out of their way to create a holder that would fit four cards next to each other like these cards were designed to do.

Regular set parallels like the Ruby cards are back again. The Ruby parallel cards are numbered to 100 and come, according to the box, 1:48 packs. In my box, and also in the store owner's as well, there were two. I heard a rumor that Upper Deck cut the production of Black Diamond this year, so it could be that getting inserts and parallel cards are easier. That could explain why we beat the odds on these cards. If so... that's pretty awesome... and it might be a good idea to pick up some boxes of Black Diamond post haste!

The nicest card I pulled in my box was this Emerald parallel autographed card of Derek Stepan. The card is serial numbered 5 of 10. I have to say that this card is amazing to look at. The green foil on it shimmers and shines in a very holographic way. It's really stunning to look at. I think collectors are going to love these base variations.

Aside from the Black Diamond cards, each box will contain a bonus pack of Ice. Just like last year, collectors will find a few ice base cards along with an acetate Ice Premiers rookie card. I was impressed with the Ice base cards last year, but this year's are leaving me a bit flat... and I mean that quite literally. Ice was known for having some sweet texturing on the card. This year Upper Deck has done away with that and have given collectors a simple, glossy base card. It's not bad looking, in fact, the card is a perfect continuation of the Ice line, but I think the quality here took a slip because of the lack of texturing - it just feels a little less premium and a bit more phoned in.

But wit all that being said... the Ice base cards were never the focus of collectors anyways. It's always about the Ice Premiers acetate rookie card. Though these cards are still nice, I'm not as big of a fan of them as I was for the pervious two years. It might be because there aren't any huge big-name rookies to pull... but that's just my feeling on them. It's funny how the lack of star names can hinder cards with nice designs.

Black Diamond has much more to find within than what I pulled from my box. Gemography autograph cards have returned as well as the Championship Rings and Hardware Heroes. Collectors will also be able to pull Lustrous Rookies and short printed autographs out of Black Diamond this year. Many of these inserts are tough pulls, but as I stated, they may be a bit easier this year if Upper Deck did indeed cut production of boxes.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Black Diamond has once again shown that it is a strong mid-level hockey product. Though the NHL lockout has put a damper on the rookie cards that can be found in Black Diamond this year, there is quite a bit of content to still enjoy. The emerald parallel cards in particular are especially stunning. And I am sure that collectors will once again get a kick out of finding the special Ring and Lustrous cards in Black Diamond.

At it's price point of around $90 for 24 packs, it's a pretty fun rip. I enjoyed going through all the cards I found in my box. If you've bought and enjoyed Black Diamond in the past, I am sure that you'll have the same experience this time around.

Black Diamond is what it is.

And collectors by now are very familiar with it. For myself, I would definitely purchase a box or two hoping to get more emerald autographs or a chance at an insert I haven't pulled yet.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Black Diamond from D&P Sportscards:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Retail Review #26 (08/09 Be A Player Blaster)

Here comes the first of two rounds 08/09 Be a Player blaster breaks! I really enjoy opening these blasters because of the guaranteed autographed card found within them. They are the same price as a pack of Panini Certified without the risk of getting all base or some random jersey card. Though it's an older product, there are still some nice cards to be found within!

Price - 

Packs - 2
08/09 BAP Blaster Packs

2008/09 was the rookie year of Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, and Cory Schneider amongst others. Though they may be difficult to pull, I do think there is a chance at some of these sweet rookie cards when buying BAP blasters. Though they may not be as popular as Young Guns or other rookie card types, the BAP rookie cards are actually pretty limited (#'d to 99) and command a nice value.

Of course, the main draw of BAP is not the rookie card, it's the autograph. There is one sticker autograph per blaster. Checking on Dave and Adam's website, I found that a blaster box was cheaper than a hobby pack - both yield one autograph... though I guess the hobby box pack may have better odds at pulling inserts, rookie cards, and multi-auto cards. I would probably still choose to save the difference in cost and get a blaster over a hobby pack in this case.

It's always fun and exciting to see what auto comes out of a blaster since I know it will be in there. Will it be a huge star like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or Joe Sakic? Well... most likely not... but there's a chance!

Oh, and by the way, apparently the Mike Richards autograph from this year was short printed and holds quite a premium.

Let's see what comes out of this 08/08 BAP blaster box:

Review -

Two packs go by awfully quick! I spent more time describing what websites are good for displaying a card collection than opening packs. And in case you were wondering, my recommendations again were:

1. Photobucket (Yearly charge - about $25/yr. - for the pro service)
2. Sports Card Forum Inventory (A superb database where you can upload card images)
3. Beckett (I personally haven't tried this one, but I know there are those who use it)

I personally really like Photobucket, but it's undergoing some changes at the moment... we'll see if it stays a simple and affordable option.

Anyways, back to the break. The 2 packs contained all base cards except for the autograph. I realize that it's hard to ask for more than that so I'm definitely not complaining, and I don't feel jipped at all. In fact, I did get a few very nice base cards as you'll see in the top three cards...

...and here they are!

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Marc-Andre Fleury Card No. 145
As you may know, I am a fan of the Flower. More than being just a great goalie, I really like Fleury's attitude and style. His personality is really top notch, and I think that's important not only as a pro athlete, but as a person... but especially as a pro athlete in the limelight. I'll always enjoy adding his cards to my collection!

#2 - Sidney Crosby Card No. 140
As much as I like Marc-Andre Fleury, his superstar teammate Sid the Kid is almost always a nicer pull (value-wise) out of a pack. There's no denying Crosby's skill and fame in the NHL. Though not everybody loves the guy, he certainly commands big money in terms of cardboard.

#1 - Tuomo Ruutu Card No. S-TR
Pretty much by default this card gets the number one spot. Ruutu is a Finnish player who has had his share of injury time in the NHL. Certainly not an unknown name, but not a huge star for sure. I found it interesting to pull Ruutu out because I had actually pulled a patch of his out of a retail SPx pack about a year ago. I guess Ruutu's following me in retail breaks!

Overall Value -
Buying multiple boxes of this product for retail review should say something - and it does. It says I think this product is a good value. As a collector, my favorite cards to get are autographed cards. I prefer them over jerseys and patches (unless the patch is something extremely ridiculous of course). For about ten bucks you are guaranteed an autograph card. It's a really sweet deal, and like I said at the beginning, you never know... it could be a big name player!

This particular box wasn't great, I didn't get any inserts and the autograph was of someone I don't follow, but it doesn't dissuade me from wanting to try my luck with another box.

Let me know what you thought of my 08/09 Be a Player 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!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

12/13 Panini Classics Video Review

Panini occasionally sends me boxes to review for them. When they do I make a video review. Yesterday a box of the new 12/13 Classics Signatures showed up at my door from Tracy over at Panini. I want to first thank him for sending it to me and allowing me to review it! Check out the video review here:

Though I have my comprehensive written review in my post below this one, I would like to add a few things I addressed during the video review.

First of all, collectors have been a bit taken aback by the $180 MSRP of a box of Classics Signatures. I have to agree that the price is most definitely on the high side. And seeing numerous breaks, a very small percentage of box breaks of this product will recoup the original money spent. I will say, however... and I mentioned this in the video, that another product (Upper Deck Parkhurst Champions) came out last year and guaranteed only 1-2 autographs per box. Those boxes are currently $80 a pop. So going by autographed-only content, the Upper Deck product (if you were lucky and got 2 autos/box) would cost $240 for 6 autographs. Now obviously there are other things to find in those boxes (minis, inserts, chance at a Gretzky, etc.), but the price is still much steeper than here with Classics. Collectors did not cry outrage at last year's Parkhurst Champions like they did for this year's Classics.... just sayin'.

Secondly, I have to commend Panini for really putting in a lot of players that collectors don't see much. Now you might say... well... so does ITG! And to you I would say true enough... but here's the thing with Panini... FULLY LICENSED PRODUCT. After opening my initial box of Classics I was wondering why these cards felt different than other cards of retired players... and the reason was seeing them in their full, non-covered up/airbrushed/chopped-off team logo glory. Usually when I get a product with retired players, it's ITG and some Upper Deck. But Upper Deck really focuses just on the biggest of names. Here we have a product that delivers players you don't get to see as much in fresh new photos wearing their NHL gear. It's pretty awesome.

So there you have it.... just a couple more things to think about when considering 12/13 Panini Classics Signatures. Let me know if you have any opinion on this in the comments below!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

12/13 Panini Classics Signatures Review

Now for something pretty different from the norm... a Panini retro themed hockey release! With the 12/13 hockey season currently stalled due to the lockout, a product like this is perfect - it takes away some of the current anger and pain of the labor dispute, and reminds us of some of the good 'ol times with players from hockey's past. Let's see what a box of Panini Classics Signatures provides us!

Base Card Design -
The Classic Signature base cards are meant to give off a retro feel - and they surely do that. The fonts and colors used on them have that 'classic' old-time look. To me, the cards don't feel old... and they don't mimic or give a nod to past products... but they instead take on a modern-retro design that is simple and pleasing. The card design actually makes me think of baseball more than it does hockey, but it still works and presents a look that is unique and different - which is a good thing for sure. Panini has used nice, crisp action shots of the former players. It's a fun set to look through - decades of hockey are represented here.

The back of the base card offers no photo and very little by way of stats. Instead, collectors are given a sum total stat line of the player's career as well as a short write-up. The retro-modern design is again apparent on the back. Just like the front, the back makes me think of baseball more than hockey. I guess it helps that there is a hockey stick graphic on the side of the card to help me remember what sport it is.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each pack of Classics Signatures will have an autographed card and a die-cut Banner card. At about $180 per box (6 packs per box), that's $30 per pack/auto. There are chances to find single and multi-auto cards both numbered and unnumbered. There is no game-used content in this product.

The standard autographed card in Classics looks the same as a base card. The only difference is the addition of the signature. Unlike many other products out in the market, these cards feature on-card autographs. And I have to say they look stunning in person. The blue ink that was chosen for the autos is bold and bright. The signatures really leap off the card. My favorite card from my box was this Nick Kypreos auto. I love how big he signed his name on the card as well as including the words '94 Cup' - sorry Nuck fans! I'm not sure if you can tell in the scan, but Panini has chosen to fade the lower half of the photo just a smidgen so that the autograph could stand out more. Very smart design decision!

I did pull a multi-autographed card, but sadly it was in the form of a redemption card. I am very interested to see how this card will look in person. I'm not sure if a muli-auto card is guaranteed per box, but it felt nice to get one.

Besides the autographed content, each pack yielded a Banner card. These cards are die-cut in the shape of a retired number banner you might see hanging on the wall in an NHL stadium. I could definitely do without these cards. I've never been a fan of cards with no photograph on them... and the idea here sort of reminds me of something ITG would come up with. Since Panini doesn't have the same licensing restriction as ITG, I think they could have done these better... or just have not done them at all.

Classics Signatures has a variety of different autographed insert types to find. There are Social Signature cards that feature Twitter handles as well as Classic Lines, Classic Combos, and Inaugural Ink sets. Besides these themed cards, some of the base autographs have been short printed and super short printed. You can bank on the biggest names being the toughest pulls.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Panini Classics Signatures is a pretty sweet product. It's a great homage to the past. For collectors who remember and want to pick up some new cards of their old favorites, it's a great option with a nice, clean look. The on-card blue ink signatures are very well done... and as we all know, these older guys have much better sigs than the newer players.

At $180 a box, this product can be pretty restrictive though. The price may dissuade collectors who may not care for older players as much but are curious about them to hold off on a box purchase. Difficulty in finding big name stars may also be a hindrance as they are short printed.

All-in-all I do like Classic Signatures. I think a box of it is fun to open. I do remember most of the players I see coming out of the packs... and that makes for an enjoyable trip down memory lane. I wish the box were cheaper though - if it were, I think its score would be higher.

$30 per pack is a bit much. If the price of it were $20 per pack ($120/box), I think I may have gotten more of it... as it stands... one box will be enough for me just to try and enjoy and then wait for the next product to come out.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 12/13 Panini Classics Signatures:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Retail Review #25 (10/11 UD Series 2 Blaster)

Black Friday for me this year meant ordering boxes to break! Well, I didn't go crazy and get a ton of stuff - one (crappy) box of 11/12 SP Authentic and 3 blasters... but for a total of under $100... it was a pretty good deal. Hopefully I'll do better with the blasters than with the SPA box. Today I'm starting with a product that was pretty short printed - 10/11 Upper Deck Series 2. Here we go!

Price - 
$9.99 (Black Friday sale price)

Packs - 12
10/11 Upper Deck Series 2 Blaster Packs

10/11 was a great year for hockey cards - there were many rookies that year worth chasing... Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, PK Subban, Jeff Skinner, Tyler Seguin, and even more! Usually, most of the year's best rookie cards are put into Upper Deck Series 1. And it was true of that year's product as well, however, while Hall, Eberle, Subban, and Skinner were inserted into Series 1, Tyler Seguin was put into Series 2. And guess what... he of all the top rookies that year has already won a Stanley Cup - the only one so far. So he's a pretty big draw in these boxes.

Upper Deck for whatever reason short printed 10/11 Series 2. I count myself lucky for purchasing three hobby boxes of the stuff when it came out. It has since risen in price by quite a bit. I definitely won't spend the outrageous amount it is now for a box. When I saw that blasters of it were on sale for only about ten bucks, I felt I had to take a stab at one. My hope is (obviously) for the Seguin Young Gun.

Of course, there are other great cards to find in 10/11 Series 2 besides that. Some of the rarer worthwhile inserts were the Team Canada, World Juniors, and Young Gun Retro cards, Victory Black parallel cards, and Rookie Materials jerseys. All of those are difficult pulls for sure.

Let's see if I am able to pull anything great out of this 10/11 UD Series 2 blaster:

Review -

Well, like many of the blasters I've been opening up recently, this one wasn't so great. I got a smattering of Victory cards, a retro variation, and my two young guns... but there wasn't anything I was particularly excited about. I guess my expectations were just a bit too high for this one.

One of my Young Gun rookie cards was of a player I was familiar with. He actually made the top spot in the break as you'll see a little further down. My other Young Gun was of Minnesota Wild rookie Jared Spurgeon. I have to admit I'd never heard of him before... but playing D and playing for the Wild aren't exactly encouraging things for a rookie value-wise.

As usual, the photo selection in Upper Deck is stellar. That was probably the best part of the break - getting to look at sweet NHL images... but that's not good if that's the best part of the break. Better luck next time, I guess!

Here are the top three cards from this 10/11 UD Series 2 blaster box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Dany Heatley Card No. 413
Ah, the Heater! Dany Heatley was a polarizing player for the Sharks. Some loved him and others not so much. It's probably because of his troubled past... but I always liked him. He was part of the team when I got back into collecting and I always enjoyed watching him play. He was on the sweet HTML (Heatley/Thornton/Marleau) line they had going. What a perfect name for a SJ line. It's always cool for me to pull a Heatley card with him in SJ gear.

#2 - Bobby Orr Card No. HH13
Usually I'm not a fan of the Hockey Heroes insert cards... which tells you just how good I thought this break was... but it's Bobby Orr, and he was a legendary player so I had to include him here in the two hole.

#1 - Eric Wellwood Card No. 487
Here's a Young Gun that is a known player... but not big value-wise. Wellwood played well in his OHL days with Windsor along with another pretty big name player *ahem* *Taylor Hall*. But with the Flyers he's had little playing time. Will he be able to gain success at the NHL level... well, for my sakes I hope he does now that I have his Series 2 Young Gun!

Overall Value -
I have to say that though this break wasn't good, I would still buy blasters of 10/11 Upper Deck Series 2 at ten dollars a pop. I had a Seguin Young Gun before, but I traded it away. I'd love to have one back! Besides that card there are some really awesome retro cards to find in UD2 as well.

I'm pretty sure the price of the blasters has gone back up, but I think I'll have to keep an eye on them for whenever they go back on sale.

Let me know what you thought of my 10/11 Upper Deck Series 2 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!