Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #41 (New Year's Eve)

This Cardboard Commentary is coming in a tad later than usual. It's been a busy time around these parts with family and traveling! I've been all over California this past week and a half. Made the trip to the southern most part of California - San Diego... then the middle - San Francisco, before coming back home to the Sacramento area. As 2013 draws to a close, and 2014 dawns on us, it'd be nice to think of some collecting goals for the new year... a collecting resolution post!

I wrote not too long ago that I've been feeling a slowdown in the hobby. And I still believe that feeling is there. But you know, as in all things, there are ups and downs. Hopefully it'll turn around pretty quickly and get back 'up' ...post haste! With the Olympics just around the corner, NFL playoffs starting up soon, basketball heating up, and even baseball on the horizon, I hope that interest in sports (and especially cards) will be renewed.

That being said, there are a few things I personally would like to do this coming 2014 year. Here they are:

  • Continue adding to my Logan Couture Player Collection. I still comb eBay everyday for new Couture cards, but I keep seeing the same old things over and over. Now that he's a veteran player, there are less cards of his coming out besides parallels and things of that nature - which can be hard to find. Because new products don't seem to be that heavily broken, I'm not seeing his more rare cards come out. It was a bit discouraging this past year to miss out on a 12/13 The Cup 1/1 Tag/Auto of his on eBay. That card went for a surprisingly high amount. Not getting that one definitely put a damper on my Couture PC spirits, but I just gotta let that one go.
  • Re-start my collection of 1986 Fleer Basketball in PSA 9. As my Youtube followers know, I had started trying to collect the set of '86 Fleer Basketball. That set is (to me) the cornerstone set to have in basketball. I got a good amount of cards in the summer, but I abruptly stopped when fall and winter hit. I recently watched a special presentation on the 1992 USA Olympic Basketball Team aka The Dream Team. That really inspired me to get back on this horse! Hopefully you'll start to see me pick up more cards from this set!
  • Keep focusing and narrowing my collection. This last one is a more general thing that I have been doing, but I want to continue it. I have found that just buying boxes and boxes and packs and packs without a goal has been pretty pointless. I've always felt like I was just throwing money away. Goals like the two I have above give my collection meaning, and so I want to apply that to all that I collect. I have a few other PCs like my Sacramento Kings auto PC, Giants on-card auto PC, and my Bible Verse Inscription PC. I want to continue to really focus on these and not worry about buying cards for buying cards sake.
Well, there you have it! It's just a short list... but that's the way it needs to be. You can't make a huge list and expect to have it happen. Do you have any collecting resolutions this year? I'd love to hear them in the comments section. I encourage you to have one or two!

Happy New Years!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Retail Review #81 (13/14 Upper Deck Series One Blaster)

Call me a glutton for punishment... but I went back to the card aisle at Target for this week's Retail Review. If you've been keeping up with the past three weeks of Retail Review, they haven't been pretty. But at least Target does have the newer products on the shelves and readily available for me to buy. UD1, Black Diamond, and Artifacts were my choices. UD1 for me is always the safest to buy at retail, so I went for it!

Price - 

Packs - 12
13/14 Upper Deck Series One Blaster Packs

We all know what comes in these Series One blasters... it's going to be two Young Gun rookie cards and a chance at some inserts with MVP base cards thrown in the mix. As I've already stated, the double rookie class was super-hyped, but isn't living up to the initial excitement it produced. Still, it's a better crop than last year's (which I know isn't saying much).

My main beef with Upper Deck Series One this year isn't so much the rookie class (as Upper Deck doesn't have anything to do with the players coming out), but with the design. The design of this year's Series One doesn't appeal to me, and according to collector comments I have received, they agree too. What will billed to be a huge year for hockey cards is turning out to be somewhat of a letdown.

Let's hope that this box isn't a letdown. Let's see what comes out of it:

Review -
Yay! Finally a box that was halfway decent! This blaster was definitely above average, and way better than the previous three boxes I got at Target. No, there wasn't a huge hit in this box, but I think the overall quality within was good.

In my pile of base cards I was able to pull a couple San Jose Sharks and also a Sidney Crosby. For a person who isn't in the hobby, getting a couple players from your favorite team and a superstar like Crosby in the base cards would be exciting.

I did get the usual MVP cards this time around, but at least one was a rookie card! The rookie cards come one per box (or so) in hobby, so getting one in a blaster was great. My MVP base card was a sepia toned NHL greats card. The sepia and MVP design class in a neat way. I actually like it.

For the first time in a while I had to give pause and think about which cards to put in the top three. Here they are:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Mathew Dumba Card No. 231
I know Dumba from cards of his I've pulled in ITG products and also from seeing him on various NHL television programming. I still haven't hit a big Young Gun from this rookie class yet. Dumba gets me closer, but his Young Gun doesn't even bring in $5 on eBay.

#2 - Nail Yakupov MVP Card No. 52
Finding this Yakupov MVP rookie card was very nice. Yakupov has been a bit cold recently for collectors as the Oilers and his play have been lackluster. Still, getting a Yakupov is a nice. I'm not sure how great pulling a Yakupov rookie will be in a few years, but this year, it's a good pull.

#1 - Elias Lindholm Card No. C99
The top card has to be this Lindholm UD Canvas card. It's my first Young Guns Canvas from this year. The Canvas cards have been big hits these past few years, and the Young Gun versions have been immensely popular as well. I'm glad I was finally able to pull one of these out.

Overall Value -
This box was a superstar if I were to compare it to my previous few boxes. But looking into it, it was just slightly above average. There were definitely some highlights from this box, but I was a little disappointed getting so many all base packs. Well, this was definitely a trend up... I'm hoping it will keep rising as I continue with my next Retail Review next week!

Let me know what you thought of this break in the comment section below. Have you ever pulled anything good out of one of these? I'd love to hear about it.

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #40 (More Lamenting!)

A couple weeks ago, I wrote that I was lamenting the fact that the Upper Deck Team Canada set was available only to Canadian collectors and stores. Well... the lamenting continues as there appears to be more Canada-centric marketing from the card companies. A few days ago, Upper Deck released their team-specific Edmonton Oilers product, and as far as I know, the only place to get this is in Canada. And to join in on the Canada-only fun, Panini has released Dominion... EARLY IN CANADA. It's out for you (if you're in Canada) but not for me! Argggghh!!!

In this modern age of purchasing, you would think getting any sort of product you wanted couldn't be that hard. You really just have to go online, look for an internet storefront, purchase what you want, and BAM, it arrives via international shipping. Well, that doesn't apply to cards, I guess. Canada has been the recipient of some very sweet products recently that US buyers cannot easily get their hands on. See... Upper Deck has set some very specific rules about who can sell there cards, and to whom. Card stores who have Upper Deck's blessing to sell their cards, can only sell within the country.

So products like Upper Deck Team Canada and the recently released Edmonton Oilers Collection can be found up north, but not here in the United States. In fact, Upper Deck's rule is that their Canadian dealers cannot sell ANY of their products outside of Canada until a year has past... A YEAR!!! That's just nuts to me! I'm sure it has to do with some sort of protecting the retailer mumbo jumbo that they have reasoned out... but for me... IT'S NUTS! I really wanted to try a box of both of those products.

The only way I think I could have gotten those is by getting someone to purchase a box for me up in Canada, and then have them ship it to me in the United States. It's do-able, but it's also a big hassle. It's not like I don't have connections in Canada, but still, I just think it's too much trouble for such a thing.

For products like Team Canada and the Oilers Collection, I can see why they would be slated for Canada-only release. Both of those products are very Canadian-centric. By limiting the production, Upper Deck has actually created a product that will be somewhat rare and difficult to find in the following years. Upper Deck has had success with this format in the past.

What I don't get is Panini's decision with Dominion. Dominion should be released today (Dec. 23rd)... and I guess it was... but only in Canada! This mainstream product has been giving the green light in Canada, but won't be in the United States for purchase until January 3rd!!! That's not until NEXT YEAR!!! Which isn't that long from now... but long enough. I know many US retailers that would be very unhappy with this. Why would Panini make this move? You got me! I have no idea.

I just know that it is very hard to wait on a product and want to bust it while many people already have the opportunity to do so. When Dominion is finally released in the US, US collectors will have already seen it, and I think won't be so excited about it. I know that I personally won't be as eager to bust it knowing that I didn't have the opportunity to open it on its release day. And let me tell you... January 3rd is a long ways off. Dominion interest will have cooled considerably and the excitement worn off by the time that day rolls around.

So as all of this happens... I just lament these facts.

What do you guys think of what's going on at the moment in cards in regards to recently released products being Canada-favored? I mean, it must be nice for those of you in Canada... but I think it has an overall negative effect. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Retail Review #80 (13/14 Upper Deck Black Diamond Blaster)

Wow, three weeks in a row in the Target card aisle, haven't done that in a while! Two weeks ago I got a blaster of UD Series 1, last week it was Artifacts, this week I'm going with the new Black Diamond. The Series 1 and Artifacts blasters were not very good. I'm hoping the third time's the charm with this blaster of Black Diamond. Let's see what comes out!

Price - 

Packs - 6
13/14 Black Diamond Blaster Packs

I have to be honest and say I am a little nervous with this blaster. I bought it at full price, and the retail version of Black Diamond is not usually known for spitting out great hits. The hobby version of Black Diamond is already hard enough when trying to get something good. The hobby box I recently reviewed was kind of middling. So what's coming out of this box? I don't know.

I guess I'm just hoping for a solid rookie - a well known quad diamond rookie card would be a nice pull to get from one of these boxes. Even better would be a hit like an autograph. A jersey card would be nice, but as we all know, jersey cards are nice to pull out - especially out of retail - but don't hold much value.

I'm just going to cross my fingers and see what comes out of this box:

Review -
So... third time wasn't the charm. This was yet another stinker of a retail blaster that I bought at FULL PRICE... arggghhh!!! Most of the cards in the box were single diamond base cards. I did like getting a Dan Boyle base card... but when that's one of the highlights of the break... you know it's not a good break.

There were no inserts, autographs, or memorabilia in this blaster. I did get a couple multi-diamond cards and a triple rookie. You're going to see them in the top three here:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Rickard Rakell Card No. 191
My only rookie card was this Rickard Rakell triple diamond rookie card. This card makes the top three by default as it is my only rookie card of the break. I do like the design of the rookie cards, but that's not enough make up for a bad box break.

#2 - Jarome Iginla Card No. 121
I put Iginla as a better pull than the Rakell because Iginla has been such a great player in the NHL for such a long time. The photo on the card is also pretty sweet. Gotta love the shot of him about to move the puck. Notice the bottom left corner of the picture... it says 'signed by Boston'. I don't know why, but I like that little addition.

#1 - Guy Lafleur Card No. 159
The Flower is an NHL legend, and my only other triple diamond card from this break. This card also does the whole older-image-on-newer-technology thing that I enjoy so much. For those two reasons this card gets the top spot.

Overall Value -
As you can tell, I wasn't really happy with this break. After paying $20 for this blaster, I ended up with a medium stack of cards that will most likely just go into my commons/base box. There's not much of note and/or interest here. I gotta say, these blasters in the card isle are tough, really tough to recommend.

Let me know what you thought of this break in the comment section below. Have you ever pulled anything good out of one of these? I'd love to hear about it.

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013-2014 Panini Totally Certified Football & Basketball Dual Review

Both Totally Certified Football and Basketball have been recently released by Panini, and I was fortunate enough to open both on the same day. The two products share the same brand name, and not coincidentally, share similar attributes. Today I'm going to review both products in the same review. Let's see how they stack up!

Base Card Design -
As  you can see the base card designs for both football and basketball Totally Certified are practically totally the same. That, of course, makes total sense as they are both in the same 'family'. I do like continuity among brands, so to me this is a good thing. Earlier this year I broke all the different sports of Prizm. That was a bit repetitive, but thankfully I didn't get that same feeling with Totally Certified. I think it actually had to do with the fact that you don't get a ton of cards when you buy Totally Certified. It's just six packs!

The overall look of Totally Certified base is silver, shiny foil. What appears to be an overweight 'T' sits in the background behind the player image. The background has two different foil textures that contrast nicely with each other. A three-dimensional effect is created here - which is kind of cool. Being a card that is all graphical elements with nothing 'live' save for the player, I found these cards to be a bit sterile and bland. So while the base cards are sharp and clean, they are missing an element that livens up the card. I did want to highlight the Bill Walton card above. I really think the black and white image on the foil looks unique. The scan doesn't do this card justice, but in person it's actually very cool. It'd probably be way too monotone, but if the entire set was all black, white, and silver like this Walton... that could possibly be very intriguing - and quirky. Almost as quirky as seeing Walton as a Clipper!

The back of the base cards feature the team color on the same graphic that graced the background of the front. The backs have a single stat-line from the previous season as well as a career total line. Panini has included a write up that does an adequate job of giving information about the player. In terms of design, I like the fact that the back mirrors the front. Though the back doesn't do anything to 'wow' me, it is a solid effort that at least ties into the front design.

The rookie cards in the two sets actually differ quite a bit with their handling of rookie cards. While both share a similar RC emblem, that's about where the similarities cease. On the football side, rookie cards are given the moniker Freshman Phenoms. The football rookies have a different background than their base counterparts. On the basketball side, the rookie cards follow the main base almost exactly. If I had to pick one that I liked better... I honestly really couldn't. For the football rookies, I like the fact that Panini made an effort to create a look that was different for the rookie cards. But the purest in me likes the fact that there are rookie cards that exist that look almost like any regular card in the set - like they used to in days gone by. I guess I'm saying you can't go wrong with either look here!

While Totally Certified basketball pretty much has one huge uniform set of standard base, rookies, and legends, the football version goes on to include a unique Thanksgiving subset. I was pleasantly surprised by these cards when I first got them in my packs. First of all, I love subsets that have a good theme... and celebrating Thanksgiving Day games definitely counts as a good theme. It's a unique set that I really applaud Panini for including. Having a great idea is good and all, but these cards look amazing too. While the featured player is super-glossy and jumps out of the card, the background has a textured and defocused look that is sweet to see. Having the card 'bordered' by silver and gray at a slant just makes these cards even better. These Thanksgiving cards are bang on! I love them!

After the Thanksgiving cards come the autographed Freshman Phenoms cards. They occupy cards 151-210 in the main set. These cards carry a similar design to the non-autographed versions. The difference comes in that the bottom border has been raised to include a space for a sticker autograph. This is about as standard as an autograph rookie card can be.

Rounding out the main football set are the Freshman Fabric rookie cards. This 40-card set at the end of Totally Certified is the best look of the bunch. These cards feature both ink and cloth - and a generous portion at that! Like all the other Totally Certified cards, these cards are all-foil, but unlike the standard base cards, these have colored foiling to get these cards to stand out. I complained at the beginning of the base card review that there wasn't enough liveliness in these cards. Well, I found it here with these sleek Freshman Fabric rookie jersey autos.

Base Card Design Score:
7/10 (basketball)
8/10 (football)

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Hits come one-per-pack in Totally Certified. Collectors can look forward to finding three autographs and three memorabilia cards in each six-pack box. Besides hits, limited parallel cards have been very popular with collectors. The green cards numbered to 5 have really caught collector attention.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't find any green (/5) or black (/1) parallels in either of the boxes I opened. I did, however, get some red and blues. Totally red and blue parallels are the most common kinds you can get. This totally red card from football was unnumbered, but in basketball the reds are numbered to 99. Blues are typically numbered to 49, and golds to 25. The background color adds some pop to the card's look. I wish the base cards had some color like this to make them more attractive.

The standard jersey design is shared by both products. And both of these jerseys happen to be the Totally Red versions. The football jersey has been numbered to 99, while the basketball one is to 199. There are slight variations in the numberings, but in the end they are all just jersey cards. These jersey cards look nice with the all-foil design, but it's always sad to know that you probably won't be too happy if you got one of these in a $20 pack of Totally Certified. Props for looking good, but sad face for value.

A Stitches in Time jersey card came out of my Totally Certified football box, and I definitely like this card over the ones previous. Why? Because this card is themed. Rather than just having a jersey card for the no reason, this jersey card is in a set that celebrates a specific moment in the player's career. Panini has recently actually game-dated some of the jersey and patch pieces found on their cards, but I don't think this is one of them. That's a bummer, but I still like the fact that this jersey card is not a jersey card for a jersey card's sake.

Totally Certified football gave me all rookie signatures, basketball gave me two vet autos and one rookie. My veteran autographs were of Kenny Anderson (shown above) and Lance Thomas. I remember watching Anderson play from back in the day. He was never a superstar player, but he was definitely solid. I'm sure there are fans of his who would enjoy getting his cards, but they aren't of any huge value. These Totally Silver Signatures have a similar look to the base cards, but the uniquely textured background behind the player image gives the card a distinct look.

The rookie autograph I received in basketball was Elias Harris. This autograph card is part of the Rookie Roll Call set. Like the Totally Silver Signatures, these card have a unique background pattern. The autograph is centered and prominently raised from the bottom of the card.

What you saw come out of the two different boxes seems to be the standard of what you could expect from a box of either Totally Certified product. In comparing the two in terms of hits, football wins out as it had more interesting cards (counting the hits from the main set in the comparison). The basketball version had three plain jerseys and three thin autographs. It's what you're supposed to get, but it's just wasn't that exciting.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
6/10 (basketball)
7.5/10 (football)

Overall Rating -
Even though the two Totally Certified products share the same name, there are noticeable differences in the products. If I had to choose one product for fun, I'd go with football. There just seems to be a bigger variety of things to find in there. I also love the Thanksgiving cards. Those shouldn't weigh in on whether or not to get a box though as they are just base cards.

If I had to gamble on getting something big, I'd pick the basketball product. Basketball collectors really have a thing for low numbered parallels, so I believe you can score much bigger with a huge hit in basketball as compared to football.

So I guess in the end, I'd say football is the more balance product to buy with nicer cards, where as basketball has a more all-or-nothing feel to it.

Both products will run you about $100 a box. I personally prefer products like Select and 'regular' Certified, but I know there are many (including my friend Chris over at D&P Sportscards in Sacramento) that do like breaking Totally Certified quite a bit.

Hopefully this review helped you make a decision!

Overall Rating:
7/10 (basketball)
7.5/10 (football)

Check out my boxes of Totally Certified:

2013 Panini Absolute Football Review

Absolute is a brand that has been a favorite amongst football collectors for a while now. It's premium foil cards combined with very strong memorabilia and autograph content is very enticing. This latest version of Absolute delivers the same formula as it has in the past. Collectors will get four 'apple turnover' boxes per hobby box. Each will contain a hit!

Base Card Design -
The 2013 Absolute base cards stand out in both traditional and new ways. These base cards retain the Absolute signature of very refractive foil. Lines of light and color shine through the cards as you flip through them. These base cards are not subtle in their use of foil. Not only is the entire card shiny, but so is the golden Absolute logo. And Absolute makes no apology for its foil excesses! Adding more 'non-subtly' this year are the player photographs. Wow. These photos are tightly cropped images that really get in your face. Each base photo is an extreme close-up to the player's torso area. You get real up close and personal with these cards. This unique perspective is one not seen often on cardboard. Kudos to Panini for going with such a bold decision on these photographs. I am definitely a fan of these base cards... they hit hard and make a strong statement.

The back of the base card is nice... but definitely lacks the extreme design of the front. If the front of the base card were a more traditional (think National Treasures or Prime Signatures) white stock, this back would suffice, but since it isn't, I wish Panini had given the backs a more aggressive look. Perhaps black would have been a better background color than the white. I can't say this card back is bad or poorly done, but it just doesn't go well with the front design.

The rookie cards make up the second half of the Absolute main set. The standard rookie cards feature numbering of either 199 or 499. In terms of design, the rookies got the same treatment as the vets. Collectors are still treated to a very up-close view of the rookies. This Cornellius Carradine shot is a bit intimidating - see that look his giving you? Stay away! Rookie cards add the rookie card emblem in the upper corner as well as a large foil 'rookie' logo at the bottom.

The final 40 cards with main set numbering are the Rookie Premier Materials cards. These cards feature pieces of jersey worn from the NFL Players Rookie Premier event on May 18th, 2013, so definitely event worn... but at least collectors know exactly what they are getting. The cards also have sticker autographs affixed to them. Each card is numbered to 299, but there are a huge amount of parallel versions with different numbering and different worn material to be found.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Absolute will net you four hits. Each pack of Absolute is wrapped in cellophane rather than the usual foil packing that you see. It's not a big deal as the packs are encased in the smaller sealed boxes, but I do find the cellophane to be a peculiar choice of packaging.

The first insert card that jumped out at me were the Hogg Heaven cards. This insert series has was once the insert to get back in the day - and I remember those days fondly. Back then, an insert that featured a unique texture was enough to be highly sought after. They were also pretty tough pulls too. These Hogg Heaven cards are not tough pulls as each of my packs had one in there... but they still retain the faux football feel. While the design of these cards doesn't really stand out, I am glad to see the Hogg Heaven insert set living on.

I was lucky enough to pull a Hogg Heaven Hogg Wild parallel of Philip Rivers numbered to just 10. These cards feature serial numbering and a rainbow foil Hogg Wild logo. These parallels will be difficult pulls and finds for collectors who are looking for specific players as there is a total of 90 Hogg cards in 2013 Absolute.

Speaking of parallel cards, there is an absolute ton of them in Absolute. Shown above is a Spectrum Black parallel numbered to 49. It's probably not worth it trying to list out all the various numberings of different cards, but just know that you will be treated to a huge task if trying to player collect.

The rookie autographed cards can be considered a parallel of the standard rookie card found in the main set of Absolute. As with the other cards in Absolute, these rookie autographs are of the sticker variety. This Spectrum autograph of Jon Bostic is numbered to 499.

By far the prettiest card of the box was this NFL Team Trios patch card numbered to 25. I love all the breaks and colors you can see in the NFL window on this card. This is the kind of card you just love to get when buying Absolute, and these kinds of cards are definitely findable.

My final Absolute hit was in the form of a redemption. A lucky commenter on this review will have a chance to win it! As for the rest of the hits available, there are many... and many unique hits to be found as well. Absolute is always loaded with sweet things to find, and this year is no different.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I have to say that Absolute delivers again. This long established brand is familiar to collectors - and collectors love that. They know what to expect from it, and brings it to the table... but even more so! Though Absolute is a legacy-type brand, it has not sat around on its heels. This year's version has upped its game.

Absolute is a not a cheap product. It is currently a little over $100 per box, so it's a bit on the higher-end. If you can get it, I would because it's one of the most fun breaks you can do. You'll be dazzled by the shiny foil, the textured inserts, and of course the great hits to be found.

The only drawback of Absolute is the amount of sticker autographs in the product. I think that's what holds Absolute a little back from being a hugely monstrous product... but for now... it's the best football collectors can get!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2013 Absolute Football:

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013-2014 Panini Timeless Treasures Basketball Review

Panini's Timeless Treasures brand is back this year with an immediate noticeable difference... no tin! Yep, gone is the tin that Timeless Treasures came in these past few years. Instead, it offers collectors a sleek new sleeve and 'book-like' opening to get to the pack. Have the changes this year improved Timeless Treasures? Let's take a look at one pack/box and see!

Base Card Design -
The Timeless Treasures base card is a medium-thick card that features serial numbering to 299 and foil stamping. The overall look is that of a framed portrait with the featured player popping out. The base design is simple, perhaps too much so. The border of the card is mostly white with some faded tan/brown mixed in. It really reminds me of an old photograph. The player is set in an all black background with their name, team, and Timeless Treasures logo at the bottom of the card. While there is nothing inherently bad about the design of the base card, it is not particularly inspiring or exciting. If Panini wanted to really get the framed photo effect, they should have done a bit more to make it look that way. I can't see many collectors raving about these base cards, which is too bad because they have a good low-ish numbering, and are somewhat limited coming in at only one-per-pack.

The back of the base card has been nicely done. I love the fact that the back of the card is different than many of Panini's other designs. The 'older' or shall I say 'timeless' theme is evoked by the subtle background design. Though the background is somewhat difficult to see, it really does add quite a lot to the look of the card. The color scheme blends nicely together to create a very pleasing card back. There is no player photo here, but with this design there really isn't a need for one. Panini did a good job here.

The Rookie Jersey Auto cards are numbered after the main 100-card base set. These rookie cards feature a unique acetate window for the signature. Panini says that the reason for this was to avoid sticker autos. They had each rookie sign a large acetate sheet for these specific cards. As these cards were produced at the beginning of the season, it was hard for Panini to have these ready for signing on-time. I personally think these acetate signatures were a genius move on their part. I definitely prefer this to the sticker. Also, unlike previous years, the rookie cards now have a piece of player-worn material embedded in the cards. These are not game-worn materials, but this is better than having fake leather or nothing at all. The Timeless Treasures rookie cards have stepped it up!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The box states that it will contain two autographed cards and a memorabilia card along with the base card. Timeless Treasures also offers collectors insert cards as well.

One of the interesting insert cards to pull from Timeless Treasures are the Three-Piece Puzzle cards. As you can see, you can collect all three pieces to form one themed puzzle. It's a fun idea, but one that puzzles (get it!?!) me with this product. With the price of Timeless Treasures being around $100 per pack/box, telling collectors to 'play with' their cards in this way doesn't make a ton of sense. I would think most collectors would try to keep cards from this mid/higher-end brand in as good of a condition as possible. Getting all the cards put together could damage corners and edges. There are rare parallels of these cards that go all the way down to a print run of just 1. Try to get that triple puzzle put together!

Validating Marks is an insert set that features sticker autographs. It's your typical autographed card found in products such as these. They aren't terrible cards, but they are not exciting pulls unless you happen to get a real big name player. That being said, these Validating Marks cards are very clean and have a good-sized space for the autograph. As with many sticker autographs, problems can arise such as autographs being cut off. The Danny Green shown above has a bit of his signature cut off the top. That's one of the reasons why collectors prefer on-card autos.

My one memorabilia card (besides the rookie jersey) was a big one. This Every Player Every Game one-of-one tag card was a HUGE pull. Obviously a card like this will not come out of every box... or even case of Timeless Treasures, so I won't base my final assessment of this product on it, but it's good to know that ridiculous cards like this can be pulled from this product. 99% of the time collectors will probably pull regular jersey cards, or if they're lucky, a patch. This Chris Paul is stunning though! I could not believe it when this card came out. It looked so good I thought it might have been a manufactured patch! Loving this card!

One box of Timeless Treasures will in no way give you an idea of all the cards you can pull from the product, but know that there is a great deal of different inserts, memorabilia, and autograph cards to be found!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Timeless Treasures is a very solid offering this year. It has improved by quite a bit from what it had been in the past. I really like the fact that you can get two autographs and one memorabilia per box, and especially nice is that the autograph comes on acetate with a piece of player-worn material.

I know that I got a crazy pull from this box, and that most boxes will not yield such a hit, but I definitely would recommend giving Timeless Treasures a try this year. Collectors who have tried it in the past will find that it has stepped up.

Three hits for about a $100 is asking a bit much. This is not a cheap product, but wait a few months and it should come down to a more affordable level.

I'm really happy to see the direction that Timeless Treasures is heading. It's exciting to see Panini changing their products in ways that make them more collectible!

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of 13/14 Timeless Treasures:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #39 (Hobby Lull?)

I was at my local cards store (D&P Cards in Sacramento) earlier this week to purchase a box of the new Black Diamond - check out the review if you haven't yet! I got to talking with the owner there and we both agreed that for whatever reason, the hobby seems much slower now than it has been for the past few years.

From what I have seen, there has been some slowing in the hobby - interest has dropped off a bit. Am I saying it's the end of the hobby as we know it and it's on the steep decline? Well, no. I'm sure there will be a bounce back, but there is just a feeling of disinterest at the moment. The buzz, the excitement, the anticipation of new product has decreased.

And to me, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I mean, the economy is not really any different than it has been. In fact, I can think of times recently when it has been much worse. And at this point all the major sports (except baseball) are in full effect. The NHL is not on strike, there is a double rookie class, the Winter Classic is coming up, and you can't forget about the Olympics too! The NBA is also rolling right along with Kobe coming back from injury just last week. And the NFL is still the juggernaut that it is - grabbing everyone's attention on Sunday, Monday, and Thursdays.

So what is it that is generating this hobby lull? I can think of a few things...

With the NHL, it might be that the full season is back. But wait, isn't that a good thing? Well, the lockout was terrible, but what it did do was make people really hungry for hockey. The full grind of a non-shortened season can dull excitement. I mean, last year every game was meaningful and felt like there was weight on it. And on the card front, there just weren't that many releases.

On the NBA side of things, Kobe did come back, but Derrick Rose has gone down for the season again. And locally, the Sacramento Kings should be picking up a lot of interest, but I personally think the new fans back on board with the Kings haven't been tapped into the hobby yet. And they need to be. The NBA just needs to get more of their fans into the hobby.

While the NFL is still king in the USA, this year's rookie class has not even remotely been close to the amazing class that was last year's class. NFL collectors just had it way too good last year, and so this year looks terrible in comparison.

So are these reasons for a lull? Should there even be a lull right now? Let me know if you've felt a slowdown in the hobby... or is it just me!?!? Tell me in the comment sections!

Retail Review #79 (13/14 Upper Deck Artifacts Blaster)

This week's trip to Target netted me a blaster of this year's Artifacts. I have traditionally been very hesitant to even consider getting Artifacts blasters, but this was suggested to me last week... and it was available... so I went ahead and took the plunge.

Price - 

Packs - 8
13/14 Artifacts Blaster Packs

I typically do not like buying Artifacts at retail. It's totally opposite of the hobby version. The hobby version is phenomenal, and collectors love it. Hobby boxes cost less than $100 at many online sites, and in those boxes collectors can find at least four hits, a rookie redemption card, and some limited inserts. For $100 at the retail store, you can get 5 blaster boxes. I have found that Artifacts blasters to yield much, much, much, much, much less than if you spent an equal amount on a hobby box. Retail Artifacts is just not worth it.

The only thing Artifacts really has going for it is the look of the base card. I'll give it that - the base cards look good. But is that a good enough reason to purchase a blaster?

Absolutely not.

But I'm willing to roll the dice today with this blaster. It was there, it was an option, so I bought it.

Let's see what's inside this blaster:

Review -
My expectations rang true with this blaster. I expected to get nothing... and I really got nothing (of any consequence). Every card save one was a base card. This $20 box of cards could have been easily bested by a less expensive hobby pack of Artifacts. If anything confirms my dislike for Artifacts blasters, this totally did it.

Can I even come up with a top three this week? Yes, but it's hard. I had to go with a theme.

Here are the 'top three' cards from this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Michel Goulet Card No. 63
Why pick Goulet? Well, older players are always fun to get in newer products, and I really like seeing the retro Quebec Nordiques logo. To me the logo looks either like an elephant or an escalator. I go back and forth between the two.

#2 - Jacques LeMaire Card No. 32
Did you figure our the theme? It's Canadian teams! And at least for the first two in the top three, retired players. Here's a classic Habs player on a modern card. You've got to love the old days when the players went sans helmet.

#1 - Jordan Eberle Card No. 43
Our top card this week was the only numbered insert card in the entire box. Was this card worth even remotely $20? No way! Nice red foil though!

Overall Value -
This was a terrible box, a terrible value. So there was no value in this!!! And even if I had received a jersey card... I wonder if it would have the single swatch or dual swatches. In the past, Upper Deck used to only put one swatch of fabric in their retail versions of Artifacts. Though that denotes the lower value placed on retail Artifacts, those cards actually have kind of a cool place amongst player collector completists. But still... if you look at it for what those single swatch cards were, they were just a cheaper version of their bigger hobby brother.

Let me know what you thought of this break in the comment section below. Have you ever pulled anything good out of one of these? I'd love to hear about it.

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013-2014 Upper Deck Black Diamond Review

Upper Deck brings Black Diamond back with more rookie cards than ever. The top states that there are at least four Rookie Gems to find per box. Also to be found are real gem relic cards with real diamonds... exciting! And similarly to the past couple of years, collectors can look forward to an Upper Deck Ice bonus pack featuring the acetate Ice Premiers rookie cards. This year's Black Diamond seems to be chock full of exciting things to find. Let's hope it delivers!

Base Card Design -
If you are at all familiar with Black Diamond releases, these base cards will feel instantly familiar. The Black Diamond base cards come on thin foil-y card stock. There really aren't any foil cards like Black Diamond available - they have their own unique foil imprint that really does set it apart from all other hockey cards. This year's base card design is a bit border heavy as there is quite a bit of space taken up by the border at the bottom and left side of the card. I don't mind it though. The large bordering adds some weight to card's look. The diamonds, which indicate the rarity of the card, have been placed in the bottom right corner. You can clearly tell if the card you have is a single, double, triple, or quad. Quad diamond cards this year appear to feature players in their All-Star uniforms like they last year. Player images are glossy and pop out amidst the signature Black Diamond foil. If you're a fan of the Black Diamond look, you're going to probably enjoy these once gain. If not, these aren't going to change your mind about them.

The back of the Black Diamond cards have an interesting look that I can't decide if I really like or not. The backs feature some geometric shapes and angles coupled with a color scheme that includes black, white, and a third color that colorizes the player photo. I like the design in that it gives of an almost retro-vibe... but at the same time the back's just aren't that exciting. I guess I expect Black Diamond to be shooting towards the modern and sleek rather than what I see here. The medium/large fonts used and overall look just take me back more than I want to go with Black Diamond. So for me, the backs leave me feeling a bit mixed.

The Rookie Gem rookie cards feature a similar, but obviously different design than the base cards. Many of the same elements are included, but changed enough to create a very different looking card. I actually really like the Rookie Gems this year, particularly the Rookie Gems logo. The font is spot on, and it kind of reminds me of the Transformers logo. I'm a sucker for the Transformers (especially G1 Transformers), so this appeals to me. The back of the Rookie Gem is what I expect from Black Diamond. It's clean and modern through and through.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Black Diamond offers collectors quite a bit to find in their boxes. Autographs, memorabilia cards, acetate inserts, parallels, and bonus Ice cards are all a part of this product. And of course you can't forget the different kinds of diamond cards from the regular set as well!

Unlike MVP (which you can find in Upper Deck Series 1), Upper Deck Ice was a product that featured one of the most popular types rookie cards you could get - The Ice Premiers card. So unlike MVP, I am happy to get a little Ice bonus pack in my box of Black Diamond. While the Ice Premier card is the main attraction, Upper Deck has always done a great job of giving collectors nice Ice base cards as well. The Ice base retain the look and feel of the old Ice cards. They are foiled nicely, and have a great 'cold' look that prominently features white and blue hues. My only complain is that these cards don't have the tactile texturing that the older Ice base cards had when Ice was a stand-alone product.

This year's Ice Premiers rookie cards are again acetate. As Upper Deck has always done, the cards have a very clean and modern design. This particular design features two large curves that meet where the player image is. It does a nice job of drawing your attention to the player. Below the player is the Ice Premiers logo in silver foil as well as the serial numbering. Ice has always had the serial numbering printed with ink rather than foil stamping. It's neat that they have kept it that way release after release.

Jersey puzzle cards are again back in Black Diamond for your puzzle-putting-together pleasure. As you can see with the Jordan Eberle dual jersey card above, there is part of the Oilers logo. If you collect all the Oilers in the set, you can create a large logo. It's a neat idea, but one that few collectors actually go for. That being said, the card does look good, and the partial logo makes for an interesting looking background.

Stanley Cup Champion cards return as well. Collectors can find the 12/13 Champion Blackhawks or All-Time Great Campions on these cards. These relatively difficult pulls look pretty nice. The card is on acetate with the 'ring' design done in rainbow foil. If I were a Blackhawk collector, I would definitely try to chase down all these cards for my collection. As a Sharks collector, I'm not sure if I'm all that happy having pulled a Jamal Mayers card. I mean... Mayers was a Shark at one point... but this is not a player that I am excited to pull out of this set.

The familiar Red Rubies have undergone a slight change. The cards look similar to the previous year's iterations, but the numbering has been altered. In the past, these cards were all numbered to 100 - regular base and rookies. This year, the base parallels have been halved to just 50, while the rookies have been increased to 150. That's definitely an interesting change. It makes me wonder why Upper Deck decided to do that. Besides the red parallels, there are harder-to-get ones as well. Some of these feature autographs, and some rarer ones even feature real embedded gem stones.

All-in-all, Black Diamond has all the same things you have known and loved over all these years back with some improvements. Black Diamond is definitely not groundbreaking in its hit content, but collectors should feel at home purchasing and enjoying boxes of it.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Like many of Upper Deck's products, Black Diamond comes out each and every year and continues to be a solid product choice. Little tweaks have been made to the insert content, but in general, it's what we all know (and love). Black Diamond certainly falls into the mid-lower-end category of products. Boxes will run much less than $100 per. While it can be boring to just get a couple jerseys per box all the time, the rookie content and potential to pull a rare parallel are certainly there. Black Diamond also contains some pretty sweet looking inserts like the Championship Ring cards, Lustrous Rookies, and Hardware Heroes.

Though Black Diamond won't set the collecting world on fire, it is a product I would definitely recommend based on its price and potential content. I didn't pull anything spectacular from my box, but I was still pretty happy with the amount of hits and rookies that it contained.

Black Diamond is definitely worth a look, and a good choice for collectors looking for a product to buy on a budget. 

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of Black Diamond at D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca: