Sunday, January 27, 2013

Retail Review #33 (10/11 Donruss Blaster)

Here's the first of three breaks you'll be seeing of 10/11 Donruss in the upcoming months. Last week I opened up the first of three Pinnacle, and now here comes Donruss. Dacardworld putting these blasters into value lots of three was a great idea! For less than the suggested retail price, you get triple the amount of product.... how awesome is that?

Price - 
3 for $16.95 (current price)

Packs - 8
10/11 Panini Donruss Packs

Three blasters of 10/11 Donruss cost me just a touch under seventeen dollars. If you check out last week's Pinnacle break and compare, you'll notice that it was a little bit less expensive than Pinnacle. And that's how it really should be as Donruss is brand that is a step below Pinnacle in terms of quality of product. It's not that Donruss is a terrible product. It's not. But comparing the two brands side-to-side, it is apparent which brand has more of a premium feel to it... even if it is slight.

Though Donruss is a lower price point product, there are still interesting things to find within the blasters. I remember being able to find a variety of inserts and rookie cards within the boxes of it. One of my favorite cards to pull in the past were the Rated Rookies in old baseball products. There wasn't anything that special about the card except for the fact that it had a Rated Rookie logo on it. Well, that little logo is pretty iconic now, and it can be found in 10/11 Donruss. Some of the Rated Rookies found in these boxes have autographs on them. It'd be awesome to find one in this box!

Let's take a look at what comes out of this Donruss blaster box:

Review -
I mentioned that though Donruss and Pinnacle are very similar in price point, there are differences that put Pinnacle ahead of Donruss. One of the main differences is in the photography used. Whereas Pinnacle has unique and interesting photographs, Donruss uses pretty standard fare. The cards feel generic in both the pictures they use and in their overall design. As I was opening the packs, I found that I really didn't care to carefully look at the base cards. To me that's a little sad... but I don't blame myself... the base cards were just boring! In a past review, I lamented the fact that Panini missed out on an opportunity to create a really retro feeling product with Donruss. Panini did produce a sweet retro themed Donruss basketball product around the time this was released. But for hockey they came out with this... a product that is neither here nor there... and easily lost amongst the host of other product choices on the market.

As I was opening my blaster I was keeping an eye out for a jersey or autograph card. In pretty much all my previous blasters of Donruss, I believe I had at least gotten a Boys of Winter jersey card. This blaster had no hit in it. Though I expected a hit, the blaster box does not explicitly say that one was guaranteed. So I guess not all of these will have one. I did, however, get three Rated Rookie cards and one other insert. I was ok with Rated Rookies I pulled in this box, but the design of the Rated Rookie card was appalling to me. I just couldn't fathom why Panini would put cards out that have a giant space reserved for an autograph and not have the autograph there. The least they could do was print cards that did not feature the autograph to not have the giant space there. Those huge spaces make the card look wrong - a lazy move by Panini that year.

Here are the top three cards from this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Ryan Kesler Card No. 17 (The Ultimate Draft Insert Set)
I usually wouldn't put Ryan Kesler into my top three (as he's on one of the Shark's biggest rivals), but there was very slim pickin's in today's break. Though I'm not a huge fan of the player, I do like this card for some reason... I think because it's very 'Donruss-y' to me. It must be how the graphics, color, and design come together, but this card screams Donruss. The Ultimate Draft concept is an interesting one as the set has some 'interesting' inclusions as well as many superstar omissions, leading me to wonder what the point of this insert set is... if it's the 'ultimate draft', where are players like Crosby, Ovechkin, and the like in this set?

#2 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson Card No. 290
Ekman-Larsson is definitely an up and coming defenseman in the NHL. From what I have seen, he has a small, but dedicated fan base of collectors already. My only big concern with him is his position. It's so hard for D-men to rise up in the hobby. It also doesn't help that he plays for Phoenix. But other than that, I think OEL has star potential, and I'm happy with this pull (except for the giant blank space!).

#1 - Brayden Schenn Card No. 295
Schenn was one of the second tier rookies in 10/11. While most people were really chasing Hall, Eberle, Subban, Seguin, and Skinner... getting a Schenn card wasn't a let down. He was definitely an 'ok' pull. His cards haven't taken huge nosedives - he's actually remained fairly popular in hobby circles. Though this card shows him in LA kings gear, he is now a part of the Flyers. He's been getting playing time recently, so hopefully he can take advantage of that and become a star in the NHL.

Overall Value -
Breaking the Donruss box was fun, but in terms of value, I would have to go with Pinnacle for the price. There are certainly things to find in Donruss, and if you're looking for something a little different, it could definitely be a product you can consider for purchase. It's price point is so low that it almost doesn't matter. It's a product you can rip when you feel that itch - and you won't feel bad for spending too much!

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Retail Review #32 (10/11 Pinnacle Blaster)

Hockey is back!!! Up today is a blaster of 10/11 Panini Pinnacle. This was part of a 3 box lot that I bought during the holiday sale at dacardworld. The current price of these blasters is three for $19.95. That's practically buy one get two free - a pretty darned good price if you ask me. I actually got it for slightly less than that as I did get it during their sale... I love a great deal!

Price - 
3 for $19.95 (current price)

Packs - 8
10/11 Panini Pinnacle Packs

So, using my amazing math skills, I was able to calculate that these 10/11 Pinnacle blasters were less than $6.75 each. And though it doesn't state it on the box, I have seen a hit (usually a jersey) come out every blaster of this opened. So for less than one of those terrible eBay hot packs, you get a hit, a few inserts, and a pile of base cards. It's a fun buy that's hard to pass up.

I'm sure that most blasters will just have the standard jersey card inside it, but the side of the box does say to look for Tough Times autos, Pinnacle Pencarft, and Ice Breakers Autographs. I'm sure these cards are very difficult finds, but it's very cool to know that there is a chance of pulling one.

Let's take a look at what comes out of this Pinnacle blaster box:

Review -
As I opened this blaster I was reminded of how much I disliked the design of Pinnacle that year. Though the photography was very good and unique, the design elements Panini employed had much to be desired. I feel they brought down the photography rather than elevating it. So instead of having a very classy product like Upper Deck 1 and 2, these cards felt quite a bit lower in quality. Also, as I was opening the packs, the cards felt 'rough' as I was going through them. It's probably because of the gloss they used on them. It's not a huge deal, but it was something i definitely noticed as I was trying to look through the cards this time around.

On a more positive note, I did like the inserts I found in this blaster. I'll mention the best of them in my top three, but a couple cards I enjoyed pulling aside from those were the Nufex foil cards. The Nufex cards really make the base cards look cool - and I wish these cards were more collected by collectors. As just a 'simple' parallel to the regular set, these cards go above and beyond the call of duty. They don't just have an extra little stamp or foil color change... these cards are fully foiled in a special way to make them stand out. I really like these parallels and I'm glad they had them in both 10/11 and 11/12 Pinnacle.

Let's now take a look at what I thought were the best cards from this blaster box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Magnus Paajarvi Card No. 219
Magnus 'the Pirate' Paajarvi was one of the hotter rookies back in 2010-11. Though he was not nearly as desired as Hall or Eberle, collectors generally were happy when pulling his cards. Last year Paajarvi struggled and now his cards have taken quite a down-turn. He's still a young player, so there's hope for Paajarvi still, but i wonder if he'll be able to bounce back into collector's minds. Paajarvi makes my top three because of his former collectibility, possible potential, and because he was the only rookie I pulled today. On a side note... look at that hideous Ice Breakers logo... YUCK!

#2 - Willi Plett Card No. WP
I had never heard of Willi Plett before today, but thanks to this card, I was able to find out that he was a very interesting player. According to the back, Plett was from South America (crazy... because who from South America plays hockey!?!), didn't play hockey until 13, and also won the Calder Trophy in 76-77. That's a pretty amazing story line! And in terms of this card, there is a lot to like about it. The North Stars logo is a welcome sight, the color scheme is absolutely perfect for a 'tough guy' type card, and it's always awesome to see older jerseys of teams that once were. The only thing this card needs is the autograph!

#1 - Marc Staal Card No. 93 (City Lights Set)
I've stated before that I like the design of the City Lights jersey set, so it's no surprise that this card shows up as number one in my top three this week. It doesn't matter what sport... having the city represented on card is always a winning situation. I'm a big fan of the large image of Staal in front of the skyline. Though the jersey patch window is pretty small, I'm glad I was able to get a nice blue swatch. It complements the card very well. Lastly, this card features serial numbering. It's pretty rare to have serial numbering on standard jersey cards like this, so having it there is a really sweet addition.

Overall Value -
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this blaster was phenomenal value. How can you go wrong with the price? The answer... you really can't! It's a fun break with a good variety of things to pull. 2010-11 was a great year for hockey cards. Buying products from that year will always give collectors a chance at netting something they will enjoy. I highly recommend getting in on these blasters if you're tight on a budget, trying to fill out an online order, or if you're just looking to enjoy some hockey cards.

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012-2013 Upper Deck SP Game Used Review

Oh no! It's SP Game Used! $180 for six packs of cards with dollar valued jerseys in them! Wait... that's not what SPGU is like this year! Upper Deck has heard the cry of hockey collectors around the world, and have revamped SPGU for the 12/13 season. The price of the product is cheaper, and with a lower print run... things are looking quite promising for this long running Upper Deck brand.

Base Card Design -
As part of the 'SP' family of products, the SPGU base cards have a SP Authentic-ish look to them. Generally speaking, they are clean, predominantly white, bright cards. For whatever reason though, the SPGU base cards tend to look a bit busier and less elegant than their SP Authentic brethren - and that's the case this year as well. These base cards feature a modern bright white background with geometric shapes. The team's colors create a 'winged' look towards the bottom of the card. I am a fan of matching card colors to team colors - it looks cool - except when a player that has been recently traded is shown in their former team's uniform. Case in point: Jaromir Jagr. If you get a chance, check that card out (card no. 72)... the Flyer's orange and white scheme clashes completely with the green highlights on the card. That aside, one part of the base card I really like is the bottom portion. Upper Deck uses a textured silver foil to enclose the area showing the player's name, position, and team. It really sticks out as a premium touch on these cards.

The back of the SPGU base cards are nothing to write home about. It has room enough for 5 years of stats and all the pertinent basic information that appears on just about every other trading card. Again, like the front, the back is clean... but there's nothing that really stands out about it. The same image on the front has been cropped and used for the back and there is no extra write-up of the player. It's just the back of a card... but Upper Deck could have put a bit more effort in here.

I did not pull a rookie card in my box of SPGU, but that might not be uncommon this year. Taking a cue from Panini's Titanium, rookies in SPGU this year are serial numbered to the player's jersey number. This interesting twist in rookie card numbering may cause quite a stir for SPGU this year. It'll be interesting to see how collectors react to this. Will they go nuts like they did for the Titanium rookies last year? We'll just have to see... but keep in mind that the rookies included in SPGU are the hold-over rookies from last year rather than the bigger names yet to skate.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of SP Game Used will come with five packs... and in each pack there should be either an autograph or memorabilia card. The box states that there should be at least one autograph per box. Like last year, there are many different types of memorabilia available to find.

The standard jersey card in SPGU stands out quite a bit more than they did last year. These cards feature a fairly large image of the player above their game-used jersey swatch. I much prefer the larger image of the player to a smaller full body shot. The coordination of team colors to the background and borders is also a sweet touch. Though these cards are rarely valued at more than a few dollars, I enjoy the look of these cards enough to be happy with them in my collection. Upper Deck did a great job this year in making the look of these cards more bold and pleasing to the eye.

Multi-swatch memorabilia cards are nothing new in SPGU. Like the standard jersey card, these multi-swatch cards feature a sweet modern design. You can tell that the multi-swatch and single swatch cards are related intentionally. Collectors who go for sets of SPGU would really appreciate that. Interestingly, the card I pulled of Rick Nash and Mike Richards is not numbered. There is definitely a space at the top of the card for serial numbering, but this card doesn't have it. It makes me wonder if the original intent was to have numbering or not. According to the sell sheet these cards are unnumbered... but that big black spot at the top makes it seem like the card is missing something. That 'something' being numbering, of course!

My autographed card was of Penguins star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. I was happy to be able to pull a player I personally collect, but this design left me a bit wanting. I think the very small area for the player's image is what makes me enjoy the card less than I would have usually... it just feels cut off a bit. But other than that, I am happy with this card. Personally, I enjoy pulling established veteran stars over unproven scrub rookies, so this was very nice. The Inked Sweaters autographed jersey set features different numbering for different players. Some are numbered as high as 99 and some as low as to only 10.

This Letter Marks card of Jonathon Blum I found in my box had to be a bonus auto hit. Occasionally Upper Deck will insert cards from the previous year that they were late in receiving back from players into new products as bonus hits. This Letter Mark was supposed to be in 11/12 SPGU, but I got it in my box. It was nice to pull out more than just the one guaranteed autograph from my box.

As usual, SPGU has a ton to offer in terms of memorabilia. Two of the new card types to be found this year are authentic Stanley Cup Finals net piece cards as well as NHL logo shields. Both of these should be exciting for collectors to find in their boxes. Fight straps, skates, gloves, sticks, and of course patches are other fun things to look for this year.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I have to say that Upper Deck has made some excellent choices in changing SP Game Used this year. Though there is one pack less per box than last year, there is also a very significant price change for the better. Rather than closer to $200 per box, this year's product is now near the $100 mark. Upper Deck has also publicly stated that this year's print run has been dramatically decreased due to the (now over) NHL lockout. So due to these factors, 12/13 Upper Deck Game Used looks to be a real winner.

Last year collectors complained at how watered down in jerseys the product was. I agreed. It was downright scary to buy a single pack of SPGU. Now, there is still a chance of pulling a single jersey card, but at least this year it won't cost as much... and I believe there are better chances at pulling nicer cards out.

Some might say that Upper Deck has copied Panini's Titanium's recipe for success. Well, that might be true... but hey! A good idea's a good idea. I'm glad Upper Deck decided to tweak SPGU in significant ways. It went from a product I would hesitate to recommend to one that I definitely would tell collectors to get a box of.

Overall Rating:

Check out a few box breaks of SPGU down below!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Retail Review #31 (09/10 UD1 24 Pack Lot)

I should be set for a few months of Retail Review as I just made a major purchase at dacardworld! I'm really looking forward to busting these products in the weeks to come, and hopefully you'll enjoy seeing what comes out. This first break is a 24-pack lot of 09/10 Upper Deck Series 1. These packs were on sale so I just had to pick them up. They were less than $1 each - a no brainer for sure!

Price - 

Packs - 24
09/10 Upper Deck Series 1 Retail Packs

So at the price point I felt I had to get in on this product. I mean, come on, it's 09/10 Upper Deck Series 1, one of my favorite years of Upper Deck. It was the first year I began collecting again so I have a lot of fond memories of it. And I still haven't ever pulled a John Tavares Young Gun... so I'm going to keep taking chances at it whenever I can do so.

That being said, these being loose packs has me a little worried. I'm not sure where these packs came from. I have nightmares of them being from searched Wal-Mart or Target shelves. What if I open them and there is nothing but base cards? Man... that'd be terrible! Let's hope not.

I'll be happy to find a few Young Guns, even if they don't turn out to be Johnny T, Matty D, or JVR - the big three that year. But if I do happen to get one of those... this would be a pretty successful 24-pack romp.

Well, I'm itching for ripping. Let's see what's hiding in these loosies!

Review -
I was a bit worried at the beginning of the break as no Young Guns were coming out. In my head I was going 'Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh...', but thankfully that didn't last too long and by the midway point the first Young Gun came out. Though I didn't get any of the bigger names, at least I was able to pull three with one being a decent name. So in 24 packs, I was able to get three Young Guns. On video I was a felt a little relieved to get them since my initial thought was that I would get zero... but after taking a step back, I definitely feel like I got gypped. See, the back of the pack states that the odds for Young Guns are supposed to be 1:4. So I missed out on the odds - there would have been six Young Guns in a perfect break. Ending up with only half that amount kind of blows!

Speaking of the Young Guns, I noticed that packs with a white decoy in them each had Young Guns in the packs. Since the backs of the packs are a little translucent, and the white decoy is on the back, I wonder if this is a way of searching out Young Guns in 09/10 Retail packs. I'm not sure... but it definitely makes me wonder. That would really be too bad if it were as it makes things quite unfair. I remember buying from a box of 09/10 Series 2 when I started collecting and getting absolutely nothing from them. I must have gotten half that box. Did I just find out why?
Aside from the Young Guns, I did end up getting a variety of other insert cards. They weren't especially exciting, but I did get a few superstar players, which was nice. Martin Brodeur definitely was an early haunt in this break. He stopped showing up when the Young Guns started coming out though.

Here are my picks for the best of this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Thomas Vanek Card No. TG6
Vanek was one of my early PC players. For some reason he kept following me around my early hockey card breaks. I actually ended up with a fairly nice PC collection of his. Included were auto/patch cards from The Cup as well as some very low numbered hits of his. Because he followed me so much in my breaks, and because Buffalo was one of my favorite teams, I chose to collect Vanek's cards. I don't PC him anymore, but every time I pull his cards I remember the time that I did.

#2 - Martin Brodeur Card No. FF14
Speaking of following me... Marty certainly did early in this break. This card stands out to me because of its unique design. I find it funny how large the designer chose to make the team logo... I mean... it's huge on the card! I have to admit it is quite attractive though. The Devil's logo is one that I've always liked, so seeing it this big with one of their most historic players is makes for a sweet card experience.

#1 - Michal Neuvirth Card No. 235
Neuvirth made a bit of a splash (though not a huge one) when he came on the scene for the Caps. I remember that his cards did gain some interest and an increase in value... so it was nice to get his Young Gun in this big lot of packs. He's definitely not a major pull, but he was the best Young Gun I got, so for that he gets the number one spot this week.

Overall Value -
For a little under $17, this was a great value. Twenty-four packs of cards! I would say, though, that I'm not sure if I'd make this same purchase again. The possibility of searched loose retail packs is just too scary a thought for me. I totally trust dacardworld, but not knowing where these packs came from makes me a little nervous. Sealed boxes of these same retail packs are sold on the site, but the price for that is a bit of a step up from the loose packs.

I am still glad I made this purchase. Busting 24 packs is a whole lot of fun with a lot of cards to check out and see. Maybe next time there'll be a Johnny T.

Let me know what you thought of my 09/10 24-pack lot down in the comments below. Have you ever gotten anything good from a bunch of loose retail packs? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

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

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Retail Review #30 (2012 Goodwin Champions ROUND 2)

Since my big online retail order hasn't come in yet, and I liked last week's Goodwin Champions break so much... I decided to do another! When I went to Target to pick up the blaster box of 2012 Goodwin Champions, I almost decided to go with something else. There was a blaster of 12/13 Upper Deck on the shelf staring at me in the face and tempting me to buy it... but when I saw that this was the last box of Goodwin, I had to choose it. Let's hope for some fun stuff inside!

Price - 

Packs - 12
2012 Goodwin Champion Blaster Packs

There's not much new to say about this product since I just opened up a box last week... but I do hope to pull a hit out of a box - that would be really nice. I shouldn't keep my hopes up though as getting hits from these blasters is TOUGH!!! Autographs come 1:48 and memorabilia come 1:96. So really the chances of landing one are slim. But, that's what we as collectors do, right? We're always hoping to get that hit from the box.

My last box of Champions had a ton of big time superstar names in it. Though they were just base cards, I was able to land Gretzky, Crosby, Woods, and Jordan. I'm wondering if I will be able to do the same with this box.

Well, the best way to find out is to get ripping! So let's take a look into this blaster:

Review -
This box didn't contain as many big names as the last one did, but it was still really fun to break and see the variety. I am again puzzled by the inclusion of the Military Machines glossy insert cards. They just feel so out of place within the set. No other cards in the set feature non-people images. It's just weird!

Though I'm just a moderate golf fan, I was pleased to pull out quite a few golfers in my blaster this time. None of them were as big as Tiger Woods, but it was a nice to see a nice selection of them on cardboard. My two favorite golf pulls had to be Nancy Lopez and Steve Stricker. Lopez was a golfer in the late 70's and her card shows her wearing 70s clothing - which is awesome. And Stricker is depicted in front of the leader boards. It's a unique and eye-catching card.

Also of note was pulling Mike Tyson. I'm not a boxing fan... but everyone knows Iron Mike. He's a scary dude! I remember I was never able to beat him in the old Nintendo game Punch Out! He was really, really tough.

Let's see which cards made my top picks this week (no Sidney Crosby this week!):

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Joey Chestnut Card No. 121
Another pro-eater! I can't get enough of these guys! I just think putting pro-eaters on cardboard is the funniest thing. Obviously Chestnut isn't as cool as a little Asian girl eating a boatload of hotdogs, but he did beat out Kobayashi (the former number one) in 1997 - which was pretty incredible as Kobayashi was THE top guy back then. In 2009 he consumed 68 hotdogs in 10 minutes. How ridiculous is that?!?! BTW, LOVE the hotdogs on this card!

#2 - Barry Sanders Card No. 99 (Mini)
I remember watching Barry Sanders when I was in high school. This guy was an amazing running back. He was smaller, but he used that to his advantage to slip out of trouble and break free for amazing touchdown runs. This mini card of his is a great looking card. I love how close up the image is. You really get all you need to in this card... Barry and the football. Many people questioned why Sanders retired so early... but I think it was a good choice. He went out at the top of his game - and he is at legendary status.

#1 - Bobby Orr Card No. 1
Hockey takes the top spot with one of its greatest athletes... Bobby Orr. There are many action shots of Orr, and that's why this one stands out so much - for it's lack of action. It's really cool to see Orr in a sweet baby blue suit and tie. The vintage vibe on this card makes it a real winner. Cool microphones too!

Overall Value -
I'd have to say this box wasn't as good as my last one. Perhaps if there was a jersey card inside, I would have a different opinion... but it is what it is. Still, I did really enjoy breaking the box and checking out all the cards inside. Products like this are a really great way to add some more hockey cards to the collection, but also acquire cards of other sports too.

I'd still say wait until these blasters are cheaper online before making the plunge into one, but there are there if you have the itch for something a bit more unique than your standard all-one-sport break.

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!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Hockey Card Year in Review

Instead of creating a ranking of products like I did for the 2011-12 products, this year will be the slimmed down abbreviated version. I'll only focus on the top products from each company - and ITG is included this year! I'll also have a few special categories for at the end. But first, I'll say a few words about the 11/12 collecting year.

2011-12 was, I would have to say, an average year for hockey cards. Collectors will often judge a year's collectibility by the rookie class that comes out of it. Obviously, we don't know who will be the hall of famers and NHL mainstays from the 11/12 class, but as it stands now, 11/12 has only given us one really stand-out 'hobby' rookie - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He was the player that just about anyone would have been happy pulling out of a pack or box. Will he continue being a hobby hot pull? Well, only his play and time will tell. I'm not saying the other rookies are terrible... certainly they are not... but they didn't have the huge hobby impact of RNH. Other popular rookies this year included Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique, Sean Couturier, Carl Hagelin, Mark Scheifele, Louis Leblanc, and Cody Hodgson. Each of these rookies had their hobby hot moments in 2012, but as we all know, they can't all be big time pulls in the future... in fact, most of these players will sadly fall off the hobby radar in the next two or three years - if not sooner. But that being said, one or two could be a surprise super star and capture collector's attention (I'm looking at you, Steven Stamkos!) - isn't that what we just love about our fine hobby?!?

Upper Deck gave collectors tried and true products this past year. While they tweaked and modified the contents of their mainstay brands, UD products pretty much gave collectors what they expected - which wasn't bad at all as UD products were again some of the most sought after cards in 2012. Collectors love stability and legacy brands - Upper Deck certainly delivers that, and it's shown by the overall value of Upper Deck cards holding a greater value all else being equal than their competitors.

Panini spent the year in transition. It was plain to see that they were actively modifying their card lines and adjusting to collector wants. I have to commend Panini for really shaking things up this year. Their attention to their customer's voice has to be applauded. For 11/12, Panini axed Zenith, Donruss, and Luxury Suite... they came in instead with the new Rookie Anthology and Prime, and brought back Titanium and Elite. I felt that though Panini had both hits and misses with their line-up, overall Panini took a step in the right direction. Hopefully they will establish some continuity that helps collectors have confidence in their products' future values.

ITG, like Panini, had a very interesting year filled with both new products and old. Their staple brands of Heroes and Prospects, Between the Pipes, and Ultimate were big hits with collectors. All of these products had a significant bump up in terms of their design quality in 2012. Besides the lack of an NHL license, the biggest beef with ITG in collector's minds has to be in the card design department area. I have to say that ITG has had some significant improvements here. And that's great to see. As for new products, ITG came up with some real collector favorites. Captain-C was hot right fromt he get go... and Broad Street Boy and Forever Rivals gave two big collector bases two must-have products to buy. ITG looks like it's going strong and has already given collectors a lot to talk about in 2012-13 with some intriguing releases already.

As for me here at the Cardboard Review... I've had a blast this year! I really want to thank everyone who has been reading my reviews and watching my videos. This year I started a new series called Retail Review. I thought it be a great way to add content to the site between the lulls of product releases. The response I've been getting about that has been overwhelmingly positive... and I'll keep it up through 2013 (and maybe beyond!). I'll try to think of more content to add to the site this year. If you have ideas in mind I'd love to hear from you!


And lastly, before I reveal the top products from each company this year... I want to thank two people who have helped me out a great deal this year. First it has to be Chris over at D&P Sportscards in Sacramento. He's the only one in the region who has hockey cards to buy. He also helps me film box breaks and gives me products to give out... remember the autographed Stamkos puck? Yeah... he gave that out for free! If you haven't yet, check him out on Facebook and Twitter. Tracy Hackler at Panini is another person I have to thank for supporting the site. He's provided me with not only hockey products to review, but also some basketball and football as well. It's amazing that a company like Panini has people there who reach out to collectors like myself. It's definitely not common. Thanks Tracy for making Panini an awesome and friendly company!!!

All right... here goes... the top products from each company for 2011-12!!!

Top Upper Deck Products

11/12 Artifacts -
Artifacts has always been a great value-to-content product, this this year it really crammed in what collectors wanted. Autographs, patches, jerseys, tags, fight straps... they were all there and in various combinations. It was awesome seeing all the rare short-printed cards come out of people's boxes. Besides cards numbered 1/1... there were cards numbered /2, /3, /5... it was a real challenge for players collectors like myself. As for rookie card lovers... this was the year they put the autograph rookie redemption cards in. Those were some of the hottest cards of the early 11/12 collecting season. Click here for full review.

11/12 The Cup -
You can't really beat The Cup - it truly is the holy grail of hockey card collecting. Each and every year the card values (for the top cards) are the highest of any other product release from any company. It's also the most exciting product to open hands down. Just watch people bust the stuff... so many shaky hands!!! The RNH rookie numbered to 99 is one of the biggest pulls of the year. Oh, and did you know that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux have a dual signed card in it? Oh, and there are Gretzky and Orr autos and patches... the list goes on and on... Click here for full review.

Top Panini Products

11/12 Titanium -
I have to be honest... it didn't look good on the sell sheet, but boy did it deliver! This funky shaped box with just a few packs within was a huge hobby favorite. Of course there were the sweet auto and patch cards to be found... but the most surprising draw were the true rookie cards with jersey number numbering. These cards contained no autograph or memorabilia. They were just serial numbered... but some were extremely limited. And collectors were buying and selling these cards at truly outrageous prices. Click here for full review.

11/12 Prime -
For the high-end Panini product I'd have to put Prime over Dominion... by just a hair! Dominion was great this year... but Prime gave collectors some amazing eye-popping cards. The Prime Colors gigantic patch cards were things of beauty. It was amazing how collectors (that have deep pockets) could potentially put together a huge patch by collecting all the pieces. Prime started out at $200 per pack, but since has dropped to around $160. At this price it's almost a no brainer to go out and get some of it! Click here for full review.

Top ITG Products

11/12 Captain-C
Of all the niche ITG products that came out this year, Captain-C had to have been the most broadly accepted product as it featured players from many teams. By putting the focus on team captains, ITG basically narrowed the field down to only players of a certain quality. For team collectors, this is great because the cards of your team's captain is always a nice addition. For general collectors, team captains tend to be players of note, so the incentive is high to buy the product. The sweetest cards in Captain-C have to the the pair of the actual captain's 'C' from the player's sweater that collectors could find within the product. The two cards can be put together for for the letter. Click here for full review.

11/12 Ultimate Memorabilia
The 11th edition of Ultimate Memorabilia did not disappoint. Each card comes encased in a graded card holder and is very limited in number. Some of the Ultimate patch and emblem cards are the most spectacular pieces to be found - rivaling even those found in Panini Prime. My only regret with this product was that I couldn't get too much of it. I remember buying one pack of it from and pulling a hot pack - which was great... but made it hard for me to review the product. Thankfully, a Youtuber helped out out with a trade and I was able to get my hands on some non-hot pack cards for review. Click here for full review.

Most Disappointing Product of the Year

11/12 Panini Elite
I'm not sure what happened here... unlike Titanium, Elite looked like a real winner on the sell sheet. The cards were nice but the brand never really struck a chord with collectors. Elite may have suffered from a similarity to Certified... but without the variety of memorabilia rookie cards and parallels. The best cards from Elite were the Prime Numbers insert set. These super thick cards were done very nicely, but most people were only able to pull the standard jersey of the three card set. The final piece of the Prime Numbers featuring an autograph and patch was near impossible to get - that may have frustrated collectors. Click here for full review.

Most Under-appreciated Set of the Year

11/12 ITG Enforcers
ITG released this set early on in the year at around $90/box. It was a tough buy because the players featured within were of hockey tough guys rather than goalies or scoring super stars. This was ITG's most niche and risky product by far. Though I wasn't a huge fan of the product when it first came out, I now see it as a fun and unique buy. It's just so different than anything out there now. At this point in time, the price per box has significantly lowered to a price that I would say makes it worth it to buy. The Enforcers set also has emblem pieces found within that are just as incredible as those found in Ultimate Memorabilia... which is saying quite a bit! Click here for full review.

Second Best Photography Set of the Year

11/12 Panini Pinnacle
I know, I know... it's a strange category... but I wanted to included it to give Pinnacle it's due. We all know how spectacular Upper Deck Series 1 and 2 photos are... but Pinnacle is getting up there as well. That brand's photos are some of the most unique I have seen. The back of the card even has a description of what was going on in the photograph - and that is really cool. My suggestion for future Pinnacle releases would be to up the quality of the card so that the photograph is the star of the base card. Upper Deck's use of nice gloss and foil on a classy design is a real winner. If Pinnacle could adopt a similar base design, the photos would stand out even more. It could take out Upper Deck! But... we'll see... we'll see. Click here for full review.

And that's it! I hope you enjoyed this little look back at 2011-12! Let me know what you thought of the 11/12 collecting year! Tell me your favorites and the your opinion of how the hobby went last year. Best wishes for 2013! Hope you pull some awesome cards!

-luke. (blacksheep217)