Sunday, March 31, 2013

Retail Review #42 (07/08 Be a Player Blaster)

So this week we take a brief break from Panini products and go for a box of 07/08 Be a Player by Upper Deck. I've opened many Be a Player blasters on Retail Review. Some have treated me decently, while others have been completely laid an egg. Let's see which camp this blaster belongs in! It can't possibly be as bad as my last couple BAP blasters, can it?

Price - 

Packs - 2
07/08 Be a Player Retail Packs

These blaster have got to be the fastest busts you can do with only two packs in them. But that's fine, the autograph is practically the only thing anyone is looking for in these. The checklist for the Be a Player autographs is very deep and inclusive. There is a wide range of players you can pull out of blaster. Most of the players included will not generate too much excitement. I wonder how long it will be until I pull something spectacular out of this product, spectacular being a Gretzky, Crosby, or other huge auto. Is it even possible? I have to admit I haven't really done my homework and checked to see who is available in these things... but there has to be something good! Well, I guess one of these days I'll get a nice surprise I'll find out, I hope.

Maybe that day is today! Let's see what is in this 07/08 blaster box:

Review -
As usual, to ramp up the excitement to unparalleled levels I decided to find the autograph and save it for the big reveal at the end. Looking through the rest of the base cards, there was really nothing of note. Three bigger names in my two packs were Phil Kessel, Derek Roy, and (maybe) Alex Tanguay. And even those three were not too big. No matter though, with no other inserts to be found in my break, the only thing to really check out was the autograph. It's in my top three, so let's just get straight to it!

Here are the top cards of this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Brian Campbell Card No. 166
Yep, you guessed it! The homer in me chose to include Campbell here solely for the fact that he's wearing teal. No other reason than that. Congrats Brian.

#2 - Paul Kariya Card No. 168
I picked Kariya for this spot because he was a player that I actually watched and collected a little before I took time off from collecting cards. It was kind of funny to see him still playing after all the years had passed when I started up again. And of course there were also players like Lidstrom and Jagr too. It's always a kick to pull these guys out of packs! Brings me back to when I pulled them out of packs as a teen.

#1 - Pierre-Marc Bouchard Card No. S-PI
Another Minnesota Wild auto! Well, this time I know the player and have seen him play at least. I'm not blown away by this pull (at all), but he's better than the ones I had gotten before. I recently found someone who collects Wild players so maybe this will be some nice trade bait!

Overall Value -
Well, this wasn't a stellar break by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason I was even remotely happy with the Bouchard auto was because the other ones were even worse! It's still a fun break to bust Be a Player though... and this one be the last you see of it! I really want to pull something of note from one of these blasters! Just keep watching Retail Review and maybe you'll witness history!!!

Let me know what you thought of my 07/08 Be a Player blaster down in the comments below. What have you gotten out of these blasters? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Monday, March 25, 2013

2012-2013 Leaf Best of Hockey Review

Leaf jumps into the hockey card world with their Best of Hockey release. Leaf has already had strong 'Best of' product releases in baseball, football, and basketball. With these already proven successes, it'll be interesting to see how they fare with the hockey crowd, a group that can often react differently than expected! Let's take a look a box of Leaf's Best of Hockey and see what it brings. Each box only comes with 2 cards so this review will have a slightly altered format than my usual ones.

Art Sketch Card -
The first card that you will see when opening up a Best of Hockey box is the original art sketch card. Each card is individually numbered 1 of 1. Though there may be similar pictures of players, no two cards can be exactly alike. The Alexander Ovechkin sketch I received was very nice. The full-color illustration looks great in person. I honestly didn't think I'd like it as much as I did seeing it up close in my hands. Watching video breaks do not do these cards any justice. I do, however, count myself lucky in pulling a full-color sketch. I have seen others that are done only in mono-tone black-white-and-grays. In non-sport card releases that feature sketch cards, full-color cards often carry a premium (sometimes a significant one). This could be the case with these cards - I would think the better looking the sketch, the higher it would fetch on the open market. Each sketch card simply comes in a top loader... no huge slab like ITG's History of Hockey. I find myself preferring Leaf's more humble approach to these cards. It makes me feel as though ITG was 'puffing up' their cards, whereas Leaf was just giving you a neat sketch card along with the buy-back card in the box. And it has to be mentioned that most of ITG's slabbed art cards were not 1 of 1 sketches... though they all did feature memorabilia pieces.

The reverse of the art sketch card has a sticker indicating that the card is indeed a one of a kind collectible as well as the artist's name and autograph. It's a simple design, but perfectly appropriate for an art card. It's simple and understated.

Besides just looking for more colored or less colored sketch cards, Leaf has also given a chance for collectors to find autographed Gordie Howe sketch cards. These rare cards would make a great centerpiece of a collection... or net a nice chunk of change!

Art Sketch Card Score:

Buy Backs -
The 'main event' when opening up Best of Hockey is the buy back card. The people over at Leaf have re-purchased a score of hockey cards to be inserted into this product. Since the name of the product is 'Best of Hockey', one can only assume that good cards will be found within. Here is where Best of Hockey and ITG's History of Hockey split paths. ITG's History of Hockey was all about celebrating all the players (apparently the good and the bad) throughout hockey's history. It had a strong historical focus... and centered on the people who played the game. Best of Hockey, on the other hand, is all about the cards. It's about cards that are rare, have amazing memorabilia pieces, autographs, high grades... and most importantly, I guess, a high value. With a price of over $200 per box/pack, it better deliver. And it can... there are certainly some very sweet pulls to be found in Best of Hockey, but as in all things card related, it's a huge gamble. I'm pretty sure you won't pull a $10 card of out this Leaf product (you may in ITG's History of Hockey... heck... even $1 cards...), but chances are you will get a card you could probably find for less than a box if you were to look on eBay or at a card show - unless you hit one of the real biggies that were inserted - like a 9.5 Gretzky rookie.

The card I pulled in my box was this dual auto/game-used card from Upper Deck Black. It's not particularly low-numbered, but it is a good card - not a $150 or $200 card - but a nice nice card nonetheless. Most Best of Hockey cards I have seen have been slabbed and graded. It was very surprising to me to see this card come out without a grade on it, but with a Best of Hockey label. I'm not fond of the label, I'd rather it have it out of the slab... but these things are pretty difficult to remove. I wonder how many cards have this label on it. I don't think Leaf is trying to create a Best of Hockey set like ITG kind of did with History of Hockey... so having the label is just a little weird. To me, Best of Hockey is a product that allows collectors to get sweet cards from other releases... with that being it. No set ambitions for itself as a product - purely re-sell and re-pull-ability. So I'm not going to worry about the label too much as I don't see too much significance to it. Hopefully collectors won't be confused by it.

Besides being able to get single cards, Leaf has also inserted redemptions for tins of the Cup and even packs of 1978 cards with the (extremely difficult) chance of getting a Gretzky rookie. Pretty neat I think! Wouldn't it be awesome to buy a pack of this and get a tin of the Cup? I'd be pretty happy as the price of a Cup tin is definitely greater than the Best of Hockey price.

Buy Backs Score:

Overall Value -
You'll hear this said by pretty much everyone - Best of Hockey is a high risk, high reward product. And that's totally fair to say. It is a really fun break though, and I've already seen many people excitedly breaking this product. To me, this product is card collector candy. Leaf has attempted to find THE BEST cards to put in this product. Though some of the cards may not be up to everyone's expectations, it's hard to say this product has any real dud cards inserted. For collectors like myself, who like to take the occasional gamble, this is a pretty nice product to get into. With all the assortment of great cards put into it, opening up a box will always give that rush we crave as card collectors. Leaf has done a very nice job of creating a hockey version of their 'Best of' cards. I'm hoping there is another iteration in the future as this one was supposed to be an extremely limited release.

Overall Value:

Check out my box of 12/13 Leaf Best of Hockey that I bought from Chri5784:

Cardboard Commentary #2 (Collecting a Player)

A lot of people who watch my videos and keep up with my card collection know me as THE Logan Couture collector. When I got back into collecting cards in 2009, I didn't just want to buy packs and boxes and hope for the best. I had done that as a kid and teenager... and it left me in the end with a lackluster collection and a feeling of unfulfillment. So as I started collecting anew I decided to focus my collection on only two specific things - a team (the Sharks) and a player (Logan Couture). Today I'm going to be talking about the good and the bad of collecting a single player and having a player PC.

I'll start with the good of collecting a player. There are lots of good points, actually. I mentioned that collecting a player brings focus to a collection - and that's a really exciting thing. I think sometimes collectors just buy and buy and buy... then they trade or sell... and then do it all over again. There is a never-ending rotation of cards that come in and out. While that may be fine (and fun, to an extent), I, personally, am not a fan of it. When does it end? After a while, this cycle can get tiring or boring. However, the feeling of building something up, and taking pride in amassing something unique is really appealing to me - and that's what focusing the collection on a single player can do. Focusing your collection will create an identity for it. With that comes wanting to make the collection bigger, better, and more complete. There is definitely a huge amount of pride that comes from putting together a player PC. Not only have I had a ton of fun from building it up, but others who have seen it have enjoyed it too.

When collecting only certain players, you can tend to get really focused on how that player does. I know that when I watch Sharks games, I'm keeping my eyes especially on Logan Couture and how he plays. Luckily for me, he has been consistently one of the best Sharks these past few years. I find myself rooting for him and checking out his stats after games. I'm also reading his tweets on Twitter and trying to find out all about him. I have to count myself lucky for choosing Couture though... that choice turned out to be really good on my part. See, when I began collecting again, I just randomly picked Couture to collect because he was a rookie that year on the team that I followed. And that was it. I had no idea he'd turn out to be such a special player. So with that, I got really lucky. I was fortunate enough to pick up many of his cards earlier on before they took a dramatic jump up the year after. And therein is another benefit... if you start collecting a single player early enough and they blossom into a star in the NHL, the collection of cards you have of them could have a significant rise in value.

For the high roller-big money collectors out there, PC-ing Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, or Patrick Roy can be great fun and a great financial challenge to take on - and they will pretty much hold their values well. But for lower or mid-range collectors like myself, finding those players you like that may not be superstars is a great way to go if you're on a budget. This is especially true if the player you find yourself gravitating towards is a minor star or local favorite. It really depends on your budget, but thankfully, there are great players to collect for every budget out there.

There are definitely negatives to player collecting that must be considered though too. For players that are perennial role players or 3/4th liners, finding cards of these players can be few and far between after their rookie years. Part of the fun of collecting a player is looking forward to all the new releases that come out each new season. Those lower-level players usually are regulated to sets like O-Pee-Chee and Score, and maybe Upper Deck Series 1 or 2. The cards are definitely more affordable, but the cards won't be as exciting. Often those sets will not have autographed or memorabilia cards of your player. But there might be some rare parallel cards to chase down for a little challenge.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the player you begin could become very hot. That's great... but not if you can't keep up with the rising demand and prices. Collecting only one player is great, and it's pretty easy to get cards of that player numbered to 20 or more... but once you start going for those really low serial numbered cards... that's when it really hits you in the wallet. One-of-ones are always a large financial investment. #creditcardFTW

Speaking of which, what can be very bad is bidding for those rare cards on eBay against a team collector or fellow player collector. There is definitely the potential to overpay for a card you want to put in your PC. I know because I've done it many-a-time. Those situations really suck. And that's when it pays off to really know who in the card community is concurrently collecting what you are collecting. When you do that, you can form alliances or help each other keep the bidding wars down to a minimum.

And that leads me to how to collect a player. It's definitely not by buying packs and boxes. I love cracking wax as much as the next guy, but I know I will never get the best cards of my player by doing so. There are a few resources that you constantly have to utilize when seeking out players for your PC.

Here's a rundown:

- eBay: Use the eBay search to look for your player. I do this all the time SEVERAL TIMES A DAY... haha... or even several times per hour even! You never know what that great 'Buy it Now' or 'Best Offer' will show up for the taking. Try commonly misspellings of your player to get better deals. One example of this is Ryane Clowe. I always find stuff under 'Ryan Clowe or Ryane Clow'. These mistakes by sellers can be your gain.

- Join a Card Forum: There are several great card forums on the internet for people to trade and find cards they want. Three that immediately come to mind are Sports Card Forum, CnC, and Hobby Insider. There is a wealth of resources on each of these sites. When you see boxes broken and shown off... there are opportunities to PM users to buy or sell. Dedicated trade pages also are also offered for collectors to find what they are looking for. Beckett also is a nice site to check out especially for the major American sports.

- Youtube: Youtube may be a strange place to recommend for sports cards, but a lot of collectors share their box breaks and trade videos through Youtube. It's also a great way to show off your collection and let people know who you're looking for. I can say personally that most people know I collect Couture through Youtube. I have had people PM through the Youtube site telling me where I could find various Couture cards or that they had one that I might need.

If you have some insight on player collecting I'd love to hear from you. I'm sure there are many more positives and negatives about it. Please let me know in the comments below what you think!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Retail Review #41 (10/11 Panini Pinnacle Blaster)

Sorry if it seems like I've been opening Panini all day... but these blaster boxes are just so affordable I can't help it! Plus, these guys came in 3 box lots so that obviously makes them just that much more plentiful than the other products available to bust. Next week I'll switch it up just a little, but for now... a blaster box of 10/11 Panini Pinnacle - should have a hit!

Price - 
3 for $19.95 (current price)

Packs - 8
10/11 Pinnacle Packs

I've definitely been getting a more positive feeling opening Pinnacle recently. Though I think the base cards from 10/11 have a horrible design - the insert and memorabilia cards look great, as well as the base photography. I've opened up so much Pinnacle lately that I feel I probably have at least a few complete base sets of the product now (minus rookie cards, of course). Maybe one day I'll just have to sort them all and see.

But for now, I'll hold off on that project and bust this blaster for you!

Review -
Just like last week, my hit came in the first pack. This time I decided to wait on looking at it until the end though. You know... build up the suspense and all. Given the size of the card, I knew it would be a plain jersey. I guess that's not too exciting, but I was wondering who I had gotten, and if it was from the Threads jersey set. I have taken a liking to those particular cards so I was crossing my fingers that it would be one.

The rest of the packs yielded me a smattering of insert cards. It was interesting to note that inserts came in every other pack. I guess that's just the way Panini collated them in the packing process. That could be potentially fishy if someone opened up Pinnacle and picked out all the insert packs... but then again... it's just Pinnacle... but then again... people sometimes do stupid things. I had brought this up before in a previous post, but was reminded of it when opening this blaster.

I may have also brought this up in a previous post as well, but I'll mention again that the Nufex cards make up for the ugly base design. They just look so good! They don't scan well at all, but in person the cards are dynamite! Pinnacle wasn't released this year, but I hope it returns in 13/14.

Check out the top cards from this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Bryan Watson Card No. BW
I had never heard of Bryan Watson before, but apparently he was quite the agitator! He played waaaay back in the day and was able to shut down even Bobby Hull during post season games. I love the Tough Times cards. I've said before that they look great, and the same holds true here. Especially cool is the really old school photo on the front. 'Ol time hockey!!!

#2 - Eric Wellwood Card No.249 (Nufex)
Nufex plus a rookie card makes this card find the number two spot this week. Wellwood has made my Retail Review top three before (I think as a Young Gun). He's currently not playing in the NHL, but hopefully he can work his way back up!

#1 - Derek Roy Card No. DR
So the jersey card did turn out to be from the Threads set! Yes! I don't remember ever really being excited pulling a jersey card for a while now. But I do enjoy these cards quite a bit. I'll be hanging on to this one and the Staal I pulled a few weeks ago. It'll be a minor PC for me.

Overall Value -
Pinnacle is a very nice product to buy in blaster form. There is just so much to like about it. I definitely recommend purchasing it if you're looking for a little bit of busting fun. This is a great product for younger collectors to enjoy. It has a super mix of current NHL players and older players like those found in the Tough Times insert set. Give it a go!

Let me know what you thought of my 10/11 Pinnacle blaster down in the comments below. What have you gotten out of these blasters? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #1 (Why Collect Cards?)

Check it out! Yet another weekly feature is coming to the Cardboard Review. It's going to be called Cardboard Commentary. Each week I'll be writing an article about something in the hobby. It could range anywhere from talking about what to collect, what's hot in cards, opinions, shipping, eBay, to... well... ANYTHING! If you want to propose a topic, I'm all for it. Let me know in the comments section. I look forward to this new series. I hope you like it!

The first topic I'd like to talk about is why collect cards in the first place? See, card collectors are a very small minority in the world (and sadly, getting smaller). And I think most non-collectors would question why people would 'waste' time and money on little pieces of cardboard - this applies especially to adult collectors (like myself). Isn't card collecting something just for kids anyways? I mean, if someone is going to buy sports cards, it should only be for younger (say, teens and under) people. C'mon, grow up!

Well, first and foremost, I have to say that if someone chooses to collect hockey, baseball, football, or whatever kind of card for their enjoyment, there's absolutely no need to judge them. Hobbies are great ways for people to invest their time in something they like to do. I don't think there ever should be a need to look down on things that people enjoy doing. And I'd say this would apply to stamp, comic, coin, and other collectors as well as people who enjoy playing video games, music, board games, knitting, doing sudoku, painting, and all other types of activities. If someone likes to do something, let them be happy doing it. No need to judge.

Now that that's out of the way... why collect cards?

There are actually many reasons, but here are a few that apply to me (and maybe others):

First, collecting cards brings me closer to the sports I follow. I remember buying baseball card packs as a kid and wondering who these players were that I had pictures of. When a ball game would come on, I'd go to my pile of cards and take out all the cards of the two teams that were playing on TV. I'd pay close attention to their batting, their fielding... everything they did. It was cool to know that I had THEIR card! So I became invested in that player, and it made the game more exciting for me. Now as an adult, I don't put all my cards in front of the TV anymore, but when I pull a rookie card, I'm pretty much immediately looking up their news and information on the internet to see what their potential is, or how they are faring in the league. It's totally fun, and it's a great way to get in the game.

So I just told you about how I would line up my cards during games... well... those were awesome memories for me. And as an adult, I remember my childhood days fondly. Some of the best times were buying and trading cards with my cousins and friends. Going to the local card store with them was always a thrill. For some reason it was always a competition to see who could pull the better cards. Usually I lost because my cousin Jimmy always had the hot hand (darn him!)... but those were definitely good times despite me getting jealous of Jimmy's ridiculous pulls. I think the reason why a lot of us adults still collect or have come back to collecting is because of those great memories and experiences we had as kids. And there's something to be said about doing something consistently for a very long time. I mean... how cool would it be for a baseball card collector to have collected from the days of Mickey Mantle to the present day. That would be some bad-ass-ness there! Imagine that collection!

And finally, collecting is simply thrilling and fun. It's pretty much a form of risk taking (ahem, gambling *cough* *cough*). Who doesn't like buying a pack of cards and finding a super rare autograph or memorabilia card of some superstar player in the NHL, NBA, etc. That's just as awesome as it gets. And it keeps us coming back for more - because it just doesn't happen often enough - hah! Just enough though, right? I have heard some liken card collecting to having Christmas every time they have a mailday or pack/box break. Opening something that could potentially have something cool that you want is never a bad thing. That's the more positive spin on labeling the thrill of breaking boxes and packs. But any way you look at it, it's just plain fun to do. Just make sure you have a good budget for your spending though - thankfully there is a huge range of products with many different price points for collectors to select from.

So there you have it... just a few reasons for collecting. Like I said, there are many more (like helping your organization skills, giving you something to pass on later, to be a part of a community...), but I'll leave it with just the three above. If you have a great reason for collecting, I'd love to hear about it in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading this first post of Cardboard Commentary! This will be a once-per-week column on this site. See ya next time!

Retail Review #40 (10/11 Donruss Blaster)

This morning I've chosen to open the third and final box of Donruss from my latest card order. The first two boxes had some highs, but both left me hitless. Some say that the third time's the charm. Will this box yield a hit? Or will I go oh-for-three with these guys. Guess I'll just have to crack it and find out!

Price - 
3 for $16.95 (current price)

Packs - 8
10/11 Donruss Packs

I've found out that opening a box of Donruss can be a real crapshoot. You really never know what you're going to get. I've found that you shouldn't expect to find a hit in the boxes, and you may not even get rookie cards. Sometimes there are only inserts to be had - like in Retail Review #36. Donruss is full of uncertainty!

That being said, I really wonder what will come out of my box today. It states on the blaster box that autographs are possible pulls... that would be amazing to get, but I'd be willing to settle for any hit at this point!

Let's see what comes out of this one!

Review -
Well, with the first pack... BOOM! Well, maybe more like boom. Haha! I'm glad to get a hit finally from my latest break of these blasters, even if it was just a low value jersey card. So with that done, I could only expect to find inserts or rookie cards left in the box.

And this box turned out to be a rookie heavy one. Out of the three Rated Rookies I got though, only one actually was on an NHL roster at the time of this review. Evan Oberg and Jeff Penner were the two rookies I pulled not on currently on a NHL team. With such a rich rookie class in 10/11, I wonder why I keep pulling bottom-level players... I don't recall the Rated Rookies being tiered so that better rookies were harder pulls... but I could be wrong on that.

All-in-all this break started decently and ended on a whimper. But you know, I can't complain too much as I did get the hit I'd been asking for.

Let's see the hit and the other two cards that made the top three this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Matt Moulson Card No. 28 (The Ultimate Draft Insert)
Like I said in the video, these Ultimate Draft Inserts are interesting to me because of the players they chose to feature. After getting this card though, I checked out some of Matt Moulson's statistics and was surprised to see that he had scored 30 or more goals in the past three seasons. Pretty good! He's no Stamkos, but yeah, pretty good.

#2 - Nick Bonino Card No. 260
This was the one rookie card I pulled where the player featured is currently on an NHL roster, so this card makes the top three. Nick Bonino was not a big rookie card to pull in 10/11, and really, still isn't... but at least he's playing... and that's better than what can be said of the other two Rated Rookies from this blaster box.

#1 - Jay Rosehill Card No. 70 (Boys of Winter Jersey Insert)
Yay! My hit! It's JAY ROSEHILL. Yep... not sure what to say about this card. It has a piece of jersey in it so it automatically gets elevated to the top stop! I'll probably throw this card in as an extra in a trade down the line with some Leafs fan.

Overall Value -
At this point, I'm not sure how much I would recommend Donruss. It can have its very specific niche of collectors, but there's only a marginal level of excitement that it can bring. Even among Panini's own family of brands, there are better choices at the same price point. If you open Donruss, I'm sure it's just for a little bit of fun... and that's not a bad thing!

Let me know what you thought of my 10/11 Donruss blaster down in the comments below. What have you gotten out of these blasters? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Retail Review #39 (11/12 UD O-Pee-Chee Blaster)

This week I'll be cracking open a box of 2011-12 O-Pee-Chee Hockey by Upper Deck. OPC is a great brand in my opinion. It captures the old school feel of card collecting, but still gives collectors opportunities to find hits - albeit only very rarely. I definitely am not expecting to get an autograph or memorabilia card out of this box, but that's not what this one is about. This one's about busting wax and seeing what you pull from this giant 600 card set.

Price - 

Packs - 14
11/12 O-Pee-Chee Blaster Packs

I don't bust OPC very often, but when I do, I always get the feeling that I should be buying more of it. See, I collected cards in the 80's and 90's, and this brand and the way it is structured has a very nostalgic feel for me. I love the design of the base cards. I love the actual cardboard stock aspect of them. It's just a great OG product.

The modern collector in me is the one that backs away from this product. Getting any worthwhile hit from OPC is just way too hard. It's sad that that's what I'm looking for in cards, but it's true. I would rather go for an autograph set or get insane patches than put in the work of building a giant set of cards like that of OPC. I know that there are collectors that do put this set together... and that makes me happy to know. I feel that on some level sets like this are the closest thing to 'pure' there is in modern collecting.

Hah! Sorry for getting all abstract and highfalutin just now... why don't I just break this box now:

Review -
This box of O-Pee-Chee didn't yield anything of great value, but it was still a very fun break. It definitely helped not to expect anything. Instead of hoping for a hit, I was able to enjoy the cards coming out the of packs in a greater way.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this break were the base cards. I really like the look of these cards. They are both retro and modern at the same time. It's this kind of design that made each year of cards in the old collecting days unique. When I first bought these cards in 2011 I was surprised to see the baby-blue borders and the circle pattern background. These are things that I view as creative and artistic in card design - something that just doesn't happen at the lower-end of card collecting now.

Every pack that I broke had something in it as well, be it an insert card, parallel, rookie, or legend card. It was a nice little surprise to see which card in the pack was the 'special' card. In the end I got two 'leaders' multi-player cards, seven retro parallels, one rainbow foil, five rookies (including one from 10/11 OPC), three legends, and a couple more that show up in the top three.

Speaking of which, here they are:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Dan Boyle Card No. 22
In my big pile of OPC cards from this break, Boyler was my only Shark! But I can't be too surprised as pulling things you want from the 600 behemoth is always a challenge. So I'm glad to find this talented d-man in my packs. One thing I really like about this card is its numbering. It is card number 22... the same as Boyle's jersey number! I think sometimes card companies honor players by giving their card number in the set the same as the jersey number that they wear. I wonder if this was the case for Mr. Boyle!

#2 - Marian Hossa Card No. 3 (Playoff Beard Variation)
This card looks almost the exact same as every other base card. It's very difficult to tell in a scan, but the grey bottom border of this card is a little lighter. This signifies it as a parallel card. These parallels are very interesting because they all feature players sporting their playoff beards. What an awesome concept for a parallel set! It was one of the most unique ideas I had seen done on cardboard in a long while. Props to whoever came up with this! If you didn't know these existed in the 11/12 set you might have missed them. Go back and check for those lighter grey borders.

#1 - Marian Gaborik Card No. A18
Here comes the shine! The In Action insert cards in 11/12 OPC stand out not only in their shininess, but also in their girth. In Action cards are quite a bit thicker than the standard base or insert card. These cards look cool with a quasi-retro futuristic design, and feel cool with their premium card heft. These inserts don't hold a lot of value in today's market, but if they were to be found, say twenty years ago, I could see prices of these cards being quite high.

Overall Value -
At about ten dollars, this box came out a little pricier than last week's break of Pinnacle - with no hit! But like I stated in the beginning of this review, OPC is not about the hits. This product is great for collectors on a budget who want a challenging set to collect. The set collecting part of the hobby has definitely diminished with the introduction of high powered rare autographs and material cards, but OPC has stayed strong through the years... there are those who appreciate what it brings to the table. I certainly do. OPC is not an expensive break. For the collector looking for some old school card collecting fun, this would be a great set to buy.

Let me know what you thought of my 11/12 O-Pee-Chee blaster down in the comments below. What have you gotten out of these blasters? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

2012-2013 ITG Motown Madness Review

As with always, sorry for the late review of this ITG product. It's hard to get in ITG products right when they come out for me! But anyways, it's great to finally be opening up some new product. With this lock-out shortened season, hockey card products are few and far between. Though I do love the fact that there is something new to open... as a huge Sharks fan... this Winged Wheel themed product has me a bit skeptical. How do I like a product with all Red Wings in it?!?

Base Card Design -
The base cards in Motown Madness have been expertly done. ITG has done very well given the fact that they don't carry an NHL license. The colors and graphics are spot on for a Detroit Red Wings themed set. Each card features a large close-up photograph of the player within the Red Wing logo design. That design element is genius - I'm guessing it was different enough from the actual logo that they could use it. Also shown on card is the skyline of Detroit itself acting as a background to the player's name and the Motown Madness logo. Having the city there was spot on, but it is a bit too hidden for my tastes. I would have liked the image of the Detroit skyline zoomed in a bit more, or done in silver to make it stand out. Though I love the red foil covering the card, it does make the city less pronounced. Overall though, these base cards are soem of ITG's most impressive yet.

The reverse of the card is mostly standard ITG fare. As usual, there is an informative write-up on the featured player. A write-up in this case is the perfect way to go so as to focus the information solely on the time when the player played for Detroit. I especially enjoyed reading about players I usually associate with other teams, such as Rogie Vachon (above) and Adam Oates. It was enlightening to learn something about these players from a Red Wing point of view. As for design, the back is pretty spartan. There is a light backing on the card that I think is there to add a textural element... but I would have preferred a straight stark white backing with the minimalist red trimmings. To me that would have screamed Red Wings.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Every 12 card pack/box of Motown Madness comes with 2 game-used memorabilia cards, 4 autographs, and 1 patch of honor card along with the base. ITG has done away with any other non-hit insert cards with this product - great choice in my opinion!

This Game-Used Jersey card of Mike Foligno features a design that is instantly recognizable as ITG. Often times I enjoy continuity within brands and companies, but in this case I wish ITG would branch out a bit more. There is nothing wrong with the design of the card, but it just feels too similar to everything else ITG. Remove the red Motown Madness 'skin', and you have your standard ITG jersey card. Thought the card design might feel repetitive, getting jersey pieces like this never gets old. The jersey piece in this card features a huge seam that billows out of the jersey space. When I first saw the card I thought I had gotten a patch piece. Got to give props to ITG for their selection of jersey swatches.

My other game-used card was a dual jersey card of Danny Gare and Darryl Sittler. I like the idea of putting two players who played together from a specific period of time together, but in this case, I don't know who, other than hardcore Detroit fans, would want this card. Besides the lack of star appeal of the players, the design here is purely functional. There isn't anything artistic or eye-catching that makes this card stand out. There are some cards that look so good in terms of design that it literally makes collectors want to go out and buy them just because they look so cool. This is not one of those cards.

Thankfully, the autographed cards in Motown Madness are a bit better. Alone, they look 'ok', but when placed together - like in binder pages - the Red Wing theme really comes alive. Collecting them all is a huge challenge (there are some very short printed cards and the set is very large), but something that would be worthwhile to hardcore Wings fans.

Lastly, I would like to mention the Patch of Honor cards. These patch cards look great... they are unique and have a bunch of breaks or lettering... the only problem here is that they are manufactured patch pieces. They are replicas of real patches. I, for one, am not a fan of these cards despite how cool some of them look. ITG is known for their real game-used cards. Mixing in these manufactured replicas lowers the bar a bit. I will let you come to your own conclusions about them, but to me they are a miss.

Though I didn't get any, Motown Madness does have some pretty spectacular game-used and autographed cards. A wealth of Winged Wheel history is contained within these boxes!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Value -
Obviously, for a Red Wings fan, this is THE product to get... and get a lot of. It was tailor made for you. The history embedded within Motown Madness is crazy! The autographed set would be especially tempting if the Wings were my team. What an amazing opportunity to get autographs of players with specifically designed team-themed cards. I'd be in card heaven with these. And besides that, the base cards in the set are great themselves as well. I think using them for autographs with a silver Sharpie pen would be off the charts.

For me as a Sharks fan... this is a product just to try and be done with. I was hoping to pull something nice... maybe a Howe or an Yzerman... that would have been awesome... but this box pretty much was a strike out - I'm not sure there are many boxes worse than this one (I certainly hope not!).

Hockey fans are crazy about their teams, so I find it hard to imagine anyone other than Wings fans busting this stuff too extensively. It's the same feeling I got when opening the Flyers themed Broad Street Boys, and to a lesser extent, Forever Rivals (featuring Toronto and Montreal). Maybe one day ITG will do a Sharks themed set (in my dreams)... I'd be all over it!

So for Red Wings fans... this is for you. I'll go ahead and rate it a 10 for you. As for everyone else, the score gets lowered. The product has its ups, but as seen by this box, there are cards in it that could be quite uninteresting and undesired to the non-Wings fan.

Overall Value:

Check out my box of ITG Motown Madness!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Retail Review #38 (10/11 Panini Pinnacle Blaster)

The second of my three blaster Pinnacle blaster is up to bat! After going hitless with my last two Donruss boxes, I'm looking forward to finding something in here. Pinnacle has always been a fun break that yields a good amount of unique looking base cards and interesting inserts and parallels. I feel like the past few breaks have been a bit on the blander side... will this box break that streak with something exciting? Let's find out.

Price - 
3 for $19.95

Packs - 8
10/11 Pinnacle Packs

I've stated before that I think Pinnacle was Panini's answer to Upper Deck Series 1 and 2. The price points are very similar, and there is a strong focus on photography. Unlike Upper Deck 1 and 2 though, Pinnacle breaks out into its own with is wide array of card varieties and quirky nature. In terms of variety, collectors can find all sorts of things - foiled parallels, jerseys, autographs... and even non-hockey player cards.

And in terms of quirky-ness, Pinnacle is a brand that did away with putting statistics on the back. Instead, the cards have a write-up of the photograph on the front - there are not many card brands that do that. Though very untraditional, it's a great idea to attract newer collectors into the fold. Instead of trying to pour over numbers, a little story to go along with the front of the card makes for very easy access into the NHL experience.

Let's go ahead and break this blaster box open and see what spills out!

Review -
I have to say this was the most fun break I've had in a Retail Review in a while. The Pinnacle box had eight packs in it, which made the experience last a little longer, and the insert cards came out at a pretty decent clip. And unlike my last couple Donruss boxes (which have a similar price point), this box (and all my other Pinnacle blasters) had a serial numbered hit in it.

Besides my main hits, I also was able to pull one rookie and one Nufex parallel card. 10/11 was an amazing year for rookies so there was a good chance at a top name... but unfortunately my Ice Breaker rookie card was not of a notable player (Stars goalie Richard Bachman). My Nufex card, however, was of a pretty notable (infamous) hockey player - Sean Avery. I have to say that I'm not a fan of Avery and all his antics, but the card looks pretty cool at least. But that's not good enough to make my top three this week.

Here's what made the top cards in this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Duff Goldman Card No. 3 (Fans of the Game Set)
I watch the Food Network... A LOT. Shows like Chopped, Mystery Diners, and Restaurant Impossible are great fun. Duff Goldman was the main star of Ace of Cakes. Though that show wasn't one that I particularly liked, it's fun to be able to pull a card that represents the Food Network family of programming. When are they going to feature a Sharks fan? Panini should make a card of me!!!

#2 - Mike Richards/Pavel Datsyuk Card No. 1 (Team Pinnacle Set)
This was an insert card I had no clue would come out of this blaster - it was a VERY NICE surprise. Team Pinnacle cards have always been a hard pull - from the 90's until even now they are a rarer breed of insert card. I remember Gretzky/Lemieux Team Pinnacle cards being in the hundred dollar range. Now this card is not even close to that value, but it's a cool card nonetheless - sweet, sweet pull for a blaster!

#1 - Jordan Staal Card No. JST
I snuck a peak at the color scheme of the card and was hoping Crosby... but Staal is a still a very nice hit. These Threads jersey card have a simple and cohesive design that is very pleasing to the eye. The colors, the orientation of the graphics, and even the font blend well with each other. I like it so much I'm actually considering possibly going for this insert set! That's what a good design can do... it makes collectors want the cards. If you have any of these 10/11 Threads cards, shoot me a PM!

Overall Value -
I have to give it up for Pinnacle - it's a great value at the moment - especially if you can get a box like this one. Of course, there was no huge dollar card here, but the break was very enjoyable. When choosing between Panini's two mid-lower-end brands - Pinnacle and Donruss, I have said that they were pretty close... but my recent breaks have made Pinnacle pull much farther ahead in terms of which box to go for when having to choose between the two.

Let me know what you thought of my 10/11 Pinnacle blaster down in the comments below. What have you gotten out of these blasters? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!