Sunday, June 30, 2013

Retail Review #55 (09/10 Upper Deck Series 2 Blaster)

So the last time I broke an 09/10 Upper Deck Series 2 blaster I pulled out a Logan Couture Young Gun. Really, for me, I don't need to get any more of these! But I ordered a total of three... and today I'll be busting open the second one for you to see. With a Couture Young Gun already pulled, I'm not sure what I'm really hoping to find in these two remaining blasters... maybe another Couture? Hah, we'll see!

Price - 
3 for $21.95

Packs - 12
09/10 Upper Deck Series 2 Blaster Packs

It is totally possible for another Couture to come out of this blaster, but I really don't need another one. I'm not one to hoard certain cards, even if I PC the player. I would love for something rare to come out of the blaster though. A Victory Black rookie card would be a sweet pull. And even though they are a dime a dozen in hobby boxes, getting a game-jersey card out of this blaster would be really nice.

Jersey cards come one in every two-hundred and forty packs. I wonder why the odds are so long for them. I suppose Upper Deck's thinking is that the Young Guns are a big enough draw to keep the jersey cards harder to get. People are really buying these blasters for Young Guns, and a jersey would be the icing on the cake if someone were to pull one.

Well, let's go ahead and see what's hiding in this blaster of 09/10 UD2:

Review -
Like the OPC break last week, this UD2 blaster was a fun little break. I commented in the video that there weren't a whole lot of all-base packs. That's always good. Keeping those to a minimum helps the interest stay up with each passing pack.

My first pack contained a Young Gun of Colin McDonald. When I saw the Oilers jersey I got a bit excited... then I realized that 09/10 was not the year of the Oil - that would be the year after. Also, because the Oilers share a similar color scheme to the Islanders, I almost thought I had pulled a Tavares Young Gun... but of course that couldn't happen as Tavares is a Series 1 pull. Sigh. It was Colin McDonald.

This box turned out to be a pretty standard box of Upper Deck Series 2. I got a small mix of inserts and Victory cards. No card really stood out too much, so this week's top three was a bit more difficult to figure out.

Here are the top three this week, they could really be in any order:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Mark Messier Card No. HH23
Messier was probably the greatest name to come out of the blaster, but because his card was a Hockey Heroes card, he get's regulated to the third spot. I do like this picture of him though. It's a very nice photo of him raising The Cup.

#2 - Michael Grabner Card No. 339 (Victory)
Grabner was a decently hot rookie back in 2009/10. He showed a great amount of speed and scoring ability. He's since dropped off a bit in popularity - possibly because he's moved teams quite a bit. This Victory rookie card has a very nice picture of Grabner doing something he does very well - skate!

#1 - Steven Zalewski Card No. 488
I almost thought another Couture came out of this blaster! No, it was of Steven Zalewski. Even as a pretty big Sharks fan, I'm not too excited to get this card... but I'll still give it top spot billing since he's representing the boys in teal on this card.

Overall Value -
This wasn't a super box of 09/10 Series 2, but it wasn't terrible either. I guess it just sat right in the middle. I'm always glad to add new Young Guns into my collection of cards, so that's a positive for sure. Hopefully my third and final blaster of 09/10 Upper Deck Series 2 from my last order will be the best one yet! You'll just have to stay tuned to find out.

Let me know what you thought of my 09/10 Upper Deck Series 2 blaster 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!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

2013 Panini Golden Age Review

Products based on historical themes have been very popular in recent years. Panini adds Golden Age to these lines of products based on bygone eras. Collectors will not only find athletes in their packs, but entertainers, newsmakers, and presidents too! It's always fun to see who and what made their way into the set. Today we'll see by getting into one box of the new 2013 Panini Golden Age.

Base Card Design -
Each base card comes on non-glossy yellowed card stock. The yellowing definitely gives the cards an older, more retro feel. The colors used invoke the sense that these cards are 'older'. Each image on the card is framed in an antique looking backdrop. The look of these cards are beyond the time range of what has been coming out recently. In that I mean that card companies have traveled back to nineties, eighties, seventies, and even sixties-themed card designs. This design feels even older than that, though many of the subjects featured fall into the afore mentioned decades. Even though Panini nails the super old school look, I can't help but feel these cards aren't as dynamic as they could have been. The muted tones take away any kind of 'pop' that could have been there. This could have been rectified by glossing only the subject of the card. The mix of glossy card on cardboard would have been pretty cool. Of course, that printing technique would have probably been cost prohibitive.

The back of the base card is more intricately designed than the front. It features paragraph about the card's subject surrounded by an artistic border. Purple ink was used for the entire back - which I think was a brilliant color choice. It's both different and retro. I have to say that this card back is spot on - one of Panini's best efforts in terms of card back design!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Memorabilia/Autos -
Each box of Golden Age will come with an autograph and a memorabilia card. Besides the two hits, collectors can find a variety of inserts as well as parallel cards. Panini also includes a box topper card featuring an oversized picture from the golden age of America.

The box topper card comes in a giant copper foil pack. I really like the design of the pack, it's very elegant. The card, however, has a bit more to be desired. It's an oversized card that reminds me more of a postcard than a trading card. I suppose if you are really into this era of American history, this may be a fun set to collect. But for most collectors, I think they are just oddly shaped cards that most wouldn't know what to do with. When doing box toppers, I would prefer to see more standard card offerings. That way at least they can be stored with relative ease. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the Harry Houdini card I pulled.

Mini card parallels that look exactly the same as the standard base card are found one-per-pack. The only difference with these are the card backs. There are a variety of card back themes in Golden Age. Like their oversized box topper cousins, mini cards can be tiresome to store and display - though card storage companies have mini card storage solutions available to collectors.

One of the more interesting insert cards to be found in Golden Age are the Playing Card inserts. There are 52 of these to be found as well as two joker cards. I guess if you collected them all you could play a game with the deck you create. The playing cards appear to come on playing card stock and have the rounded corners that standard playing cards have. The backs are all the same. In fact, the back says: Premium Playing Cards. I wonder if anyone out there will actually put the entire deck together and play a game with them. That'd be really interesting to see!

Delong Gum cards replicate what an old baseball card might look like. These simple cards are likable additions to the set. They, out of all the cards available in Golden Age, are the most sports card-like cards to be found. I particularly like the back of these cards. There is a line that says: 'PLAY BALL GUM is as pure and as fine quality as any made - contains real chicle.' I want to try some Delong Gum now!

The Headlines insert set is designed to look like a newspaper. Do young collectors even know what newspapers are anymore? Hah! I'm sure they do... but in the near future... who knows! They'll be asking why in the heck this card looks the way it does. I've seen newspaper cards done before; and I've always found that because of the nature of the format, the picture used is always a bit too small, as is the print. It is a fun way to signify important events on a card though. Maybe in the future, rather than a newspaper, cards will feature web-browser designs. You heard it here first!

This Kelly Leak card is part of the Tip Top Bread Label die-cut set. These cards share the same die-cut shape as the Bread for Energy insert set. If they look familiar to you, Panini used the exact same thing in last year's Past & Present basketball card set. As simple as these cards look on the front, the backs are even more so; they just have a word or a phrase in a field of empty space.

The Three Stooges get their own little insert set in Golden Age. The Stooges have a huge fan following, but as time goes by, I wonder if their popularity will remain high. Fans of the Stooges will enjoy this insert set though. Panini used a black & white and blue color scheme on the card I pulled. Not only did they color the front, the back is done in the same way. That's great to see because I would have expected just a plain black & white back. Good on Panini for doing a little extra on these Stooges inserts.

My one memorabilia card from the box was of Eva Gabor. Unfortunately, the card does not specify what the piece of cloth is. It could have been from a dress, a shirt... really anything. It would have been nice to get specific information. But other than that, the memorabilia card looks great. The square themed design frames the image and the memorabilia piece nicely. I especially like the border of the cloth. Overall, the card is pleasing to the eye and appropriate for a set like this.

My autographed card came in the very last pack of the box. I was actually afraid this box was shorted. Thankfully, the best came in last - which is ironic because the autograph I pulled was of IndyCar racer Mario Andretti. Though the card has a pretty plain design, it's done in a tasteful way. The autograph is on-card and looks great in the area Panini provides. I can't say that I'm jumping out of my chair with the way the card looks, but it is definitely serviceable.

Though I didn't pull one, lucky collectors can find one-of-one parallel cards and Historic Cut autographed cards in Golden Age. Just as in the regular set, the Historic Cut autographs feature both sport personalities as well as other famous celebrities.

Inserts/Memorabilia/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Panini Golden Age is a product that definitely feels like it goes deep back in time. Looking at the subjects of the set though, that's not really the case. Golden Age is a quirky set that packs a lot of interesting things inside it. Is it better and more interesting than other sets of its ilk? I can't really say that it does. I would honestly chose other products over this one when it comes to a product with a lot of historical variety. That being said, Golden Age is not a bad product. I would suggest looking long and hard at the checklist. There are things to be found here that aren't found in other products. If you see a vein of interest that you like, then Golden Age might be the retro product for you.

In terms of price, Golden Age is definitely one of the more affordable breaks. I've seen it selling for under $70 per box. For that amount of money you will get a good amount of mini cards, an oversized card, and two hits. Oh... and of course... a lot of fun looking at the cards!

For collectors who enjoy breaking historical products, I'd suggest giving one box a try at first. See if this is the product for you. If you're all about sports and sports cards, you may want to give this one a pass.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2013 Golden Age:

Cardboard Commentary #15 (Card Budget)

How much do you spend on your cards? The answer to that question for many of us is probably: too much. In today's Cardboard Commentary, I'm going to share a little insight on how I used to spend money on trading cards, and how I spend money now. This isn't a subject that is brought up too often, but I think it's something we can all relate to.

When I was a kid starting off in the hobby, I had an insatiable desire for more and more cards. Anytime my parents gave me money I would go to the hobby shop a few blocks from my house and unload it all on wax. If ever I saved any money... it went straight to cards. This continued on into my teen years as well. My allowance was raised - but all that meant was I could get more cards. My parents hoped that I would learn to save the money I had, but that really never happened. If I had any amount of money, it would go towards cards. Oh, my parents hated it so! They had never collected cards, so they thought it was a complete waste. Looking back, I can't say there were wrong. I probably spent a fortune - literally thousands of dollars - from when I was an elementary school student to my high school days on cards that I now have either lost or damaged. And for the most part, the cards I had back then would not have increased in value - most of it would be considered junk wax today.

Though I spent all that money as a kid, it got worse when I went to college. As a college student I still found myself immersed in cards. I collected sports cards, but added collectible card games as well. The combination of both really sent my spending habits flying out of control. In college I had to budget for living expenses like food, shelter, and grown-up things like that. But I still wanted to buy cards. So guess what came into play?

The credit card.

This plastic card gave me access to cardboard cards. It gave me money that I didn't really have to spend on the hobby... and it gave me A LOT. I knew that I had to be careful with credit cards... but the temptation to use it to buy 'just one more thing', 'just one more pack', 'just one more box', was just too great. I ended up accumulating some pretty massive debt by the time I got out of college. And for what? Tuition? Textbooks? Housing?



I totally felt like an idiot every time I spent money I didn't have. But I couldn't stop. I was addicted to cards. I guess it was better than addiction to drugs or something like that... but in terms of money flying out of your hands - it was the same.

Thankfully, I reigned myself in when I realized how much money I had to pay off. When I began working after college, the first thing I did was to figure out how to pay off my credit debt. That goal was more important to me than buying cards. So I spent my hard earned money erasing the mistakes I made with college spending... and that's when I pretty much quit the hobby.

After a good long while - we're talking 5-6 years - I got the itch to get back into sports cards. As a sports fan, cards have always connected me to sports in a fun and meaningful way. I loved getting the players I watched on the court, ice, or field. This time, however, I knew that I would spend wisely and not be a complete doufus with my finances.

What I ended up doing was taking my monthly paycheck and calculating all the things that would come out of it, like gas, housing, food, bills, savings, and all that good stuff. Then I'd see how much was left over. I considered that my free spending money. This was the money I could use for things like cards or books or fun things like that. I divided that amount by the weeks in the month and voila! I had a weekly budget! This was money I felt good about spending because I knew that when it was out, I would not go to my credit card or pull funds from somewhere else. What I had was what I would have.

It's the system that I use currently, and it has saved me financially. So now, I can enjoy the hobby, and not worry about accruing debt. It's really nice to have a handle on money. That feeling of spinning out of control financially BLOWS, and I never want to experience that again.

My situation is probably similar to many others out there. It may have to do with spending on cards, but it really could be anything - comics, games, musical instruments, stocks, drugs... I hope that whatever it is, it doesn't crush you. It really is a great feeling to be in control. If you're struggling with money, I encourage you to take a step back, look at what you can do to reign yourself in... and do it. If you need help, find it! It's worth it way more than cardboard or any other vice. When things are back in control, the hobby will always be there for you to return to...

... and enjoy!

If you have any comments about how you spend your money, any tips, or any experiences, and would like to share, please comment in the comments section. I'm sure we could all benefit from it!

2013 Panini Prestige Football Review

Prestige is the first mid-level football card product to come out for Panini. Collectors know that this product showcases the new rookie crop in a major way. The set is loaded with first year players cards. Though Prestige has a pretty modest price tag, it does provide some decent hit content. In year's past, Prestige has underwhelmed a bit in the design department - not really living up to its prestigious moniker. Let's see what Prestige serves up this time around.

Base Card Design -
The new Prestige base cards have definitely taken a step in the right direction. I was pleasantly surprised at how refined they looked when I opened my first pack. These base cards have a tasteful look that incorporates some smart design choices. First, the player photo. Rather than a broad action shot of the player, the designers chose to focus solely on the subject of the card. The result was a larger, clearer image of the represented player. The player is in action, so there is definitely an intensity element on display; and all that intensity is distilled into the large photo - it's pretty awesome. To further focus collectors' attentions on the player, Panini has wisely ghosted out the top portion of the card and made the bottom of the card flooded with a darkened team color shadow. You can't help but to look right where these two elements meet - the center. Lastly, the fonts and graphics used are classy. They have a retro flair to them that matches well with the Prestige logo.

The back of the card is also a step in the positive direction for Panini. I have traditionally not been a fan of Panini's spartan, boring backs. The Prestige backs do have a touch of the old Panini 'phone-it-in' style at the very bottom, but the rest of the four-fifths of the card is great. The grayscale image of the player looks sweet on the white background, and the jumbo sized card numbering is a fun little choice.

Each pack of Prestige will come with at least one rookie card in it. The rookie cards share many similar elements to the standard base cards, but are different enough that they stand out. In terms of card design, the rookie cards have that same color partition. The difference here, though, is that with the rookie card, the background has less of that whiting effect used with the base. It's almost as if the players are in a heavy fog rather than engulfed in fog. I like it; it's a nice tie to the base design. The only parts of the rookie card I have issue with are the two rookie logos. The rookie shield in the top left corner is uninspired and is visually bland. And the large rookie logo above the player's name is an eyesore. Everything else looks so tasteful, it's just too bad that the two rookie designators mar what could be a near-flawless design concept.

Special parallel variations exist for some rookie cards like this one of Eddie Lacy pictured above. I think this variation is pretty similar to the base rookei card, but other variants have dramatically different photos. Be careful when sorting through your cards and see if you come across these parallels.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The outside of the box promises four memorabilia or autographed cards per box. Besides hits, collectors are treated to parallel cards and inserts as well. Though the main thrust of Prestige is with the new rookie class, there are plenty of veteran hits to find as well. Overall there is a nice mix of both.

Panini has done an excellent job making use of foil in all their recent card sets. They have used it so much of it that I believe they have just about perfected the process. This Prestigious Pick foil insert of 49er Marcus Lattimore looks great (it definitely loses its mojo going through the scanner). The gold foil really shimmers, and the burst pattern in the background adds dimension to the card. You can find a few of these, along with another burst foil insert called NFL Draft Picks, inside the box.

Acetate is another special form type of card that Panini has chosen to put into Prestige. My box came with two. Both were die-cut in different ways, but both looked great. If this were the early nineties, these cards would probably hold some significant value. Though they probably won't ever be big money cards, they are cards that are creative and nice additions to anyone's collection. And they still are fun cards to pull from packs. Acetate and foil cards - I still definitely have a soft spot for them in my heart!

There are some 'filler' insert cards to be found like this Draft City Destinations card of Geno Smith that don't have foil, acetate, or die-cutting... and basically comes on the same stock as the base cards. These cards aren't terrible, and in fact, some present some pretty interesting nuggets of information, but because they lack those extra printing elements, they just aren't that exciting to pull. With cards like these that have no bells or whistles, there has to be some absolutely timeless design or amazing photography to hold collector interest. Anything less leaves these cards destined to be banished into the common bin, and forgotten forever.

Numbered and unnumbered parallel cards can be found in Prestige. Shown above is an Extra Points parallel card numbered to just 100. Different parallel cards come with different color configurations. I really like the fact that Panini chose to foil the entire card. An entire set of Prestige in foil would look amazing, and this can be accomplished by collecting the just one of the parallel sets. The foiling used on these parallels is similar to that of Panini's Absolute brand.

Here you can see an autographed Extra Points Parallel card of Matt Scott numbered to only 100. It's a sticker autograph, but that's about what you'd expect in a mid-end product line like Prestige.

What was a bit unexpected was the availability of on-card autographs. Usually on-card autographs are reserved for higher-end products. So it's really awesome to be able to acquire on-card autos in Prestige. This autographed version of the NHL Passport insert of new Viking Cordarrelle Patterson is great. The on-card autograph paired with a visually interesting design makes this card really stand out. Panini did a really nice job with these.

In terms of memorabilia content, the Prestigious Picks jersey cards combine foil and cloth. I remember really enjoying the foiled memorabilia card out of Panini Brilliance Basketball a little while ago. This is the same concept. It's great that Panini decided to have more all-foil memorabilia cards. It's a pairing that just isn't seen often enough. Perhaps companies think that there should only be one special treatment and not the other, but as you can see here, foiling a memorabilia card is a worthwhile idea.

Foil isn't used for all the memorabilia cards in Prestige, so I'm glad Panini at least came up with designs that look good for the cards without it - this design isn't the standard boring, cookie cutter fare. The DeMarco Murray jersey card above shows a great deal of artistry in its design. From the sepia background to the cut of the jersey hole, this card has that extra going for it to make it stand out.

With so many inserts, parallels, printing plates, memorabilia, and autographed cards, collectors are bound to find something they like when they bust Prestige this year. In this preview box alone, there were numerous examples of well thought out cards. Collectors should be pleased.

Overall Rating -
Prestige has been a brand that I have tended to have lukewarm feelings about. It was never a huge stinker, but it wasn't very exciting either. In the past two years, Prestige has taken a strong step forward. At its price-point (under $100/box), Prestige delivers a solid value with the opportunity to nab some worthwhile cards of the new rookie class (veterans too!). I definitely think Prestige is a product worth your time if football is the sport you collect. It's also a great entry point for collectors looking to get into football card collecting.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2013 Panini Prestige Football:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Retail Review #54 (09/10 O-Pee-Chee Blaster)

Today I'll be ripping into a blaster of something I rarely open: 2009/10 O-Pee-Chee. OPC is a great product for collectors who love the old school feel and set collecting. While I do enjoy retro cards quite a bit, OPC doesn't have the hit content that I look for when busting boxes. Still, OPC is a fun break with worthwhile things to find in it. Let's see what's inside!

Price - 

Packs - 14
09/10 O-Pee-Chee Blaster Packs

I honestly bought this blaster for the price alone. At under seven dollars, how could I say no? I was actually very shocked to see the $19.99 sticker on it that someone had placed on the front of it. I mean, it already has the price printed on the front of the box - there's no need to put that there, especially since the price is the same! Some people!

Hits can be found in OPC, but they are extremely rare. Even when I buy hobby boxes, getting a hit is few and far between. Looking at the side of the box, getting any sort of hit has very long odds. Autos show up once in over four hundred packs, and quad jerseys are even more difficult at one in a thousand packs. Wow!

Though hits will probably not be in this box, I will have a bunch of inserts to keep my interest as I rip. OPC is filled with parallel cards and themed cards that are always interesting to look at. Some cards feature foil while others are glossy. With a set this big, I'll be hoping to just pull some star names out.

Let's see if any big names come out of this 09/10 OPC blaster box:

Review -
With fourteen packs, I expected this break to drag on a bit... but it didn't. Unlike products like Artifacts, OPC doesn't have a bunch of filler base packs taking up space in the box. Each pack had something inside to hold my interest. As I went through each pack I looked forward to seeing what parallel, insert or even hit would come out. Unfortunately, I didn't get a jersey or auto card, but that's ok, I really wasn't expecting to.

There were things that I liked and didn't like about 09/10 OPC as I ran through the blaster.

On the positive side, the foil inserts were very sweet. These cards stood out so much from the regular cardboard base and other insert cards. They felt 'special'. I appreciated this greatly because there are other sets that make all their inserts on the same stock as their base - which can make it hard to distinguish regular base cards from an insert.

Negatively, I didn't particularly like the base card design or that of the retro parallel. The base cards were a bit busy, especially all those 'e's' in the background. I wasn't sure what that was all about. And as for the retros, they just weren't retro-y enough for my taste. They were a little too clean, and almost had a modern look to them. The OPC retro set of the year before and the years after had more dramatic looks to them.

There were a lot of sweet cards to choose from, but here were my top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Jennifer Botterill Card No. CB-JB
These Canadian Heroes cards are great. The full bleed photograph on glossy stock sets it apart from the cardboard base cards. It was a great idea to include women hockey players in this set. So often the focus is on the men - props to Upper Deck for doing this!

#2 - Steven Stamkos Card No. 301 (Foil Parallel)
Steven Stamkos is a definite star in the NHL, and pulling his foil parallel out is no easy task! With a set of 600 cards, getting a player of Stammer's caliber is pretty difficult. Though I said I didn't like the base card design that much this year, this all-foil look enhances the card in a major way.

#1 - Sidney Crosby Card No. 87 (Retro)
I chose this card for pretty much the same reason I did the Stamkos above, getting a top flight name just isn't easy. It's always awesome to get a parallel card of a star, and Sid the Kid is a definite star. This card doesn't have a huge value attacked to it, but I was still very excited to pull it.

Overall Value -
This box of OPC gave me strong value for its price. At under seven dollars, it gave me a great time and bunch of pretty good cards to add to my collection or use as trade bait. I usually buy these blasters to just fill out an order that I make, but really these blasters are wonderful ways to get newer collectors into the hobby. They provide a solid break experience that doesn't break the bank.

Let me know what you thought of my 09/10 OPC blaster 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!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #14 (In The Game Cards)

Non-licensed card products have rarely gained a foothold in the hobby. Often they are treated as second-class citizens when compared to their fully licensed counterparts. One company in the past was able to gain some collector interest - Classic. But that brand petered out and faded away. More recently, companies like Press Pass, Leaf, and even Panini (with baseball) have made some significant strides in the realm of non-licensed products. One company, however, has really led the way in peaking collector interest with high quality memorabilia and unique set ideas; that would be In the Game, or ITG for short. ITG has, for years now, been producing cards that have strong collector (particularly in hockey) appeal. Though Panini and Upper Deck hold the official license, ITG can hardly be called an outsider when it comes to hockey cards.

Though ITG does not have official NHL licensing, the company is able to put out steady and unique sets of cards throughout the year. In fact, in this lock-out shortened year, I believe ITG released more products than either Upper Deck or Panini put out individually. That's pretty impressive. Today I'm going to highlight some areas of strength in regards to ITG as well as an area where I believe they could improve.

One of ITG's biggest strengths comes in their prospect driven products. Heroes and Prospects is a line that delivers cards of the hottest young talent before they even have an official rookie card. ITG is able to give collectors game-used material and autographed cards of these players. The goalie-centric Between the Pipes does the same, except with a greater legend and current NHL player mix. Even ITG's highest-end lines of Ultimate Memorabilia and Superlative have young prospect cards available for collectors to get their hands on. Savvy collectors who can forecast young talent could possibly get some great cards at bargain prices if they predict correctly.

On the other end of the spectrum, ITG also shines when it comes to hockey legends. ITG has a good grip of the history of hockey (pun, not really intended here!). They have relic pieces of former players that I have not seen from Panini or Upper Deck. ITG really digs deep when it comes to adding legendary content into their cards. For collectors who love the historical aspect of the hobby, ITG really gets the job done.

Speaking of history, many of ITG's sets have celebrated the history of the NHL in special ways. Many recent ITG offerings have focused in on specific teams. These team-themed sets have been great tributes to the franchises they represent. I'm sure fans of the represented teams were all over those releases when they came out. I'm just crossing my fingers for when ITG does a San Jose Shark special set (yeah... right!). Besides these team sets, ITG seems to always have a theme in mind when releasing cards. The History of Hockey release was all about hockey's past, present, and future; last year's Enforcers set put hockey's toughest players in the limelight; and Superlative was all about a book... ughh... well, I guess that really didn't have a theme - but Superlative was AWESOME this year.

And finally... the memorabilia. I don't think any other company puts as much care into their memorabilia products than ITG does. When I pull a boring, standard jersey from Upper Deck or Panini, I don't really think twice about it. For some reason with ITG it's different. Maybe because the back of the card tells you exactly where the piece came from. That could be it; but I'm not sure. I just know that memorabilia is treated more reverently with ITG than with the others - at least that's my feeling. From the simple one color jersey watch to the ridiculously large take-up-the-entire-card patch - ITG gets memorabilia right.

Though ITG does a lot of things very well, there is one huge aspect of ITG that needs improvement - the card design. ITG has made great strides in this area, but their designs really pale in comparison to anything from Upper Deck or Panini. Upper Deck still firmly holds the title of best looking cards. And ITG is way down at the bottom. ITG releases seem to be stuck a decade or more back in terms of design. Everything from the way the cards look to the card stock they are printed on could use a bit of a make-over. The good people at ITG probably don't want to hear this (I think it's a bit of a sore spot), but collectors want more from them in the area of design. I'm not sure how this can be addressed or changed, but this is one area that I think ITG loses collectors. Sorry, but looks count. I would actually suggest looking at how Panini did their non-licensed baseball line. Their designs were pretty outstanding (from Prime Signatures to National Treasures; all their non-licensed baseball cards were just spectacular).

When I first got back into collecting, I went straight for the licensed brands. I knew ITG was there, but a few factors held me back from buying it. First, it was the way they looked compared to Upper Deck. I just didn't think they were up to par. Second, was the licensing. But third was the availability of ITG. My local cards store (D and P Cards) occasionally stocked ITG, but not every product was available on the shelf. ITG was hard to get my hands on; to get it I would have to order online and wait for it to come. That was definitely a factor why I didn't take to ITG initially. And even now, I know I haven't gotten to review products from ITG because of their availability to me. You'll notice no review of ITG Ultimate Memorabilia or the new Draft Prospects. Will they be reviewed? I hope so... but it may be much later when I finally put another order in at dacardworld - which may be months away.

There are definitely collectors on both sides of the fence when it comes to ITG. I'd love to hear your thoughts on ITG. Let me know what you think of them and their cards. For the ITG haters out there, please let me know the reason for your passionate hatred. There must be a reason. For the ITG lovers, what makes them a company you enjoy getting products from? Tell me in the comments below!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Retail Review #53 (08/09 Upper Deck Series 1 Blaster)

This week I'll be ripping into another box of 08/09 Upper Deck Series 1 hockey. I went for a box of this in Retail Review #48 a little over a month ago. That box was decent, but didn't have the prize card I was looking for - a Steven Stamkos Young Gun. Will this box yield that high dollar card? I'll just have to open it to find out!

Price - 

Packs - 12
08/09 Upper Deck Series 1 Blaster Packs

I've been opening up a lot of Upper Deck Series 1 and 2 products recently! But that's a good thing because they always have something to look forward to. They are solid products that provided collectors with good value, especially at the secondary market price!

I'm itching to open this on up, so let's get right to busting in to this blaster:

Review -
This was definitely an interesting box of 08/09 Upper Deck Series 1. Though the Young Guns were mediocre, I did pull a decent amount of insert cards - more than expected. First, the Young Guns: Robbie Earl and Jared Ross. Who? I have to say that before today I had never heard of either of them. Usually at least one of the Young Guns makes the top three cards. That doesn't happen today.

In total I was able to pull five inserts (plus the two Young Guns) from the twelve blaster packs. That's pretty good to me. In 2008, Upper Deck was still focusing on single player Hockey Heroes, and that year was of Sidney Crosby. I ended up with two Sid the Kids. I also pulled two All World Team cards, a Sophomore Sensation, and a Hat Trick Hero. The Sophomore Sensation of Marc Staal that came out was the first time I had gotten one of these types of inserts. It's nice to have a set dedicated to the second year of a player; there are a few, but not a whole lot of them.

As usual with Upper Deck, the photography was amazing to see yet again. In choosing my top three, I wanted to put in a base card to represent the great photography. It came down to two. The one that didn't make the cut, but does have a sweet photo is card number 169 of Jarome Iginla. That is a perfect shot of him celebrating a goal. You'll see the one that edged out Jarome right now.

Here they are, the top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Martin Brodeur Card No. 81
This action shot of Martin Brodeur is just awesome. There is so much going on in the photograph, and the tight cropping of it is perfect. I just love looking at this card, and it really caught my eye as I was flipping through the break.

#2 - Teemu Selanne Card No. HT2
Selanne is a legendary NHLer, but like the Brodeur above, I actually picked this card because of the photograph. This card captures a perfect moment with Selanne sandwiched between his teammates. He's looking right into the camera as well. Great shot!

#1 - Alexander Ovechkin Card No. AWT2
This All World Team card of Ovechkin was probably the best card of the break. Ovi has had an up and down last few years, but he definitely was on the upswing at the end of this past season.

Overall Value -
I was really hoping for better Young Guns out of this box, but getting all those inserts made up for it a bit here. It's hard to expect too much out of retail blaster boxes, but this one delivered a solid amount of content. If I were a casual collector buying this box, I think I'd be happy with the cards within.

Let me know what you thought of my 08/09 Upper Deck Series 1 blaster 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!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #13 (cn2117HabsFan's Custom Cards)

Today's Cardboard Commentary will feature a creative idea from Youtube user cn2117HabsFan. He has used decoys found in packs of cards to create his own custom cards. I've seen many custom cards since I got back into collecting... many of which are awesome... but his take on them was particularly unique to me. Let's check out what he has done!

Above is a Sharks custom card that cn2117HabsFan sent me in a recent trade that we made. At first glance it looks like a typical custom card made by printing out a design on paper and affixing it to a decoy. Even if it were just that, the card looks pretty sweet and clean. But what takes this card to the next level is that it has actual pieces of the hockey card hobby embedded into it. You'll notice the word 'Card' below the image of Logan Couture in the upper left hand corner and the word 'Pack' above the image of Joe Thornton's jersey nameplate. Well, those are not just images that have been printed out, but rather they are actual pieces of a trading card and of a foil pack that have been carefully cut and affixed to the custom card. cn2777HabsFan has taken the game-used card idea and put his own twist on it. I love it because not not only is it a fresh idea, but it's one that has been executed very well.

The back of the custom card has a hand-written note of thanks regarding the trade that we made. It's appropriately labeled '1/1' as I'm pretty sure there are no other cards like the one he sent to me in existence.

If you're interested in seeing more awesome decoys from cn2117HabsFan, check out his Youtube video above. I think you'll be amazed at his work! And if you're interested in obtaining some of his decoys, go ahead and try to work out a trade with him. According to his video, the bigger the trade, the better custom you might end up getting.

It is totally awesome to see ideas like this from members of the hockey card hobby. If you have or have seen unique ideas, please let me know! I'd love to feature them in future Cardboard Commentaries! I'd be interested in seeing more custom card ideas, your own hockey blogs or websites, writing that you have written... anything that would be interesting. I'm game for it!

Thanks to cn2117HabsFan for allowing me to showcase his customs on The Cardboard Review.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

2012-2013 Upper Deck SP Authentic Review

Even with a shortened season and a limited hockey card release schedule, Upper Deck puts out their beloved SP Authentic brand to the delight of collectors around the globe. This year's SPA is like other products that have come out recently - it doesn't just contain SPA, but also includes nixed products from this season such as SPx, Upper Deck Update (basically Series 2), and MVP. SP Authentic is a product that many collectors look forward to each and every year (including myself), so I'll be eager to see what Upper Deck gives us in this iteration of this long-standing brand.

Base Card Design -
SP Authentic has long given collectors a clean, primarily white themed base card - and it does so again. Collectors have come to know what to expect from SPA base, and this gives us exactly what we thought we would get. To some, it may be too repetitive and boring, but to others, it's comforting to know that SP Authentic carries on a legacy of its own style. SPA is comfortable in its own skin - no doubt. The brand, and the base card design, exudes a confidence that others can rarely match. This year's look is again very modern with foil highlights. My only complaint about this card is the silver streak that bisects the middle of the card. I'm sure it's there to center the attention on the featured player, but to my eyes it just looks a bit off. The silver streak contrasts a sweet hidden circular design in the background, which is cool, but the execution wasn't to my liking. I probably would have done away with the streak and made the pattern silver instead - just my opinion... but all-in-all, the design team at Upper Deck has given collectors a solid effort once again.

Wow. Check out the back of the base card! After looking at other company's base card backs, I had forgotten how well they could actually be done! These backs have a full color picture (the same as the front, but including the background), a full write-up to read, and up to four years of statistics. They are outstanding in comparison to the other non-Upper Deck brands. Well done with these!

In year's past, SPA included a subset called 'Essentials' that was serial numbered. It provided an extra challenge for collectors as they went for the main set of SP Authentic. Those are gone and have been replaced by subsets called Authentic Moments and Team Canada Moments. These cards are not serial numbered, but come with a variety of different tiering. Some of the Authentic Moment Auto Parallel cards are especially difficult pulls. In all of these cases, these 'Moments' cards give SPA a very different feel. Gone is the stark background! Notice the full-on photography used here; they are of the quality of Upper Deck Series 1/2. In other words: awesome. These cards are a refreshing new addition to the SP Authentic brand.

Not gone, though slightly diminished, are the Future Watch rookie cards. Future Watch rookie cards have a huge following. These cards feature an on-card autograph, and are serial numbered to 999. Typical Future Watch sets can be upwards of sixty cards. This year there are only twenty-five FWAs to collect - that's less than half of the usual amount! Obviously, this is because of the rookie card restriction imposed this season by the NHL. That's too bad, because the Future Watch design this year is pretty sweet. Like the Moments inserts, these cards bring in a breath of fresh air to the product. I really like the light blue backing (it's similar to the base card, but the lightness of the blue just works better) and the Future Watch logo itself . There is ample space for the autograph and everything gels nicely together. I will definitely be going for a set of these as I'm sure many collectors will too!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
SP Authentic is known for it's autographed content. Each box will contain at least three autographed cards within. Although I didn't get one in my box break, about one in every three boxes of SPA will contain an SPx bonus pack. These packs will have SPx base cards as well as sticker-ed rookie jersey or patch content!

Going into the box break, I knew that Upper Deck Update cards would be included. This was a great idea since Upper Deck Series 2 was cancelled. It gives collectors a chance to finish off their Upper Deck series 1 set with players who were not included or were traded. The Exclusives parallels have made it into packs as well as evidenced by the Olli Jokinen above.

MVP base cards were inserted into Upper Deck Series 1, so naturally (I guess!) MVP cards had to make their way into SPA as well. My box came with two MVP rookies cards - Scott Glennie and Jason Zucker (above). I LOVED the MVP rookie design last year. It was black, classy, and understated. This year's is a bit of a mess to me. There are just so many lines on it... and the color scheme has a bit to be desired. But you know, the more I look at them, the more they grow on me. I'm not sure why! My initial reaction to them was: 'they are hideous!' But for some reason I've mellowed on them. I guess that's a plus!

An insert card that I did not expect to find was the 94/95 SP Retro card set. These classic cards make an appearance in this year's SPA set. I loved these cards back in the day, and I'm glad to see them here in this product. Standard 94/95 SP Retro cards are just like the Gretzky above - all foil and shiny. Die-cut on-card autographed versions are available to be found as well. For collectors who remember these, they will bring back fond memories I'm sure!

Sign of the Times have returned to this year's SP Authentic. This year's SOTT card has a golden background that makes it look more classed up than usual. There are three tiers of the single autographed SOTT cards. The Goulet I pulled in my box was a group B auto listed as being 1:428 packs! That really surprised me! As with the past, the Sign of the Times cards also come in mult-autographed variations. There are even some left over SOTT from previous years that have been inserted into the product.

There are many more inserts, autographs, and memorabilia cards to be found in SP Authentic this year. I'm sure collectors will have a blast ripping boxes in search of all the rarest ones.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
SPA is SPA. I'm sure collectors who have collected for a while know exactly what to expect out of this product. It's one of the most popular and anticipated cards sets of the year. 12/13 SP Authentic gives collectors what they want - hard signed content, Future Watch Rookies, and more.

Though there is a ton of great content to be found, pulling greatness out of SP Authentic can prove to be very difficult. It is a very hit or miss product - and this year, with a weaker rookie class, it may be more of a 'miss'. Hopefully, one of these rookies will break out and make this year's SPA a must-buy... but only time will tell!

If you're going to buy SPA, I definitely suggest purchasing it by the box (or case). That way, you definitely get something out of it - three things, actually (and a chance at a bonus pack to boot). With 24 packs per box, I have found it to be very difficult pulling hits out. Packs are about $5-6 each. And that can add up to a lot when you keep buying and buying hoping for a hit to come out.

I can say that recommend SP Authentic this year. Though the rookie cards may be lacking, Upper Deck has added in enough extra goodies to warrant its purchase. Let me know what you get in your boxes of SPA, I'd love to hear about it!

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of 12/13 UD SPA at D&P Sports Cards in Sacramento, CA: