Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #24 (Cards vs. Full Jerseys/Game-Used Items)

Fans of sports want to get the closest that they can to their favorite teams and players. Collecting sports cards is a great way to do that. Not only do cards provide great photographs and information about our favorite athletes, some cards even contain material worn by the athletes depicted on the front. But... why would you want a small little piece of material when you could get the full jersey? Why not just collect full jerseys or other parts of the game? This might be a silly question for most card collectors, but there is a segment of game-used collectors who do indeed pose this question. I'll try to answer it.

For those who collect actual game-used equipment like jerseys, gloves, skates, sticks, shoes, and balls... I have to say that is very cool. It's awesome to have these items as they represent the parts of the game in probably the most real way. They are actual relics of an event, a game, a moment in time. I would love to be able to own a few of these items... but to collect them like I would cards? There is no way! And it's not because they aren't awesome... and it's not even because of the money aspect (though that is a huge reason)... there are other compelling reasons to choose cards over full-sized game-used items.

I will talk about the financial aspect first though as it's the most obvious reason. Game-used items are expensive and generally not accessible easily. Each year the San Jose sharks have an used equipment sale. Many fans go to snag items... but these people are paying quite a bit for the equipment on sale there. For those who don't live near San Jose, it's even more difficult to obtain these types of things. Fans may have seek reputable online auction houses or official game-used dealers to purchase items. It's tough!

And when you actually have the item... what do you do with it? It'd be a shame to simply hide it away in a box, right? You'd have to display it... and displays don't grow on trees, if you get my drift. And as a collection grows, storage of equipment can become troublesome. You might as well make a locker room out of an extra room in your house! Collecting cards can get out of hand too... but storing cards just seems a bit simpler.

Then there's the community aspect of collecting. Game-used collectors are a passionate, but smaller bunch - much smaller than the card collecting community I'm sure. Perhaps there are game-used collectors who are close knit, but the cardboard community is always a place you can find many people of similar interest. And in this community there is quite a bit of talking and trading. The communal aspect of sharing breaks, helping other find cards to complete sets or add to a PC, and joining in on card discussion is pretty awesome. 

I'm not saying that collecting game-used material is a bad thing. It's not... but I've seen some snobbery come out of the game-used collector camp. It can be a rather exclusive club, but in the long-run, and for most people, collecting cards is a great way to go. Let's celebrate both aspects of collecting our favorite sports!

Have you come across game-used collectors who look down on the card collecting community? If so, I'd love to hear your experiences with this! Tell me in the comments section below.

Side note: I can understand the frustration of game-used collectors who dislike the practice of cutting up older game-used jerseys. I can see where you're coming from!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2012-2013 Panini Prime Review

Although 2013/14 hockey products are already on store shelves, the just released Panini Prime is actually a 2012/13 product. In fact, it's the last hockey product of that abbreviated hockey card year. Panini has been leaking previews and making collectors salivate with anticipation for weeks. But Prime is now here, and it's brining some Dominion along with it! It'a a product that many have been looking forward to. Let's take a look at what it brings to the table!

Base Card Design -
The Prime base cards have a simplified look compared to it's inaugural debut. Each prime base card is numbered to just /249 and is on heavy-premium stock. To me, the base cards now carry a more mature look. It's probably the fade-to-pitch-black thing they have going on at the bottom portion of the card. It makes for a very stark look. The all-caps gold font used for the team and player name is strong and bold. I do think that this darkened space takes up a bit too much room on the card though. It's a good third of the entire front! If it were up to me, I would have lowered the area to meet either the serial numbering or the top of the team name. As they are, the dark area makes it look like part of the player photo is hidden. On a more positive note, the smokey background is back and looks very nice. It's definitely part of creating that mature look that I talked about at the beginning. It's a design that I think higher-end collectors would appreciate and enjoy.

The backs of the Prime base cards are intriguing to me. Usually, player photos are located toward the top of the card; here, it's at the bottom and incorporated with the player stats. It's definitely a different look. Also different is the choice to make the photograph monotoned. All this contributes to a very unique looking card back. I've complained a bit in recent about bland Panini hockey card backs. I can say that these Prime backs don't have that problem. Panini has done good with these. I prefer these backsides to the front!

The rookie cards in Prime come at the back-end of the regular base set. Each rookie card features an on-card autograph and four memorabilia pieces. Standard rookie cards are numbered to /249, but more limited versions with premium pieces like prime jerseys, patches, and fight straps are available too. The rookie cards this year have a very pleasing look. It was a great idea to separate the four memorabilia pieces into two per side. The spacing is just right, and it's nice to have the player photo in a more central location. The Prime Rookies logo has been done in a way that creates a stretching effect that I think gives the card a movement-type quality. These cards are an improvement from last year. They look great!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each pack of Prime only comes with 5 cards, but... Panini has given collectors a nice bonus in the form of a 2 card pack of Dominion. Panini has loaded up Prime a huge variety of jersey, prime jersey, patch, skate, glove, ties, and helmet cards. It was pretty incredible seeing the previews of what can actually come out of Prime boxes.

Common to Prime this year are the multi-jersey die-cut cards. These types of cards feature one or more players on them with a word filled in with memorabilia pieces. Panini has done a pretty good job of finding unique and fun combinations of players to group together. While the concept is a good one, I find that these cards have been done a bit too often. They don't garner as much attention as they would have a few years ago. Also, while the jersey swatch cut-outs give you a clue to the relationship between the players, it would have been nice to include a write-up on the back to further clarify that relationship. The backs simply have a guarantee from Panini that the swatches were player-worn.

The better the memorabilia inside, the lower the print-run. Here's a Prime Duals with prime jersey pieces of Danny Briere and David Krejci numbered to just /50. The memorabilia pieces with thick seams and multiple colors look great and really help to set off this card. The patch version of these cards halves the print-run again to /25. Patch pieces can look even better than these... provided they are not of the one-color variety.

Prime Signature cards have made their way again in to Prime. These cards have gone horizontal. Unlike what I thought of the base cards, these ones went from a more stoic tone to a faster one. The tilted lines that grace these cards give these cards a fast feel. It's a nice change that reflects the speedy nature of hockey. Last year I pulled cards with faded blue ink... and the Cizikas above appears to have some of those same issues. Hopefully it's not a wide-spread problem.

Dominion packs typically will give you one base card and a Dominion hit. Lucky collectors might get a short printed base card. This year's Dominion base are very reminiscent of the 11/12 cards. In fact, when I saw them I thought Panini had actually recycled the same design. While it is similar, it's actually not. The foil edges on these Dominion base cards form inward facing slopes. Last year's foil was in the shape of a wide dip.... so... this year's and last years are basically the reverse of each other. Slight changes in the Dominion logo at the bottom are also difference indicators. The base cards are very thick, as a super-premium card should be.

I felt that this Prime box was below average for a break. Luckily, I did get the Stickside Signatures card above to help boost it up a little. If this card looks familiar, it is. It's actually a holdover card that didn't make it into last year's Dominion release. It's a gorgeous card with a crazy looking piece of stick. The autograph is a bit difficult to see but it's there in gold ink. This card doesn't make the break a good one, but it softens the blow of this soft Prime box.

Aside from the Dominion Stickside Signatures, this particular box of Prime didn't have anything too impressive. I have watched many, many breaks in 12/13 Prime in the past couple days and have seen some very sweet, nasty cards come out. You'll just have to take my word that there are amazing Prime cards out there to be had.

Inserts/Autos/Game-Used Score:

Overall Rating -
Panini Prime is a great way to end the 12/13 hockey product season. There is a ton of amazing memorabilia that will blow your mind that can come out of it. To get a better read on Prime, I'd suggest going on Youtube or looking on the hockey card forums and seeing the breaks that are posted. They are definitely worth a look.

Prime is pricey for only seven cards, but they that's the nature of very high-end products like this. For those who have the money, this is probably the best you can do in terms of a 12/13 hockey card. I'm sure the high-rollers out there are already diving deep into it.

I do have to say though, that as much of Prime that I've seen, I've noticed that the real big named stars come few and far between. Stars like Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos... they are not easy finds. So while you may get some crazy, crazy looking patches... it may be of a more minor star or fan-favorite. Is that something you've noticed? I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on that.

But in any case, Prime is still the best and most premium card release for 12/13 hockey. Did Panini improve over last year's product? I'd say yes! Prime is a very fun rip.

If you can do it... DO IT!

Overall Rating:

Check out my 12/13 Panini Prime break at D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

2013 Panini Pinnacle Baseball Review

We've seen Pinnacle hockey in the past few years... but Pinnacle baseball? It has been a good long while since the last Pinnacle baseball set was released. Panini really brings the old brand back with familiar inserts and designs at a price that is very collector friendly. Fans of the Pinnacle of old will enjoy this trip down memory lane, and new fans can discover what Pinnacle was all about in this recent release.

Base Card Design -
The Pinnacle base cards have black as their primary color choice. And that makes perfect sense because in the earliest releases of Pinnacle in the nineties, Pinnacle had black borders. These base cards are a nice update to the original cards - they retain the feel of the old brand, but they are different and fresh. Panini has sometimes chosen to use the same exact design as the original release of a brand to draw in older collectors (which can be cool), but I applaud the effort to bring collectors something new. For the most part, Panini has done well with the design. I enjoy the large photos, large player name, darkened backgrounds, and team colored highlights. But I do have to say that the space used in the bottom right corner is a bit much. A relatively large portion of the photo is covered up, which gives me the feeling that I'm missing out on a part of the action. Perhaps that part of the card could have been done smaller or rethought.

The card backs look as thought there is a great deal of information printed on them, but actually, an entire fourth of the back is filled with the licensing information. Most of the relevant baseball stats and write-up just takes up a space in the middle portion of the card. The backs are clean and easy to read, but they do lack some substance. Only one line of career stats is given, and graphical design elements take up a lot the real estate.

The base set is filled with rookies, current stars, and retired players. Rookies have been given a special rookie card logo to distinguish them from the veterans. Many of the cards in Pinnacle will featured cards that have been digitally altered to remove team logos and branding. Panini does not hold a Major League Baseball license, so they have to find ways be creative when making their baseball card products. The Jeter at the top of the review looked pretty natural, but you can definitely tell Puig's uniform is missing some key elements to it.

Base Card Design:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Pinnacle will net you two autographs and a huge variety of insert cards. There is no game-used memorabilia content to be found in Pinnacle. Panini has really turned up the nufex and acetate machines for this release as many of the insert cards feature these two technologies.

My favorite looking insert card in Pinnacle has to the be the Clear Vision acetate and foil cards. These cards mix the two printing techniques extremely well. Not only do these cards have the acetate window, the entire rest of the card shimmers with a rainbow shine. I have to add die-cutting to the list of applications as well as the contour of the player has been cut to create the right border of the acetate window. I've always wanted companies to improve their non-hit insert cards. Panini has done a marvelous job here.

In an interesting twist to the Clear Vision cards, Panini has tiered the print-run of these cards by the feat listed in the acetate window. The more difficult the accomplishment, the rarer the card. Hitters and pitchers are differentiated into two sets. None of the print-runs have been stamped on to the cards save for the one-of-one versions. If you get a Clear Vision Perfect Game or Clear Vision Cycle, you'll see that stamping.

Pinnacle of Success cards are all acetate. These cards do not have a border, just Pinnacle colored graphics. It's a simple design that really works. The name of the insert set can be seen climbing the Pinnacle logo in the background - very playful and cleverly done. Like most acetate cards, these are all about the front. The back only contains the card number and some legal information.

Essence of the Game inserts are all acetate as well. Usually acetate cards have a very modern feel and look to them. Panini has gone a bit vintage in this set. You can see that the background is filled with stars, and the font is decidedly golden age. These are certainly a unique take on acetate cards... and it works! Panini's been practicing a lot with acetate. They are getting better and better at it.

Wahhh? More acetate? Yep! Swing For the Fences brings you even more! And after that there is the Skylines set too. If you love the plastic, you're going to really love Pinnacle, as there is a lot of it to find here.

Team Pinnacle cards have been a favorite of mine since the very beginning. Always a tough pull, these double sided cards always featured two star players. I think in all my years buying Pinnacle in the nineties, I think I only pulled one Team Pinnacle in a pack. In 2013 Pinnacle, getting a Team Pinnacle is not very difficult at all. There are about two per box. These cards have the Nufex printing technology that gives one side of the card a rich foil texture. Oh, and I'm a huge fan of the fact that you can pull guys like George Brett out of these packs. He was a big favorite of mine back in the day!

Here's another oldie but goodie insert card, an Ace! I loved these cards when they first came out of Score Select. What an awesome idea to use the ace card from a playing deck to represent the team's best pitcher. Genius! Set off with foil just made these cards even better. They weren't a huge hit in a general sense in the Score Select days, but I definitely was a fan of them. And I guess they were cool enough to bring back in 2013 Pinnacle!

Slug Fest cards are back as well. I guess Panini really reached in deep when it came to looking in the closet for card ideas! As the name suggests, the Slug Fest cards celebrate the great hitters of the game in Nuflex glory! It's another fun shout out for collectors who fondly remember chasing these cards.

Like the acetate cards, there are plenty more sets that feature Panini's Nufex technology. For a supreme challenge, you can go for the Museum Collection Nufex parallel set. I actually tried going for this base set parallel when I was younger. Hah, I didn't make it very far at all, but I loved each Museum card I had because they looked so great. Somehow I remember the originals being a little bit thicker, but it could just be some faulty memory going on. It's too bad I don't have one to compare it with readily.

The Artist Proof base parallel cards are a more difficult pull than the Museum Collection cards, but in my opinion they don't look nearly as nice. They simply feature some foil stamping that denotes it as an Artist Proof. I always thought these were Pinnacle's answer to Topps' First Day Issue cards. I guess you have to put them in as they're part of the Pinnacle tradition.

Standards insert cards that don't have Nufex or acetate are also abundantly available in Pinnacle. Here's a Team 2020 card of Jurickson Profar. The insert's name is obviously a clue to it's young player focus. These cards don't have too much going for them other than the opportunity to showcase more cards of the younger talent. Artist Proof and die-cut variations of these cards can be found as well.

Hey look it's the Crime Dog! For those of you not-in-the-know, that was Fred McGriff's nickname. He was definitely a stand-out player in the nineties. Awaiting the Call cards are all about players who are candidates to be hall of famers. Growing up in the eighties and nineties, I loved the players of that era. I do hope guys like McGriff get into the hall of fame. Though I love the players and the idea of these cards, the design has more to be desired. As they stand, the cards are very plain, with a lot of space that could be used better. Like the Team 2020 cards, there are die-cut and Artist Proof variations of these cards.

There are many more insert cards in 2013 Pinnacle, but probably my favorite looking one that didn't feature any special treatment was this Behind the Numbers card. These cards have a real splash of color. Many of the Pinnacle cards are one-note or very dark. Seeing this card come out was refreshing. You'll find about one Behind the Numbers card per box of Pinnacle.

The only hits in Pinnacle are two type of autographed cards - the regular autographs and the rookies. Both types of card come on standard card stock. I was a bit disappointed at the design of the cards. With all the amazing insert types in Pinnacle this year, I would have thought the autographs would have had more of a wow factor. As they stand, they may be the most tame cards in the entire set. Thankfully, Panini has some big names like Ken Griffey Jr. to help boost the set up a bit. He (and his super star friends) might be a pretty difficult pull though!

I felt that I was able to get a huge variety of insert cards in my box of Pinnacle, but even with what I pulled, I know there were even more things available to find. Z-Team, The Naturals, Hit Kings... these are just a few that didn't come in my box. They might be in yours!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Pinnacle is an affordable baseball offering from Panini that gives collectors like me a fun time breaking a product that is familiar and nostalgic. No, it's not the 50's or 60's nostalgic... it's the 90's! But hey, times are 'a-movin'!

I think collectors who liked Pinnacle in its heyday will like this version of it. If it were more expensive, I might recommend to stay away from it, but it's not. Pinnacle is a very affordable rip. It couldn't hurt to bust a box or two. Two boxes of Pinnacle will definitely be quite a bit less than any other higher-end baseball box. Sure, you probably won't get a top of the line hit... but you'll have a great time getting some cards that you'll enjoy.

But actually, according to a recent Panini study, some of the insert cards have actually been getting some surprising secondary selling values. If you want to read the article about that, click here.

If you know what to expect from Pinnacle, it's going to be a great time. I gotta recommend it based on it's affordable price and fun trip down memory lane. Determine if that's what you want and dive into it!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2013 Panini Pinnacle Baseball:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 Panini Rookies & Stars Football Review

2013 Rookies & Stars Football is a product that just about any football card collector can afford to get into. This mid-lower-end product, despite its relatively minimal pricing at around $4 per pack, has a very nice (and good looking) selection of autographed and memorabilia embedded cards to pull. Mixed with the hits are a bevy of insert cards focused on, you guessed it, the NFL's best rookies and stars!

Base Card Design -
The 2013 Rookies & Stars base design is very different than many of Panini's recent products. Many recent Panini offerings make use of the color white to give cards a clean, modern look. For example, Score has white borders, and the just reviewed Momentum has an almost completely white background. Rookies & Stars makes a complete departure in terms of what I would expect from a Panini design. So does it work? For me, the effort falls right in the middle. I applaud the choice to come up with a different looking card, but the design seems a bit dated to me. It actually reminds me of something Skybox would have put out in the 90's. The most distracting part of the card has to be the huge player last name on the left-side of the card. Can that get any bigger?

The back is much more familiar in terms of design. Look! It's a white background! The back is laid out in a very clean and systematic way. Including a full-color photo was a nice touch, as well as the team color bars. This is about the design I'd expect on the back of a Panini card at this price point. It has some frills, but as a whole, it's pretty standard fare.

Rookie cards come in the the exact same design as the regular base cards save for a rookie logo located on the upper corner of the card. The regular base cards and rookie cards have many parallel variations within Rookies & Stars. They will be mentioned later on with the rest of the inserts and special cards within the set.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Just about every pack of Rookies & Stars will land you something for picking it out - it could be a regular insert card, a parallel card, a memorabilia card, or an autograph. I enjoy that fact that there are so many insert cards in Rookies & Stars. It's a great mix of inserts you may have found during the insert-crazed years as well as the hits you'd expect in modern cad products.

I'll start with some of the regular inserts like this Game Plan Darren McFadden. Game Plan cards come on standard card stock with a generous amount of foil used in the pretty cool looking Game Plan logo. The game plan cards will undoubtedly not hold high monetary values, but that's not the point of these cards. These cards are great fun to look at and read, especially for a younger collector. If a young (or older too) collector were to pull this card, they would learn that the Raiders used him not only to run the ball, but also had him catching a fair amount in their game plans last year. Now that's good stuff!

The Touchdown Club is all about players who get the TD's for their teams. Obviously Adrian Peterson was a massive force for the Vikings last year, so he gets a card for himself. These types of inserts, besides being fun to read, are also great for player collectors adding variety to their collections. It's not always about the serial numbered card numbered to less than five... these too are important parts to add for player collectors.

For you numbers guys out there, the Statistical Standouts insert set is for you! Panini has chosen players who really stood out last season in certain categories and put them in this set. The design of these cards celebrates their achievement by making their statistical number large for collectors to see. My one small gripe about these cards is that the front  and back orientations don't match. The fronts are horizontal while backs are vertical. That's a bit disorienting!

Check out these super-shiny cards! These eye-catching cards are part of the Crusade insert. Panini has done a full-release of these cards in basketball, but they show up here as an insert card. The crusade cards are on thick foil board stock and have a great shimmer to them. Detailed etching of the various patterns and pictures in the background are top notch. Collectors can find these regular Crusade cards as well as serial numbered parallels in different colors when they pick up Rookies & Stars this year.

Speaking of parallel cards, many of the card in the product have multiple variations and numbering. I was lucky enough to pull this LeSean McCoy parallel numbered to only 10 in my box. These Longevity parallels have been a pretty standard part of the Rookies & Stars set, so collectors probably expect to see them when they open their boxes. The parallel cards get a very thin foil treatment that increases the way the card looks by a factor of 10. The foil on these cards is just done so well, I have to give it to Panini for their foiling process.

Here's a rookie parallel card of Johnthan Bankss. It's an unnumbered foil rookie autograph parallel. Though it's a sticker autograph, I appreciate that the card has been tailored to fit the sticker by creating a designated area for it. In past Panini products, stickers would just be stuck to base cards with no regard. I hope that practice with Panini is done forever.

Here's a jersey rookie card of Joseph Randle. I've mentioned this in the past, but I'll bring it up again. Combining foil cards with memorabilia is very cool! I've got to say that the word that comes to mind when seeing this card is 'slick'. It has numbering, a jersey piece, and foil. The elements come together perfectly.

Similar to the Randle, this Keenan Allen card has been done very well. It steps it up a notch even more by including an autograph of Allen and with lower serial numbering. Though the cards look amazing, I can see that it would be very difficult and potentially confusing to track all these cards down.

My final hit from this box was this Slideshow card of Stepfan Taylor. Companies rarely use film cels much these days (they did in Momentum, actually)... but it's nice to see this unique practice coming back. The film cel appears to have been taken on 5/18/13 according to the embedded cel. That's awesome! I love how different this hit is from the standard hit.Taylor has signed the card and it has been limited to only 100.

As you can see by my box, there is a ton of things to find in Rookies & Stars this year. Besides what you've seen from this box, collectors can look to find patch cards, dual autographs, and even 1/1 printing plates. I'd say Panini did well to include so much here!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
With a price of well-under $100 per box, Rookies & Stars delivers tremendous value and variety. So many of the cards feature serial numbering and jerseys or autos. This is definitely a good buy for the amount of stuff you can pull.

Panini has gotten the details of 2013 Rookies & Stars right. They have made the cards look great, and they have introduced interesting concepts into their subsets. My only small gripe with the set is the standard base card design, but that's just a small thing. 2013 Rookies & Stars is a great effort and a very good buy.

I definitely recommend a Rookies & Stars box to all football card collectors. With 24 packs per, you're going to have a really fun time looking at the cards that come within.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2013 Panini Rookies & Stars Football:

Retail Review #63 (12 Free Packs of 11/12 OPC Retail)

So after last week's horrible basketball re-pack break, I made the decision to make another big retail product order online. Yep, that box was that SOUR... it made me immediately want to avoid another one of those! I made the order and it came in earlier this week. With all orders over a certain amount, allows customers to choose some free stuff. I chose to get twelve packs of 11/12 O-Pee-Chee retail. That seemed very appropriate! So today we're going to see what comes out of these free packs.

Price - 

Packs - 12
11/12 OPC Retail Packs

Twelve packs is about the amount of packs you get in a standard blaster box. With O-Pee-Chee it's actually fourteen... but who's counting? Hah, well, I guess I am... but these packs came free, so who am I to complain? It's always good to get a little bonus, and I'm happy to rip these packs open. Maybe there'll be some hidden gem of a card hiding within! The odds are against me, but you never know!

I can expect to find a variety of insert cards even if I don't get any hits. OPC is full of retro variants, rookies, and themed insert cards. I'll also probably see a good deal of players that I don't usually see in higher-end breaks as OPC is a fully inclusive set.

Here goes twelve packs of 11/12 OPC:

Review -
OK, so I guess there wasn't any spectacular card hidden away in these twelve packs. This break was actually pretty typical of OPC. The odds of finding a memorabilia or autograph card are pretty astronomical. I did, however, get a good amount of inserts like I thought I would.

What struck me as I opened up the packs were the lack of full first names on the retro cards. I had forgotten that the retros that year excluded the first names of the players! The front and the back only give the first initial of their first name. With so many lesser known players included in OPC, it could be tough for some to figure out who exactly they got. 'J. Levasseur' was one that I didn't know. I had to google him to find out his first name was Jean-Philippe. I also had trouble with 'F. Kuba' and 'J. Blake'. Those would be Filip Kuba and Jason Blake.

My Marquee Rookie and Legend mix was a bit skewed towards to legends. I had four legends to only two rookies. The rookies and legends share a very similar design, but I've got to say that the rookie cards look my better in my eyes than the legend cards. Maybe it's the color scheme, the dull gold borders on the legends lack pop. That being said, legend players are always fun to pull. You know they have made an impact on the game. Who knows how long the two rookies I got will last in the NHL!

One insert card that came in the packs was a a Kris Versteeg Playoff Beard parallel. I'm sure collectors who don't know about these will simply skip over these cards as they look almost identical to the standard base cards. The only way to tell these apart is by first looking at the picture and seeing the player with a beard... and second, by comparing the bottom border of the card to another base card. The Playoff Beard variations are a bit lighter colored. If you miss them, don't worry too much. They are not super short printed like blank backs, so they don't command much of a premium.

Let's see the top three cards from these packs:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Evgeni Malkin Card No. 157
I am actually a pretty big fan of the look of these base cards. The light powder blue border is very soft and pleasing to the eye. This Malkin is especially nice as the cropping of his photo gives collectors an appreciation of his size. Also nice is that his alternate jersey and the borders are in harmony with each other - a perfect fit!

#2 - Anthony Stewart Card No. 254
This card stood out to me in a few ways. First, it's a shiny foil card - the only of its kind to come out today. Second, the card pictures a former Atlanta Thrashers player. The Thrashers moved to Winnipeg a few years ago, leaving Atlanta without a hockey team. Not too many people miss the Thrashers, but it's fun to see that team's uniform once in a while. Third, it's interesting to note that there is no official Jets logo on this card. It had not yet been approved when the card was produced.

#1 - Montreal Team Leaders Card No. TL-16
When a Team Leaders card makes the top spot, you know the break was a bit on the weaker side! This card is pretty nice though as it features some popular Habs players. I particularly like PK Subban. He's a very polarizing player to many in the NHL, but I'm a fan. Besides the players, this card stands out with it's design and color. The red and whites really make this card jump out.

Overall Value -
Since these were free cards, I have nothing to complain about. If I had spent money on these packs, I'd probably be a little disappointed. Not a whole lot came out of these packs, but that's to be expected with OPC. Still, it was a fun little break this morning. I'm looking forward to next week as I will be back to breaking blaster boxes.

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #23 (Exclusivity for Card Companies)

Early last week I got an email from Upper Deck informing me that they had resigned Wayne Gretzky to an exclusive contract, meaning, the only way to get official Wayne Gretzky content is from Upper Deck. Reading collector reaction to this on the trading card forums, people have a variety of mixed feelings regarding this issue. Is it good to have these exclusive contracts? Is it fair that only Upper Deck gets Gretzky (and Orr for that matter) to make and offer autographs of their cards? Let's take a look at both sides.

When athletes choose a company to produce their cards, it gives that company a pretty big advantage in the trading card marketplace. In Panini versus Upper Deck, Upper Deck's ability to put the greatest player ever to put on skates into their products makes their products more desirable. This is especially true when it comes to high-end products like Panini Prime, Dominion, and Upper Deck's The Cup and Ultimate Collection. All of these high-end products are pretty rookie card dependent. With a good rookie crop, both should sell well. But only one brand also gives collectors the chance to pull a Gretzky or an Orr. It can be discouraging to know that buying Panini products will never yield a Gretzky or Orr autograph. And it's probably part of the reason why those products tend to be valued lesser than their Upper Deck counterparts.

So by having exclusive signers, a company can really control how much content of those exclusives come out each year. For collectors, an exclusive means that the market is limited in terms of access to that player's content. Gordie Howe used to be an Upper Deck exclusive signer. A few years ago he signed on to produce cards with other companies as well. ITG and Panini products both have Mr. Hockey autographs available currently. Because of this, there are many more options for a Howe autograph nowadays. Finding one at a reasonable price isn't too difficult.

And that's why some collectors don't want athletes opening up and signing for all companies. It can have a water down effect on a player's cards. When Panini and ITG got into the Gordie Howe autographed card arena... suddenly there was an increased number of Mr. Hockey cards available. This diluted things a bit and caused a general decrease in value for all Gordie Howe autographs. In a sense, getting a Gordie Howe autograph because a touch less special. Now, of course, I think anyone would love to pull a Howe auto, but in an overarching general sense, this was the case.

So where do I stand? It may surprise you, but I like companies having exclusive signers as long as they do a good job of not overdoing what they have. I like the fact that getting a Wayne Gretzky or a Bobby Orr card is very tough. Collectors who get one really have something limited and exclusive when they are able to pull one. And when they have one, they know that the value will be there.

Upper Deck currently has a slew of amazing exclusive signers. I've already mentioned Gretzky and Orr, but they also have Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods. That's a very nice group to have exclusive rights to! It's too bad Upper Deck doesn't have an NBA license... there haven't been MJ or LeBron autos on cards featuring NBA uniforms in years. The cards that do have them in their NBA uniforms (from past releases) have sky high values - hundreds if not thousands of dollars each.

Don't feel too bad for Panini though... though they don't have the big two in hockey, they did get Gordie Howe as I already mentioned. And in basketball they have Kobe Bryant as an exclusive. If you want a recent Kobe auto, you have to look towards Panini. Some basketball collectors have said that the value of Kobe autos has gone down with Panini taking the helm because they have flooded the market with them. I hope that's not the case, because I would think pulling any Kobe auto would be an amazing thing.

Do you have an opinion on exclusive contracts between card companies and player for their autographs? I'd love to hear your thought on the matter! Let me know in the comments section below.

Friday, August 23, 2013

2013 Panini Momentum Football Review

How does one-hit-per pack sound? Panini Momentum gives football collectors one hit in every pack that they purchase. In box terms, that's ten hits per box; a pretty nice amount of hits for a price of around $170. This early season mid-high-end-ish product is loaded up with a variety of autographs and memorabilia. Football collectors looking to get in on some premium early season action can definitely look to Momentum to satisfy their needs.

Base Card Design -
The Momentum packs are thick, and that's mostly due to the girth of the Momentum base card. The base cards hefty and have a strong, high-end feel to them. They carry a look that reminds me of Upper Deck's Ultimate Collection, but without all the frilly designs. Rather than go for something ornate, Panini has chosen to give a clean and simple look to these base cards. As with many Panini products of late, the primary color of the card is white. A full color cut-out of the featured player is prominently in the center of the card. Team colors dressed in silver foil round out the basic design of the card. Though I do like the this really clean modern card, it's not very memorable - there just isn't anything on the card that would help me to remember it ten years down the line. So all in all, very nice... but a bit lacking in the 'wow' department. One design element that does stick out positively is the glossy Momentum logo behind the player image. It looks pretty sweet, but it can get lost when just flipping through the cards. I guess it's just meant to be an accent, but I wish it stood out more. Maybe if it had been done with the rainbow foil treatment... but that's a judgement call. The designer of this card when for subtle, and I can respect that.

The back of the Momentum base card is done in a horizontal fashion. Normally I prefer the front and back orientations to match, but it's not a huge deal-breaker. The card backs actually are quite memorable for the fact that they have a different orientation than the front, and that a nice full-color close-up photograph is used. The photograph is actually quite dynamic in that it's not done in a traditional shape. The photograph (and write-up too) is skewed to fit the Momentum logo and geometric scheme. That's impressive design work for a trading card!

The standard base-set rookie cards located at the back-end of the set have not real design changes from the other base cards. They are identical except for the addition of a special rookie card logo in the upper left-corner of the card.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
As I mentioned, each pack of Momentum will yield one hit - either an autograph or memorabilia card. I didn't notice it in my box when I opened it, but base parallel cards are available. My box had an Aldon Smith parallel numbered to /49. It looks the same as a base card, but with slightly different foiling and serial numbering on the back.

The most common hit type in the box was the Rookie Initiation cards. The Ryan Nassib shown above is an example of what these look like. The card has a decent sized piece of memorabilia below a large up-close photo of the player. These cards are nice pick-ups for collectors looking for some early season cloth of the players they want to collect, but probably won't command much of a premium price. Unless it was a big name, if I pulled one of these out of the only pack I bought, I might be a little disappointed. All-in-all, the design of these cards is above average. For a 'standard jersey' card, these look pretty good. The relatively hefty thickness of the card stock gives the card a more premium feel. Each card is numbered to /399, but prime versions of these can be found as well with numbering to just /49.

Replacing the memorabilia window and changing the foiling to silver gives us the autograph version of the Rookie Initiation insert cards. I like the silver foil on these cards. Silver and white go very well together. The autographs are on stickers, but they don't detract too much from the overall look of the card. I appreciate that there was space specifically left for the placement of the autograph. These cards are numbed to 299 or less.

Many variations of the Team Threads and Rookie Team Threads memorabilia cards can be found in Momentum. As the name implies, these cards are all about memorabilia. This Tavon Austin card features three pieces of jersey, but there are other variations that have a different number of memorabilia. Some have patch pieces, and others will include an autograph. And each of the different variants will have different serial numbering. Good luck going for a player rainbow of these!

Momentum Material cards is another opportunity to find memorabilia pieces in Momentum. After getting all the rookie hits, seeing Marshall Faulk was pretty cool. The Faulk above is numbered to /199 and carries just a simple jersey piece. As with the Team Threads cards, these are also available in more limited prime variations.

The rookie cards in the set have a parallel autographed variation. Different rookies have different serial numbering. The Dion Sims shown above has serial numbering to a whopping /599! That's quite a bit; I think probably one of the highest serial numbered cards in the set. Collectors will find numerous different variations of rookie card parallels and numbering. It can all get a bit confusing which variant you actually pull.

My best card of the break by far was this Geno Smith Rookie Signature RPS card. This card was easily the best looking and most valuable card in the box. In terms of the looks, this card really pops. The horizontal design and the layout of the jersey pieces is just about perfect. The rainbow foil Momentum logo gives the card a shine that stands out and makes you take notice. In fact, the entire card shimmers with a colorful rainbow effect. It's beautiful. This card could have been considered a part of the main set, but I just chose to include it in this section of my review because it seemed appropriate to pair it with the rookie auto parallel... and to end on a high note! Speaking of notes, it's noteworthy to say that NFL logo shield 1/1 variations of these cards can be found in Momentum. I always love the opportunity to pull a shield!

Momentum actually has quite a few more insert/hit sets. Some feature multiple player cards with multiple memorabilia pieces or autographs. Panini has definitely given collectors a good amount of variety to pull out of boxes. I would like to specifically mention the Studs set though. These cards look amazing and are limited to just /5 copies each. Each card comes with a genuine diamond imbedding in the card. I have heard that these diamonds are worth $100-$200 by themselves. Wow, I would love to get my hands on one of those!

Overall Rating -
Momentum is a very good set for collectors looking for a bit more in the early football season. So far, there hasn't been much in terms of higher-end products. Topps has Inception, but that set really doesn't have a veteran focus. With Momentum, collectors will get a healthy amount of rookie content, but also have some vets mixed in as well.

The cards in Momentum look good and are typical of current Panini design. The cards are clean and modern. These cards may not have a ton of 'wow' factor, but they are still pleasing to the eye.

For the price, Momentum is a very good deal. Ten hits for well under $200 beats many products in its hits to price ratio.

I definitely recommend Momentum to football collectors. The variety is there. The look is there. It's the right price! Go and grab a pack or a box and see what comes out for you!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2013 Panini Momentum Football: