Sunday, October 27, 2013

Retail Review #72 (10/11 Panini Pinnacle Blaster)

This Sunday's blaster is a box of 2010/11 Pinnacle. In my opinion, Pinnacle was Panini's answer to Upper Deck Series 1 and 2. Panini used unique photographs and kept the price point of the product in the same ballpark as Upper Deck's main line. The only problem was that collectors didn't grab onto it in the same way as with Series 1 and 2. Though blasters of Pinnacle yield great value and content, they can be found at much lower prices than their Upper Deck counterparts.

Price - 
3 for $19.95

Packs - 8
10/11 Pinnacle Packs 

Black and yellow, black and yellow... umm... never mind! Hah, the color scheme on these blasters are certainly unique and bold. They pack a much stronger visual punch than a lot of other blaster boxes do. Panini has excellent packaging design people, and this is one definitely shows that they know how to make something stand out... which is very important in a crowded marketplace!

I'm not expecting too much out of this product. I'll be looking for the usual rookie cards and inserts. I will also be expecting to find a jersey hit (or better) in this box. It's probably not going to be a big-money card, but a hit is a hit!

I'll go ahead and open it. Let's see what we get:

Review -
There were a lot less inserts than I thought I'd be getting when I busted this blaster. Actually, besides the game-used card, the only other 'inserts' were parallel cards. The most surprising parallel card I got was an Artist Proof of rookie Brandon McMillan. I don't think I've ever gotten an Artist Proof from a blaster before. These parallels are a bit on the harder side as they come one per hobby box. It didn't make my top three, but it certainly got my attention when I pulled it.

2010/11 was a big year for big name rookies, and Magnus Paajarvi was one of the bigger name guys to pull. Now... not so much, but Magnus 'The Pirate' Paajarvi would have been sweet back then. I hope people didn't invest too much in him when his rookie cards were fetching higher amounts! They have definitely come down in price.

Let's check out the top three cards from the break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Jaroslav Halak Card No. 29
I really like it when I can pick awesome looking base cards over inserts and/or memorabilia cards. This photo of Halak is just great! I love how close you get to him, and how close you get to his mask! I love awesome photography, and this card has it.

#2 - Linus Omark Nufex Card No. 222
I remember Omark for his very flashy shootout goal. That's about it. He might just be a flash in a pan, but he was a memorable one! 

#1 - Antoine Vermette Card No. AV
What's with me and the Blue Jackets recently? I got them in my 12/13 Cup Group Break that I participated in, and now here comes Vermette from this blaster. They have definitely followed me around this week!

Overall Value -
It's not hard for me to recommend buying some Pinnacle blasters. They are fun and full of great cards to look at. This is all, of course, predicated on the price they are. And these... they're cheap! Like many of the products I've opened up recently, Pinnacle is a nice value for a fun little break on a slow day.

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #32 (Josh K's Custom Card)

I really appreciate it when I get a 'just because' package in the mail. These packages are awesome pick-me-ups and a great surprise! This week Youtuber Josh K sent not only one, but two good sized packages to me. I totally didn't expect them, and they totally made my day! This week was actually a very busy, hectic, and tiring one for me. Getting Josh K's packages in the mail at the end of the week was just what I needed!

Most of what Josh K sent me were Sharks related cards. I love the San Jose Sharks, and getting more Sharks cards is always cool. But there was one card in particular that really stood out... a Joe Thornton custom card that he designed and made.

The Thornton custom was made from a decoy and a cut photo (probably from another hockey card). That's all fine and good, but it's what else is on the card that's unique. Included on the custom is a piece of shoe lace as well as three shark teeth! Now, I can see one day lace cards becoming popular, ITG did some skate lace cards a while back that were big hits. But, having the shark teeth on the card was really different.

Companies like Panini are putting diamonds into their cards (for football and basketball), so embedding other unique materials may not be too far behind. Upper Deck has had their fossil cards, I guess that's what this pretty closely resembles... but in combination with the actual sport and a player.

To top off this custom is a facsimile signature of Thornton's. It's actually not a bad job! Obviously it's not the real deal, but I've seen a lot of Thornton autos, this was a pretty decent rendition of it.

My hats off to Josh K for this custom card. Great job here. If you have any custom cards you'd like me to show off, please let me know! I always love seeing the creativity in the card community!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2012-2013 Upper Deck The Cup Review

So... after a decent amount of 2013/14 hockey card products have already come out, Upper Deck drops 2012/13 The Cup on us. Does the phrase 'better late than never' apply here? I guess so! Because The Cup is the product that gets just about every hockey card fan excited. I know I certainly am. With this latest edition, Upper Deck has gone on record as saying it's one of the most limited and loaded editions they have ever done. Well... let's check this juggernaut of a release out!

Base Card Design -
As with all The Cup base cards, these cards are THICK. There is no memorabilia embedded to make them thick... they are... just thick! This year's design is top notch, and makes me sad that the hockey card season last year was so abbreviated. Judging from Upper Deck Series One, and not looking at The Cup, I can see Upper Deck had the idea to put out very sleek, very modern, very slick designs in the year 2012/13. The Cup base card steps away from the more ornate designs that they have done, and uses a template that gives a sense of cool and coldness. Silvers, whites, and blue/grey shades dominate the card design. It's really a modern masterpiece. Rather than going over the top, Upper Deck has used a careful hand in making these cards look sharp with a modern elegance.

The back of The Cup base card has also been designed very carefully. I love seeing the movement that the graphics create on the card. There isn't a huge amount of information for collectors to pour through with these, but that has never been the point of the highest-end cards. I mean, c'mon, care you going to be flipping through your Cup base to read stats? Of course not. These card backs have been rendered in full-color with a pleasing design that compliments the front beautifully.

Coming one per tin are the Rookie Patch Autograph cards. These are the top rookie cards to get each and every year. This year's design follows the base cards with a minimalist feel. Though the design has some great elements, it does lack a little luster for me. There seems to be a bit too much white space, with the player photo being a bit on the small side. The RPA design reminds me more of something I would see from SP Authentic rather than The Cup. I do like the design, but I think more could have been done.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Besides the base card that you get, everything else should be a hit or rookie based card of some sort. There are so many different things to find in The Cup, and all with limited numbering. One tin break will never allow you to see all that it has to offer, but it can give you an idea of what you can expect.

Wait a minute, this isn't a Cup card! It's Ultimate Collection! Yes, Upper Deck has put a 2-card mini pack of Ultimate Collection in the Cup tins this year. It's a great added bonus. The Ultimate collection base cards are no joke. They come on nice, thick card stock and have a phenomenal design. Like I said earlier, I would have loved to see what a full 12/13 Upper Deck hockey release would have looked like. Card designs like this is what I really enjoy!

Besides the Ultimate Base card, you get an Ultimate hit. Here's a rather large jumbo patch of Reilly Smith. The patch is a generous portion, and I like that the color scheme matches the base card perfectly. You can expect to find many of the Ultimate Collection staples in these 2-card minis. Ultimate Rookies, Signatures, Patches, and other favorites have been inserted for collectors to find.

Probably the most mundane card I pulled was this Anze Kopitar jersey base card numbered to just 25. Obviously there is room for an autograph. It's a pretty glaring white space! It's not a great looking card, but it is limited to just 25... at least it's got that going for it. Upper Deck did a better job of this jersey and more limited patch parallel last year.

Here's a quad jersey card numbered to just 10 of the Senators. Ten is GREAT numbering, but I'm afraid jerseys aren't that exciting. Patches... well... that would have been great! I'm sure I'll find a Sens fan that will enjoy this card.

1/1 Printing Plates also make their return. These unique collectables aren't as popular as they once were, but they are still one-of-ones, and they will always be sought after by player collectors. Matt Duchene has had a nice start to this year, so I'm glad to pull this one out. An autograph on it would have been very nice though.

And here it is, my hit of the tin... SIDNEY CROSBY and MARIO LEMIEUX Dual Scripted Swatches. This is why you buy The Cup. I was amazed to pull this card as Crosby does not do dual signings very often at all. This is an exciting piece to pull for me... FOR SURE! One of my best pulls ever! I'm thinking this was a case hit, but I was told a Jaden Schwartz RPA to 99 also came from the same case. I guess Upper Deck was telling the truth when they said this year's Cup was loaded!

I can't even list all the cards that you could find in The Cup besides what I pulled... there's just too many. But just know that The Cup is always filled with amazing cards... drool worthy cards.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
If you can afford The Cup, but The Cup. It is the most exciting hockey card product you can buy. It is a huge rush to open, and there are just so many amazing cards to get. If you like veteran and HOF autographs, Upper Deck has stated that this year's version has a huge amount of them to find. Judging from what I have seen and what I have gotten, that seems to be the truth. If you can GO AND GET THE CUP.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 12/13 The Cup opened at D&P Sports Cards in Sacramento, Ca: 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Retail Review #71 (10/11 O-Pee-Chee Blaster)

Today's box is a blaster of 2010/11 O-Pee-Chee Hockey. I've opened my fair share of OPC blasters, and have come to really enjoy them. With such a hit-centered focus in card collecting nowadays, OPC can be an overlooked brand. I know I certainly wasn't too excited for it when I got back into collecting... but I've come to appreciate OPC as I have broken more of it. They're fun little breaks!

Price - 

Packs - 14
10/11 O-Pee-Chee Blaster Packs

This year's OPC had some great content, but the base had a lot to be desired in my opinion. The drab grey borders made the entire set look subdued. Also, the player photos were very small as the graphical elements took up too much of the card. The subsets and retro variations brought more flair to this set. They are colorful and add a lot of fun character to this year's set.

As for inserts, I'm not sure what I'm specifically looking for except that many of the standard inserts come on a glossy card stock. I like the contrast that these inserts bring to the table as they have a very different textural feel to them than the standard cards in the set. I'm sure I'll get a few of these... hopefully they will be of good players!

Let's go ahead and rip into this 10/11 OPC blaster box:

Review -
As I thought it would be, this was a neat little break. I didn't get any hits, but that's ok. I did end up with a nice stack of base cards and inserts. In terms of base cards, I was surprised to pull a few superstar names. Jonathan Toews, Jarome Iginla, and Sidney Crosby all showed up! There were some other semi-nice names as well in my base card pile. It's always nice to get some good base... better than bad base, right?

My rookies from the blaster were Cam Fowler, Eric Tangradi and Philip Larsen. Neither Tangradi nor Larsen are very exiting to get hobby-wise, but Fowler is a decent name. I was actually much happier with my Marquee Legend subset cards. I was able to get some good names out of those. Stan Mikita was one that I really liked getting. He would have made top three, but there was one player that edged him out a little.

Speaking of the top three, here they are:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Guy Lafleur Card No. 558
Yep, Lafleur was the one who edged out Mikita. I really like the photo of this Habs great. Check out the hair! Gotta love that.

#2 - Doug Gilmour Retro Card No. 555
This card of Doug "Killer" Gilmour has a great design. The blue and the black borders frame this photo very nicely. I remember Gilmour as a great player back in the day.

#1 - Alex Ovechkin Card No. SK-7
Ovechkin has been putting up some great numbers this season. I thought he was slumping a couple years back, but he has since gotten back on track. I'm sure he'll be a 'stat king' once again this year.

Overall Value -
For under seven dollars this was a very fun and enjoyable break. I pulled some nice inserts, parallel, and even base cards! These blasters of OPC are a great to open up on a lazy afternoon. Just make sure you get them for the right price! I wouldn't buy this for the normal retail price of twenty dollars, but anything under $10 would be ok. See if you can find some and give it try!

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #31 (What If... He Gets Traded?)

My main player collection is of San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture. I'm a huge Couture fan, and I also love the Sharks. But... what if Couture gets traded or chooses to sign with another team one day? I've been asked this question quite a few times by other card collectors. I hope it doesn't become a reality, but it's a good thing to think about.

First of all, I'd like to say that I miss the old days when a player stayed with a team for their entire career. Or if not their entire career... like 90% of it so that their affiliation is really just with one team. I can name some non-hockey players who fit into this category. There's Michael Jordan. He's remembered as a Chicago Bull, but he did spend a very short time on the Washington Wizards. Another NBA favorite of mine, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler, was a Blazer until he spent a few of his last years with the Rockets. In the NFL, Joe Montana will always be remembered as a Niner, though he spent the end of his career with the Chiefs.

If this happens with Couture, if he is in the NHL for 16-17 years and spends a few of his last years on a different team, that'd be fine... as he would be most likely just trying to eek out a few more years in the NHL by going somewhere else. But, if he moves on after a few years... what do I do? Would I stop collecting him?

I think that would really depend on his 'star' status in the NHL. I'd say that right now Couture's skill level is under-appreciated. Playing in San Jose in the Western Conference doesn't help his card values too much. I really believe there is an East Coast bias, so players like Couture don't get nearly the attention they should. But for me right now, that's a good thing... because it keeps his prices down. If Couture were to move to a big market with a huge following, I might consider continue only collecting Couture's cards with him in Sharks gear. I sort of already do that as I don't really go after his Team Canada cards as much. To me, collecting Couture is the main part of my Sharks PC. If Couture were to leave, I might have a difficult time tracking down his cards showing him in another team's colors.

But would I sell off my Couture PC? That would really depend... but I wouldn't really want to. I have worked really hard to get the PC as big and as complete as I could. I would hate to part with it. My hope is that Couture becomes a widely recognized NHL superstar. And I could be proud to have the best PC of his in the world! Even if he's not a huge superstar, I think he's on his way to becoming a franchise great for San Jose. I think of a player like Arturs Irbe who played goalie for San Jose in the 90's. He doesn't command high values in the hobby world, but the people of San Jose love him. He would have been a player I would have PC'd back in the day.

Hah, but if someone were to offer me an insane amount of money... I'd be open ears! Sad... but true! Money talks.

So, I guess if Couture were to get traded right now, I'd continue collecting him, but only as a San Jose Shark. I don't think it would makes sense to instantly try to sell all his cards and my collection. To me, players get traded and moved so much... if you do that with every player that leaves your team, your collection would always be in flux. I personally like a little stability.

Lastly, I'd like to mention one player who has stuck to his team since the beginning... and that's Patrick Marleau. He has been great for the San Jose Sharks. Sure, people have said he has faded in the playoffs and all that... but overall he has probably been San Jose's best player EVER given his time, tenure, and numbers. I hope Couture can be what Marleau was/is to the Sharks... except with a Stanley Cup ring!

Well... actually I hope they both get one together... and soon!

What would you do if the player you collect gets traded or moves to another team? Has this happened to you? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Also, Let me know what you would do if you were in my place and Couture got traded!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Retail Review #70 (07/08 Be a Player Blaster)

Back with another blaster of 2007/08 Be a Player. I did pretty well with my last blaster on this back in Retail Review #65. So now I feel that the odds are against me with this one... but what am I going to do? Not open it up? Of course not! Maybe this will be another outstanding box! The only way to find out is to go ahead and rip into it. With only two packs, this one's not going to take long at all.

Price - 

Packs - 2
07/08 Be a Player Blaster Packs

I always enjoy opening up Be a Player blasters. They're quick, easy and fun. The NHL player on the front of the box is Patrick Kane. Both him and his fellow teammate Jonathan Toews have rookie cards from this year. Since their debut, Kane and Toews have already won the Stanley Cup twice. Looks like Upper Deck chose wisely to put Kane on the front of this box. Getting a Kane or Toews out of this would be pretty incredible. The 2007/08 hockey season was two years before I got back into the hobby. I definitely missed out on the opportunity to pick up these young superstars early in their careers. Believe it or not, I actually don't think I own a Kane or Toews rookie card in my collection!

Here I go breaking into this 2007/08 BAP blaster box:

Review -
This two pack break was very quick. I would say that this blaster was average to below average. The autograph that came out was of a known player, but not one that commands a high value. And the rest of the base cards were mostly of players who don't have a high hobby interest. I was a little surprised as usually Be a Player base sets are smaller, thus easier to get the bigger names... not that getting superstar base cards is all that great... but still... it's nice when big names actually come out of something you open, base or otherwise.

It was pretty difficult choosing a top three, but here they are:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Mike Fisher Card No. 137
When Mike Fisher makes the top three you know there are slim pickin's! So why did I chose Mike Fisher? Well, he's been in the news recently regarding some disharmony in his marriage to Carrie Underwood. Yup, that's it. Not really a good reason, but a reason.

#2 - Scott Niedermayer Card No. 7
Defensemen like Scott Niedermayer have long and great careers, but not very much hobby love. Niedermayer is a Hall of Fame hockey player and should get more recognition in the hobby. It's too bad he doesn't!

#1 - Brent Seabrook Card No. S-BS
Seabrook has been with Chicago since his first year in the NHL... that's pretty impressive! If I were a Blackhawks fan, I'd probably enjoy this card quite a bit as he has been a staple in Chicago's organization. Gotta love players that have spent a long time with one team. They've stuck with it in both thick and thin times for their squad.

Overall Value -
This wasn't a great blaster value-wise, but I still enjoyed it. I knew this one might be a bit of a let down after my other 07/08 Be a Player blaster. That's just how it works most of the time in this hobby. It's not going to stop me from getting these whenever I can though!

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #30 (Heavy Hitters Coming)

For whatever reason, this year the card companies have decided to release some very high-end card products early in the collecting season. While some collectors may be happy to receive these super premium cards, others, like myself, are left scrambling to find funds for these upcoming releases.

The Cup -
Ten short days from this posting, 2012/13 The Cup will be released by Upper Deck. While it's not unheard of for The Cup to have such a late release date, I think collectors were stunned by its late announcement... I know I was! I was one of those collectors who thought Panini Prime would be the final release of 12/13. That year had a weak rookie class due to the rookie card restrictions of the lock-out, and Upper Deck had absolutely no indication that they would put a Cup product out.

Well... they did. And Upper Deck is pulling a Panini by including a bonus pack. Panini gave collectors extra content in Prime by inserting Dominion packs. Upper Deck is sort of doing the same thing by putting Ultimate Collection packs in The Cup tins. It's 'like' Panini, but way more expensive. Prime packs went for around $200. The Cup pre-sales are at about $450 right now.

I'm saving up for a tin of The Cup as I type this post. I'm definitely excited for it as Upper Deck says this version of it will be the most limited and have the best veteran content available. But still... it's gonna put a hurtin' on my wallet!

Superlative Hockey The First Six -
A few weeks after The Cup comes out ITG will unleash their newest Superlative set of cards. Collectors know Superlative as the cards that come in a book shaped box. Superlative Volume III was release a year ago, but even though it seems like a 'natural' time to put out a set of cards, it seems like a quick release for this particular line. I say this because there was a significant gap between Superlative Volume II and Volume III. Volume II came out during the 2009/10 season, while III came in the 2012/13 season... that's a gap of three years between Superlative releases! That's why I feel like this newest release has been pushed out a bit quickly by the folks at ITG.

My concern about Superlative is my ability to purchase it. I really want to get a book of it for review, but this product also costs around $400. That's a lot of money to put into cards after The Cup. I have been doing my best to get one of every product from each of the three companies, but I have to admit that if I have to miss a companies release, it will be ITGs. I missed last year's Ultimate release, and I might be skipping out of Superlative The First Six as well. I hope this isn't the case, but choosing between The Cup and Superlative isn't really a difficult choice. I personally would go for The Cup every time if I had to make that decision.

Dominion Hockey -
So to complete this trinity of big time releases, Panini has Dominion scheduled for a very early December release. Yep, that's right... DECEMBER. What typically is the highest-end release for Panini at the end of the hockey season is getting released before the new year! What in the what?!?! That was a huge surprise to me. The only consolation is that in checking the pre-sale prices for Dominion, it seems like the price point of Dominion has been lowered. I see pre-sales of boxes at around $200. Hopefully that is the price it is truly at so I, and other collectors, can actually afford it. If it's $300 and upwards, that's going to be a bit much during the prime gift-buying month of December.

I do have a theory about Dominion though. I feel as if Panini is gearing up to bring collectors a new hockey product in class that is higher than Dominion. I say this because they have already done that with Basketball. Many of you know that their National Treasures line has been their top release in that sport. Well... no longer. Panini is coming out with Flawless Basketball. It's a $1250 metal briefcase of ten cards. WOW. If they have the guts to release such a pricey product in basketball... a hockey version is not out of the realm of possibility.

So is Panini preparing for higher priced products than Dominion? I really think they are. We'll see as the season progresses if that's the case.

So there you have it! These next three months will showcase three huge dollar releases from all three hockey card manufacturers. I'm excited to see all the cool cards that come out, but I'm equally not excited at the cost of it all. What do you think about all these releases coming out? Are you saving up and gearing up? Or are you just going to be watching the breaks vicariously through others? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013 Panini Prizm Baseball Review

It has only been about six months since the last baseball Prizm release, but Panini has decided to give us more! It looks like Panini is going all out with this brand. The hockey version of Prizm released a couple weeks ago, and the baseball version has now released very similar look and configuration. If you've enjoyed Prizm so far, you've got to be psyched about even more foil-y goodness to rip into!

Base Card Design -
The Prizm base cards have the exact same look as their hockey counterparts. I don't have too much to add to my previous assessment in terms of their design. If you want to see what I thought about this design, click here for my Prizm hockey review. One big difference with these baseball Prizm base as compared to the hockey is the inclusion of retired players like Willie McCovey. I just mentioned this in my 2013 Certified Football review, but I think it's neat to feature older photographs on the foil look. It's a cool contrast that makes the cards visually interesting.

The card backs again feature just one stat line of information that sums up the player's career. I like this for retired players so that you get sort of a 'time-capsule' of their complete and finished time in professional baseball. For current players, I think I would like to see season-by-season statistics listed. Each card will have a short write-up of the player for collectors to read.

Each Prizm pack that I opened contained two rookie cards. Wait... did baseball have a double rookie class too? Of course not... but I find it funny that hockey had a double rookie class this year, and those packs only yielded one rookie per pack. So here in baseball you get double the rookie goodness. I was lucky enough to pull this Yasiel Puig in my box. He's definitely the hottest rookie to get currently.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Prizm will give collectors two autographed cards and a number of inserts and parallel cards. The autographs are of the on-sticker variety. Both base and insert cards will have multiple paralleled versions of themselves. Collectors can look for shiny refracted light cards and colored variations. What collectors won't find are game-used memorabilia cards... which is too bad because I think memorabilia foil cards look awesome.

The most common type of parallel card is the Prizm Prizm. No, that's not a typo. These Prizm Prizm cards feature light refracting technology. When shined on in light, the card has a beautiful rainbow shimmer to it. These cards stand out pretty well from their standard base counterparts, but in case you couldn't tell the difference, they are noted Prizm on the back under the card number. The Strasburg Prizm Prizm I pulled is actually part of a base short print highlight set. I found it funny that this card has 'Panini Spokesman' in large font on the front of this card.

Orange Prizm die-cut parallels numbered to only 60 are also available to find. I really like the look of these cards, they look very sharp. I'm a huge fan of using bright colors that stand out... and these cards definitely do that! As I mentioned in my hockey review, there are a large number of parallel cards to find of the base set. They go from hobby exclusives to retail exclusives and are serial numbered all the way to Finite 1 of 1's.

One of my favorite looking inserts from Prizm Baseball are these Fearless cards. The graphic at the bottom with the flame looks great in person. I am hoping that Panini does more of this type of card design in the future... this melding of organic or natural elements with the slick foil technology. So far, I've seen a lot of modern looking cards with graphics, these Fearless inserts are a step in a great direction.

The Band of Brothers insert set is unique in that it features a trio of players. To me this card looks like a movie poster. With the insert name, you'd think that's what Panini was going for. It's definitely a unique looking card with a different design style.

USA Baseball is represented in Prizm... and look... there are LOGOS! It's nice to see actual logos on the card, and because Panini has a USA Baseball license, they are able to do that. These cards stand out well as the red, white, and blue color scheme really pops. One little accent I really like is the red Panini logo in the upper right corner. It's a small detail that looks very cool.

This Miguel Montero is what a standard autograph would look like from Prizm. It's simply the base card with a spot for a sticker autograph. Limited Prizm and one-of-one Finite variations are available for this autographed set. I have to say that I wish these autographs were more exciting. It's great to pull a superstar player autograph, but I would have liked an autographed card design with more flair.

The other autograph from this review box was of Oscar Taveras. As you can see from the scan, the autograph is a bit smudged as well as the area where his name is. It's too bad as this was the better of the two autographs to get. Also, I thin Taveras used a pen that was a bit too large. The auto looks a bit clunky to me.

Check out more boxes of Prizm to see the different parallel variations and other inserts to be found. Like I said in my hockey review, the autographs seem like enticements to get hit collectors to buy the product. The draw of Prizm is in the limited parallel cards you can find within it.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
You'll notice that I gave the inserts/game-used/autos score a bump up compared to the hockey version of Prizm. I feel that baseball collectors have had a long tradition of collecting parallel cards. Checking the prices on eBay for some Prizm parallel cards really shocked me! They command some pretty high prices! So that's the reason for the increase.

Prizm is a fun product to break, and there are definitely cards of value to be found in the product. I was a bit skeptical about having Prizm come out again so soon after the 2012 version, but I think this product is good enough that collectors won't mind.

If you enjoy baseball cards, this is a great mid-range product to get. Not only do you get two autographs per box, you could really hit a home-run with a hot low numbered parallel card. I'd definitely recommend busting a box or two!

Overall Rating:

Check out my 2013 Prizm Baseball break:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013 Panini Hometown Heroes Baseball Review

Now here's a product out of left field! The new Panini Hometown Heroes Baseball! I have to be honest with you and say that I had no idea what this product was when it arrived for review. Opening up the relatively heavy box yielded 12 large sized packs... I mean BIG! Each pack of Hometown Heroes is gigantic, as they contain 24 cards each. I'm very curious to see what this product is all about. So let's see what a box of Hometown Heroes gives us.

Base Card Design -
Opening up the packs is like busting an old jumbo or cello pack from back in the day. There is a generous amount of base cards within. Hometown Heroes, as it turns out, is a retro inspired product that focuses on a vast variety of players from the present and goes back upwards of forty years. The player selection begins around the late seventies and ends with today's rookies. With 300 cards in the base set, Panini has included a myriad of MLB favorites. Each Hometown Heroes base card is printed on old school cardboard stock. The colors used bring back a nostalgic feel as they are faded reds and yellows. What really gets me in the retro mood is the pennant graphic with the city name. You just don't see many pennant graphics on cards nowadays. Also, the star graphics on the sides add more retro-y goodness to the card. You'll notice that though Panini has a MLB Player's Association license, they do not have an MLB license for team logos. All the logos and team representations have been removed from the photographs.

The back of the Hometown Heroes base card is surprisingly colorful. It uses similar color schemes as the front. I do feel that the colors on the back are a little bit too bold though. While the front of the card is somewhat faded, the back colors feel highly saturated. I would have preferred them to be toned down a bit. The main feature of the card back has to be the paragraph of written information. Each card talks about a the player with a focus on what town or city they were from. It's a really unique idea, thus the name Hometown Heroes. I have really enjoyed finding out the origins of some of theses great athletes from these card backs. Props to Panini for this great idea.

The entire base set design is the same, there aren't really any special subsets to be found. There are, however, special image variation cards that are a part of the main set. These cards are numbered 261-300. I would have never known that this Randy Johnson shown above was a short print without checking the numbering on the back. I think these image variations could be pretty limited as I only received one in this entire box.

All in all, I think these base cards are very solid and would appeal to older school collectors and people who enjoy retro sets. These cards are also great for collectors around my age as they have included players like Jerome Walton in the set. If you remember anything about him... you'll remember how hot his 1989 Upper Deck rookie card was! Hah, now it's in the $.25 bin!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Hometown Heroes states that collectors will find three autographs and three sports discs. It is also mentioned that the product features on-card autographs... which is cool... except... all the autos in my box were of the sticker variety. That was a bit disappointing. I would think if they specifically mentioned that, there should at least be one card in the box that was on-card. If you want game-used materials, Hometown Heroes will leave you empty handed as there is no game-used content in the product.

I had no idea what a sports disc was until I opened one in a pack. It turned out to be this funny little thing pictured above. It's a disc that when twisted back and forth will show you a different image. When I collected in the 80's and 90's, there was a company called Sportsflicks that released entire card sets like this. They were a fun novelty item back then... and I think they still are now. These are fun little things, but nothing I would collect seriously. Panini has attempted to add in collectibility by producing variations of these discs. Check the back of the disc for a black ring instead of the standard blue one. Those are the rarer versions.

Hometown Heroes has a variety of pretty cool inserts. I love the idea of the inserts that have been included. This Rivalry set is all about players who have gone from one team to their rival team. This insert set goes great with the theme of the product.

Nicknames are fun mostly because of the cartoon drawing on the card. The drawing is definitely not retro, but it brings back some of the lower end 90's sets that featured cards with comic-type artwork on them.

Defining Moments cards are horizontally oriented cards that highlight a particular moment in time. Panini has given the moment a funny name and included it at the top of the card. This particular card of Mike Piazza is a gold parallel version. Gold parallel cards are not difficult pulls, and I don't think they would command much of a premium.

Here's another parallel card, this time black. I pulled multiple black and gold parallel cards from my box, so I have a feeling that neither are very short printed. If it were up to me, I would have made golds easy pulls and have the black versions be ridiculously hard to find. But that's just me. Besides this Curtain Call insert card there are more varieties of inserts to find and enjoy in this product.

State stamp and zip code stamped cards are parallels to the main base set. It's a pretty cool idea using the state to denote a parallel card. The stamping looks good, and I'm pretty sure it's an idea that has not been done before (please correct me if I'm wrong on that!). Zip code parallels are a bit harder to pull, but not by much. I had 2 in my box. The zip code parallels have a nicer rainbow foil stamp as compared to the standard state stamp.

Here's a Signed by the Enemy autographed card of Dave Kingman. This card's theme reminds me a bit of the Rivalry card set. Though the autograph is on-sticker, this card is still very nicely designed. I love the colors used. The retro feel with an autograph on it always gets me!

Here's another pretty sweet old school design with an autograph. This autograph card of Gary Gaetti is pretty much 2-toned, with the primary color being red. The blue ink on the autograph really stands out on this card.

My third and final autograph was of Kerry Wood. Again, I have to compliment the design of these cards. The American flag as a backdrop is always a great idea for a baseball card. The way this card is laid out is just perfect- the placement of the card elements are just right.

Hometown Heroes will give collectors a wide variety of different insert and autographed sets. I'm very interested to see what other fun cards Panini has inserted into this product.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Panini has come out with quite a few baseball products lately... and this is one that I've definitely been impressed with. Hometown Heroes does a spectacular job of giving collectors an old school set with just the right amount of autographed hit content.

For collectors like me who enjoy pouring over their cards, this set is perfect. There's just so much to see and spend time looking over. It's one of those sets that just gets me excited about baseball cards.

This set definitely is not for everyone. In this day and age where hits and high dollar cards are the thing, Hometown Heroes is not like that. To me it's an honest set of cards with some sweet themes.

I'm a fan. If you are too, get yourself a box and dig in!

Overall Rating:

Here's my box of Hometown Heroes:

2013 Panini Certified Football Review

With the NFL football season running at full speed, Panini releases 2013 Certified. Certified is a product that has a strong legacy. Each year collectors look forward to its release, and they know exactly what to expect from it - great looking foil cards, rookie material cards, and Mirror parallel cards. From what I've seen, this year's Certified hobby box price is a tad bit lower than previous years. All the more reason for collectors to reacquaint themselves with this staple of the Panini line-up!

Base Card Design -
There are many things that come to mind when I think of Certified, but one of the most prominent aspects of Certified that comes mind is the usage of foil. Certified cards are known for being all-foil. And this year is no different. The base cards come on a very thin, primarily silver card stock. The entire card, besides the player image, is awash with the silver foil color. Though I like the actual design elements on the card, the silver is a bit much, and takes over the entire front a bit too assertively. So while the individual elements on the base cards are nice, together it doesn't add up so well. I would have chosen to use a more contrasting color scheme. In terms of photo quality though, Certified hits the right marks. Each player on the base card is given a relatively large up-close photograph. I really enjoyed the how close Panini was able get you into the action with these cards.

The Certified card back is the standard Panini fare. Though I do enjoy keeping things consistent, I think these types of card backs need a bit of an overhaul. From a design aspect, the card gets the job done. There is a nice usage of team colors and all the vital information is included... but it just doesn't have any sort of 'wow' factor. Certified backs have always been like this, but I'm ok with changing the tradition up in this case.

The Immortals is a base subset serial numbered to 999. Though there isn't much of a difference between these and the standard base design save for the giant 'IMMORTALS' logo, that giant logo really makes these cards look cool. The logo is relatively large, and the word 'immortal' is the perfect choice for these legends of the NFL. I also get a kick out of how these cards look as they mix old and new. The older photographs combined with the foil makes for an interesting visual. And the all silver washed-out 'problem' I had with the standard base doesn't really apply here, as it gives the cards an older feel. Little things like this can really have dramatic effect on card perception.

Following the Immortals are the New Generation cards. As the name implies, these cards feature the newest players in the NFL, the rookies. These cards are also serial numbered to 999 and feature a rookie card logo as well as a New Generation logo at the top of the card.

To finish off the main set, Panini has included 40 Freshman Fabric Signature cards. As the name implies, these cards feature both cloth and ink. The design of this year's Freshman Fabric cards is top notch. Panini has gone with a horizontal design with the memorabilia pieces contained in mirrored 'F's'. There is a spot for the sticker autograph underneath the fabric. When I first saw these cards I had to do a double take! They were that nice! The Manti Te'o shown above is a Mirror Red parallel version numbered to just 199. Standard Freshman Fabric cards carry a numbering of either /399 or /499.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autographs -
The box states that within the 10 hobby packs you should find four autograph or memorabilia cards with at least one being an autograph. Collectors will also find serial numbered cards and parallels in the packs that they bust. The popular Mirror Red and Blue parallels add splashes of color to the Certified break.

Speaking of the Mirror parallel cards, here's a Mirror Blue parallel of Travis Kelce numbered to just 100. These parallels are not just done with a colored foil, but Panini has given them an extra shimmer by making them reflect a rainbow of colors in the light. The effect is very nice, and gives these cards a great look. Mirror Red and Blue cards have been a long been a part of Certified, and they are the most common parallel types in this set.

In terms of memorabilia content, the Fabric of the Game cards are back once again. There was a time when the Fabric of the Game cards only featured a square of jersey. It's nice to see that Panini has given these cards a more premium treatment by setting the jersey inside a die-cut of the team name. It's a practice that Panini has employed more recently, and I'm glad for it. These ideas add a little bit of spice to an area that has gotten a bit tired. I also appreciate the fact that this Ronnie Lot card has relatively low numbering. This one's limited to just /49!

Here's an interesting jersey card of Mike Gillislee. I really like the look of this card, as all the design elements come together nicely to create a modern, slick hit. Probably my favorite part of this card, though, is the back. Most of the time these jersey cards simply have a guarantee of some sort about the material enclosed, but this card has more. The back actually features a couple of personal questions asked of Mike. One question was: Who was the biggest influence on your football career? Another asked what his favorite NFL player was growing up. Having content like this on a jersey card is a bit unheard of nowadays. It's cool to see Panini putting nice little things like this on their cards.

My most outstanding hit from this box was this New Generation Mirror Black autographed 1 of 1 Tavarres King card. Besides red and blue, there are other colors that are much more rare. Pulling a 1 of 1 card is always exciting! Emerald cards numbered to only 5 are also sweet pulls to be had out of Certified this year.

Certified has quite a bit more to expect out of boxes this year. Some of the most difficult pulls feature two of the best running backs ever - Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. They both have a special set of cards devoted to them. Dual NFL shield cards have also been inserted into 2013 Certified. And of course, they are one of ones.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
2013 Certified definitely brings it! In terms of looks, Certified is awesome. I wasn't a huge fan of the slightly silver-washed base cards, but everything else is top notch. I was especially impressed with the Freshman Fabric cards.

In terms of value, you know what to expect when you choose to buy a box of Certified. It clearly states that each box will contain four hits. It's a solid amount to find in a box under $100. And that's not even including the potential parallel cards that a box may contain.

Certified is a solid product year in and year out. It's easy to recommend Certified to any football card collector. With new hit types (including shields), everyone has the chance to hit it big with a box (or a case... for you high rollers out there)!

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of 2013 Panini Certified Football: