Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #37 (In-Person Autographs)

Getting an autograph used to be something pretty difficult to do. There were ways to obtain one, but all required a bit of work. You could wait next to the training facility or arena and wait for a player to come out, look for card show or team organized signings, or you could mail something off in hopes that the item you sent would be returned with an autograph. Nowadays, all you have to do is look on eBay, and you can easily find most autographs you could ever want - and if it's on a trading card, it probably has certification on it so you can feel good about its authenticity. So why get in-person autographs? Is it worth the time and hassle?

I would say 'yes' to getting in-person autos whenever possible. To me, there is nothing like actually meeting a player and having him or her sign something for you. But you have to keep in mind that the item you get autographed is for YOU... and really not to re-sell. I have found that in-person (IP) autographs really don't go for too much on eBay or other online sites anyways. There is too much a question if it is the real deal or not. A lot of these autographs can be had for far less than $20... but like I said, you are taking a risk with its authenticity.

When I meet a player, I try not to have them sign cards. I have already have a ton of autographed cards, and I don't feel they are particularly special. They are cool... don't get me wrong... I love collecting cards, but I guess having a bazillion Sharks autographed cards really dulls the whole auto'd card thing for me. If I could have my way, I would love to get a photo of me and the player signed, and hopefully personalized to. That would have so much 'value' to me. No, not monetary value, but emotional value.

Since I've become a Kings season ticket holder, I've had more access to player signings. In fact, after I type this article up, I'm going to meet one of the newest Sacramento Kings rookies at a signing. Unfortunately, I won't be able to have him autograph a photo of him and myself, but I do have a photo that I took that I would like him to sign. That's pretty cool too.

My suggestion for getting IP autos is to make it as personal as possible. Also, getting players to sign unique items is also fun! Jerseys and other equipment are great pieces to have signed. In fact, one of my favorite signed items is the pink hockey puck that we got Jason Demers to sign a few years back. It was pretty funny having him autograph that thing. The look on his face was priceless!

What do you think of IP autos? Have you met players and had them autograph things? I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments section below!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Retail Review #76 (2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Blaster)

Goodwin Champions is a product that I really enjoy breaking for multiple reasons. For one, it's a product that has a variety of different sports and famous people. It makes for a very interesting break. I love seeing who pops out of the box whenever I open it. The cards are always done nicely. Each card is rendered in an artistic way that showcases the subject in an interesting light. And lastly, I always hope to pull a unique autograph or memorabilia card from these - it's very hard - but it would be awesome to do!

Price - 

Packs - 12
2012 Goodwin Champions Blaster Packs

Though I love opening up these Goodwin boxes, it's rare that I can justify getting one at it's original price of twenty dollars. Almost every box of Goodwin Champions will net you just a few mini cards and a glossy machine card. You might as well just give the store your money! Going on eBay, you can probably pick up 5-6 jersey cards of Goodwin for that amount. The only things that might help you get your money back on a full-price blaster is a big name autograph. And we all know that's not an easy pull.

This blaster from was under seven dollars... and I still think it's a little high, because I know if all I were to get was base and minis, I wouldn't make that purchase. But I'm willing to bite at that price to have a chance at something better. I really think a blaster of this should be more in the five dollar range. That's 25% of it's original MSRP, but to me that's the right number.

Let's cross our fingers and break into this box of 2012 Goodwin Champions:

Review -
So, this box was the standard Goodwin break. There were no hits, just a handful of minis and a glossy Military Machines card. My green mini was of Garret Gomez, a jockey. I'm not a huge horse racing fan, so unfortunately I didn't know who he was. And that can be the problem with a product like Goodwin Champions, there is a definite possibility of getting cards of people you don't know.

I did, however, get Ryne Sandberg and Jack Morris mini cards. I used to collect baseball cards in the 80's, so getting these two was pretty cool. I was a little surprised to see the artist of these cards put Sandberg in an older look. His card is neither here nor there to me. I'm sure there was a specific reason for the way the card is, I'm just not sure what that is.

My Military Machines insert was of the USS Maine. This battleship was famous because it exploded allegedly due to a Spanish mine. Many hands were lost as a result. This insert will join my other Military Machines cards I have gotten while opening up these blasters.

Here were my top three cards from this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Mike Bossy Mini Card No. 105
I had to go with a hockey representative! Mike Bossy was a phenomenal hockey player during his NHL days. This is an interesting depiction of Bossy. Perhaps this was a moment after a game he played in.

#2 - Jim Kelly Card No. 87
Jim Kelly took the Buffalo Bills to multiple Super Bowls... it's really too bad they didn't win a single one of them! Though he didn't get the job done in terms of an NFL championship, he certainly got the job done with this schweet looking outfit!

#1 - Stan Lee Card No. 188
Ahhh, Stan Lee, the head honcho of Marvel Comic books! Stan has had a tremendous impact in the pop culture world with his numerous creations. I love this picture of Stan with the oversized Hulk gloves on. What a character!

Overall Value -
I took a chance with seven bucks and it really didn't pay off in terms of long term value. I just got a bunch of cool looking base, minis, and an insert. The only saving grace of this break was the enjoyment I got by looking through the cards. Some products don't even allow for that, I guess! I definitely would be hesitant to recommend buying Goodwin Champions. It's a product that has fun cards, but trying to find value in it is near impossible! Pass on this unless you absolutely want to try some.

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!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #36 (Double Rookie Class... Too Many RCs?)

This hockey season the card companies are making a big deal out of the amount of rookie cards available to collectors, but I wonder if it is too much of a good thing. Sure, we all know the big name rookie cards to get this year... but are these big names the real deal? From what I've seen, rookie card prices haven't been as high as in years past.

To me, these are the top rookie cards to get this season: Tomas Hertl (Hah, I've got to list him first as he's the top rookie scorer and, well, someone has to have a west coast bias!), Nathan Mackinnon, Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Jonathan Huberdeau, Seth Jones, Vladamir Tarasenko, and Sean Monahan. There might be one or two more, feel free to point out anyone significant I have left out.

If I'm looking at Young Gun values... I'm scratching my head at why they seem so low. The biggest money maker right now in terms of Young Guns is Nathan Mackinnon. Looking up ending eBay auctions, his YG is selling between $45-$50. Nobody else is even really close to that. The next two rookie cards in terms of value are Hertl and Yakupov, who both sell for $20, give or take. Everyone else is a notch even lower than that.

So what gives? In 2011/12, we had Ryan Nugent-Hopkins going for much more than Mackinnon is going for now. In 2010/11, Taylor Hall was the one selling for an obscene price when first released. The year before that saw John Tavares going for a high amount. Why is it that those years produced Young Gun cards that held such high values?

I wonder if there are just too many 'good' rookie to get. It might be something like a 'watered-down' effect where people just can't spend the money on one big name. They have to spread out their money in many directions thus lowering the individual rookie card prices. Or maybe there aren't any rookies this year that stand out as much as the afore mentioned rookies did.

I'm not sure. Whatever the reason, this crop of rookie cards just doesn't have the impact that we all thought it would have. Have you noticed the same thing? For me personally, when I pull a known rookie commodity from this class I'm not overly excited about it. I remember being genuinely excited getting a Hall YG out of a pack. I'm just not sure I'd feel the same way if I got Mackinnon... or even *gasp* Hertl!

Maybe the season is still young, and the bigger sets like SPA and the like will give us some big time rookie cards to get.

I'd love to know what you think of how the values of the rookies this year are doing! What have you noticed! Let me know in the comments section!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Retail Review #75 (12/13 O-Pee-Chee Blaster)

Today I'm going to be ripping into a blaster of 12/13 O-Pee-Chee. 12/13 was a season that really just wasn't meant to be for the hobby. The lockout shortened the season and caused manufacturers to delay rookie cards. OPC was one of the few sets to come out that season. It definitely didn't have good rookie card potential, but at least OPC gave collectors some hockey to get their hands on as releases were few and far between.

Price - 

Packs - 14
12/13 O-Pee-Retail Blaster Packs

I know I shouldn't make my hopes go up... but I've opened enough retail packs to hope that one of these days I'll get a hit out of OPC. I know that's asking a lot, because hits in O-Pee-Chee are truly difficult to get... but maybe one day one will pop out. Will it be today? I could be! But that's why we buy these things, right? We hope to pull out that one card that we really want!

I said this one of the last times I broke OPC, but I'll say it again. I've gotten to really enjoy opening up these cheap OPC blasters. It definitely brings me back to times of old when you got a pretty good number of cards in a break. The inserts are nice, and the cards are just interesting to go through and look at. There are very few big sets anymore, and OPC is one of the few big sets that collectors can get. It is filled with NHL players that usually don't make the cut for a standard set like SP Authentic or Certified.

Let's see what's hiding in this blaster of OPC (it's actually a video of a Target Re-Pack, I explain why in the video):

Review -
Just as I thought it would, this turned out to be a pretty fun break. Nope... still haven't gotten a hit out, but it didn't mean it was a bad box. This particular box seemed to have quite a few retro cards. The standard amount may have come out, but it felt like more to me. I ended up with seven total retro cards out of this blaster. My best retro base cards were either Evander Kane or Carl Hagelin.

Four legend subset cards came out of this blaster. I found Guy Lafleur, Andy Bathgate, Markus Naslund, and Marcel Dionne. In terms of foil parallels, I just had David Jones and Daniel Girardi. As for my 12/13 rookies, Brandon Manning and Jussi Rynnas were pulled. I've seen an awful lot of Jussi Rynnas cards in products. I don't know too much about him, but he doesn't seem to have a shortage of cardboard out there!

Let's see the to cards from this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Gabriel Dumont Card Retro Card No. 579
I chose this card solely for the fact that it is a retro variation rookie card. The Marquee Rookie subset in the main set look good, but I prefer this old style design. It really does look like it came from an old hockey card set from the 70's. I was a bit disappointed with the standard retro cards, but these were well done.

#2 - Steven Stamkos Card No. S-84
I don't have many Stammer cards in my collection, so when I pull one, I'm pretty happy. Earlier this week Stamkos broke his leg as it slammed into the goal pylon. I really hope that he's able to fully come back from that devastating injury!

#1 - Wayne Gretzky Card No. 600
Since the 12/13 rookie class didn't have much presence, it looks like Upper Deck chose to include some high powered names in the Marquee Rookie subset. Well, it doesn't get much bigger than Wayne Gretzky, does it? It's always awesome to get a Gretzky card. It's like pulling Jordans in basketball. Best of all time!

Overall Value -
Here was another fun and enjoyable break of a lower-end product. At under seven dollars, I was able to enjoy some sweet looking hockey cards. No, there wasn't a huge hit... or even a hit to see... but you already know that going into OPC. I would recommend this product to younger collectors or collectors getting back into the hobby. There is a lot to see here, and the good things is that you don't have to pay too much for it!

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!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #35 (Crazy High Prices)

When I was a young kid collecting in the 80's and 90's, cards, to me, were expensive. Normal packs of Topps baseball were around a dollar, and in 1989 Upper Deck packs came out and sold for $3-$5. Those packs were super-high end, and were out of my reach. As I continued collecting as a poor college student, packs had also risen in price. Instead of between one and five dollars, pack were now between $5 and $12 dollars. I've noticed that as I have grown up, packs have continually outpaced my ability to buy them. And the phenomenon continues!

Just this past month a couple of basketball products came out that were on the 'WTH' or even the dreaded 'WTF' level of pricing. I had high hopes for getting into basketball more this year since I've taken a big interest in the Sacramento Kings, but those two products did well to dissuade me from going full-bore in to basketball. Those two products were Immaculate and Flawless.

You know, I thought hockey was expensive. In fact, in a recent Cardboard Commentary I was complaining about how I wouldn't be able to review the new Superlative this year because of its price. With The Cup just out, Select and UD1 recently released, and Dominion on the horizon... something had to give. And that was Superlative. I hated to do it, but there was just no way I could get my hands on it for review.

And then I saw Immaculate and Flawless. OMG. I already couldn't afford every hockey product out there, but these two products were just insane! Immaculate boxes/packs sell for as much if not more than The Cup, hockey's highest end product. Boxes of Immaculate are currently above $400 each. Sure, there are some amazing cards to get, but still $400!!! And lest we forget that National Treasures was released beforehand already.

You could put Immaculate and National Treasures together and still not have enough for a box of Flawless. Flawless WAS about $1250/box when it came out... but now it's well over that as the product has dried up a bit. I tried my best to pick up some Flawless cards (they were pricey, but not too bad), but I couldn't imagine getting a box of it. It's box price is like getting one three box CASE OF THE CUP. Ridiculous!

So back to what I was saying before... pack and box prices continue to elude me! I had no idea that now as an adult sealed card prices would be out of my reach. It's ridiculous! If I was making the same money as I was making now and went back in time to my high school or college days, I could buy boxes and boxes of cool products, no sweat. But as I have gotten older... the prices have just gotten higher.

I can't possibly imagine products coming out that will be more than what they are now... but that's what I thought back then too. I'm very interested to see if this trend continues. Will there by a $2000/box coming up soon? (Sadly, probably!)

By the way, this isn't a rant about cards pricing kids out of the hobby. There are very low end products that are very affordable still... it's just that the big boy products require the average adult collector to practically put on a second mortgage on their property in order to get JUST ONE BOX of the stuff!

Let me know what you think of these crazily prices products in the comments down below! I'd love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2013-2014 Panini Select Hockey Review

Panini brings back another brand from years past with Select. I had fond memories of Score Select back in the day. It was a more premium product that offered collectors a sweet design and some awesome inserts. This iteration of Select is very different than its original form. Basketball collectors should be familiar with it though as it was released in last season's basketball products. I'm very interested to see how the hockey version of Select holds up!

Base Card Design -
Panini has been 'on it' when it comes to foil board sports cards. There was a ton of foil used in Prizm, and now Select brings us even more. Each base card is very shiny and fully foiled. Just with a quick glance though, these Select base cards exude more class than their Prizm counterparts. Where the Prizm design is futuristic and sharp, the Select base cards are more rounded and smooth. It's neat to see how Panini is able to give off very different feels within their foiled products. The Select base cards have a frame-like quality to them as it looks as though the player is coming out of a picture frame. The Select logo centered at the bottom of the card looks great, and adds to the appeal of the card. Everything is just the right proportion. I've gotta say that these base cards are very well done.

The card back is definitely above average when it comes to Panini backs. They retain the elegance of the front by continuing the framed look. The numbering of the card is perfectly centered, and is placed where a nail would be to hang a picture up on the wall. Panini has wisely chosen to use team color themed backgrounds as a background to the statistics and player information. The entire back is glossy. This is a good effort on Panini's part!

The standard rookie cards in Select have a design that is slightly different than the standard base. You'll notice the rookie card logo in the upper right hand corner as well as the word rookie in the bottom portion of the card. The picture frame border also has some tweaks to the design. With all these different elements, you'd think the rookie cards would stand out very well from the rest of the base cards. Well... they don't. I had a hard time differentiating them from the base as I was going through the packs. Even with these differences, they just didn't strike me as that different.

The autographed version of the rookie cards do stand out though. Obviously the sticker autograph is a big part of the card, however, these cards are jersey (or even patch) thickness. These girth-y cards are huge! I was surprised to see Panini using a different thickness for the rookie cards. I can't see a great reason for it... but it does make the card more fun and unique.

Autograph and memorabilia versions of rookie cards round on the main set of cards. These remind me of Upper Deck's SPx rookie cards, but shinier. The design of these cards is pleasing to the eye, but some collectors (like me) might find the jersey pieces a little boring. Of course, nice variations of these cards with patch pieces are available for collectors to find.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
When you buy a box of Select, you are actually getting two mini boxes. I can't see a reason for making this product two 6-box minis rather than just having 12 packs in a box... but hey... whatever floats their boat I guess! Each mini box states that there are two autographs to find in each. A couple of the autographs will be rookies, and veteran autographs should make up the rest. Select also has a number of insert cards available to find in their boxes.

The Fire on Ice insert set is probably the best looking and more intricately designed card type. There is a lot going on with these cards with all the etching in the background. The fire theme is a nice contrast to the ice. A blue version of the card is also available. Rookie versions of the Fire on Ice cards will feature the special rookie logo in the corner. I have mixed feelings about this. While I do acknowledge that the rookies are available in the set, the logo could confuse people into thinking that these were actually rookie cards of that player.

Select Future cards look great, but in a totally different way than the Fire on Ice cards. These cards trade the massive amounts of etching for smoother lines and surfaces. The graphics and logos used on these cards really bring out the 'future' aspect of the Future insert's concept.

Cornerstone insert cards celebrate franchise stars that have been with a certain team for a long time. It's a nice set to have in Select since many of the cards focus on the rookies. This set puts the sights squarely on veteran players. It's definitely a nice change of pace, and a great way for player collectors to add more cards to their collection if their guy gets chosen for the set. These cards have a burst background design that puts the focus right on the featured player. It's a superb design that makes use of the foil nicely.

Youth Explosion cards steal a bit of the Cornerstone inserts design. These cards still look great though. The Youth Explosion logo at the bottom of the card is pretty creative. It reminds me a bit of the X-Men, which we all know have a school for younger mutants. I could imagine the Youth Explosion logo to be something they would brand on the younger X-Men in training.

Select Signature cards are the standard autographed card you'll find in Select. There really isn't much to them - just a standard foil card with a sticker autograph. Like the Youth Explosion, but unlike the rookie autographs in the main set, these Select Signature cards come on standard thickness cards.

The main chase in Select will most likely be the autographed rookie cards. Collectors should be excited to find the ones with the nicest patches and premium materials. Other hits can be found as well in Select. The cards I pulled do not show all that Select has to offer.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Select is a product that is great fun to open. When you open it, you're feeling like you are getting something special. Maybe it's the fact that you have to open up two mini boxes when you buy a box, but that really does make you anticipate more as the packs finally get ripped open.

Each full box of Select will have four autographed cards. These cards may be lone autographs, or they may come with memorabilia pieces. The big draw of this product is that there are a lot of rookies to find here. With a very nice crop of first year players (and holdovers from last year), Select will be a great place to get your hands on some nice upper mid-level rookie cards.

The price of Select is a little higher than Prizm, but I have to say, Select is much more fun to open. Select has double the hits Prizm did, and actually has memorabilia to look forward to. Panini introduces Select at a great time, and I have no problems recommending this product!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 13/14 Select from D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Retail Review #74 (08/09 Be a Player Blaster)

You guys know I love opening these up! Be a Player blasters are always a fun time. I do think finding these blasters will become increasingly difficult as time goes on. Checking with my online source, sometimes it's stocked, sometimes not. Well, as long as they have them, I'll keep getting them! Because a guaranteed autograph in a retail product isn't something you see everyday!

Price - 

Packs - 2
08/09 Be a Player Blaster Packs

Each Be a Player blaster comes with only 2 packs. Usually, one pack will be all base while the other holds an autograph card in the middle. On rare occasions, the all base pack will yield an insert card or another hit. I was actually lucky enough to have that happen to me a while back. For the amount of cards in the box, there is a pretty large amount of packaging. I know it's not as nice, but perhaps a smaller blister style type packaging would have been more appropriate with these.

Let's go ahead and quickly open up this 2-pack bad boy:

Review -
Pretty quick, eh? Yep, that's just how fast they go. It's always a balance between getting a lot of cards to look at versus better hit content. Be a Player is always about the hit content. The base cards that I got were definitely just an afterthought.

I did get a few good base cards in the two packs that I opened from this blaster. Daniel Sedin was probably the biggest star out of the box... but he didn't make the top three because... well, I'll admit it, I'm biased against the Canucks.

In fact, I went ahead and picked a couple of guys who were former Sharks to be on my top cards list.

Here are the top three cards from this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Milan Michalek Card No. 150
I didn't really get to see Michalek when he played with the Sharks, it was before I got back into hockey, but I do know he has been a solid player for the Sens these last few years.

#2 - Dany Heatley Card No. 122
Yep, another Hany Heatly sighting! He's definitely fallen from the hobby's graces in the past few years... nobody gets excited about pulling a Heater card. I still do, a little, though.

#1 - Johnny Oduya Card No. S-JO
This is the first ever autograph I have received of Johnny Oduya. I have to admit I don't know too much about him... but he did win a Cup with the Hawks last year, so he has that under his belt!

Overall Value -
This wasn't the greatest box of BAP ever, but you win some and you lose some. I'm actually OK with the autograph I got because I know Oduya just doesn't have many autos out there. I was actually a little surprised when I pulled this auto from this blaster. And that's what I miss about BAP actually. Collectors had the chance to pull players from their favorite teams that might not get the royal treatment in other products. I'd love it if BAP made a comeback!

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, November 9, 2013

Cardboard Commentary #34 (Young Gun Rankings)

2013/14 Upper Deck Series One came out this past week, and with it came the new Young Gun cards. These collector favorites are a staple of modern hockey card collecting. Though they are not numbered, have no memorabilia embedded, and have no autograph on them, they still hold good values and are highly desired. I personally look forward to the new Young Gun cards to see how they are designed. Some years I have loved while others have left me wanting. Here are my personal Young Gun rankings from the last five years (from 2009/10-now).

5. 2013/14 Upper Deck
This year's design was by far my least favorite of the past five years. I'm all for glam, glitz, and bold designs... but this one just doesn't hit the right notes. To me, this design could have had sort of a 1970/80's glam rock feel to them. The sign could have been really crazy with the orange background and sparkling foil accents. Instead, it just looks flat and doesn't stand out at all. The previews of these Young Guns weren't inspiring, and seeing them live and in person is about the same. I can't like 'em all, I guess! But Upper Deck did have a pretty good run for me in terms of personally enjoying the way the Young Guns looked these past five years. I can't wait for next year already!

4. 2011/12 Upper Deck
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the headliner for this year's crop of rookies. You can check out his Young Gun card above. The photo on it is stellar! I can't say the same about the design though. It's not bad, mind you, it's just that it doesn't stand out significantly in any way. I remember reviewing 11/12 Upper Deck and saying how the YGs looked too much like the regular base cards. The design here doesn't get in the way of the photo or distract the viewer, but it doesn't inspire either. The best Young Gun designs to me stand out and are memorable. The 11/12 YGs are nice, but miss this key factor. I'll remember the photo much more than the Young Gun design portion of this card.

3. 2010/11 Upper Deck
This year's Upper Deck design definitely stands out, unlike the ones that came out a year later. The Young Gun logo is big and bold and right in the middle. For whatever reason, these Young Guns give me a feeling that their design was taken from the Old American West. The font and the little swirl designs evoke cowboy imagery to me. The Young Gun design here is memorable and bold, and looks nothing like the standard base card. I'm glad that there were a lot of stand out rookies this year, because this design sure wasn't wasted on a poor rookie crop!

2. 2012/13 Upper Deck
I might be one of the few, but I really, really like these Young Guns. If you read my card reviews, you'll notice I really harp on white borders... I dislike them quite a bit!!! But these cards, to me, don't have white borders 'per se'. To me, the Young Gun design is floating on a white background... yes... there is a difference. The white and the red design scheme is so unique with these cards. It really screams MODERN. And that's what the Young Guns are all about, right? The future. These cards have a futuristic design that is forward thinking. It's just too bad there was only one series of these cards, and that this rookie group was not highly thought of. Too bad... really too bad.

1. 2009/10 Upper Deck
I had to pick a different Young Gun rather than Logan Couture otherwise people who say I'm too biased! I would have chosen a Tavares one to represent this year, but I don't have one, sadly. The 09/10 YGs are GREAT. The design of these cards is definitely on the busy side, but they are so unique! The Young Gun logo is done very large, and has a quasi-futuristic feel to it. The design of these YGs invoke both retro and modern/futuristic flair. They really embody the best of both worlds. The 09/10 Upper Deck base set was so bland compared to the previous year's set. And the following years also featured some nice base card designs. But 09/10 base cards just didn't hit their mark. Well... these YGs made up for the base cards in a HUGE way. These are by far my favorite YGs of the past five years... if not ever!

Obviously, Young Gun design opinions are very subjective. Everyone has their own tastes, likes, and dislikes. Just because I like something doesn't mean you should like the same thing! I'm sure many of you have your own rankings of the Young Gun cards from the past five years. Let me know how you would order them in the comments section below!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013-2014 Upper Deck Series One Review

It's been a good long while since the last Series 1 and 2 Upper Deck product has been released as there was no Series 2 last season. Well, the wait is over and here it is! UD1 is BACK, and it's coming in strong with the much touted double rookie class. Upper Deck Series 1 is probably the most universally collected hockey card product out there. I'm sure collectors are excited to break into their boxes of it s it releases today. Let's take a look at what my box gives me!

Base Card Design -
As you know already, there are no shortage of amazing photographs in Upper Deck Series 1. The base set of Upper Deck cares is a fantastic set to collect year after year if you want a yearbook of great NHL memories and moments. I would buy UD1 simply for their photograph selection. It's just that good. That being said, I am not as big of a fan of the graphical design elements this year. Upper Deck had been moving towards more minimalist, yet gracefully modern designs these past few years. These base cards are a bit heavy handed to me - especially the huge spans of foil along the bottom portion of the card. I would have preferred less foil in a more subtle design scheme.

The card backs are of the usual Upper Deck Series 1 design type. The backs are clean, yet feature touches of silver ink and full color photography. There is enough room on the back for a long career statistical display. I appreciate the fact that Upper Deck has included not only the playing numbers for the player, but also have a little bit information about them in written form.

The Young Guns this year, for me, are not good looking cards. I saw them in the previews and didn't like them, but I thought I'd wait to see them released before giving my final judgement. And it hasn't changed. Like the base card design, I feel that the Young Guns look a bit dated. The cool modern-ness of the Young Guns isn't there. The foil is just too much in one place all-together, and the stars and the actual Young Guns logo are just too cheeky as well. I've heard other collectors say they like the design quite a bit... well... agree to disagree on this one then! The back of the Young Gun cards are very cool though. The backs feature a bright orange and red motif that is a very unusual color choice for hockey cards.

Base Card Design Score -

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The Upper Deck box configuration is tried and true, and familiar to hockey fans. Collectors can expect six Young Guns rookie cards and two jersey hits. Insert cards and parallel cards should be plentiful. Lucky collectors can pull autographs as well!

One of the longest running insert sets from Upper Deck are the Hockey Heroes cards. This series is all about the 1980's. The 80's had some great names like Mario Lemieux shown above. Though I'm pretty tired of the Hockey Heroes cards, the white with ice-blue borders looks very good to me. I got two Hockey Heroes cards in my box (the other was Ray Bourque). The Header card and Paint card are very difficult pulls with a stated odd of 1:600 each. The Header and Paint cards sell for some nice coin on the secondary market.

New this year are these Shining Stars inserts. It's definitely a different looking insert compared to the others in the set as it is all foiled-out. Not only does it have the standard backing foil, but these cards have etched foil corners too. The corners are Artifacts-esque. The foil cards look nice, but I can't see my self getting too excited about them. Parallel versions of these cards exist, but good luck snagging one as the toughest parallel comes in at 1:1440!

Canvas cards make their return for yet another go-around. The Canvas set is a great addition to the base set as they contain even more unique photographs. I did, however, feel that this years Canvas card felt a little 'cheaper' than those of years past. The cards in my box looked a bit faded to me. I'm not sure if that was by design or not... but the colors just don't pop out as much as I would like them to. Collectors can find both standard Canvas cards as well as Young Gun Canvas cards.

The Upper Deck Game Jersey cards have returned and look great this year. The cards are very vibrant and inviting. I was surprised to pull a couple of bigger names from my box - both Jordan Eberle and Dominik Hasek came out! Usually you get a couple of lower level players out of these boxes. From what I've seen, there are some pretty big names to find jerseys of this year.

MVP is back as well in Upper Deck Series 1. This discontinued product continues to live on as an insert set. Getting these MVP base cards isn't exciting for me. Are there really huge MVP fans out there that want to continue collecting that set? I would rather Upper Deck come out with a new insert set to put in... or bring back the All World Team cards!

MVP Rookie cards come about one per box. The design on these closely resembles the MVP base insert. There was a design a couple of years ago that I thought was fabulous for the MVP rookie. I wish Upper Deck did the same where the MVP rookie cards were dramatically different. The excitement just isn't there with these.

My box of Upper Deck Series 1 was very standard. I didn't pull an autograph or acetate card. There are plenty of fun and rare cards to still find in UD1. I didn't get them, so it's up to you!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Can you ever really go wrong with Upper Deck Series 1? The answer is no. Upper Deck Series 1 again gives hockey fans a great product with desirable rookie cards. There are a lot of super Young Guns to chase down in this set. The price of UD1 is always accessible to all collectors, so it isn't difficult to get some for yourself. It is a product that every hockey collector should be buying!

Though this is a again a wonderful hockey product, I personally didn't like the design aspects of these cards as much as I have in the past. I felt that the design of the cards took a step back from the great strides UD has made in coming up with super sleek and modern cards. Still though, the pictures more than make up for it!

Upper Deck Series One is out... just go and get it already!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of UD1 opened at D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

2013-2014 Panini NBA Hoops Review

It's NBA Hoops! Hoops has been around for a long time. It's inaugural release in 1989 was a massive success that really brought basketball cards to the forefront. Though Hoops has always been a lower-end brand, it's history has made it a favorite among collectors. The low price point of Hoops makes it easy for younger collectors to obtain. Hoops has always had fun graphics and a youthful design. I'm sure Panini will continue that tradition with this newest version of it.

Base Card Design -
The Hoops base card has many pleasing aspects to it. What first draws my attention, though, is the hardwood floor accents within the card design. The hardwood floor of the court is an iconic part of basketball, and I love that it is represented on these base cards. The use of the floor image gives the cards a natural look, and brightens up the overall feel of the card front. The logos and fonts used on these base cards also look clean and modern. Having the NBA Hoops brand name in silver foil adds a touch of premium feel to these cards. The only thing that detracts from the look of these cards is the white border. Often, white borders on cards signifies a lower-end product. The cards would have been so much better if they had just enlarged the card to fill the entire space. Just get rid of the border! It detracts from the aesthetics too much in my opinion.

The card back design is quite honestly a big let down. As colorful and as eye-popping the fronts are, the back of the card is boring. These cards were used in Score hockey, and have now made their way here to Hoops. The stark, boring back absolutely doesn't look like it should be on the backs of the Hoops base cards. I was actually very shocked when I turned the Hoops card around and saw this. Ugh, these backs are a 'NO!'

Rookie cards in Hoops simply replace the team logo in the upper right hand corner with the Panini Rookie Card logo. It's interesting to see some of the photos Panini chose for the cards as they were made before the season had begun. The McLemore rookie card above is actually kind of neat with the blacked-out background. Changing the photo background is definitely is a way to signify that this card is different without adding many changes to the base card design.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
I opened up a jumbo box of NBA Hoops. It came with ten huge bricks of packs. The box says to look for two autographs and one memorabilia card. Aside from the hits found, packs contain a great deal of inserts and parallel cards to sift though as you open them up.

There are a ton of insert cards to find when opening up these Hoops jumbo packs. This Hall of Fame Heroes insert is one of my favorites. First of all, I'm all into retro-hoops cards, so this is right up my alley. The design of these cards invoke a great sense of the fun that cards used to have. The orange border with the white lines is really old school. Although the design scheme may be retro, the feel is definitely modern as the card is very glossy, has some nice photography, and features a splash of foil lettering on the logo.

Going with a similar look, the Hoop Dreams insert cards also have that retro feel to them. These cards show off the NBA's up and coming talent. My favorite part of this card has to be the huge 'Dreams' logo in foil. Damian Lillard was the hottest rookie last year, and is a great addition to this set!

This Spark Plugs insert card continues the orange-y retro theme, but like the base cards, the white border of the card ruins the way this card looks. The Spark Plug cards really surprised me by having white borders. All the other insert cards featured full-color or full-bleed photography. The Spark Plug cards were definitely a curious design decision.

The Class Action insert cards remind me of some of the older, but nicer, 90's insert cards (particularly from Fleer Ultra). And it brings even more nostalgia because this particular card shows a young Shaquille O'Neal when he was with his first team - The Magic. Though these cards don't have the older retro feel as the previously shown ones, it still gives me a trip down memory lane.

Action Shots insert cards leave behind the older feel. These cards look like modern day insert cards that you would expect to find in basketball products. I am a fan of the horizontal look, and using the team colors as accents here was a great idea.

Continuing on with the horizontal theme are the Board Member inserts. These cards celebrate the great rebounders of the game. It's cool that each photo has been taken from the above the rim camera mounted on the backboard. These cards are like the Net Cam cards in Score Hockey. They present a unique view of the action. The little circular Board Member logo is a nice touch.

Another favorite insert card of mine are these Courtside inserts. The card is almost like a stand alone photograph of the action. Only a small corner of the card has the player name, team, and brand logo. The focus is almost completely on the photograph taken. And these photos are great. You get to see the action really up close, from where a sideline photographer site and would see. Very cool shots, love it!

Gold parallel cards are the most plentiful type of parallel card in the jumbo pack. Almost the entire amount of cards after the inserts are gold parallels. The gold border is nice, but it makes me wonder why Panini chose to throw so many parallel cards into the pack. I feel it really de-values them.

Red backed parallels are also found in good amount in each jumbo pack. In hockey, red parallels were not an easy pull and are actually worth a nice amount of money on the secondary market. With these Hoops red backs, you get plenty per pack thus making them just a throw-in gimme type of card. If it were up to me, I'd make all parallel cards at most one-per-pack. Having that many multiples just doesn't make sense to me.

Though it states that collectors can find only two autographs per box, I was able to manage three! Two were veteran autos (Brandon Rush and Marreese Speights) and one was of rookie Peyton Siva. I'm pretty happy with the Siva as I have heard the rookie autos are harder to find. In terms of design, I do like the hardwood look on the card, but like the base cards, I wish there wasn't that white border framing the card. The autographs found here are of the sticker variety.

My one memorabilia card in the box was this Marc Gasol jersey card. From a design perspective, this card hits all the right notes. It's not generic looking, there is foil highlighting, and nice graphics. I'm very pleased with how these cards look. Looking on the back of the card, it states the the material enclosed was game-worn. In this era of event-worn memorabilia, seeing that is pretty refreshing!

So my box of Hoops had a total of four hits. It's always good when a box over delivers!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
NBA Hoops is a brand that has been around for a long time. It's not the brand you think of when you want a super-premium card product... however... Hoops really brings a lot of fun to the collecting experience. Though I think there are perhaps too many inserts per pack, the inserts are well themed and look great for the most part. It's fun to see what players were chosen to be depicted on what card. For younger collectors learning about the game, these inserts are great.

For hit lovers, Hoops has some things to really look for. The rookie autographs are in demand now, and are not guaranteed pulls out of boxes, thus giving them stronger values. They are worth the chase as they are nice, clean looking cards that are the first autographed releases of the new rookies.

It is worth it to get your hands on 13/14 Hoops Basketball. The jumbo packs are great fun to open and can give collectors some good value! Panini gives collectors a solid product in Hoops, and I think collectors will embrace this long running name in basketball cards this year.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 13/14 NBA Hoops Basketball: