Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cardboard Commentary #50 (Upper Deck Now Exclusive, Panini Out.)

Wow. I just found out that Upper Deck has gotten back its exclusive NHL license, which means Panini will not be making official NHL cards next year. I am very shocked, and I don't really know what to make of this news. I'm going to try and express a few of my initial thoughts and impressions of this surprising turn of events.

First and foremost, congrats to Upper Deck. It's been shown that Upper Deck's brand strategy and legacy standing with their brands kept it as the favorite hockey card for many collectors - an apparently the NHL as well. The evidence of this comes in the third party sale prices. Upper Deck cards simply sell for more than Panini's ever did. Panini cards could have smaller production values, larger memorabilia pieces, more radical production materials... but none of that mattered in the end in terms of final sale price. Upper Deck would almost always had the upper hand when comparing similar products being traded and sold.

Upper Deck always stuck to its guns when it came to its cards. Collectors knew what they were buying, and enjoyed buying it. The progression of lower-end products to higher-end products as the year went on made sense. I think Upper Deck's experience in producing and selling hockey products helped them put forth a strong and stable case to be the top, and now only, card manufacturer for the NHL.

As for Panini, I do feel a bit bad for them. Panini had no lack of effort when it came to hockey trading cards. They tried everything to make their mark on the hockey market. Collectors definitely appreciated the creativity in their approach - Panini was certainly a breath of fresh air when they came into the fold. I personally got a huge kick out of seeing a lot of the older brands like Pinnacle, Titanium, and Score back on shelves.

But Panini never gained a foothold with hockey. One major complaint against Panini was that their brands changed quite a bit over time. Panini brands just didn't have the staying power collectors wanted. Though the cards were nice, there was a hesitancy to totally buy into a Panini brand. A solid example of this was Dominion. Dominion was Panini's highest-end product since they debuted. This year it changed to an earlier release date with a different configuration and price point. Speculation had it that Panini had a higher-end product in the works. Things like this would definitely would cause collectors to pause and shake their heads a bit.

It's going to take a while to process what this all means for the hobby. I'm a bit numb with this news. I really enjoyed both Panini and Upper Deck producing cards. But I guess there can only be one.

Let me know your thoughts of Upper Deck getting the exclusive hockey card license in the comments below. I'd love to hear your opinions!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cardboard Commentary #49 (My Debut on

This Cardboard Commentary isn't really about cards or cardboard at all, but I was so excited about this, I wanted to share it with you! As many of you know, I've been really getting into the Sacramento Kings basketball team. The Kings are just a 15 minute drive away from my home, and this year I was fortunate enough to get season tickets. I've really gotten into them, especially in the area of photography... and today I had a gallery of photos featured on the Sacramento Kings homepage!

Check out the photo above! Yup, that's me on the main page with former Sacramento King Doug Christie. I'll be on the homepage until the next main story comes up, but to capture the moment I took this photo above. If you'd like to see my article and view my gallery, CLICK HERE.

I appreciate all of you who check it out! Because of this article, I was also featured on their Instagram account. Wow, lemme tell you, once you get featured on something like this crazy stuff can happen. My Instagram was blowing up! If you'd like to see my photos from Kings games, feel free to give me a follow on Instagram. My username there is blacksheep217.

And finally, I also have a blog on the Kings as well. That blog talks about my own fan experiences as a season ticket holder. If you want to visit that site, CLICK HERE.

That's for indulging me on this post! I'm just very excited to have had this opportunity to collaborate with the Sacramento Kings NBA team. Thanks for your support!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Retail Review #89 (Upper Deck Series 1 Packs + Prizm Basketball Blister)

Yesterday I wrote a Cardboard Commentary article on changes I would like to see with the retail products that card companies come out with - hopefully you got a chance to read it! In that article I wrote about how I wanted to see more exclusive, retail-only cards. Panini Prizm is a brand that offers some pretty nice retail-only exclusives, so I went for a blister pack of it. I threw in two packs of Upper Deck Series 1 hockey for good measure.

Price - 
$9.99 (Panini Prizm Basketball Blister Pack)
$2.99 (UD1 Pack)

Packs - 6
2 x 13/14 UD1 Pack
3 x 13/14 Prizm
1 x 13/14 Prizm Retail Bonus

I usually go for blaster boxes on Retail Review, but I just couldn't help but get this Prizm blaster when I saw it at the store. I've just really wanted to get nicer, more interesting cards at the retail level, and I thought this was a good place to start. The Prizm package comes with 4 total packs, three regular retail packs and a special bonus three card parallel pack. It's so cool that Panini has given retail buyers something that is exclusive only to these products. That's definitely the direction I would like to see Panini and other companies go towards.

I would have really liked to get some retail Prizm hockey, but that's just not going to happen at my local target in Woodland, Ca. It surprises me that we even have hockey at all in our little town. So I ended up picking up a couple of Upper Deck packs to break today. Upper Deck is always a solid product at retail be it in blaster or pack form.

I wanted to keep my spending to under $20 so I only chose to get two packs. My Target has giant rack packs of UD1 for sale as well, but I really don't think there is much to look for in them as you pay a little more to just get a bunch more base cards. No thanks!

Let's rip these packs open:

Review -
There was no box to open, so that made this break extra quick. As I suspected, the Prizm break was the most fun. The Prizm cards are very nice and premium - especially at retail - and there were some very good looking parallels. Because the Prizm base set is smaller than something like Score, getting star players is easier... and I was able to get some nice basketball stars in the Prizm packs.

The three-card bonus pack was actually very sweet. It's great to see Panini being more creative with their parallel cards. Instead of just sticking to one color, they were able to get three in a very USA themed design.

The Upper Deck packs didn't disappoint either! Though one back was all base, I was able to pull a Young Gun out out my other one. 1:2 for a YG is beating the odds! Overall I was pretty happy with this little pack break.

Here are the top three cards from this week's pack break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Sami Vatanen Card No. 243
I still feel like I haven't pulled a great Young Gun this year, but pulling a Young Gun out of two packs is better than no Young Gun at all. I definitely prefer this to an MVP base card or NHL Heroes card.

#2 - John Wall Card No. 99
Green is a color that card collectors seem to love. Panini's green parallel cards in hobby are usually numbered to just 5! This card isn't that short-printed, but the card looks beautiful! And getting John Wall isn't too shabby either.

#1 - Wilt Chamberlain Card No. 257
I am a huge fan of Panini's efforts with these special retail cards. They are very unique looking and add so much to the retail experience. Wilt was my best player in terms of the cards I got from my bonus pack - he's a basketball legend!

Overall Value -
Wow, I should do these pack breaks more often. I didn't get any card today that I could take to the bank, but I think the overall value of the cards that I received today was solid. The break was quick but enjoyable, and I don't mind repeating it in a future Retail Review. I would definitely recommend getting Prizm blister packs at the retail store if you can find them. They seem a great value to me!

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2013-2014 Panini Totally Certified Review

As Chris Justice would say, "TOTALLY CERTIFIED... DUDE!" Hockey collectors finally get one of Panini's most popular brands in other sports, Totally Certified. Totally Certified is known for yielding one hit per pack with the availability to find lots of colored parallel cards. It's exciting to see this product released for hockey, many have been looking forward to it!

Base Card Design -
Totally Certified cards are all-etched foil on the front. Unlike the standard Certified cards of years past, these cards have a textured feel and look to them. The primary color for the base card is silver, which is a good choice as there are many, many variations of the base to be found within boxes of these cards. The base cards feature a large image of the player that takes up the majority of the front. The players name and team can be found at the top and bottom of the card. A Totally Certified logo is just above the players name, and aside from some graphical elements... that's it for the base card. There really isn't much to these cards. They basically are just a good canvas that lends itself well to being paralleled.

The back of the base card is very Certified-like. Collectors will find a solid color representing the team behind some vital information and statistics for the player. Panini gives us the very boring and plain background that is typical of their releases. I'm just not sure why so little effort is given to the back. Sure, backs don't matter so much, but I love it when companies give us attention to detail. And the back of the card is definitely at detail that should be given more thought.

The rookie cards come in non-memorabilia and memorabilia versions, and are numbered the same in the main set. The non-memorabilia versions have a look very similar to the standard base card. The only difference is the Rookie Card logo included at the top of the card. On the back, the word 'rookie' is in place of where the player's postion would be.

The memorabilia version of the rookie card has a horizontal design. The standard version of the rookie memorabilia card has a jersey piece. Interestingly, these cards feature a closer-up photo of the player's face. It's an interesting design choice, but I can see why they did it as the place for the photo allows for very little choice of photo. I'm a little mixed on whether I like this look or not. I do tend to like it when companies show a player's face more, so I guess you could say I'm more on the side of liking it. These rookie cards have a burst looking etched foil that is pretty pleasing to the eye. My one complaint about these cards is that the foil, though etched, can be a bit one-note in terms of its look. Like I said with the standard base card, there just isn't a lot there to grab onto in terms of what to see on these cards. Standard silver versions of these rookie cards are surprisingly not numbered.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Totally Certified boxes only come with four packs (the other sports had six packs per box). Just four! It's definitely a quick break. Panini has generously put extra hits in some of the boxes though, so collectors will sometimes get multiple hits per pack. That's a great surprise!

Here is an example of a gold parallel out of Totally Certified. Gold are numbered to 25. I think the gold foil looks significantly better than the regular base card's silver. It's hard to tell from the scan, but the gold shimmers and shines very nicely. Collecting these colored parallels is a fun challenge that I think collectors will enjoy with this set. There is a huge variety of parallels to find including very tough case-incentive parallels and 1 of 1's.

This Totally Certified jersey card is about as plain as it can get. I like the fact that this card isn't simply a base card with a jersey on it, but this card looks oddly out of place without any foil on it. This Backlund jersey card come on medium thick glossy stock. I have to be honest and tell you that I was a bit shocked at seeing this card come out as it doesn't really go with the Totally Certified look at all. These cards are the 'filler' type cards that collectors don't want to be getting when purchasing single packs of TC.

A better looking jersey card is this Clear Cloth of Matt Read. Though it's 'just a jersey card', I appreciate Panini's effort in making it stand out by using different materials. The clear acetate technology is something that Panini has used quite a bit to make good looking cards. While this card is not foiled, it's classy and is a better fit for the Totally Certified brand. Instead of the jarring feeling of getting the plain Backlund jersey above, I instead felt a sense of appreciation for this card and the way it was made. Parallels of this type of card will yield prime and patch pieces. The Gordie Howe gold patch is a 1/1!

This Anders Lee is a standard autograph out of Totally Certified. Again... another card with no foil! This autograph is about as no frills as it gets It is a sticker auto on very thin card stock. And the auto is even a bit cut off at the bottom! Ugh! I'm just going to move on from this card.

My big hit from the box was this green tag auto rookie card of JT Miller. You can start to celebrate when you see green in Totally Certified because that means you have a card numbered to just 5. The green cards have been by far the most popular cards to pull out of TC in all the sports. Something about the green look just stands out in a very nice way. This is the kind of card you're looking for when you buy Totally Certified.

My box had a very limited sample of what you can get in Totally Certified. There are A TON of things to find when you purchase TC. Collectors can look forward to the return of the cool Social Signatures cards, Private Signings, and even cards from Elite. Unique cards like film slideshow cards are also in the product. And that's besides all of the crazy prime, patch, and tag parallels and variations in the set. Totally Certified is loaded with stuff. You'll just have to open it up and give it a try!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Totally Certified is a great fit for hockey, and it looks like hockey collectors are already totally into the product. Like I just mentioned, there is a huge range and variety of things to find in this product. It's almost as if Panini put all of their best efforts into this brand's inaugural hockey release. I think Totally Certified has started on the right foot.

Boxes of Totally Certified are around $80, which is quite cheap... but remember that there are only four packs per box. But some of those packs may contain multiple hits, so there can be extra value in what you buy.

I would definitely recommend buying into Totally Certified hockey. I think Panini has a winner here!

Overall Rating:

Here's my box of TC opened at D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

2013-2014 Upper Deck SPx Review

Upper Deck SPx was released this week, and it comes to hockey collectors with a bit of a design make-over. While it is a make-over of sorts, I have to say that it's more a return to its roots. This year's SPx is livelier and more exciting in terms of its look. SPx had toned it down from its frenetic beginnings in recent years, but it looks like Upper Deck wants to inject some pizzaz back into the brand. This new look gives SPx a fresh re-boot that collectors should enjoy.

Base Card Design -
As I mentioned, SPx had been getting more and more 'refined' in its past few releases. The tones of the card had gotten darker, and the emphasis on the overall feel of SPx was more mature. Well... THAT'S NOT HAPPENING THIS YEAR!!! Upper Deck has reached back into their original ideas for SPx and have made it to be a more dynamic and exciting looking set. This year's base card design is very busy with foil all over the place and graphics strewn about it... but it looks very good to me. The card is fun, with great looking 'hockey colors' and SPx-y design elements. My favorite part of this card besides the color tones has to be the 'X' motif in the middle of the card. SPx had been a brand to celebrate itself quite a bit, and it does so here. If there was a 'rude boy' in the family, SPx would be it for the SP family of brands. I'm very happy to see SPx unleashed again this year from a design standpoint.

The back of the SPx base card continues with the artistic style of the front. Everything carries over very well - the color scheme, graphical elements, and feel. Collectors will get stats, vitals, and a short write-up of the featured player. Again, Upper Deck has shown how backs should be done. The designers at UD certainly don't doze off when it comes to creating the complete card.

There are two sets of rookie cards in the main SPx set. The first type are these foil rookies. They are numbered from 101-160. The cards feature a full-color photo of the player with a foiled version of the photo to the side. These cards have a washed out look to me that just doesn't do it. In bright light, the foiled photo is hard to see, so the entire card looks like a big white space. And the huge 'Rookies' banner is done in such a light non-contrasting way that it looks like a part of the card was un-finished or missing. A couple of things could have made these cards great. If Upper Deck had made the background a hologram (to harken back to the old school SPx card) instead of just holofoil, the card would have been much better. And darkening the word 'Rookies' to anything other than what they did would have also been a great help to the look of these cards. These particular rookie cards come in two tiered levels. The easier of the two come one in every 2.5 packs whereas the rarer version come one in every 10 packs. The Ryan Murray above is one of the rarer rookies. Rare rookies are numbered 141-160.

Returning to SPx are the popular jersey auto rookie cards. This year's version look stunning. They lose a bit of the frenetic-ness of the base, but gain a huge amount of clean-cut elegance. The rookie jersey autos look like they could be from a much higher-end set. The white background and the baby blue foil are just perfectly paired for a hockey card, and in the case of this Petr Mrazek above, the red stands out well as a contrasting color. These cards come numbered to either 249 or 499. Patch variations numbered to 30 are available with many including inscriptions with the signatures.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of SPx should yield collectors 4 hits. In the two boxes that I have seen opened personally, one box contained just one autograph while the other had two. Collectors will find Ice bonus packs in boxes of SPx like they did last year. I'm sure the Ice Premier rookie cards will be popular once again - especially the difficult to find ones that are limited to just 99.

An interesting insert in this year's SPx are these die-cut 96/97 Throwback cards. Many younger collectors may not remember them, but these cards were very cool back in the day, and I remember buying my fair share of these. While the original cards were pretty awesome, these cards are just 'ok'. In fact, these cards are just a shell of the what the originals were. The originals were thick cards with a hologram in the middle. When you turned one of the original cards, you would see the player turn and sometimes smile or wink at you. That was awesome! The cards found in 13/14 SPx are very thin and do not have any sort of holographic technology. It's just foil. If you've never seen an original, these cards are fine, but they just don't do it for those who remember what these were back in the day. Collectors will find veterans, rookies, and autographed versions of these cards.

Rookie Materials cards return this year with an updated look. The cards have the same sort of look as the rookie jersey autographed cards in the main set. The color scheme and design elements are the same. While there is a bunch of 'white' space on these cards, I do enjoy them still very much. These cards feature a very small swatch of jersey and not much else, so I'm not sure if these cards will be too popular. They may be just another card to add for those who collect specific players. Patch versions exist as well as combo variations.

Winning Materials is also a set returning to SPx this year. While the Rookie Materials went more elegant and refined, these cards went towards the crazy-end! Like the standard base cards, these Winning Combo cards have a busy energized look to them. The Hasek card above features a jersey and a stick piece. Because of the stick, this card is very thick.

The Marc-Andre Fleruy card above is in the same vein as the Hasek one I pulled. You can't tell from the can, but the card is much thinner than the Hasek. The Fleury only has two jersey pieces imbedded within it. Patch variations of these cards are more limited.

SPx has much more to offer than what I pulled. The Shadow Box cards have returned (this time with Logan Couture, which I need to chase down) as well as some very cool buy-back autographs. Collectors will also find updated Trilogy cards within SPx as well. Some of the bigger name rookies left out of Trilogy are here.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
SPx is definitely a solid product agin this year. Collectors know what to expect from it, and from a hit standpoint, it's pretty much the same. Collectors can enjoy collecting the rookie auto jerseys as well as the patch variations of those cards. I was very glad to see SPx coming back with some exciting designs. That alone I think makes SPx a better product than it was last year.

I would recommend SPx to anyone looking to buy a solid product for a little over $100 per box. It is a well-known brand that people trust. The card prices tend to hold their values well, as is the case for most Upper Deck brands.

Overall Rating:

Here's my box of 13/14 SPx that I opened at D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Here's the store owner opening up a box of 13/14 SPx:

Cardboard Commentary #48 (Retail Changes Please)

For those of you who follow my blog and my videos, you know that I break a retail product of some sort on a weekly basis. While I enjoy and look forward to each weekly break, I also sometimes dread it. Why you ask? Because retail products sometimes feel like a complete waste of money - hits are harder to find and the retail products just seemed too watered down. I would personally like to see a few small changes to retail products that could possible make the retail card buying experience a little better.

The typical retail break is around $20 for a blaster. Very low end products like Score are $10, and premium products like Certified are $30. When I go to the big chain store to buy cards, my typical upper limit on spending is $20... and that's even stretching it. Most of the products in retail will not yield something close to that amount. Upper Deck Series 1 in my opinion is the 'safest' bet because you can get Young Gun rookie cards that help bump up value.

All the other products in the $20 are very sketchy. Black Diamond is usually full of base, and maybe a triple diamond rookie, and you might as well just give your money away when you buy a blaster of Artifacts. For a little over $20 you can get two packs of hobby Artifacts, and your chances of hitting something good are exponentially higher. So that's why buying retail can be frustrating - as a seasoned collector, you just know there isn't going to be much there.

Panini for a while was releasing products like Pinnacle that at least held a jersey card per blaster box. But when you think about it, how much does it plain jersey card cost nowadays to get? Yep, not much. It might feel nice to pull a hit out of the blaster, but when think about what you just did, you just really paid $20 for a plain jersey card. That's not a good feeling usually.

So what can the card companies do to make retail products more worthwhile to purchase? I'm pretty sure the companies don't want to load them with hits. It would probably not be cost effective enough, and it would hurt hobby sales.

I propose that card companies add more retail exclusive cards to their retail products. I think retail exclusive cards could simply be different colored parallels or special insert sets. The cards themselves would not have to be expensive to create, but they would just need to be retail only.

If companies had cards worth a collector's attention in retail, they would find hobby collectors flocking to retail stores looking for those cards. It would be like some action figure collectibles on the toy side of things. Some action figures are 'short-printed', when action figure collectors find out which one are more rare, they fly to the stores to get them as soon as they can. The same thing could happen with cards.

As a dedicated Logan Couture collector, I know that there have been card releases from retail that I needed to add to my collection. One example comes from the recently released Titanium. The base card in hobby Titanium is shiny and silver, but the retail base isn't. To complete my collection of Couture cards, I needed both. This is really a minor example, as many people wouldn't chase the retail Titanium base cards, but if you extend this thinking and put cards that people really want to find in retail, they would certainly go and get them.

In a way, Panini has already done this with some of their products, particularly Panini Prizm. Panini has inserted a variety of good looking parallel cards into their Prizm products that have been fairly popular to chase. In fact, I find the retail version of Prizm much more fun and exciting than the hobby version. Sure, the hobby version has a couple autographs per box, but there really aren't too many parallels per hobby box. In retail, you get more colored parallels in a small blister pack than in an entire hobby box.

It really shouldn't take too much to make retail products better. As a collector who opens up retail each and every week, I want more for my money! The companies can rev up retail, but it just depends if they want to put that little extra effort into it. I hope they do, because retail products just aren't worth it too much of the time.

Let me know what you'd like to see from retail products in the comments section below!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Retail Review #88 (2 UD1 Packs + '12 Leaf Football Draft Pick Box)

Sometimes I like to look at the discounted cards in the card aisle at Target. There are usually a few boxes there that are sold at a significant discount. There usually isn't any hockey cards... which is too bad. But they did have this box of 2012 Leaf Draft Pick football for just $12.99. The box states that there is one autographed card guaranteed per box. Well... I like autographs, so I went ahead and gave it a try.

Price - 
$12.99 (Leaf box)
$2.99 (UD1 Pack)

Packs - 3
2 x 13/14 UD1 Pack
1 x Set of '12 Leaf Football Cards

I don't have any real high hopes with this box of Leaf Draft, but last year's football rookie class with RGIII was pretty good, so I said 'why not'! The cover boy on this box was RGIII himself, so maybe there would be a chance to pull him? I'm pretty sure it would be next to impossible, but with a price of only $12.99, I thought it would be worth it.

Besides the box of Leaf I also grabbed to packs of 13/14 Upper Deck Series One. I wanted to have some hockey in this Retail Review! My hockey pack choices were very limited at my Target. It was either UD1 or Artifacts. I'm pretty sure choosing UD1 was the right choice. Buying loose retail packs out of a retail box of Artifacts does not ever seem like a winning proposition to me.

Let's go ahead and see what the packs and the box have for me:

Review -
The Leaf box wasn't really a surprise. The contents of the box were listed right on the front. There were no packs to be had in the box, just a cellophane wrapped brick of cards. I got one complete set of 2012 Leaf Draft cards as well as 10 gold parallels and the guaranteed autograph. The cards are unlicensed so there are no logos featured on the players. Yep, no college or pro logos at all! That really cheapens the look of the card, but at least the cards are clean and look decently designed. They really remind me of the cards of yesteryear. I think Leaf did the best they could with this product.

The ten gold card parallels weren't anything spectacular, but I did get a Doug Martin card out of it. He was probably my best parallel card.

The Upper Deck packs didn't have too much in them. I wished I was able to pull a Young Gun out, but I couldn't beat the odds this time around.

Let's see the top three cards that came out this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Robert Griffin III Card No. RGIII-2
This was the second card of a special three card set of Robert Griffin III cards. I chose this one because I think this one looks the best out of the three. If I had gotten this box as a younger collector, I think I would have treasured these three cards as a cool special edition card that only came in these boxes. Things like that really mattered back in the day.

#2 - Petr Mrazek Card No. 64
This Mrazek MVP rookie card inset was the only non-base card I pulled out of my Upper Deck packs. But I'm glad I got something at least! I think I would have been pretty sad if both my UD1 packs were all base. I would say that getting a rookie MVP card is definitely better than a standard MVP base insert too. These rookie cards look much better than the regular MVP base.

#1 - Tim Benford Card No. TB1
Of course the card with the ink gets the number one spot. I checked the prices of Tim Benford on eBay. Well, the results were not promising. But this was definitely the best card of the break as it was my only hit. And who knows, maybe one day Benford will break out in the NFL!

Overall Value -
For just $12.99, I thought the Leaf box was a decent buy. I am always pleased to get an autographed card out of retail products. The rest of the cards were nice, clean looking cards that highlighted last year's football draft class. I would say that my overall experience with this product was good. It is a product that I would find difficult to buy over and over again though, as you would end up with quite a few of the same set in your collection. I really wonder if there are big name autographs you can pull out of this Leaf football product. Some research might be in order after my review!

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cardboard Commentary #47 (Olympic Inspiration)

The 2014 Winter Olympics are upon us, and it's time to get excited for the men's international hockey tournament. The Olympics is a stage like none other, and it has the ability to draw in new fans. Four years ago, I was one of the fans drawn back into hockey after watching the intensity of the 2010 Games. Can this year's tournament revive a somewhat stagnant hobby? I'm hoping so.

The NHL Playoffs are a time when emotion is at their highest. And I am fond of saying that no other sport's playoff intensity reaches that of hockey. While the NHL Playoffs are an amazing spectacle, the world really watches when it comes time for the Olympics. And for the Winter Games, hockey reigns supreme.

Just like the NBA does with basketball during the Summer Olympics, the NHL has some major representation with hockey in the winter. Causal fans can easily get wrapped up in their countries team when they make a run for a medal. I think it's awesome that viewers know that many of the players they see on the ice during the games are the same players they can watch during the NHL season. The Olympic games are able to help viewers connect to the sport and give curious fans an interest that was possibly not there before.

And it is especially powerful when the tournament gets ramped up by two very good teams. That was the case four years ago in Vancouver. In 2009 I watched a scrappy USA team take a powerhouse Canadian team into overtime. I was heartbroken when the United States lost. I have to admit, I didn't know anyone on that team at the time as I had not watched hockey for some years prior. But I got to know the players on the team and wanted to learn more about them.

That year I was also introduced to the amazing players on team Canada. I finally got to see Sidney Crosby and players like him for the first 'real' time as I didn't pay so much attention before. It was awesome to see the skill and the passion from both sides. I credit the 2009 Vancouver Winter Olympics for bringing me back into the hockey world. And I have not regretted it since.

Naturally, as a card collector in the past, I renewed my interest in the hobby... and the rest, as they say, is history.

And that's what I'm hoping will happen this time around for people who are not in the hobby at the moment. I would love to see a fresh infusion of new collectors spurred on by their interest in the Olympic games. To me the 09/10 collecting year was a bit of a slow time in the hobby. Looking back at those sets, some were top notch, but many were very mundane... kind of like it is now. Let's get card collecting back on the map, and let's get it started off with this year's Olympic Games!

Are you watching the Olympics this year? Let me know who you're rooting for and what you're hoping to see in terms of the men's hockey tournament in the comments section below.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Retail Review #87 (Basketball & Hockey Target Excell Re-Packs)

I was stewing in the card aisle at Target today about what I should buy. I was leaning towards Artifacts, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Target did have a slew of Excell re-packs back on the shelf, but none of them had Trilogy in them. I then looked over and noticed that the basketball version of the re-pack was also available for sale. Well, two of these are actually less than a standard Upper Deck blaster. Why not just get them both and call it a day? So I did.

Price - 
$7.99 (each)

Packs - 8
1 x 08/09 Victory Retail Pack
1 x 10/11 O-Pee-Chee Retail Pack
1 x 09/10 Upper Deck Series 1 Retail Pack
1 x 10/11 Upper Deck Series 1 Retail Pack
2 x '08 Press Pass Basketball
1 x '89 Skybox
1 x '06 UD Hardcourt
+ 2 50 card random box & 2 bonus cards

For about $16 I was able to get quite a good amount of content to open. Eight total packs and bonus cards sounds like a pretty fun break. I think the appeal of these types of products is that there is a surprise element to them. When you buy Upper Deck Black Diamond, for example, you know what's going to come out. Same with Upper Deck Series 1 - you're going to get a bunch of base cards and a couple of Young Guns.

The Excell re-packs show you a couple of the packs that you get, but that's it. What are the other two packs going to be? I like the little intrigue that they provide. Granted, usually the rest of the re-pack can be terrible, but there is that little chance of hope that something good could be inside.

The 50 random cards and the bonus items are pretty much a wash when it comes to these products. If there were anything good to place inside the little white box they come it, it would have been removed well in advance of these products going to the store for sale. When it comes to these packs, anything already opened will be of little to no value.

The best bet is to hope in something to come out of the sealed packs for value, and the rest can just be fun flipping and reading.

Let's open both of these boxes up and see what comes out:

Review -
Without the Trilogy pack to look forward to, these Excel re-packs lose a lot of that excitement factor. But still there were things to put a tiny bit of hope in. I opened up the basketball re-pack first. Unfortunately, it was a total dud. The Press Pass packs only contained four cards each, and did not feature the players in their professional uniforms. Press Pass has always been a brand that hasn't been looked too favorably upon in terms of the hobby. They are cheaply made cards that can provide some nice early autographed items, but that's it.

The Press Pass packs weren't the worst of it though. Even worse was the Skybox pack that came in the box. 1989 Skybox was a heavily mass produced product. It was a bit popular at the time of release, but has not aged well. You might as well just recycle the cardboard they are made on, really. The Upper Deck Hardcourt pack just had base cards in it... but at least they looked nice. As for the bonus in the basketball re-pack... terrible for the most part.

The hockey re-pack was better. Aside from the OPC and Victory pack, the blaster offered two Upper Deck Series 1 packs. These are a good pack to find in these things, because at least there is hope for a Young Gun. And I actually did pull a Young Gun from the 10/11 Series 1 pack - so that was nice.

I was disappointed in the bonus card this time. The last few bonuses were in great condition. This time the large format bonus card was completely wrecked up. Even non-serious collectors would be pretty unhappy getting a card like that I think.

After spending some time sorting through the cards, here were my top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Mario Lemieux Card No. 2
This card would have actually been something very exciting to pull when it was first released. Back then the only thing out there was base cards with the occasional insert and sticker card. I really like this card as it shows a young Mario Lemieux on the ice for the Pens. 

#2 - Henrik Zetterberg Card No. SH7
One of my favorite insert cards designs were these Season Highlight cards from the 09/10 Upper Deck Series 1 set. I love the colors and the words all over the place. Something about it just speaks to me. It's not particularly worth much, but I always enjoy pulling these inserts out. Something has to be said when a card design elicits positive emotion.

#1 - Michael Jordan Card No. 5
Most of the basketball re-pack was a big let-down, but I did like getting this Jordan card out from it. It's probably doesn't hold any sort of value, but it's Michael Jordan... and I haven't gotten anything Michael Jordan in a while. The card itself looks pretty neat, and I love seeing him in a Bulls uniform. There has been too much UNC images of him released on cardboard recently.

Overall Value -
Well, these two re-packs have me wishing that I had gotten the Artifacts blaster. Hah! Was it that bad? Not really... but nothing really good came from this break. I was very excited for the basketball re-pack, but that was a total waste. The hockey one proved to be quite a bit better in terms of overall value.

This is the second re-pack product of basketball I have gotten, and both have been complete stinkers. I'm starting to get the feeling that these basketball re-packs are totally horrible. I mean, the hockey ones can be horrible... but the basketball ones are REALLY HORRIBLE. I'm sure I'll get another one of these days and prove this to myself once again. Keep watching!

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

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cardboard Commentary #46 (My Most Wanted Cards)

I think every collector has their sights set on a few 'holy grail' cards that they want to add to their collection. It's cool that every collector has different wants and desires. One person's ideal card might be a card with low serial numbering, a patch, and an autograph while another's might be a vintage card in a high grade. Here are my top cards that I personally would love to add to my collection one day - I've picked one for each sport.

Baseball - 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck Rookie Card in PSA 10
Runner up: 1986 Jose Canseco Donruss Rookie Card in PSA 10

Why the '89 UD Griffey? I could probably purchase one for not too much money now on eBay. Well, that was THE CARD when I started collecting... and it's still one of the most iconic cards in card collecting history. Of course it's no Mantle or Ruth or some such, but it was the card that launched the modern era. And you're probably wondering about the Canseco too. You've got to understand that Jose Canseco was the most popular player before Mr. Griffey Jr. came along. He combination of speed and power were a thing to behold. Everyone I knew wanted a Canseco rookie. I dreamed about owning that card. And now? I still want it, but I don't want to pay the $50-$75 dollars for a top grade one.

Football - 1981 Joe Montana Topps Rookie Card in a high grade
Runner up: 1984 Steve Young Topps USFL Rookie Card in a high grade

Both my football card wants are 49er legends. Super Joe was the man in the 80's, and some argue that he was the best quarterback of all time. His ability to win, his cool personality, and his overall image were second to none. When I got into football, he was just getting into the last stages his career, but living in San Francisco I knew the legend of Joe. Steve Young was actually the Niner quarterback that I grew up watching the most. I loved his underdog-type image, and was elated when he got out of Joe's shadow by winning a Superbowl of his own. I really think the '84 USFL Young rookie card is something unique as it is kind of an odd release.

Basketball - 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer Rookie Card in PSA 9 (or better!)
Runner up: Michael Jordan Autographed card (any NBA licensed with him in a Bulls uniform)

If you follow my videos, you'll know that the 1986 Fleer Jordan is my most wanted card of all time. The card looks great - from the design to the photo. It is amazing. I'd be very happy to have a PSA 9 version of the card, but a 10 would be an absolute dream to own. PSA 9 is something I could save up for though... the 10 is in out-of-reach territory. And as for the autograph... I'd love any licensed card with his on-card autograph. It is so hard to find Upper Deck autos of his with him in a Bulls uniform. There's just too my North Carolina stuff out there since UD lost the license. Man, MJ ink would be awesome to have.

Hockey - 1979/80 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee Rookie Card in high grade
Runner up: NONE

With this list of cards, you can obviously see I tend to go more old school than new. And the same goes for hockey. Wayne Gretzky is The Great One, and I want his rookie card in a high grade. Gretzky rookies go for a lot of money in high grade, so picking one up is a tall task. I actually don't really have any other holy grail of hockey cards on my want-list. Of course I PC Logan Couture and the Sharks, but there is nothing there that really stands out and speaks to me like the Gretzky would. I guess I would have said an autograph of Gretzky's would be great to have... but I have one already. It's not on-card, but it's still a very nice and very low numbered card. So I'm happy with that.

What are your top wants in terms of cards. Are there cards that you consider to be your holy grails? I'd love to hear about them. Let me know what you'd want in the comment section!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Retail Review #86 (13/14 UD Black Diamond Blaster)

I was a bit hesitant to pick up this blaster of Black Diamond. The last blaster i opened up was horrible... absolutely horrible. The best card in that blaster was a triple diamond of Guy Lafleur. Sadly, I believe that's the norm for these types of blasters rather than the exception. Despite all my reservations, I just went for it. So here it is!

Price - 

Packs - 6
13/14 Black Diamond Blaster Packs

This 13/14 collecting season hasn't been too kind to me in terms of rookies. I have yet to pull a solid rookie of Galchenyuk, MacKinnon, or Hertl. Yes, I have gotten some Yakupov rookies... but he's definitely the rookie to get, even though he was the number one pick (and the cover boy for Black Diamond). Black Diamond this year has been loaded up with rookie cards - both triple quad gem ones - hopefully a good one will pop out of this blaster.

I'm going right for this box... right now! Let's see what I get:

Review -
I was decently happy with this blaster of Black Diamond. I definitely beat the odds in terms of what I could pull out of it. My top cards are in my top three coming up, but there were some nice cards aside from those as well. A triple diamond of Patrice Bergeron came out as well as a double diamond of Corey Crawford. My favorite single diamond card was Joe Thornton. As you know by now, I love pulling cards of Sharks... base cards and all!

Black Diamond blasters come with half the packs of a regular UD Series One blaster box. Though there were so many fewer packs, I felt that the packs in this blaster had a more concentrated number of inserts/multi-diamond/rookie cards. There might have been one or perhaps two all base packs, but it wasn't like my Series One break with seemingly pack after pack of all base cards. That's something I appreciated about this particular blaster today.

Here are the top three for this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Drew Shore Card No. 178
Drew Shore isn't a big time rookie this year or anything, but he's a rookie nonetheless, so he gets spot number three this week. I'm not sure playing for the Panthers will help his cause in terms of getting more popular in the eyes of the hobby.

#2 - Cory Conacher Card No. 232
Conacher is a name I've heard before. He has moved from the Lightning to the Sens during his rookie season. Conacher gets the nod in the two hold as he his rookie card is of the quad diamond variety.

#1 - Daniel Carcillo Card No. CRB-8
Now this isn't something you get in a Black Diamond box everyday! The Championship Ring insert cards have been pretty popular with collectors. I know I'd want an entire set if the Sharks won the Cup, that's for sure! Carcillo is not a big hobby name... I would have much rather had Toews or Kane, obviously... but I'm sure fans of the Hawks would enjoy this card. Pulling one of these from retail is no small feat! It was definitely a nice surprise out of this blaster.

Overall Value -
This blaster definitely delivered more value for me than previous Black Diamond blasters. Was it $20 worth of value? Well, probably not, but I'm not going to let that thought spoil the decent pulls out of it. If the players were of better hobby quality, this blaster could have been really great. As it stands, it was a good blaster that I really can't complain about.

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!