Sunday, March 30, 2014

Retail Review #94 (2010 Upper Deck World of Sports)

So I was in the card aisle once again and look what I saw! Yup! More boxes of World of Sports on discount! Maybe the folks over at Target headquarters saw that my Target in Woodland sold out of their stock pretty quick so they got some more over to them stat. If that truly is the case then... wow... consumer tracking and inventory technology has definitely sped up in recent years!

Price - 

Packs - 11
2010 Upper Deck World of Sports Blaster Packs

My last two blasters of Upper Deck World of Sports yielded me two jersey cards. Hey, if they are going to be spitting memorabilia cards out at that rate, then I'm definitely in! It's always fun to get some sort of hit in a blaster. And with World of Sports, you never know what kind of material you'll get as there are many sports represented in this product.

It would be nice to hit an autograph though. Jersey cards are nice consolation prizes, but an autograph is really what I am after when I buy these blasters. The front of the box has a picture of a Jordan autographed card. Of course, that's not going to be in there unless I am extremely lucky... but there is always that slim sliver of hope.

I think these boxes are fun... and yes, I know that many people don't, but I certainly get a kick out of them.

So let's open up this blaster and take a look at what I get:

Review -
Well... if you weren't into World of Sports before, this blaster would do nothing to help you get into it. It was terrible. Every single card was just a standard base cards. Being a mixed set, the player selection can be decent, but overall getting all base cards in a blaster is not a good feeling at all. There wasn't even an insert card tossed in. IT WAS JUST ALL BASE.

I had some decent hopes for this blaster as you know from what I wrote above. I just can't believe nothing really came out of this blaster since my last two at least had a jersey in it. It just goes to show that with retail, it's a huge risk with very little reward.

I still had to find a top three... here they are:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Ryane Clowe Card No. 420
Besides the World of Sports blaster I got a pack of 13/14 UD Series 2 for fun. There was a canvas card in that pack, but it wasn't anything of note. I did like this Ryane Clowe base cards though. Man... Clowe was one of my favorite Sharks when he was with the team.

#2 - Mark Messier Card No. 308
This is a a pretty cool card of Mark Messier. To keep with the 'world' theme, Upper Deck put all the hockey players included in their national jerseys. Here's Messier in his Team Canada colors facing off against the Soviets!

#1 - DeMarcus Cousins Card No. 332
I really didn't expect to find a card of DeMarcus Cousins in this blaster. I've become quite a Sacramento Kings fan as of late, so getting the Big Cuz was neat for me. Yes, it's not a big card at all, but in this break it was my favorite pull.

Overall Value -
So yea, pretty terrible break! Getting all base cards in a blaster is not good. As a customer, you're going to be pretty sour about this. I know I wasn't happy!

If there had even been an insert card inside I think it would have made it a little more palpable, but to get absolutely nothing just leave me shaking my head. Oh well, better luck next time!

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, March 29, 2014

Cardboard Commentary #53 (What More Can be Done?)

I had an interesting conversation a little while back regarding what card companies could do to improve their sales. As a hobby, this year has especially been difficult. My local card shop has definitely felt the effects of a slowdown. Card companies have done a lot to market their products well and come up with innovative things... but it seems everything hinges on something that nobody can control: how good a rookie draft class is.

From the beginning, cards were just pieces of cardboard. I don't know about how they were received way back when they first came out, but I'm sure they didn't hold much value. As the years went on, people realized that old cards were desirable and began collecting them. As more and more people collected, the prices for these older cards went up. And soon enough the condition of a card became a factor.

Before the age of insert cards, every card was practically a base card. Players had one standard card in the a massive set. Some players could have two (or more) if the company made a special subset card of the player (all-star, stat leader, etc.). Print runs were pretty much equal (yes, there were short prints as well as double prints) so cards were all on equal footing with each other save for the player depicted. If you bought a pack of cards and got a star player's base card... you were pretty happy. I know I was back then.

As trading cards changed, special cards were introduced. Inserts became all the rage as companies made cards harder to find and also fancier. Special textures of cards came to being, die-cutting was something companies wanted to do as well. There were all sorts of ways to make the trading card cooler.

Serial numbering gave cards more rarity and more appeal. And then of course there came memorabilia and autographed cards. These type of cards got you a piece of the action or as close to the athlete as possible.

Inserts... autographs... memorabilia... all these things were game-changing concepts in the hobby.

But where do we go from here? Is there anything more that can make trading cards even any different or better?

I don't know. There might be. But I don't have any ideas.

So right now I believe the only thing thing keeping the hobby fresh, new, and exciting are the players on the cards. This is how it was in the beginning, and this is how it is again.

The bells and whistles are all here, but this year collectors aren't flocking to the stores - online or off - to bust boxes and boxes of stuff.

The card companies need good rookie draft classes in all sports to create a buzz. I just don't think they can do it on their own anymore. Collectors have had and seen too much.

So is it out of their hands? I think so. Hopefully next year's rookies will be amazing. Hopefully we get superstars in hockey, football, baseball, and basketball. Our hobby needs them. Pretty badly.

Let me know what you think of what the card companies need to do to improve their sales. Is there anything they can possibly do? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Retail Review #93 (13/14 Upper Deck Series 2 Blaster)

In this Retail Review we get back to a pure hockey product. Upper Deck Series 2 was released not too long ago and blasters have started showing up at my local Target. I'm looking forward to opening this long-running hockey product today!

Price - 

Packs - 12
12 x 13/14 Upper Deck Series 2 Blaster Packs

I'm not a huge fan of spending twenty dollars of blasters, but I'll do it in this case. Upper Deck Series 2 is pretty new, and I want to give one of these blasters a try. The first thing that stuck out to me was the packaging of the these blasters. The box design and photography was different than what Upper Deck has done in the past. This change in look definitely drew me into this product.

Upper Deck Series 2 is filled with inserts and cards updated from other brands. I remember Series 1 lacking a bit when it came to getting these types of cards. I'm hoping that Series 2 will be a bit more loaded than those - especially since the Series 2 Young Guns aren't as big as the ones from Series 1.

Let's open this blaster up and see what we get:

Review -
Wow. What was that all about? This blaster was definitely lackluster for me. I thought that I would be finding more inserts and updated cards... but it seemed like there were a ton of all-base packs here. I was not a fan of sifting through lots of base packs.

And the inserts that I got were not very noteworthy. This blaster contained one canvas card of Cody Hodgson and a 1990s Hockey Hero card of Ed Belfour. If the canvas card had been of a more popular player I would have been happier. Hodgson was somewhat popular during his rookie year when he played for Vancouver, but his hobby interest has dived since then. And the Hockey Heroes card? Well, you know how I feel about that particular set of cards already!

On the OPC side of things I got a Bobby Ryan retro and Tyler Seguin standard base - again, nothing really worth much value-wise or to my personal collection.

Might as well check out the top three this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Petr Mrazek Card No. 466
This guy better be the second coming of Patrick Roy! I keep pulling his cards! I honestly should find out more about Mrazek seeing as I keep getting his cards in my packs.

#2 - Valeri Nichushkin Card No. 634
Nichushkin has had a pretty good year, but still, he is not considered one of the top rookies to find in this year's double draft class. Playing for Dallas doesn't help.

#1 - Matt Irwin Card No. 496
Top card billing goes to Matt Irwin of YOUR San Jose Sharks! I had to pull the homer card for this one. It's rare that I pull Young Guns of Sharks so when I do I'm pretty happy.

Overall Value -
For the price I paid for this blaster I wasn't too happy with it. Of course, you win some and you lose some. I hope this is not indicative of what you get when you buy Upper Deck Series 2 blasters though. I won't let this discourage me from dipping into the well once again, but I have to say I am a little soured on these blasters at the moment.

I did get the standard 2 Young Guns cards as well as a large stack of other cards to sort through. For those who can only purchase retail, Upper Deck Series 2 blasters will allow you to chase the set and give you a good amount of cards. For the hard core hobby collector, these probably won't do.

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!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cardboard Commentary #52 (Top Loaders)

Storing cards in top loaders has been a common way of keeping cards protected and in good condition for a long time now. These flat, little pieces of plastic have been around since I can remember! As a kid, there was only once size of top loader. Now, there are a bunch... so you might be thinking which ones to use when? Let me help you out today.

My top loader of choice is made by Ultra Pro. Ultra Pro has been making plastic holders for cards, photos, and other items for quite a while. You'll find Ultra Pro products at most hobby stores. For those new to card collecting, top loaders are best when used in conjunction with a penny sleeve. Put the card you want to protect in a penny sleeve first, then put the sleeved card in the top loader. This will provide great protection for your card. If you're like me and want to be extra protective, you can put the entire top loader/sleeve/card combination in a team bag.

The 3"x 4" regular top loader is the standard top loader for base card thickness cards. These are great for Young Guns and thin autographs. Often times you'll find a pack of 25 of these with a free small 25 ct. pack of penny sleeves.

Slightly larger are the 3" x 4" SUPER thick top loaders. These hold cards up to 75 pt. thickness and come in a pack with a grey cardboard holder. Most Ultra Pro cardboard holders are black... not sure why this one is different actually. This is probably the least used type for me. They hold cards slightly bigger than base card size. Older jersey cards fit well in these.

The 100 pt. thick top loaders are probably the most common ones that I get. These top loaders are the ones that fit the standard jersey cards very well.

130 pt. super thick top loaders are the kind you get for patch cards and cards from The Cup. 180 pt. top loaders are probably the ones at the end of the standard spectrum of top loaders, and these work well for cards that are very, very thick.

Hopefully this short guide will help you when trying to figure out what top loader size to buy. Let me know if you have any questions!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Retail Review #92 (2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions)

This box break represents the end of a trilogy of sorts for me. If you've been keeping up with Retail Review, you'll know that I've been buying out of the Target discounted card section as of late. I got a couple World of Sports blasters, and now I got the final discounted item worth getting - Upper Deck Goodwin Champions. This is a product that I have bought into before, and that I like. It was pretty cool that this particular product was discounted and available!

Price - 

Packs - 12
12 x 2012 Goodwin Champions Blaster Packs

I chose to go for this box last out of the three because I have done several of these blasters already in previous Retail Reviews. These blasters are like the World of Sports blasters in that they contain a variety people from different sports... but unlike that product, Goodwin Champions includes celebrities and other famous people as well.

Goodwin Champions is a product that contains all artwork-based cards. It's a beautiful set that captures the subjects in a fun and different way. Collectors will find unique poses and renditions of their favorite stars here.

I know going into this break that getting any sort of hit will be very difficult. I've gotten these boxes before... and I think I may have only gotten a jersey card once out of it. There is a chance at a hit here, but the odds are pretty long.

Is there a hit? Let's open this blaster up and find out:

Review -
This blaster turned out to be a typical Goodwin break - there were no hits to be found in it. Goodwin does deliver mini cards though. There is definitely a part of the collecting hobby that enjoys this mini format card, but it's a small part, and mostly baseball collectors I think. For me, I'm not as big of a fan of them. I'd rather have better odds at a hit than getting a bunch of minis in a box.

All the players and famous people in Goodwin Champions are notable, so I did get quite a few very big names in my blaster in terms of the base cards. I found Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Sidney Crosby all in this blaster. It's too bad nowadays base cards aren't really valued so much... this would have been pretty outstanding back in the day to get players of such calibre.

Here are my top three cards of the break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - USS Yorktown Card No. MM4
I generally haven't been a fan of these Military Machines inserts within Goodwin Champions, but aircraft carries have a soft spot in my heart. I've been aboard an aircraft carrier before, and they are amazing... so this insert card of the USS Yorktown makes the top three.

#2 - John F. Kennedy Card No. 72
One of the most beloved presidents ever was John F. Kennedy. His death is still a mystery and is speculated upon quite often. 

#1 - Tiger Woods Card No. 100 (Lady Luck Mini)
Tiger has been declining these past few years, but he still has many fans around the world. Not only is this card a mini version, it's the more rare Lady Luck variation. Is it worth a lot? Probably not, but it was the best card from this blaster.

Overall Value -
This blaster was a bit of a disappointment after getting hits the past two weeks. Had I been able to get a jersey card from this box, any jersey, I would have been happy. I'm not going to be too upset as this box was heavily discounted, but if anyone were to have paid the full $20 price for it... I'm pretty sure they would have been displeased.

Goodwin Champions is a unique product that is fun to open, but getting a hit or any card of significance is extremely difficult. I couldn't really recommend it unless a collector was really into getting a huge variety of unique sports and historical personalities. That being said, if I were to see this product at the price I got it for today, I'd probably pick it up!

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, March 13, 2014

2013-2014 Panini Crown Royale Hockey Review

One of my favorite Panini products, Crown Royale, is finally back for hockey. Last year it was not released due to the shortened season - we only got a glimpse of the set sprinkled into Rookie Anthology. Thankfully, hockey collectors get the full product this year, and I'm happy to rip into a box and find out what this year's release is like!

Base Card Design -
I recently reviewed Crown Royale football, and I was a bit afraid the base cards would be the same as those. The football base contained a lot of white space that detracted from the regal look of the product. This hockey version does not have that problem. The base cards have rich, bold colors and the perfect amount of foil. Panini wisely chose to stick with a tried and true look to keep the base cards in line with what collectors expect from Crown Royale. I think this is especially important as Panini will not be making officially licensed products after this season... it's nice that Crown Royale can go out with a design that perfectly fits the brand. I'm really going to miss these base cards in hockey.... they are definitely the most unique and eclectic cards out there.

The back of the base card is great. I love the stone creatures that surround the team logo. The entire top portion of the card is all about the theme of Crown Royale. Sure, there is no player photo here... but the design aspects of the card do not warrant it. The Crown Royale backs work wonderfully well and are 100% appropriate for this set of cards.

Rookie Royalty rookie cards can be found in the main set of Crown Royale this year. Some, like this Chris Terry above, have an autograph on them. These cards differ from the base in a few ways. First, the foil is gold rather than silver - a Rookie Royalty banner is added, as well as an extra graphic to house the autograph. Lastly, these cards feature serial numbering. The standard card is numbered to 499, but parallels numbered to /99 and /1 can also be found.

The super-popular Rookie Silhouettes are back this year and they are all numbered to just 99. Collectors are really into these cards as they look great, feature a large piece of memorabilia, and have on-card autographs. This year's design is very pleasing to the eye as all the features blend together in a nice way. I love the look of these cards, and it's a thrill to pull one. I know they will be one of the most sought after card types once again.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Boxes of Crown Royale have only four packs, but each pack holds a hit. The box states that at least one hit will be an autograph. Every card in the box of Crown Royale will have that special royal elegance that this product is known for, but as with all products, collectors will find regular jersey cards quite plentiful.

The Lords of the NHL is a memorabilia set that features just a small piece of jersey. The look of this card is different than most of the cards within the set as the primary colors are white and gray. It makes these cards look a bit more stark... but not in a bad way. These cards stand out to me as a nice contrasting subset within the whole of Crown Royale. My only issue with this card is that most collectors will overlook simple jersey cards like this. Prime and patch variations with very limited numbering are available, which might perk up some interest, but the space given for the memorabilia pieces is quite small, so that limits how cool a nice patch piece would look on this card.

The Royal Lineage cards feature triple the amount of memorabilia. This memorabilia set does a nice job of combining players of old with current and new players. The standard jersey version of this card is unnumbered, but the prime and patch versions are to /25 and /10 respectively. Collectors will find team centered cards like this one of the Montreal Canadiens as well as country themed ones.

Unfortunately, getting a box of Crown Royale will not show you even close to what is available in the product. Crown Royale is filled with things to pull. I personally want to pull a Fans of the Game card of a Voices of the Game card of Kathryn Tappen, but I think some collectors don't like that type of card. But Crown Royale does have plenty for everyone, it's just up to you to find it!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
This year's Crown Royale is another sweet offering from this proud brand. The main draw of this product will be the Rookie Silhouette cards. They again look spectacular, and if any rookie that takes off in the near future, the Silhouette will be one of the hottest cards to track down.

Crown Royale is a great looking set with great looking designs on all their cards. The set is flamboyant and loud... and proud! You've just got to love the panache of the set. That being said, I think collectors will balk a bit at the amount of plain jersey cards found in Crown Royale. I've seen many breaks of this, and there are a lot of these 'filler' type cards - I pulled two in this box!

But you can't let that stop you from giving Crown Royale a shot. I definitely enjoyed this box of Crown Royale, and I think collectors will latch on to the product as well. This will be the last time collectors will get Crown Royale in licensed NHL form. I'd get it just for that reason alone! But thankfully the product does offer a lot of goodies for collectors to enjoy.

Overall Rating -

Check out my box of 13/14 Crown Royale that I opened up at D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Cardboard Commentary #51 (A Big Pick-Up for the PC)

I recently got a mailday from Upper Deck that made a significant impact on my Logan Couture player collection. I had to be very patient with this card, as it took quite a long time to get to me. Better now than never though!

It all started when I got a door tag notice from FedEx. I wasn't really expecting anything so I had no idea what was coming, and no, Upper Deck doesn't really warn you when they send you big cards like this. I guess if you have a ton of redemptions out and continuously check your redemption statuses, you might have seen a card like this coming... but I hadn't. This was one of the very few redemptions I had with Upper Deck, and after more than I year, I had already stopped checking Upper Deck's redemption page long ago.

Thankfully, I was able to receive the card on the second try by FedEx to deliver. FedEx usually delivers very late in the day for my particular neighborhood, so that works in my advantage as I can get home before packages like this arrive. Cards like this require that you sign for them, so I knew it had to be something big.

And of course, it was.

This is my first shield card of Couture's. I unsuccessfully tried to bid on his Ultimate Collection shield a few years ago, and never thought that his 09/10 The Cup rookie shields were at a reasonable price. Plus, all the 09/10 The Cup rookie shields featuring Logan had him on the back! This one has him on the front and Patrick Marleau on the back. You can tell it's the back because it's the side with the foil serial number sticker.

Is this my favorite Couture card in my collection? Well, actually no. My absolute favorite Logan Couture card is still his 09/10 Upper Deck Black 1/1. I love that thing. This card might be second... and if not there, then at least in the top five. My one issue with this card is that Logan's shield is placed a bit askew. Upper Deck could have done better for a card of this magnitude, but I won't complain too much.

It's a great card, and I'm extremely glad to add it to my Logan Couture PC. If you're interested in seeing my Logan Couture PC, I have a link to it on the right side of this blog site.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2013-2014 Panini Pinnacle Basketball Review

I'm really surprised at this... but this is the first time Pinnacle has been made for NBA basketball. With such a long tradition in all the other sports, you would have thought Pinnacle would have somehow gotten into the basketball scene along the way. I guess not! Let's take a look and see how Pinnacle works on the hardwood.

Base Card Design -
Panini has chosen to stick with the same design they used for Pinnacle baseball, which was released last year, so it is a bit familiar. The cards have black as a primary color, which goes with the original Pinnacle look. I am used to seeing card with a brighter color scheme, so these cards are a bit different in that regard. The base cards look clean and the images of the players are nice. I have found that the photos used are a bit more cropped in than in the baseball release. This really helps the player stand out on the card. I can't say that the base cards are that exciting, but they are definitely serviceable - appropriate for a card at its price-point.

The back of the base cards are also all black. The design layout is pretty straight forward and simple to navigate. I wouldn't say that these backs are too interesting, they just get the job done. Most collectors will find the paragraph about the player the most interesting part of the back. The back only has one line of stats that either cover the previous season, or a career total in terms of retired players.

The rookie card design is exactly the same as the base card with just a rookie card logo added in the upper right hand corner. The rookie cards are plentiful in the set and do not feature any special numbering or extra attributes. These rookie cards will be some of the easiest and most affordable rookie cards for collectors to find - they might appeal to younger collectors who may not afford the autographed or serial numbered rookie cards found in other NBA products.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
A hobby box of Pinnacle comes with ten jumbo sized packs containing thirty cards each. These packs are definitely bricks! Each pack is loaded with a large amount of base cards and inserts. My box came with two autographed cards and one memorabilia card.

Panini has definitely gone to town with insert cards in this release. The Shaq insert above is one of my favorites though. I am a big fan of large photographs, and this certainly is a good example of that. These Behind the Numbers cards don't just have nice photos and graphics though - they actually have some very interesting information regarding the player's number on the back. It's a unique concept that you just don't get in every card release!

The Awaiting the Call cards showcase players that could potentially be future Hall of Famers, thus they are waiting for the call... from the HoF. I can't say I like the look of these cards too much... they are just uninteresting to look at. This card of Paul Pierce is especially one note as his jersey colors match too closely with the bordering colors.

Team2020 cards are all about the NBA's youngest talent. These inserts are a good way to add more cards of young stars into the set. The team's colors are used to good effect on these cards, and give the card a unique dynamic look.

If you want to know who were the NBA's most prolific scorers, look to the Scoring Kings insert set. These cards have an older school look to them with the Scoring Kings logo in a light graphic. It's always nice to pull some retired legends, and in my box I got Dr. J and Alex English.

Position Powers cards features the very best players to play their positions. The cards, like many others in this set, take a sampling from the entire history of the NBA. The photography chosen for this set is particularly nice - I really like this photo of Magic shown above.

This and the following few cards all feature Panini's Nufex technology. The cards look really great in person, but the scans of them are terrible. I apologize for that. Hopefully I'll find a better way to show them on the site at a later date. The David Lee card above is from the Big Bang insert set. This die-cut version is numbered to 99, but there are also unnumbered standard non-die-cut versions of these cards as well.

The Jamfest insert set is all about dunks. You're going to find the NBA's top dunking stars (both old and new) in this set. This set features a burst look to the foil that really centers your eye on the player.

Z-Team cards are a blast from the past. I remember them coming out of Zenith releases in the 90's. Panini is definitely using some nostalgia to entice older collectors to these products.

Like the Z-Team cards, Team Pinnacle cards were also all the rage in the 90's. These cards are double-sided cards. Kevin Durant is on the back of this Kobe Bryant card. It was an awesome thing to pull a Team Pinnacle card way back when. The cards here are still nice, but they don't provide the thrill that they used to.

The Naturals is a good looking Nufex insert that again features the burst effect. This insert set is one of my favorites because it has an almost comic book like feel to it.

Museum Collection cards are parallels of the regular set. When I was a kid I so desperately wanted to collect the entire set in Museum form. Collectors will find quite a bit of these parallels in their boxes. I wonder if there will be any collectors out there who put this set together. It would look really nice!

Artist Proof cards also parallels the regular base set. Though these cards were harder to find and worth more, I didn't like how the only thing different about an Artist Proof card was the little foil designator. When they were new, Artist Proof cards were pretty tough finds... now... not so much.

All of the insert sets can be found in several tiers of rarity. Here's a green foil parallel card of a Team2020 card. This one's numbered to 25. Many of the cards have numberings all the way down to one.

Clear Vision cards feature a piece of acetate embedded in the card. I'm not exactly sure what the point of it is, but it does look kind of cool. This card type was offered in Pinnacle baseball too, and the different rarities of these cards correspond to different segments of a game. This is a 1st Quarter card with no numbering. 2nd Quarter cards are numbered to 36, and so on until you get to Overtime, which are numbered to 5.

The standard memorabilia card are these performers jerseys. Yes, these are just jersey cards, but at least the design does look quite nice. I don't think there will be a huge demand for these, but I'm sure collectors who pull them out will enjoy them. Prime versions with limited numbering can also be found.

The Autographs set is one set that I am not too fond of. I find the cards too stark and plain. The designers may have been going for something classy or bold with the black and white photograph, but all the other elements (especially the sticker) drag it down. The same photo with a better design could have saved these cards.

Now these autographs I like! The Pinnacle of Success Signature set is done on acetate. These cards are fun to look at and stand out from a crowd. I really like how Smith took up so much space with his autograph on this card. It's just too bad it's not him in a Kings uniform!

When you buy into Pinnacle, you're going to find a few hits and a lot of insert cards. My break will give you a good idea of what you'll actually find in a box. If you like inserts and chasing parallels, this might be the set for you!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Panini has really tried to put the entire history of Pinnacle into this first ever basketball release. If their intention was to make up time in regards to insert cards... they nailed it. Boxes of Pinnacle will give you a huge stack of inserts and parallels. If you're a Pinnacle fan, and have been for a very long time, and you love basketball... then this set is your dream set! I'm not sure how many people out there meet all those criteria though.

For most collectors, Pinnacle will be seen as a lower-end set that has cards that may be familiar. Pinnacle is a fun break to be sure, but not one to really invest in. I would suggest Pinnacle be a card break for younger collectors on a budget. You really do get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of content and cards. Hits... not so much. Just know what to expect when you get a box of Pinnacle. And enjoy it for what it is!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 13/14 Panini Pinnacle Basketball:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2013-2014 Panini Elite Basketball Review

Can't get enough of foil? Then you gotta go for the new Panini Elite Basketball. Elite is a long standing brand that's all about the foil. This year's edition brings basketball collectors some excellent looking foil inserts and parallel cards to chase. Of course those looking for memorabilia and autographs won't be left out either. There are all sorts of things to find when you purchase a box of 2013-14 Elite Basketball.

Base Card Design -
The 13/14 Elite base cards use a very simplistic portrait-type design. The border creates a pretty thick foil frame that surrounds the player photo. Thankfully, the thick frame does not fully enclose the player - the player is overlaid in front of the frame, which creates a popping out effect. While the card is uncluttered and clean, it is too much so. The thick borders create too much space so that the cards lack a bit of visual impact. Halving, or even cutting the border to a third, would have been a better look in my opinion.

The back of the Elite base cards are not the typical Panini design... and whenever that happens I have to give them props. The Elite backs are more visually interesting than the fronts. The card number is large and easy to see, and the card has been partitioned into different parts. Each section contains relevant stats, facts, or graphics. The player photos have been darkened and saturated with red. I was a bit mixed about this, as maybe a full color photo would have been better... but I'll give Panini a pass here as the dark red photo matches up with Elite's red color scheme.

NBA veterans are represented in Elite with a limited edition subset. There isn't anything to denote the veterans save for serial numbering to 999. I think making the veterans harder to obtain is a good idea as they should have special status in comparison to the current NBA players. This also makes completing the base set a bit more challenging.

The rookie cards in Elite are also numbered to 999. Unlike many other Panini sets, these rookie cards do not benefit from autographs or memorabilia. If you're looking for an affordable rookie card, Elite might be the place to look. Being numbered to 999 makes this rookie card set a bit easier to put together, which is nice for some collectors. For the well-to-do collectors out there, these are probably not as enticing to chase.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
While having a name like Elite sounds like a super-premium product, it really isn't (though it was when it came out years ago). Elite has been regulated to a mid-level offering. Unlike some of the super-premium products with only a handful of packs per box, Elite packs in 20 packs in each box! It makes for a fun, and longer, rip.

The insert cards in Elite make extremely good use of the foil. These Elite Series inserts make good use of an up-close photograph on a team-color centric background. These cards look outstanding, and I wouldn't mind having a set of these cards. Had these cards come out in the 90's, I would have been all over them. I still really appreciate how stunning these cards look, but in today's crowded hit-focused card market, they sadly will not get the 'must have' attention from me that they should.

Franchise Future cards have a similar design concept to the Elite Series set. These cards feature a larger player photo in front of a rich foil background. These cards are much busier than the Elite Series, but it works as the design really goes well with the rookie context that they represent.

Passing the Torch cards ditch the graphical background. The result works nicely as the true background that the player is a part of looks great in foil. The bottom white portion of the card is elegant looking with the silver foil trim. The Passing the Torch inserts are dual sided with a player on each side. This card has Kobe Bryant on one side and James Harden on the back. Unfortunately, only one side has the foil treatment.

Face 2 Face inserts allow for two players to share the same side of the card. I am usually not a fan of dual cards like this with two players on the same side (to me, it's too crowded), but these look about as good as they can. The foiled up hardwood is especially sweet looking.

Status (and Aspirations) parallel cards are found throughout the Elite set with all sorts of different numberings. The gold die-cut card shown above is numbered to just 24. Black versions are one-of-ones. Player collects would be wise to check the numbering of the parallel cards of the player they collect. It might be a super short-print!

My particular box of Elite came with three Throwback Threads insert cards. Two of them were simple jersey cards like the Robert Parish above. Though they are only jersey cards, I do think Panini has done an excellent job with the design of these. I've got to hand it to them, as plain as I thought the base cards were, the insert sets are completely on-point.

The autographed jersey version of throwback threads has variable numbering depending on the player. The Brent Barry card is limited to 25.

New Breed cards feature memorabilia and autographs of the rookies. Like with all the other inserts I've seen, Panini has got the look of these cards down pat. To me, these New Breed cards have a futuristic look that is perfect for these first-year players. This memorabilia set is very modern and slick. Limited prime variations can be found as well.

Unfortunately, my box was a bit overloaded on Throwback Thread cards, but Elite does offer quite a bit more in terms of memorabilia set variety. If you're interested in what Elite has to offer, do a quick search and see what other goodies can come out of this new product.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Elite is a very enjoyable set with some great looking cards within. It's definitely not a game-changing product though. I doubt people will be clamoring to hunt these cards down, but for collectors who enjoy a well-made card... these are definitely cards to set your eyes on buying.

In fact, as a product that that sits right in that mid-level area, it makes for a relatively affordable romp into basketball cards. I would definitely recommend it as something to buy for newer collectors, or for people looking to get into the hobby. It's a product that shows that cards can look great, and has a solid amount of hits and base cards per box. Elite hits the sweet spot in that area.

This year's Elite Basketball is a solid, balanced, basketball card product. It's certainly worth checking out, especially if you've enjoyed it in the past.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Elite: