Sunday, September 28, 2014

Retail Review #120 (11/12 Upper Deck Black Diamond Blaster)

It's been a while since I've opened up 11/12 Black Diamond it seems... but even so, Black Diamond looks the same to me year after year that it would be hard to tell what product I had in my hands if the release year wasn't on it. I usually shy away from Black Diamond blasters, but since this one was cheap enough I decided to go for it and give it a try.

Price - 

Packs - 6
11/12 Black Diamond Blaster Packs

Looking back at 11/12, it wasn't a huge year for hockey cards. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the big rookie to get with Gabriel Landeskog coming in second. The previous year seemed to be much more exciting. But still, 11/12 beat 12/13 in terms of which year was better.

With this blaster of Black Diamond, I'm hoping for an RNH or Landeskog rookie card. Getting one of those two would be great! Odds are pretty slim though, and getting any sort of hit from this blaster would be miraculous.

Here goes! I'm interested to see what's in this blaster:

Review -
This was a pretty typical Black Diamond blaster. Yes, I did get a rookie card, but it was only of the Triple Diamond variety. I didn't even get any Triple Diamond base cards - just double and single diamonds! This year's Black Diamond base cards look a bit brighter to me, and that did stand out as a positive (as most Black Diamond cards are a bit dark I find). But other than that, this is a box that I would not have been happy with had I paid the full $20 price for it. Actually, I'm not very happy about it at the $10 price level either!

Here are the top cards from this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Bobby Orr Card No. 10
This was my favorite single diamond card out of this blaster. The foil technology Upper Deck used actually makes Orr look like he's playing in modern times.

#2 - Antti Niemi Card No. 103
Niemi was one of my two Double Diamond cards from this break. As a big Sharks homer, I had to pick Niemi as one of my top card pulls this week.

#1 - Stephane Da Costa Card No. 200
The only Triple Diamond was this Rookie Gem of Stephane Da Costa. I'm definitely not really excited about this card, but it's probably the most notable card that came out of the blaster.

Overall Value -
Once again Black Diamond give me an underwhelming performance. It's just too much money for too little in return. The cards are good looking, and I'm sure there are many who enjoy the unique foil look of them, but the odds of pulling anything worth getting are just too slim. I would save my money and try many other products before settling on a blaster of Black Diamond.

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, September 25, 2014

2014-2015 Fleer Ultra Hockey Review

It's been a few years, but Upper Deck re-introduces Fleer Ultra into their hockey card line-up. Ultra is a brand that has been around for a very long time. It started off as a premium card product, but now sits as one of the lower-end brands. Ultra entices collectors with interesting insert cards rather than through hits. Let's see how Ultra looks in its return to hockey cards.

Base Card Design -
Ultra base cards were once super-glossy full of pop. This iteration of the brand is much more subdued. These base cards come framed with a white border and minimalistic graphical design elements. I've always thought that a plain white border makes cards feel lower-end, and that's the case here. There just isn't anything on the card that makes you go 'wow'! Sure, it's a very clean looking card, but it's not overly modern and it's not fun design either. It's just a no-nonsense base card that isn't that won't be too memorable in the long-run. I really wish Upper Deck had chosen to go with a design that would stand out more. This year's Ultra is just too tame.

The Ultra card backs are pretty standard for a product in this price range. I appreciate that they are full-color, but there is not player write-up for a collector to read. For lower-end cards, the write-up is important because the cards are affordable to younger collectors who may want to learn more about their favorite players.

I wanted to point out that there are base card variations in the set of Ultra this year. I tried looking for information about these alternate base cards, but couldn't find any. Here is the same Lundqvist card but with a photo of him at the Winter Classic. It makes me wonder if these cards are pretty rare or if they are common variations.

As you can see, the back has the same numbering but the photo matches up with the photo from the front. I wonder if we'll hear anything about these alternate photo cards from Upper Deck in the near future. I hope we do!

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Like O-Pee-Chee before it, Ultra is a brand that makes it difficult to pull hits as they are not guaranteed per box. What you do get, however, is a pretty big collection of insert cards - much like the Ultra of the past. Upper Deck is banking on the power of unique insert cards to make Ultra go. Will collectors go for it? We'll just have to see.

Because Ultra released before the start of the hockey season, Upper Deck has chosen to use redemptions as a means of getting Ultra rookie cards out to collectors. These redemption cards come about one per box, so they are not too difficult to get.

Road to the Championship insert cards have embedded replica tickets in them. It's an interesting concept to document all the playoff games from the last season, but the look of these cards reminds me of Panini's Playoff Contenders set. Surprisingly, the back of the card congratulates the collector who gets it of receiving a replica ticket. I'm not sure it's that special!

Photo Vault cards showcase a photo that hasn't been seen before previous to this release. I guess Upper Deck has dug deep in their vaults to find images that collectors get to see for the first time. These inserts are pretty good looking, and I think the design has been executed well. Autographed variations of these cards exist and are numbered to just 10.

The Buckets insert set has foil and die-cutting. This set celebrates the often uncelebrated piece of equipment that is the helmet. Is this a novel new idea or is Upper Deck just reaching on this one? I'm leaning towards the latter. Still, the set is very unique and I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like it.

Foil and die-cutting are also used with the Gongshow Grinders set. This insert set focuses on the NHL's toughest players. Again, it's a unique idea... not a new one... but one that isn't done too often, so I commend Upper Deck for putting in this set.

When I got this Craig Anderson Pad Men insert card I thought I had a jersey card on my hands. The decoy card was behind this insert so it looked like the letters were jersey pieces. Unfortunately, they weren't - it's just empty holes! That was a little disappointing. On the positive side, the card is good looking and pretty different for an Upper Deck design.

Gold Medallion cards make their return to the set, and it shouldn't be a surprise. Gold Medallion parallels have been in Ultra for years. This year, rather than making the entire card gold foil like they've done before, the word 'Medallion' is placed all over the background of the card.

All foil Platinum Medallions are numbered to 99. These cards have a great shimmer to them, and I can see collectors enjoying the look of these. Rookie redemption Gold and Platinum Medallion cards are available, but they are very difficult pulls.

Some boxes of Ultra will have a special bonus pack containing EX2014 cards, and I was lucky enough to get one. The EX cards look amazing. The design is top notch, and I'd happily enjoy having a set of these. EX cards have always looked great, and this new version of them continues to impress. I have fond memories of EX, and collectors who enjoyed them in the past will definitely like them this year.

The EX packs contain special inserts as well. This JVR Jambalaya card came with mine. Jambalaya inserts have been popular in other sports - most notably basketball. It's a unique card that immediate stands out as something special.

I wish I pulled a National Heroes flag card from my box - I love the look of flags on cards, but none came in this one. I also missed out on an autographed card, but that's a pretty tough pull out of Ultra this year. If you're looking at Ultra, you've just gotta think insert cards.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Though Ultra doesn't really have any hits (except for the very difficult variety), I really enjoyed breaking this box. Getting all the cool looking inserts was a joy. Collectors nowadays may not appreciate these types of cards as much as they did in the past - and that's too bad. The cards look great and are fun to find when ripping through packs.

I'd say that younger collectors and collectors looking for a unique break can look to Ultra. It will definitely provide some fun.

If you're looking for monster hits and guaranteed jerseys or autos, you'd better look elsewhere. I personally hope Ultra does well and that Upper Deck finds some magic with the inserts in Ultra, but it's really up to collectors to determine how much they like it.

Ultra is a good product that provides a whole lot of fun on the cheaper end of the hobby spectrum.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Ultra from D&P Sports Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Retail Review #119 (13/14 Titanium Tin)

It's been a while since I've opened something that I haven't done before on Retail Review, so that's why I'm excited to bust this 13/14 Titanium tin that I recently ordered online. These tins may be more readily available in cities and places where hockey is more popular, but here in sunny Sacramento, Ca... these types of higher end retail hockey products are extremely difficult to find.

Price - 

Packs - 1
13/14 Cellophane Pack

I've always heard about retail tins, but this might be my first time opening one. I've definitely never gotten Titanium before in this form. I tried a box of the hobby version of Titanium earlier this year, and it was good. I'm really happy that I can now try it in this form. I appreciate that Panini has inserted retail exclusive content with these tins so that they have some chase and value to serious collectors.

The back states that there are a variety of things that can be found within the tins - from memorabilia card to autographs. Titanium was known for being a strong rookie card product, so I'm sure that will be a main point of emphasis when I bust this tin open.

Let's go ahead and get the lid off of this retail tin of Titanium:

Review -
I really enjoyed opening up the Titanium tin. The packaging was actually something that made the opening experience more fun. I felt that it wasn't just a 'cheaper' retail product, but something that true people of the hobby would like to have. The tin format reminds me a lot of the one-pack-per-box higher end cards like Limited and even The Cup. Of course, it doesn't have the premium quality of those cards, but the packaging has some parallels.

Unlike the hobby version of Titanium, the retail version is not on foil board... and I think that's fine. For player collectors, they will have to track down both versions of the base card. At 30 cards per tin, it was the perfect amount to insert and give to the buyer. This Titanium tin was a great idea by Panini. Hopefully Upper Deck will think of retail products in a similar fashion next season.

Here were my top three cards from this Titanium break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Dougie Hamilton Card No. J-8
One of the really unique items in this tin was an oversized rookie card of Dougie Hamilton. Panini and Upper Deck have done these very large cards on occasion, and I'm not the biggest fan of them (because they are hard to store). But it's still a cool concept and a nice addition to a retail product.

#2 - Jordan Schroeder Card No. 157
It's always awesome to get numbered cards in retail. Titanium has always been known for their rookie cards, so getting Titanium rookies is always good. The retail version of the rookies are sure to be popular for collectors looking for a complete rookie rainbow.

#1 - Derek Grant Card No. 138
I'm not familiar with Derek Grant at all... but wow, this card is numbered to just 10! I was shocked to see such a low numbered card come out of this tin. This low of a print is always fun to find in retail.

Overall Value -
I was able to snag this little gem for under $12 at It's a great deal and a fun break for all collectors. I'm pretty sure they will go quick as the deal is a great one. I would definitely enjoy opening up more of these if I get the chance to do so. Kudos to Panini for releasing and designing a retail product that is strong, unique, and very collectible!

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, September 17, 2014

2014-2015 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Review

Upper Deck's second product for the 14/15 season is O-Pee-Chee, one of the most recognized brands in card collecting. O-Pee-Chee has been around for ages, and I'm glad it is still being made today. This year's product comes in a similar configuration to last year's. It'll be fun to see what designs Upper Deck has implemented for the product this year.

Base Card Design -
O-Pee-Chee cards have always used looks that have a touch of retro-influenced design, and the same can be said of the cards this year. The cards have white borders with large graphics framing the player photo. The cards give a sense that these are what cards would be today if companies had continued their designs without much change throughout the years. I like that. It's a great call out to the old school. I only wish that Upper Deck would use better photos on these cards. Last year, you could really tell Panini upped the photo selection in their low-end release of Score. Most of the photos in OPC are plain and vanilla. I guess it goes with the retro theme, but even back then there were some cards that really stood out because of the photo on the front.

The back of the base card is full of brown cardboard goodness. It's so pleasing to see the cardboard color when flipping over the base cards. Unfortunately, there's not much to the base card backs. There are the stats and vital information, but that's it. There's no fun elements or write-up to fill out the card. Old sets did have fun things thrown in to the back designs. That's something these cards should have as well.

Marquee Legend subset cards make their return this year, and it's a way that OPC has found to put retired players and coaches into the set. The golden color used heavily on the card makes them stand out from the standard base card, but the overall design is unremarkable.

The rookie cards this year are great though. Unlike the pedestrian design of the Marquee Legends, the Marquee Rookies have a bright design that really pops. The laser blue colored borders give these cards a great visual appeal. Out of the main set of card, these rookie cards are the best looking of all.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Getting hits out of O-Pee-Chee is no guarantee. In fact, I didn't get a hit from the box I opened up. But collectors can find autographed cards and team logo patch cards that have been popular from the past. Parallel cards, foils, and other inserts are also part of the OPC experience - and got plenty of these types of cards.

Each pack of OPC will contain a retro card that looks even more retro than the base card. OPC retro cards have been hit or miss for me each year. This year I'd say they are not anything I'd pay any special attention to. The cards are definitely minimalistic and have a retro quality to them, but overall they are pretty bland looking. Rookies and legend cards can also be found, and last year they looked different designs, but this year they don't vary as much from these standard retro looks.

Foil parallels of the base set can be found this year. The foil used is similar to past iterations of OPC. It's a very shiny card that is so shiny you can see your reflection in them. These foil cards are not numbered, but should have interest for player collectors looking for more cards that are relatively easy to find.

Black bordered foil cards serial numbered to 100 are another variation of the base set. The black border with the foil gives these cards a very sharp look. The rookie cards look especially good with the foil treatment. If there was one set out of OPC that I would like, it would be this one.

Another favorite looking card are these OPC Sticker cards. Now these are what I call retro-looking! The two toned look from these cards really bring me back to the 70s and 80s. If Upper Deck had chosen this design to be the retro design, I think the retro set would have been more of a hit. These stickers are bold and in-your-face. It's a great design!

Mini cards will pop out of boxes of OPC as well. These aren't the usually sized mini cards... these cards have an awkward rectangle shape that I haven't seen much of (or maybe at all). These cards feature head shots of players on a retro design. They may be interesting, but I don't see them holding that much collector interest.

This All-Timers Patrick Roy card was an interesting pull from my box. It was the only glossy card from my entire box, so it definitely stood out from the other cards. This card has also been given a bit of retro treatment, but the design isn't memorable save for the old OPC logo in the upper corner.

It's too bad that no hit or logo patch came out of this box, but that's to be expected when purchasing O-Pee-Chee.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
O-Pee-Chee has given collectors what it has given collectors for the past several years now - a large set to build and collect with plenty of variations to find. OPC is definitely on the lower-end, so don't get into it looking for memorabilia or autographs. It's not impossible to find hits, but it's just not a product that is worth the chase if you're going for those types of collectibles.

OPC is a fun product for the retro collector. If you're someone who is concerned about building something big and getting as many NHL players as possible, OPC is the brand for you. It will definitely be a challenge tracking down all 600 cards. And you'll probably get a hit or two along the way as well for your troubles.

Most people know what they're getting if they buy OPC - it's a cheaper product that gives you a lot of cardboard. Enjoy it for what it is!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 14/15 O-Pee-Chee:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Retail Review #118 (13/14 Artifacts Blaster)

Once in a blue moon I like to test my luck with an Artifacts blaster box. 99% of the time getting one of these is the wrong choice, but for some reason I still will go for it, especially if I'm ordering a bunch of boxes and I'm looking for a little variety. I hope that I'll get something that I like out of this one, even though the odds are stacked against me.

Price - 

Packs - 8
13/14 Artifacts Blaster Packs

I've said it before, but I'll say it again - Upper Deck needs to re-think their Artifacts retail strategy. Sure, the base cards are nice and have a quality, premium feel to them... but collectors just aren't looking for a large stack of base cards. Usually a blaster of Artifacts will have some sort of rookie card or numbered card, but for a brand that calls itself Artifacts, I think there should be some sort of memorabilia in the blaster.

At a stated price of about twenty dollars, I would definitely avoid Artifacts. Instead I'd go for good old Upper Deck Series 1 or 2. Those products, while not as premium, will put out a much better value than Artifacts. I actually think the O-Pee-Chee blaster I just opened has more value and fun than one of these usually puts out.

Let's see if this blaster of Artifacts will give me anything good:

Review -
Wow. There really isn't much to say about this Artifacts blaster. As you saw in the video, it was base pack after base pack after base pack. I was actually thinking that the entire blaster would be base cards. It nearly was. And even the last pack with the numbered card wasn't anything to really get excited about. This was a blaster of Artifacts that should definitely warn people against the product if they see it on the store shelves.

It wasn't easy, but I had to find the three top cards this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Matt Duchene Card No. 57
Sure Matt Duchene is a good player, but I put this card at number three because it ties in with the number one card of this break.

#2 - Evgeni Malkin Card No. 27
This card stands out to me because the All-Star jersey Malkin is wearing is so different than his Pens one.

#1 - Matt Duchene Card No. 57
The only numbered card in the break. I guess I could go for the rainbow since I got two of these in this one blaster.

Overall Value -
As I feared from the beginning, this blaster was a terrible value... even for the half the stated price. Maybe in a day when base cards were desired this product might be 'ok'... but it's definitely time to change it up a bit. And when I say a bit, I mean a lot! It's sad that blasters like this exist. I'm pretty sure no collector would be satisfied with this box, but this is pretty normal for Artifacts. Steer clear!

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!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Retail Review #117 (12/13 Score Blaster)

Score is one of the most basic products you can find when it comes to cards. It has long been in the low-end of the hobby... but that's not a bad thing. It's a set that is budget friendly, filled with inserts, and has the occasional hit in it. Last year's Score blasters were available with a stated retail price of just $9.99. That's a pretty sweet price for a good amount of cards to look through on a slow afternoon.

Price - 

Packs - 11
12/13 Score Packs

Even with a super low price of $9.99, I was able to pick this bad boy up for about half of that, just $4.95 online at Wow, that's about five bucks for 11 packs of cards - a really good deal I've gotta say! Being that it's Score, I won't be expecting much from this blaster, but I know I will enjoy seeing all of the different insert cards come out. I appreciate how Panini really crams in a lot of inserts into Score to not only make it more interesting, but for me, it definitely adds a nostalgia feel to it as well.

Each pack of Score should yield me at least one gold card. Nowadays, Score gold cards and base cards don't really have much difference in value. For hardcore collectors, they may not be worth anything at all, but these cards are still great for younger collectors to experience trying to collect a rainbow of cards. Of course, the challenge will be to seek out the really elusive black variations.

I'll open this blaster up and see what comes out of it:

Review -
There wasn't a hit in this blaster, but I wasn't counting on one. This blaster of Score actually delivered me exactly what I expected. Score gave me a solid amount of cards including gold parallels and some inserts. Surprisingly, I was impressed by the quality of the photographs in 12/13 Score. The photo selection quality was definitely noticeable here. It's a small thing, but something to be appreciated.

I really enjoyed getting the Net Cam card and First Goal inserts. These are the types of cards that collectors were a buzz about when inserts first arrived on the scene. It's great that Score carried on the tradition of loading up the product with inserts. These little sets are fun to collect and fun to see who is in them.

My three favorite cards from this break made the top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Gordie Howe Card No. OS2
These old school Franchise insert cards aren't much to look at, and they are pretty easy to find in Score, but I still enjoy finding Gordie Howe cards in my packs. Everyone knows Mr. Hockey, and it's great to see him honored with new cards.

#2 - Chris Kreider Card No. 543
12/13 was not a good year for rookie cards as the companies that year decided to hold off on new rookie cards due to the shortened season. Only rookies who had already skated for their teams in 11/12 got cards if they hadn't had one yet. Of those rookies, Kreider was probably the most sought after one.

#1 - Pavel Datsyuk Card No. TS1
These Team Score cards are definitely a blast from the past. I'm a big fan of posed photos like this every-so-often to add some nice variety to the card set. It also gives you a bit of a different look at the player on the card. These are classy cards that are well done.

Overall Value -
At five bucks, this blaster was a nice deal. I definitely didn't pull any cards that were mind-blowing out of the break, but that wasn't the point. This is a break that I enjoyed doing, and I'll enjoy seeing all the different types of cards now added to my collection. Score has done a great job of making relevant cards that any collector would enjoy.

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!