Saturday, February 28, 2015

2014-2015 Upper Deck Series 2 Review

Over half the hockey season is already over, so it is only natural that the second half of the main Upper Deck set comes out! UD2 contains all the rookies that weren't in the first series, and also includes updates to team rosters. Players that were excluded from the first set are also in here. The set is basically the same as the first series with a few different insert cards available to be pulled. The Young Gun rookie cards will be a big draw as collectors try to complete their sets.

Base Card Design -
Since the base cards haven't changed, they will keep the score they earned from Series One. I will say again that these base cards are absolutely gorgeous though! The design is simple and modern with outstanding photography. It's a set worth collecting. The 14/15 design is one of Upper Deck's best in years, and the images reflect the hockey season well.

Collectors will have to definitely get their hands on the remaining Young Guns in this series. Like the base set, the Young Guns have an outstanding design that should be well-loved in the years to come.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
It's always fun to open up a box of Upper Deck Series Two. This set always contains a large amount of updates and inserts within the packs. Almost every pack has something in it. I think there were only a couple all-base packs when I opened up my box for review.

Returning again in Series Two are the Game Jersey cards. Each box of Series Two will net you two jersey cards, but here there will be only one standard Game Jersey. Like Series One, these cards come in patch variations as well that are pretty scarce. The regular jersey cards aren't worth too much, but they make nice little hits in these boxes.

Rookie Materials are the other jersey cards found in Series Two. This insert set has been in UD2 or a long time, and the tradition continues here. The design this year is very simple...almost unadorned. I'm sure that the big rookies will be nice cards to find for collectors when they open their boxes up.

My favorite insert card in Series Two are the UD Portraits cards. These cards are black and white with silver foil on them. It's a simple yet elegant look that I really like. These cards are visually stunning. You'll find both current players and NHL legends in this set. This is an insert set that I would consider collecting as the design and player selection is top notch.

2010's Hockey Heroes are in Series Two. I wonder if this is the last of the Hockey Heroes cards... or will Upper Deck somehow come up with a way to do more 'Heroes'. Time will only tell! I'm totally fine with them retiring this concept though. I'm never really happen when I get these cards out of my packs. Well... unless it was autographed.

The popular Canvas cards also return in Series Two. This sweet set has been a collector favorite for a few years now, and I'm sure they will continue to flock to find the Young Guns. Unlike the Hockey Heroes, I'd be fine with UD continue this set for a long while - it's great!

For those of you who want to finish off the massive O-Pee-Chee set, you'll have to bust a lot of Series Two packs. Here you will find the OPC updates in both regular and retro form. Popular rookies like Jonathan Drouin are here for the pulling. My box had both of Drouin's OPC cards - regular and retro!

Upper Deck Series Two also features the return of acetate Young Guns and UD Signatures. Unfortunately, I didn't pull either of those rare inserts in this box. Lucky collectors can also find old Upper Deck buyback cards randomly inserted. There really is a lot of see here! Series Two gets a higher score than the first series because of this.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Upper Deck Series Two is a very solid set of cards with a good amount of inserts and hits to find in boxes. The price point of the mainstay Upper Deck set has always been affordable, so purchasing boxes of it won't break the bank. I would definitely recommend getting a box or two of Upper Deck Series Two. There are plenty of great cards to find here, and finishing off the UD set would be a very nice accomplishment for any collector. This is definitely a set of cards to get your hands on.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Upper Deck Series Two:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Retail Review #140 (10/11 Panini Donruss Blaster)

Going with good 'ol Donruss this week for my Retail Review. It's a beloved brand that Panini sort of dropped the ball on way back in 2010. A brand with so much strength and history behind it should have done much better. Alas, all we can do now is say 'what if'!

Price - 

Packs - 8
10/11 Donruss Packs

I've opened up a lot of Donruss on the Retail Review episodes, but I feel like it's been a while since my last one. There are a bunch of different inserts to look forward to in these blasters. One of the coolest ones are the goalie acetate cards. They feature a national flag with the word goalie in the native language. Good stuff!

Though I really enjoy the goalie cards, the Boys of Winter inset cards have to be one of the most generic ever created. Sure, Donruss is meant to be pretty low-end, but it would be nice to still have better card types than those. The Boys of Winter come in both standard and memorabilia versions. For some reason I prefer the non-mem ones. The jersey placement and size just don't do it for me.

Here goes... let's see what's in this Donruss blaster:

Review -
I didn't get a goalie acetate insert, but that's ok, I was still pretty satisfied with the box. It was funny how I ended up getting two Boys of Winter cards - one mem and one without. The non-mem card was of Zenon Konopka. I don't even think I'd ever heard of him before!

Aside from those cards I did get a ton of base. I actually found myself appreciating some of the base cards and what they brought to the table. Sadly, my Rated Rookies weren't of any note. Usually rookie cards make the top three - not this time.

Here is what made the top three this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Carey Price Card No. 72
Like I said, I appreciated the base cards in this blaster. I especially like this photo of Carey Price. Its' at a unique angle that makes him look absolutely huge!

#2 - Mike Fisher Card No. 14
I did get a mem card in this blaster, too bad it's just a jersey of Mike Fisher. I would normally put any hit as my first card in the top three, but not today.

#1 - Bobby Hull Card No. 9
My favorite card out of the box was this Ice Kings of Bobby Hull. There is so much awesome quality to this card. I love the fact that it is textured and elaborate. Being a Whalers card makes it even more cool. I forgot Ice Kings were in Donruss and am very happy for this pull.

Overall Value -
This was an inexpensive break that I was actually happy with. It's not everyday that a simple insert card makes me very happy, but the Ice Kings of Bobby Hull is a card that really pleased me. I can definitely see myself opening up more Donruss in the future. It's an inexpensive product that can yield a bit of fun!

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 21, 2015

2014-2015 Upper Deck Trilogy Review

Trilogy has been out for a few weeks now, but I am only now able to review it. Sorry guys! I am, however, very happy to finally have my hands on it. It's a mid/high end product that disappeared for a few years during the Panini era, but returned last year. Let's see how this year's version of it looks!

Base Card Design -
The Trilogy base cards come on medium-thick white stock. A picture of the player is in the center of the card with a simple design element rounding it all out. Though Upper Deck is usually known for very clean cards, these Trilogy base cards are almost too clean in a way. The upper right and left corner portions of the card feel a bit to bare. And while there are nice gold foil touches on the card, the cards seem very spartan and unadorned. It would have been nice if Upper Deck had put more here. As the cards stand, they are underwhelming.

The back of the base card uses elements from the front to tie the two together. The oval photo of the player's head gives the card an old fashioned look - as do the colors used. There isn't anything too exciting to see on the back of the trilogy cards. Overall the standard base cards in Trilogy this year haven't come across as very memorable. I'm not sure why anybody would want to but a set of these cards together.

Trilogy's Rookie Premiers rookie subset is back again this year with the three tiered system. Each rookie can be found in one of three levels with parallels at each level as well. Level 1 rookies are numbered to 799. The card has the radiant sun design of the base cards but with wider and lower rays. The cards are all foil and look much better than the standard base cards. The foil really helps these cards with a solid background pop. The base set could have benefited from this same type of foil.

Level 2 and 3 Rookie Premier cards contain autographs, with the level 3 cards including a special inscription. The inscription will say: Go _______. With the space filled in with their team's name. It's a nice concept to add a bit of flare to a standard autograph. These cards are much more limited as there are only 49 of each.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Last year Trilogy came in a box with three mini-boxes inside - that's not the case this year. The box comes with 9 packs - all loose. Boxes will have jersey cards to autographs to thick glass looking acetate cards. Also look for parallel cards with unique numbering depending on player stats.

This year Trilogy gives collectors cards that are numbered to certain stats that a player has produced. This Pekka Rinne card shown above is numbered to 163 because that was his win total. You can imagine that some cards could be numbered rather scarcely. These cards parallel the base card set and share the same design. The major difference in look is the foil - and it enhances the card quite a bit.

It might be hard to tell at first, but this level 2 rookie card is actually a parallel. The standard level 2 rookies are numbered to 399. This radiant green one is limited to just 99 copies. Rather than having gold foil, this card has green. It's a bit difficult to tell at first, but the numbering is an easy give-away.

Upper Deck Crystal insert cards have been a mainstay in Trilogy for quite some time. These cards are thick acetate cards that make for a unique collectible. The cards are well-done and have quite a special look, but since the standard versions don't have an autograph or memorabilia piece attached to them, they aren't worth that much on the secondary market. I could imagine these being very valuable had they been in packs during the 90's though. They're just find themselves in the wrong era of collecting.

Tryptichs are a inserts cards that form a three-panel card when put together. The most basic Tryptich card is the standard jersey. And these are very common to find. This Brett Hull card is numbered to 600! But the other versions that contain autographs, stick, patch, or tag pieces are much lower numbered. I think this insert set is a nice idea so that the standard jersey cards are actually a part of something greater. Though this idea has been done before by other companies, it was a nice one for Upper Deck to include here.

The Signature Puck cards have made a return this year with an updated look. These cards come with a rubber puck imbedded in the card. Each puck has the autograph of the depicted player. Variations of the puck's logo can be found to add extra challenge for those who would collect a set of these.

Though the configuration of Trilogy is a bit different this year, the insert cards and hit potential of the product is very similar to the way it was last year in its return to the hobby. If you enjoyed Trilogy last year, this year's break will give you a similar opening experience.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Trilogy is a product that is full of variation. Collectors who purchase a box of Trilogy will find many versions of the various cards in the set. Trilogy contains quite a mix of veterans and rookies. I'd say it's one of the more balanced products in terms of finding both. Rookie Premier cards have never been a huge hit in the hobby, but Upper Deck has made strides in making them more desirable to collectors. Level 3 rookies with low numbering and an inscribed autograph is pretty cool.

I would definitely try a box of Trilogy this year to get a sense of it and try my luck... but it isn't a product I'd want to by box after box of. It's a solid product with a nice amount of hits in it. It certainly won't be Upper Deck's biggest product of the season, but does keep things interesting for collectors as the hockey season rolls on.

Overall Rating:

Check out what I got in my box of Trilogy:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Retail Review #139 (12/13 Score Blaster)

Here's a really budget break from a low-end favorite... Score! When Panini re-released Score in 2010, it came as a sweet blast from the past. By 2012, Score was still chugging along but the hype around it had slowed. It'll be fun to check out this blaster of Score and see what Panini did with that brand that year. It's not a product I bought heavily of when it came out.

Price - 

Packs - 11
12/13 Score Packs

The price of this blaster definitely fits the content of it. As a low end brand, five bucks is about what I would want to pay. I don't expect much out of Score, certainly no hits... but it will be fun to pull some inserts and season highlight cards. The season highlight cards in the set are nice because they specifically point out notable parts of the season. It's fun to remember those special moments on cardboard.

I definitely remember what the initial Panini Score product looked like, but I have actually forgotten what these cards look like. I'm pretty sure they will look like a typical 90's-ish Score product. Like I mentioned before, since Panini's first Score offering, the product hasn't really stood out for me. It would have been nice for Panini to keep innovating the product, but instead they kept it pretty status quo.

Let's go ahead and see what comes out of this blaster:

Review -
This blaster didn't really give out a lot of excitement. The rookies and inserts were alright, but nothing stood out to me. In fact, it was tough to find a top three this week because I felt like there just wasn't much of a selection to choose from. Even my base cards left me with very few stars!

I guess one highlight for me was remembering what these cards actually looked like. These cards definitely do have that 90's look to them, and would fit into that decade very well.

The gold cards that come one-per-pack could have been better designed I think. The fade-to-white look doesn't work for me - a solid gold border would have been much nicer.

Here are the cards I liked the most from this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Martin Brodeur Card No. 281
I've been pulling a lot of Brodeur out of packs recently. He recently retired as a St. Louis Blues player, but his best days were as a New Jersey Devil. It was cool to get this base card of him in what I'm used to seeing him as - a Devil!

#2 - Jason Spezza Card No. F20
This is probably my favorite design of all the cards I pulled. I'm always a big fan of clean white-themed cards. The Franchise inserts used to be very nice pulls out of packs. In this new era of Score, they are easy and not worth much at all - but I like them still.

#1 - Martin Brodeur Card No. NC13
It was cool to get both the Brodeur base card and this Net Cam insert of him. Like I said, he's following me! These net view cards are pretty sweet and offer a unique look to the game.

Overall Value -
I really didn't get too much in this blaster beside a couple of Brodeur cards, but that's ok, I didn't pay a whole lot for it either. For the price, I'd just grab a few to open and test my luck, but otherwise I'd probably stay clear of these blasters. They would be a fun product for very novice collectors though. You'll find a ton of different players and inserts that give out fun information about the game's players.

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, February 13, 2015

2014-2015 Upper Deck SPx Review

It's time again for SPx to release its annual set of cards. This venerable brand has been strong for Upper Deck throughout the years. This year's iteration celebrates the past alongside the future. It's a mix of old and new SPx designs. There's definitely a nod to SPx's past, but there are plenty of new designs thrown into the mix as well.

Base Card Design -
The standard SPx base card has been toned done from some of its flashier years. The colors are darker and the design's less loud. Rather than being completely in your face with crazy foil and colors, SPx base cards have become a bit more serious looking. They have become more akin to the rest of the SP line of cards. It's a perfectly good design, but I rather miss the crazy SPx of old where everything was over the top. Here, the base cards feature an 'X' in the background with a picture of the player next to it. The gold foil is done tastefully and everything looks fine... it's just not something that could ever be great.

The back of the SPx card follows some of the same design cues as the front. You'll notice the 'X' background mirrored here. Again, the colors used are muted and dark. If the fronts were considered serious... then the backs would be super serious. It's a very spartan design that only includes a couple lines of stats. Thankfully, each card has a nice write-up for each player.

Next in the base set are the foil SPx rookie cards. These all-foil cards feature a large photograph of the player sandwiched between a top and bottom border element. The card has a nice shine to it, but does not have any serial numbering. These relatively easy pulls look decent, but they probably won't generate much excitement.

My favorite of the main set are the autographed rookie jersey cards. These cards really pop in person as the background of these cards come in a shiny dark red foil. The horizontal orientation of the card is just right with ample room for the autograph and good-sized jersey swatch. These are excellently design cards, and I came away very impressed with how these look.

Base Cards Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The box states that it will contain 4 hits or premium insert cards. Collectors will also find retro die-cuts and a bonus pack with Finite cards in it.Finite cards were very popular a few years back - especially in basketball. I remember some pretty insane prices on a few select cards.

SPx Retro die-cuts will probably be the most common find when you open up a box. These cards are a tribute to the SPx of old. I actually remember buying these cards back in the late 90's and really loving them. They were so different! These inserts are not on par with what they were when they were originally released. Those cards were thick and featured holograms that turned. Some real hard work was put into that set. These cards a a bit of a shadow of those. Only in look are these cards in any way similar to that beautiful original set of cards.

Parallel versions of the retro cards can also be obtained. Here's a Jiri Sekac gold card numbered 9/50. The retro set features players from the past, current players, and rookies; it is pretty comprehensive.

The Flashback Fabric set is back again. This set has been a mainstay of SPx for a long time, and it's nice to see it back again. I just wish the design were better. These cards look like they could have came out of Upper Deck Series 1. And the jersey swatch on the card is pretty tiny! C'mon!

The bonus Finite pack gives you a pretty thick card that is serial numbered on the back. This Stuart Percy is number 213 of 299. Collectors will find different parallel versions of these cards in their bonus packs. Some will even have autographs.

Patch variations of cards and also Shadow Box cards can be found in SPx this year. There are plenty of rookie themed sets as well. You'll just have to open your own box and see what come out!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
SPx has released yet another version of itself this year. Though some of the designs are really nice (like the rookie jersey autos), many of the cards are underwhelming. I'd have to say the inserts and hits are also a bit lacking in terms of innovation and excitement. I expect more from SPx than what it came out with this year.

Boxes of SPx are a little over $100 each. Unless you're a big time SPx nut, I'd just give some a try and wait for the other Upper Deck products to come out. It might be SPx's time to follow SPGU's lead and get a make-over!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of SPx from D&P cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Retail Review #138 (09/10 Upper Deck Champs Blaster)

I'm very happy to be opening up one of my favorite products of all time - Champs Hockey! Although I'm not really a fan of mini cards, this eclectic set has really resonated with me. There are so many odd items and card variations to find. You never know what will come out when you purchase this brand!

Price - 

Packs - 12
09/10 Upper Deck Champs Blaster Packs

The Champs blaster box comes with 12 packs of cards. That seems like a hefty amount of packs, except that there are really only 4 cards per pack. The packs are very thin and it feels like if they are not opened carefully, the cards inside could be damaged. I have to be pretty careful when I open up the packs from this blaster.

As I stated before, Champs has a ton of stuff to find in it. There are quite a few non-hockey cards in this brand. If you're really only into getting hockey cards, Champs is probably not for you. Anything from dinosaurs to presidents can be found alongside the hockey players featured here.

The main base set is standard sized, but all the rookie cards are in the form of a mini card. The rookie cards do look nice as they feature a golden border that gives it just a bit more class. I'll be anticipating which rookies I get as I open this box.

Let's go ahead and rip into this Champs blaster:

Review -
I was again really pleased with this blaster. Though there were so few cards per pack, I felt that the overall break was strong, and that I got a bunch of cards that I liked. It was actually even a challenge to pick the top three this week because there were multiple candidates that could have made the top trio.

The blaster wasn't loaded with parallels this time around, but I did get at least one of each red, yellow, and teal parallel card. Parallel cards can be difficult pulls in this set. I was actually pretty surprised to find a yellow parallel as those are particularly tough compared to the other two.

My two rookie mini cards were Ville Leino and John Negrin. Leino was one that I remember being mildly popular back in 2009, but Negrin is someone I don't know at all. Other notable mini cards were of Thomas Jefferson, an osprey, and Henrik Sedin.

My three best from this break were:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Rick Nash Card No. 30
My yellow parallel card was of Rick Nash. The yellow parallels definitely stand out as the bright yellow background is very different from that standard blue hue of the regular base cards.

#2 - Patrick Roy Card No. 57
It was cool to pull this red parallel of Patrick Roy. Though the reds aren't as difficult as the yellow ones, I like Roy better, and this card looks very good to me.

#1 - Henrik Lundqvist Card No. MT-HL
It was great to get another hit from a Champs blaster. This hit was better than the one that came out of my last box. It was funny that this card and his base card were the only two cards in the pack.

Overall Value -
This was another awesome value in terms of buying Upper Deck Champs. The blasters are really fun to open and getting quality cards has not been difficult. I would happily purchase many more of these blaster to open up whenever I can.

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, February 1, 2015

Retail Review #137 (10/11 Panini Zenith Blaster)

I'm back with a blaster box of the old Panini Zenith. Zenith underwhelmed collectors when it first came out. Panini tried to bring back a brand that collectors remembered fondly... but their execution of the product left many wanting. It wasn't worth the price then... and it's probably barely worth the price now, but these 3-pack Zenith blasters can be fun to open up given their discounted price.

Price - 

Packs - 3
10/11 Zenith Blaster Packs

I can't say that I have gotten much out of Zenith since I've bought it. Even buying the hobby version of the stuff hasn't yielded much. A quick glance at Zenith prices on eBay and in price guides tells you that this product doesn't have much in it to find. Probably the most desirable cards in the product for me has to be the National Treasures rookie cards... but those were only inserted into the oversized rip-able cards inserted one-per-hobby box. I'm not sure what I'm really looking for when I purchase a blaster of Zenith... fun, I guess? Yeah, I'm looking for a little fun.

I hope some fun comes out of this blaster:

Review -
This blaster left me with a similar feeling as the one before did... a bit underwhelmed. The blaster came with three packs, and everything was base except for the hit and the foil insert card. It was a quick break, but didn't yield anything that was too great. If I had gotten this box for $30 I definitely would not have been happy. That works out to $10 per pack... way too much!

As it was in my break, the entire blaster was just around $10. I didn't get a great hit, but it was alright for the money I guess. I really hope one day to pull a nice autographed rookie card from one of these Zenith blasters. There' just got to be one waiting for me!

Here were my top cards out of this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Peter Forsberg Card No. 103
I was a big fan of Forsberg when he first entered the NHL because I had pulled some of his cards out of packs when I was in high school. Little did I know he would become such a legendary player! It's always nice to see him on cardboard.

#2 - Kari Lehtonen Card No. 5
My only insert card besides the hit was this foil Crease is the Word card. I'm not sure how Panini comes up with some of their insert names... this one is definitely a questionable one!

#1 - Andrei Kostitsyn Card No. KO
Ahhh, Winter Warrior cards... definitely not the best design! Well, at least it is a hit, and I'm happy to pull hits whenever I buy retail. Would have been nicer if the player was bigger. Oh well!

Overall Value -
Another so-so blaster of Zenith. I'm not sure why I am drawn to these things. I think it's the large $29.99 price printed on the box. It fascinates me that this product was once sold for such a large amount of money. The price point makes you think you are getting something pretty spectacular... but really other brands from Panini like Pinnacle are better than this was, and it's a lot cheapter.

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!