Sunday, February 28, 2016

Retail Review #193 (14/15 Upper Deck MVP)

Although MVP is one of the lowest-end brands you can get, I enjoy opening it. The cards have nice designs and there is the slim possibility of finding a hit. For beginning collectors, it's an easy way to get into the hobby and to find some nice cards to start a collection.

Price - 

Packs - 12
12 x 14/15 Upper Deck MVP Blaster Packs

Typical blasters of MVP will hold Silver and Gold Script parallel cards as well as one other insert - usually an NHL Three Stars card. It's a modest collection of cards, but anytime you can find parallels and inserts there's always a bit of excitement and anticipation in the break. Blasters that yield base pack after base pack... like Artifacts... are not as fun to open up.

Looking at the odds on the side panel, getting a hit is a possibility, but the odds are very steep. On average an autograph comes one in over 1,300 packs. Memorabilia cards are even harder than those. Maybe one day a hit will pop out, I guess I just have to buy enough of them until I do get something. I prefer it sooner rather than later though!

Will a hit come out of this blaster? Let's find out:

Review -
There was no hit inside this box, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy the break. In fact, I liked this break quite a bit. It was great fun opening up the packs and seeing what parallel card I got. It was a nice little thrill if the player on the parallel card was a star.

Each blaster I have opened up so far has contained a serial numbered Gold Script card. These cards look especially nice and are a wonderful addition to blaster boxes. Getting Gold Script cards of good players is always a possibility here.

Take a look at my top three cards from this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Marek Zidlicky Card No. 154
It's probably strange to put the Gold Script card here at number three and have two Silver Scripts above it, but I just like the players I got in silver better than here in gold.

#2 - Joe Pavelski Card No. 21
Pavs has been a great Shark for years now. He's our offensive all-star player, played on team USA, and now is the captain of the team.

#1 - PK Subban Card No. 233
Subban has been one of my favorite players since his rookie year. He has a polarizing personality that some dislike, but overall he's a very good player that is exciting to find in packs.

Overall Value -
MVP is a very fun product to buy if you're just looking for a fun little break. For beginning and new collectors this is a great buy at its current price of under ten bucks. For seasoned collectors looking for hits this is probably a brand that you can overlook.

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!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2015-2016 Upper Deck Series Two Review

Upper Deck Series Two marks the hobby's halfway point. Many of the lower and mid-end products have been released and this set updates and finishes them off. Collector will find fresh cards of players on their new teams as well as Young Guns that didn't appear in Series One. There's a lot to see and be excited about with Series Two!

Base Card Design -
I really enjoyed the base card design from Upper Deck Series One, and since these cards are basically the exact same thing, they should receive the same exact score. Should... I am actually going to knock just half a point off of these base cards for just one reason: I'm not as impressed with the photography as I was with Series One. Don't get me wrong, Series Two has beautiful photos that still outmatch just about every other set out there, but I wasn't stunned like I was with some of the photos from the first series earlier this season. I remember really being wowed by some of those images. There are eye-catching cards here, but it seems to be just a bit less than what they had come out with previously.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each 24-pack hobby box of Upper Deck Series Two comes with one jersey card and six Young Guns on average. There are also a ton of updates from O-Pee-Chee as well as some other insert cards. If you'd like to see my review of the similar insert cards in Series One that are also found here such as UD Exclusives and UD Portraits, go to that review here. This review will only focus on cards that have not been previously seen.

O-Pee-Chee update cards can be found in abundance within this set. It seems like every pack without an Upper Deck insert has an OPC card of some kind. Collectors will find the entire gamut of OPC update cards and parallels here. There's the standard base like the card shown above as well as retros, rookies, and foil parallels. These cards are always a fun addition to UD2 and I look forward to seeing them in the packs even though they really aren't ever worth much in terms of return.

Rookie Materials cards have been a Series Two staple for a long time. This year's version of the card looks good as it features nice modern curves as well as shiny print. The embedded jersey piece is a nice size for a product like Series Two. Sadly, these jersey pieces do not come from an actual NHL game. The back states that the cloth is from an event - most likely the rookie photoshoot.

Series Two offers some rare cards to find when opening boxes, but most folks will probably end up like me and get the standard amount of hits and Young Guns. The biggest draw currently will be the Jack Eichel Young Gun rookie card. That is the current Series Two rookie anchor this year.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
It looks like Upper Deck has stayed tried and true with their Series Two formula. They saved a highly anticipated rookie for a release in this set and added many rookie specific cards to find. Much of this releases success will depend on how the rookie crop does. Many collectors have complained that the Young Guns in this set are not up to par. If that's the case, it just makes getting the big star rookies that much more desirable.

For set completists, this release is a must buy. I would say Series One was a bigger and better release, but Series Two is compelling in its own right. As a hockey collector, it is difficult to stay away from the main Upper Deck line. It's still a good looking, solid product for purchase.

Overall Score:

Check out my break of Series Two here:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Retail Review #192 (14/15 Upper Deck Series One)

It's pretty awesome that last year's Upper Deck Series One can be found at half the listed retail price now. I didn't get much of UD1 last year, but now that the blasters are very affordable, I've been building up a collection of this set.

Price - 

Packs - 12
12 x 14/15 UD Series One Blaster Packs

It really wasn't long ago that I saw these at the local Target store for twenty bucks. When I first started collecting hockey cards I bought quite a bit of retail blasters at full asking price. Now I know better. You can always find the previous year's product at drastically better deals. Sure, once in a blue moon there'll be a product that totally defies this trend, but those are few and far between. It's nice to just wait most of the time in this hobby.

I've gotten quite a few blasters of UD Series One since I started Retail Review. Though it's a great product, it is pretty hard to strike it big with one of these blasters unless you get a really great Young Gun. Hits like autographs and jersey cards are not easy to get at all.

I'll go ahead and see what pops out of this particular blaster:

Review -
As usual with Series One, there tends to be quite a bit of all-base packs, which can make the break a little boring. Series Two blasters tend to be chock full of updates and things to keep your interest while opening packs. My blaster gave me everything I expected to get. There were the two Young Gun rookie cards as well as a canvas insert and a Shining Stars foil card.

With twelve packs in the blaster, Upper Deck gives you plenty of cardboard to look at and enjoy after opening all the packs. Upper Deck Series One and Two have got to be the best hockey cards for the everyday collector. They actually bring back memories of simpler times in card collecting. Those were the days!

Here's my top three this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Jacob Trouba Card No. SS-8
You'll always find Shining Stars cards in UD1 blasters - it's just a matter of who you get. Nonetheless, these cards look nice and are one of the best regular inserts to come around for Upper Deck for a while now.

#2 - Jordan Eberle Card No. C35
Eberle will always be one of my favorite Oilers because of his play during his rookie season. I remember thinking of collecting him at one point, but I decided it would be way too expensive a proposition!

#1 - Leon Draisaitl Card No. 223
This was a pretty decent Young Gun pull. A quick check of eBay shows that collectors are buying up this card for about the price I paid for the entire blaster. Not bad!

Overall Value -
The Draisaitl Young Gun was a nice pull for a blaster. It pretty much made up the price of the entire box. And that's what's great about Young Guns... their popularity in the hobby can really make them a sweet pull in retail boxes like these. 

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 14, 2016

Retail Review #191 (14/15 Fleer Ultra)

I'm back at it with Fleer Ultra. This much maligned product had collectors scratching their heads at the price point. Upper Deck placed Ultra at a point between low and mid end products... but the content was definitely on the lower end. Hits are very difficult to come by, but for some reason I'm always thinking that the next blaster might have one in it.

Price - 

Packs - 8
8 x 14/15 Fleer Ultra Blaster Packs

While Ultra is a pretty terrible product, at least the price point on a blaster is now palatable. There is no way anyone would pay twenty bucks for one of these things, but for a little under five it's ok. It's a nice little break with hopefully some interesting cards to find.

I actually remember being pretty excited for Ultra to come out when it was announced last collecting season. Having old products come back afresh is always something I look forward to. It's just too bad Upper Deck dropped the ball on this release.

Let's check out what this blaster holds:

Review -
Just like my previous Ultra openings, this one was pretty bad. There were really no redeeming qualities here, and if I had spent $20 on it, I would be pretty mad! Plain base cards, boring parallels, and a single die-cut insert is not satisfying in the least. This break reminds me that as bad as I thought Ultra was, it's even worse than that.

Top cards? Well, here are three cards:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Darren Helm Card No. 61
Why this Darren Helm base card? Well, the only reason this cards is here is because I found it funny and unique that his parallel cards was pulled in the same box opening. Not a good reason? Well, I'm grasping at straws for something positive to say about this break.

#2 - Darren Helm Card No. 61
My only other 'insert' card in the blaster was this parallel of Darren Helm. If I'm going to be left with hardly any thing good in a blaster, at least a slightly better parallel would have been greatly welcomed by me.

#1 - Brandon Dubinksky Card No. BB-9
This card looks cool... but that's about it. Last time I checked, Brandon Dubinsky is not a player that collectors are chasing after. This card care in the last pack of the blaster. And it was of Dubinsky... just great.

Overall Value -
Stay away from Fleer Ultra. It's a product that though you can find heavily discounted, it's probably not worth your time or money. I wish Upper Deck would have just stuck with it and try to improve, but I'm sure they don't have the patience for all of that. So this year Ultra is nowhere to be seen.

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 7, 2016

Retail Review #190 (11/12 Panini Certified)

This week I'm moving on to the next year of Certified. Last week it was 10//11 Certified and this time it's the 11/12 version. I liked the inaugural year of Certified the best, but this is still a solid product to open. These blasters are guaranteed a hit so that's always a good thing!

Price - 

Packs - 3
11/12 Panini Certified

It's been really fun opening up these Panini products in Retail Review. When Panini and Upper Deck made cards, I always preferred UD, but now that Panini is gone, I can see the value in what they did. Panini really pushed the envelope and actually made UD improve their game. Since Panini has left the fold, UD seems to have settled a bit with their card innovations.

As always, I'm looking for autographs when I purchase these blasters. Well... either an auto or a nice patch. The most common thing to find is obviously the plain jersey, but the great thing with these blasters is that autographs and patch cards do come out frequently.

Let's see what comes out of this particular blaster box:

Review -
Three thin packs means one of two things. One, the blaster has an autograph card in it... or two, the blaster is missing a hit. Because I checked to see if the Panini seal was on it (and it was), I was pretty sure the hit would be an autograph.

Busting through this box was very quick and fast. Out of the three packs one had a hit, the other a parallel, and the third was all base. It's a pretty standard formula for Certified, I think. If anything, Panini was consistent with their collation!

Here were my three top cards this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Taylor Hall Card No. 63
I was surprised at the lack of bigger named players in this blaster. I chose Taylor Hall as my third best card as he was the hottest rookie the year before, and it was still cool to pull his second year card early in the then young 11/12 season.

#2 - Mikhail Grabovski Card No. 6
Mirror Blue parallels are more rare than their Red counterparts. The Blues are numbered to just 99. The cards have a nice shiny look to them. I just wish I got a player that I like more. Oh well!

#1 - Michael Cammalleri Card No. 16
I definitely hit some gold here! This Cammalleri gold auto is numbered to just 25. This is the type of card you would more expect to find at the hobby level, but being available here in a blaster is very cool.

Overall Value -
I've opened up a lot of retail Certified blasters and I keep going back to the well to get some more. It's a strong product that has help up quite well. I am very impressed with the pricing on these blasters, and I think they are an absolute steal. Get them while you can!

Let me know what you thought of my 11/12 Panini Certified blaster box down in the comments below. Have you ever gotten anything good from a Certified blaster? I'd love to know!

Overall Value Score:

Every Sunday look out for another exciting installment of Retail Review!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

2015-2016 Upper Deck SP Game Used Review

Last year Upper Deck's SP Game Used brand got a complete make-over. This year, Upper Deck builds upon what they did for the 14/15. Like last year, SPGU now comes in a one-pack configuration. Originally it was a product that contained one hit per pack with boxes having five to six packs. SPGU is now condensed into one giant pack with multiple hits.

Card image above taken from the Cardboard Connection 

Base Card Design -
Sadly, I did not get a base card in my pack... and no, it wasn't because Upper Deck goofed. The base cards in SPGU are actually pretty tough pulls. Each base card is limited to the player's jersey number, and that's all there are. In fact, there is a base card numbered to just 1, so it is only possible for one base set to be completed in the entire world. To me, that's really weird, but SPGU is not about set building. It's really about collecting the players that you want, and now base cards are actually tough cards to get a hold of. I know I'll be trying to track down Logan Couture who only has 39 base cards. Though some may not like it, I applaud Upper Deck for going this route. They are thinking outside the box and turning something like the lowly base card into something that could possibly be chased. It's a bold move, but this is the direction I can see the hobby going as it becomes more of a niche market catered to people with deep pockets.

To add to the chase, the card with the player's jersey number (so in my case 39/39 for Logan Couture) will be autographed. These autographs are really one-of-ones as they are the only base cards that exist with an autograph on it.

The score I'm giving the base cards considers the difficulty to get of the card and the look of the cards I've seen online. In terms of the way they look, the base cards look very much the standard for SPGU. Even the italicized serial numbering is a shout out to previous installments of the brand. It's not a great or memorable design by any means, but that's not what matters here.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The front of the box says that collectors can find 5 autograph, memorabilia, or other premium hits per pack. In all likelihood, most of the hits will be jersey cards with maybe a patch and an autograph accompanying them. Base cards would be considered premium hits as they are now in rarer territory.

Though this is just a triple jersey card, I like it as it displayed three different jersey colors on it. SPGU contains quite a bit of all-star memorabilia from last season's game, and this is an example of that. Having SPGU come out right as all-star fever is at its highest was probably a good move for Upper Deck as fans may still be hyped about it. Actually, if it had come out last week it may have been even better. Oh well!

This medium sized jersey card is also from last year's all-star festivities. The jersey piece is presented on a pretty standard looking card for SPGU. The entire card is clean, but not very memorable. The muted grey colors don't help much... especially with plain jersey pieces. Thankfully, these cards also come in rarer patch variations. Having a killer looking patch on this card would work well as the dull background would help set the patch off more.

I got two of these Authentic Rookie jersey cards in my pack, the Eichel shown above and also Nikolaj Ehlers. Each cards comes with a pretty small piece of rookie photoshoot jersey as well as numbering to 399. Unlike the other SPGU cards, these ones stand out a bit more with its bronze look and foil highlights. It's just too bad they are regular jersey cards that probably won't be sought after too much.

The best looking card from my pack was an Inked Rookie Sweater card numbered to just 49. The patch on my pull was pretty nice and helps the card look a bit better. Though the card has a sticker on it, Upper Deck has done a nice job of making it hard to see. Overall, the look of this card is top notch with the patch. I just wish I had gotten a more notable player.

The pack I opened had some very standard hits in it. And that's too bad for me as I know there are some pretty spectacular looking things to find in the product. One of my favorites - Supreme Relics -  features a very large piece of patch. There are also pieces of nets used in NHL events as well as puck cards.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
My box of SPGU wasn't particularly great. For well over $100, I basically got 4 jersey cards and a patch autograph of a lesser known rookie. That certainly doesn't make me very happy. But I do understand that SPGU is one of those very hit or miss products... and it always has been. Even when it was a different configuration, SPGU was a huge gamble for collectors.

I actually still feel in a way that I am buying the old SPGU as I am still getting a bunch of jersey cards. I never bought SPGU by the pack anyways, so getting all the hits at once is pretty much the same opening experience. The only good thing is that the box price is a lot easier to swallow. Remember when SPGU was upwards of around $200? Yeah, crazy!

There is certainly the potential to pull some great things out of SPGU, and I like that the base cards have added value by being pretty rare, but I just can't recommend SPGU as a very good product. The box value just isn't there. You'll just feel ripped off way too often than you'd like with this brand. Moving on!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of SPGU: