Sunday, December 25, 2016

Retail Review #236 (14/15 Upper Deck Black Diamond)

First off, merry Christmas! Today's Retail Review comes out on Christmas day. I hope everybody got what they wanted! This morning I'm opening up a blaster of 14/15 Black Diamond. Earlier this week I opened up the brand new high-end 16/17 version of the product. I thought it'd be nice to keep the Black Diamond love going with this older blaster.

Price - 

Packs - 6
14/15 UD Black Diamond Blaster Packs

Black Diamond was due for a big change and it got it a couple of years ago with its move into high end territory. I think collectors are still a little shocked at its transition! Opening up one of these older blasters feels totally right at home for Black Diamond, but I'm pretty sure I'll be reminded of why the brand needed a change. I had always complained that the Black Diamond formula was getting old and stale. The new formula may not be completely right, but I am glad Upper Deck is doing something to shake things up!

Let's see what cards come out of this blaster box:

Review -
I was actually a little more pleased with this blaster than I thought I would be. It certainly wasn't mind blowing and I didn't get a jersey or autograph, but I was able to get a few multi-diamond cards that I enjoyed finding. As it had been, Black Diamond utilized a unique foil design that was the signature of the product. The cards feel nice and have a strong design. They are cool, but they had fallen out of favor with collectors for a while. Maybe one day collectors will want them back, who knows!

Here are my top three cards out of this box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Jake McCabe Card No. 194
McCabe follows me around. One of my other breaks of Black Diamond on Retail Review had the same triple diamond Rookie Gem come out. 

#2 - Anze Kopitar Card No. 169
Kopitar is a very good NHLer and getting his cards is nice - even though he is on the rival LA Kings. This card is also a triple diamond, which makes it one of the better cards in the set.

#1 - John Tavares Card No. 204
You don't always get a quad diamond in a blaster, so it was pretty sweet to pull this Tavares out. I remember a time when quad diamonds commanded a good amount of money. Oh those days have long past!

Overall Value -
I paid under eight dollars for this blaster, so that was a good price. Though I didn't get a hit, I still was able to pull a few cards that I enjoyed getting. My favorite card was the John Tavares quad. There's just something about that card that I really enjoy. If you're nostalgic for what Black Diamond used to be, getting one of these blasters would be a nice blaster into the past!

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, December 21, 2016

2016-2017 Upper Deck Black Diamond Review

Black Diamond's second stint as a high-end premium product is now upon us. Just like last year, each 'box' of Black Diamond contains just a handful of cards. Collectors will find one thick pack of Black Diamond cards and a pack containing a single Exquisite card when they open up their box. At release, boxes of this product are around $200 USD. That's a steep price! Let's see how this year's iteration looks and if it is worth that high price tag.

Base Card Design -
The base cards in Black Diamond have a very nice look to them. They are not on super-thick stock, but the elements of the base cards are well-done. Each card is serial numbered to 249 and is adorned with foil. Most of the card is well-balanced save for the large team logo beneath the player image. It's obvious that there are parallel cards of the base set and that spot is meant for an autograph or memorabilia piece. It's convenient for companies to do this as it makes card design easier, but I'd rather the base cards be more unique. For me, this design choice just tells me that this is the basic version of better cards. Though I don't particularly like it, it's not too egregious of an offense. My favorite part of the base card has to be the card edge. I know, it's weird to say that, but the Black Diamond edges are so sweet! The edge is layered like a three part sandwich. Upper Deck has done this before with Black Diamond and it is a great premium touch. I prefer this to the all white giant stock of base cards from The Cup.

The back of the base cards have a well thought out look that is anything but generic. The angles used, especially around the player image is very nice looking and there are plenty of colors to make the back look engaging. Black Diamond has always been one of Upper Deck's more stylish brands, and I feel that these card backs do the brand justice.

Rookie cards in Black Diamond take on the single, double, triple, and quad diamond configuration as in years past. Unlike years past, however, getting a rookie card is very tough. Each of these cards has a gem embedded in it. Though I didn't pull on in my box, the cards look great from what I have seen. They have a mainly white color scheme that works very well with the diamond, upper-end motif.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Now that Black Diamond has gotten to upper echelon status, collectors expect hits when they open up the product. Black Diamond delivers autographs and memorabilia cards alongside cards that contain gems. Also in this set are manufactured patch cards and premium insert cards.

The one game-used patch card to come out of my box was this John Gibson card numbered to 50. I think this card looks very different than the regular base card, but if you put them side-to-side for comparison, you'll notice that they are the same - save for the patch piece and the black background. The patch piece is medium-small but a quality cut. The foil for the player image is nice and the card is on very thick stock - it is certainly premium - but I doubt this card will be very desirable except to the most die hard of Duck fans.

This Scheifele card looks like it would be a sick patch... but it's not. Upper Deck did this last year as well. The patch on this card is manufactured and are intended to be a puzzle that you can put together. Cards like this may appeal to some, but I think for most people they are a let down. I'd just as well not have these cards in the set. When paying upwards of two hundred dollars I want the real deal. This manufactured stuff just doesn't belong.

An interesting card that came out of the box was this Patrick Kane Run for the Cup insert card. I'd call this a premium insert as it is very thick, contains a lot of foil, and is numbered to just 99. It looks like Upper Deck put a lot of insert tech into this card as it also has acetate and a layered edge along with what I already mentioned. This is a sweet looking card, but I do have to ask myself again if I'd rather have something like this or an autograph. Unless the collector market deems these highly sought after, I think I'd rather have an auto (or at least a patch!).

My Exquisite pack got me a nice Rookie Draft Day card of Auston Matthews. I consider this the best card out of my box. It's not autographed, but at least it's of one of the top rookies so far this year. I do like the fact that it is an Exquisite card as well. I love that brand and am glad we in hockey collecting get to finally get some these past few years.

Sadly, my autograph card was a redemption card so I don't know what it looks like. There are a lot of different types of cards you can find in Black Diamond this year. Books are available as are other types of manufactured patches. There is a huge mix of content that really would take a close inspection of the checklist to get a good handle of what is available.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
The cards in Black Diamond this year look pretty spectacular. I found myself really enjoying them and oogling over the way they looked and felt. What disappointed me about the cards were the value that was in the box. Sure, purchasing hockey cards will rarely net you back what you purchase in sealed products, but I just didn't think much value at all came out of the box - certainly not for north of $200.

The product contains too many manufactured items and not enough of what collectors want: autographs and hits. I wouldn't be surprised if the price of Black Diamond drops by quite a bit in the future. For it to be worth it the boxes need to take a significant dip.

I suggest waiting if you want to try Black Diamond. For this sophomore edition of the 'new' Black Diamond format, I think Upper Deck still has to tweak the product to get it right. I do like that Black Diamond is a premium product, it's just that it needs to be packed with cards that collectors find worthwhile in an upper-end brand.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 16/17 Upper Deck Black Diamond:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Retail Review #235 (14/15 Upper Deck Artifacts Retail Box)

I've had some decent success with the 14/15 Artifacts big retail boxes, so I don't mind purchasing them! These guys seem to put out a whole lot more than their standard blaster brothers. I've been snake bitten a bunch of times by Artifacts, and it has really put the brand off to me at the retail level, but that sentiment doesn't apply with these.

Price - 

Packs - 10
14/15 Upper Deck Artifacts Retail Packs

These particular Artifacts boxes are nice in that they guarantee you a special Ice preview card. The preview card is a cool looking acetate card that is unique to these boxes. There are 6 total preview cards in the set, so the set isn't particularly challenging to put together.

Initially, these boxes were about five dollars more than a regular blaster. I would balk at the price difference, but since I know these boxes are much more loaded up than standard blasters of Artifacts, I would go with these any day of the week if given a choice between the two.

Will something good come out? Let's open it and find out:

Review -
This box started off great with a hit at the beginning. There wasn't much else in terms of surprises after that, but I was already riding high with the autograph. These boxes give you a very nice amount of base cards along with the non-base that you find. These boxes really should be the standard for Upper Deck retail products. It's the perfect blend of cards that I think any collector would appreciate being able to buy at a big chain store.

These were my top cards out of this box:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Vincent Damphousse Card No. 70
If this were a regular Artifacts blaster, the only thing that would have probably come out would have been this red parallel card numbered to 599. As it stands now, it's the third best card out of the blaster.

#2 - Jonathan Toews Card No. P-5
I love the look of the Ice preview cards. I'm sure casual collectors would enjoy pulling out a card like this. I can see them possibly becoming curious about Upper Deck Ice and possibly being motivated to find some.

#1 - Mike Brown Card No. A-BR
It's hard for me to believe I got an Auto Facts insert out of this retail box, but here it is! I usually wouldn't be too happy with someone like this, but since it's a Shark, I'm definitely satisfied here.

Overall Value -
These boxes are the right price right now. Unfortunately, the supply has dried up a bit and I'm not sure if I'll be able to track some more of these down. I hope that they aren't all gone though! I'd love to get the chance to open a few more of these boxes 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!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Retail Review #234 (10/11 Panini Pinnacle)

Back to Pinnacle again for another really inexpensive but fun break. Yes, yes, I keep going for this product even after all these years. It's just that good! This product has been a joy to open and I'll gladly keep purchasing these for a break that I know will be good.

Price - 

Packs - 8
10/11 Pinnacle Packs

It's been a couple years now that Panini has left the hockey card market, but Upper Deck hasn't come up with anything in retail like what Pinnacle (and other brands like Donruss and Zenith) has done. Pinnacle was able to cram in one jersey card per blaster. Looking at Upper Deck products, there just isn't anything that has a hit per little retail box. It's just not available! And Panini was able to do it a very reasonable price. Oh I long for those few years ago when hits were available a retail at such a sweet clip!

Let's relive those years with this break:

Review -
This blaster gave me a nice amount of thrills for the money. For ten dollars I got nice player photographs, a couple of rookies, some Nufex cards, and a hit. It's hard to beat that kind of a haul these days. Though I've seen a lot of Pinnacle cards come through my hands, they never cease to impress me with their uniqueness. The pictures are so much fun!

And the Nufex cards look great. The Nufex foil is very well done and gives the cards a unique look about them. It would have been an awesome parallel set to try and complete. The only downer with this break were my rookies, which weren't the greatest. But with everything else, I can't complain!

Check out my top three cards out of this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Steve Bernier Card No. 113
This is the kind of photo that makes Pinnacle a special product. Sure, you don't see any of Bernier's face, but you see what he just did and the reaction of the fan behind the glass! Such a great look of surprise! 

#2 - Marc-Andre Fleury Card No. 14
Argg! The only thing I don't like about the Nufex cards is the way they scan. They are terrible cards to put in a scanner. Be assured, this card looks a whole lot better in person than it does from my scan of it. I have actually pulled this Fleury Saving Face card a few times now. It's following me!

#1 - Jakub Voracek Card No. VO
Threads were a jersey insert set that had a very clean, but interesting design. I just love how all the lines on the card come together in harmony. It's a very well-balanced design that elevates what would be just a regular jersey hit.

Overall Value -
I'll always recommend getting Pinnacle if you can find it for the price I got it for. It's a break that I think most collectors will really enjoy. You get fun stuff starting from the base cards all the way up to the hit of the box. Grab a blaster today!

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, December 10, 2016

2016-2017 Upper Deck Compendium Review

This is my very first e-pack box break and review! I've opened up some e-packs before, but this is the first all-digital (for the most part) product that I have gotten in 'box' form. I'm excited to give this product a shot and see how the box opening experience is with a mouse!

Base Card Design -
It has to be said that the base cards were obviously only viewed on my computer screen and not held in my hands, so much of the card experience was different than what I was used to. I was really only able to see the design from in front of the screen - similar to seeing a pre-release advertisement on a website or something. There's just something that is missing with this all-digital way of doing things, but though there are things that I may not like about digital cards, there are nice things about them as well. One thing that was cool was that the cards were all sorted for me on Upper Deck's site - which also didn't take up any room in my house (which is getting a bit too full of hockey cards). Trading them is also easier to do as all transactions are doing electronically, saving money on postage. In terms of the actual look of the cards, they have a lower-end type design where the border is a pretty significant part of the card. The design reminds me a lot of how Score cards were done. Photography is average, par for the course for packs that are just $.99.

The back of the base card is also reminiscent of lower-end designs. There is no photo on the back. It's all graphics and stats. The nice thing is that the back design is well-paired with the front so there is a very nice unified look about the card. There's nothing too crazy here, just your basic design that works but won't blow you away.

Rookie cards are available in Compendium and come towards the end of the set. There's no change in design of these cards save for the word 'Rookie' above the player's name. I suppose to keep the price of Compendium down, elements like unique looking rookie cards had to be sacrificed. Like the backs of the base cards, these rookie cards aren't bad looking, they are just a bit boring in terms of their design.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
A box of Compendium will give collectors 24 virtual packs to open with each pack having 8 cards. Inserts come about one per twelve packs and there are parallel cards sprinkled within. Unfortunately, I don't think jersey memorabilia hits like patches are in this product, but autographs can be obtained by completing different online collecting challenges put on by Upper Deck.

As I mentioned, Compendium has parallel cards within the set. The parallels that I got had a nice pink border to them. I like the look of these cards A LOT more than the standard base. The pink actually gives these cards a pop that the original steel/grey look doesn't. I wouldn't mind adding a bunch of these to my digital collection.

Net Destroyer inserts showcase offensively gifted players like Alex Ovechkin. When you pull an insert card from a pack a red border flashed behind it signifying that the card is special. The design of these cards remind me of the non-foil inserts found in Upper Deck Series One and Two. These cards are a nice change of pace when they are pulled as they break up the monotony of the regular base cards.

CarbonFX inserts have a sleek look to them. I would imagine that a physical version of the card would have a shiny foil to the surface to show off the carbon theme of the set name. The yellow/green color scheme on the carbon background gives this insert an exciting look that I really enjoy. Pulling a Sidney Crosby was pretty awesome as well.

These are the two basic inserts that you will find along with the parallel cards in Compendium. The bonus content are things that collectors will have to earn through different means. I'll be interested to see how many collectors out there try to fulfill achievements to get other unique cards form this set.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
For an all-digital set, the price of $.99 per pack is right. I would find it difficult to pay more than a dollar for something that only exists in the virtual world. That being said, it's cool that Upper Deck makes the special cards from Compendium available in physical form. Opening up a box of this wasn't especially exciting. I ended up getting tired of clicking the button to open packs over and over, so I appreciated the option to just get all the cards at once.

If you haven't tried e-packs before and you're a high-end collector. I'd stay away from Compendium. It's definitely got a low-end feel to it. The enjoyment of this set comes in the collection of every card and trying to put together sets to create unique and rare cards. If that's your thing, this set is definitely worth a look.

There is a lot of newness to the digital card format. It can be off-putting and unusual for most, but I do see some benefits from it and Upper Deck is thinking outside the box in terms of offering so cool cards that can be had by collecting digital cards.

It's a brave new world. It may be time to give these things a shot. With Compendium, at least the price is low enough that it won't be too big of a burden on the 'ol wallet.

Overall Score:

Check out my online break of Compendium:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Retail Review #233 (12/13 Score)

This week I broke a tin of The Cup, so for Retail Review I thought I'd tone it down a bit with this very affordable blaster of 12/13 Score. These blasters can be obtained for very little money now... but are they worth buying? Hit collectors can look elsewhere, but for people just wanting to have some good old fashioned fun with some cards, this is a nice little break!

Price - 

Packs - 11
12/13 Score Packs

Score was a brand that really brought it back to a time when hits like jersey and autograph cards were not even a thought for collectors. The cards in Score are plain and simple with attention focused on a fun design. There was a time when the borders of a card really defined a year. With so few sets released, collecting years could be distinguished by the borders they chose to use on the cards. It was definitely a simpler time back then.

This blaster will definitely have some fun looking cards that I think I'll enjoy. For those who just crave the big cards, this break will probably be a bore, but I enjoy these breaks as they give me a nice sense of nostalgia. Hopefully it gives some others that same sense too!

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

Review -
Just as I thought I would, I enjoyed the break. Getting a gold card per packs is sweet and getting extra inserts on top of those is even better! I remember some of the inserts I got like The Franchise and Team Score from back in the 90's. They were great pulls back then. Not so much now, but I still get a kick out of them. Score had a great little place in the hobby. This break makes me wish they were still around!

Check out my top three favorites out of this blaster:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Miikka Kiprusoff Card No. NC20
This might not be the best photo out of the Net Cam set, but it is unique and interesting in its own right. I really like the fact that it comes from an outdoor game and that there seems to be some physicality going on around Miikka. 

#2 - Jordan Eberle Card No. F11
The most surprising thing about this card was the foil to me. It totally made the card stand out from every other card I pulled. Eberle was a favorite of mine back in 10/11. In fact, some of you may remember that I started a little mini Eberle PC for a while!

#1 - Steven Stamkos Card No. TS8
Stamkos is a great player and this is a very nice photo of him in black and white done in the traditional style of Team Score. Cards like this were what made the 90's very cool and I love that I was able to pull a card like this out of a modern blaster.

Overall Value -
It's hard to argue the price of this blaster of Score. For very little money you get 11 packs to open and enjoy. I think this blaster would be a really cool stocking stuffer for anyone who enjoys hockey. Give them this box and show them how much fun opening up some packs of hockey cards can be!

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, December 3, 2016

2015-2016 Upper Deck The Cup Review

The wait for this year's Cup was borderline ridiculous... but it has finally come out! The most anticipated and highest priced hockey product is now upon us. It should come packed with the absolute best cards that a hockey card collector could ever want. With a price tag of nearly $800 upon release, each tin better deliver something special.

Base Card Design -
I wonder if anyone really cares about Cup base cards. They were once pretty highly sought after and collectible, but in the collecting environment today, they are pretty much an afterthought. Each base card comes with The Cup's extremely thick card stock, and each card is numbered to 249. I guess 249 is a low number, but not that low. Anybody who wants to get their favorite player's Cup card won't be hurting to find it, or afford it. As always, the Cup base cards have a clean and modern design. It certainly looks classy, but at the cost of being interesting. I suppose Upper Deck is going for elegance, but why does it have to be so boring? I won't knock the cards for looking bad, but I wish the cards were more exciting. The tin I opened came with two base cards, so I guess you could say I was doubly un-excited with them.

The back of the base card is also very typical of how Cup cards have been designed in the past. Again, not a whole lot of frills on the back, but the back is clean and implemented well. The stats are easy to read and have a nice large font. It has all the relevant information that the back should have. Sadly, there is nothing to read in terms of player text on the back of the Cup. It's mostly just numbers.

A player's most expensive rookie card is usually found in The Cup. Most players are numbered to 249, like the Charles Hudon I pulled, but the top tier guys are limited to just 99. Each rookie card features an event-used patch as well as a hard-signed autograph. The rookie cards this year have a similar look to the base, but definitely take it several notches up. The foil used and the overall design elements come together and fill out the card. Rather than being stale, these cards have an elegant and exciting look to them. These rookie cards will no doubt be huge draws for collectors looking for their favorite rookies this year.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
This is where The Cup shines. When a collectors purchases a tin of the Cup, they expect to get some really nice hits. The Cup is full of game-used material and autographs. Though my tin had 2 base cards in it, I was still able to fish out four hits - two of which I thought were particularly nice. Though the Cup is very expensive, lucky collectors who find autographed Connor McDavid cards will have at least made back, if not exceeded, the money they put into a tin.

My most lackluster card from my tin had to be this Radek Faksa gold parallel rookie card numbered to 36. It's basically the rookie design done with gold touches minus the most important part... the patch! I supposed this is a way for Upper Deck to add additional rookie content to the product, but unless you're getting a top rookie from this year's class, this type of card isn't too exciting to get.

Now this is a lot better! Though it's another rookie card parallel, having a tag patch on the card is pretty awesome. This card is numbered to 8 - which is a little high in my opinion - but features a piece of the tag on the jersey that Duncan Siemens wore. The red foil on the card really makes the card stand out and really goes well with the Canada Flag patch. I've seen one other from the 8 copies of this card on eBay, and it didn't have the flag portion of the patch, so I'm guessing this may be the best one of the 8!

I thought the Siemens flag patch was my pack hit, but I was wrong (thankfully)! My best card from the break was the letter 'E' from a GAME-USED nameplate off his jersey. Since Kane only has four letters in his last name, getting one of his Notable Nameplates cards is pretty nice. Kane has also been instrumental in the success the Blackhawks have had over the years so getting this card out of my tin was great. This is the type of nicer pull that I think many collectors really expect out of the Cup. My other hits were rookies, which could potentially be good, but getting a solid hit of a an established star player is always satisfying.

This is the only tin of the Cup I'll be breaking this year, but oh how I wish I could open more and find all the amazing treasure trove of cards within it. Upper Deck has book cards, stick cards, and amazing patches to be found here. One tin? It doesn't even scratch the surface of what's available to be found!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
What can I say? The Cup is The Cup. If you are lucky enough to be able to get a tin, it is an incredible opening experience. The price of this year's Cup is absolutely ridiculous. 99% of collectors cannot afford to get a tin, but plenty of this product will be broken this year as it always is. Much of the cards will be available at decent prices on eBay and other sites. The only cards that may be really out of reach are the Connor McDavid rookies that come out this year. We're looking at thousands of dollars per copy for those particular cards (especially his rookie patch auto numbered to 99).

I have to save a lot all year in preparation for the release of the Cup. I guess if the Cup is something you really want to open, it is possible. Just know that many who want to get one will really have to sacrifice and plan on the purchase. Getting the Cup is a huge gamble, so think hard before going for a tin if you're not one of those folk who have the extra money to get a tin or twelve. For me, I like the thrill of busting a tin - it's unlike any other hockey product out there. I go in knowing I probably won't be getting the absolute best card so my expectations are tempered. I find this a good approach to the Cup.

So how do I rate this year's Cup? Well, to be honest it all hinges on the rookies (I'm looking at you, Connor!). If McDavid (or another rookie) becomes THE star for the NHL in the coming years, then this year's product will be absolute fire. Prices will not come down and high-end collectors will gobble all of it up. If not... well... then the opposite will happen. But it looks like McDavid will be holding this product up, and the excitement has definitely not died down. I'd say this year's Cup is a winner for now.

Overall Rating -

Watch me open up a tin of the Cup at D&P Sportscards in Sacramento, Ca: