Wednesday, July 24, 2019

2019 Panini Immaculate Collection Review


I feel like high-end baseball products come out all the time! With hockey, it's a slow journey towards the high-end products. Now that I'm collecting baseball, it seems like every other release is something spectacular and expensive! Today Panini released their Immaculate Collection set chock full of autographs and memorabilia to find in each tin. Immaculate is one of Panini's top tier brands so the expectation for what we can get is through the roof!

Product Thoughts
I was a bit hesitant to purchase a tin of Immaculate because of its high price point, but upon seeing some breaks of it online, I decided to take the plunge. I hadn't been much of an Immaculate fan before as I thought the cards were pretty plain for a high-end offering. Many of the windows for the memorabilia were small to me, and the set just didn't have a huge 'wow' factor. But seeing tins opened online changed my mind. I saw a ton of great content including cleats, buttons, socks, as well as patches and bat pieces. Nice memorabilia pieces were coming out of a good number of tins so I purchase my own.


Tins of Immaculate baseball are $250 as of the writing of this post. It's a bit steep, but I thought they would be more since the basketball version of Immaculate is a bit more expensive than that. It was pretty much at the very highest price I was willing to pay for it. I thought that the box I opened with pretty middling. The Tatis Jr. was a nice hit, but nothing really blew me out of the water from this particular tin.


I was a bit surprised at how many rookie and young players were in the breaks of Immaculate that I saw (mine included). Immaculate seems to be pretty rookie heavy with less of a focus on old school greats. Since I prefer the older players, I guess this is what makes me feel that the product is a little lacking (for my personal tastes). For those who enjoy the newest of the new, then Immaculate is pretty great as it seems to put out tons of the young guys.


Rookie Patch Auto cards numbered to 99 are always a popular type of card. It was pretty sweet to pull this card of Danny Jansen with a pretty decent looking patch. The overall look of the card is pretty nice and clean. I get sort of an Upper Deck SP vibe from it as that brand was always pretty clean cut with team colors on a white background. I'm gonna cross my fingers and hope Danny Jansen becomes an amazing player.


For something that costs as much as this does, it is a little sad to see that sticker autographs are utilized for some of the cards. Sticker autos are never as cool and make me think that the product isn't as high-end as it advertises itself to be. One other thing that is a bit annoying is that many of these cards have a little bit of chipping or white edges right out of the box. This is very typical of high-end cards from all companies - I guess its just a design flaw. But it sucks. Hopefully companies can find a way to get these expensive cards out to collectors without the damage. Otherwise they should change the product name to Not Immaculate.

Positives:

  • Boxes have been giving out some very nice hits (as seen from online breaks).
  • The tin of Immaculate isn't as expensive as its basketball counterpart.
  • Truly unique items like cleats, buttons, and batting gloves can be found in the product.
  • Rookie heavy product if your'e into that kind of thing.
  • Panini has done a great job of featuring players even without their team logo.

Negatives:

  • There are sticker autographs on some cards.
  • Many of the cards have chipping issues on the edges and corners.


Overall Rating:

9/10

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Best of Retail (Panini vs. Topps Vs. Upper Deck)

If you're buying cards, hobby is definitely the way to go as most of the best cards you can get are usually in hobby products. Hobby packs and boxes generally give you more cards and better odds at finding hits like autographs and memorabilia cards. Sadly, not everyone has access to a hobby store. I mean, it's not the 90's anymore when there were several card shops in town within easy traveling distance. Nowadays, most folks get their hobby products online or have to make a trek in order to reach the nearest hobby store.




Retail products, however, are within easy reach as they line the shelves of places like Target and Walmart. Collectors can grab blaster boxes, hanger boxes, rack packs, and other products whenever they go grocery shopping. It's convenient, but retail products make it very difficult (for the most part) to pull autographs or memorabilia cards out of. Each company - Panini, Topps, and Upper Deck - have their own retail strategy it seems, and in this post I'm going to go over some observations of each company and, hopefully, figure out which company does retail the best.

Let's start with Upper Deck. Upper Deck was once king of the card market. They had the best looking and most desired cards in all sports - baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. They have taken a huge tumble (for many nefarious reasons) and now only have a license to make hockey cards. Their retail strategy seems to be mostly centered on blaster boxes, regular and jumbo packs, and tins. Most of their retail offerings give you a taste of their product, but do not give buyers the satisfaction of getting a hit from their purchase.

My all-time least favorite retail product has got to be Artifacts. Artifacts blasters are notorious for giving the buyer virtually nothing but base cards. Sure, you can usually find a numbered card or two in a blaster, but that's it. You get a small stack of nice looking Artifacts cards but that's it. These blasters retail for twenty dollars. If you want to throw your money away, but one of these.

The best Upper Deck product to buy at retail are their Series One and Two blasters. Though getting a hit is quite difficult, at least you are guaranteed two Young Gun cards. Young Guns are quite popular rookie cards and hold surprising value for the big name rookies of the year. There are a million copies of Young Gun rookie cards out there, but their popularity remains high for hockey fans. That's lucky for Upper Deck as they can produce these cards easily and cheaply since they don't need to have them autographed or embedded with memorabilia.

Upper Deck also puts out retail blasters of brands like O-Pee-Chee, MVP, and a select few other mid-tier products, but they are mostly unremarkable. Sadly, in my opinion Upper Deck comes in last when it comes to producing retail products.

As I've begun collecting baseball cards again, I've purchased quite a few Topps products at the retail level. I would put Topps ahead of Upper Deck in the retail market space, but behind Panini by quite a margin. Topps has a slew of products at the retail level, with many products offering retail exclusive content.

Having retail exclusive cards is great for the hobby as it gives collectors an incentive to buy cards at the big retail stores. Topps puts quite a few retail exclusive parallels and inserts at the retail level. One recent example are hanger packs. Gypsy Queen hangers have 3 retail packs as well as a special 3-card pack of green parallels. Topps hanger packs contain a special colored insert card. Blaster boxes of the standard Topps release have recently had a high quality manufactured memorabilia card. This year you can get an embedded metallic MLB logo card. Last year they had USA flag patches. They might not have huge value associated with them, but they look quite nice and regular consumers will enjoy these nicely designed cards.

Though Topps does give retail purchasers some special content, finding memorabilia and autographed cards is still a difficult task. In fact, if you take a look at the odds on the backs of Topps retail packs, they can seem astronomical to get a hit like an autograph. I'd say getting a hit from Topps is on par with that of Upper Deck. The hits are definitely in there, but you'll be buying lots of products before you actually pull something out.

I do want to mention that Topps also sells complete sets and larger format retail products too. The complete sets contain special cards that you can only get there. It's a step in the right direction for Topps as they now have products that give more incentive for collectors to go and purchase.

Panini is the best of the lot when it comes to purchasing cards at retail. Like Topps, Panini has a slew of retail exclusive content - usually in radical parallel designs. Look at a Panini retail offering and you'll see that there are often one or two special parallel cards within it. Collectors who enjoy a bounty of colorful and shiny cards will get their fill with Panini.

Panini's blasters are great. Many of their blasters cost the same as their Topps and Upper Deck counterparts except that they contain hits in them. When Panini made NHL hockey cards, I would often select a Panini blaster over an Upper Deck one because I was guaranteed to get a hit (usually a jersey card) in it. It was awesome knowing that there was something to look forward to finding when buying a Panini product. Panini has continued this with their baseball, football, and basketball products.

And aside from just having blasters, hanger boxes, and packs, Panini has products that a hobby-like in their nature. One example of this are the Mega Boxes for sale. Mega boxes are pricier - often around $40 or so - but contain a hit and more cards. It's like you're getting a hobby product at the store. This option is great collectors who want more out of their retail purchases. In fact, many collectors seek out these Mega Boxes as their content is just that good. The secondary market for Mega Boxes is quite hot at the moment.

Currently, Panini makes basketball, football, and unlicensed baseball cards. They are doing a tremendous job at giving collectors a reason to purchase cards at the retail level. I know many hockey collectors miss Panini's hockey cards. I'm definitely in that camp. Their willingness to innovate is something that I really appreciated.

So if you're on the hunt for some cards and you're wondering what company's cards to get. I would first look towards Panini, then Topps, and then Upper Deck. I hope this article is helpful to you as you continue on your hobby journey! Please let me know your thoughts and opinions on retail products. I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

2019 Panini Donruss Optic Review



Donruss Optic brings the shine to the standard Donruss trading card. The basic card designs are the same as 2019 Donruss with an added coat of metallic chrome to make the cards really pop. Optic is a mid-tier product that won't break the bank when buying packs or boxes of it. Boxes usually run a little less than a hundred dollars and give you a fun rip with plenty of colored parallels to enjoy.

Product Thoughts
Optic is a really fun break. It's as plain and simple as that. There is so much variety in the product that ripping open each pack is a whole lot of fun. Panini kind of went crazy with the amount of parallels they have placed in the product, but you just don't see the sheer amount of prizms, different borders, or different designs in anything else - especially out of Topps.


Donruss has always been a favorite of mine since the eighties. Their designs are classic to me and give me a huge amount of nostalgia. Panini capitalizes on this by straight copying old designs and chrome-ifying them. They also have the Rated Rookies back with autographed versions. It's a great way to bring what we loved from the past into the present. Is it cheap to just rehash the old stuff? Well... maybe... but I'm not complaining about it! In fact, Panini is probably going to get a lot more money from me because of it!


If I did have one complaint about Optic, it would be that the packs only contain 4 cards each. I get that this is exactly the way Topps does it with their Chrome products, but I don't see why Panini has to follow Topps' ways here. Four cards is just so few - especially for a mid-tier product. I think 5-6 cards would be an appropriate amount of cards to get per pack.


My box turned out to be a Hot Box with a ton of prizm and colored parallel cards in it. I didn't realize it at first, but it was pointed out to me later by a viewer of my Youtube channel. See... this is what sets Panini apart from their competition. There are multiple Hot Boxes per case. Some Hot Boxes have extra autographs and others like the one I got were full over colored parallels. These Hot Boxes aren't too hard to come by and make the breaking experience so much fun. Hot Boxes don't seem out of reach when purchasing the product by the box, and they are a joy to open.


My only real complaint is that Panini cards aren't licensed and don't hold the value that Topps cards do. In my opinion, Panini has done a stand-out job with just a player's license, but it's hard to overcome the lack of official team logos on the cards. This fact makes the Panini cards less desirable in general to collectors. And though it's awesome to have tons of amazing parallels and inserts, by having this many, each type doesn't feel as special because of the sheer amount of them. It's a double edged sword that Panini's wielding! They allow you to get a lot, but Panini cards suffer in terms of their monetary value because of that.

Positives:

  • Hot Boxes are relatively easy to get.
  • Many colored parallel cards create a dynamic opening experience.
  • 2 Autographs on average when you break a standard Optic box.
  • Boxes are short of the $100 mark.

Negatives:

  • You only get 4 cards per pack.
  • The value of the cards are less than their Topps counterparts.
  • There may be too many parallel cards available.
  • No team logos.


Overall Rating:

8.5/10

2019 Topps Allen & Ginter Review


Allen & Ginter is a fan favorite set that has a bit of everything in it. Not only are there baseball players, but you will also find cards of pop culture stars and even cards of people who aren't really that famous to begin with! It really is the kitchen sink when it comes to baseball cards. Hobby boxes will contain three hits and a large amount of base cards.

Product Thoughts
Allen & Ginter is a mid-tier product aimed at collectors that enjoy the retro look and feel of baseball cards. These cards certainly have their own unique look as the images used are all painted renditions of the card's subject. These cards also have a smooth, matte cardboard feel that give them and old time texture that you just don't see in many other products.


The box opening experience is pretty fun in that you get 24 packs to open up. That's a good amount of packs and a good amount of cards. You'll end up with a nice stack to go through and enjoy after you're all done busting everything open. As the box is opened you can expect to find three hits. Considered hits are autographs, memorabilia cards, rip cards, printing plates, and book cards. There is, however, no guarantee to hit any sort of fixed mix of these cards.


For example, some boxes can just have three common memorabilia cards, which would be somewhat disappointing. Looking at the back of the pack for the odds, you'll see that big interest hits are extremely difficult pulls. Go online and watch breaks of A&G and you'll see that getting something spectacular from a box just isn't that common.


Collector interest in mini sized cards is pretty mixed. I, for one, am not a huge fan of them as they provide storage problems. I just don't know what to do with them in my collection. I understand that there are rare mini cards and there are those that do enjoy them, but I'm just not sure the appeal of them. I do, however, like the framed versions of the mini cards as they extend the card's size to what the standard card dimensions. Besides the mini cards, there are also over sized box loader cards as well. Again, these are take-them-or-leave-them type collectibles. Since they aren't a standard size I often find myself not knowing what to do with them. I don't think they have a great look to them and are a burden on storage.


Though Allen & Ginter is an odd set, I find myself attracted to it. There are plenty of really high-end cards available to find, and that is enough to tempt me to purchase it. Boxes run about $100 each and are readily available. I'm sure there will be plenty of blaster boxes at retail to purchase as well and I'd love to break a blaster for Retail Review.

Positives:

  • Relatively low price-point that most collectors can afford.
  • Lots of packs and cards per box to enjoy.
  • Three hits per box as well as a box loader and mini cards.
  • A chance at some very rare and valuable cards.

Negatives:

  • Many non-baseball related cards with a few very strange subjects.
  • Rare hits have odds that are astronomical.
  • Not a great product if you don't like cards that are not standard sized.
  • Only last names on the base cards with a non-conventional stat layout.


Overall Rating:

8.5/10

Back After OVER a Year!


Dear Cardboard Review Readers,

The blog has been sitting silent for over a year. After my photo hosting site changed their policies, I decided to put the blog on hold indefinitely. Well... indefinitely is OVER! Though all of 2018 was pretty much lost in terms of card reviews, I am starting up again with an emphasis on both hockey and baseball. A future goal would be to add basketball and football, but I don't see that happening yet due to the high cost of collecting even just one sport! Thank you all for your patience. And if you've missed me... I'M BACK!


-blacksheep217