Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019-2020 Upper Deck Artifacts


Oh, Artifacts... you used to be so good! I used to say that the real start of the collecting season began with Artifacts. Hobby boxes would contain autographs and there would be awesome patch cards coming out all the time. Those days are long gone. It seems as though there are hardly any autographs to be found with most boxes just giving out boring jersey cards. The Artifacts I've already gotten is all that I will be getting as this product is just a shell of what it once was.

Product Thoughts
Artifacts is a mid-tier product that has some nice base looking base cards. The base cards have a nice foil elegance to them though I'm not a huge fan of the design this year. It used to be that these cards were nice enough to collect all by themselves. At the retail level, that's pretty much all you got aside from one numbered card. This just doesn't cut it in today's hobby. Rather than moving forward and giving collectors more of an incentive to purchase Artifacts, it seems as if the brand has made quite a few steps backward.


Like every year, Artifacts comes before the NHL season begins. Collectors can find players that suited up last year and were held over for a rookie card until now. This is just like MVP and OPC that came out before except that the rookies now feature serial numbering on them. Artifact rookie cards have not been historically popular so while they are serial numbered, that doesn't make them that much more collectible.


What does set Artifacts apart from the other two already released products are the rookie redemption cards. These cards can be redeemed for a rookie card in the future. While most will net you just a regular rookie card, collectors can find memorabilia versions and autographed versions as well. The redemption cards of the top players in the draft can fetch quite a high dollar, but I don't like knowing that I'll have to wait a good long while before the card comes in.


Upper Deck has used the same parallel structure in Artifacts for years. You'll always find these two spaces for jerseys or patches or other parts of the jersey. I feel decently lucky to have pulled a jersey/patch card from my box. I've seen box after box of Artifacts and they feel as if they don't come out too often.


The Aurum cards have been a thing for a couple years now and I honestly am not a huge fan of these. These cards count as a hit in your box if you get one, and the best thing you can do with them is collect them all and redeem them for exclusive cards from Upper Deck. I feel like these cards are made so that collectors can buy more product to find a set. There are a lot of cards to collect in the Aurum set so I've never had the desire to even go for it. Upper Deck seriously needs to rethink what it will do with Artifacts going in to the future. As of now, it is a product that is just withering away.

Positives:
  • A chance to get rookie autographs in the form of rookie redemption cards.
  • You could do worse than 3 hits per box.
  • Moderate price.
Negatives:
  • Lackluster.
  • Aurum card redemption is too far fetched for most.
  • Seems to be in decline as a product.

Overall Rating:

6/10

2019 Panini National Treasures


National Treasures is probably Panini's best known high-end product. It's a brand that's been around for a long time now, and collectors love it. The cards come in a very fancy wooden box that is very exciting to open up. This high-end product comes at a pretty steep price though - you're gonna have to shell out about $500 to get yourself your own NT breaking experience. And that's waaaay more than most collectors out there can afford.

Product Thoughts
National Treasures cards are excellent, clean looking cards. Panini has really perfected the elegant and simple design - it truly does look worthy of being billed as a high-end product. Each box comes with eight cards. You should really expect only hits, but there are some packs with NT base cards in them. Sadly, I feel that the first half of the break (4 cards or so) are just filler. The first four cards are where you will find your plain jersey cards and the base card. For such a high price tag, it's kind of disappointing to just pull little jersey cards - no matter how nice or fancy the design is.


Panini states that each box will have a book card in it. Book cards have been around for a while now and I'd love to see a bit more innovation in them. If a card is going to be made into a book, there better be something in the book that you can't get in a standard card. The Kyle Wright that I pulled just has a signature and a big piece of standard jersey. It's not exciting. Of course, there are book cards with tons of players or signatures out there, but these regular book cards honestly don't need to exist. I'd rather just have a standard Kyle Wright card that's of normal size.


The box that I bought seems like an afterthought that the packers at Panini put together. There were three mediocre rookie patch autos in it of players that are of little hobby significance. The only saving grace is are the nice patches that came embedded within the cards. If you were just judging by my box, you'd probably think National Treasures was just a bunch of rookie junk. That's not the case as I've seen many boxes loaded with some great cards - I chalk this box up to bad luck. It happens.


Thankfully, I bought into quite a few group breaks of National Treasures and was able to snag some very sweet cards from it. Please keep a lookout on my Youtube channel for my mailday videos when those cards come in. I think the best way to buy into National Treasures is to go the group break route. Group breaks can be risky, but at least you're not blowing $500 at a time for a spot.

Positives:
  • Excellent looking cards.
  • Fun product to open up.
  • Many excellent cards to find in the product.
Negatives:
  • Very expensive.
  • Many rookies in the product water it down.
  • Small little jersey cards also water the product down.

Overall Rating:

8.75/10

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

2019 Topps Archives Snapshots Review


2019 Archives Snapshots is an online exclusive product only available through Topps.com. The product comes in a small box with one cellophane wrapped pack. You are guaranteed an autograph, a black and white parallel, as well as another insert. At about $25 a pop, these aren't too bad!

Product Thoughts
I think it's pretty cool of Topps to have an online only product. It really varies the releases that they have. Like Topps Fire, being only available in a certain place makes for a fun collecting experience. For a guaranteed autograph, I think $25 isn't too much of an ask. The autographs look great and they are on-card. As for the rest of the cards, they have a no-nonsense look to them with white borders. The players themselves are just standing around for the most part at training facilities. It's kind of a funny look to me, but works for the name of the product.


Each packs will net you a black and white parallel. The black and white cards add a little bit to the mix of cards you get in the pack/box. Since they are one-per-pack, I don't think the black and white parallels will be too much more than the standard base cards. If Topps had some colored ink on these cards (like blue or red), I think they would be really awesome looking. I don't think that's the case though.


Some of the boxes will contain these news print looking cards. They document something that happened during a specific moment in a baseball game. These inserts go well with the snapshot/photo theme of the set. These cards don't look particularly impressive. Upper Deck did a similar look many years back in hockey and they were much better looking as Upper Deck went with a very vintage design with yellowing paper.


What I really like in these boxes are the hand-numbered parallels that can be found. I'm a big fan of hand-numbering for some reason and I think they look great. Whoever writes the numbering down has some really awesome handwriting. I always wonder what happens if they mess up some how. I mean, they can't do every card perfectly can they? Will we ever know? Only Topps can tell.

Positives:
  • A product that doesn't break the bank.
  • Easy to order online.
  • On-card autographs.
Negatives:
  • You have to pay for shipping.
  • Some cards look a bit bland.
  • Some of the autographed content could be better.

Overall Rating:

9/10

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

2019 Bowman Chrome Review


Bowman Chrome is one of the most highly sought after releases in baseball because of the enormous potential that is contained within the packs. The young players that you can find in here could one day make it big thus making the cards you pull worth quite a bit of money. Of course, the opposite could be true too - and that's the fun of collecting Bowman.

Product Thoughts
I love prospecting brands like Bowman because of the long-term collectibility that the cards hold. Years down the line a player that has a first Bowman card in this set could end up being worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. So it's definitely worth it to make sure you keep every card in great condition and store them away nicely. Because history has shown that Bowman cards could potentially be huge in the future, the product comes out of the gate scorching hot.


Prospects can be awesome, but more often than not they let us down. The Stat Tracker insert cards give collectors a glimpse at some of the current numbers that a prospect is producing, but the key is if that prospect can translate that into a great baseball career. If they can - like Mike Trout has done - then the cards might as well be pieces of gold.


Most of the players that are in Bowman products will never really gain any sort of Major League stardom. To be a great Major Leaguer, you have to be something really special. Bowman just crams every prospect into their sets. It's sort of a spray and pray approach. There could certainly be a huge star in here, but it could also be a dud year with absolutely nobody worth collecting.


My box came with 2 autographs of pitchers. Sigh... that's not that great as pitchers never seem to command the same values as hitters do. I'll be crossing my fingers for young Francisco Morales though. Since I got his purple auto numbered to 250, if he makes it big... so do I!

Positives:
  • The potential could be HUGE!!!
  • On-card autographs and parallels are really hot.
  • Prospecting can be really fun to do.
Negatives:
  • Everybody could SUCK!!!
  • Prices of Bowman Chrome seem to be high out of the gate.
  • This is a product that will take patience.

Overall Rating:

9/10

Monday, September 16, 2019

2018-2019 Upper Deck Premier Review


Upper Deck is ramping up their high-end card releases with Upper Deck Premier. These one-pack tins will cost you around $200 and come filled with hits. The cards are on premium card stock that is nice and thick (thought not as girth-y as The Cup, of course). The cards are well-designed and look great, however, I question the value to be found here as Premier doesn't have the same allure as either the Cup or the recently released Ultimate Collection.

Product Thoughts
Premier comes in a nice tin and at a fraction of the price of The Cup. I guess you could call it "The Cup Lite". There are rookie patch auto cards in this product as well as numerous large patch cards as a main draw. The autographs come on-card - which should be the case for the price you pay for this stuff. Though this product is pretty expensive, I don't really feel that Premier is a great offering from Upper Deck. Aside from the really amazing jumbo patches, the value of these cards show that collectors don't put much stock in it.


If you look at the RPAs, you'll see a generous piece of patch, a good amount of foil, an on-card autograph, and numbering that is somewhat similar to that of The Cup. But I find that the value of these cards doesn't reflect the quality of their design and appearance. I wonder if this is because Premier is a relatively newer product than The Cup and Ultimate Collection. It doesn't have the longevity of those other two brands - it's just the kid that isn't as popular. And that sucks because the cards do look good and they are expensive to purchase in box form.


For a pricey product, getting the jersey cards thrown in at the end of the pack doesn't really do it for me. The jersey cards are pretty thin feeling and are a bit of an afterthought. They're really just filler is what they are. I don't find these cards to be very interesting or fun to get in such an expensive product. These cards give Upper Deck the opportunity to boast about the number of hits per box, but those in the know will know how hollow those numbers really are.


In the end, it sounds like I'm just bashing on Premier, but I'm really not. It's a great looking product with some awesome jumbo patch cards available to find. Maybe a good idea would be to cut out all the fluff like the boring plain jersey cards and get the price down just a bit more. As it stands now, Premier is too high a price for a brand that collectors don't seem that excited about.

Positives:
  • The cards are beautifully designed.
  • On-card autographs are always desirable.
  • There are some truly stunning patches in Premier.
Negatives:
  • Expensive with card values that don't match up well with other UD brands.
  • Plain jersey cards used as filler.
  • Some of the blue ink autographed rookie cards look as if the pen used wasn't working well.

Overall Rating:

7/10

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2019-2020 O-Pee-Chee Review


Upper Deck's premier retro set has arrived for the 2019-20 hockey season. O-Pee-Chee comes at collectors with hockey cards with that old school cardboard feel. Boxes are pretty inexpensive and you get a good number of packs to break. You're not going to find any autographs or hits (at least not announced ones) in boxes, but there will be alternate variations of cards and manufactured relics to be on the lookout for.

Product Thoughts
In the day and age of the 'hit', OPC goes in a different direction. Sure, you can find inserts, parallels, and variations, but you're not going to find a jersey card or autograph in the breaks that you do. I personally don't like this. Hits in OPC used to be pretty hard to find. Autographs were like a case hit. They were tough, but not impossible. To have them totally out now is disappointing. I'm a collector that really wants to find jersey cards and autographs. Without them, or something that is really desirable, I can't find much of a reason to purchase the product.


Back this year are the retro cards that come one-per-pack. Honestly, the retros in the past few years have really lacked a great design. The retro cards should stand out in a big way. I find the retro design this year to be nice and safe, but that's means they are unremarkable. Maybe getting a parallel of a good player could be exciting, but overall Upper Deck's team needs to find a way to make the retro part of OPC relevant again.


As with all pre-season releases, Upper Deck can only include rookie cards of players that dressed in an NHL game towards the end of the last season. Most of the big rookies won't be found until the NHL get up and running again. That being said, Upper Deck proudly states that this year's crop of carryover players is the best yet. Even if that's the case, OPC rookie cards are not typically the ones that collectors really chase down.


I feel like there are less inserts now in OPC. Where did the stickers go? I guess that idea is past its prime. Back though are the playing cards. I think it'd be funny if someone actually took the time to put the playing card deck together and actually played with them. That'd be cool, but some of the cards in this set are pretty short printed so that idea wouldn't be the best.


New this year are the caramel cards. Why are they called caramels? I have no idea. Is it their shape? Well, these cards are an odd ball size and that means a pain in the butt to store. Since these cards are about as tall as a standard size card, putting them in a penny sleeve works, but still they will slide around and be uneven. Not cool.


One of the more rare 'hits' to find in OPC are the manufactured patch cards. OPC has inserted these cards into their sets for a few years now. I think these cards are a fun pick up if you like the team that the card is about. I got the Florida Panthers so I'm not too excited. I do, however, like the fact that this card is rare and comes only 1 in every 1,125 packs. Those are some steep odds!

Positives:
  • Pretty cheap.
  • Some unique inserts may appeal to you.
  • Nice to still have cards made out of cardboard once in a while.
Negatives:
  • Not very collectible if you're looking for big hits.
  • Kind of ugly base set.
  • Will probably be forgotten about in a week.
Overall Rating:

6/10

Sunday, September 8, 2019

2019 Topps Fire Review


Topps Fire is a very interesting product to me. It is a retail only release - actually, Target only - that provides baseball card collectors with a hobby feel. Like with boxes at a local card store, you can purchase boxes of Fire for about $70 at Target. These boxes come with 20 packs and a guarantee of 2 hits. You can also try your luck with blasters and hanger packs as well.

Product Thoughts
I actually really love the idea of Topps Fire. It's so awesome that there is a product that you can only get at the retail level. So often retail products suffer from discouraging odds of finding a hit. It's pretty great that in Topps Fire, collectors can find a hit whenever they want to break a box of it. That being said, you are paying a hobby-like price for a box of cards with 2 hits. At $70 a pop, it's quite a bit more than your average blaster box. It's almost twice as much as a big mega box that usually costs forty bucks. But if you want to really grab some hits at the retail level, Fire just might be the way to go.


I found that every pack of Fire will have either a colored parallel card or a foil insert of some sort. I have to say that the foil inserts in Fire are some of Topps' best looking cards. The foil they use provides a very pleasing diffracting of light. The inserts are also very well designed with a tasteful modern design that mature collectors will enjoy.


The parallel cards come in a variety of flavors. The most common type are the red parallels. These cards are not serial numbered and you'll get several of them in a box break. Orange, purple, and green parallels are serial numbered but can be hard to spot since there is so much color on each of the cards. Be sure to check the back to see if there is a serial number stamped there if you aren't sure. Different varieties of Fire have special colored variants. The blasters have a gold foil overlay while the hanger packs yielded blue parallels. These parallels don't have any serial numbering on them, but could hold some rarity depending on the type of packaging it comes out of. Only time will tell.


The mem hits in Fire are awesome looking. Typically you don't see shiny foil with jersey hits, but that's what you get in Fire. The foil honestly makes the jersey card look ten times better than a regular one. Topps really gave these jersey cards a bump in presentation. The cards also have parallel variations so make sure you check the back to see if there is a serial number.


While the mem cards look sweet, the autographs are lackluster. The autos just have a sticker plastered to the bottom of the base card design. There really isn't any special space for the autograph either so it does look a little lazy. I'm sure getting a star player will still be great experience, but I think most of the autos you find will be of lower tier rookies - as always with most Topps products.


I was lucky and got a very low numbered patch/auto card. These cards combine the sweet look of the standard mem cards with an autograph to create a pretty desirable hit. These patch cards are thick and have the feel of a product of a much higher tier. The quality here honestly surprised me. But these cards are pretty tough pulls - you're gonna need to buy a lot of product to find them!

Positives:
  • Hobby level experience at Target stores.
  • You get one auto and one mem per $70 box.
  • Cards, especially the foil inserts, look great.
Negatives:
  • The sticker autographs don't look that good.
  • Can still be expensive for collectors who want to buy a box.
  • Can be difficult to find on store shelves.
Overall Rating:

8.5/10

Friday, September 6, 2019

2019 Topps Luminaries Review


I'm absolutely astounded by the amount of really high-end baseball products that Topps puts out. It's like an unending stream of expensive products! I've been able to keep up... but really just barely! Topps' newest release is Luminaries, a one-hit-per-box deal that provides only the best players from Major League Baseball.

Product Thoughts
Luminaries doesn't have too much fluff. With just one card in each extremely nicely designed box, you don't even get the low-tier rookies Topps like to throw in with all the heavy hitters. Just about every player you get will be an MLB-er of note. That doesn't mean they'll all be worth a ton, but you won't be pulling no-names out of this product. With boxes upward of two-hundred dollars, many of the cards you find will probably end up in the $50-$100 range. That's a nice value for a card, but you'll be paying twice that for it most of the time.


Obviously I was able to snag a HUGE hit from Luminaries, but this product is only for those who have deep pockets who can afford to splurge a bit. Of the higher-end products though, Luminaries feels like it's a better deal than most as the player selection is top notch. As a group break product, you're really risking a lot as there is only one card per pack. Doing a team break? Prepare to bust most of the time. I'd get in on a serial number break and cross my fingers!

Positives:
  • The cards look really nice.
  • Many of the cards have excellent game-used memorabilia pieces.
  • You won't find terrible rookies here.
Negatives:
  • Not a good group break product to join in on.
  • Very high risk.
  • Two-hundred dollars for one card.

Overall Rating:

9/10