Sunday, November 24, 2019

2019-2020 Hoops Basketball Review

I've been waiting for Hoops to hit my retail shelves, and it's finally here. It's a bit strange to be so excited for a very low-end retail product, but I was excited nonetheless. Basketball fever is high in these parts and Hoops brings it with all the exciting rookies in their NBA uniforms. Hoops also has a huge array of inserts and parallels that make it fun to open and enjoy.

Product Thoughts
I had the option of purchasing some hobby boxes of Hoops a couple of weeks ago, but I held off as I thought the price was quite high. It was around the $100 mark, which is really unheard of territory for a product like Hoops. The Zion hype is real! I decided to hold off and see when it would hit retail, and it finally did. Panini sure did take their sweet time getting it out to my neck of the woods though! I picked up a few rack packs and blasters for their retail of price of $4.99 and $19.99 respectively. The store also had gravity packs going for a few bucks each, but I held off on those.

Hoops has a myriad of insert cards. One of the popular sets so far are the Arriving Now cards. Panini has done a great job on the design of these cards. I love the bright yellow background with the player in black and white with their jersey in color. It's a stunning look that works really well. These inserts come in both a standard paper version as well as a foil parallel. This set features all the top rookies from the draft. These cards likely won't hold high values, but the appeal of these cards will get collectors to chase them.

Hoops has been around for a very long time. I actually remember buying the very first Hoops set back in 1989 and '90. It was a really exciting time for basketball cards. This year Hoops has a special tribute to the 90's with a very 90's inspired design. Not only do you get players who were from that era on the cards, the rookies are also part of this tribute set. 

Hoops is a product that is really geared towards a younger audience. Though they have cards like the tributes above, most of the inserts have a modern feel to them. One of my favorites this year are the Get Out The Way cards. These cards are very busy looking with a colorful, eye-popping design. The foil variations have an extra pop to them that I really enjoy.

For the parallel collectors out there, Hoops throws in quite a few parallels to chase. Retail packs have special orange and teal foil parallels that look really nice. Filling in the border with shimmery color makes the cards really stand out. Other parallels have a more plain colored border and you'll find some parallel cards with serial numbering on them.

While Hoops is a low-end product, Panini does a good job of still providing collectors with the chance at getting hits. Most of the hits found in Topps are going to be plain jersey cards. Blaster boxes state that you will find either a jersey or an autograph, but for the vast majority of the time your hit will be a jersey. Plain jersey or not, it's still great to find hits in retail blasters - this is something that Panini does really well.

I actually pulled an autographed card out of a hanger rack pack. The Great SIGnificance set doesn't really inspire anyone to collect it, but it is a nice surprise to pull out of a pack. These cards have sticker autographs and a very mundane design. This type of autographed content is correct for a brand such as Hoops, so I won't complain too much about it.

On store shelves now are Hoops Holiday Edition blasters. These boxes have base and insert cards that feature a photoshopped snowy background. I can't help but compare these to their Topps counterparts. It's no contest. The Topps Holiday cards a heads and shoulders above these in every way. But I'm just glad Panini did something with the holidays. Upper Deck needs to follow soon!

The coolest thing to find in the Holiday blasters is the player-worn ugly sweater cards. These cards feature a piece of an ugly sweater that the player wore. You can see the shirt right on the front of the card. It's a really fun idea and perfect for Christmas coming up!

  • Inexpensive product.
  • Hitting at the retail level is guaranteed in blasters.
  • Huge number of different things to collect within the Hoops checklist.
  • These cards will not be worth too much.
  • Lackluster design on some of the cards - particularly the sticker autographs.
  • Exciting now, but anything but later.
Overall Rating:


Thursday, November 14, 2019

2019-2020 Panini Certified Basketball Review

Zion mania is totally here and he isn't even playing right now. It's total hype right now and I can't help but join in on the fun. Certified came out this week and I decided to purchase a box and see if I could pull a Zion autograph. Long story short... nope! But the cards do look slick and they remind me of when Certified hockey was a thing those many years ago. This is a crisp set that not only looks great, has a good number of valuable cards in it as well.

Product Thoughts
This year's Certifed is a good looking product. The cards of of high quality and they really do shimmer and shine beautifully. As a hockey card collector, Certified always reminded me of the hobby version of Artifacts. Both products had about 10 packs per box and guaranteed a couple of hits. Both products were also early season releases that really started the season for collectors looking for autos and mem. While Artifacts went for more of a classy look, Certified always came at collectors with an ultra modern sleek design full of color. And that still holds true with this release.

This year's big draw is Zion Williamson and everyone is going bonkers looking for his rookies and autographs. Each 10-pack box of Certified comes with an autographed rookie card. The most common are the Freshman Fabric cards that feature a jersey and a sticker auto. The standard version of these cards are not serial numbered and go with a plain jersey swatch. In typical Certified fashion, there are numerous parallels that up the rarity and desirability considerably.

Perhaps more than any other sport, basketball card collectors covet parallel cards. Even standard unnumbered parallels can go for insane amounts of coin if it's of the right player. Certified provides collectors with many colors bursting out of packs. The most common are the red and blue parallels that are unnumbered. You'll find a handful of that type in a standard break. Orange parallels to 99 are also pretty common and come about one per box. Lower serial numbered cards get much more difficult to find.

A sweet looking insert out of Certified this year are their graffiti cards. These inserts have a 90's in-your-face style of design that goes well with the game of basketball. Inserts such as these have always drawn collector interest because of their fun nature. More traditional looking inserts like Certified Gold Team and Raise the Banner are also found in the product.

Each box of Certified has about two hits. I've found that besides the rookie hit, a standard sticker auto on an insert is what the other one is. Unfortunately the sticker on the shimmery Certified stock sticks out like a sore thumb. An on-card autograph would make the card look heaps better, but I understand that would probably cost Panini too much to do. These can be nice cards, but they are essentially throw ins to add a bit of value to the release.

  • Excellent looking cards.
  • You'll find a couple hits and a number of colored parallels in a box.
  • Hitting a Zion will make your day.
  • More expensive than in previous years (Thanks Zion).
  • Autographs are mostly on-sticker.
  • Condition out of the box can be an issue (I've seen lots of lines on the cards).
Overall Rating:


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

2019 Topps Dynasty Review

Topps sure does come out with a lot of one-card-per-pack products... and they keep getting more expensive! Dynasty is a whopping $350 plus break should you decided to partake in it. That being said, Dynasty is chock full of amazing hits with large memorabilia pieces and on-card autographs. It's a pretty huge risk, but Topps does deliver some great content here.

Product Thoughts
Though it is pretty outrageous, I like Dynasty quite a bit. Topps does their best to include only the best of the best in the product. It's probably the best chance of pulling a really noteworthy name in the entire Topps lineup. I think the highest number you can pull is out of 10, so the cards are very limited.

I participated in a group break of Dynasty and was lucky enough to actually receive a card. In a 10-spot break with only 5 cards available, going home with anything is a win. The Chris Sale card shown above was the card I got with the 7-spot in a serial numbers break. The best card in the case was an Ichiro out of 5. It was a great card! I didn't do too bad though as the break was less than half the cost of a box of Dynasty. It does suck that many people in the group break went home empty handed.

If you have the money, I would wholeheartedly go after Dynasty cards. The actual card design is elegant to the max! The scan doesn't do them justice as each card has a textured shimmer look to it when in light. It's absolutely beautiful. The 2019 design has to be the best I've seen since the product released. Topps did a great job with these cards and hopefully I'll be able to add just a few more to my personal collection in the future!

  • Gorgeous cards.
  • The cream of the crop in terms of players (except for Chris Sale :p).
  • Low numbered, on card, big mem.
  • Very expensive.
  • High risk.
  • Many cards in the set won't reach the asking price of a box.

Overall Rating:


2019 Topps High Tek Review

2019 Topps High Tek changes it up a little this year to give collectors even more content. Hobby boxes come with three mini boxes inside that contain one autograph each. From what I've seen, some very nice content has been popping out of Topps High Tek breaks. 

Product Thoughts
I personally don't really like the look of High Tek. The acetate with the 'tech-y' backgrounds are rather boring and borderline cheesy. There is just something about these cards that give them a cheaper feel as if it's a set that's not to be taken too seriously. I'm not sure what Topps can do with this product to change my mind - in my opinion it needs a complete design overhaul. That may sound harsh, but it's only my opinion and others may like the way these cards look. It's just not my cup of tea.

The best thing about High Tek are the on-card autographs found in the product. A sticker autograph on an acetate card would look absolutely hideous, so I'm glad these aren't of that variety. There is a lot going on with the face of the card - even with the white area for the autograph, the signature does get a little lost with all that clutter.

Packs contain 6 base and numbered cards along with the autograph. Boxes are about $150 or so dollars, so that works out to about $50 per autograph. I suppose that's inline with Topps' other offerings like Archives Signatures and Clearly Authentic. If you just buy one mini box, it's akin to purchasing one box of those types of products. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, some good hits have been surfacing from High Tek. Though I'm not a huge fan of it, I think there is some good potential to pull a good auto from this product. If you're into it, I'd give it a shot!

  • On-card autographs.
  • Collectors can purchase a box of 3 autographs or just 1 mini box with an autograph in it.
  • Seen some good pulls out of online box breaks.
  • The card designs are not strong.
  • Cards and parallels are very similar looking.
  • High Tek is not a Topps brand that collectors clamor over.

Overall Rating:


Monday, November 11, 2019

2019 Topps Chrome Update Review

I wasn't sure I was going to review 2019 Topps Chrome Update, but I decided to in the end because there are a few things I'd like to say about it. 2019 Topps Chrome Update is a release that's only available through Target stores and gives the beloved Chrome look to the recently released standard Topps Update set. Collectors can find Chrome Update in both a value pack and mega-box format.

Product Thoughts
Topps Chrome Update draws from Topps Update, obviously. You'll find rookie cards and players who have changed teams as well as commemorative cards throughout the set. Most of the big rookie cards came in regular Topps Chrome, but there were a few holdovers that you'll find in this release such as Keston Hiura - who has some mild popularity at the moment. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also has his true Chrome rookie in this set as the version found in Topps Series 2 was an un-numbered 'extra'. The value of this set will really depend on the rookies who have a home here. If they end up being significant players, this Chrome Update set could have a very high ceiling in terms of future worth. But of course the opposite could happen if the crop of rookies here ends up busting.

You'll find the big names in this set in terms of both rookies and star players. The only caveat is that many of these cards are commemorative cards highlighting a rookie's debut or All-Star appearance. Historically these cards pale in comparison to their standard counterpart when it comes to collectibility. I pulled a Pete Alonso green refractor numbered to 99. It's a great card (and I do like it . quite a bit), but his standard rookie green refractor will have a value many times this one.

Topps has inserted both The Family Business and Greatest Moments/Seasons/Players cards into packs. Each of these sets has gotten the refractor treatment and both look significantly better than their paper counterparts. Something about the shimmer these cards have make them stand out in a big way.

Value packs of 2019 Chrome Update will include a bonus 2-card pack of pink refractors. These pink refractors are similar to the ones that came in value packs of regular Topps Chrome this year. They are a nice incentive for purchasing value packs over a Mega Box. In fact, I would say that it would always be better to purchase the value packs over the Mega Box. From the packs and boxes of Topps Chrome Update I've opened this year, the value packs have by far had the better cards come out. Even my lone autograph pull was out of a value pack! In my opinion, the value packs are the way to go!

  • Great looking Chrome inserts.
  • Lots of star players available to be found.
  • Could be a limited set due to availability only at Target stores.
  • Many commemorative cards that aren't popular to collectors.
  • Future value very dependent on the rookies in the set.
  • Only 4-cards per pack.
Overall Rating:


Friday, November 8, 2019

2019-2020 Upper Deck Series One Hockey Review

Hockey's most popular release has hit store shelves in the form of Upper Deck Series One. This fan favorite is just the first series of cards from Upper Deck's flagship hockey card product. This set is known for it's beautiful photography as well as highly sought after rookie cards. It's a set that all collectors can enjoy as it has a friendly price point and can easily be found at both the hobby and retail levels.

Product Thoughts
I'm a fan of Upper Deck Series One and Two. The cards are sharp with beautiful photos on every card. Though I'm not a huge fan of this year's design, it isn't too intrusive and generally stays out of the way of the photography. As usual, the photos used on the cards are great, but I feel as though there aren't as many stand outs as in years past. Upper Deck may be wanting to pull back from the shots of players off the ice and really put the focus on the game. I can respect that - but it does take just a smidge of the fun out of this set a little.

The Young Gun design is always something to look forward to seeing each and every year. This year's design is pretty plain and unobtrusive. It really doesn't stand out too much and comes to the collector clean and simple. I personally like Young Gun designs to have a bit more fanfare to them, but I realize you can't do that every year. I'd say these YG's do the job without too much offense.

Canvas cards (as well as the Canvas Young Guns) make a return. Canvas cards aren't exactly a parallel set as not every card has a canvas variant. The Canvas cards have a textured face that feels like a matte painting. Typically these cards have stellar photography with an elegant design. The photography on the Canvas cards are still great, but the Canvas design just doesn't do it for me. The 'gold plate' look of the Canvas logo looks cheesy and out of place - maybe something out of a third party card manufacturer's playbook. I've felt the Canvas design has been on a slow downturn in terms of how they look. Upper Deck should make these cards as classy as possible as they truly could be spectacular collectibles.

Even more difficult to find are the clear acetate Young Gun parallels. Upper Deck has inserted these cards into Series One and Two for the past few years. The cards look great and collector demand for them as been high. Get a good one and you'll have a card with a nice chunk of coin!

Upper Deck has been making hockey cards for 30 years now, and to celebrate they are releasing a retrospective insert set featuring designs from their past releases. It's a fun way to look back at all the cards Upper Deck has produced since they got into the hockey card business. I was really happy to pull this Wayne Gretzky '93 design as I remember buying a ton if it when I was younger searching for Silver Skate die-cuts and SP cards.

As with all Upper Deck Series One releases, collectors will find a slew of insert cards inside their boxes. Some of the more common ones are the Shooting Stars, Generation Next, and Pure Energy cards. Sadly, while some of these inserts have a nice look to them, collectors tend not to care too much about them. I wish Upper Deck went the Topps route and put tons of numbered parallels to chase. Those seem to have much more appeal than these themed inserts.

And I've gotta bring up UD Portraits before I end my review. These cards are just not done right! I get the idea that Upper Deck has been going for with these cards, but I've never thought they have been executed in the right way. Portrait cards should be elegant and nice with excellent photography featuring the player. But they have yet to impress. Get to work Upper Deck!

  • These are cards that all collectors enjoy and purchase.
  • Price point is on point.
  • Young Gun rookie cards have excellent value.
  • Getting a hit (even a plain jersey card) is harder than in past years.
  • Bland inserts.
  • Very dependent on the rookie class for value.

Overall Rating:


Sunday, November 3, 2019

2019 Topps Holiday Box Review

As the Christmas season approaches, Topps spreads the holiday cheer with their release of holiday edition cards. These boxes are Walmart exclusives and were very popular last year. This year's edition could be just as hot! If you see some laying around at the store, I'd recommend picking it up as it could disappear very quickly!

Product Thoughts
The holiday edition is the standard 2019 Topps base design spruced up with red and green Christmas flare. The cards are cheerful and fun - the Christmas border really gives the card some life. I find myself really liking the look of these cards quite a bit. You'll find cards from all the Topps releases (Series 1, 2, and update) in here.

Some of the most fun cards are the photo variation short prints. Topps will sneak in a Christmas tree or some lights around the player. It's a neat idea and really does get the cards into the Christmas spirit. I personally find photoshopping a Christmas tree into the background of a card to be hilarious. I was very happy to find the Juan Soto variant in my first holiday box. Given his performance in the recent World Series, it was a great one to find.

It's hard to tell in the scan, but the Luke Voit card above is actually a parallel card. The snowflakes that are on the left side border of the card are actually a metallic shimmer. You'll find a handful of these parallels per holiday box. Though they are pretty easy to find, they look really nice and make the card really pop.

Each Holiday box comes guaranteed with a hit - either an autograph, relic, or relic-autograph! It truly is a pretty sweet gift! The gift theme and design of the Willson Contreras card shown above is perfect for this set. Very cute. Topps has done an outstanding job with this holiday release. I wish other companies would do something fun like this as well. I love these cards and can't find a single fault with this product!

  • The cards are fun.
  • These are a Wal-Mart exclusive so the price is set and will not go up (or cheaper if they do a Roll-Back). At about $20 a box, this is a great deal.
  • One hit per box at the retail level.
  • These will disappear fast.
  • They will cost a lot more on the secondary market.
  • Only available at Wal-Mart.

Overall Rating: