Wednesday, December 18, 2019

2019-2020 Donruss Basketball Review

My best memories of Donruss as a brand are from the 1980's. Donruss always had unique looking borders that defined their look. Panini now as the Donruss brand and incorporates some of the fun aspects of Donruss' past. They don't have the same unique borders that they did when I really enjoyed them, but there is a lot to like in this lower-end brand.

Product Thoughts
Donruss and Hoops are similar, but Donruss is clearly the better product when comparing the two. The card stock is a little nicer and there is just a higher quality when it comes to the cards you find here. Like Hoops, Donruss is typically readily available at the retail level. The cards feature a white border giving them a clean, but relatively boring look. At the hobby level, boxes have traditionally been well under $100, but this year at release, they are going for about $180 or so. The hype is just so great right now! Thankfully, prices remain steadily low at retail stores - if you are able to find them on the shelves.

As the NBA season is in full swing now, Donruss features the new players in their NBA uniforms. Sadly, it looks like Panini wasn't able to get much in the way of action shots. The Rated Rookies are up against a black backdrop. The images have come from photo sessions the players do before the season begins. It's a nice look, but collectors are wanting to get some action shots on their cards now that basketball is in full swing.

Donruss brings a lot of colorful and fun insert sets to collectors. This Net Marvels insert of Lebron James mimics the look of a comic book. Another insert called Crunch Time looks like a cereal box. The designers seem to have had a lot of fun creating the inserts here in Donruss. The inserts really pop and are a joy to look at. It's sweet to find cards that include a bit of uniqueness to liven up breaks.

The parallels in Donruss are the Press Proofs. There are a number of Press Proofs variations that permeate not just the base set, but the the inserts as well. Press Proofs have the word "PRESS PROOF" printed right on the card. Press Proof inserts can be differentiated by gold foil along with the inscription. For the base set, press proofs are numbered at different tiers. Red foil Press Proof cards like the Darius Bazley above is numbered to 99. Different colors feature different print runs. Rookies are the name of the game when it comes to press proofs as desirable serial numbered rookies can be worth quite a bit on the secondary market.

Hobby boxes of Donruss state that collectors can find one autograph and one jersey card per box. That sounds nice except that last year it was 2 autographs guaranteed rather than getting a jersey. Lucky for me I at least found a rookie patch card limited to just 25. Most boxes, however, will feature a plain jersey swatch from a photo event. 

Standard autographed content like this Daniel Gafford aren't too exciting. The sticker on the highlighted area of the card isn't exactly an inspiring pull. What collectors really are looking for are the Next Day Autographs of the draft picks. These case level hits can be worth in the thousands of dollars. They are some of the most sought after autographs in the hobby. These alone make chasing Donruss meaningful!

  • Excellent looking insert designs.
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other products.
  • Next Day autographs are very valuable.
  • The price is much higher than last year at the hobby level.
  • Mundane design at the base card level.
  • No longer guaranteed 2 autographs per box.

Overall Rating:


Saturday, December 14, 2019

2019-2020 Upper Deck Buybacks Review

Buyback products are definitely a thing. Upper Deck, along with other companies, have products that feature cards that have already been released re-packed for collectors to find. Some of the cards come just as they were when they came out years ago, other cards have added autographs and a certificate of authenticity. Each box comes with two cards - a Buyback branded base card as well as the actual buyback card.

Product Thoughts
The first card that you'll see when opening up a box of UD Buyback is the base card. The base cards remind me a lot of Black Diamond. There is plenty of foil as well as an etched background. These cards are tastefully done and come in a toploader sealed with an Upper Deck sticker. There are a variation of numbers that these base cards come in. I pulled a Martin Brodeur gold parallel serial numbered to 50. These base cards - while well made - aren't too exciting. It's almost as if these cards just shield that main hit from the box so it's more of a surprise.

There is a huge variety of buyback cards you can find. I've seen many Young Gun autographs come out of case breaks. A Young Gun autograph is an 'ok' pull, but there are some truly epic cards you can find here. Upper Deck touts the Connor McDavid autographs that they have in the product. Looks like I pulled the wrong Oiler!

I joined in on a group break and came away with this Nikolaj Ehlers RPA from Premier. This card doesn't come with a certificate of authenticity as it was already guaranteed in print on the back of the card. The card has a nice patch on it, but I wasn't very excited when I got this card. It really seems like something from left field. 

  • A great way to find cards from older sets.
  • On-card autographs.
  • Both cards come with its own holder.
  • Expensive.
  • Some cards that have been inserted are questionable.
  • High risk product.

Overall Rating:


Friday, December 13, 2019

2019-2020 Panini Prizm Basketball Review

Panini Prizm hype is absolutely OFF THE CHARTS this year. Though Prizm is basically a mid-tier product, it is being priced at levels 2 and 3 times what it's suggested retail price is. And you know what? Collectors are buying it up like crazy still! For me, Prizm has been near impossible to find at the retail level and very pricey when it comes to group breaks and online purchases.

Product Thoughts
I remember when Panini first came out with Prizm many years back. They actually sent me a few boxes to review. I wasn't too impressed back then as I thought it was a Topps Chrome ripoff. Prizm hasn't really been huge for other sports, but in basketball, it is one of the premier products because basketball collectors are probably the most fanatical when it comes to parallel cards. And as of now, Prizm is the product with the most desired parallels.

Prizm comes in many forms at both the retail and hobby levels, and each product seems to have their own unique Prizm content. There are so many different types of cards! It can get really confusing where to find certain types. For the most part, many of the serial numbered parallels are found in hobby packs. A few very difficult to find serial numbered cards can be found at retail, but mostly they aren't numbered. Surprisingly, the most desirable parallels are the common silver ones. These unnumbered cards are found throughout hobby and retail and are sought after above and beyond other rarities. They look great and give collectors hope of actually getting a good one.

With Prizm it's all about the parallels. Panini has included insert cards inside of Prizm packs, but these are by far the least popular cards to find in the product. Because of the chrome nature of Prizm, all the inserts pretty much look the same. They are quite flat looking. It's hard to do a good insert in Prizm because of its nature. Even the parallels of the inserts aren't too desirable. I'd certainly take base rookies over these cards.

Autographs are even second fiddle to the parallel cards! Panini doesn't exactly put a ton of effort into these. The autographs are on sticker with a design that is pretty pedestrian. Sure, a big name auto pull would be great, but lots and lots of Prizm autographs are of vet or retired players that don't carry much value to them. 

Interestingly, at the retail level collectors can find jersey cards in blasters. Mem cards haven't been a associated with the Prizm concept much, but they do exist. I'm sure these cards have a ton of print run to them, but for those who want some cloth action, you can actually find it!

  • Very hot and desirable cards - especially the rookies.
  • Parallel cards look really good.
  • Huge variety of formats to select from and purchase.
  • Very expensive and can be hard to find at retail.
  • Autograph content is mediocre.
  • Inserts are uninteresting.

Overall Rating:


Thursday, December 12, 2019

2019 Topps Mini Review

Topps puts out a never-ending array of products it seems! I decided to try out the online exclusive Topps Mini cards that are a smaller version of the standard Topps base set. I'm not usually a fan of smaller cards, but Topps stated that these cards would have a pretty limited print run, so I gave a couple of packs a shot.

Product Thoughts
I paid about twenty five dollars per Topps mini pack. I actually wish I had gotten more as they are completely sold out at The cards come in a black Topps box with a silver pack containing all the cards. You get a nice stack of cards with the first portion of the pack being parallel cards. The standard cards come after the parallels and are from all of the different Topps base sets from the 2019 year. Series One, Two, and Update are all here. Besides being smaller, these cards also lack any foil, so they have a very flat matte look and feel to them.

Topps gives you a slew of numbered parallels. My first pack actually had a number of very low colored parallel cards. I got both a red numbered to 5 and this Dansby Swanson 1/1! It was very cool to find a 1/1 in one of my packs. Collectors really love Topps numbered parallels, and I think these will be very popular with collectors looking for distinct versions of certain cards. Getting a Pete Alonso rookie or someone of that ilk would be very lucrative.

The 1984 retro cards also can be found in the packs. These cards mirror the '84 cards in the standard series, but again lack the foil. I guess Topps didn't want to splurge with these smaller cards. In any case, these cards aren't too special. The parallel cards, however, look very nice. The colored border on them as well as the serial numbering elevate the cards nicely. Check out my video break to see a sweet pink bordered Matt Olson numbered to just 25. It's probably my favorite pull of my 2-box break!

Besides parallels, autographed cards can be found in mini versions. These cards are sticker autos and look rather pedestrian. Still, getting a good one would make any collector pretty happy. 

  • Many colored and numbered parallels per pack/box.
  • Certainly a different product than what you usually see.
  • Limited.
  • The standard mini base card is flat looking without the foil Topps usually uses.
  • Sold out already and pricey on the secondary market.
  • Not an easy product to store away because of its size.

Overall Rating:


Thursday, December 5, 2019

2019 Topps Gallery Review

Topps Gallery is a product that is exclusive to Walmart stores, so if you're at your local Walmart, keep your eyes open for these beautiful cards. The cards come in a mega box form, blasters, and also packs. There are a number of insert cards, parallels, and even autographs to be found when breaking into this product.

Product Thoughts
Now this is a classy looking product. The base cards are extremely crispy and clean with a huge touch of class. They certainly live up to their 'gallery' namesake. The cards look as though they have been painted to be hung in a fine arts gallery. The feel of the cards is also excellent. The cards of are of a good thickness that doesn't feel cheap and are finished with a nice texture that feels both matte and glossed at the same time. There aren't many cards that look as nice as these.

The set combines rookies with vets and retired players. Collectors will find a large sample of players from all of baseball's present and past here. For those looking for more of the big rookies from this year, Topps Gallery has them. In fact, I found many rookie cards when going through my packs. This product is a great place to add some of the hot newcomers from the 2019 season without breaking the bank. As this product is a Walmart release, the price point is very affordable with packs in the five dollar range and blasters at $20.

Different types of parallel cards are placed in different configurations of Gallery. If you're going the route of blasters, you'll get a special 4-card pack of Artist Proof parallels. These parallels are exactly the same as the standard base card except for a foil 'Artist Proof' stamp on the front of the card. I personally don't find these cards to stand out much. The little foil stamp denotes that it is a parallel, but it's not too exciting. For those folks who remember 90's Pinnacle products, there were these Museum collection foil cards that were easier to find than their Artist Proof companions. I liked the Museum cards better because they had a fully foiled look that was incredible compared to the single stamp of the Artists Proofs.

Bordered parallel cards come in packs of Gallery. The brown look of these parallels doesn't impress me. The white border game the cards a much classier look. This brown frame look cheapens the product in my opinion. Neither standard parallel does much for me. I think Topps needs to go back to the drawing board for their Gallery parallel cards next year.

The Master & Apprentice parallels have a different feel than the base cards. These cards are glossier and feature more color. These cards pair a couple of players from the past and present on the same card. The pairings are from the same team and showcase a nice history of great players for a certain organization. The foil on these cards stand out well and team collectors should enjoy these a great deal.

Another insert that I quite like are these Heritage cards. These cards resemble a card that could have been released in the 50's or 60's. They have an extremely nostalgic feel to them and look great. It's just amazing how clean these Gallery cards all look.

If you're going for a mega box, you'll find two sticker autos waiting for you. I didn't get a mega box and was lucky to pull this autograph out of a blaster. If you're going for autographed content, I would definitely go the mega box route as other methods have much leaner odds. Unfortunately, autographs in Gallery aren't the best as they are simply a sticker hastily pasted onto the front of a base card. It's a bit lazy of an effort by Topps here.

  • Crispy and clean looking cards.
  • Boxes and packs don't cost too much.
  • Guaranteed autographs in mega boxes.
  • Autographs are not presented well on the card.
  • The product can only be found at Walmart.
  • Parallel content could use a makeover.

Overall Rating:


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

2019 Topps Transcendent Review


Topps is absolutely crazy with the most expensive card product ever produced - Transcendent. A box of this stuff costs nearly $30,000. It is jam packed with legendary autographs, rare cards, and even a special invitation to a party with Ken Griffey Jr. I guess if you have money to throw around, you can spend it on this! Most mortals will have to settle for getting a lucky hit in a group break (of which is NOT cheap either)!

Product Thoughts
Transcendent is a beautiful product - that can't be denied. The base cards have a shimmer to them that is unreal in person. The cards are of the highest quality and are certainly special. Of course, the base cards are not what make this product. The most interesting products are the Derek Jeter 1/1 cards represented on a throwback Topps designs, the Superfractor that you get, the cut-autograph, and the Griffey meet and greet party. In the group break that I was in, a 1/1 Babe ruth cut/bat barrel book card was pulled. I held my breath for a second until I saw someone else's lucky name attached to it. Transcendent is an amazing product that most can only just grasp at. 

Group breaks for Transcendent ranged from a hundred plus dollars to a smidge under six hundred for a single card. Lower priced group breaks included every card there (including the base). More expensive group breaks would lump all the base cards together as one spot. I got lucky pulling this Bryce Harper/10 from a break that cost just over a hundred dollars. Doing this truly is a gamble, but like I said before, it's probably the only way to get a hold of Transcendent. I certainly wouldn't buy a box of it. The box price is as much as a very nice new car!

Looking on eBay, many of the cards you might want to pick up can be found for a relatively low price. The only cards that hit stratospheric numbers are the huge hits like the desirable cuts and 1 of 1 rarities. But if you're just going for a player that is decent, you can find the singles for moderate prices.

  • The most elegant cards produced.
  • Chances at 1/1's, amazing cuts, and more.
  • Group breaks offer a chance at greatness.
  • Its price tag is insane.
  • Group break prices are high and high risk.
  • Not as sought after of a brand because of its prohibitive price point.
Overall Rating:


Monday, December 2, 2019

2019-2020 Panini Absolute Basketball Review

Absolute is a brand that is known for its quality cards that contain a ton of different basketball related memorabilia. It's a brand that is flashy, full of hits, and a great product geared toward higher-end collectors. This year's box price comes out at just under $200 with each box of Absolute containing two mini boxes inside. As traditional with Absolute, the cards are wrapped in cellophane packs - which you can pretty much see through. I'm not sure why that's the case, but that's just the way it's always been with this brand.

Product Thoughts
Absolute is a fun product to break. There is a lot to see in the product with many of the cards being flashy in design. Collectors can expect to find two autographs and two relics inside of their boxes. Absolute is a rookie-centric brand so there are many rookie autos and memorabilia cards to find. Because of the early season release of these cards, the rookie materials are all just player worn rather than game-used. Veterans will have game-used material though. Just make sure you check the back of the card to verify where the embedded memorabilia came from.

Being a higher-end product, you'll find plenty of autographs and serial numbered cards. The big draw this year, of course, is Zion Williamson. Any cards of his - including his base cards - will have a nice value to them. As of this review, Zion has not yet played a second of an NBA regular season game. Collectors can only hope that his on-court play will match the extreme hype his cards are carrying at the moment.

Some of the rookie cards in Absolute are on-card autographed. These cards should carry a nice premium as on-card autographs are much more desired than those of the sticker variety. The cards in Absolute come in a variety of parallel variations. This particular Cam Reddish autographed card is a blue bordered parallel numbered to just 49.

Speaking of parallel cards, the base cards also have many variations to them. The card that comes at the end of the pack are usually the ones that has serial numbering on them. Parallel base cards stand out from their base counterparts as they shimmer with a radiant color. The parallels look quite nice, and in basketball, parallel cards have always been sought after - especially those of the hottest players.

In Absolute you'll find not only standard jersey cards, but cards that feature patches and even chunks of basketballs. I've got to admit I'm not a huge fan of the basketball relics, but they do have some visual appeal to them. If you happen to pull a basketball relic, you'll find that the card is quite large as to fit that chunk in there.

  • Shiny cards that have eye-popping looks.
  • Lots of rookie card content.
  • 4 hits per main box.
  • Mostly on-sticker autographed content.
  • Rookie memorabilia is player-worn.
  • Basketball pieces look cool, but aren't very significant as an embedded relic.
Overall Rating:


2019-2020 Upper Deck Black Diamond Review

Upper Deck Black Diamond is the first high-end hockey product to come out. Upper Deck packs Black Diamond full of 'innovative' inserts as well as a the full rookie class for 19/20. Each box comes with two packs - a single card Exquisite pack and a thick pack of Black Diamond cards. The boxes of Black Diamond run a shade under two-hundred US dollars... so... not cheap.

Product Thoughts
I honestly haven't been a fan of Black Diamond since it's changeover from a mid-tier product. The cards are definitely more premium, but the value really isn't there in terms of what you get in the pack. Though there is some nice memorabilia content, there are also cards that are nicely made 'insert' cards. They may look nice, but collectors don't seem very enthusiastic about them. My thought is that Upper Deck is trying to elevate insert cards so that they have more collectability. Sadly, I don't think they have caught on much. I find that collectors are disappointed when they see these cards - even though they can be quite good looking in design.

Speaking of insert cards, back again are these fake patch cards. These jumbo manufactured patch cards have been in Black Diamond for a couple years now, but I really wish they weren't. To the unsuspecting collector, this card could be considered a 'sick patch', but this patch was never part of a jersey. It was just sewed up by Upper Deck and inserted into the card for collectors to create a team logo puzzle. It's a big waste of space and something that I've found collectors to really dislike. At two-hundred dollars a box, who's going to put these puzzle cards together? 

On a positive note, you can find all of the 19/20 rookie crop here in Black Diamond. In Upper Deck Series One, you only got a portion of the best rookies. Here in Black Diamond you get pretty much all the tops guys. The standard Rookie Gem card is well designed and has a unique look that is pretty impressive. The more rare rookie gem cards have actual diamonds embedded in them. Though I'm not a huge fan of this trend of putting diamonds into cards, it does work for Black Diamond since diamond is in its name. Plus, the cards really do look quite nice.

Being a very early season release, there is no way that Upper Deck could put game-used content of the rookies they have in the product. The relic cards here are all player-worn - but that's expected. I'd much rather get a card like this than that big jumbo fake patch.

Autographed content in Black Diamond is available, but I've seen some breaks that have no ink in them. To me that's sad. The autographs look great even thought they come on a sticker. The gold ink really pops and having each card serial numbered is a nice touch. I'm definitely liking the autographed content here.

Exquisite packs will yield lots of rookie content. Many of the Exquisite cards feature serial numbered rookie cards. These thick cards have a nice premium feel to them. Besides those rookie cards, you can also find memorabilia. I was lucky enough to find this Carey Price patch card. it is a gorgeous card with a great patch embedded in it. I definitely feel that I got lucky with this card!

  • Great looking card designs.
  • All the top rookies are available.
  • Actual diamond rookie cards look good and have nice value to them.
  • Insert cards are not a hit with collectors.
  • Manufactured patch cards are not a hit with collectors.
  • The price point is not a hit with collectors.
Overall Rating: