Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck SPx Review


What's a 'budget high-end' product? I guess you could call SPx just that as a box of it costs about the same as a mid-tier product. The only catch is that there are only 4 cards per box with just ONE CARD IN EACH PACK! Only Upper Deck could think of something like this! They also claim that each pack is a hit, but Upper Deck counts numbered cards and inserts as 'hits' so their definition is a bit different than the average collector's definition of a hit.

Product Thoughts
SPx is a strange product and is configured in a strange way. This product could have easily come in a small box with one 4-card thick pack, but they chose to go with four actual packs with only one card per pack. I guess this does give collectors and hobby retailers that want to sell packs an option to distribute the cards that way, but I don't think there are too many folks opening this product by the pack. Most likely, a collector will just buy a box and rip the entire thing.


With only four cards, you're not getting a whole lot. Typically a box of SPx will include a base card and some other SPx cards. My particular box came with 2 SPx branded cards as well as 2 UD Black cards. The SPx cards didn't impress me too much. The cards have a busy looking background, but the cards lack the glitz and glam that SPx was known for in the past. The SPx cards come off a pretty flat for a brand that should really be more in your face with its design. My autographed rookie card came with a sticker autograph - which is always a bummer for a 'higher-end' product.


The UD Black cards in the box were much more impressive looking than the SPx cards. The foil on the UD Black cards is shiny and makes the card pop. Even though the Kirby Dach I pulled only contained a plain jersey piece, the rest of the card is designed so well that it kind of makes up for it. The Dach card is a very good looking card and actually elevates the typical boring jersey card that you find in so many products.


The Jack Hughes rookie I pulled was also a very sweet looking card. The UD Black cards stand shoulders above the SPx cards just in their design alone. I would have been thrilled if the Hughes had an autograph on it, but I can live with a very sweet looking numbered card of the number one pick. Here's to Jack turning it around and lighting the NHL on fire soon!

If I'm buying any more SPx, it's really for the UD Black cards. I think they should have done UD Black with the SPx cards as a bonus!

Positives:
  • UD Black Cards look awesome.
  • You can find UD Black cards in SPx.
  • Mid-tier price point.
Negatives:
  • SPx cards look underwhelming.
  • Sticker autographs water-down this product.
  • Upper Deck has a strange definition of the word 'hit'.

Overall Rating:

7.5/10

Friday, February 28, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck SP Game Used Review


SP Game Used released this week to provide collectors with 'premium hits'. The product is configured in a one pack-per-box format holding 6 cards. While there certainly are premium hits to be found, getting them proves to be quite the difficult task. To be honest, SP Game Used has never been a favorite of mine. But maybe this year's edition will change my mind!

Product Thoughts
So after opening my box of 19/20 SP Game used, my mind has not been changed. I still think this product is terrible. The numbering of the cards are all over the place with boxes full of weak hits. The base design overall is decent, but for a product called 'Game-Used' there just needs to be more... much more. Typically a box will have two standard cards in the front (a rookie and a vet). My box contained two rookies. Both were serial numbered, but both had very different numbering. It'd be wise to consult a checklist to figure out which variation you get.


A standard jersey card really isn't anything special. Other than for player collectors, the standard jersey hit is not an exciting pull. I'd much rather get a low serial numbered card than one of these. The jersey piece shown on the Trent Frederic above is a pretty small piece, but to really top it off, it isn't even game-used! The back of the card states that it is just a player worm swatch. Strike one for having game-used stuff in the product!


I was pretty excited to see a big fat card in the center of my pack. When I got to it I found a Banner year mem card. The enclosed material of this card was used in a banner at the NHL Draft. So... maybe a sort of cool NHL relic, but not a game-used relic. And this banner piece was BORING with just a flat orange color. For being the hit of the box, this was terribly weak. Strike two.


As SP Game-Used is considered a premium product, I expect some premium content. Un-numbered sticker autos are not what I'd call that. I've seen many boxes spit out these rather lazy auto cards. The design of the card doesn't even account for the autograph. They just stick it on the front of an Authentic Rookies card and called it a day. This is strike three for this box!


My only actual game-used content was in the form of this tiny game-used jersey piece of Ryan O'Reilly. The concept of this card is pretty cool, but the embedded nameplate is manufactured - not from an actual locker piece. Arg! What a frustrating product! I've been saying it for years... but this product needs a complete overhaul.

Positives:
  • Lots of rookie content.
  • Great if you like jersey cards.
  • Not terribly expensive.
Negatives:
  • Banner and net relics aren't really specific to any player.
  • Manufactured content like the locker room plate and name patch letters.
  • Many of the relics are not actually game-used. That's not good in a product called Game-Used.

Overall Rating:

5/10

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2020 Topps Heritage Baseball Review


1971 is the design that Topps is using for their Heritage set this year, and it is a looker! Last year's set was pretty mundane in design, so I'm glad this set bounces back with a striking look. Though the cards may look way better, the content in Heritage is pretty much the same. There are a ton of base cards as well as fun parallel cards to look for when you buy a box.

Product Thoughts
First and foremost, these cards look really good. The black borders give these cards a bold look that makes a statement. Everything on the card pops out at you. Though the black borders look great, they only look great if they are in great condition. Black borders can be chipped easily. If you don't take care of these cards when they are handled, you're going to get a lot of cards with bad edges.


As you open packs of 2020 Heritage, you're going to be seeing the same thing over and over again. You may think you're getting all base cards, but you really aren't. Topps throws action photo cards in as well as short printed high numbered cards. You're going to want to inspect the backs of the cards carefully to really know what you have. Some variations are extremely rare and have very high secondary market values.


While some cards are hard to tell apart from the standard version, others are easy. The white bordered parallel cards are obviously different. These card give a glimpse of what the card would look like without the black border. Yeah... it looks totally terrible. I'm so glad Topps went with the black!


There aren't many modern looking cards in Heritage, but the Chrome versions have that metallic shine to them that is unmistakable. These cards also feature serial numbering on the back. I love the way these cards look and actually wish they were easier to pull. Collecting a set of these Chrome cards would be awesome - I just can't spent the time and money to do that though.


Insert cards are easy to spot as they typically have a radically different design than the standard base. Sadly, these inserts come on the same card stock and don't have much going for them in terms of collectibility. I consider these cards just throw-ins to put more notable names in the set.


Some of the cards in Heritage feature historical moments and relics. Topps will often put cards into a product that highlight important events. The Flashback set does just that, but these cards won't have much collector interest. There are relic cards, however, that feature coins of different rarity. I bet those would be a fun pull!


You'll either find an autograph or relic card in every hobby box of Heritage. Heritage isn't a hit intensive product, but there are some beauties to find. Most of the boxes in a case will have a standard relic card. My first pack actually contained this on-card autograph of Will Smith. I almost couldn't tell it was an autograph card. Good thing I was going through that first pack slowly!

Positives:
  • Base cards look amazing.
  • Potential for some amazing hits.
  • Not particularly expensive.
Negatives:
  • Hard to tell that some cards are short prints.
  • Not a hit driven product.
  • Photos are uninspiring.

Overall Rating:

8.25/10

Friday, February 21, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Series Two Review


As mid-season hits the NHL, Upper Deck releases its second series from their flagship product. Upper Deck Series Two and Series One always compete for dibs on which one is better. From what I can tell, it looks like Series Two will be the better of the releases this time around. It's a familiar product, and one that collectors will definitely be buying in spades!

Product Thoughts
I've always found Series Two to be the more interesting of the two releases as it contains a huge amount of different inserts in the set. Not only do you get the players that weren't included in the first series, you also get updates from sets like OPC. Each pack you open will have some sort of an insert card in it - I have yet to see an all base pack come out of a hobby box. As this set is a continuation of Series One, it shares the exact same design for the base cards. I found the design of the base cards to be effective, but not my favorite that Upper Deck has done. They remind me a lot of 2008 Upper Deck. 


The Young Gun crop in Series Two looks to be a great one. There are several that collectors are chasing, particularly Cale Makar - the best rookie in the league so far. Time will tell which set of rookies will turn out to be the best overall.


Upper Deck parallel cards come in a few different forms. The clear cards are especially sweet looking. Secondary market values on the big rookies have very high asking prices as getting a good player is very difficult. Exclusives numbered to 100 are very popular as well as the high gloss cards numbered to just 10. 


Rookie Breakout inserts are back and I was able to pull a very nice one in Quinn Hughes. These cards stand out as they pop with color and a fun design. Though inserts don't tend to be that popular, the Rookie Breakouts are a hit with collectors and can command a high dollar value. 


It is very easy to pull out rookie content from Series Two as it is loaded with OPC update cards. There are a number to be found in every hobby box of the product. Though I didn't pull one, Rookie Material cards as well as dual Rookie Materials have been put into Series Two.

I really enjoyed opening up Series Two and hope to possibly get another box in the near future!

Positives:
  • Excellent value.
  • Lots of strong rookie card content.
  • Parallel cards have strong values.
Negatives:
  • OPC update cards can be boring.
  • The design could be better.
  • The Portrait inserts are still here.

Overall Rating:

9.25/10

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Synergy Review


I'm a bit late to the party when it comes to reviewing this year's Synergy, but I've finally got my hands on some! Synergy is a relatively new brand for Upper Deck. It brings together foil and acetate with plenty of rookies sprinkled within. Boxes are well under the one hundred dollar mark, but there are only 24 cards contained in the 8 packs that are contained within.

Product Thoughts
Synergy is an interesting product in terms of design. The base cards fuse together (or synergize) different trading card materials. These cards feature foilboard with colored acetate borders. It's a unique combination, but in my opinion doesn't make for a great card. It's not that the cards are ugly, they just don't inspire me to buy them. According to the checklist, the base cards are actually quite rare. Most of the cards you find when you buy Synergy are the parallel cards. The red parallels are the most common, but getting the best rookies in this color are still pretty difficult as they have odds that are 1:80.


There are lots of rookies to be found in Synergy. The base rookie cards have a rookie designation on the left border of the card. Typically the rookies share the same border as the base cards, but you can find serial numbered versions like this Noah Dobson shown above. Collectors will have a tough time pulling the best rookies out of Synergy as Upper Deck has really made them rare pulls out of packs. I was hankering for a Cale Makar, but he was no where to be found!


It's interesting how Upper Deck made the base set so rare and difficult to obtain. The highest serial numbered base card is 20. The All-Star base cards have the lowest print run - they are numbered to just 9. So I guess there are only 9 people who could possibly make a true base set of Synergy if they wanted to. I wonder how many collectors know how truly rare the base set of Synergy is!


To me, Synergy is just a totally backwards set. The base cards are rare and the parallels aren't as rare. And in terms of inserts, they come on very plain cardboard whereas the base cards are totally crazy in their design. It's batty!


As you can see, the insert cards don't have much going on with them at all. They seriously look like they came out of a lower-end retail release. Some of the inserts will have serial numbering making them a bit more collectible, but the plain inserts will not be very desirable.


Synergy is not a hit driven product. There will be boxes that don't have hits in them. Sadly, the hockey market isn't as into these parallel driven sets as the other sports are. It looks like Upper Deck is trying their best to get hockey collectors into the parallel game. Allure and Synergy are products that should help - but there is still a long ways to go in that regard.

Positives:
  • Interesting concept for a product.
  • Boxes are not terribly expensive.
  • Upper Deck is trying something new.
Negatives:
  • Hits are not easy to come by.
  • Not many cards per box/pack.
  • Not a hit with collectors.

Overall Rating:

7/10

Thursday, February 6, 2020

2020 Topps Baseball Series One Review


Topps has just released their flagship product, and it's an exciting time for baseball collectors as Series One is full of great rookies, autographs, and special inserts to chase. To celebrate the release of 2020 Series One, Topps held a special million card rip party at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas. It was an awesome event to watch throughout the day and see quite a few amazing hits get pulled!

Product Thoughts
Topps Series One certainly falls into the lower-end territory when it comes to releases. It doesn't hit with the weight like products such as Triple Threads or Tier One, but this is the top of the list when it comes to popularity and collectibility. Though hits aren't that prevalent, there are many high dollar cards inserted throughout the product. The most sought after insert this year will probably be the golden tickets that can be redeemed for a special party thrown by Topps. There are 25 of them to be found in Series One this year... and one was pulled at the million card rip party already! 


Topps has been going through the decades in recent years as they have released special throwback cards with designs from 35 years past. This year Topps highlights the 1985 release. Collectors will find standard throwbacks like this in their packs, but also limited variations in bonus packs found in sealed hobby boxes. I purchased a jumbo hobby box and it came with 2 of these special packs. I think I prefer last year's 1984 design just a little more than the '85, but just by a smidge. These cards are pretty awesome too!


If you're a collector who enjoys autographs, Topps Series One offers you the chance to land them in many ways. I'd say the best way to get one is to simply purchase a jumbo hobby box as they come one per box. If you purchase via retail outlets such as Target and Walmart, your chances of hitting an auto get pretty slim. Getting great autographs in Series One is pretty tough, but if you can pull a big name, the card should carry a very nice value.


I'm typically not a huge fan of manufactured mem cards. Topps considers these hits, but I personally wouldn't classify them as hits. This year you can find these 'pin' cards featuring players internationally themed metallic pins. These cards look pretty nice, but I've just personally never been a fan of manufactured relics. Topps also has a manufactured patch card mimicking the logo from a jersey sleeve for collectors to find this year. These cards look nice as well, but just make sure you don't get fooled into thinking a player wore it!


Topps doesn't hold anything back in Series One. Though it's a pretty inexpensive product, you can still find game-used memorabilia such as jersey and patch cards within boxes. In fact, there are All Star Game nameplate cards serial numbered one-of-one that I've seen pulled out. That's a pretty nice offering for something like this.


The Home Run Challenge redemptions have returned this year. These are fun cards as you get to guess a date when the player featured on the card hits a home run. If you get it right, Topps sends you a special limited edition card. I was able to guess a couple of dates correctly last year and got the limited cards in the mail. It was cool and a fun way to make the set interactive. 


One of the most popular aspects of Topps has been the parallel cards. Baseball collectors go nuts for Topps gold and other parallels. When I started collecting baseball again I was shocked at the dollar amounts these parallel cards would go for. These parallels can be much more valuable than patches and autographs! My only gripe about the parallels this year are they can be difficult to distinguish from the standard base cards. I actually missed this Laureano black parallel the first time going through my Series One cards.

Positives:
  • Inexpensive.
  • Full of great inserts, autographs, and memorabilia cards.
  • Tons of value with many rookies this time around.
Negatives:
  • Parallel cards can be hard to distinguish this year.
  • There will be A LOT of this product produced.
  • Good hits are few and far between.

Overall Rating:

9.5/10

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Allure Review


Upper Deck brings out a completely new brand called Allure. The name suggests something that should be beautiful and desired. The cards come in a cube-shaped box that reminds me more of Panini Certified than anything else that Upper Deck has done - but that's good, as I think Upper Deck needs to have a more varied selection of cards on the market.

Product Thoughts
I mentioned Panini Certified, but the actual cards are more like Select. The base cards have a nice thickness to them with some very shiny foil board. The mirrored finish allows you to pretty much see yourself in the card if looking directly into it. The design is ok, but I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of it. There just needs to be a bit more intention to the cards with a name like Allure. It may be that this is just the first year and Upper Deck is testing the waters with this new brand, but I feel the cards need a bit more of a wow factor in terms of their basic look and design.


Standard rookie cards are quite common in the set. Rather than having a fun subset like Future Watches or Young Guns, the Allure rookies simple have a 'rookie' logo placed in the upper mid-right of the card. Like I stated before, the design could be a lot better. The logo looks pretty generic with little thought put into it. In general these rookie simply are not too alluring. Ahahaaaaa...


The design elements ramp up with the inclusion of parallel cards. There are a number of parallel cards in Allure to chase. Some of the cards, like this Erik Karlsson card above, feature special die-cutting. The die-cut look is ok, but what really strikes me about the card is the change in background color. The different colors featured in Allure are what really make this set appealing.


Since I've started collecting other sports, I've found that collectors have gone nuts over parallel cards. I feel that in hockey the parallel card collectibility is much lower. Perhaps Upper Deck is trying to really hit hard on the parallel card front with this new brand. There certainly are many parallels with lots of different looks and limited numbering. If parallel cards become a huge thing in hockey, Allure could be a pretty special set with all its fancy offerings.


There should be at least a couple of its per box. The most common hit will be the plain jersey card. These cards look nice with some shiny red foil on them, but the value of these cards will never excite collectors too much. Finding a short print card of a good player or rookie would be much more exciting than this hit.


There should also be an autograph in the hobby box breaks. Seeing as this product is heavy on rookies, I'm sure you'll find lots of rookie autographed content. Sadly, the autograph that I pulled was on-sticker, which should be the norm for a product within this price point.


And finally the product rounds itself out with some insert cards that I found surprisingly nice looking. I was impressed with the design and the way the insert cards look. Upper Deck made good use of the foil in creating these. Overall, I'd say Allure is a decent mid-range product that has nice potential going forward. I do really enjoy the parallel content and would be very happy to see parallel cards really take off in the hockey world.


Positives:
  • A step in a different direction for Upper Deck.
  • Huge amount of parallel cards to chase.
  • Lots of rookies to find.
Negatives:
  • Bland rookie card design.
  • Autographs on stickers.
  • Plain jerseys still a disappointment to pull.

Overall Rating:

8.5/10

Saturday, February 1, 2020

2020 Topps Archives Active Player Edition


It's curious that Topps has released their version of 2020 Archives already! I feel like it wasn't too long ago that I was purchasing the 2019 version of this brand. But that's the way it is, Topps has released Archvies Active Player Edition to the masses. Similarly to the 2019 release, this product feels as if there are just too many players that you wouldn't be too excited to pull.

Product Thoughts
Some people really don't like these sort of one-per-pack buyback products. I'm in the camp that likes them if they are done the right way. If I am able to pull a player's autograph on an older card that I have a bit of nostalgia for... I'm all for it! The cards in 2020 Archives seem as though they were released not too long ago. Being the Active Player Edition, the cards really can't be that old so I don't get the retro feels I want from a buyback product.

Sadly, the worst thing about this release is the amount of players in it that aren't desirable. I pulled a Dylan Cease card. Let's just say I'm none too happy about it. If you take a look at the checklist for this set, you'll find name after name that doesn't have any real value. For the price of this product, which is about fifty bucks, you can probably find some of these cards on the secondary market for ten or less.

Getting big named players is possible, but they seem to be very difficult pulls. I've watch a good amount of case breaks and finding the big names are very few and far between. In fact, many of the cases I've seen opened just contain the same players over and over again. Because of this, I was heavily considering skipping this product. I only went in on it because the store didn't have something else that I wanted in stock at the time.

Sadly, I can't recommend purchasing 2020 Topps Archives Active Player Edition. As it's brand new, the price is just too high. 2019 Archives prices took a big plunge a few months after they came out and that's probably what will happen to this release. If you really want some, it's probably a good idea just to sit and wait until that price falls.

Positives:
  • On-Card Autographs.
  • Cheaper than some of Topp's other one-auto-per-pack products.
  • Price will most likely be coming down soon.
Negatives:
  • Very tough to get a star player.
  • Currently too expensive.
  • Same guys over and over.

Overall Rating:

3/10

Saturday, January 18, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Trilogy Review


Upper Trilogy is what I would term as a mid-high-end brand. It certainly isn't cheap, but the quality and types of hits in it aren't the most desirable. It ends up being stuck in an awkward space within the card collecting hobby. In years past, Trilogy had a clear theme of threes... now it's just its name.

Product Thoughts
Trilogy is released as a product in a vein similar to that of Artifacts. In fact, the box is about the same size. There are a few hits per box (typically 3), but with no guarantee of an autograph. When breaking a box, collectors will predominantly find base cards and Rookie Rendition cards. The base cards have a very typical design for Trilogy - but these cards have never been a collector favorite. 


Trilogy has their 'Rookie Premiers' line of rookie cards within the product. These come in three levels of collectability. The cards feature a full foil surface with serial numbering. As the levels go up, the rarity goes higher as does the closeness to the player in terms of their photograph. The most desirable versions of these cards would be the autographed ones. But just as with Trilogy as a whole, Rookie Premier cards aren't a huge hobby favorite. They are passed up by more popular rookie sets such as Young Guns and Future Watches.


Rookie Renditions are prominently featured within packs of Trilogy. I personally feel that there are too many of these cards within the set. The cards look 'ok', but the bottom portion of the card is taken up too much by the brand and set name. I find these cards redundant as there are already Rookie Premier cards for the rookies. These Rookie Rendition cards don't seem to have much of a purpose other than to flood this set with rookies.


If you're' looking for plain jersey cards, you'll enjoy these Rookie Rendition jerseys. Of course, these are just the lowest form of these cards. Better versions will feature autographs, patches, and low serial numbering. Unfortunately, most collectors will be stuck with these plain jersey cards in their boxes.


As if plain rookie jerseys weren't enough, the base cards have jersey variations to them as well. Though this is a plain jersey card, the design does look quite nice with the red color in it. Similarly to the Rookie Renditions memorabilia cards, these also come with many different levels of parallels that feature better and rarer materials.


Some collectors have really enjoyed the Signature Puck cards found in Trilogy in the past. I can see why as the puck is such an integral part of the game. These cards remind me of the baseball material cards that Upper Deck used to make. It's a decent concept and the cards are fun, but there is just something about the standard version of these that needs a little more pop. Or it could just be that the one I got was Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Positives:
  • Less expensive to purchase than in years past.
  • Lots of rookie content.
  • Chance to get tags and patches.
Negatives:
  • A product that collectors are lukewarm about.
  • Still expensive for what you get.
  • Boxes contain mostly jersey cards from what I've seen.

Overall Rating:

6/10

Monday, January 13, 2020

2019-2020 Parkhurst Review


Parkhurst has been out for a while now, but I have only just seen it at my local Wal-Mart. It's a Wal-Mart retail exclusive which makes it a pretty difficult find for me since hockey isn't big where I'm at. Parkhurst is a relatively low-tier brand that nets you quite a bit of cards. The pack opening experience harkens back to the days when there were actually quite a few cards per pack. Thankfully, there are more than just base cards to look forward to when opening up this product.

Product Thoughts
For me, white borders usually signify a lower-end product. Throughout the 90's and early 00's, lower-end cards had these white borders. I'm not a huge fan of them as they give the cards a cheap feel to them. The green Parkhurst color scheme is also a bit awkward on hockey cards. Green isn't a color that is particularly associated with hockey, so having it prominently splashed over the card makes for a curious choice. I just find that the cards have a dated look with design choices that aren't up to par for a modern card. I don't believe Upper Deck is trying to design a retro looking card here either. These cards are just stuck in the middle of nowhere.


Rookies (and All-Stars) have a special designation added to them. I do, however, get the same vibe as the standard base card. These cards look dated and the 'Rookie' addition just heightens the dated look. The font used is questionable to me. However... for some strange reason I like it... it's sort of pure cheese!


Opening up a blaster of Parkhurst will net you quite a bit of inserts and parallels. Thankfully, there aren't any pure base packs to be found. The inserts typically take on a shiny form with parallel cards opting for gold or silver borders. The standard inserts are very common, but some very low numbered cards as well as autographs can be found in the product.


I'm a bit mixed when it comes to this product. I am not a huge fan of the design, but somehow its cheesiness attracts me a little. I suppose it does bring back a small sense of nostalgia for cards made at the turn of the century. If I saw some again on my visit to Wal-Mart I'd probably want to pick up another blaster of it as it is a pretty fun break.

Positives:
  • Lots of cards to find in blasters.
  • Inserts cards can be found in just about every pack.
  • Not an expensive product.
Negatives:
  • Only available at Wal-Mart (and Upper Deck e-Packs).
  • Awkward design elements that seem dated.
  • Hits are very tough pulls.

Overall Rating:

7/10