Wednesday, June 24, 2020

2020 Topps Clearly Authentic Review


Topps Clearly Authentic is an acetate based set that comes encased and sealed by Topps. The cards come in a one-card-per-pack format and will cost you between $60-70 at release. It follows products like Topps Signature Archives, but with a more modern feel. What's the best way to purchase this product? I weigh in on it in my review.

Product Thoughts
The Clearly Authentic cards have a very nice look to them as they follow the design of the flagship Topps set. This is a smart idea by Topps as it almost makes these cards a parallel to the base cards and provides a strong connection to the main brand. The on-card nature of the autographs of these cards are another great selling point. With a different photo and ink, these cards look really great and outshines the Archive Signature product that Topps has. Add in the fact that there are also colored parallels and you have a set that many collectors will enjoy ripping into.

At around $60-70, the question comes into mind if boxes are worth buying. For the vast majority of boxes, the card you pull will not be worth anywhere near the amount paid for it. I pulled the Jesus Luzardo card above. I like this card quite a bit, but I could pick it up for much cheaper as a single on the secondary market. If you're looking for the really big names, then it may be worth the gamble to pick up a few boxes and try your luck. But if you're a team collector or someone who collects a player that doesn't have staggering secondary market values, it's a much wiser decision to just purchase the single that you want. A VAST majority of the time you're better off just doing that.

Positives:
  • The card designs look excellent.
  • Many parallels to find in the product.
  • On-card autographs are great.
Negatives:
  • Hit or miss product.
  • Might as well buy the one you want as a single.
  • One-card-per-pack is not everyone's cup of tea.

Overall Rating:

8/10

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Not Buying 2020 Topps Finest


2020 Topps Finest Baseball came out yesterday along with a few other products (Panini Prizm Baseball, Topps Pro Debut, and Topps Big League), and I have decided to pass on the product. It's not that the cards or horrible, but I find Finest to be a tired product that gets forgotten about a week after it releases. At about $150 a hobby box, you get two mini boxes with each containing an autograph. Aside from the nice shiny look of the cards, I find that Finest doesn't really have an appealing place in the hobby landscape.

Topps' flagship product (Series 1 and 2) are cheap, but extremely collectible. Every baseball collector buys it and the rookie cards from these sets are some of the most well-known and desired. This set also has a ton of parallel cards to chase, and I find that collectors just can't get enough of them.

A product like Bowman is has collectors chasing after prospects and parallels. Chrome is like an upgraded version of Topps. And high-end products like Diamond Icons, Tier One, and Triple Threads have amazing memorabilia hits to find.

So where does that leave Topps Finest? I mean, it was the OG of refractor cards back when it had its inaugural set. It seems that Topps Finest started off as the very best Topps could offer, but over the years has declined and declined in the line-up. Maybe they should just rename it Topps Middle. That's what this product is... just the middle of the road and easily forgotten about after release.

What about the other products that came out recently? Well, I'll buy Panini Prizm at retail as well as Topps Big League. You can find those at the local Target and Walmart at a price that you can throw a few dollars at. Pro Debut? I think I'll pass on that too since like Topps Finest, I find it neither here nor there as a product. I'd just rather save my money and get Bowman.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Topps Finest baseball? If so, I'd love to know why as I personally feel it is outclassed and out matched by other products at other price points.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck Ice Review


Upper Deck Ice has changed forms and designs as it has gone through its history, but one thing has always remained the same: The Ice Premier rookie cards. Most of these cards don't hold much in terms of value, but if you are lucky enough to find the top tier guys numbered to 99, you'll have a card that is worth quite a bit of money. I wouldn't put Ice Premiers in the top three 'must-have' rookie cards, but it's a close fourth!

Product Thoughts
Ice has always had a great look to them. The theme of the set is perfect for hockey, and the color scheme this year is excellent. It's a simple design with the player set on a foiled blue background. The cards have a lot of pop to them and they feel premium. There is also a foil border that separates the background foil from the icy border. The main set is eye catching and would be a fun one to collect. 


Ice Premier rookie cards are again basically all acetate. They are see-through and come in a design that is in-line with those from the past. The cards are visually appealing and all come serial numbered. I was surprised to find an autographed version of Ice Premiers in my box. One thing different about these than the standard Ice Premier is the foil used for the serial number. Standard Ice Premier rookie cards have an older style font that looks a little less elegant. It's cool that Upper Deck kept it though as they are definitely a signature of the brand.


Boxes state that memorabilia cards or Exquisite cards can be found in the product. Jersey cards are nothing new in Ice and I was able to pull a Victor Olofsson Ice Premiers jersey card. It's a relatively small piece of jersey set at a unique angle. The card itself looks good enough in person, but the thicker acetate makes the card have a natural bend to it.


There are a few parallels to the base set that exchange the blue backing foil of the regular cards. The most common are the greens. Unfortunately, the green parallels have a close resemblance to the blue foil so it can be hard to tell them apart. Thankfully, the other colors have a much starker contrast to them making them easier to spot.


To up the ante in Ice, Upper Deck has placed the high-end Exquisite cards in the set. Exquisite cards a gorgeous looking and feature on-card autos. These cards are worth the price of admission. I'd buy Ice just to get my hands on some of these cards! Ice is great, but Exquisite makes it even better!

Positives:
  • Exquisite.
  • Great looking design.
  • On-card autographs.
Negatives:
  • Difficult to find top tier Ice Premier cards.
  • Green parallels look like regular base.
  • Not very many cards per box.

Overall Rating:

9.5/10

Thursday, June 11, 2020

2020 Bowman Baseball Review


Baseball cards prices and basketball prices are absolutely insane right now. Bowman landed a week or so ago and I decided not to pick up a box at the hobby store. Standard boxes were around the $300 mark and jumbo boxes were over $600. THAT IS INSANE. I had no luck finding Bowman at the retail level until just today. There were some packs left over in a partial box at my local Target. I scooped them all up so I could see the cards for myself.

Product Thoughts
White bordered cards are not a favorite of mine because usually they look cheap and tacky. This is not the case with the Bowman base cards. The white borders here give the card a clean and fresh look. The cards don't feel cheap at all. I'm actually impressed with how well these cards are in the eye appeal department. The lines are well done and the cards have a modern sensibility to them. As with all recent Bowman releases, the most popular cards to find are the 1st Bowman cards of players. These are not true rookie cards, but can hold high values if a player makes it big in the MLB. Bowman is one of those sets where you make sure to keep every card because you never know who could really break out.


The standard base cards are called 'paper' cards while there are more desirable chrome versions in each pack. The chrome cards feature Topps' signature foil technology that collectors go crazy for. You get a couple of chrome cards in each standard pack of Bowman. The cards feature the same photo as the paper version but the borders have the year and the Bowman logo in silver. It's a striking look that gives these cards extra appeal.


While the 1st Bowman cards are a nice draw, the autographs are where collectors can cash in big. As these are mostly prospect cards, many of the autographs are the first of a certain player. Many of these autographs are already worth hundreds of dollars. Prospects Jasson Dominguez and Bobby Witt Jr. are two that are on fire as of the writing of this review. Of course, these being prospects, there is a very good chance that these same cards could be worth just a few dollars in the future if they don't pan out. This is what makes prospecting so exciting though! It's knowing when to hold and when to sell.



I can't forget about the parallel cards. Many times the parallel cards can hold just as much value as the autographed cards. Low print run cards are also highly sought after. Get a good name and you'll have something quite valuable in your hands. Bowman has a variety of colored parallel variations in both the paper set and the chrome set. 


Less popular finds in Bowman are the standard insert cards. These insert cards are typically done with a foil look and have a nice design to them. Like the base cards, collectors will be able to seek out parallel variations of these. A lot of the inserts will give collectors information on the young prospects about to make a run at the big leagues.


With Bowman being so hot this year, if you see it at a retail store, don't hesitate to pick it up. The cards look nice and the potential for a good return in the future is high. As for hobby versions... I'd give it some thought before picking it up. The price at the moment for hobby versions of this product are too insane. You'd really have to hit something big to justify some of the prices hobby stores are asking for at the moment.

Positives:
  • Nice, clean design this year.
  • Lots of fun to chase prospects.
  • Affordable at the retail level if you can find it.
Negatives:
  • Prospecting can be a very risky endeavor.
  • Difficult to find in the wild.
  • Hobby prices are way too high.

Overall Rating:

9.5/10

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

2019-2020 Upper Deck SP Authentic Review


SP Authentic has long been one of the most popular and liked products for hockey collectors. It's clean design, on-card autographs, and potential for amazing hits is second to none. This year, SPA continues the tradition with a release that brings collectors exactly what they expect. It's easy to see that Upper Deck will move a lot of this product to eager collectors wanting to open up as many packs and boxes as they can.

Product Thoughts
The base design of SPA is the same mostly white aesthetic that Upper Deck has riffed on for years and years and years. The background on this year's base is a bit busier than I personally like, but it's not offensive. The design actually reminds me of SPA sets from the '00s for some reason. Everything on the face of the card is clean. Upper Deck is wise to continue this design forward - as they say: if it ain't broke... don't fix it!


The main chase for most people will be the Future Watch Autographed rookie cards. SPA's main claim to fame are these popular rookies. The Aleksi Saarela shown above isn't autographed, but the majority of them are. Each box of SPA comes with one autographed FWA. The one I received, Joel Farabee, was a redemption. FWA's are second only in desirability to rookie cards from The Cup. FWAs are favorite of many and lots of collectors go for a complete set. Attaining a complete set is extremely challenging. Since you only get one guaranteed a box, the best way to go after the cards you need would be to purchase them on the secondary market. I completed 2 SPA FWA sets this way. 


SPA has gotten a bit cluttered in recent years with insert cards. It used to be that there were SP Essentials as a subset, but now there are more parallels and cards with different designs. These cards add variety to the set, but it was nice when SPA was a dead simple product. Of course, that meant opening pack after pack of base cards... so I guess having these to mix up the look helps break the monotony of the cards.


With this release, collectors will find all sorts of interesting and different looking cards. The SpectrumFX cards are shiny and pop out of the pack. Collectors can go for bounties where they can get their hands on limited edition Upper Deck cards. I wonder how many collectors actually go for bounties as I have not seen much excitement for them. The bounties seem a bit difficult to pull of and an expensive proposition to complete.


Aside from the Future Watch Autograph, collectors will find a random assortment of other signature cards in the product. The Sign of the Times autographed cards are a staple of the set. One of the intriguing autographed sets in SPA this year are the 09/10 Throwback Future Watch cards. I started collecting again in 09/10 and have that complete Future Watch Auto set. Seeing that design brings back a lot of fond memories!


To round things off, Upper Deck has inserted updates to its flagship set within the product. Late season trades and moves as well as Young Gun rookie cards can be found here. Collectors who are lucky can even find exclusive and acetate variations of these cards. Taylor Hall doesn't look right as a Coyote btw.

Positives:
  • On-card autographs for everything.
  • The rookie cards in this set are highly sought after and hold good value.
  • Excellent design that has stood the test of time.
Negatives:
  • There seems to be less hits guaranteed by Upper Deck year after year.
  • Bounty cards take up space in this product.
  • Hitting the FWA you want is VERY difficult.

Overall Rating:

9/10