Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 Panini Rookies & Stars Football Review

If you're looking for a fun, moderate cost football product to enjoy... look no further than the new 2014 Panini Rookies & Stars. This early football release will give collectors a ton of great rookie content as well as plenty of veteran presence on cards too. As with many recent Panini products, Panini has really put the kitchen sink into the packs - there's just a ton of stuff to see and find!

Base Card Design -
For a mid-level product, the base cards are surprisingly refined looking. The cards are bold, but clean. The front of the card shows the player on a darkened background representing their team's color. This creates a beautiful effect that really pulls the card together nicely. Foil is used sparingly at the bottom of the card for the players name, the brand logo, and on the corners. It has been done just right. Products like this usually have base cards that are a bit more 'kid friendly', but these hit the sweet spot for all collectors.

The back of the base card really impressed me. Having the player photo in front of the graphic bars representing the vital statistics was a great idea. The player looks almost like he's popping out of the card. The entire back is slickly done using team colors, muted grey tones, and clean graphics. I'm very impressed with the effort Panini put into the back design.

Rookie cards in this set have a completely different design than the standard base cards, which is great. So many sets simply throw the RC logo on the base card without much else. The rookie cards have a brighter look to them with a background that shows some movement. The player's name is very large on the card and in foil. This is not my favorite looking rookie card, but it's good to see something fresh.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
When you open up a box of Rookies & Stars you will definitely get your money's worth in terms of different kinds of cards. Autographs and memorabilia hits are among the different inserts you can find. There's a little of everything for everyone when you buy Rookies & Stars.

Longevity cards are parallels of the regular set of base cards. These cards are printed on thin foil board and have the word 'Longevity' in the background telling you exactly what it is. The most common Longevity cards are unnumbered, but there are plenty of parallel versions with rarities all the way to 1.

Speaking of being numbered to just 1, collectors can find printing plates like this one of Jimmy Graham I pulled from my box. This one is the yellow plate, but there are other colors available as well to complete the set.

Draft Class inserts key in on the 'Rookies' aspect of Rookies & Stars. This insert set shows the early moments of the player getting drafted and holding up their draft jersey. There is also a second photo showing the player in their jersey doing an action. The back of the card lets you learn a little bit more about the player you just pulled.

Super Bowl XLVIII gets a little insert set of its own in Rookies & Stars. This set will obviously feature players from both the Seahawks and Broncos - the two teams in the Super Bowl last year. The cards aren't especially well designed or nice, but I'm sure there will be fans out there who enjoy remembering last year's championship game - particularly the ones from Seattle. Peyton Manning (shown above) might want to forget it though.

The Pro Bowl also gets a little shout out set this year. These cards have a lime green and grey look to them that pairs nicely. The card looks great with the foil highlighting it. All-Star type cards used to be very popular in the past, it's nice that there are still some of these cards being produced.

Crusade insert cards with different levels of rarity according to color can be found in packs of Rookies & Stars. These have been decently popular amongst collectors, so it's good to see them back. The cards are very refractive of the light that hits it making them fun to look at and enjoy.

The rookie version of the Crusade inserts have a horizontal orientation. Panini decided to make a clear distinction between the veteran stars and the rookies in the Crusade inserts. As with the veteran cards, you can try tracking down all the parallels of your favorite player in the set.

Above is a pretty standard jersey card that you might find when buying Rookies & Stars this year. These jersey cards feature a medium sized piece of jersey. The cards are decent looking, but nothing that really stands out. I actually think Panini could have utilized the space a little better on the card. These should be easy pick-ups on the secondary market if you want to get them. Parallel versions of these cards also exist with more premium materials in the window.

Some autographs appear as parallel cards that you can find. Here's an Aaron Murray sticker autograph numbered to 49. These cards look great even though they are on-sticker. The placement is done well, and the entire card shimmers nicely, including the sticker.

In total I pulled 2 jersey cards and 2 autographs from my box of Rookies & Stars. Unfortunately, they were both in the same class. But there are actually quite a few different kinds of memorabilia and autographed cards to find in this product. You'll just have to get a box and find them!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
2014 Rookies & Stars is a fantastic product at a very reasonable price point. You can find boxes of it for well under one-hundred dollars. In these boxes you'll find this season's hottest rookies in the form of autographs, memorabilia, and inserts.

I had a tremendous amount of fun opening up this box. There are plenty of cards to find in the packs, and there are some really cool inserts to enjoy.

I would definitely recommend getting 2014 Rookies & Stars if you want to jump into the new football season with a bang.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Rookies & Stars:

2013-2014 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Review

About a hundred dollars for four cards... works out to be $25 a card... or if don't count the base cards, $50 a hit. Is this product worth it? Well, it does call itself the Ultimate Collection. This pricey brand of cards has just recently released. With its small footprint and high price, you've got to expect every card to pack a wallop. Today we'll examine if it does.

Base Card Design -
The Ultimate Collection base cards are more ornate than they have been in the past. It seems as though the graphics this time around are busier. The design of the card certainly centers your attention to the player, but I also feel that it confines the player a bit too much as well. Overall I find the card to be a bit distracting. Even the nice Ultimate Collection logo gets a bit lost on the card. Each base card is serial numbered to 499.

The back of the base cards are much more subtle than their fronts... maybe even too subtle. All the necessary information is there along with a short write-up, but there is nothing on the back that is particularly exciting or interesting.

Non-autographed rookie cards have a similar design to the base cards, but the blue and silver color scheme works a whole lot better. These cards are bright and vibrant - somehow with this color combination the cards open up a bit more and become much more pleasing to the eye. These Ultimate Rookies have their own logo in foil and also feature serial numbering.

Autographed versions of the Ultimate Rookies can also be found in the product. Again, there is a similar design here but with a different main color scheme - in this case - gold. The autograph is on-card, which is a great thing for such a high-end product. I think the blue design looks the best, but this one certainly comes in second.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box/pack of Ultimate Collection will yield two hits. Often times collectors will find one autographed card and one memorabilia card. I've seen packs with two autographs, but those seem to be a bit more uncommon.

My autograph hit was a rookie card (which is pretty typical), but my memorabilia card was this pretty sweet patch of Alex Galchenyuk. This card is a Debut Threads Ultimate Patch, and I've got to say that it is a very nice chunk of material. The card looks great because of the quality of the patch. If it were a one color, center of the number job, it definitely wouldn't be as nice though. The card is numbered to 100, which I think is quite high. The back states that the patch is event-worn... so that's a bit of a bummer.

Ultimate Collection has a ton of different hits to find within it. Since I opened just one pack, there wasn't much to see. But rest assured that Ultimate Collection has plenty of variety. There are multi-memorabilia cards, throwback autographs, as well as NHL Shields to pull.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
So do I recommend Ultimate Collection this year? I actually find it hard to recommend unless you're a collector with very deep pockets. I've seen so many packs opened with a mediocre rookie autograph and a jersey card of some type. And that person just paid a hundred dollars for it! The typical break of Ultimate Collection will not get you anywhere near your money's worth - even if you pull a decent auto or patch card.

I really like the Galchenyuk patch I got, but I could have gotten my entire pack for much less than $100 on the secondary market.

If you're going to break Ultimate Collection, I'd say break a case of it. Then at least you're guaranteed to get a few stellar cards for your money. Box by box of Ultimate is a very risky proposition.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Ultimate Collection from D&P Sports Cards:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Panini Donruss Baseball Series 2 Review

One of my favorite baseball products from Panini has gotten a second release! It's Donruss back with a second series! I'm very glad that Panini chose to continue on with this retro-themed set. This time around Donruss also comes with a bit of Elite splashed in to add the fun of breaking boxes of it.

Base Card Design -
I reviewed the base card design already in my first Donruss review. If you'd like to see what I thought of them, go ahead and check back there for a detailed review. The base cards are exactly the same front and back. I still love the retro styled backs, but the front could have been much better.

Diamond Kings and Rated Rookies also make a return appearance. These subsets are a hallmark of Donruss and should always be in a Donruss product whenever one is released. Besides the Rated Rookies, there are standard rookie cards as well that include the Panini RC logo. The Jose Abreu Diamond King card is an example of that.

Base Card Design Score: 

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
If you're looking for a wide variety of inserts and hits, Donruss is the place to look. The box I broke had a memorabilia card as well as autographs. Elite cards have a strong presence within the set as many of the insert cards you will find are from that brand.

I recently reviewed 2014 Elite Football, and the these base cards mirror that product. In fact, many of the inserts are shared with the football version. If you're a baseball fan, these Elite cards are great because they allow for more choice in the baseball card market. Fans who enjoyed Elite in the past can happily collect these.

The Face2Face insert set is an example of a crossover from football. These cards pair up a couple of players from different teams who went against each other during the season. The concept works just as well with baseball as it did with football.

You will not only find Elite base cards and inserts, but also parallel versions of the Elite cards. They come in a variety of colors and numberings. This Yu Darvish Inspirations parallel card has a blue backing, is die-cut, and serial numbered to 89.

All three of my autographed cards turned out to be Elite Turn of the Century inserts. These card featured sticker autos and were not numbered. The look of these cards are sharp, but I wish I had a bit more variety in the kinds of autographs that came out of this particular box.

Elite Series cards are actually not a part of the Elite set. You can clearly see the Donruss logo in the upper left-hand corner of the Jose Fernandez pictured. For older collectors like myself, getting an Elite series card in Donruss would have been an amazing pull. The original Elite Series cards were serial numbered into the many-thousands, but they were still super-rare to get. Sadly, I never got one in a pack, but these cards look great and are a throw back to those cards of yesteryear.

Some of the parallel cards in Donruss can get pretty low numbered. I find it really interesting how Donruss likes to number cards to a player's statistics. This Wil Myers Diamond King parallel is numbered to just 13 - which represents his career home run total at the time.

My favorite card from the box was this Bat Kings card of Christian Yelich. It is a beautiful card to look at and to feel as well. I'm amazed that Panini decided not only to include memorabilia, but to enhance the card in a special way too. The best way I can describe the texture is a matte wood sort of feel. It's very cool. Serial numbering to just 25 is also a nice touch.

Many of the inserts that were in Donruss Series 1 are also back this time around. The awesome looking Dominators are back, as well are the 80's inspired 'The Rookies' inserts. No matter which box you pick, you're going to get a nice mix of insert cards and hits.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Donruss Series 2 is a great way to round out the Donruss brand for 2014. It continues on the retro-goodness of the first series and adds in Elite cards - a brand that many have enjoyed in the past. Donruss isn't a high-end product, so boxes can be found at reasonable prices. My box included 4 hits - which is a pretty decent amount.

Donruss is one my favorite Panini baseball products. It is really a shame that Panini doesn't have an official MLB license, but they have done marvelously well with the baseball sets they have produced. I enjoyed Donruss Series 2 and I'm sure you will too!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Donruss Series 2:

2014-2015 Upper Deck MVP Hockey Review

This is that strange part of the collecting year when products from the upcoming season release before last year's final products come out. MVP is available now even though the highest end products like Ultimate Collection and The Cup are still awaiting release. 14/15 MVP is a full release of the brand. Upper Deck had previously used it as an insert in their flagship lines. Let's see how it looks back as its own entity!

Base Card Design -
The MVP base cards utilize a large border area to encapsulate the card. Each card is primarily white and gold with team color highlights on the borders. The MVP base design goes along with past MVP designs but lacks the touch of premium quality that it used to have. MVP cards had foil on the front to give each card a little pop. Because it doesn't have that, these cards definitely fall a bit flat in terms of their look. It's a cheap looking card that looks lower end.

Though there are no photos on the back of the base cards, I rather like the back design. The large gold MVP logo looks good and actually shimmers a bit in light. There are limited stats on the back of the card and no written paragraph of the player - it's definitely few frills - but I guess that's what you pay for! The one thing I do like about the MVP base are the guides on how to pronounce the hockey player's name. That's pretty useful!

Rookie cards in the set share the same look as the base cards except for a large 'Rookie' logo where the team name was on the standard base card. When MVP was released in Upper Deck Series 1 and 2, the rookie cards had a distinctly different design that I actually rather liked. I'm sad to see that the effort wasn't put into these cards.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Boxes of MVP will yield parallels, inserts, and maybe even hits in them. This year there are quite a number of different tiered cards to look for. It can be confusing as to what kind of card you have, so refer to the pack or the bottom of the box to check for the rarity.

The most basic parallel card comes one-per-pack. And i actually like these much better than the regular base. These parallels are what MVP base cards should be! These cards have the foil and the facsimile signature that MVP has been known the carry. The base card design score would have been much nicer if Upper Deck just had these as their base cards.

The NHL 3 Stars of the Week cards are a pretty novel idea to put into an insert set. These cards show which players earned that special recognition during the season. I don't remember ever seeing cards like this before. I got to hand it to Upper Deck for coming up with an ideal like this for a card set.

The Rookie of the Month card set is similar to the NHL 3 Stars card except that it just features one player. The Rookie of the Month cards are actually a pretty tough pull comparatively. They are stated to be 1:40 packs.

Colors & Contours is a great looking set. The use of foil and die-cutting is outstanding on these cards. When I pulled my first one I thought I had gotten something really special. It turns out these cards have a great variety of different tiers and rarities. Looking on the back of the card will clue you in to what type of card you might have. I imagine that these will be fun for player collectors to track down.

I was fortunate enough to pull a Super Script parallel of Shane Doan in the box. These cards use a blue foil and have numbering to just 25. Super Scripts were a popular parallel set when the cards in the past, and hopefully they will be again.

The most unbelievable card I pulled in my box was a Pro Sign Wayne Gretzky card. I just couldn't believe it! It's always amazing when you can pull something like this out of a lower-end brand. It just goes to show that these things can actually happen. It is awesome that Upper Deck inserts cards like this into lower-end brands to give it a boost in terms of what collectors can get out of it.

There are many other types of hits to find in MVP as well. Memorabilia cards and dual autos are available. Rookie redemptions can be pulled too. I would guess that each box of MVP would have one hit in it, but I don't think it's a guarantee.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I obviously got really lucky with my box of MVP with the Gretzky autograph, but overall I think MVP is a solid offering by Upper Deck. There are a lot of interesting goodies you can pull out of it this year. I was actually pleasantly surprised. My only qualm about MVP are the base cards, but every other card in the product is a winner. MVP makes a worthy addition to the lower price-point hockey card brands.

Overall Rating -

Check out my box from D&P Sports Cards:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Retail Review #114 (12/13 UD Black Diamond Blaster)

I have to admit that Black Diamond is not one of my favorite retail products to open. Sure, there are the Rookie Gems to find, but the Young Guns from Upper Deck Series One and Two are much more desirable. And to be honest, the entire diamond tier system is getting a bit old. I'm not sure if collectors really are that a card is a dual, triple, or even a quad diamond. The excitement of that concept has waned quite a bit.

Price - 

Packs - 6
12/13 Black Diamond Blaster Packs

Black Diamond is in a class of cards that is ever-so-slightly more premium than Upper Deck's flagship sets in Series 1 and 2. The cards are all on foil board and have a very unique look that is a signature of the brand. This box usually brings out a few multi-diamond cards as well as a rookie card of some sort. It's pretty rare to find anything else - even jersey cards are very hard to find.

At the full price of twenty dollars, I usually shy away from this brand. I'm even pretty hesitant with the hobby version of it. But I got this box for under nine dollars, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I'll go ahead and check out what this blaster brings me:

Review -
What a surprising blaster! This blaster unloaded quite a bit more than I was expecting. I guess it's good to have low expectations. Nearly every pack in the box had a multi-diamond or other type of card. I got quite a few single diamonds (common base cards), but I also found doubles, a triple, and a quad! I'm not going to get too excited about what I pulled because if this came out of hobby, it'd be a pretty bad break. But coming from retail, this is something I could definitely be satisfied with - especially at the price I paid.

Let's see the top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Matt Duchene Card No. 120
I had a Miikka Kiprusoff triple diamond in this break, but I chose Matt Duchene above him for this spot because I enjoy watching Duchene play. I also have fond memories trying to track down his rookie cards back when I started collecting again in 2009. His cards were commanding good money back then.

#2 - JT Brown Card No. 247
Brown is not a high profile rookie, but I'm happy to get a Quad Rookie Gem from my blaster box. The Rookie Gem cards have always had a great futuristic design to them, they just haven't taken off so much in terms of hobby love.

#1 - Colton Orr Card No. TOUGH-CO
I was unbelievably surprised to actually get a hit from this blaster. This Colton Orr card must be part of a four-card puzzle featuring the tough guys of hockey as indicated by the card's name/number. Probably not worth much, but I'm glad I pulled it.

Overall Value -
This was a good box for the price I got it for. There were plenty of multi-diamond cards as well as a dual jersey card. I can easily say I was satisfied with this blaster of Black Diamond - and that is not said too often!

Let me know what you thought of my break in the comment section below. Have you ever pulled anything good out of one of these? I'd love to hear about it.

Overall Value Score:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!