Sunday, August 31, 2014

Retail Review #116 (10/11 Donruss Blaster)


Last week I opened up a pretty nice blaster of Pinnacle. This week I'm going with Donruss, Pinnacle's little brother of sorts. Donruss and Pinnacle currently have very similar pricing, but Pinnacle's higher quality makes it a no-brainer to go to. Donruss still has its merits, and can be a fun break, but it definitely sits second among the two.



Price - 
$7.95

Packs - 8
10/11 Donruss Packs

Like I said, I'd rather open up Pinnacle, but I also like variety in my collecting, so going for Donruss isn't a bad thing. You can still be surprised by getting something good out of a blaster of Donruss, so it is worth it to purchase it on occasion if you're looking for a fun and cheap break.

In Donruss you'll find a few different insert cards as well as the opportunity for a hit. You pretty much get a hit guaranteed in Pinnacle, but it's no so with Donruss. Nostalgic collectors can look forward to finding the Rated Rookies in Donruss. That is a set of cards that I think is better than the Pinnacle version (Ice Breakers).

I'll go ahead and open up this blaster and see what comes out:


Review -
This was an alright box of Donruss to open. Well... maybe more than alright since I was able to pull a jersey card out. I was a little disappointed to see so many base card packs though. It seemed to be a fairly high number.

Each pack has 10 cards, so you're actually getting a good amount of base cards when you buy Donruss. It's just too bad the base cards aren't anything to write home about.

In terms of rookies, I was able to pull three Rated Rookie cards. I'm still baffled by the fact that I haven't pulled more top named rookies out of 10/11 products recently. There were so many good ones that I thought I'd be bound to get one sooner rather than later.

Anyways, here are the top three cards this week:

Top 3 Cards


#3 - Cody Almond Card No. 270
I pulled three Rated Rookies, but none of them were of any note so I just picked Cody Almond to represent the three rookies from the break. 


#2 - Dion Phaneuf Card No. 8
My lone insert card was this Ultimate Draft card of Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf is a decent name to pull out of the cards as I've seen much worse to get. This set has alway puzzled me.


#1 - Maxim LaPierre Card No. 56
I was pretty happy to get this 2-color jersey card out of the blaster. At first I thought it might be a prime card, but it isn't. There is no numbering, but it's probably one of the nicer things I could ever expect to get out of a blaster box of Donruss.

Overall Value -
Other than the surprise jersey card, there wasn't much going on with this box of Donruss. I am pleased with the hit though, and that makes up for a lot of the lackluster-ness of the rest of the box. I would still pick up Donruss just to have a little fun with it every-so-often. Donruss can be a nice little diversion when you need something to break on a slow day.

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:
7/10

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2013-2014 Panini National Treasures Hockey Review

This is it. The swan song for Panini hockey. It seemed like it wasn't too long ago that Panini even acquired the NHL license, and now, their final product has released. Panini's highest-end brand is National Treasures. It's been released for baseball, basketball, and football. It's only fitting that Panini caps off their hockey run with a hockey release of this collector favorite.


Base Card Design -
National Treasures has always gone with an elegant white motif, and it works particularly well with hockey. The base cards are very thick and feel like a top tier card should. I love how the player image is very large and almost popping out of the card. The full color picture looks great on the white backing amidst the thin foil design elements surrounding it. The fonts are restrained - there isn't anything over-the-top... and there isn't anything that calls attention to itself. It's just a well executed card that fits the the mold of a great premium card. The numbering may be a bit hard to see as it can be hidden in the player picture, but each card is serial numbered to just 199.


The back of the base cards continue on with the quiet refinement of the front. No, there is no player photo - but that simply isn't needed on a card such as this. All the information on the back is laid out in a concise manner. The minimal design elements around the card are just enough to give a lot of class to the card. The backs are well done, and perfect for the National Treasure brand.


As with all top-end products, the rookie cards in National Treasures feature both an autograph and a large piece of patch. These Rookie Treasures cards have a unique acetate top that gives the card a slightly translucent look to it. The overall design of the card is very nice with the patch getting center stage. While I do think these cards a well done, something about them just doesn't sit perfectly with me. Is it the oddly shaped patch window? Is it that the patch is too centered? I'm not sure. But while these rookie cards are good, I hesitate to say they are great. That being said, I'm sure these cards will be coveted by collectors as the top Panini rookie card to acquire.

Base Card Design Score:
9/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The hits in National Treasures outnumber the amount of base cards. When collectors open up a box of National Treasures, they are in for a big helping of jerseys, patches, and autographs. Panini has even pretty much guaranteed 1/1's in these boxes as each one has printing plates put in for good measure.


One of the first things you'll notice in the boxes of National Treasures are the two thin printing plate cards added in. Most boxes I've seen two, but some have one and some have had more. Printing plates have lost a bit of luster in recent years as collectors have tired a bit of them. Yes, they are 1/1's, but most don't call them a 'true' one-of-one card. They remain unique collectibles though, and nice additions to player PCs.


Timeline cards are fairly common game and event-used cards found in National Treasures. The Timeline cards feature a specific date of note from the player pictured. This Paul Coffey jersey card recalls the time he was traded from LA to Detroit. The back of the card states that the jersey pieces are game-worn, but there is no mention that these pieces were from the game on the date listed on the front of the card.


Here's a card similar to the Coffey Timeline card. It's of Coyotes rookie Lucas Lessio. The card features a very nice looking patch pieces within the name cut-outs, but on the back it clearly states that the patch is even-worn. So the pieces jersey embedded from the card definitely didn't come from the game date listed on the front. Instead, these pieces probably came from a photoshoot or rookie training event.


Speaking of event-used, it's likely that most of the rookie content in National Treasures was from a rookie event rather than a game. It makes sense as this has been the tradition of card manufacturers to get a lot of material from the rookies before the season starts. This patch piece from Nail Yakupov is a good example of that. The card itself is well done though - it reminds me of a base card with a patch window, though this design is clearly different than the base design.


Autograph lovers will find plenty to like in National Treasures. This very cleanly designed dual autograph of Valtteri Filppula and Richard Panik is nice, but there are many cards that feature even more autographs - I've seen up to four on each side! I do have to mention that these autographs are not of the on-card variety. As Panini has to move out all their hockey content, I'm sure they tried to use up everything they had - including these sticker autographs they have.


National Treasures doesn't just contain rookies and current stars, but also has older player autographs within. Fans of older school players will enjoy cards like this Pierre Turgeon game-used jersey and autograph card. Unlike some of the content from National Treasures, this card has been signed on-card, and it really looks great. The large piece of jersey is nice too.


Speaking of players from yesteryear, I got another one from my box - Denis Potvin. Though this card doesn't feature memorabilia, it is probably my favorite card of the bunch I got here. This card is well-designed and clean. You can't see it from this scan, but this card is actually made of two layers. A thicker bottom layer and a thin top layer that you can clearly see by the black outlining on the side. This card is also signed on-card.


This Marc Staal autograph and patch card is probably the 'best' card from the box I opened. It's a great looking card with some very sweet patch pieces embedded within it. Though the card is very nice, I'm not sure how many people would covet this card besides New York Ranger fans. It might make for some good trade bait.

My box of National Treasures was a bit of a let-down as there was no clear 'big-card' in it. I think I got a pack that was filled with 'medium' cards. This box was definitely below average from what I've seen. If you see breaks of National Treasures, you'll see many book cards come out, some with a ridiculous amount of jersey or patch pieces on them. There is much to be had out of National Treasures this year. Panini has really put everything they could into it. My box opened today definitely did not tell the story of National Treasures this year. But take a look at the many breaks online and you'll see some pretty sweet things coming out of NT.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
9/10

Overall Rating -
If you want to get into National Treasures, be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars for a box of it. This stuff is expensive! But that's the price to pay for the top of the line hockey cards from Panini this year. My box of National Treasures didn't really satisfy, but I realize that not all boxes can. There are plenty of collectors who will open there boxes and pull out amazing rookie cards worth the amount of their box or more.

Purchasing National Treasures is definitely a risk... but it's a very fun risk. Getting the chance to open up a product like this is extremely thrilling. And if you pull something amazing... it's even more thrilling.

Would I recommend getting a box of this if you could?

Yes. I would.

This and The Cup are the ultimate hockey products that you can find. As a hockey card collector, being able to open up these products is the pinnacle of collecting - especially in terms of busting wax. So if you can, go for it. Take the plunge! There are not many who can.

Overall Rating:
9/10

Watch me open a box of National Treasures at D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Retail Review #115 (10/11 Pinnacle Blaster)


Pinnacle is a retail product that I don't mind opening. It's always a decently fun break, and should have at least a jersey card inside for me to find. As the years have gone on, I have really warmed up to these initial Panini products - probably because their prices have dropped so much!



Price - 
$9.95

Packs - 8
10/11 Pinnacle Packs

I would rarely hesitate to buy any product from 2010/11. That year was such an awesome year for hockey cards. With an amazing rookie class, there is always a great hope to pull someone good like a Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, or PK Subban.

If you enjoy going through your cards and looking at them, Pinnacle is the perfect set for you. It features a ton of unique images on the card fronts. Though the card design is a bit lacking for me, the photo quality is nearly unrivaled. It's a joy to look at 10/11 Pinnacle.

The blaster should hold a hit, a few rookies, and a few inserts. If I get that in the box I'll be pretty happy.

Let's open up this blaster and see what comes out of it:


Review -
What a solid break! I can honestly say this break was very good for a blaster. I was able to pull everything that I thought I would, and got some decent names out of it as well. My two rookie cards could have been better, but that's ok.

I pulled a NuFex card of Tomas Kaberle which looked pretty sweet. Panini's NuFex technology looks very good.

In the end I got a pretty big stack of base cards and some solid keepers in terms of inserts and my hit.

Here are the top three cards from this break:

Top 3 Cards


#3 - Jaroslav Halak Card No. 29
It takes a pretty stunning photo to make the top 3, and this is just that kind of photo. I remember really enjoying this photo back when this product was released, and it was awesome to see it again. There is a lot conveyed in this image - it's awesome.


#2 - Jonathan Quick Card No. 9
This is a really sweet looking card of Jonathan Quick. Not only does it have the NuFex foiling technology, the retro sweater he is wearing looks ridiculously cool. All around a very good looking card.



#1 - Jarome Iginla Card No. 16
It can be hard to find a hit featuring a star of the game, but that's what I got today. Jarome Iginla is definitely a nice pull out of a blaster. The entire card looks great with the city skyline in the back. Serial numbering to 499 makes the card even better.

Overall Value -
For under ten dollars this box was very good. Whenever you buy a blaster, you're really just looking for a good time. I think this blaster definitely delivered a good time for me as I was opening it. Great looking base cards and inserts and also a sweet hit. Top notch box of Pinnacle right here!

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:
8.5/10

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

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:
8.5/10

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:
8.25/10

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:
8.5/10

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:
7/10

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:
7/10

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:
6.5/10

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