Sunday, July 20, 2014

Retail Review #110 (12/13 Certified Blaster)

I love opening up Certified blasters, to me, they are one of the products at the very top of the retail product offerings from the card companies. These blasters are pretty expensive, but you are guaranteed to get a hit in it... plus the cards are really pretty.

Price - 

Packs - 3
12/13 Certified Packs

I've had good luck with these Certified blasters in the past. In fact, my best pull out of Retail Review ever came out of one of these. So I definitely have fond memories when it comes to Certified. Certified was also one of the best products out by Panini when they first came onto the hockey scene. I was skeptical about Panini's products up until Certified came out and took the collecting world by storm.

The Certified cards always look great and are well-crafted. For a non-collector trying out one of these premium blasters, I think they could see why the price of the box is ten dollars more than other products on the shelf.

I probably wouldn't be willing to spend thirty dollars on one of these blasters if I saw it on the shelves of my local big box store, but I'll gamble on one when I can get it for half price at

Let's see what we get in this Certified blaster box:

Review -
Three packs makes for a very quick break, and the blaster delivered everything I thought that it would. The first pack came at me with all base... but as I opened it I did enjoy the premium quality of the cards. Certified does the foil look right each and every time. The second pack had a numbered insert, and the third contained the hit.

I was expecting to get a standard jersey card in this blaster, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an autograph. It just shows that these Certified blasters don't hold back on the ink. Kudos to Panini for giving collectors a better opportunity at hits in this product.

Let's take a look at the top three this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Johnny Bower Card No. 128
Certified honors the NHL greats by putting them in a subset called Immortals. These cards stand apart from the standard base with a large 'Immortals' logo and serial numbering to 999. The black and white image looks pretty cool on the silver foil. It's a nice looking card!

#2 - Logan Couture Card No. 39
You know, for as many retail products as I open, I find that I don't pull many of my PC player - Logan Couture. It's always fun to find his cards when I open up these products and actually find him in them.

#1 - Brandon Bollig Card No. 158
This Bollig auto card was a nice pull from this blaster. He's definitely had an impact in the NHL, and I really like the fact that this card is numbered. It is a sticker autograph, but it has been implemented well onto the card and Bollig's signature looks clean!

Overall Value -
These Certified blasters are a great deal at the price I got them for. I often compare retail to hobby, and in this case, it's a better deal! One pack of Certified is about $10, but you aren't guaranteed anything when you get one. If you pull a random pack out of a box, you have a 4 in 10 chance of getting a hit. These blasters are guaranteed a hit, and you will probably also get a numbered card and more base cards. So for five dollars more you get much better value. This is a definite recommendation at this price range!

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!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Retail Review #109 (13/14 Artifacts Blaster)

It is very painful to buy Artifacts blasters at a retail store like Target. I NEVER have a good feeling when I plop down twenty bones for one of these boxes because I know I'm not going to get anywhere near that value when I open it. Getting these for half the stated price is a bit more reasonable. It's sad that a hobby pack at about that price still beats an entire blaster by far, but that's just how it is!

Price - 

Packs - 8
13/14 Artifacts Blaster Packs

This is a blaster that I got online. In my introduction I compared getting a blaster to that of a hobby pack. Artifact hobby packs go for about $10. This blaster was also about $10. So why does a hobby pack beat this by far? Well, hobby boxes have ten packs per... and within you will find an autographed card, many numbered cards, a rookie redemption, and a number of memorabilia cards. So buying one pack of hobby gives you a good chance at any of those glorious hits.

On the retail side, one box may get you a single jersey card (but it's pretty rare). Most likely you'll pull a numbered card out of the blaster... and that'll be it. There is almost no shot at any other sort of hit. So while the two products can be had for about the same price... there is absolutely no way that getting a blaster is the better choice... unless of course you want to load up on base cards. Then by all means go for the blaster.

It's time to cross my fingers and open up this blaster box:

Review -
Opening up this blaster was pretty much exactly what I expected. There were a ton of base cards in the box and only a couple parallels of note. I was actually surprised that I even got two parallel cards in the box as usually there is only one.

I think Artifacts is living too much in the past with its retail offering. These blasters feel like you are paying a premium for getting premium base cards. I mean, don't get me wrong, the base cards in Artifacts are very nice... but I definitely wouldn't pay more for them. Maybe in the distant past, higher-end base cards would warrant a higher price, but now people pay higher prices because of the availability of more hits. It's probably time for Upper Deck to rethink how they do Artifacts at the retail level. If it were up to me, I'd make it like an old cello pack. Just put one cello pack in the blaster and have it contain say 25 base cards, 1 numbered card, and one retail exclusive mem or auto. That would be a great formula in my opinion!

Let's take a look at the top three this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Harold Snepsts Card No. 29
I pulled Ovi, Side the Kid, and other more popular players... so why does Harold Snepsts get third place this week? Well, because you just don't see cards of his very often. I had to do a double take when I pulled this card because Snepsts is just a guy that companies don't make cards of. Sure, you see a lot of retired players like Gretzky, Lemieux, and even players like Doug Wilson quite often. You don't see Harold Snepsts in too many sets though.

#2 - Claude Lemieux Card No. 14
Claude Lemieux definitely doesn't get as much attention as another player with the same last name, but he was definitely a great NHLer in his time. I like this card because the red foil matches up really well with the Canadiens' color scheme.

#1 - Charlie Coyle Card No. 157
Like the Lemieux above, this green parallel does a great job of matching up with Coyle's team colors too! It's cool to get a rookie card numbered to 99. Coyle is a very young player still, and has a chance for some good growth.

Overall Value -
I cannot say that Artifacts blasters give good value... they just don't! At $10 I will take a risk on some though. I am waiting for the day that I get something in one of these Artifacts blasters that actually exceeds the price I paid for it. Will it ever happen? It's unlikely. But I'm willing to give it a try on occasion. Do I recommend it for you? Nope! Just watch me open these up on Retail Review to satisfy your need to see what's inside Artifacts blasters. When it comes to Artifacts, the hobby version is the way to go.

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!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Retail Review #108 (13/14 Score Blaster)

Come to think of it... I don't think I've opened up one of these 13/14 Score blasters before. The stated retail price on the blaster actually made me do a double take clocking in at about twenty dollars. That's quite a jump from the previous years' prices. I guess the box does state that you get more in a blaster than what you did in the past... but for Panini to ask for twice the price and provide just 40% more content looks like a win for Panini.

Price - 

Packs - 11
13/14 Score Packs

Though the suggested price of the blaster was originally quite high, I only paid about seven dollars for it from For that price, this blaster is a fantastic deal. You get a ton of cards in the blaster, and there is the possibilities of getting hits within, though unlikely.

I'm expecting this blaster to really give out quite a bit in terms of insert cards. I'm not going to expect a hit like an autograph, but there should be fun content within this box to appease the collectors who buy it. Being lower-end, I believe companies should give the buyer as much 'fun' as possible. And the way to do that in lower-end products like this is with insert cards.

This was the year of the double rookie class so besides insert cards I should also be seeing quite a few rookies as well. The Hot Rookies subset isn't big on collectors want lists, but pulling rookie cards is always a fun thing to do. Hopefully I get some good ones!

Let's just open this blaster up and see what we get out of it:

Review -
As I thought, the Score break was actually pretty fun! I really delivered in terms of getting rookie cards, inserts, and parallels. There wasn't a hit in the box, but that didn't disappoint me. The first thing that I noticed as I was going through the box was that the packs felt thick - they had a lot of cards in them. That's awesome. Sometimes I forget how packs used to be! When you open up a pack from the 80's or early 90's, you were getting a good amount of cards. And the same can be said of these packs. This makes for a longer and more satisfying break - especially for people who want to enjoy the cards as they come out of the packs.

It was fun to see a slew of Sharks cards come out of the break. Unlike many higher-end sets, Score didn't limit the player selection. Instead, Score aims to include as many players as possible, so I saw some names on cards that I rarely get a chance to see on cardboard. I also got two Sharks rookie cards in the break, which was good for me.

Here were my top three cards from this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Semyon Varlamov Card No. NC-4
I think this is the first Net Cam card I have from 13/14 Score. I have a bunch from previous years, but not so much this year. I like the updated look this set has, and the net cam always provides a unique perspective on the action.

#2 - Sidney Crosby Card No. 399
Sid the Kid is still the biggest name in hockey, so getting a parallel card of his is pretty nice. Gone are the days when a parallel card was coveted, but I still enjoy getting it nonetheless.

#1 - Brendan Gallagher Card No. 624
Yep, another parallel! This time a rookie card. Brendan Gallagher has been haunting me a bit in my breaks recently... but that's not necessarily a bad thing! This is a nice gold version of his rookie card.

Overall Value -
For the price I paid for this blaster, the overall value was very good. I probably would not recommend this blaster at its full asking price of twenty dollars though. Score is a wonderful product for novice or casual collectors. It's also a good break if you're looking to see a whole lot of cardboard come out of your blaster box. Break a box for fun if you can find it for a steal!

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!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Retail Review #107 (10/11 Panini Zenith Blaster)

Zenith was one of the brands that Panini tried to re-introduce when they came onto the hockey card scene back in 2010. I remember being pretty excited for the product to release. As it turned out, Zenith was considered to be grossly overpriced. And that turned off many collectors. I never saw a blaster of it at a retail store near me, but I would have a very difficult time justifying the purchase of a blaster at nearly thirty dollars.

Price - 

Packs - 3
10/11 Zenith Blaster Packs

With Zenith being a 'higher-end' product, Panini gave it the higher-end price and treatment. There are only three packs per box, but should be a hit guaranteed inside. When looking at Zenith, I don't really get the sense of it being higher-end. The base cards are pretty plain - if you compare them to other higher end cards like Panini Certified or even Panini Prizm, these cards are lackluster.

2010/11 was the only year that Zenith saw a release. I think collectors disliked it so much that Panini decided it would not be worth it to try and salvage the brand. Even now at it's extremely discounted price, I think collectors are a bit weary to purchasing it. Besides the rookie content, there just isn't much to latch onto. You're not going to find a huge hit (save for a few select rookie cards) when busting this product.

Let's see what these three packs bring me in the Zenith blaster:

Review -
This blaster was a decently fun rip - but short. Though this may be a generally disliked product, I enjoyed it. At first I didn't like the base cards at all. I thought the design was terrible. But they've grown on me a little. Yes, they are plain, but there is a quality about them that does show that there was effort gone into making them. It's hard to see in the video, but the player part of the card has been specially glossed so that it stands out over the background. It's a subtle but nice effect.

You don't get a lot of cards in three packs, but I actually prefer getting less base cards to more. Sometimes I just don't know where to put all the excess base that are in these blasters.

I like the fact that the box had a hit in it. Companies should definitely think about putting more hits in retail and less base. That would be a great trade-off. I know it would dilute the hit market even more, but perhaps creating retail only hits would be a good idea... just a thought!

Let's see the top cards from this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Kelly Hrudey Card No. 135
The veteran cards in Zenith don't have any special designation other than a higher number in the set. I remember the veterans being a bit more limited than that standard base, so that's why Kelly Hrudey gets a spot in the top 3 this week. I also have good memories of pulling Hrudey cards back in the old days!

#2 - Alex Stalock Card No. 171
Stalock really came on last year for the Sharks after battling back through a very difficult injury. I know that Sharks were struggling on who to use in goal - Stalock or Niemi. The Sharks recently signed Stalock to a new contract. It looks like he may be with the team for a while.

#1 - Jonathan Bernier Card No. 17
This was the hit in my blaster. It's a terrible looking scan, but in person the card looks really nice, especially for it being 'just a jersey' card. I especially like the old school purple sweater and sweater chunk. The back states that the piece is game-worn!

Overall Value -
Zenith is now at a price that is worth it. Spending about $10 for a hit isn't too bad, and I think Zenith is a quirky enough product to really enjoy opening up more of. It's funny how price can really determine how much you like or dislike a product. It just goes to show the importance of getting the price correctly adjusted for the value a product can give. I'd happily open up more Zenith give the chance to.

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!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2013-2014 Panini Contenders Review

Contenders is pretty much Panini's answer to Upper Deck's SP Authentic line which came out last week. Contenders has made some good headway in closing the gap between the two brands these past couple of years. It's sad that this will be the last Contenders set we'll see for a while, but it looks like Panini has really made this one the best yet! IT IS LOADED.

Base Card Design -
Contender base cards have their own specific design that they utilize - a ticket. The cards make great use of color and space. Framing the main player photo with the team color works well, and the addition of the monotone close up photo adds a nice dimension to the card. Silver foil is used on these base cards sparingly. You'll see foil used only at the bottom of the card for the set logo and player position. I appreciate the judicious use of foil here, though I think the player name could have used a touch of foil too. One completely unique addition to the card is the bar code at the bottom right corner. This definitely adds to the ticket look of the card. And the numbers beneath the bar code depict the player's birthdate. Pretty cool!

The back of the Contenders card has a full-color design. It's good to see that from Panini as many of their card backs primarily use white backgrounds. The card back gives collectors information about the player in a short write-up. There are no stats to speak of on these cards. Sorry stats guys!

The non-autographed rookie cards share a similar design to the standard base cards with just a few aspects differing. These cards have an added RC logo, a foil rookie designation instead of the position they play, and silver foil numbering to 600.

The autographed Rookie Ticket subset has a design that is a bit more different than the standard base cards, but they obviously share many of the same characteristics. The main differences are that the Rookie Ticket cards have a large whited-out area for the autograph. The autograph is on-card and in blue ink. Like in years past, Panini has chosen not to number these cards. By doing this, Panini creates a bit of a mystery in terms of each card's print run. Collectors are always curious to know which cards have been short printed.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
The boxes of Contenders states that they will have at least 3 autographed cards within. From what I have seen so far though, collectors can almost expect to find more than that. With Panini leaving the hockey card market soon, it looks like they have put as much as they could into Contenders.

Contenders has always included specially themed insert cards in the set. Cup Contenders cards highlight players that are contending for the Stanley Cup. These cards are limited to 499 copies of each. Collectors who enjoy seeing the Stanley Cup on the front of the card (I know plenty who do!) will like this set quite a bit. A signature patch version of some of these cards are also available to be found in boxes. They are limited to just 25 copies with a 1/1 version also produced.

Vezina Contenders cards are for the goalie lovers out there. Like the Stanley Cup Contenders cards, these cards have the desired trophy in the card's background. Vezina Contenders are also limited to 499 and have patch auto variations. Collectors will also find other trophy themed inserts in their boxes of Contenders this year. If you're into the NHL awards, this set is definitely for you.

The Contenders Legacies cards are beautiful black and white depictions of NHL legends. The black and white photos give these cards a very classic look. The standard Legacies card is numbered to 499, but the patch auto variations are limited to only 5 with a gold 1/1 version available as well. This is a simple and elegant set that I really love the look of.

Many of you will remember the Classics set that Panini released during the 12/13 season. It featured a retro design with on-card autographs of retired NHL players. Well, it looks like Panini had some left over or that came in late... so here they are! Like what Upper Deck did with SP Authentic last week, Contenders is a place to find cards from previous releases.

The best card of my box was this six-way autograph of some legendary goalies - Tony Esposito, Ron Hextall, Patrick Roy, Curtis Joseph, Henrik Lundquivst, and Carey Price. It is an amazing card to have and to hold in hands.

Rather than being in book form, the card is simply double sided. I actually much prefer it this way than in a book. It fits great in a 35pt. magnetic top-loader. I love this card and it will be in my personal collection.

Panini has really put everything they have into this product. I know I got a great box, but I also know that many people have been pulling great things out of this product. There is so much crammed into Contenders this year. Watch break after break of it and you'll see!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I usually compare Contenders with SP Authentic. I just makes sense to do so! And normally SP Authentic comes out on top... but this year, I have to give it to Contenders if you're looking for a break that will deliver you some awesome hits. Contenders boxes are just spilling out all kinds of amazing things, and it'd be a great idea to break as much of this as you can!

I would still hold SP Authentic in a higher regard in terms of its overall look and design, but Panini Contenders this year just brings it hard with value... and it's not like the cards are ugly... they look good!

Contenders is a product you just have to break if you can afford to. It's really good this year as seen by my break as well as numerous others. Go find some and crack a box or two (or more!)!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Contenders from D&P Sports Cards in Sacramento, Ca: