Sunday, September 14, 2014

Retail Review #118 (13/14 Artifacts Blaster)

Once in a blue moon I like to test my luck with an Artifacts blaster box. 99% of the time getting one of these is the wrong choice, but for some reason I still will go for it, especially if I'm ordering a bunch of boxes and I'm looking for a little variety. I hope that I'll get something that I like out of this one, even though the odds are stacked against me.

Price - 

Packs - 8
13/14 Artifacts Blaster Packs

I've said it before, but I'll say it again - Upper Deck needs to re-think their Artifacts retail strategy. Sure, the base cards are nice and have a quality, premium feel to them... but collectors just aren't looking for a large stack of base cards. Usually a blaster of Artifacts will have some sort of rookie card or numbered card, but for a brand that calls itself Artifacts, I think there should be some sort of memorabilia in the blaster.

At a stated price of about twenty dollars, I would definitely avoid Artifacts. Instead I'd go for good old Upper Deck Series 1 or 2. Those products, while not as premium, will put out a much better value than Artifacts. I actually think the O-Pee-Chee blaster I just opened has more value and fun than one of these usually puts out.

Let's see if this blaster of Artifacts will give me anything good:

Review -
Wow. There really isn't much to say about this Artifacts blaster. As you saw in the video, it was base pack after base pack after base pack. I was actually thinking that the entire blaster would be base cards. It nearly was. And even the last pack with the numbered card wasn't anything to really get excited about. This was a blaster of Artifacts that should definitely warn people against the product if they see it on the store shelves.

It wasn't easy, but I had to find the three top cards this week:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Matt Duchene Card No. 57
Sure Matt Duchene is a good player, but I put this card at number three because it ties in with the number one card of this break.

#2 - Evgeni Malkin Card No. 27
This card stands out to me because the All-Star jersey Malkin is wearing is so different than his Pens one.

#1 - Matt Duchene Card No. 57
The only numbered card in the break. I guess I could go for the rainbow since I got two of these in this one blaster.

Overall Value -
As I feared from the beginning, this blaster was a terrible value... even for the half the stated price. Maybe in a day when base cards were desired this product might be 'ok'... but it's definitely time to change it up a bit. And when I say a bit, I mean a lot! It's sad that blasters like this exist. I'm pretty sure no collector would be satisfied with this box, but this is pretty normal for Artifacts. Steer clear!

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, September 7, 2014

Retail Review #117 (12/13 Score Blaster)

Score is one of the most basic products you can find when it comes to cards. It has long been in the low-end of the hobby... but that's not a bad thing. It's a set that is budget friendly, filled with inserts, and has the occasional hit in it. Last year's Score blasters were available with a stated retail price of just $9.99. That's a pretty sweet price for a good amount of cards to look through on a slow afternoon.

Price - 

Packs - 11
12/13 Score Packs

Even with a super low price of $9.99, I was able to pick this bad boy up for about half of that, just $4.95 online at Wow, that's about five bucks for 11 packs of cards - a really good deal I've gotta say! Being that it's Score, I won't be expecting much from this blaster, but I know I will enjoy seeing all of the different insert cards come out. I appreciate how Panini really crams in a lot of inserts into Score to not only make it more interesting, but for me, it definitely adds a nostalgia feel to it as well.

Each pack of Score should yield me at least one gold card. Nowadays, Score gold cards and base cards don't really have much difference in value. For hardcore collectors, they may not be worth anything at all, but these cards are still great for younger collectors to experience trying to collect a rainbow of cards. Of course, the challenge will be to seek out the really elusive black variations.

I'll open this blaster up and see what comes out of it:

Review -
There wasn't a hit in this blaster, but I wasn't counting on one. This blaster of Score actually delivered me exactly what I expected. Score gave me a solid amount of cards including gold parallels and some inserts. Surprisingly, I was impressed by the quality of the photographs in 12/13 Score. The photo selection quality was definitely noticeable here. It's a small thing, but something to be appreciated.

I really enjoyed getting the Net Cam card and First Goal inserts. These are the types of cards that collectors were a buzz about when inserts first arrived on the scene. It's great that Score carried on the tradition of loading up the product with inserts. These little sets are fun to collect and fun to see who is in them.

My three favorite cards from this break made the top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Gordie Howe Card No. OS2
These old school Franchise insert cards aren't much to look at, and they are pretty easy to find in Score, but I still enjoy finding Gordie Howe cards in my packs. Everyone knows Mr. Hockey, and it's great to see him honored with new cards.

#2 - Chris Kreider Card No. 543
12/13 was not a good year for rookie cards as the companies that year decided to hold off on new rookie cards due to the shortened season. Only rookies who had already skated for their teams in 11/12 got cards if they hadn't had one yet. Of those rookies, Kreider was probably the most sought after one.

#1 - Pavel Datsyuk Card No. TS1
These Team Score cards are definitely a blast from the past. I'm a big fan of posed photos like this every-so-often to add some nice variety to the card set. It also gives you a bit of a different look at the player on the card. These are classy cards that are well done.

Overall Value -
At five bucks, this blaster was a nice deal. I definitely didn't pull any cards that were mind-blowing out of the break, but that wasn't the point. This is a break that I enjoyed doing, and I'll enjoy seeing all the different types of cards now added to my collection. Score has done a great job of making relevant cards that any collector would enjoy.

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, 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 - 

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:

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:

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:

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:

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 - 

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:

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!