Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014-2015 Panini NBA Hoops Basketball Review

The basketball season is here! What better way to kick it off than to pick up some packs of Hoops? Hoops has been around for a very long time, and it's been popular since it was first released in 1989. Panini has given Hoops a bit of an upgrade this year. It definitely looks to be of higher quality! Let's see what this venerable brand has come out with this time around.

Base Card Design -
Oh no! It's the dreaded low-end white border! I am not a fan of white borders, but somehow these base cards overcome and actually look quite nice. Hoops has a nice glossy front with a minimal design that harkens back to the very first set. I am a big fan of having the team color represented on the front as well as just a little bit of foil to give the card a bit of pop. I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the photos they used in the set. Panini has really stepped up its game in that area with their lower-end products. I found myself really enjoying the images on these cards.

I wish I could say that the backs of these cards were as good as the front. But I can't! Panini used a design that they had from other low-end products in other sports. This design gets the job done in terms of stats, but that's really it. It is such a spartan and boring design! I really wish they had changed it up and done something better.

Rookie cards don't differ too much from the standard base cards, but are different enough that they stand out well from the other cards. Rookie cards are denoted by a small foil RC logo in the bottom left corner. The players are also set on a black backdrop. You can definitely tell the rookie cards apart from the others when you go through them in a pack. I like that.

Base Card Design:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Boxes of Hoops have a huge mix of inserts and hits. Pack busting is very fun as many packs have multiple insert cards to be found. I was surprised at just how many different insert sets were included this year. Along with the inserts there are also quite a few parallel versions of these cards.

The first kind of parallel card I noticed were these foil variants serial numbered to just 399. The cards look great with the all-foil embossing, and numbering is decently limited as well.

Another foil parallel comes in the form of a square shaped pattern. These cards look pretty good too, but they don't have serial numbering. Often you'll find both these parallels and the serial numbered ones in the same pack.

Yet another parallel card are these sparkly gold bordered parallels. These also look pretty good and are eye catching, but I'm not sure why we need so many different parallel versions of the set. I think it's a bit overkill. And if that weren't enough, there are red backed versions and parallels of the inserts too! So many parallels!

One of my favorite inserts from Hoops is the Lights...  Camera... Action! cards. These cards feature some really unique photographs of the players. The cards do not have borders, and that really gives it a photographic look.

Class Action inserts have a pleasing design as well. I love the huge words in the background. There have been similar designs like this in the past, and I'm a sucker for every one of them. These cards feature standout players from specific draft classes. It's a pretty novel idea!

The NBA Playoffs and Finals have a dedicated set in Hoops. These cards feature foil and serial numbering! I am loving how this lower-end set has plenty of cards with serial numbering and foil touches. The standard numbering on these cards is to 2014. Very appropriate!

The autographed cards in Hoops this year look very nice. Each card features a sticker autograph on foilboard. I am a huge fan of the way these cards look. There seems to be a huge variety of players in this autographed set and a ton of rookies as well. It's the perfect autograph card to be inserted into this product.

The memorabilia cards also come with foil! Panini has definitely led the way in terms of using foil on mem cards. Even though this is just a standard jersey card, the design of the card really pops and it is satisfying to pull it out of the pack. I can surely say that Panini did right with the hits you can find in Hoops this year.

Hoops has a huge amount of other inserts to find within its set. There is certainly no lack of variety with it. Collectors of all ages will find something that they will enjoy getting when busting packs of Hoops.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
I am very pleased with Hoops this year. It's an exciting product to open and enjoy. It seems like there is a bit of something for every collector out there. I think every basketball fan should get their hands on some packs of Hoops. The inserts, the parallels, and the hits are all great. Are they going to be worth a ton? Well, probably not... but there is always a chance of hitting a big low serial numbered rookie!

I would definitely recommend NBA Hoops this year. Snag a box and enjoy it!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of this year's Hoops Basketball:

2014 Panini 75 Years Hall of Fame Baseball Review

Panini celebrates 75 years of the Baseball Hall of Fame with a very special baseball release. This one-pack-per-box offering gives the baseball HoFers the royal treatment with a premium set of classy looking cards. Though Panini still doesn't hold an official MLB license, they seem to still make great looking sets like this one.

Base Card Design -
When you open up the pack of Panini HoF you'll find a few all-foil cards. The cards are very shiny and depict players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Each card is serial numbered and is adorned with both holofoil and standard foil. The overall design has a picture of the player within a plaque-like border with elegantly designed accents around it. Though the cards are not on the super-thick card stock like the Immaculate or National Treasures brands, these cards still have a very premium feel to them. Each card is limited to 75 or less copies. It's a very short-printed set!

The card backs give a good amount of information about the player and have an 'old feel' to them. The backs use a color scheme that harkens back to a card produced many years ago. So even though the foil fronts are very modern, the backs of these cards provide a more vintage feel. I personally like the dual nature that they invoke. Panini has done a nice job of blending both an older and a more modern sensibility into one card.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each pack of HoF Baseball will contain a few limited base cards, a couple autographs, a smattering of inserts, and if you're lucky... a gemstone card!

Collectors that have enjoyed Donruss through the years will like the fact that Diamond King cards have been placed into this set. The Diamond Kings carry a similar design to the standard base cards in that the same plaque-like border is used. But that's where the similarities end. The Diamond Kings come on a matte cardstock that gives the card a painting-like feel. The Diamond Kings come in a variety of different color variations. My pack contained the standard white-bordered version shown above along with a red parallel numbered to 75 and a blue numbered to 50.

Crusade cards have also snuck into this HoF set. Crusade cards have been popular in Panini basketball and football products. They have a chrome look to them and come in a variety of colors. I guess the theme for this set is different parallels as there seems to be a parallel for every card! The Crusade cards have their fans, but to me they seem a little out of place in this set.

Elite Dominators are back. I really enjoyed these cards in Donruss Series 1 and 2 so I'm fine with them showing up here as well. They have the exact same design as the ones from Donruss earlier this year. I suppose it could be a challenge to try to find all the Elite Dominators that have been released by Panini this year. It would be a fabulous looking set.

The Elite Series also pops into HoF baseball. Like the Dominators, I like this set quite a bit because of nostalgic reasons. It was exciting to see Roberto Alomar depicted as a Blue Jay. I remember cheering on the Jays back in their World Series winning days.

The main draw of HoF Baseball has got to be the autographs you can find in the set. And Panini did these right. The autographed cards look amazing. They are simple, yet classy and classic looking. I love the HoF building used on the card. The elements of these autographed cards is perfectly done. I'm sure many collectors will enjoy these autos. They are done so well that I don't even miss the team logos.

Though there are on-card versions of the autographed cards like the Blyleven, some autographs do come on sticker like this red parallel numbered to 50 of Monte Irvin.

Some boxes of HoF baseball will contain a special gemstone card. I was lucky enough to find an emerald card in this box. The gemstone cards are very thick and come with dark black borders to highlight the stone. It's definitely a cool looking and sweet card to find in a pack. Gemstone cards have slowly been released more and more by Panini in recent years. So far they have been a hit to collectors. This particular card is the first time I've ever pulled on, and I have to say it was pretty special to get.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
This Panini HoF Baseball product is a winner. How can you go wrong with a great looking set of Hall of Fame players? You can't! The cards have been well thought out and designed. Each box will cost a bit over a hundred dollars, but if you get a gem card, it is worth it.

I really enjoyed opening this product, and I would definitely consider trying to find more of these cards to add to my collection. Panini has got a good one here.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2014 HoF Baseball:

2014 Panini Playbook Football Review

Panini Playbook Football is back again this year. It's been a pretty popular product for the last couple of years. The main draw of Playbook is the fact that these boxes guarantee a book card in every box. Book cards used to be very desired card types, but there have definitely been diluted as the years have gone on. Panini changes Playbooks configuration this year. Let's see if it works out for the better.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Playbook is a completely concentrated product of hits. That's all you get... and you only get two per pack/box. Each box will come with two cards - one auto and one relic. The relic card I pulled in my box was a Monte Ball Down & Dirty card numbered to just 25. It's a good looking card with a decently dirty jersey - but not filthy. There are Down & Dirty patch cards that are absolutely spectacular. I do like the fact that these jersey pieces have game-used elements to them - it's a really nice draw. Some rookie booklets just feature event-used jersey pieces. I wouldn't be happy if that was what I ended up with.

For my autograph, I pulled a pretty nice Blake Bortles autographed card. Panini seems to really like the autograph on the acetate. I could do without it as the autograph can be pretty hard to see. If the auto was on white stock, I think it would sand out much better on this card design. Overall the card look good, but it doesn't feel like a traditional rookie card at all.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Because Playbook is has only two cards per box, the price has dropped on them. You are paying quite a bit for just two cards. I'm not sure what the future looks like for Playbook. Book cards are just saturating the market now. Not many collectors are happy getting plain jersey books. Hopefully Panini will see this and find a way to cut down on books or make them of better quality rather than simple jersey cards. The Down & Dirty idea is great, but only so many cards have that kind of use shown on them. Hopefully there won't be a 'Squeaky Clean Gear' card with jerseys worn only during a photoshoot. Though many of these cards are already just that.

Unless you're a huge fan of books or you're feeling really lucky, I probably wouldn't purchase too much Playbook this year. For almost a hundred dollars you're just getting two cards it's a big risk for very little product. And I've heard collectors complain about finding Hot Rookie Autographed cards in the packs as the auto card. That really should have been a bonus in my opinion.

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of 2014 Panini Playbook Football:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Retail Review #124 (13/14 Titanium Tin)

This is my second ever 13/14 Titanium tin and I'm pretty excited to open it. Last time I was able to get a very short printed card. There were no hits in that tin, but I really did enjoy busting it open. Hopefully this tin will be even better - though I doubt I'll get a card with a print-run of 10 or less like last time!

Price - 

Packs - 1
13/14 Cellophane Pack

I've been told that these tins retail for about $20. That's not a bad price for this thing I think. I would prefer to buy this over a blaster of Black Diamond or Artifacts any day of the week. I love the fact that there are short prints and hits available to find in here. Titanium is a mid-range brand hobby-wise, but it's definitely got some higher-end feel at the retail level.

The tin should yield me an oversized card as well as a couple of non-base cards if things go similarly to the way they did last time. The large cards are neat, but I always have a problem with how to store them... they are not convenient at all.

Alright, let's get into this tin:

Review -
What a surprising tin! This was a good break in that it exceeded my expectations. No, I didn't get a card with a lower print run than last time, but I did get an extra non-base cards... and it turned out to be a hit! I just love getting hits out of retail products - there's just an extra thrill when they come out of these types of products.

My oversized card was of Preds rookie Filip Forsberg. It came out in very nice condition. I'll just have to figure out a way to keep it like that. Forsberg is a relatively good player to get out of the bonus oversized pack.

Let's check out the best three cards of this break:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Jason Akeson Card No. 168
I can't say I know Akeson, but it's always great to get a serial numbered card out of retail. The numbering on it is relatively low at 299 which is also pretty sweet.

#2 - Morgan Rielly Card No. 248
I've definitely heard of Morgan Rielly before as Leafs rookies get more attention than others. This particular card is cool because of its red background. It is a big contrast from the other cards in the tin.

#1 - Jonathan Marchessault Card No. TR-JAM
This card came out of the tin backwards. I thought I was done with non-base cards until I turned this card over. I love seeing ink! Sure, this is not a big name player, but I am still very happy pulling this card.

Overall Value -
These Titanium tins are great little breaks! Titanium doesn't hit the low end... instead it can actually give serious collectors some satisfaction. If you see some Titanium tins out at the store I'd pick them up. I'm sure they won't last too much longer!

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, October 22, 2014

2013-2014 Upper Deck The Cup Review

The final hockey product of the 2013/14 hockey season has finally been released, and it's the most sought after brand there is in hockey... The Cup. The Cup is a product that is out of reach for many collectors, but for those who can afford it, it's an amazing breaking experience.

Base Card Design -
This year's Cup base design is pretty low-key. It comes on an with an off-white border adorned with some foil highlights. It's pretty subdued, and reminds me a little of an Artifacts design. The player image is nice and large on the front and nothing is too distracting or out of place. But the card doesn't pop. It's just a big, solid base card limited to just 249 copies. I guess the design of The Cup base isn't to impress or make you jump out of your seat. It's just a simple, classy base card that sets a standard for the rest of the set.

The back of the base card continues the classy, simplified look. I would say, however, that the back has a bit more going on than the front. I like the blue hues that have been incorporated into the background. The back image is different than the one on the front which is a nice little detail. Everything about the card back is in order and in place. Again, like the front, it's solid if not spectacular.

As with every Cup release, the rookies set will come numbered to 99 or 249. The rookies selected to have just 99 cards will be difficult to find and worth quite a bit. This year's rookie design puts the patch right in the middle of the card. It cuts the player off a bit, but with a nice patch, the placement would really show it off well. The rookie cards have more foil bling factor than the standard base and stand out more. The front is busier, but not in a bad way. The placement of the photo, memorabilia, and autograph is tightly done and makes a card that is modern and sharp.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of The Cup comes with just one 'pack'. The back has a base card, a rookie card, and a variety of different hits. There are only six cards per pack, but each pack should produce something solid for your money.

The most mundane card you could probably pull out of the cup is an un-autographed jersey card like this Foundations card of Pekka Rinne. Still, it's not a bad card that has serial numbering to just 25. I'm glad The Cup doesn't water down its cards with a ton of jerseys. There aren't too many cards per pack, but each card should pack a wallop. This triple jersey was the only jersey card from the pack.

Signature Patch cards make their return this year, but this particular one is a stand by from 12/13. As usual, these cards feature on-card autographs with a piece of patch. It's a simple but effective design that works well. I especially appreciate that under the memorabilia window the words 'Authentic Game-Used' appears. Upper Deck is stating that the material wasn't just from a photo session.

Brilliance autographs come on extremely thick cards. These shadowbox-like cards will only fit in the largest of one-touches. These cards do not have memorabilia, but have an autograph situated on clear material above a holofoil Brilliance logo. Though it's just an autograph, I appreciate the effort to make the card and auto stand out a bit more than usual. The only complaint with these cards is how to store them effectively.

The best card by far from my Cup break was this one-of-one Canada tag patch of Sergei Bobrovsky. This card is the ultimate in terms of rare memorabilia. The Canadian flag looks amazing in the patch window. This is the type of card that really gets Cup breakers excited. Obviously one-of-ones don't come out of every box or case, but the chance to get one is definitely there... and they look goooood!

The Cup has much more in store for collectors. Some of the booklet cards this year will feature some crazy, crazy large patches from player jerseys. It's a treasure trove of amazingness. You just have to break it to believe it!

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Upper Deck shows why The Cup is the greatest again. I always get the thought that another product might get close or pass the Cup. This year National Treasures came out and it looked very solid. But The Cup comes out and just totally blows by it. The cards in The Cup are just on another level when compared to the rest. It's no wonder it's so expensive!

It's really too bad that not every collector can experience The Cup. It is a fantastic product that really does feel premium when you buy it. Opening it is always a thrill. It's the product that every hockey collector wishes to open.

Do I recommend it? Can you afford it? If yes, the take a drink from The Cup!

Overall Rating:

Check out my tin of The Cup from D&P Sports Cards: