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: 
8.5/10

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:
8/10

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:
8.75/10

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:
5.5/10

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:
8.5/10

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 -
8/10

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 - 
$8.95

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:
8/10

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

2014 Elite Football Review

Panini's recent release of Elite has given football card collectors a beautiful product at a moderate price. Elite provides a satisfying break for anyone who is looking to open up a box. At 20-packs per box, there is plenty to rip and enjoy. Elite is definitely one of the top products to get as the football season quickly approaches.


Base Card Design -
The Elite base card design draws inspiration from many past iterations of the product. Collectors can always expect Elite cards to be on shiny foil board card stock. This year's design is right on point in terms of what is expected of Elite. The cards have a silver finish backdrop that the player photos sits on top of. An elegantly designed 'E' from Elite is also a part of the backdrop. The card is finished off with a darker lower portion that creates a nice contrast on the card. The entire card is well-done and clean. It works perfectly with the Elite theme, and I enjoy them quite a bit.


The back of the base cards utilize a similar design scheme to the front so that there is some harmony between the two - it's nice. The team color is represented in the player photo subtly. While there is only a small space for one year of stats and a career total, I enjoy being able to read about the player in the paragraph written about them on the card.


The standard rookie cards in Elite are numbered between 499, 799, or 999 depending on the player. The cards share the exact same design as the standard base cards save for the small RC shield logo in the upper corner. Many of these cards show the rookies at camp or training as none have taken the field in the NFL as of yet.

Base Card Design Score:
9/10

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Each box of Elite will come with a pretty wide assortment of inserts, game-used, and autographed cards. In fact, each pack should have at least one card that isn't just a standard base card. If you like beautiful insert cards, Elite just may well be the product for you as the inserts found here are of top notch quality.


One of the unique insert sets in Elite this year are the horizontally oriented Face2Face cards. These cards feature two players who went at it in a big way during the season. The Face2Face card above brings back huge memories of when the Niners took on the Seahawks. As a Niner fan... the memories were not good, but I think that a card to capture that intense moment (and others during the season) was a great idea.


Legends of the Fall is a stark looking set that has players who excelled in the post season. The cards are all in a black and white color scheme highlighted by silver foil. These are serious looking cards! But they are seriously good looking. The design of these cards could stand up on their own; the designers have done a great job here. Another insert set that features outstanding players is the Elite Series insert set. It also features quite a bit of foiling as well.


Passing the Torch inserts are dual sided cards with different players on each side of the card. This RGIII card has Eddie Lacy on the back. I'm not sure why RGIII would be passing anything on to Lacy though... I don't see the connection. If you do, let me know! The cards are very nice though. I like how the cards have been done with a brighter white color scheme with the torch and logo portion done with foil.


If you're a fan of parallel cards, then Elite is definitely going to make you happy as there are a ton of different parallels with different numbering to be found within the set. Some parallels like this Status card of Aaron Rodgers are die-cut.


Green Turn of the Century rookie card parallels are pretty commonly found in boxes of Elite. I got a few in the box that I broke. Some, like this Kendall Wright are numbered to 199, while others have lower numbers and are autographed.


Speaking of autographs, there are plenty of rookie autographs to be found in Elite. I enjoyed pulling this on-card Aaron Murray autograph from a pack. Unfortunately, this card does not feature serial numbering.


This Marion Grice card, though, does have serial numbering to 199. It's also features a gold background and die-cutting. Unlike the Murray, this one is a sticker autograph. Overall the card is very sharp looking, and I wouldn't mind pulling these cards of the top rookies.


The New Breed insert set contains memorabilia, and some like this Jeremy Hill card has both memorabilia and a sticker autograph. The New Breed insert cards have a sleek, bright, white design that incorporates the space of the card nicely. It's always good to get both a memorabilia and autograph on the same card, and this Elite insert is a platform that can do that.


Throwback Treads are insert cards that show players in uniforms we may not be accustomed to seeing, or that we haven't seen in a while. It's definitely a fun idea, and gives team collectors more cards to chase, especially of players that have moved on to different teams. Like with many of Panini's insert sets, the numbering of the cards varies from player to player, and patch versions are also available.


One of the most carefully packaged cards in the box was this Clarity insert card of Steven Jackson. Clarity cards are totally clear acetate-like cards. I knew that there was something 'special' in the pack that it came in because it was especially thick. The Clarity cards come in their own card sleeve within the pack. I'm not quite sure if a pack searcher would actively want to seek these Clarity cards out or avoid them. They are nice cards, but value-wise they may not be what collectors are looking for.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:
8.75/10

Overall Rating -
Elite boxes go for around $100, and for that amount of money you get a pretty decent amount of cardboard. As a pre-season type product, Elite is hard to beat. It includes early rookie cards with autographs and memorabilia. You can also find many rare parallels to chase as well.

Panini could have phoned it in with all the nice rookie content within Elite, but they didn't the product also delivers in terms of its visual appeal. The cards and the insert sets within are stellar.

I think 2014 Elite is a product worth picking up if you're a football fan. It'll be fun to see which rookies you pull have great years and rise in value.

Overall Rating:
9/10

Check out my break of 2013 Panini Elite Football here:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Retail Review #113 (13/14 O-Pee-Chee Blaster)


O-Pee-Chee is one of the oldest brands of hockey cards you can buy. Though it's on the lower-end of the card spectrum, I really respect it for its longevity in the hobby. And I'm glad that its legacy continues on. Blasters of OPC usually contain quite a bit of cards to enjoy. OPC may not be a high-end product, but there is plenty of fun to be had with these blasters.



Price - 
$7.95

Packs - 14
13/14 OPC Blaster Packs

OPC blasters have the same printed price as UD1 and 2 blasters. Given a choice, I'd go for the Upper Deck blasters for the chance at Young Guns. But what OPC has over UD are cards and inserts. You just get more physical cards when you buy a blaster of OPC. To a collector who enjoys building sets, OPC is the perfect product as it provides plenty of challenge at a manageable price.

This blaster of OPC was well under ten dollars. I have to admit that I wouldn't have gotten it at it's full price - the value just isn't there. But at about eight bucks, it can be worth busting for a little fun. I know that there will be plenty to look at and go over once I open this blaster, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what it yields.

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


Review -
This blaster of O-Pee-Chee was a fun one to open. Every pack had either a rookie or a retro card, and some of the packs had an insert in them as well. Autograph cards come one in eight hundred packs, so none of them came out, as was expected. But that didn't matter. I was excited to see what came out of every pack I opened because I knew there would be at least one card in there that wasn't just a base card.

This blaster had a good mix of all the different types of cards you can find in OPC. I got some rainbow foil cards, retros, rookies, stickers, and a cut-out card. And with a base set of 600 cards, I was able to find a few major stars in the base pile. That's pretty good I've gotta say.

One thing that I definitely have to mention is the fact that these cards are printed like old school cards... on cardboard with the brown cardboard back. This is how cards were, and it's awesome to have this same feel in at least one modern hockey set. Baseball certainly has sets like this, but I'm very glad hockey does too.

Here are the top three cards from the blaster:

Top 3 Cards


#3 - Capitals Ring Card No. R-29
This card is pure retro fun. Would I punch this ring out and wear it? Probably not, but I know someone out there would! To have a card like this in the set shows that Upper Deck is willing to keep things light-hearted in the hobby with some of their products.


#2 - Nail Yakupov Card No. 501
It's almost always good to get the number one draft pick in a pack. Yakupov cards definitely hold some value, but his play and attitude on the ice last year left a bit to be desired... so he ends up in the number two slot on my list. I'm sure Oiler fans want to see him pull it together next season.


#1 - Alex Galchenyuk Card No. 575
Galchenyuk was the third overall draft pick, but I have him here ahead of Yakupov as I like his overall play/attitude more than Yakupov's. It was pretty awesome to get both Galchenyuk and Yakupov in this blaster box. It'll be interesting to see who fares better as they continue on in the NHL.

Overall Value -
This was a very good box for the price I paid for it. The two rookie cards were amazing to get, and the rest were also fun. There wasn't any huge hits in this blaster, but there were plenty of cards that I enjoyed getting. If I were a set collector, OPC would be the product I would want to chase. Imagine trying to get all the base cards and inserts - that would be amazing!

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:
7.5/10

Look for a new episode of Retail Review every Sunday!