Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cardboard Commentary #56 (I Want Fleer!)

Upper Deck's recently released Fleer Showcase has got me thinking about the Fleer brand. Fleer was a company that put out some of my favorite releases when I first started collecting. Fleer was also (I believe) the first company to really hype up the one-insert-per-pack craze. Sure, it really made inserts a common thing, but it also gave collectors what they wanted in packs... something special.

The Fleer family of cards is enormous. There are Fleer cards for all types of collectors - from high-end to low. In today's Cardboard Commentary, I'd like to talk about the lower-end of Fleer. And that's the Fleer base card set.

In the 1980's, Fleer produced baseball cards right alongside Topps and Donruss. Fleer was a popular choice amongst collectors as it was probably the most 'premium' of the three brands. As Fleer continued on, they continued to make base sets in other sports such as basketball and football. Hockey? Not so much.

But I think a low-end Fleer set would be a great thing for Upper Deck to produce. It could pretty much take over the space Score is leaving behind. From what I know, Upper Deck will be coming back with their Victory brand. And as we all know... Victory has traditionally been terrible. At least Score had a lot of interesting elements in it that appealed to collectors both young and old.

Fleer could have that same retro appeal and vibrant look that attracts the masses. Fleer could have zany insert sets as well as harder to get autographs. It would be the 90's retro-ish set from the Upper Deck company that would pair well with what OPC is doing in terms of giving collectors a more 70s/80s type of set.

I'm not sure if Upper Deck reads my blog and card review... but if they do... please give it some consideration. Fleer is such an awesome brand to have. I just want to see it put to good use!

Let me know what you think of the Fleer brand. Would you like to see more of Fleer in hockey cards? Let me know in the comments section!

2013-2014 Upper Deck Fleer Showcase Review

Upper Deck brings back the Fleer brand with the recently released Fleer Showcase Hockey. It's a product that includes many older Fleer favorites in one... sort of a re-branded Fleer Retro. I'm looking forward to seeing what Fleer Showcase brings to the table. Fleer has always been a nostalgic brand for me - hopefully this product will give me some new cards to enjoy for a long time.

Base Card Design -
The Fleer Showcase base card comes on standard card stock with a white and gold toned theme. The elements on the card gives collectors who remember it a sort of Fleer Ultra type feel. To me, the foil last name and gold tones remind me of that brand - and I think that works well for a product called Fleer Showcase. These base cards have a modern look to them, and the colors work well. I wouldn't say that the base cards are plain, but they're not too busy either; it's a design that is well-balanced. I rather enjoy the look of these cards. The one element that is a bit jarring is the team logo. It is rather largely placed within a black box above the foil last name of the player. I feel that the logo could have been done more subtly than this. Collectors will find a mix of current NHL players along with NHL stars of the past mixed together in the base set.

The back of the base card is in full color with very little left over space. This is what I really enjoy about Upper Deck designs. They fully utilize the entire back, even with a simple three part scheme like the one used here. The top portion of the card has a rather large player photo, bigger than most other card brands. The middle section contains the player's vitals, and the third section the player's stats. I would have liked to see a little write-up of the featured player on the card back, but it's not something I miss too terribly.

The rookie cards in Fleer Showcase are given the Hot Prospects name. Longtime collectors will remember this name from years back. Interestingly, collectors will find some rookies featured with a partner in these Hot Prospects Dual cards. The gold/white theme is continued here. I am traditionally not a fan of fitting multiple players on a card, and these don't change my mind. Hot Prospects Duals each serial numbered to 299, and there are a total of 13 to be found in the main set.

If duals weren't enough, Hot Prospects Trios can also be found in Fleer Showcase. The trios cards obviously feature three players per card. For some reason, I like the trio format better than the dual. I couldn't say why, but I would still prefer to have just one player per card in most circumstances. The trio cards are horizontally oriented and are serial numbered to 399. 15 of these trios are in the main set.

Rookie autographed cards are available in Fleer Showcase in two forms. One is a standard autograph card, and the other is in patch autograph form like this Beau Bennett card above. The Hot Prospects patch autograph card look really, really good. The gold and white motif used in the base set is set off even more by the large amount of gold foil used to border the patch piece on the card. There is a classy elegance to these cards that cannot be denied. They are striking cards, and I was impressed the very first time I pulled one of these out of a pack. There are a few downsides to these cards though. They feature sticker autographs, have event-worn memorabilia, and are relatively highly numbered. On a positive note, these same qualities could make collecting these beautiful cards easier.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
Boxes of Fleer Showcase have 15 packs per box. Collectors can expect to find three hits per box as well as insert cards from all over the spectrum of the Fleer brand. To help ensure that things are fair, Upper Deck has inserted fat decoys into the packs so the Hot Prospect patch autos aren't cherry picked out of new boxes.

Does this card look familiar to you? It's a Fleer Ultra base insert from Fleer Showcase. They come on the same card stock as the Showcase base card, and have very similar elements as well. If you were just flipping through the cards, these could be easily passed over. Fleer Ultra was one of the first premium card brands way back in the early nineties. As the years went one, it was regulated down towards the lower-end. These look like what Ultra cards would look like had they not been discontinued. Collectors should pay close attention to the numbering on the back as there are short-printed variations of these cards in the set.

Parallel cards can be found of many of the cards in Fleer Showcase. This is a Red Medallion parallel out of the Ultra set. It is completely foiled and is numbered to 99. The foil on these cards can be prone to finger prints, but it does look very nice... especially the ice surface. It's almost like a glass mirror on these cards.

Another parallel from the Ultra set are these Platinum Medallion cards. These cards have a speckled foil that was used on a few sets back in the day. This process really adds pop to the card, and it's a look that always impresses visually. The Platinum Medallion cards are limited to just 25.

Metal Universe cards also find they way into Fleer Showcase. These popular foil cards depict the player atop a background of the city they play for. Collectors will find quite a few of these cards per box. The common Metal cards will be easy to get a hold of, but Upper Deck has wisely also included the immensely popular Precious Metal Gem variations of these as well. Many collectors will be on the hunt for those.

My only other hit besides the two Hot Prospects Rookie Auto Patches (my other one was a redemption of Drew Shore) from my box was this Uniformity dual jersey of Jack Campbell and Valeri Nichushin. It's a pretty plain card compared to many of the other cards available in the set. With so many nicely designed cards here, I would have liked to see a bit more from these.

Fleer Showcase has much more to offer than what I got in my box. Though I pulled cards from Ultra and Metal Universe, I didn't get any from the Skybox Premium brand. Getting two Rookie Patch Autos was very nice though, and seems to a pretty common occurrence too.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Fleer Showcase is a fun product that brings in elements from the old Fleer brands. Unlike Fleer Retro, Showcase contains cards that feature memorabilia, and that will definitely appeal to many collectors. The Rookie Patch Auto cards are especially nice looking and desirable. I'm sure that collectors will want to get their hands on those as well as their rare parallel versions.

Boxes of Showcase run slightly over $100. They go for about $125 or so, so Showcase falls in the slightly higher than mid-level product... and you only get three hits per box. But many boxes, like I said, contain two Rookie Patch Auto cards, so that might be worth it to some collectors.

I would recommend Fleer Showcase to those who are curious about the product. It's a great way to bundle cards from different Fleer brands and give collectors the best of what they have to offer. I really enjoyed opening the product - Upper Deck has a very nice product here!

Overall Rating:

Check out my box of Fleer Showcase from D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Retail Review #96 (Target Excel Re-pack)

A few people have been wanting to see another Target re-pack, so here it is! I haven't gotten these since they ran out of the Trilogy ones, but they are cheap enough and can be pretty fun to open. Usually there are some interesting cards to look at and enjoy. I'm definitely curious as to what will come out of this re-pack box.

Price - 

Packs - 4
1 x 08/09 OPC Retail Pack
1 x 08/09 OPC Rack Pack
2 x 09/10 OPC Retail Pack
50 random cards + one bonus

I chose this particular re-pack box because it felt a bit heavier than all the rest. The box itself was also sort of bulgy. Those factors prompted me to buy this box. This reminds me of those who pick a pack because it looks bigger than all the rest... of course, sometimes fatter packs just contain a decoy and no hit. Hopefully this re-pack of cards will actually have some good stuff in it.

Both sides of the box show O-Pee-Chee packs, so that doesn't bode well, but there's always hope! Even if it's just OPC packs, it'd be OK with that. They would be better than getting those old Hoops or Skybox cards from the early 90's in the basketball re-packs.

Let's find out what packs are in store for me inside this box:

Review -
Well, there really wasn't much to this re-pack box. As it turned out, all the packs inside were OPC packs. I think I was hoping that there would be an Upper Deck Series 1 or 2 pack inside, but that wasn't meant to be. Though they were all OPC packs, I was a bit surprised to find a rack pack. That was what made the box bulgy. Rack packs are cool because they give you so much more card content... but they popularity of the rack pack has gone down considerably.

All you really get in rack packs are a bunch more base cards. I guess if you're a set collector, that might be good. And for OPC, that makes sense because the set is so big. But for people who don't want base cards, rack packs cost more for things you just don't want. There was a time when card companies put rack pack exclusive cards in, and those cards carried a good value to them. But alas, that's not what is is now. Though they are big and giant and seem fun to open... I would pass on rack packs at the store now.

The rest of the cards in the box were a mixed bag of stuff. The bonus card turned out to be damaged, but that's not a surprise given this has happened quite often in these boxes. They should just put a random jersey or autograph in a toploader for the bonus card. That would makes these re-packs so much better!

Here's what I picked out as today's top three:

Top 3 Cards

#3 - Select Super Bowl Records Card No. 389
This top 3 selection won't contain anything mind blowing. This first card gets the nod for the number three spot as it is an error of sorts. This card is a football card with statistics about the Super Bowl. Whoops! Isn't this a hockey product?

#2 - Rene Corbet Card No. 20
I chose this Rene Corbet card for the sheer fact that his facial expression is priceless. I see these cards all the time in the 50-card bonus box, and I have no idea how whoever made these cards chose these photos. They are some of the most awkward I've ever seen.

#1 - Pat LaFontaine Card No. 260
It's a bit sad when the best card of the box is a mass produced base card that can be found for less than a dollar. But I do like Pat LaFontaine, and I'm happy with this base card. He's a minor PC of mine, and getting cards of PC players is always fun.

Overall Value -
I didn't pay too much for this box, and I definitely didn't get much for my troubles here. Nothing came out of this box that was of any real consequence. The most interesting things came out of the 50-card bonus box... and when that happens, you know it was a weak break. I am a bit hesitant now to get any of the other re-packs on the shelf. They all have the same OPC pack configuration in the window.

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!

Friday, April 11, 2014

2013-2014 Panini Playbook Hockey Review

Panini has once again crossed over a brand from one sport to another. Playbook, which has traditionally been a football product, has now come into the hockey world. Collectors will be treated to one booklet card per pack/box of Playbook. Let's take a look at what a box of the new Playbook hockey will bring us.

Base Card Design -
The Playbook base card is a thick, premium feeling piece of cardboard. The style of overall look of it reminds me a lot of Panini Prime - there is a familiar font and serial numbering that instantly makes me think of that particular product. Overall the base card is well done with bright and bold graphics. The card has the team logo implemented in a large way in the background. The Playbook logo sits in the upper corner along with the serial number to 249. The player's name and team are prominently foil stamped at the bottom of the card. The base cards are a mix of fun and premium. I find it interesting that Panini went for this look as it is a departure of sorts from the more 'classy/minimalist' designs for products such as these.

The back of the card card mixes some traditional Panini elements with some strong graphical ones. These backs are definitely more involved than some of the traditional backs I've seen from Panini. The back matches the front very well. I enjoy how the team colors continue to be a big part of the back's design. The player photo has been done in black and white - I thought that was a pretty artsy touch by the designers. Good job there! As for the stats, there is just one line done in the standard Panini way. Seasoned collectors of Panini products may notice that the stats portion of the card shares many similarities to other Panini product lines.

The regular set rookie cards are in booklet form. And that makes sense for a product with the name of Playbook. It's what sets these cards apart from the others. These cards feature a couple large pieces of event-worn cloth along with an on-acetate autograph. The card has a simple, geometric-pattern type design to it with a silhouette of the player on the left-hand portion of the card. I like the look of these cards, but the plain jersey swatches just don't do it for me. These large areas make me yearn for some crazy tangled patches. And those cards are out there, they are just in a different, much more limited, parallel variation. As for the 'cover' of the book? It's just white and gray. Book 'covers' have tended to be rather boring in nature... and these books don't do anything to alter that. Rookie booklets are numbered to 199.

Base Card Design Score:

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos -
I thought it was interesting that Panini went for the one big brick pack instead of what they did with football. In football, collectors got to open a few one-card packs. I thought it was sort of a waste of materials, but it made for a more prolonged opening experience. These Playbook packs will typically give collectors one base card, another hit, and a book.

Since my booklet was a rookie card, the only hit I got from the pack/box was this Breakout event-worn jersey card of Ryan Strome. The Breakout design is, like the base card, nice and bold and bright. These jersey cards are serial numbered to 199 and contain a relatively small piece of jersey. It's a card that you probably won't think too much about after you pulled it.

With only three cards per pack, collectors will not be able to get a good sample of Playbook in a single box. For me, I was glad that my booklet card was the autograph. I personally feel that booklets need to cram as much goodness in them as possible to make the extra effort in making them worthwhile. And I know that there are Playbook booklets out there that are definitely not really worthwhile. I definitely have mixed feelings about this as it looks like booklets will be the next big thing to be the next fading trend... and fast.

Inserts/Game-Used/Autos Score:

Overall Rating -
Panini Playbook hockey is an intriguing product. If compared to football, it is a steal! The price of the box is about a hundred dollars less. But when you look closely at the product, there are things that collectors need to be wary of.

First, there are typically only three cards per pack, though I've seen some breaks with four. For collectors wanting some awesome booklets... well... they are there in Playbook, but more often there are unnumbered booklets with just jersey pieces in them. And I know those are not the kind of booklets that collectors want.

My box budget is about $100/box. So Playbook fits into that rather nicely, but it will not give you a long and satisfying break. It's a hit or miss break that will end very quickly.

So overall, Playbook is a product that you need to think long and hard about before jumping into. If you're a collector willing to take the risk and jump in... then go for it! If you're looking for a product to be able to slowly collect and enjoy, this might be one to avoid.

Overall Rating:

Check out my break of Playbook from D&P Cards in Sacramento, Ca. below!

Cardboard Commentary #55 (LCS)

The local card store was once the 'home' of the card hobby. Years ago you could easily find at least two or three dedicated card shops in the bigger cities. Now... not so much. They are still around, but they are fewer and far between. I'm lucky that here in Sacramento, there are a few LCSs still around. It's a place that I wish was still in the forefront of the hobby. Will those days ever return? I have my doubts, but for now, it's a great place to treasure and go to find people who share your hobby passions.

The card shop that I go to is D&P Sports cards in Sacramento. It's a bit of a drive for me (30 mins), but it's worth it every time I go. This might sound weird, but there is a smell associated with unopened cards (and comics for that matter) that I really like. Haha, no, all the card shops that I have ever been too have not smelled like BO - all the owners were very meticulous in keeping their stores in order.

Besides going to the shop for the air quality, the LCS is a great place to meet and hang out with fellow collectors. I actually just went there today to get my box of the new 13/14 Panini Playbook Hockey, and there were a few guys just hanging out opening boxes of cards. It was great to just chat with them and see what stuff they got from their boxes.

Where else can you find actual people to talk to about cards? Well, of course you can hit up the forums over the internet (and those are great), but to find real people in a live environment is completely different and rewarding. One of the things I appreciate about D&P cards is their monthly trade nights. I haven't gone much recently because nobody in the area collects hockey cards, but that night is perfect to find people who have similar interests.

In the past, the hobby store was the place you went to trade and sell your cards. It was the place you could get all the specialized holders and binders. And nowadays, this still holds true. The hobby store is always stocked with things you find out you need when you get there.

I'd love to hear about your local card stores in your area. Do you even have any? Let me know about them in the comments section!