Deciding that I had to do something cool in the world of puck, I settled on a box of 11-12 Panini Limited. This is a premium product featuring seven cards in each box. Of those seven, three are "base" cards (two current players, 1 retired player) serial numbered to 299, one is a serial-numbered insert or lower-numbered base parallel, and the final three will be the hits: autographs, jerseys, autographed jerseys, etc. From looking at various Youtube breaks of the product, it typically works out to be: one auto, one jersey, and one prime (multi-colored) jersey.
The reason why you skip out on 200+ base cards like you would with other products, is simply because the hits get to be a little more special. You're basically not only guaranteed one autograph and one jersey, but you're promised something really special with that third one. More times than not, it's simply a multi-colored swatch, but in rare cases, the card could be an autographed relic, a multi-player patch card, or a card featuring a piece of a game-used net.
Like with any box of cards, sometimes you just flat out whiff. With seven cards in the box and three figures in the bank, the risk is very high with these, but the rewards can be great, but let's face it, there are a lot of dud boxes out there. Fortunately for me, this wasn't the case. To start off with, my box contained eight cards, instead of the supposed seven. I got my three base and my three hits, but I received an extra serial-numbered insert card. Very cool.
Without further ado, here's what I received. The card are in the order I pulled them, except for me moving the three hits to the end, mostly for the dramatic purposes. Besides, that last one is worth waiting for. Here we go!
Jay Bouwmeester 158/299
Tomas Plekanec 269/299
Mario Lemieux 267/299
I was a little underwhelmed with the first two, but the Lemieux more than made up for it. The cards have a great look to them. The current players are in full color with a black-and-white background, which really makes them pop. The photos on the retired player cards are in full black, which I like. Even though it's obvious that someone is no longer playing, I think it's a good idea to at least make them somewhat different from the others.
Robin Lehner Crease Cleaners 26/199
Jonathan Toews Stanley Cup Winners 137/199
No way around it, the Stanley Cup Winners cards are flat out nice. It's impossible to see it, but the card has a little bit of a "Topps Finest" look to it, with the foil, or the embossing, or whatever you would call that appearance. Having a bright shiny Stanley Cup front and center shows what it's all about and the player photo and team logo really stand out. The Crease Cleaners card is nice, but it looks like any other Panini card that came out in any other line. Without the limited logo, it would be just as easy to imagine it coming from Pinnacle or Donruss. With as much money as the consumer has to pay for these seven-card boxes, each card should look like a premium card. The Toews does, but the Lehner does not.
Jordan Staal Stanley Cup Winners Auto 45/99
This card ALONE would make the value of the box. Now I know that Panini takes some flak for recycling their inserts for their autograph and relic cards, but in this case, I'm SO glad they did. It takes everything that made the SCW cards look so great and adds a silver signature on the side. No, I don't care that it's a horizontal signature on a vertical card. The signature is placed perfectly and it being done in a silver paint pen matches it right along with the Stanley cup. Just an absolutely STUNNING card. Great job on this one, Panini!
Derek Stepan Jersey 27/99
Their base relic cards basically take the regular-issue player card, cut a pentagonal (or would it be trapezoidal?) shape out just above the name and throw a piece of jersey on there. Not the most creative way of doing it, but the way the cards are laid out, it doesn't interfere with any of the photo. Not a bad-looking card of a player from the Eastern Conference leaders.
Sidney Crosby Prime Jersey 17/25
As if that Staal wasn't enough, I was SO pleased to see this card right behind the Derek Stepan. Again, it is a modification of the base card, but what I love about most of Panini's prime swatches in their hockey products is that they seem to make a conscious effort to get the proper placement of the swatch. You get nearly a 50/50 split between the black and yellow and can see the different textures of the two fabrics. The low serial number is great, too. This is EASILY the best card I have pulled this year, and with my budget, it'll probably stay at the number one spot until I wipe the slate clean for 2013.
For a Penguins fan, this was nearly a PERFECT box, but let's face it, I got lucky. Like I said earlier, after watching some Youtube breaks, there are A LOT of dud boxes out there, and if mine was one of those, let's be honest, I might feel differently about the product. That being said, Panini made a lot of effort with this release, from autograph colors, to prime jersey placement, they really seemed to go out of their way to make this a good product.
I wouldn't spend all of you card budget on one box of these, but if you have some to spare and don't mind the risk, I'd give it a shot. You might not get as lucky as I did, but then again, maybe you will.