With collectors getting a full range of products in 2013-14, one I was really looking forward to was Contenders. It took a one-year break last season, as it was one of the products cut when the lockout limited companies' releases, but it makes it's triumphant (and final) return this year, and is loaded with autographs.
Each box contains 18 packs of five cards. there are plenty of looking "awards" insert cards, which spotlight players who have the potential to earn a specific trophy, but what Contenders offers that no other product does, is that EVERY hit is an autograph. Three autographed cards are promised in each box, but Panini appears to have included more. I suppose with their license running out, they are trying to get rid of all their stock of stickers and cards. If that's the case, then it's great for collectors, as extra signatures are never a bad thing.
Anyway, here's a look at what my box gave me.
I almost got the Penguins team set out of this box, falling one Malkin short. Well, actually, two short when you consider that the Crosby will be going into my Sidney Crosby Collection, I will still need another one for the base set.
But there was one more Penguin to be had, as the one rookie I pulled from the box was defenseman Olli Maatta. The Penguins have a big rookie presence in this product, as Maatta is joined by Beau Bennett, Zach Sill, Brian Dumoulin, Jayson Megna, Eric Hartzell, Brian Gibbons, and Jeff Zatkoff, with the Bennett, Megna, Hartzell, and Zatkoff cards autographed.
There were three inserts in this box, and all of them look pretty fantastic. I got two trophy contenders cards, with a Jonathan Bernier Vzina Contenders 488/499 and a Dougie Hamilton Norris Contenders 487/499. The other insert I got was an Eric Lindros Contenders Legacies card numbered 427/499. One thing I noticed with these is they are more rare this year, as previous years have had these cards numbered /999. The other difference is that previous years had these cards as an extended part of the base set, while this year, these are strictly inserts.
My first hit appears to be a card leftover from the past with a Devin Setoguchi NHL ink autographed card. This one actually comes from 2011-12 Contenders, and I'm not sure is this card was one that was and unredeemed redemption, or if it was just simply a card they were in surplus of. Either way, this definitely looks like a product of Panini trying to get rid of their extra hockey supply, as their NHL/NHLPA license will be expiring at the end of the summer.
My NHL Ink card from this year's product is of Philadelphia Flyers right winger Jason Akeson. Like the Setoguchi, this card also features an on-card autograph, as do many of the autographs in Contenders, which is pretty impressive for a middle-end product. Akeson has played in just one game in each of the last two seasons, but the Flyers appear to see a future in him, as he just re-signed with the team.
The Rookie Ticket autographs can be a "high ticket" item if you get the right player. Unfortunately, I got Mark Cundari, who isn't quite there when it come to re-sale value. Cundari played in four games in each of the last two NHL seasons, but was held scoreless in his four 2013-14 NHL games.
I did get one pretty major hit out of this box, with this Seth Jones Rookie Ticket Parallel. This is the black parallel of the base card, numbered 14/100, which not only features an amazing patch piece, but a gold signature, which makes this card look extra special. Jones was almost the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, but Jones's hometown Colorado Avalanche decided to go with Nathan MacKinnon instead, causing Jones to drop all the way to fourth overall, where Nashville snatched him up as quickly as they could. Nashville seems to be a great fit, though, as he is able to get seasoned alongside one of the best defensemen in the game with Shea Weber.
Contenders is a pretty loaded product, full of great autographed cards. You get at least three per box, and you don't have to worry about those pesky white jersey swatch cards, as every hit has ink on it. When you take all that into consideration, you really just can't beat that kind of product at this kind of price.