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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just the Hits Ma'am (Limited Pack Break #3 & #4 and Certified Box Break #2)

Each time I pick up some Panini Limited, I become more and more of a fan of the product. This is evident as their latest Baseball issue, Prime Cuts gets released to severely underwhelming reviews from box breakers disappointed with a high price and low return.

I must say, four packs into this high end product, I am still a fan, and can honestly say that I have not yet been disappointed with my results.I picked up two more packs at my LCS and I'll cut right to the chase with what was easily the hit of the night, a Cam Neely Prime Jersey auto /10.

What I really like about this card is that there seems to be a conscious effort on Panini's part to play equal favor to the yellow and black on the swatch. It may not be at a perfect 90 degrees, but there's nothing worse than seeing a full-colored swatch with just a hint of a secondary color off on the corner. Not only is that great, but Neely has an Awesome looking signature, PLUS, the serial number is 8/10, matching up with the jersey number that this card is dedicated to.

In addition to the Neely, this pack also yeilded a Ryan Kesler Jumbo Jersey 68/99 and a Keith Yandle Jersey 81/99, at ANY time during the season, if you would have guessed which of these players would have been in the second round of the playoffs, and which one wouldn't, you would have been wrong.

While most packs have a variety of hits, pack #4 came with three jumbo swatch cards, with some slight variations. The big one, obviously, was the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 60/199. While last summer's #1 draft pick's cards aren't carrying the same value they were at the beginning of the season, RNH's cards still retain a good bit of value. While I don't care too much for the Red Wings, I have no problem pulling a Pavel Datsyuk (64/99), especially, with that bright red swatch jumping out at you. The Erik Gudbranson (36/99) was my auto of the pack, and so far, the Freshman Jumbo auto cards are the only stickers I've seen in the set. Most everything, like the Cam Neely, Jaroslav Halak, and Jordan Staal cards from the previous 3 packs, are all hard-signed, but the rookies are the exception. I suppose there are just so many inserted, that from a logistical point of view, it's just easier. I don't know.

I also decided to pick me up another box of Certified.  The base cards look great, and four hits are guaranteed per box. My first box gave me five, and this second one was no different. The cooloest was the Dion Phanuef 54/99 featuring a three-colored swatch. I'm not sure where this jersey came from, but I remember seeing another Maple Leaf with a similar swatch on his card. There is also a cool variation of the Ryane Clowe jersey featuring the name of his homeland (19/25), as opposed to a simple square, like the Ryan Suter (199/399) I pulled. My two autos were of Cameron Gauce on-card and a sticker auto/jersey card (41/499) of John Moore.

Here's a couple of other cards that aren't hits, but still pretty cool:

Limited: Jimmy Howard Crease Cleaners 1/199

Limited: Doug Gilmour Stanley Cup Champions 157/199, Joe Thornton Team Trademarks 25/299, Brenden Morrow Ruby Parallel 4/49, Keith Yandle Banner Season 21/299

Certified: Henrik Zetterberg Mirror Blue 93/99, Pavvel Datsyuk Mirror Red 109/199, Sidney Crosby Certified Champions

Well, that's it for those. Two good boxes of Limited and one to-be-expected box of Certified. I've already picked up two more packs of Limited, which I will post on in a couple of days, and in my opinion, I'm six-for-six. It's just a great product overall.

I'm keeping the Neely, but everything else is up for trade, if anyone is interested.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Famous Fabrics Ink: Hockey Edition Pack Break

I picked up something from my LCS that I had been curious about for quite a long time, a pack of 2010 Famous Fabrics Ink: Hockey Edition. The product is a one-card-per-pack issue, which features a cut signature. The cut signature comes encased in a graded-card-style casing which is labeled at the top with information about the set the card comes from.

My cut signature was from Former New York Rangers captain Vic Hadfield. The cut is a little on the smaller size and surrounded by a massive frame. While it seems a little excessive, I'd much rather this than to have a bunch of white space from the cut being to small to fit perfectly in the allotted space. Each player is only used once in this set, making each card a 1/1.

It is an interesting product to open, but my advice would be to find one on the secondary market and purchase it that way. Some of the better players are selling for fractions of the price of an unopened pack, and there's just too much risk with it being a one-card-per-pack product.

11-12 Crown Royale Box Break and Review

My curiosity got the best of me at my LCS a week or so ago and I decided to go all in with a box of 11-12 Panini Crown Royale. The product is an all-die-cut set featuring current players, retired players, and rookies. Each box contains four packs of five cards, with one of those cards being an autograph or relic.

Pack 1: Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist, Dion Phaneuf, Mattias Ekholm, Joe Vitale Auto
While normally, I'd be happy with an autograph of a Penguins rookie, this is my second time to pull Vitale from this product. Unfortunately, Vitale sells for next to nothing on ebay, so it looks like I'll be holding on to it, unless there are any other Penguins fans out there who are interested.

Pack 2:Mike Richards, Alex Pietrangelo, Kyle Okposo, Sidney Crosby Ice Kings, Luke Adam Calder Collection 98/99
The Ice Kings card is great -looking with a black-and-white painting for the photo and a paper frame around the border. The Luke Adam auto is a sticker, which I really don't have a problem with, and the almost-ebay-1-of-1 serial number is a cool touch.

Pack 3: Logan Couture, Ray Whitney, Kari Lehtonen, Alex Ovechkin All the King's Men Blue Jersey Relic, Marc-Andre Fleury Ruby Parallel
The Fleury Ruby card is nice, but with such a limited run on this product, I'm surprised they didn't stamp a serial number on the back. Despite kind of being a rival to Crosby, I always love pulling a hit from Alex Ovechkin. 

Pack 4: Trevor Linden, Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, In Harm's Way James Reimer, Mika Zibanejad Rookie Silhouettes Auto/Prime Jersey Redemption
The Rookie Silhouettes set is the big draw of Crown Royale, and was easily the hit of the box. The card features  a full-color image of the player on front, with space cut our around him for the jersey swatch. If you can find any photos of these check them out, They are absolutely stunning cards, and this redemption sold on ebay for $15 less than I paid for the entire box.

I also decided a few days later whn picking up some other products, to try my luck with two more packs.

Pack 1: T.J. Oshie, Jimmy Howard, Mike Richards, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Horak Auto

Pack 2: Patrick Kane, Ilya Kovalchuk, Shane Doan, Daniel Sedin Ice Kings, Jeff Carter Scratching the Surface Auto

It's still too early to see if Horak will have any kind of impact on the league, but the Jeff Carter auto is a cool looking card. It is signed on an image of an ice rink and is inset into the card. I seem to be pulling the crap out of Blue Jackets lately, but you could do a whole lot worse than that one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

11-12 Certified Box Break and Review

I know that Certified always has some great looking base cards, but I was wondering to myself, "What else can I find in there?" Each box has 10 packs of 5 cards, with a guarantee of four hits per box. At $11 per pack, I didn't want to risk going bust, so I got myself a full box. Here's a pack-by-pack breakdown of what I got.

Pack 1:  Eric Staal, Cam Fowler, Mike Green, Shane Doan, David Backes, Bobby Butler Fabric of the Game Jersey (Number Variation) 11/25

Pack 2: Bobby Ryan, Temu Selanne, Drew Stafford, Curtis Glencross, Joe Sakic Eternals

Pack 3: Alex Ovechkin, Dany Heatley Corey Perry, Brandon Sutter Dwayne Roloson, Greg Nemisz Rookie Auto Jersey 33/499

Pack 4: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Seguin, Cal Clutterbuck, Brad Marchand, Ray Bourque 335/500

Pack 5:Paul Bissonette, Michal Neuvirth, Erik Johnson, Ales Hemsky, Derek Roy

Pack 6: Daniel Sedin, Niklas Backstrom, Danny Briere, Jamie Benn, Kyle Okposo, Claude Giroux Mirror Red Dual Jersey 120/150

Pack 7: Steven Stamkos, Craig Anderson, Brenden Morrow, Brandon Dubinsky, Sam Gagner, Paul Stastny Mirror Blue Jersey 14/99

Pack 8: Jordan Staal, Jarome Iginla, Brad Richards, Joe Pavelski, Ilya Bryzgalov Masked Marvels

Pack 9: Martin Brodeur, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Kesler, Tomas Kubalik Freshman Signatures Auto

Pack 10: Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux, Pekka Rinne, Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Skinner Mirror Red 195/199

So there ya go. Nothing earth shattering, but these are some nice looking cards. The bonus seems to be that instead of doing what most companies do, which is something like "9 cards per pack. Packs with a relic contain 8 cards," the relic is actually an extra card. To prevent pack searching, Panini inserted the thick cardboard decoy along with the five cards. In packs with the relic, that card simply replaces the decoy. A nice touch.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

11-12 Panini Limited Pack Break #2

I just couldn't help myself and grabbed me another pack of 11-12 Panini Limited. My first pack break went really well, and was curious to see if my luck would continue. While this pack didn't give me the awesome Penguins hits that that first one did, I was happy to find that I got me another solid pack. Here's what I got:

Base: Duncan Keith 180/299, Nikita Filatov 180/299, YvanCournoyer 228/299
The weird thing is, I get some great hits out of this product, but witht he exception of the Lemieux from pack #1, most of my base cards are pretty mediocre. Still, it's MUCH better than good base and mediocre hits.

Inserts: Tyler Ennis Gold Spotlight 24/25
A super short-printed parallel. Again, a mediocre player, relatively speaking, but it's always nice to pull a /25 card.

Steve Yzerman Stanley Cup Champions 112/199
These Stanley Cup Champions cards just look FANTASTIC and are always a pleasant sight to pull from a pack. It's not quite as nice as the Jordan Staal I pulled with his signature in silver ink, but a great card nonetheless.

Hits: Vince Lecavalier Jumbo Jersey 9/99
Panini figured out a way to put a large swatch on the card, while still featuring a prominent photo on the front. Good job here.

Jaroslav Halak Team Trademarks Auto/2-Color Jersey 4/25
This is an on-card autograph of Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak with what looks like a 2-colored swatch from his days with the Montreal Canadiens. I never like it when the swatch doesn't match the picture, but when a card looks this nice, I think I can forgive it.

Tim Thomas/Rick Nash Net Presence 50/99 This is a super thick card featuring pieces of the goal netting from the 2011 All Star Game. The card features two players on the front, but with a purpose. The back of the card goes into detail about a specific goal scored by Nash on Thomas. I'm a Tim Thomas fan, so it's a little bittersweet that the card portrays him on the losing end, but let's face it, at the All Star Games things usually go that way anyways.

Another solid pack of Limited. I've watched quite a few breaks of this product on YouTube, and they aren't all this good. I've been VERY happy with this product, and have already busted two more packs (one of which gave me my best hit so far out of the product), which I will post on at a later date.

Monday, April 23, 2012

2011 ITG Decades 1980s Team USA Auto: Mike Eruzione

Last year, In the Game released a high-end product called Decades: 1980s, which featured, obviously, hockey stars and events from that decade. I didn't know much about the product until recently, since until recently, I didn't live anywhere near a LCS that sold hockey cards. The product has been out for over a year, but I just recently discovered that one of the features of the 1980s product, was that they have on-card autographs of all 20 members of the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team.

Upon this discovery, I immediately made it my mission to track down each one and complete a set. Of course, since this is last year's product, individual cards can be a little difficult to find. I did, however, track down a few and got my first one in the mail today: team captain and game-winning goal scorer Mike Eruzione.

Eruzione is not known for much more than his goal, but his goal celebration and him inviting all of his fellow players to join him on the medal podium (which is usually just reserved for the captain) are images that will last forever.

Despite getting an offer from the New York Rangers, Eruzione retired from competition after the Olympics. He spent a few years as a broadcaster and coached his alma mater, Boston University for three seasons. Eruzione is currently part-owner of the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.

10-11 ITG Decades: 1980s Pack Break

My LCS had a lone pack of In the Game's Decade: 1980s release from last year remaining, so I figured I'd take it off their hands. I've come across a few of these cards as singles and wanted to see what could be waiting for me in an unopened pack.

This set is a tribute to hockey players from the 1980s and each unopened pack features 9 hits: 3 inserts, 3 relics, and 3 autographs. While ITG doesn't have the license to produce cards featuring team names or logos, this doesn't seem to be a problem. They simply work around this by featuring a lot of head shots and close-ups. Unlike baseball and football, there is little to no team designation on the helmets apart from their colors and with problematic goaltender masks, all you need is to find a close shot of him without it.

The big hit for me out of the pack was a Tom Barasso 2-color jersey. This particular card is from the Trophy Winners jersey set, and is a gold variation, which is limited to just 10 copies. Despite the fact that I will always see him as a Penguin, I don't have a problem with his Sabres blue and yellow being featured. Since it recognizes his Vezina Award (top goaltender) from the 83-84 season, the photo and the relic SHOULD feature the colors he wore during that year. It's a beautiful looking card and the rarity of it makes it even better.

The next hit is a great looking Bernie Nicholls card featuring a three-colored swatch from his jersey number. While ITG usually does a good job matching the picture to the swatch, there's quite a discrepancy between the two colors, even if it is the same team. He spent the entire decade of the '80s with the Kings, but journeyed to four other teams in the '90s, so at least they were able to keep it with L.A.

My final jersey card was a single-color blue swatch of Kings/Rangers center Marcel Dionne. Most of his years were spent in L.A. but he played the twilight of his career in New York. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1998, The Hockey News ranked him number 38 on the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, and since then, Ray Bourque won a Stanley Cup in 2001, leaving Dionne as the highest-ranking player to never have raised hockey's Holy Grail.

My three autographs, Steve Penney, Harold Snepsts, and Anton Stastny don't really jump out to me, and that could be the problem that many younger collectors will find with this product. It's designed to be a nostalgia set, in that it reminds you of players that you may not have thought about since the 1980s. I'm sure that none of these players have any other autographed cards to chase, so this gives team collectors a unique chance to get some on-card signatures of some key players that have gone largely unrecognized over the years. It's cool for that, but it falls dangerously close to becoming a niche product in the same regard.

The inserts are all ok. I pulled a Pelle Lindbergh "Rookie," which featured the player from his rookie season. There was also a Luc Robitaile card from the 100 Years of Collecting set, which is a 100-card insert set spread all throughout various ITG products. Finally, there was a Great Moments insert card recognizing Mike Bossy's 50-goals-in-50-games milestone. They're decent cards, but really, I could take them or leave them.

Decade: 1980s is a fun pack to open, but with it being such a limited-run product, a lot of what has been produced has already been ripped. There are, however, plenty of singles out there, giving you the chance to get some autographs and relics of players for the very first time. A great idea and a good product, but as someone who started following hockey in the early 90s, this would be MUCH more enjoyable for someone who is a bit more familiar with 1980s hockey.

2012 Gypsy Queen Boxes #2 & #3 (Just the Hits)

I'm sure you've all read about the EPIC Yu Darvish printing plate I pulled from one of two boxes of 2012 Gypsy Queen I bought last Thursday (here), but here's a quick look at the big hits that I got out of those same two boxes. I've already done a full review of box #1 that I opened (here) and let's be honest, you only want to see the big stuff anyway.

Autos (4): John Smoltz, Drew Stubbs, Mitch Moreland, and Jordan Zimmerman
Sorry Braves fans, the Smoltz is going on Ebay. It's getting a pretty decent ROI, and I need to recoup the cost of what I spent on cards last week. Until the Darvish sells, I'm not sure how much else will be sacrificed in the name of reimbursing my Visa.

Relics (4): Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis, Madison Bumgarner, Adam Jones.
Awesome Longoria jersey, and Youkilis isn't too bad. This is my second Bumgarner relic out of three boxes, but a different one, as box #1 gave me his framed bat relic.

Blue Frame (3)/Gypsy Kings (1): Mickey Mantle, Carl Yastrzemski, Hanley Ramirez, Drago Koval.
The Mantle and Yaz cards are great looking, and considering how many lesser players are in the set, the Hanley ain't too shabby either. The Gypsy Kings set is similar to last year's Gypsy Queens, but inserted at a rate of just 1:48 packs. Rare, but since no one really cares about them, they only sell for 4 or 5 bucks a piece.

Mini Variations (9): Sepia /99: Albert Belle, John Lester, Brett Myers. Green: Ted Lilly, Eric Thames. Black: Eric Hosmer, Derek Jeter, Rod Carew (2)
I like the sepia-toned inserts, especially how they're serial numbered. Has anyone ever heard the color sepia used outside of baseball cards? I think it's like how hazel is only used to describe eye color and nothing else.

Mini Inserts (6) Glove Stories Jeff Francoeur, Derek Jeter. Moonshots Evan Longoria, Ralph Kiner. Sliding Stars Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury
Getting two Jeters is never a bad thing, but I think these box toppers are a little unnecessary. Of course, had I pulled a mini auto, I'd feel much differently, but still.

Well, there ya go. If you see anything you like, just let me know. I'm putting the Smoltz and most of these minis up on ebay, but not the autos or relics. There's not that much of an ROI on any of them and I can probably get a bigger return through trades, so let me know what you'd like.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cubs/Red Sox Trade - Just My Damn Luck

A couple of Days ago, I got a hobby box of 2012 Gypsy Queen from my LCS. I was happy to discover that one of my guaranteed autographed cards was a Cub, Marlon Byrd. Now, he's not one of the biggest players available, but anytime you van get a hit of someone from your favorite team, that's a good thing, right?

Well, sure enough, just DAYS after I pull this card, the Cubs swing a deal with the Red Sox to send Byrd to Boston in exchange for pitcher Michael Bowden. Hey, it sucks, but these things happen.

Except......guess whose auto/jersey rookie card I JUST got rid of on ebay last month.

Yeah, you guessed it.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hitting the Gypsy Queen Jackpot (Yu Darvish 1/1!!!)

After picking up a box of Gypsy Queen from my LCS and having some pretty good luck, I decided to pick up a few more boxes. I remember last year, not only the amazing hits that were pulled, but how difficult it became to find it later on, and how expensive it became once the demand increased. I figured 2 more boxes would put me ahead of the game enough to where I would just need to trade for a few SPs and be done with the set.

My superstition with box busting, is that if it's behind the counter, I let the dealer pick for me. I do this, simply because it absolves me from all responsibility for choosing a bad box, because, well, I didn't choose it. He gets me my two, sets them on the counter, and then informs me that one of the boxes is dented and asks if I would like a different one. Being superstitious, I say no. You have to stick with the one fate gives you.

Luckily, I stuck with that box, because I was pleasantly surprised to find my very first pack-pulled 1/1 printing plate.

It's hard to identify too much from the front, and with no name, all I know is that it's a Texas Rangers pitcher. I never think of myself as extremely lucky when it comes to pack ripping, so I figure it's Alexi Ogando or Neftali Feliz. So I flip it over to identify the mystery pitcher, and here's what I see.

Yu Darvish 1/1. Wow.Wow.Wow. Wow. The pull of a lifetime. It's weird to think that of all the places in the world that a card like this could end up, it landed in a card shop in Fargo, North Dakota, and it just happened to be on the top of the stack when I just so happened to walk in looking for a couple of boxes.

Of course, this card is already on Ebay. Having been in the hobby long enough to know, what I do know, is that it is highly unlikely that this card will ever be more valuable than it is right now, so now is the time to cash in. It's a good thing, too, because I've gone on quite the spending spree the past month, and I need to reimburse my Visa card for the damage that has been dealt to it.

I'll post the rest of the goods from my 2 boxes when I get around to it, but I think you will all agree, this just is a card that just could not wait.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Gypsy Queen Box Break and Review (BIG Brett Lawrie Hit!!!)

I went to my LCS to pick up some hockey cards, when what should greet me on the counter, but a freshly opened box of 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen. The day's shipment was just being opened, and to tell you just how fresh the product was, he had to phone the owner before selling it to find out what the price would be. I guess timing is everything. I did get my hockey cards, but also left with a box of Gypsy Queen.

After moving up to North Dakota, where hockey cards would be much more plentiful, I came to the conclusion that I would have to make a few sacrifices to my baseball pursuits for 2012, and Gypsy Queen would likely be the odd man out. Well, 2/3 of the way through this year, I broke those plans, and I must say, I'm glad I did. Not only will I be able to make my money back via Ebay, but this was just a straight up FUN product to open.

Gypsy Queen boxes come with 24 packs of 10 cards. Of those 10 cards, there are usually 8 base, 1 mini, and 1 insert/SP. Some packs have more inserts, some have more base, but that's the breakdown of the usual pack. Like last year, Gypsy Queen is an all-painted set with a mixture of present-day players and retired stars.

In addition to those 240 cards, each hobby box comes with a "box topper" of 10 mini cards, containing seven base minis, and one each from the Moonshots, Sliding Stars, and Glove Stories insert sets. My box gave me a Mike Schmidt Moonshots, a Trayvon Robinson Glove Stories, and a Jose Reyes Sliding Stars.

Like we've seen with Topps Heritage this year with the color swap variations, they decided to get a little tricky on us with some SP variations on their base cards with a simple image swap. The trouble is, there's no indicator, at least that I'm aware of, so unless you know which is the regular photo or which is the variation, there's nothing to tell you otherwise.

The three main inserts this year are Moonshots, Glove Stories, and Sliding Stars. As I'm sure anyone could guess, Moonshots celebrates the games big home run hitters, Glove Stories recognizes some amazing defensive plays, and Sliding Stars spotlights the best base stealers.

In addition to their regular mini cards, there are also some variations using different colors or a different backing. The two alternate-backing cards are Straight Cut and Gypsy Queen (a.k.a. Red Back). They are each inserted at a rate of 4 per box, and I got Tim Lincecum, Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Daryl Strawberry from Gypsy Queen, and Brett Myers, Chris Sale, Ryan Roberts, and Justin Morneau from Straight Cut.

Even more rare than those are the green, black and sepia-tone variations. The green varations are 1-per-box, the black variations are 2-per-box and sepia-tone is serial numbered to just 99 copies. Wjhiel my green Rickie Weeks, black Jeremy Hellickson, and black Jeff Niemann weren't too earth-shattering, I was very happy with my sepia Roberto Clemente, numbered 67/99.

Also like last year, they put paper borders around 100 of their selected base cards and numbered them /999. I opened one of them, a Cal Ripken, which is fetching some nice return-on-investment in the secondary market.

Each hobby box of Gypsy Queen promises four hits: 2 on-card autographs and 2 relics. My two relics were a Madison Bumgarner bat relic and a David Wright framed blue jersey relic. I'm not sure why Topps does both of them in this set, or even if one is more rare than the other, but either way, the WRIGHT is a NICE looking card. I also got an autograph of Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd, which made this North-Side fan very happy.

The big hit of the box, though, was a Brett Lawrie autograph. I'm not sure if Topps has their autographs on a tiered system similar to last years, but this one must be one of the rarer versions, as this cards has already been selling on Ebay for $100. SCORE!!! I always love blowing right past a card, only to go back later and find that you had a diamond in the rough on your hands. Between the Lawrie and the framed Ripken, I'll be making my money back on those two cards alone, which can be a rare thing in box busting.

If you're on the fence about Gypsy Queen, my advice would be to go ahead and dive right in. Not only is it an absolute blast to open, but last year's product went through the roof after an unexpected demand. Maybe Topps increased production this year, but the best thing with Gypsy Queen is to bust early and bust often.