Monday, December 31, 2018

Box Break: 2018-19 Upper Deck Series 1 Hobby Box

For the second time in as many days, I was granted a Christmas wish - to receive 2018-19 hockey cards for Christmas; this time around, my Mom bought me a full box of 24 eight-card packs of Upper Deck 2018-19 Series 1 cards.

The hits were pretty massive this time around as well, including six regular-issue Young Guns rookie cards, including hyped first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin (as well as Marcus Pettersson, Samuel Montembault, Trevor Murphy, Morgan Klimchuk, and Luke Johnson):
I also pulled four Portraits cards, featuring Ben Bishop, Jake Guentzel, Semyon Varlamov and rookie Lias Andersson:
There were also five Canvas cards, including Young Gun Dominik Kahun, Claude Giroux, Artem Anisimov, Mikael Granlund and the checklist card featuring Taylor Hall and Nathan MacKinnon (not pictured):
One pretty sub-set that is contantly a staple of Upper Deck's flagship set is Shooting Stars, and I managed to land William Karlsson:
But the card that will soon make its way to my binders is this Ben Bishop jersey card:
My main gripe with this one is the card selection mixed with the odds; the main set consists of just 200 cards. This box had 190 pieces of cardboard (173 regular-issue cards, as the jersey card took the space of three cards in a pack) and my tin from yesterday had 96 (89 regular-issue cards if you take away the inserts).

Out of those 89, 75 were doubled in this box - or 85%. I still have 17 cards left to collect to complete the main set (notwithstanding the 50 Young Guns and other assorted sub-sets). This at a cost of over $100. Somehow, it doesn't feel right.

Still, it's a quality set.

I'll stick with the 8/10 grade I tacked onto it yesterday, it's just that it's accompanied by a slight feeling of disappointment.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Box Break: 2018-19 Upper Deck Series 1 Tin

Anywhere I could, this Christmas, I asked for 2018-19 hockey cards or help paying for my upcoming driving classes; the first Christmas Miracle came in at a gift exchange party where the person who had picked me went with the list I provided and got me a tin box of Upper Deck's flagship 2018-19 Series 1 cards, which consists of 12 eight-card packs for a total of 96 cards. These usually go for roughly $40-45.

Here is what this year's set looks like:
The design borrows heavily on past Artifacts sets, but with the traditional Series 1 super gloss. The photography is mostly excellent, and each team has as many different uniforms as possible, but I could do without the oddball pre/post-game shenanigans as well as the pretend-military-style warmup garbs:
 One sub-set that was new to me was Rookie Commence, of which I pulled Dylan Sikura:
Although the one everybody is curious about is the Young Guns, of which I pulled my favourite rookie, Elias Pettersson (as well as Nick Seeler and Mikhail Vorobyev):
I also pulled a rookie out of the two UD Portraits cards I nabbed:
And there was a Canvas card of Steven Stamkos:
My experience from years past makes me think I should unload the Pettersson card even though I really like him - he's by far my favourite rookie this year - because I fear losing it in yet another move or worse, damaging it. I've seen it go for $80-125 online and my guess is that someone paying that much for it would make sure it remains in pristine condition. Then again, I'd love to get it signed and use it as the centerpiece of a player collection of his...

All told, Upper Deck's flagship series once again hits the mark. This box is a solid 8/10.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Henrik Sedin Printing Plate

I purchased two boxes of cards on Upper Deck E-Pack on Black Friday and, as I mentioned yesterday, the first one got me my first One-Of-One and first Printing Plate, of the Ottawa Senators' Jean-Gabriel Pageau from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Compendium Series 2.

The second one got me this sweet Henrik Sedin Printing Plate, from Upper Deck's 2016-17 Compendium Series 2 set:
This one's of the "black" variety. I'm willing to trade it for something interesting and of equal value.

The Sedin Twins retired after last season, having played their entire NHL careers with the Vancouver Canucks; Henrik played 24 more games than his brother (1330 vs 1306), which enabled him to collect 29 more points (1070 vs 1049). Each won the Art Ross trophy as the league's points leader - in consecutive seasons - and Henrik served as captain of the Canucks.

They're likely looking at Hall Of Fame nods down the road, with international play for Team Sweden netting the pair six medals (2006 Olympic gold, 2013 World Championship gold, 1999 and 2001 World Championship bronze, 1998 European Junior Championship gold and U17 silver in 1997), with Daniel adding an extra silver Olympic medal in 2014 while Henrik, Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg missed the tournament due to injuries, and Nicklas Backstrom missed the Final against Canada (who iced a full team) due to traces of a banned substance in his blood.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Jean-Gabriel Pageau Printing Plate

I purchased two boxes of cards on Upper Deck E-Pack on Black Friday, and the first one got me my first One-Of-One and first Printing Plate, and it featured none other than the Ottawa Senators' Jean-Gabriel Pageau; it was the yellow printing plate from Upper Deck's 2017-18 Compendium Series 2 set, and I got it in the mail today.

In a sad turn of events, the 25-year-old breakout two-way star was injured at the team's physical exam during training camp, tearing his Achilles's tendon. He is out for at least six months, probably until the end of the year.

Pageau is about to enter his prime, a period during which he will be expected to score 20-25 goals per year for some 50-65 points total, then enter a plateau that will see him score 15-20 goals and 45-50 points for a few years before regressing. To waste a year of such importance is terrible news for both the athlete and the team.

The Sens are doing ok this year, with four players nearing or besting the point-per-game mark, with one Québec-born defenseman (Thomas Chabot) leading the league in points at his position and another (Maxime Lajoie) doing the same for rookie defensemen. In the absence of a reliable backup, 37-year-old Craig Anderson is holding the fort, alternating brilliant outings with ones where he looks exhausted, as can be expected. Head coach Guy Boucher is making the best of a roster that was predicted to finish last in the league, showing why he is one of the better tacticians in the NHL.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Box Break: 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee Hobby Box

The 1980s and early 90s are a hotbed of nostalgia, so when Upper Deck put Patrick Roy wearing the Montréal Canadiens' white (then-home) uniform on their boxes of 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee, of course I was going to jump on one; the question was, however: blaster box or hobby box? I had the $100 to spare, so I went on Amazon on Black Friday (no rebate on this product) and got myself 36 packs with 8 cards apiece, and here's what I got from it...

A lot of good-to-sign regular-issue cards, such as these:
Old-school cardboard, just like Topps used to make. 45 cards of players from Canadian teams (which will be easier to get signed, although still no guarantee), and 186 of players on American teams.

There were also a handful of parallels, such as these:
I suppose they don't count as doubles, then...

The best parallels are the colorful Retro ones, though, reminiscent of OPC cards of the 1960s and 70s:
I nabbed 15 of those featuring players. Like the parallels above them, they consist of the same photo as the regular-issue card, except here the picture's cropped differently, sometimes by as much as 75%.

There is one set that is now being repeated everywhere, in every set, and that's Season Highlights:
I could do without, especially since they're poorly translated (the French should read Faits Saillants De La Saison, not Saison Faits Saillants). But not as much as the fucking checklists, of which I got 13:
I don't care that some are Retro parallels, fuck off with them. Please.

The Marquee Rookies are the true highlights of the set, although here again, the translation doesn't mean anything (Marquee does not exist in French; to keep it close, they could have written Recrue De Marque):
I got parallels of Oskar Lindblom and Henrik Borgstrom, as well as regular-issue cards of Tomas Hyka, Zach Whitecloud, Victor Ejdsell, Dylan Sikura, Marcus Pettersson, Louis Belpedio, Morgan Klimchuk, Landon Bow, Casey Mittelstadt, Dillon Heatherington, Mackenzie Backwood, and Michael Dal Colle. That's 14 rookies.

I also pulled 9 Minis, of Mikko Rantanen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, John Gibson, Steven Stamkos, Brent Burns, Jack Eichel, Teuvo Teravainen, T.J. Oshie and Eric Staal (not pictured):
Oh, and a few League Leader cards, which are just slightly better than Season Highlight cards, again, with different picture crops:
All told, I got what I paid for, which is a lot of cardboard to get signed and perhaps a few rookies to trade to some collectors.

OPC is always clear about what you're getting with them, and I love that I can trust their product to be what it is: a relatively affordable way to amass a quantity of relatively current cards; it's an entry-level low-end product that is rich in cheesy history and isn't afraid to wink at it the exact same way every single year.

That consistency has me rating this one a 8/10. But please, fix the French. A quarter of Canada (and of the NHL) is worth that much respect.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Box Break: 2018-19 Artifacts Blaster Box

I actually bought this blaster box of Upper Deck's 2018-19 Artifacts hockey cards in early November, but I was a tad too busy to post this review - and perhaps a little too underwhelmed as well. Every year, I eagerly away the Artifacts and Ice sets, as they are the best-looking and -feeling hockey cards out there, especially Artifacts, with its thick cardboard and matte finish, a treat to get signed.

Well, the cards are no longer printed on as-thick cardboard - it feels half as thick. And they're glossy enough that I'll likely build muscle in my forearms just trying to erase the gloss off them to get them signed. They still look classy, but they feel like regular-issue MVP cards:
At $30 (plus tax, so closer to $35) for 35 cards, this is not a good deal.

I did manage one hit, a Ruby Parallel Rookie card of the Toronto Maple Leafs' Andreas Johnsson, but I doubt I can make $35 back with it, if anything:
If I can get anything back with the Johnsson card, maybe I'll revise this in the future, but my feeling, after a month of holding off on this review, is to grade this year's Artifacts set a 5.5/10.

Monday, November 26, 2018

2017-18 Upper Deck Golden Knights Inaugural Season Box Break

From the minute I saw this box of cards advertised, I wanted to get my hands on Upper Deck's 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights Inaugural Season box sets; of course, my luck being what it is, I did not get an autographed card, which usually comes once in every 20 boxes.

What I did get was a very nice-looking set of special players providing special moments in a very special season. I'd rooted all year for these guys and even though they fell short of the Stanley Cup, the mementos remain to bring back memories of an extremely exciting year of puck-watching.

Here is what the regular-issue player cards look like, front and back:
The "Gold" variants just have embossed gold foil on the front, the back is the same:
The "gold" variants also come with the Season Highlights cards (in fact, most of them are from this sub-set, a 3:2 ratio compared to the player cards in my box when the set itself is 15:35):
One of the best things of the Golden Knights' season was their success despite having to resort to five different goalies, because of injuries; all five made the cut:
As you'd imagine, Fleury also appears many times in the Season Highlights.

All told, I was a bit sad to not land an autograph card, but this set looks great and is everything it set out to be. The original price was $30 (U.S.) for the 50-card set plus five goldies, but many places now have it discounted at $15 (U.S.), including online outlets, which is where I got mine.

At that price, I'm thinking of buying two to keep one intact and use the other one to get cards signed.

This set deserves a solid 8.5/10.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2018-19 Upper Deck Tim Hortons: 15-Pack Break

As usual, I bought myself a few Upper Deck Tim Hortons packs this year to see if I liked them, and to have "special and unique" cards to try to get signed. At $1.99 per three-card pack, these have been consistently priced for nearly half a decade, which I guess is a good thing.

They also consistenly look good, although they usually come curved, so it's nearly impossible to get true gem mint cards in a given pack. Still, you can't say that these don't look terrific:
I chose to feature Pierre-Luc Dubois' back, which consists of only one season, but it's good to note that the cards show the semi-detailed stats from the past five years, with career totals.

I landed five All-Star Standouts inserts, which look like this:
That's Auston Matthews, Carey Price (twice), Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. Hard to do better, even if it's only for the trade value of the Matthews, Price and Crosby (any takers?).

I also fell upon three nice foil Game Day Action cards of Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov and Brad Marchand (not pictured, of course):
My favourite sub-set, though, is probably Superstar Showcase, for which I pulled McDavid, Matthews and Taylor Hall (not pictured):
The set does its best to feature the biggest stars, the best youngsters and a few players per team, all within a 120-card checklist that includes former Leaf Tim Horton himself, which means that for a Kyle Palmieri and Rasmus Ristolainen inclusion, there is a Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Ellis or a Thomas Chabot missing.

It's a hard and expensive set to complete (I have never completed a series myself), but a very nice collection to just get cards for fun from, which makes it a very good flashback/nostalgia piece, bringing me back to the days when, as a kid, I couldn't afford more than a pack of cards per week, maybe two, and it was more about the fun of seeing what I was going to pull and trying to trade for a Patrick Roy or a Wayne Gretzky than completing a series.

The player selection and price bring this note down, but the look and card stock make up for it. This is a solid 7.5/10.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Upper Deck 2017-18 Maple Leafs Centennial Blaster Box Break

Way to market a set to kids who grew up in the 1990s, Upper Deck!

I was not going to buy a product from UD's commemorative 2017-18 Maple Leafs Centennial set unless it came at a huge bargain, but I decided a blaster box at $24.95 ($5 off) was a good enough deal for a little less than 50 cards, especially since I was guaranteed a numbered card in it that I could probably trade or try to get my money back on if gotten rid of wisely.

Let's see what I got...

38 base cards ranging from the team mascot Carlton to Hall Of Famers Charlie Conacher, Red Kelly and Grant Fuhr, including plenty from my youth (1986-95):
My favourite insert set has to be the Die-Cut cards, of which I pulled five: Jim McKenny, Red Horner, Gary Leeman, Ace Bailey and Auston Matthews:
A close second is this dual jersey card of Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown (of the Materials Duo variety):
Some cards honor Memorable Moments in Leafs history:
Others remember Trophy Winners past:
I pulled two Hockey Hall Of Fame players:
And one Retired Numbers card of Borje Salming:
... but NO CARD numbered to #99.

I'm not sure if these came on average per box or if they're guaranteed in the form of "floaters", but I didn't get one.

Still, there were decent pulls from a decent set that I'll rate as a 7.5/10. I preferred the numbers of autographs from the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers set, and I thought the player selection was much better with the 2008-09 Canadiens Centennial set, but this one's still a winner.