Saturday, July 31, 2010

2009-10 NHL SP Game Used

Someone asked me to continue with these, so even though I've been gone a while, I plan to catch up to the releases that I can figure out.

Right off the bat, I won't be posting anything on Champs. There simply isn't enough data to determine print run. I might go back to it later to see if I can make some reasonable guesses at the season's end, but for not, its not on the table. Today, instead we'll be dealing with 09-10 SPGU.

For the past three years, the big hist in SPGU have been the manufactured patches featuring names, numbers, nicknames or what have you. This year is no different and since we had the Olympics 'recently', SPGU decided to capitalize by having "Marks of a Nation" (see above). I've always thought of SPGU as the game used equivalent of SP Authentic. For every auto in SPA, there's a jersey or patch card in SPGU. For every auto in SPGU, there's a jersey or patch in SPA.

I'm definitely a bigger fan of the jersey design this year, as opposed to last year, even though they dropped the number of swatches from 2->1. They even managed to get some really nice photos on the basic jersey card, which is a big plus. My only problems with the set are the manufactured patches and the multi patch cards which become a series of little more than tiny head shots. To each their own I suppose.

Before I go into the the break down, I want to point out that ALL of the posted box odds are wrong.
Here's what UD says:
  • Avg of two Rookies per box
  • 2 Manufactured letter per case
  • 1 Auto & 1 GU #ed to 100 or less per box
There always seems to be more than 2 RC per box and the number of Auto & GU #<100 varies between 2 and up. About the only thing that seemed to remain consistent was the 2 manufactured letters per case. Without going into details, here's what the odds actually look like:

  • Avg of FOUR-FIVE Rookies per box
  • ~3-4 Manufactured letter per case
  • 1 Auto & 1 GU #ed to 100 or less per box
With these values, there should be about 16,800 boxes. That is around 1400 cases or 100,800 packs. The only non-numbered cards are the authentic fabrics and the regular base cards:
  • Authentic Fabrics are out of ~700
  • Base Cards are out of ~1,400
And now the interesting things:
  • Opening a 12 box case? 70% on each of these: Extra SIGnificance, Authentic Triples, Legends Classic, Triple Patch, Silver Base  & Silver Rookie.
  • Any 1/1 card from the set?  There's 3 in every 19 cases (12 box case)
  • Want a SPGU Eights 1/1 Patch? That's a 1:200 (12 box) case hit!

Some special notes:
  • Yzerman & Howe Lettermarks were treated as one normal /50 card.
  • Print runs of Authentic Fabric SP are less than specified
  • Authentic Fabrics are pulled at about 4 per box
  • Base Cards - I can barely find anyone who posts their base cards, but they're about 8 per box as far as I can tell
  • SIGnificant Numbers pull ratios are based on an average print run of 30 copies per card
  • By the Letter pull ratios are based on an average print run of  6.7
  • Marks of a Nation Black/Gold pull ratios are based on an average print run of 5.8

There's more than enough there to help you figure out your own hit ratios. Just take the print run, multiply by the numbering and divide by the # of cases to get your hit ratio. Here's an example to get you started:
Inked Sweaters: 38 different cards with a print run of 50.
38 * 50 = 1900
1900 / 1400 cases = 1.35

So, in every 12 box case, there should be at least one Inked sweaters. Every third case will have a second Inked Sweaters.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hockey Games - Where is the CCG?

I want a hockey based game to play. And its got to be a non-luck based one, where I feel like I'm in control of the game and showing down against another player.

Topps Puck Attax is a nice concept. First off, it features actual hockey players. Certainly a big plus. Then, we have an actual element of game play that isn't dexterity based. Which is great since I don't have to have a huge playing surface where I have to fire a mini plastic puck into the opponent's net. My biggest issue with Topps Attax is game play. I put 6 cards face down and so do you. I flip one, you flip one. Highest wins. Its like playing War with a deck of cards. I don't know about you, but I really hate games that are mostly left to change. Yes, Puck Attax has a small element of phychological warfare. Will I lead with my highest attack or my second highest? By and large though, it feels like luck.
Image taken from SCF

I certainly love the idea of a hockey card game. A very popular one is NHL Ice breaker. I haven't player it yet, and its had some good reviews. The only issue is that there are no players. Its team based and you play with a modified deck of cards trading turns making the best poker hand, but where are the players?

If you just want the NHL theme, but don't care about the game, there's always NHL-opoly, in two glorious versions, either Modern or Original six era tokens. To get monopoly bang for your buck though, its got to be thimble + classic style monopoly. I want to buy Boardwalk, not "Ghosts of the forum".

Image taken from 

There even seems to be a desire for some gameplay within the hobby. Afterall, collectors often take part in  pack wars.Of course, that's more like Topps Puck Attax than anything.

Really though, I want something like like Magic the Gathering, or Warlord in style. With that in mind, I'm trying to develop a Hockey CCG. It would be up to you, the coach, to assemble your actual team of players for on ice-shifts where players can get tired, have penalties, shoot and pass. I'm still dealing with the mechanics, but I've already developed about 25 cards and I'm trying to implement GVT as a way to accurately determine abilities. I also have basic ideas for card design. I just wish I could draw. I'll post the custom cards as soon as I have something developed. In the meantime, please wish me luck with GVT.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Curing the Top 5 Worst Habits of Mailing Cards

This is my follow-up post to the Top 5 Worst Habits of Mailing Cards. Each can be solved with very little effort. Read on gentle reader, read on.

Curing the Top 5 Worst Habits of Mailing Cards

1. The “White Envelope” – This is by far the easiest to solve. Just start using Bubble Mailers. They can be purchased cheaply in packages of 10 or 20 and come in a variety of sizes. Looking to save money? Read on.

2. The “Creative Toploader” - Solution: Two pieces of Cardboard at least 1.5 inches (4cm) larger in width and height than the card being sent + 2 fake inserts (you can find these in packs of UD). Center the trade card on one piece of cardboard. Cut the fake inserts in half and put them on either side of the card and to the top and tape them in place. The idea is that they should stop the trade card from reaching the edge of the cardboard or the tape. Place the second piece of cardboard over top the first sandwiching the trade card and the dummy cards. Now, tape the two pieces of cardboard together tightly on the edges (4 thick pieces of tape, one for each edge). This will help keep the trade card immobile. To open the package, someone can slice the edge pieces of tape and at worst, harm the dummy cards.

3. The “Tape Salesman” – Tape only needs to go in three well placed areas. 1. Two pieces of tape on either side of your stack of top loaders. Over the top is not necessary! If the tape is too tight, this tape can pinch the cards. 2. Once you’ve placed your cards in a team bag, close the bag & if your seal isn’t sticky, tape the bag shut. 3. Seal your envelope with tape (even if the envelope has a sticky seal on it already as these can be easily removed without evidence of it being tampered with)

4. The “Illegal Entry” – Most people don’t fill out customs forms for two reasons: Time and to save on duties. If you’re pressed for time, you can fill out and print your forms online:
USA to Canada & <$400:
Canada to USA:
The USA to Canada is much better than the Canada to US, but at least both are online. In terms of saving duties, well, not much can be done there. Shipping from Canada to the USA, there is an argument that these products were produced in the USA (ie: country of origin). USA to Canada, well, Canadians are just going to have to pay their taxes. Think of it as your OHIP contribution.

5. The “Internal Tapper” – Just remove the tape right? Hold on, we have to remember why people put tape in the envelope. They're worried about their cards moving around during transit and becoming banged up. The solution to this is a little more involved. You can start by trimming your envelopes so that cards will fit more snugly in the envelope which will stop them from moving around, but not so snug that they are hard to get in and out of the envelope. Its also possible to tape two top loaders side by side so that they are larger. A larger card is less likely to move around in the package. Really, if you've packaged your cards with top loaders, decoys and team bags, they can bang around all they like on the inside because they're already well protected.

The Best Way
Truth be told, there is no “best way” to ship your cards, but most shippers would benefit from a dollop of common sense. Before putting your cards in the envelope, shake them vigorously. Do they move too much or fall out of the top loaders? Try again! Does your envelope look like it could be mistaken for a three year old’s class project? Please re-wrap!
My preferred way of packing is the sandwich method, which provides strength and economy. Basically, for every 3 cards, put two in a top loader and sandwich the third (or, if you have 5 cards, put 3 in top loaders and made a Double-Decker sandwich). For each packet of cards, put them in a team bag. Seal the bag, then stick em’ in a bubble mailer and away they go! If you’re extra nervous, add some stiff cardboard like the dummy cards they include in packs to discourage pack searching.


Friday, February 26, 2010

The Top 5 Worst Habits of Mailing Cards

I’ll be discussing some of the ways that I’ve seen cards packaged the wrong way. If you find yourself in one of these categories, never fear, My next scheduled post will include potential ways to ship your cards to ensure their safe arrival every time.

Top 5 Worst Habits of Mailing Cards

1. The “White Envelope” – Even though the government seems like a slow bureaucratic behemoth, the mail  service has adapted to the mechanized world. The post office assumes that all white envelopes: a) contain paper and b) are flexible. This means that they can be passed through machines at high speed via rollers and past computer scanners to “read” addresses and postal codes or sorted by size and shape. While placing a card in a top loader does lend it some strength, against the crushing power of a sorting machine, say hello to unsightly creases and a ruined card. Yes, some cards get through unscathed, but a significant amount end up ruined.

2. The “Creative Toploader” – This goes out mostly to people who have over large cards. You can find top loaders for 5x7 and other strange sized, but they get rather flimsy at that size. Often, most people can't by such materials easily or cheaply. Inevitably, the trader resorts to using an office folder or a plastic film like saran wrap. This isn’t enough . The best solution I ever saw was balsa wood, but a stiff cardboard is usually enough..

3. The “Tape Salesman” – Whoever sends these cards must be putting the tape salesman’s child through college or be the tape company spokesperson. If it takes you more than 10 seconds to tape up your trade cards, you’re used too much tape! Too much tape is an issue for the person who receives the cards as well. They are trying their best not to ruin their cards, but when you have to bring in the kitchen paring knife to slice out your cards, the sweat begins to form and one day a mistake will cost you a beauty. Finally, if you’re packaged your cards in top loaders and a team bag securely enough, no tape is necessary on the inside and only a small piece needs to be used on the outside!

4. The “Illegal Entry” – This is one of those ‘victimless’ crimes where you can negotiate with your trader what’s declared on the customs forms in order to avoid paying taxes. If you knowing enter false information in a customs form you are defrauding the government! This means you can’t put a ‘support the troops’ sticker anywhere on your car.

5. The “Internal Taper” – I have to admit that I’m struggling to find #5, but I finally settled on this one. I find that I'm becoming the victim of this more frequently. People place tape on the inside of their bubble mailers are probably worried about their card falling out of the package for some reason. However, tape can get very sticky during transit and be hard to remove when it finally reaches its destination. At best it stops the card from shaking about. At worst, it makes it a pain for the person receiving the card to take it out of the envelope without damaging it. Just imagine if the card had to be inspected by customs? Do you think that a customs agent will be that gentle in trying to get something out of an envelope?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Should I Collect?

This question is not the most common question in the hobby, but its certainly popular. If you're new to the hobby or you feel that your collection is stagnating, you often think of starting a new collection. When you think of collections, what immediately pops to mind?
  • Player Collections
  • Set or Subset Collections
  • Team Collections
Of course there aren't really only three types of collections, but these tend to be the most popular. Most player collections are for popular players and multiple people will collect the same player. With only 30 active teams and limited releases, those types of collections don't tend to be as impressive. The real question is how to make your collection unique and memorable. The answer is to find something in the hockey world that you admire and make a collection out of it.

Of all my collections from the common base sets to my vintage RC, I have two pride and joys collections. The first are my Goaltender Goals. This set has a plate (and base card to identify the plate) for every goalie who has been credited with a goal.

I also have a birthday collection. This collection has rookie cards for all the NHL players who share my birthday. Part of the challenge of this set was to find out which players share my birthday. I don't know of any website or book that arranges NHL hockey players by their birthday, so I had to get creative. My solution was to do an advanced google search on The Hockey Database. If your birthday is September 28th, 1983, just do a google search with the following:
"Sep 28" site:
This will search for the phrase "Sep 28" on the database's website. Each link will be to the player's profile page. You can even find which cards these players have had released. Its takes some time to figure out the players, but its worth it. You can modify this search to go for players born in a specific year, the player's hometown. height or weight if you want.

If you want to create a really unique and personal collection, you have to figure out what appeals to you. Here's a whole page of suggestions, the Stanley Cup Record Book and History page. It contains quirks about the cup and list of players who had memorable impacts during the cups illustrious history. Imagine starting a collection of players who have scored the game winning goal in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Here's a brief list of collection ideas:

  • Sub-.500 Teams in the Stanley Cup Championship
  • U.S.-Based Teams in the Stanley Cup Championship
  • Stanley Before Calder
  • Back-to-Back Winners (either with same or different teams)
  • Eye in the Sky (Video Review Declared Winners)
  • Penalty Shots in the Stanley Cup Championship (goalie or shooter)
  • Gold Medalist and Stanley Cup Champion
  • Stanley Cup-Winning Goals
I know that its a little early to be thinking about the Stanley Cup, but if you want to get a head start on your collection in time for when the finals roll around, its always best to plan ahead.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2009-10 Upper Deck Series 2

Upper Deck Series 2 is the second release of Upper Deck's flagship product. This set arguably contains the most sought after rookies. While rookies from "The Cup" tend to sell for more, the demand for Series 1 and Series two young guns continues long past the release date by a multitude of collectors.

I really, REALLY wish I had something other than a stock photo to offer. If I want this out by 5 pm though, this will have to do.

Unlike Series 1, Series 2 packs each come with an extra insert card which completes the Victory Update set. Interestingly enough the Victory black parallels are  also highly sought after, as long as the print runs are low. For a relatively cheap set, to have a /5 RC or base card really tends to highlight a player collection. In previous years the most desirable victory black cards have been numbered to /5 or not numbered. Other years has seen print runs calculated to be at least 15, making them much less expensive, and also less desirable.

The problem with calculating Series 1 or Series 2 print runs is the distinct lack of numbered cards. Compounding this issue is the widespread retail boxes, blasters and retails cards. The print runs quoted here are true only for what can be found in the Hobby version of the release. Adding in retail print runs, the total print run for each kind of card should not more than double (hopefully). This years, thanks to a single card, print runs for the Hobby boxes are easily determined.

The one per case "Awesome Acetate" cards means that there are approximately 3,500 hobby cases. Base on number, the following rates for the other hits should be as following:
  •  UD Game Patch are ~1 in every two cases
  • Rookie Materails Patches are ~3 in every 4 cases
  • Fab Four Fabrics are one a case and 75% of cases should have a second
  • High Glossy's /10 are at least one a case (numbers almost suggest close to 2 a case?)
  • Exclusives /100 are 28 a case (1 a box, + every 6th box has an extra one)

We can also calculate the following print runs of the non-numbered cards:
  • Young Guns ~5,000
  • UD Game Jerseys ~800
  • Rookie Materials ~900
  • Signature Sensations ~60
  • Draft Day Gems & Playoff Performers ~ 5,000
  • Rookie Debut & Captain's Calling ~4,600
  • Victory Gold Regular Cards ~850
  • Victory Gold Rookie Cards ~1,050
  • Victory Black Regular Cards ~70
  • Victory Black Rookie Cards ~90
  • The Champions ~1,900
A couple of surprises here. The young guns have print runs as high as the inserts.  The victory black cards have a really high print run compared to previous years' /5 and /10. In general, the print runs for the rookie parallel are higher than the regular cards (see Jerseys vs Rookie materials). Remember, all these numbers are before we consider a single retail box!! Expect the numbers to go way up when taking those into account.
     Hope you enjoyed the read & knowing how unique or not your cards are.


    Monday, February 8, 2010

    2009-10 ITG Heroes and Prospects - Update

    After finding 75 box breaks of ITG Heroes & Prospects, here are the numbers. As always, most of the game used cards and game-used autos can be found here. For everything else:
    • AHL All Stars ~300 of each
    • Calder Cup Winners ~250 of each
    • Class of 2010 ~250 of each
    • Enforcers ~200 of each
    • Memorial Cup Winners ~250 of each
    • Real Heroes ~150 of each
    • Autos ~200 or each auto (not included short prints)
     Since the Real Heroes inserts are a new innovation being tried out by ITG, its not surprising that they have the lowest print runs. The rest of the inserts fall between 200-300 copies of each. Not a bad run for this kind of set. Of course, as the retail version hits the shelves, these print runs would tend to go up.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    How to Ship on a Budget

    If you're not careful, shipping can take up a large amount of your hockey card budget. In Dec 09, I made 20 trades, and I probably paid at least 30$ for just the postage. If I had bought new bubble mailers and materials for shipping every time, the cost for shipping can rise quickly. There are several things that you can do to save when shipping your cards.

    First, always re-use your bubble mailers. When trading, you get one bubble mailer going out and one coming in. You can re-use that bubble mailer for the next trade. I usually cover the old address with a recycled piece of paper.

    Thin out your packages. As long as your package is thinner than 2 cm (3/4 inch in the US), you can ship using the "oversized envelope" option (large letter in US). Don't let the postal clerk tell you otherwise. If they get huffy, don't confront, just ask for how much postage you need and put it on yourself and mail away.

    Finally, be sure to lighten up your packages. In Canada, there are price hikes at 100g, 200g, 250 g, and 500g. If you are in this hobby for the long term you could save a lot of money by buying digital scale. I bought one for 20$ shipped over 2 years ago and it paid for itself in 4 months.

    Its always a good idea to get become familiar with the postal office's pricing and restrictions. I can't speak much for the US, but in Canada you can ship paper like objects like photos or cards without a declaration form as over-sized letter mail. Don't let the postal clerk tell you otherwise. Just say that the package contains photos or paper products. This is fine for smaller cost items, but be sure to declare more expensive items, or even ship them via a trackable method. You can get a guide from the local post office with a handy table for figuring out the postage you'll owe. I've included a series of tables below from the Canada Post website which has costs for the different weights.

    Here are some handy tips on how to accomplish all of the above:
    • Anything thicker than a 10 ct card box is thicker than 2 cm when placed in a bubble mailer. If its thicker than 2 cm, then you can't mail it as an over sized letter.
    • With adequate protection it IS possible to ship 100 cards in an oversized letter mail. More than that is pushing it.
    • The bubble mailer needs to be only big enough to hold the cards. Cut off excess paper and bubble and tape the side shut if you are near the cutoff. This can save you a couple of grams if you need it.
    • Re-use old bubble mailers. Tape a sheet of used paper to the front.
    • Make smart trades if you need supplies. Run out of game used top loaders? Trade for some game used cards.
    • Run out of team bags? Team bags are fancy speak for "plastic bag + taped shut". Here are some alternatives: Re-used team-bags, the bags that 100 ct penny sleeves come in, the bag that the team bags come in, old pack wrappers (as long as they can fit a top loader in the interior)
    • Sandwich your cards. For 9 cards (or equivalent thickness), here's a cheap way to send securely every time: two decoys, three top loaders, 5 penny sleeves and 1 team bag. Take the three highest value cards put them in penny sleeves and top loaders. In the last two penny sleeves, place three cards in each (be careful when inserting). Sandwhich the cards as follows and place them all in a team bag: Decoy - Top Loader - 3 in sleeve - Top Loader - 3 in sleeve - top loader - decoy. Then tape the team bag securely shut so that none of the cards can move. You just protected the corners of 9 cards. If you use thin, but stong decoys, you can get up to 15 cards this way, but its a push.
    All the best in your hockey trading!

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    2009-10 Trilogy

    I'm a bit short on time for this one, so it's going to be a wham-bam-thank-you-blogger post for print runs.

    As usual, we should expect to see 3 RC in every pack for a total of 1,200 cases produced. Starting with that, we can get some approximate print runs:

    • Base ~4,300 of each
    • Classic Confrontations ~85 of each
    • Ice Scripts ~200 of each
    • Young Star Scripts ~200 of each
    • Superstar Scripts ~300 of each
    • Honorary Swatches ~260 of each
    • Line Mates ~450 of each
    • Hat Trick Heroes ~150 of each
    I assumed that if you pulled a gold or platinum parallel, it would NOT replace the non-numbered version of a hit. Without this assumption one, it looked like 1/5 boxes would be shorted a GU card.

    IF your parallel hit replaces a regular GU hit, 1/5 boxes would be short a GU and the print runs would be as follows:

    • Base ~4,300 of each
    • Classic Confrontations ~85 of each
    • Ice Scripts ~200 of each
    • Young Star Scripts ~200 of each
    • Superstar Scripts ~300 of each
    • Honorary Swatches ~200 of each
    • Line Mates ~400 of each
    • Hat Trick Heroes ~80 of each  
    They're both within the right ball park though.

    How can you tell which is right? The easiest way is Hat Trick Heroes. Are Hat Trick Heroes 3-4 a case? Then my guesses are pretty good. Here are some other interesting things to note:

    • The '1-2 Clear Cuts' are a case hit!
    • 3-4 Gold parallels per case (probably one of each Hat Trick Heroes, Honorary Swatches and Line Mates)
    • 6-7 SP rookies per case
    • 4 of 5 cases will have one Platinum parallel case hit
    • 1 of 5 cases will have a SP auto #ed to 10 or less (1-2-3 Clear cut, 1-2-3-4 Clear Cut or the auto'ed versions of the Game used cards #ed to 5)

    Hope that you liked the read! If you have any questions, feel free to to ask.

    Saturday, January 30, 2010

    National Hockey Card Day - Follow Up

    I missed something in my last post. If you follow Upper Deck's Facebook page, they've also announced a bonus to the National Hockey Card day. Basically, they've hidden 11 signed memorabilia items. throughout Canada.

    If you recognize any of the shops in this photo:

    Buy the corresponding item, you'll get the free prize! Since I was so late with this post, I'll help out.
    For anyone who lives in the Ottawa Area, you're sure to know this store:
    That's Game Breakers in Ottawa located at 780 Baseline Road. If you buy a box of O-Pee-Chee Hockey you could win a 2009 NHL Rookie Photo Shoot Autographed Jonas Gustavsson mini stick!

    Now the second one threw me for a loop.
    That's because this photo was taken from the back of the store, and not from the front. It also threw me for a loop because I wrote an article about it some time ago, Carboard Memories located in Brampton at 230 Sandalwood Parkway East. If you buy a box of MVP Hockey you could win a 2009 NHL Rookie Photo Shoot Autographed Matt Duchene mini stick. The inside of the sore has changed a bit, but the best part is that I see that he's moved the Glass case back!! That means we can once again pick our own packs! Wow. What a nice development.

    Anyways, go get your free cards & hopefully someone can pick up the extra autographed pieces as well.

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    National Hockey Card Day - Canada Only

    Well, tomorrow is National Hockey card day. For those of you who aren't familiar with this, Upper Deck is giving away one free pack of hockey cards per customer to local hobby shops and Retail card sellers. The details can be found at Upper Deck's 2010 National Hockey Card Day website.

    If you're looking for the whole set, be sure to make note of the retail stores involved. Currently, Toys R Us, Jean Coutu, London Drugs, Rexall and Pharma Plus are all listed as retails stores giving away the packs. If you're a frequenter of your local card shop, you might be able to deal for more than one pack though.

    The set is comprised of 15 cards, 5 rookies, 5 Canada players and 5 'Heroes'. The Rookie cards don't look too bad. I like the Canada set, but I'd prefer to see the players in their team Canada sweaters. As for the heroes set, its a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong, the retro look in yellow and brown isn't too bad. What my real issue is that three of the heroes are current players. Here is a pic of this year's cards.

    And here's a sample of last year's cards

    Overall, I think Last year's heroes look way better and have a better checklist. This year's rookie design is better, and the two Canada sets are more or less equivalent. It is nice to see that they didn't reuse any designs, but did reuse colours which gives the set a nice continuity from '09 to '10.

    If this year's release is anything like last year's, each pack will have a mix of cards, but it won't be totally random. There will probably only be three kinds of packs and if you get the same pack twice, get ready for 5 duplicates.

    There were also some logistical issues last year. First off, not every shop advertised on the UD website actually had packs to give away. Some didn't get them till the day after and couldn't give them away on the day of. Secondly, my local card shop told me that they had to pay for the packs. Even though you're getting this for free, it may not be Upper Deck that's paying for it. Either his local distributor hoped to make some cash, or Upper Deck is getting the local shops and retails to pay for the cards and having a massive advertising campaing to get them to give them away for free.

    When I went last year to get some packs, I saw mothers and children and boys and their girlfriends picking up packs together. Last year Walmart was also involved and that box of packs moved from the front of the store, then to the back of the store and eventually to the front again throughout the day. Things like this seem to me that they'll draw in the kids even more so than sets specifically geared to children.

    I won't be going to pick up this year. Better to leave it for some other kid to grab some. If you want to get yours, go for it! Don't forget to spend some dough at your LCS as well.


    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    2009-10 ITG Heroes and Prospects

    In The Game is quickly becoming my favourite Hockey card producer. I know that my choices are currently limited, but sometimes ITG knocks something out of the park, like BTP last year, or 1972. The only set I have a problem with really is their Heroes and Prospect set, which will be the focus of this review.

    I have no problem with a set for upcoming hockey players. I'm sure there are people out there who value such a set. Its just that I'm employed full time, trade hockey cards, post a blog and live a life, so if I have to choose between watching NHL hockey and the various, younger leagues, (CHL, AHL, etc.) unfortunately the NHL wins. Sometimes these younger players makes some great plays, don't get me wrong. Its just that I feel that the on-ice quality of the product (presentation, skills, frequency, availability, etc.) is covered nicely in NHL level hockey.

    ITG has released a Heroes & Prospects set every year since 2004-05. Its a nice mixed bag product which features base cards, autos, inserts and some really kicking pieces of game used jerseys. In addition to some really nice designs on the jerseys, the back of the card will actually tell you from which team the jersey comes from. This is a pretty big plus when compared to Upper Deck's certification which even leaves question marks as to whether you are even getting a jersey piece at all.

    I'm generally not impressed with the designs from ITG, but I think they really look nice in this set. You can take a look at their release page. I would be supremely happy if other sets followed suit in terms of design. The base cards have a sharp player picture, although I would like to see a variety of backgrounds. Why is everyone staring up and to the left except for the bearded guy? While its nice to see Santa Claus in the back there enjoying some hockey in his time off, its a little creepy seeing him in every photo.

    One of the best designs in this set seems to be the enforcers insert. Each card seems to show an action shot of an enforcer in action. Its not often you get to see an enforcer in action on a card, so its a very unique opportunity.

    There's also a secondary set in here that seems to be gathering a nice quiet following. There's a small Real Heroes set which honours those hockey players who fought in the war. I haven't gone through every name, but a cursory glance shows quite a few Toronto Maple Leafs, and its owner, Conn Smythe, pictured below. If you aren't familiar with this period in history, the short version is this. Before the draft, you may have been looked down on by your neighbour if you didn't go bravely off to fight. It was considered the patriotic thing to do, especially for a young strapping Hockey player. If you didn't want to go, playing hockey didn't necessarily save you from the draft. Sometimes NHL players got drafted and in  war times, the NHL was short of players who went off to serve their country. A couple died (literally two - both of whom are in this set), most lived. All of them served proudly. If you're interested about learning more about this issue. I suggest this article by Joe @ the Greatest Hockey Legends & more at your local library.

    On to the print runs. ITG is great for posting print run numbers for most of their product. You can view the majority of the runs on this page. Generally, they don't provide the print runs for base or inserts, so that's what's going to be covered. From the product info page, each box should pull two auto cards and two game used cards (auto versions of the game used cards count as game used cards). The good news is that we can figure out the following:

    Total production is ~520 Cases
    Of the 119 Autos (ITG promos say over 125, but their auto list on the website only lists 119 different cards), the average print run is ~90 which is just about right for this release. Although, there will likely be short prints which means the average print run for the autos will be higher.

    Unfortunately, that's all I can give. Until I know how many and which kinds of inserts get released in a box, its all a toss up for the rest. Ill post an update as soon as I find something. The degree of breaks for this product will probably be less than SPX, but way more than Collector's Choice.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    2009-10 SPx - Update

    I'm still working on my Collector's Choice update since there haven't been enough people posting their breaks. In contrast, within a day of release, I've already recorded 75 boxes worth of breaks for SPx from SCF, HI and YouTube.

    Based on what I've seen:
    If you get a Winning Materials or Combos Patch, it tends to replace the regular jersey version of your break.
    If you get an auto'ed version of the Materials or Combos, it does not tend to replace your regular jersey break
    All other hits (Trios, Shadowboxes, Flash Back, etc.) do not seem to replace a regular hit in your box.
    There is generally 4 SPx Rookies/SPxcitement per box. Not the advertised 3.

    I also don't see anything that needs to change. based on what's being pulled, there still looks to be about 2,200 cases of SPx. I'll stand by the numbers in my previous post.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    2009-10 SPx

    2009-10 SPx hockey is set to release today, so its time for another review.

    SPx is one of those sets that has a distinct following. to me, it seems like the flip side of black diamond. It has a similar price point, but instead of levels of parallels, you get levels of game used cards. Much in the same way that SP Game Used is the flip side of Sp Authentic.

    Aside from the first official jersey/auto RC of the year, probably the most talked about card in this set are  shadow boxes. Shadow boxes debuted in SPx Football. Before Mario left the net, he posted about them at Wax Heaven. Gellman also wrote about them in his post at Sports Cards Uncensored. They were a big hit in football and now we're going to see if they're equally popular in hockey.

     Fuhr Shadow Box from eBay item 180458893725

    I was a fan of SPx a couple of years ago, but I think this year's cards look horrendous. The letter shaped swatches are clever, but not really hockey related. The Flashback fabrics are more psychedelic than anything, and don't mesh well with featuring the player, the signature or the swatch. The design for "winning" and "Rookie" makes it look like it was cut out from a newpaper one letter at a time. I have to say that so far, SPx appears as though it was a inspired by a psychotic drug trip. A definite pass for me this year.

    Gustavsson from eBay item 220543323284
    Triple GU from eBay item 220543325374
    Flashback Fabrics from eBay item 360227841289

    Down to the analysis. Since SPx is full of numbered cards and seeding ratios, determining the print run of each card should be a snap. Right off the bat, we know that in a case you should pull :

    •  1 Autographed Rookie Jersey card #’d to 499
    •  1 Shadowbox card
    •  1 Signed Flashback Fabrics
    •  2 Flashback Fabrics cards
    •  2 Winning Trios Jersey cards
    •  3-4 Spectrum parallels
    Since there are only 6 Level 1 Autographed Rookie Jersey, there are just under 3,000 cases of SPx. At the same time, in a box break, you'd expect:
    • 1 Rookie Jersey Card
    • 1 Signed Rookie Jersey card
    • 1 Winning Materials Jersey card
    • 1 Winning Combos Jersey card
    • 3 SPx Rookies/SPxcitement
    • 65 Base Cards (subject to change after seeing box breaks)
    If we look at total all the SPx Rookies and Spx Excitement cards, there should only be about 2,000 cases. Looking at either Rookie jersey or Signed rookie jersey odds, there should only be about 1,600 cases. I'll check out the case breaks and box breaks on this, but lets say that there are about 2,200 cases which is right in the middle of all the predictions. That way, every 4th case would have a second Level 1 RC in the case, every tenth box will be short a rookie or excitement card and the big hits will replace the signed jersey or regular jersey cards. We'll see if that pans out.

    Since most everything in this set is numbered, we only have to look at 7 cards:

    • 100 Base - 6,500 of each
    •  47 Winning Materials - 650 of each
    •  44 Winning Combos - 700 of each
    •  30 Shadow Boxes - 50 of each
    •  12 Shadow Box Stoppers - 50 of each
    •  30 flashback fabrics - 150 of each
    •  30 Autographed Flash Back Fabrics - 75 of each
    As always, this assumes no short prints, but its a good average guess. Not a lot of surprises. Case hits, like the shadow boxes, are ~50 each which is consistent with other releases (Wax Heaven FB stars are /39, VOTC Shadow Box chasers /56). I don't have much to compare with since my only other review to date is Collector's Choice. For an autographed card, 75 seems a bit on the high side for the autographed flashback fabrics, especially given the checklist. I'm sure there will be quite a bit of variation in that set. The one interesting stat is that there are more copies of the Combos than the Materials.

    Depending on how often the level 1 Rc are pulled and a few other issues like how many boxes are short Rookie Jerseys or Signed jerseys, the numbers may change. If I had to guess, I'd say they might go down a bit if anything. For now, its a good ballpark figure.


    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Cardboard Memories - Published Article in Tuff Stuff

    In late summer of 2009, I got involved in a heated discussion about pack searching. Some people were arguing about how it was a victim-less crime and I got involved with refuting it. Long story short, that posted turned into an article which was chosen for Tuff Stuff. It appears on page 8 of the October 2009 magazine. The company was nice enough to send me a pair of magazines for free. The original article was edited and if you'd like to see a really well polished version, I suggest you pick up the magazine. I've included the unedited article here. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    2009-10 Collector's Choice

    I was trying to think about what kind of value I could bring to the blogger universe. My opinion on design isn't any more important than yours or anyone else's and its probably less refined.

    What I can offer is an analysis of the size of a release. So that's what I'll do.

     The big news today is supposed to be the release of Upper Deck's 2009-10 Collector's Choice. A decisively low-end set where packs can be had for 1$. The release contains no autographs and no game used cards. Something you can find in this set, but not anywhere else for an Upper deck release are tattoos and stickers. Stickers and tattoos aren't new to the Hobby. Panini releases hockey stickers yearly, and application tattoos can be found in many non-card releases (chips, decals, local store, etc.). The most recent release to incorporate both tattoos and stickers was in a non-Hockey card related release called "NHL Fan Packs" by Enterplay.

    Collector's Choice big advantage over other low end releases is a current rookie crop roster of 70 rookies including the big 5: Tavares, Hedman, van Riemsdyk, Del Zotto and Duchene. For all the leafs fans out there, the inclusion of Gustavsson is also good news. Some of the rookies are beginning to trickle onto eBay even as I write this, so here's Tavares  RC, courtesy of eBay item 280444617183

    Continuing in last year's tradition, you can also find three star selections and the cup quest cards.  Replacing chippy's choice from last year will be a 6 card set of manga drawn Warriors of Ice. This is the one set I'm interested in seeing as its liable to be the only one with art that will be unique to this set throughout the year. Here's a pick courtesy of eBay item 320470865979.

    After looking at them, they seem more Mecha than Manga. Having Ovechkin in Red White and Blue in front of the United States Capital building threw me for a bit of a loop at first because he's Russian, but after paying some close attention I think I figured it out. Washington Capitals has the Capital Building. Detroit Red wings, hence the red winged Zetterberg flying over... well, a hellish environment (sorry Detroit). Iginla, Stampeding on a burning horse (Calgary Flames). The only goalie (Brodeur), with a protector shield surround by a sea of Devils... from New Jersey (?). Crosby running away from some penguins (or leading them, its hard to tell). As for Chara. I'm stumped. No bears, no Boston anything. Maybe they just want to imply that he's so tall that he towers over the mountains in the background. At least there's inserts are good for a laugh.

    This year's set continues to include parallels. Even more parallels than last year. For every base, rookie AND Three star Selection, you'll find a Choice reserve parallel (last year's silver) as well as a Prime Choice Reserve Parallel (last year's gold). 

    Earlier in the post I said that I'd talk about the size of a release and so far all I've done is describe it. I just needed to get to the cup quest cards. The cup quest cards are an 80 card subset distinguished by blue, red green and gold identifiers. Just like last year's set, a player could be included in this set, even if their team didn't make the Playoffs. Its the quest to the cup, not the quest to the playoffs. Still it would be nice to see an all playoff insert set.

    In order to make a good guess at the size of a release, you need two things. First, you need a seeing ratio, and second, you need a numbered card. Unlike the 08-09 Collector's choice release, this year's release has one numbered card: The cup quest gold cards. This set of 10 cards are numbered to 100. Unfortunately, we don't have a seeing ratio. In the next few days, I'm keeping my eye peeled for some Collector's Choice case breaks. If you hear of any, please comment, so I can see what was pulled. In the meantime, I can offer a few tidbits. I'll edit this post as I get more information because as of the release don't, I don't have all the info I need.

    In a box break (36 packs), you should expect:

    •  18 (or more) rookies (Requires: 3 boxes + 32 Packs to complete set)
    •    ? Three Star Selection Cards
    •    9 Stickums (Requires: 3 boxes + 12 Packs to complete set)
    •    6 Warrior of Ice (Requires: 1 box to complete set)
    •    6 Badge of Honor (Requires: 5 boxes to complete set)
    •  36 Choice Reserve Cards (Requires: 8 boxes + 12 Packs to complete set)
    •    1 Prime Choice Reserve (Requires: 15 Cases to complete Set)
    •    4 Cup quest cards

    In 05-06 Upper Deck Ice there were 6 cards numbered to 99. On average, you would expect to find one in every 9 cases. In 08-09 Upper Deck Champs was supposed to only have 699 cases. Is it possible that the Cup Quest Gold cards are a one-a-case hit? Sure its possible, but time will tell. Again if you hear of any case breaks, please comment, so I can see what was pulled.

    In the meantime, let's say that Cup Quest Gold are a one-a-case hit numbered at 100. We can now figure out how many of each card exist (assuming no short prints). Bolded numbers are given by the manufacturer:
    •  70 Rookies - 5,142 of Each
    •  30 Three Star selections - ?
    •  30 Stickums - 6,000 of Each
    •    6 Warrior of Ice - 20,000 of Each
    •  30 Badge of Honor - 4,000 of Each
    • 300 Choice Reserve Cards - 2,400 of Each
    • 300 Prime Choice Reserve - 67 of Each
    •   30 Cup quest Blue - ?
    •   30 Cup quest Red - ?
    •   10 Cup quest Green - ?
    •   10 Cup quest Gold - 100 of Each Card
    There may be a difference between what UD says and what actually gets released, so its very important that I watch some box and case breaks. If you know of any, please comment. Right now, these are rough guesses until I can confirm how often the Cup Quest Gold Card pops up. If I see that there are more or less than one Cup Quest Gold per case, I'll change these numbers accordingly .I've also ignored that fat packs have been issued, so these are the minimum numbers. Cards that can be found in fat backs are likely to have higher print runs than I've indicated above.

    In other news, I received my very first comment on my blog today. It was from none other than Puck Junk, aka Sal. There are too few hockey card blogs on the net today and his was the very first I found. Sal hosts his own blog,  and covers a wide range of topics on his website from reviews of everything hockey to appearances on a local radio station. I have his website linked on the right and I encourage you all to take a visit. Be sure to check out his wantlist as well. I'm sure that he'll appreciate it.

    Hope you enjoyed the read.

    UPDATE: I found someone who broke a case. They got one Cup Quest Gold Card. I've also found out that Wal-mart Sells Blaster Boxes. If someone can get me the odds on those, I'd appreciate it.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    The Benefits of Boxing Day Shopping With the Wife

    I've wanted to start a blog for a while now, and I suppose the New Year is as good as any. I can't beat other bloggers for sport related content, but I hope to be able to provide some good ideas for people in the community. ON TO THE POST!

    My family doesn't know much about hockey cards. They know enough that I like them, and to buy me a couple of McDonalds packs, but I'll never get to break boxes for Christmas like others do. Its up to me to find me find hockey stuff. That's more difficult than ever when the wife wants to go Boxing day shopping. From Dec 26th to the 28th, I spent 27 hours of shopping. Mostly clothes, but I can occasionally find some Hockey gems. For instance, I did find a couple of 07-08 OPC Tins at Winners (like Marshalls in the US).

    At 10$ a shot, I managed to convince my wife that we could buy it from our Boxing Day budget. I didn't pull anything big (all the cards are for trade in my trade list), but it was nice to break something with my wife.

    The big win of the experience was an ornament box. An ornament box is a box with a festive design for storing your Christmas tree ornaments. See all the little squares in the box? Each one is supposed to hold one ornament. The box comes with a string on either side for easy carrying and storage.

    I'm generally a set collector, but I have specific player collections as well because of my admiration of goalies and certain hockey players. I don't think that any of my player collections have more than 10 cards per player, but they run the gamut from low end cards stored in penny sleeves to high end graded cards. I also have a couple of oddball cards like unopened packs and power deck cards. They're currently scattered into three different 200 ct card boxes, but what I really want is box that can keep them all together. Here's a small sampling.

    It just so happens that these ornament boxes can hold card widths up to a graded card. And the nifty little compartments make it so that I can sort my smaller player collections by player all in the same box. Its tall enough to hold the graded cards and easy to move around with the attached strings. At half price on Boxing day, they were a good deal. I only got one because I was afraid that it wouldn't work well enough, but I think I'm going to grab another next year, if I can find them again. Here's a pick with the cards packed away.

    From left to right.
    Top Row: Unopened Packs, Ron Hextall, Grant Fuhr, Marty Turco
    2nd from top: Hits I pulled, George Vezina, Jacques Plante, Billy Smith
    3rd from top: Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard
    Bottom: Powerdeck, Expensive RC, Fake Cards, Player RC who share my Birthday

    As a bonus to all of this, there is a bit of safety. If someone robs my house, who's going to steal the Christmas tree ornaments? There are still some post-Christmas deals out there, so if you want to go pick one up, bring a common card, or a top loader to test out the box before you get it.

    Thanks for reading & Cheers!