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!