Product Review: 2011 Topps Prime

10.22.2011

Either sets are being released much sooner this year, or I’m doing a significantly better job of keeping up with things. Last year, I didn’t get a chance to review Topps Prime until February 18. I just can’t remember if it was released so much later or if I was WAY behind the ball in getting my review posted. In any case, here is the 1&G Review of 2011 Topps Prime…on October 22.

2011 Topps Prime box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 10 6-card packs for a total of 60 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $90, which translates into a moderate $1.50/card ratio. That definitely pushes the mid-shelf range, so I would expect design and value some where between Score and Topps Inception.

2011 Topps Prime packs
My scanner was pleased to find that the pillow box packs did not make a return in 2011

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 29 (0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#/930): 3
Parallels
   Green (all Veterans): 7
   Gold Rookies (#/699): 2
   Blue Rookies (#/599): 2
   Red Rookies (#/499): 1
   Purple Rookies (#/399): 1
   Silver Rainbow Rookies (#/25): 1
Inserts
   Prime Rookies: 3
   Prime Veterans: 2
   Double Combos: 2
   Triple Combos: 2
   Quad Combos: 1
Hits
   Triple Combo Relics (#/388): 1
   Auto Relic Level IV (#/199): 1
   Autographed Rookies Silver (#/50): 1
   Prime Rookie Jumbo Relic Silver (#/25): 1

2011 Topps Prime2011 Topps Prime
Click image for full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: stable. That’s because this base card design is nearly identical to last year’s design. But don’t read that as a complaint, because I love this base design. Like last year, the photography is generally crisp and vibrant (rookie cards notwithstanding) and there are almost no design elements clogging up the card. The rather smooth finish and thicker stock once again reminds me of the defunct but still awesome Stadium Club lines, which was one of Topps’ first attempts at higher end stuff (remember those simpler times?). The rework of the card back wasn’t a complete success in my opinion. It’s got a simplicity that I like, but 2010’s set had a more “simple elegant” feel. Either one is pretty solid, though.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: improved. This year’s set features a whole lot more parallels with various color foil stamping. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not quite as awesome as the absurdly colorful 1999 Absolute SSD, but is still better than some of the parallel concepts I’ve seen in the past. The biggest improvement is with the Prime inserts. Topps still insisted on the Prime Combo, Triple Combo, and Quad Combo cards, but at least the design is better. There is still a pretty obvious backwards design problem to some of them, though. And I’ll never understand some of the player pairings. Ok, they’re all wide receivers from the ACC and SEC…why do they need to be together on a single card? I will say I liked this year’s single prime rookie and veteran cards much better with their much simpler design. The autograph card was also a big improvement from last year, although that sticker label diminishes what could have been an all-star auto design. So Topps is definitely moving the right direction here, but didn’t quite nail it just yet.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: redundant. On my end, not Topps’. I’m just going to copy and past my response from last year: I feel like a broken record in this category. Once again, with only 60 cards, it’s awfully hard to accurately gauge the collation of the print run. I guess in reality, this 3rd down has become just a beacon of whether or not there is a glaring problem with the particular box I busted. In this one, I got was I was supposed to. I didn’t get what I wasn’t supposed to get (duplicates). So yay Topps Prime. You pass the test of blatant problems with collation.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: decent. The price for a box isn’t off the chart, although the somewhat low card count does hurt it a bit. The cards themselves are beautiful and would augment just about any collection, especially for a player or team collection. I say almost any because they don’t really have a place in a vintage collection. But you knew that. As is the case with most products, trying to flip a box for a profit is a complete gamble and not recommended. But if you want a solid product at a fairly reasonable price, this is a pretty good pickup.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL Overall I would say this product was better than last year. So why not give it a better red zone result? The improvement wasn’t out of this world. The base cards are still really nice and probably underrated. The inserts are better but could still use some work, especially those multi-player cards. Lastly, the addition of more parallels doesn’t really increase the appeal of a product to me. If anything, they can take away from a product. I wouldn’t say the various colored foil parallels in 2011 Topps Prime were a detriment to the entire product, but I also wouldn’t say they made it rainbow-licously better.

NEXT UP: 2011 Panini Absolute Memorabilia


Product Review: 2011 Topps Platinum

10.21.2011

As the football season rolls on, the card machine really ramps up and starts cranking out sets. It makes keeping up with things a bit difficult at times, but it also is a huge help when I’m looking to post a review of a different product every day over the course of an entire week (especially given time and budget restraints). Today we take a look at 2011 Topps Platinum, a product that fared pretty well in last year’s 1&G Review.

2011 Topps Platinum box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 5-card packs for a total of 100 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $107, which translates into a $1.07/card ratio. It’s interesting to note that this year’s version of Platinum has fewer cards AND a considerably higher price tag (2010 featured 120-card boxes in the $70-75 arena). Do the cards warrant such a jump in price? Let’s take a look.

2011 Topps Platinum pack
This year’s packaging more closely resembles the actual cards than last year’s did

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 65 (0 duplicates)
   Rookie Cards: 11
Parallels
   Xfractors: 5
   Green: 2
   Red: 1
   Gold: 19
      Gold Rookies (#/50): 1
Inserts
   Platinum Die Cuts: 1
Hits
   Rookie Auto (#/2175): 1
   Rookie Auto Blue (#/99): 1
   Rookie Auto Patch (#/475): 1

2011 Topps Platinum2011 Topps Platinum
Click each image for a full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: shiny. Rather than go with a basic silver sheen like last year, this year’s Platinum design features a rainbow foil look, which is all sorts of shiny. The base cards are generally well designed. The elements at the bottom may be a bit heavy, but they certainly do not distract from the player image. Plus, they also add some team colors and a logo to the card front, something which was glaringly absent last year. These base cards could be sweet inserts in most other products, so that is certainly a plus. One interesting note is that the rookies are distinguished again this year, more than the RC shield. They seem a tad “slicker” on front and have that dimpled texture that all of the Finest refractors had this year. The rookie card backs are also a bit darker than the veterans again this year. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a flaw, it’s just an observation.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: SHINY! Hopefully that gives you an idea of my view on this box. If the base cards were shiny, the inserts are super shiny. There are a few parallel levels of the base set, including an Xfractor that is essentially identical to the Finest Xfractors. There is also some die-cut goodness going on, so I’m really starting to feel a trip down the late 90s memory lane. To avoid any confusion, that is a good thing around these parts. Feel free to form your own opinion though. I do have a note on the serial numbering. I was surprised more of the parallels weren’t numbered as that seems to be all the rage these days. You’re just left to seeing how many of each parallel you pull from your box to figure out which ones are more rare. On the flip side, the autographs were obviously numbered. But when you have a basic rookie autograph that’s numbered to a whoping 2,175, why bother? Of course maybe Topps is just really driving home the late 90s theme…you know, when a card numbered out of 3,199 was super rare. I do LOVE that Topps got some of these cards hard signed. It is a shame though that the best auto in the box, the auto patch card, did have a sticker auto. At least it’s progress over last year where all of the autos were stickers.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: shiny. Okay, maybe that is pushing it too far. I apologize. The collation of this box was pretty solid. I did not pull any duplicates, had a fair number of parallels and inserts, and got all of my “guaranteed” hits. I would say it’s a big improvement from last year when I complained about pulling 1 duplicate out of 112 base cards. But when you nearly slash the base card count per box in half, getting rid of that lone duplicate isn’t such a big accomplishment.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: shiny. That’s right. I just hit for the shiny cycle. Woo! Actually, I would probably say the overall value is a bit shakey. The cards in and of themselves are great. I obviously would have liked to have had better luck with the autograph cards (I don’t think I’m ever going to pull an autograph from whomever is the top rookie in any given year), but these are decent. This was definitely a fun box to open and its linking, whether intential or not, to some of my favorite sets from the mid-to-late 90s was a bonus. The problem is I just don’t see an exceptional increase in value from last year, even though I paid considerably more this year (higher price AND fewer cards). I also see a bit of overlap between Platinum and Finest, especially when you’re featuring nearly identical technology and parallels in both. I can’t say which I would drop because I honestly do like both sets, but I also don’t see the need to be redundant. If I had to choose, I’d probably drop Platinum in favor of Finest, if only because Finest has been around much longer.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL I like this set. The cards are attractive and the inserts are solid. I’m just not sure we need two Finest products to be released within a week or so of each other. I’m also not terribly wild about the price tag. It’s not necessarily excessive, but the sudden increase over last year does sting a bit. And honestly, that is the ultimate reason 2011 Topps Platinum did not find paydirt. The card design was enough to light up the scoreboard, but just couldn’t overcome the cost difference. Again, it’s a solid product. I just wouldn’t go nuts buying tons of this AND Finest.

NEXT UP: 2011 Topps Prime


Product Review: 2011 Tristar Obak

10.20.2011

Next up on our barnstorming tour of product reviews is a product that I’ve never reviewed before. That’s probably because it’s never been released before. 2011 Tristar Obak Football is a retro-themed product, a throwback to 1909’s Obak baseball set. Tristar recently renewed the Obak brand and continued its baseball heritage the past few years. This is the first time that the Obak name has been applied to a football card product. Is the result a winner or should Obak be baseball-excluisve? Let’s take a look:

2011 Tristar Obak box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 24 6-card packs for a total of 144 cards, plus an oversized cabinet box loader card. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $96, which translates into a $0.67/card ratio (not including the box loader). That price point puts Obak in the lower mid-shelf range, which is probably pretty appropriate given that Obak has never been tried in a football market, Tristar is a fairly small and certainly not a legendary company, and there will be no official NFL or NCAA branding any where in sight. Tristar is known for its autograph content though, so that is a promising factor in an otherwise mysterious premiere release.

2011 Tristar Obak pack
Gotta love the olde thyme cigarette ad guy…

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 110 (7 duplicates)
Parallels
   Gray: 2
   Orange (#/75): 1
   Green (#/25): 1
   Orange (#/10): 1
Mini
   Base T212: 23
   Brown (#/75): 2
Autographs
   Base Autograph (#/100): 1
   Orange Autograph (#/75): 1
   Brown Autograph (#/50): 1
   Green Cut Autograph (#/25): 1
Box Loader
   T4 Cabinet Card: 1

2011 Tristar Obak2011 Tristar Obak
Click each image for a full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: vintage. Okay, that was a cop-out. But really, how else could you best describe Obak in a single word? Just looking at the first base card from the box will give you a pretty strong vintage sense. The (mostly) black and white photography, the very simplistic design scheme, and even the type font all scream vintage. I couldn’t help but think that even the card stock felt vintage, but I think that is because it is very similar to the stock used for Topps’ Allen & Ginter, the best recognized and universally loved modern vintage set on the market. On item that threw me for a loop was the choice of background images. At first I just assumed the original Obak sets must have had similar loud nature scenes in the background. Nope. If you look at images of some original 1909 Obak cards, they look like most other tobacco cards with their faux horizon and essentially just two-tone back drops. I’m not sure what inspired the modern backgrounds, but I don’t know that they work. It often distracted from the featured subject, especially with a black and white photograph.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: basic. The inserts were essentially just parallels of the base set. There are tobacco-sized mini parallels and autograph cards that just mimick the base card designs. The standard sized base set, the minis, and the autographed cards also have a bunch of various parallel levels, as noted by text color and serial numbering (see card back to help distinguish these). I’m not a huge fan of paralleling the crap out of a set, but I suppose this one was done fairly well. I do really like that all of the autographs are either signed on-card or are cut-signatures. I do not want to open the cut-auto can o’ worms, but I will say it is cool to pull an autograph of a football legend that has been playing on the Gridiron in the Sky for many years. At least the cut auto I pulled was not a Franken-cut and appears to just be a trimmed index card. I HATE when they crop photos or even older cards for these. The last insert of which to speak is the T4 cabinet cards, falling one per box (scan available here). I found the almost double-front design interesting and found the college tie-in between the two subjects to be effective. I’m just not a fan of over-sized cards, so this really did nothing for me.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: decent. Out of 110 base cards, I pulled 7 duplicates. If you’ve read any 1&G Reviews in the past, you know that I hate duplicates, especially if I don’t also pull the entire base set. So it is pretty needless to say that I was disappointed with my 7 dupes and no complete set. At the time, I also realize how incredibly difficult that would be to assure, unless every pack/box/case was completely hand collated, which would just blow any sort of respectable production budget/product price. I did pull a respectable number of parallels and pulled all of the hits I was supposed to, so that is a good sign of effective pack-out quality control.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: subjective. It all depends on why you are buying a box. If you’re looking flip a profit by pulling outstanding autographs of gridiron legends, you’re probably going to fail miserably. I could only find one autographed card that sold for more than the price of a box, and that was a very rare Bo Jackson parallel. If you’re looking for a great product to have some fun building a set, you won’t be totally lost here. If chasing down low numbered parallel sets is your thing, you’ve got several from which to select. But if you just want to complete the base set and proudly display it in a binder, you’re not going to have an exceptionally attractive set to show off. If you’re looking to collect a solid set that pays homage to the founders and legends of a great sport and learn more about the heritage of that sport, you’re on to something with Obak. The little bios on the card backs are like mini history books and there are a ton of big name and unsung heroes on the checklist. But there are also a LOT of deserving subjects left off the list and several who maybe didn’t quite earn the recognition (Icky Woods had some sweet dance moves, but is he really in the same category as Sammy Baugh or Walter Camp?). So it’s really tough to say what the overall value of this product is. But in reality, that’s why this is such a great hobby, because there are nearly as many opinions and types of collections as there are collectors.

RED ZONE RESULTS: PASSING INTERFERENCE ON THE DEFENSE, AUTOMATIC FIRST DOWN I’m going to give Obak a fresh set of downs to figure out if it’s worthy of finding paydirt or if it will just cough the ball up on the 1-yard line. This is the first time anyone has brought the Obak name into the football card market, so I don’t want to rush into decisions. There are definitely high points in the product like on-card autos and a legendary checklist. On the other hand, there may be just as many shortfalls like less-than-legendary card designs and a slightly too high price tag. I am excited to see what Tristar does with the concept in 2012. I don’t know if it will ever catch fire like Allen & Ginter has for baseball because vintage just doesn’t seem to work as well in football, but there is a lot of potential for it to become an annual must-buy.

NEXT UP: 2011 Topps Platinum


Product Review: 2011 Topps Finest

10.19.2011

In another exercise of futility, we have a product that not only was released well over a month ago, but was even featured on this blog over a month ago. You may recall that we did a group case break of 2011 Topps Finest in early September. The results of that break can be viewed here. In order to do a product review that is comparable to most other 1&G Reviews, I opted to pull the first box from that case and treat it like its own box break for these purposes. So that’s why you won’t see every card from the case mentioned here. But now, without further unnecessary ado, here is the review:

2011 Topps Finest box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 2 mini boxes each holding 6 5-card packs for a total of 60 cards. As I mentioned, this box came from our group break case, which was purchased from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $800. That gives a $100/box ratio, which translates into a $1.67/card ratio. That once again firmly establishes Finest as a mid-shelf product, much as it has been in the past.

2011 Topps Finest Mini Box2011 Topps Finest Pack
Topps Finest must have a thing for hyped rookie QBs

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 46 (0 duplicates)
   Rookie Cards: 15 (included in base card total above)
Refractor Parallels: 7
   Refractors: 4
   XFractors (#/399): 1
   Black Refractor (#/99): 1
   Gold Refractor (#/50): 1
Inserts
   Finest Moments: 2
   Finest Atomic Rookies: 2
Hits
   Auto Jumbo Relic (#/399): 1
   Rookie Auto Patch Gold Refractor (#/50): 1
   Finest Rookie Auto (#/10): 1

2011 Topps Finest2011 Topps Finest
Click images for full-sized scans

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: awesome. I already professed my love for Topps Finest last year and I see no reason to change that opinion this year. It’s just a great looking set that really has that extra pizzazz. This year’s base design is very similar to last year’s, but actually improved. Normally I am all about symmetry, which was practically the definition of 2010’s Finest, but I really like the more off-balanced approach in 2011. Even the card back is similar but just seems more attractive for some reason. The team color schemes are bolder and the logo and player name plates locations seem more natural this year. Also, the type font is particularly cool. Topps effectively took a great design and tweaked it for the better in this case.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: undecided. And that more or less refers to its comparision to last year’s effort. The refractor technology always gets me. Those things are fantastic. I still don’t know if we need so many parallel refractors, but it’s hard to argue with great looking cards. I will say though I almost liked the refractors last year better. The Xfractors are nearly identical, but I thought the other high level parallels were more distinguished last year. I absolutely love the mosiac refractors though. I didn’t pull a base mosiac from this box (I did in others), but it is the same as the mosaic autograph I pulled. And I LOVE that there are rare chase cards that aren’t autos or relics. On that note, the rookie auto patch cards and auto/relic cards are much better than last year. I’m still not wild about the elements being bordered, but there is much more emphasis on the player photo this year, which is greatly appreciated. The Finest Moments are still a bit of a throw-away for me, but at least the concept is nice. The Atomic Rookie Refractors though are out of the park. These things look great scanned and look even better in person. I am a sucker for shiney and these cards are loaded with it. VERY attractive. And did someone say on-card autos?!? Not every autographed card is signed on-card, but the base parallels are, and that is great to see from Topps. They have definitely made long strides in that department in the past year or so across all products.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: inflated. That’s because I feel like I beat the odds with this box. First off, in 60 cards, there were no duplicates and 15 base RCs. That’s pretty solid. I also pulled an adequate number of parallels and the stated seedings for basic inserts. But I did pull a gold refractor rookie auto patch AND a bonus mosaic rookie auto, which was signed on-card. Granted, I guess I didn’t have a parallel atomic rookie refractor or an excessive number of low-numbered refractors, but I would still say this was a very solid box and possibly exceeded the average from across the entire product run.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: solid. A product like Topps Finest is going to deliver. Plain and simple. The Finest brand has been around longer than some companies exist and it is a name collectors know and appreciate. I’m not necessarily saying that buying a box is a sound investment for your retirement or that you’ll instantly reap huge profits, but you’re certainly not buying copper at gold prices. The higher end inserts and certainly the 1/1s can pull huge money on the secondary market while even the base rookie cards and complete sets carry respectable market value. I’m not quite ready to say Topps Finest is the Cadillac of sports cards, but it definitely commands recognition and respect amongst collectors.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, PAT GOOD I love this product. There should be no mistaking that by now. Does personal bias affect this product review? I don’t doubt it. But that’s why this is considered an opinion piece. An editorial, if you will. After I busted this box, and even after I busted the entire case for the group break, I was still excited to rip into every pack and was disappointed when I finally ran out of wax. I don’t get that feeling very often any more, so that should say something about the overall appeal of 2011 Topps Finest. I didn’t feel comfortable giving it a two-point conversion because it didn’t completely blow me away, but I thought the end product deserved to find paydirt with a bonus point.

NEXT UP: 2011 Tristar Obak


Product Review: 2011 Panini Threads

10.18.2011

Here is a funny realization. When I was getting ready to write this product review, I thought I’d go back and remind myself of how I viewed 2010 Panini Threads to see how much the product has changed. Right in the intro, I mentioned how I wasn’t doing so well with doing product reviews on a timely basis or even in order of release. I mentioned “If I do this again next year, hopefully I’ll be more relevant than I’ve turned out to be this year.” Yeah. About that.

On that note, here is a product review of a product that released about two months ago:

2011 Panini Threads box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 24 8-card packs for a total of 192 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $87.50, which translates into a $0.46/card ratio. That is an increase over last year, although I have a feeling I got a discount last year for buying the box so late, but it still lands Threads squarely as a lower mid-shelf product.

2011 Panini Threads Pack
Panini picked a good year to opt for rookies over Peyton for its packaging

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 177 (7 duplicates)
   Rookie Cards: 24 (included in base card total above)
Parallels
   Silver Parallel (#/250): 2
   Gold Parallel (#/100): 1
   Platinum Parallel (#/25): 1
Inserts
   Star Factor: 3
   Gridiron Kings: 2
   All-Rookie Team 2010: 1
   Heritage Collection: 1
   Generations: 1
   Triple Threat: 1
Hits
   Rookie Auto (#/299): 2
   Heritage Collection Jersey: 1
   Heritage Collection Jersey Prime (#/50): 1

2011 Panini Threads2011 Panini Threads
Click images for full-sized scans

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: decent. Last year’s design was spotty at best. Ultra-neutral. No logos. Blech. This year is better. We have material-esque design elements which tie in nicely to the “threads” theme of the product. We also have team color schemes right on the front of the card and team logos to boot. The card back is fairly attractive and shows a strong correlation to the card front. But while the product design is improved from last year, it could improve even more. The team logo is often lost in the photograph’s background. I’m personally not a fan of an all-horizontal set (issues with 9-pocket pages), but that is strictly a matter of opinion. Lastly, while I love the fact that the rookie cards look nearly identical to the veteran cards, I thought the photography used was terrible. Granted, when nearly all summer activities are cancelled and you can’t show anything college related, there aren’t a lot of options for rookie photographs.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: meh. The inserts, in my mind, were terrible. The parallels aren’t all THAT different, other than their serial numbers. The base inserts have obvious backward design flaws and just don’t do anything for me at all. I was especially a fan of the base heritage collection card. Could we make it any more obvious where the jersey swatch window has been replaced than with a beige fabric looking square? Yikes. The autographs were better than last year in that there was a faded area added to the card to help the autograph label “pop,” but there is still no evidence of actual effort to make the autograph cards special. Last year’s saving grace was the Gridiron Kings insert. This year, that is no longer the case. I’ve loved Gridiron King inserts of the past and this one fell terribly short. The artistic PhotoShop filter and slightly canvasy card stock don’t replicate original artwork on premium stock. For shame.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: improved. Last year, I pulled 177 base cards with a staggering 21 duplicates. This year I pulled 177 base cards and just 7 duplicates. I am almost never comfortable with duplicates from a single box, but at least the duplicate rate was slashed by 2/3 from last year. The obvious pickup was rookie cards. Last year’s box yielded just 6 (1 in 4 packs) while this year’s gave 24 (1 per pack). That’s another marked improvement. I wouldn’t say the collation was spectacular, but improvement in any area is appreciated.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: lacking. I just don’t see this being a hugely valuable product. I’m sure there are some great chase cards that could more than pay for several boxes, but the average card just won’t pull its own value in card stock. The base set, while better than last year, still isn’t something to write home about. Overall, I would say this was a rather forgetable box break. I’m not saying you won’t have better luck or won’t like the set, but after buying and reviewing as many different products as I have (which pales in comparision to others) I would put 2011 Panini Threads amongst the lower tiers of esteem.

RED ZONE RESULTS: LOST FUMBLE Specific elements of the product are definitely better than last year, but the overall product is still a lost cause in my opinion. I just didn’t feel like I had opened something special after all of the packs were empty. Some products have an overall appeal and you think “wow, that was fun” after busting a box. Some products deliver a few outstanding cards even if the majority were worthless. With 2011 Panini Threads, I didn’t get either of those feelings. As it turns out, 2011 Panini Threads is just another forgettable product from Panini America that fails to light up the scoreboard.

NEXT UP: 2011 Topps Finest


Product Review: 2011 Score

10.17.2011

Well, after much anticipation (or, perhaps, just a whole lot of delay and skipping around), we’re finally going to review 2011 Score. If procrastination was an art form, I’d be the next Picasso. Or at least Monet. Perhaps Howson? Anyway, here it is. Enjoy:

2011 Score box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with a whopping 36 7-card packs for a total of 252 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $26, which translates into a $0.10/card ratio. Score has consistently been the bargain bar setter in Football for many years, and 2011 is no exception. Keep that in mind when setting your expectations for the product.

2011 Score pack
Americana much?

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 174 (0 duplicates)
   Rookies: 36
Parallels
   Glossy: 36
   Gold Zone: 4
   Scorecard: 3
   Red Zone: 1
   End Zone: 1
Inserts
   Hot Rookies: 8
   Millennium Men: 5
   Complete Players: 6
   In the Zone: 8
Hits
   Signatures (base parallel): 1

2011 Score2011 Score
Click each image for a full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: improved. Last year, I gave 2010 Score a fairly positive review, but I did note that the “kindergarten art table design elements” weren’t really doing it for me for the second year in a row. This year, Panini remade Score. The result reminds me of early 90s sets like Pro Set. It’s a very clean and simple design and I really like the use of team colors and those almost old school helmet images. The card backs are also really colorful and fun and tie in nicely to the design of the card front and I do like the little extra treatment the photo got (rather than simply copying and pasting from the front image). Overall it’s a great design for a low end set. There is one issue though. While white card borders are nothing new or even anything I typically complain about, the solid white border at the top of each base card seems a bit overkill. This area is effectively used for the parallel card notations (we’ll get to those), but is just far too wide on the base card. I noticed it with the very first pack and it stuck out like a sore thumb straight through Pack 36. It’s really a shame because it does take away from an otherwise solid card design.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: Overkill. The parallels are what really hurts this area. There are just far too many. In a product like Score, collectors aren’t going bonkers trying to collect all of the various parallels like they might with Topps Chrome or Finest. Parallels can be fun, and this is supposed to be a fun product, so keep 1, dump the rest. Especially the Glossy cards, which are barely distinguishable from the base cards. The other inserts aren’t all that bad. They might be a bit busy, but again, this is geared for the kiddies. And while I would normally be happy to pull a rookie autograph, I question if there should be any in this product. Score is low end. It has a big base set. Why does it need “hits”? These aren’t exactly highly prized autographed cards, so I’d rather Panini just not have any hits and reduce the price of the box even further. But that’s my opinion.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: outstanding. In 252 cards I pulled exactly zero duplicates. There are much higher end products that have well less than half of the cards per box that can’t boast a zero duplicate rate. That is a huge kudo for Score. You may not like the Jake Long base card you pulled, but at least you only pulled one.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: expected. I feel like I could just copy and paste my analysis from last year. Score is Score. You know exactly what you’re getting. You’re simply not getting a lot of raw value, but you also didn’t pay much. This is a great entry-level product and something that you could give to friends and family under 12. If you manage to turn just one of them into a lifelong collector or get to spend a few quiet moments sorting through cards with the TV off, 2011 Score just may be the most valuable product available.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL 2011 Score isn’t a great product, but it’s also not terrible. There is definitely a lot of potential in those packs. Not necessarily monetary potential, but certainly priceless potential. I wouldn’t think twice about giving a stack of these cards to my son if he were a bit older (it’s hard to appreciate football cards when you’re three weeks old). They can teach colors, shapes, numbers, and organizational skills. They also don’t require batteries. In an age when everything makes noise or pleads for attention, a box of 2011 Score might be the best understated gift you could give a child this holiday season. I think that’s worth at least three points…

NEXT UP: 2011 Panini Threads


Product Review: 2011 Topps

09.06.2011

In a hobby that seems to be constantly evolving, there are some things that remain the same. People like rookie cards. There should always be stats on the back. Topps makes a flagship set every year. It’s true. Well, at least it has been since 1956. 2011 Is the 56th consecutive year that Topps has produced a flagship football set (and for a long time that was the only set available from ANYONE). What does it have in store for us? Let’s find out:

2011 Topps Jumbo box
The Box – Click for Detail

I went the Jumbo box route for this review. Jumbo boxes come with 10 50-card packs for a total of 500 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $87, which translates into a $0.17/card ratio. Topps’ flagship set has always been on the lower end of the spectrum but it still quite popular for its base set size and its mix of fancy inserts and, more recently, hits. Also, after 56 years, there is obviously some brand recognition in play for Topps.

2011 Topps Jumbo pack
Interesting choice in Mark Sanchez…

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 423 (24 duplicates)
   Rookies: ? (somehow I forgot to count them separately…)
Parallels
   Gold (#/2011)): 5
   Black (#/55): 0
Inserts
   Toppstown (online codes): 10
   Super Bowl Legends: 10 (2 dupes)
   Game Day: 10
   Faces of the Franchise: 10
   1948 Bowman: 10
   Super Bowl Legends Giveaway (code cards): 10
   Super Bowl Legends Stamp (#/100): 1
Hits
   Base Card Auto: 1
   Rookie Relic Patch: 1
   Game Day Auto (Redemption): 1

2011 Topps2011 Topps
Click each image for a full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: classic. Topps never seems to completely recycle designs in its base set from year to year, yet somehow every one just has that Topps “look” to it. For all of you baseball fans out there, this design should look familiar. As is often the case, Topps used the same design for its football set as it used for its baseball set of the same year. This year, there are no complaints. The design is pretty basic, but effective. The team logo is prominently placed and the name banner is team-colored, which is great. The card back is also straight outta the Topps text book with its multiple-year statistics, horizontal orientation, and even the positioning of the card number. This isn’t a set that I will sit around and “ooh” and “aah”, but it is solid for a low-end base set. With 440 cards in the set, it is obviously geared for set collectors and can stand as a sort of yearbook. This design will look great page after page in a binder, so that’s really as you can ask. And, for the record, I am not turning this into a Ravens-themed blog. I busted this box with a friend who is a huge B-More fan so I let him pick out all Ravens for the review scan.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: many. If there’s one thing Topps knows how to do, it’s producing a whole lot of cards. Along with the 440-card base set, there are a bunch of insert sets. The Toppstown cards are really just for fun and games online, but they actually look good as cards. I’m digging the shiny blue background, although it admittingly looks better with some team uniforms than others. The Game Day cards I suppose are common affair for a low-end insert set. Nothing flashy, but I do like that they are strongly team-oriented with colored backgrounds. The Faces of the Franchise cards toes the line of one of my least favorite subjects, multi-player cards, but does so safely. The card is strongly team branded so the theme works. The 1948 Bowman cards are a cool throwback. I love the original mini-card size and the painted look of the photos. This was actually a well done tribute card and will probably be the subject of a future “A Look Back” post. The Super Bowl legends cards are also a nice concept, although with base, rings, coins, and stamps (not to mention an entire Super Bowl-themed giveaway), it may be overdone. I have to wonder if maybe Topps shouldn’t have just put more time into the designs and had this be a seperate product. One final nice touch for the jumbo box was the rookie relics. Every Jumbo hobby box has a rookie relic PATCH, not just a plain jane swatch, which really adds value to the box as a whole.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: misleading. When I sorted through everything and had the entire box organized, I was shocked to find out that I had only pulled 24 duplicates out of nearly 500 cards (the relic packs didn’t have as many cards). I was also pleased when I figured out I only needed 41 out of 440 base cards to complete the set. That’s not too bad, I thought. But if you crunch the numbers, you find that the duplicate rate, either compared to just base cards or to the number of cards in the entire box, is actually only marginally better than that of 2011 Panini Rookies & Stars, which is ripped apart for having too many duplicates. So either my expectations have become unreasonable or this box wasn’t as well collated as I originally thought. I think maybe I need to re-evaluate my standards.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: expected. With Topps’ flagship set, you know what you’re getting. You know you’re going to get a ton of well designed base cards, a random smattering of inserts, and a few “hits” to boot. The value of any particular card is probably not going to astound you, but it also shouldn’t be rock bottom. My buddy got really excited about the Super Bowl Legends giveaway and ordered two cases of jumbo boxes in addition to this lone box. I am helping him to sell off all of his unwanted cards (basically anything that’s not purple and black), and the selling prices have been pretty decent. It’s not often that you sell simple parallels for $2, relics for $10, and autos for $15, especially out of a low-end product, so I have been pretty pleased. Again, that brand recognition may be playing a factor, but it’s a good brand to take for a spin.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, PAT GOOD It’s Topps. What more can I say? It’s a brand and a concept that’s been working for 56 years. Sure, it’s not always something special and some sexy new things have come and gone in that time, but Topps does what Topps does year in and year out. And that’s produce a solid flagship that has appeal to collectors young and old, team/player and set, and simple and fancy. It’s impossible to have a single product that has everything, but 2011 Topps sure can give you a lot of bang for your buck.

NEXT UP: 2011 Score (Honestly, I’m getting to it…)