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

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