Review: 2011-12 Panini Contenders Hockey

Contenders is back with a bang for it’s sophomore season. The previews of the product looked like a much needed upgrade to a product that crossed similar lines as its counterpart in football. Last season, I thought this product could contend with SP Authentic as the top product for rookie autographs. Little did I know, the product would include upgrades that made it almost identical to that product in terms of content.

2011-12 Panini Contenders hockey is now set up to be a winner in the hockey card arena. While Panini continues to establish it’s name amongst hockey collectors, this product is a great example of the things they can do to compete in that marketplace. All of these good things written and you haven’t seen the review yet…right. Let’s check that out.

Design:

Panini said they were going to work on their designs and they are truly doing that. I’ll start with the negative on why I wouldn’t give this 5 stars. The white boxes for the rookie autographs are a bit out of place. It’s not as bad as other products, but it could still be a little better. And also, what happened to the ticket design? I love the ticket design…is that going to remain football only while Panini carves out the landscape? But all of that doesn’t matter when you see how clean these cards look. They’re just pretty to look at. Like that really cute girl you might see walking around. Not that really hot one you have no chance with, but the really cute one you might buy a couple drinks for at the bar. Comparing cards to girls…I should start doing that more often.

Checklist:

Contenders is known for the rookie autographs.  Obviously, there are a ton of rookie autographs in this product. So you’ll be able to find a ton of great rookie autographs from all around the league. The one issue that I’ve seen the most complaints about is the checklist for NHL Ink. There are a lot of no name type players on that checklist people are having a hard time swallowing. As for me, I like the addition of players who aren’t rookies and the veterans in the patch autograph realm which is usually reserved for rookies. At least the non-rookies you know can play in the league and probably won’t wash out. It really just depends what you collect and what you expect in a product like this.

Value:

From what I’ve seen, for $100 this is very hit or miss. Again, kind of like SP Authentic which is a natural comparison. The rookie class is kind of a weak one, so it makes it hard to want to spend this type of cash on a product that has very little to perk you up. Another reason Panini did a good job adding what it added this year. The rookie class is providing lower than usual value, so add in some great chase cards. I was lucky, however, and pulled a redemption for a card that’s worth about the same amount as the box. You may hit a really nice patch autograph, a sweet veteran autograph, or something nice and low numbered. Again, it’s just hit or miss. I have to also mention the less inserts this year, which I kind of miss as well. I miss the acetate cards and the Leather Larceny from last year. But the inserts this year kind of fall well in line with the rest of the theme, so I can’t complain too much. Plus less inserts is sometimes better.

Overall:

Overall, this is still a fantastic second year product from Panini. The design is very pleasing to the eye and very clean all around. When people say you have a clean looking card, you know you did a very good job according to their eye. The checklist has all the rookies you could want, but leaves a little bit to be desired as far as the non-rookie autographs go. Colin Greening was my non-rookie hit…not a terrible player at all but others haven’t been so fortunate. But my real value came with my redemption card. With the rookie class being weak, Panini did a solid job adding value to what seemed like something you may not get much out of. Patch autographs in the product really add to the value, but I wasn’t lucky enough to pull one of those beautiful cards. It’ll be hit or miss mostly because of the rookies this year, but that’s not Panini’s fault.

I’d like to thank Panini America for providing this box for review. You can find them on their official site, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and everywhere else online. Let them know what you think of this product.

Not shown: Redemption for NHL Ink Dual Autograph Gabriel Landeskog/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Review: 2011-12 Panini Elite Hockey

Elite has been brought to the hockey side which means some pretty cool things for the hockey collectors. Featuring a ton of foil board, it’s a product which has transformed alot over several years but has always kept some of greatness from the original Elite series back in the day.

Now in hockey, it features some goodies of old as well as some really cool additions, which I was able to pull so I’ll get to talk about it more in the review! It’s great when things add up like that. So thanks to Panini for providing this box for review and we will get down to it with the first year of Panini Elite hockey.

Design:

I love how the design is just like some old school Elite. It’s very boxy with the frames around the foil board, which isn’t seen that much anymore. However, the design in itself is basic to the point where it just looks clean and clear. No extra frills in the base design or even the inserts. It’s quietly very nice for what it is. The Aspirations die-cuts are always nice, however I wonder why they aren’t numbered like in every other Elite product? But what shines is the Prime Numbers insert. You have 3 different die-cut cards which you can put together to form one long card with a game used piece, autograph, and autographed patch. They are beautiful and a fun thing for a collectors to try and put together.

Checklist:

The checklist is phenomenal for this product. Packed with today’s stars, recent superstars, and some future stars as well, this product has something for just about everyone other than the vintage hockey collector. Although I find there is a large number of rookies in this product, they still have all the top names with the great rookies being mostly SP’d, which isn’t bad as that helps their value, but it also makes finding them a little harder and most will be stuck with no name rookies. But other than that, there are some great names in the inserts and “hit” cards, so I think this is a job well done.

Value:

Now this part is difficult. $120, in my opinion, is a bit much for this product. However, it does have some great autograph names involved so that may be a reason why it’s priced a little higher as well as on-card autographs (more for shipping to players.) I was close to a 3 1/2 on this one but I went with the 4 stars because the checklist is so good. Another issue I have though, is that the Aspirations die-cuts weren’t numbered like they are in almost every other version of Elite. I think that may bring down the value a bit as well as we don’t really know the print run on the regular Aspirations. Value is always the toughest part to judge in a product and I think Panini’s prices in general start off a little high, but the market will dictate the price soon enough. I think this would be better around $90-$100.

Overall:

Overall, Panini did a pretty swell job their first time through with the Elite brand in hockey. The design is nothing exciting, however, it is very good for what it is. I love the die-cuts and LOVE the Prime Numbers insert set as well so those were definitely good ideas. I thought the checklist was better than usual as well with some more recent superstars in autograph and jersey form as well as their own little insert sets. Finally, the price on the product I find to be a bit high, but that’s nothing new coming from me and looking at Panini products. I’d like to see a breakdown of what costs what in this product to find a way to bring the price down to where I thought it would be more reasonable. But that’s just me. But still, good job to Panini on this one.

Thanks again to Panini for providing this box for review. You can find them all over the internet by viewing their official site, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and they probably have a ton of other stuff too.

Not pictured: Rookie Autograph Variations of Erik Gudbranson Redemption

Review: 2011-12 Panini Crown Royale Hockey

My personal product of the year last year as returned, featuring some of the best rookie patch autographs of the season as well a great looking die-cut base set. I fell in love opening this product last year, and this year was no different. Although I still have a redemption out for this product from last year. *shakes my fist* That hasn’t stopped me from opening another box this year, but this time, sharing it all with you and reviewing it. We want to see if the magic is still there from last season’s version of Crown Royale hockey.

Every box contains 4 packs and 4 hits. You can find usually at least 2 autographs per box from some of the best rookies and veterans of the game. For more, check out our official preview of this product. You can see what we didn’t pull and maybe something you could pull from this product.

As is the new standard in my reviews, the hits are at the bottom. But don’t skip down unless you want to ruin the suspense. So let’s get to it…

Design:

You should all know by now that I’m a sucker for two things, die-cuts and shiny cards. This has a bit of both. The die-cuts are fantastic again this year, despite them being the same design. But that’s what Crown Royale is all about. You also have die-cuts in the rookie patch autographs that are fantastic, albeit we didn’t pull one. What I did pull looked very nice though, including the colored parallel base cards. Only issue with those is why aren’t they numbered this year? I pulled a red parallel and a light blue parallel. What does that mean? I’m lost. But why did football only get 3 1/2 stars for practically the same product? Simple. The inserts here are a little better, more on-card autographs, smaller white box of death, and the colored base parallels. Some improvements were made, and I’ve noticed.

Checklist:

Great list of rookie autographed patches for one. I mean, you can’t beat the best rookies of the year combined with the best rookie autographed patches. Priceless. As always, a great selection of current veterans as well. But Panini also has changed things up in this product where it hasn’t in any other product by adding some of the best hockey announcers in the game. While I personally wouldn’t want one as my hit, there is a place for collecting these announcers and I know Canadian fans love their announcers.

Value:

The rookie patch autographs bring tremendous value to the hockey collectors out there, more so then football. They aren’t found in every box like they are in football, which keeps the value up and the collectors wanting them that much more. The patches in this product are always decent and as the checklist shows, you can pull just about anyone. It’s one of the better mixes in a product out there with the highly valued Silhouette autographs mixed with other hits of patches and autographs. If you like hits, this is the product for you.

Overall:

Overall, I didn’t feel the same magic as I did when opening it last year. But don’t get me wrong, there was still magic felt while opening it. I just think the magic was just that big last year. This year, the design is the same, but it’s a solid design in the first place, so don’t change that up too much. The checklist for Panini products is usually quite solid and this shows that once again that Panini likes to pack up just about everyone in every product. Finally, the value is there with the tremendous Silhouette patch autographs and the other great possible hits in patches and autographs. I think 2 autographs, a patch, and a jersey card is okay in my book. But please, return the numbering back to the parallels! I don’t want to have to look up how rare a certain color is, it should just tell me.

Thanks again to Panini for providing this box to review. There won’t be a contest yet for these groupings of products as we are going to put together something nice for the 100,000 views and one year blogoversary combo party. Stay tuned!

And ah! My camera cut off some of the pictures when I uploaded them…sorry!

Review Deus: 2011-12 Upper Deck Series I Hockey

Well I already have my official review of 2011-12 Upper Deck Series I hockey but Upper Deck sent me another box to review. I actually would of given the entire box away had I pulled the one card from the set I wanted, the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Young Guns card so I opened it up to see if there was anything different than my first box.

Basically, it was the same type of box. Random assortment of Young Guns, a couple of GU cards, and some inserts including the popular UD Canvas inserts. Take a look at what we pulled:

While I didn’t pull a Nugent-Hopkins Young Gun like I was hoping, I did pull my first specialty Young Gun along with a few other canvas cards.

I have to admit, that canvas Young Guns is the most beautiful Young Guns card I have EVER seen. Why that isn’t the basis of the regular Young Guns I don’t know but it is gorgeous. Just need a different Canadian team and player…

Speaking of Young Guns, here is the rest of the Young Guns haul…

A bunch of Young Guns I don’t have yet so that’s good. Some other inserts I pulled were…

The UD Heroes card is really nice and reminds me of the older products. The other types of inserts are nothing new compared to my review, just different players. The same goes for the game used jersey cards…

Again, nothing different to write home about.

Although my boxes were almost identical as far as content went, I was pleasantly surprised by this box’s UD Canvas Young Guns card. It was absolutely gorgeous and I wish it was the design of all the Young Guns in the set. Definitely a highlight of the box.

As always, UD Series I is a fun break when you are searching for Young Guns or the rare autograph or other case hit. A big thanks goes out to Upper Deck for providing this box to (kinda) review. You can visit their official site, official blog, Facebook and Twitter pages at those links.

I’ll be adding some of these cards to the giveaway this weekend, so make sure you sign up if you are interested.

Review: 2011-12 Panini Pinnacle Hockey

A big step up from last year, Pinnacle hockey looks much better and feels much better than the product Panini put out last year. With a nice large base set, a few autos thrown in, game used pieces, and light on the rookies, I’m feeling a UD Series I type feel with this product this year. That’s a good thing.

But this is Panini’s product and it has Panini’s way of doing things. Whether or not that translates in similar success is a matter of time, but this is a good start for a product that I feel is pretty similar in it’s concepts.

But let’s get to the review and see what we pulled.

Here’s what we pulled:

Design:

A very simple and clean design goes a long way. The design of these cards is very nice with a nice clean swipe across the bottom where the player information goes. An accent in the team colors is always a plus in my book and the marble background in the swipe makes everything pop. The rookies (Nufex) and inserts looked good as well with the ones that we pulled, including the game used cards. I also really like the different photography shots that Pinnacle used, a lot of shots you won’t see and shows off more than just the style of play the player has. It shows a little more personality with the players which is always nice in one or two products a season.

Checklist:

The checklist is a semi-robust 290 cards with some rookie SP autographs thrown in there for good measure. With a solid group of autographs and game used cards as well, there are some great names to be pulled as hits with the price point of this product. Crosby, Ovechkin, Roy, Bourque, and your top rookies all have autographs in this product. This is definitely a well thought out product when it comes to the checklist. It feels like it’s missing something though and I can’t put my finger on it.

Value:

For essentially the same price as UD Series I, you are getting pretty similar products. This product features an easier ability to get game used and autographed cards while Series I has more valuable rookies. Could Panini limiting the rookies in this product pay dividends with value on the secondary market? I find the products to be similar, although Panini has done something different as far as insertion of their inserts. There are several different levels of case hits for their inserts which makes them a little harder to collect, which would raise secondary value a bit. I like what they did this year in the value department.

Overall:

Rating this product was weird. It doesn’t feel like as good as product while you are opening it, but after reflecting on your break and other similar boxes, it really is a pretty good product. The design is one of Panini’s better designs and I like the clean approach this time around. The checklist is expansive in all aspects, which makes for a ton of different players and cards to collect. But collecting a full set will be difficult, especially a master set. With different levels of case hits and short printed rookie autographs, it adds some value to a product that needed a little more value after last year. I’m surprised at my own results for this product, but it deserves it.