Preview: 2010-11 Upper Deck Ultimate Hockey

This is one of my favorite products year after year from Upper Deck. This year looks like it will be just as amazing as other years. You may think I may be an Upper Deck fanboy or just like hating on other products after reading this preview but I will tell you one thing, this product just looks amazing. For the record, I haven’t been around long enough to show my praise for Panini Crown Royale hockey being one of the best products of the season. Just throwing that in there to show that I don’t have a Upper Deck bias.

Ultimate hockey brings you the same every year. Every box has 5 cards and sells for around $80-$100 depending on where you are looking. It will contain at least 1 rookie, 1 game used, and 1 autograph. The autograph or game used may also be a rookie extending your luck to pull some of the great rookies this year. Also included are Upper Deck staples like Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Bobby Orr.

As with all high end products, there is risk involved but with how great the rookies are this year and the types of veterans they put in this product, I think it will be more hit than miss. This product will contain the popular 1 of 1 autographed NHL shields, sick patches, and oversized game used cards. Everything will be hard signed as well. For once, I don’t see any manufactured patches in a high end product (take note Panini). If there is anything I don’t like about it is that it has been delayed, a common occurrence with Upper Deck lately. According to Dave and Adam’s Card World it is scheduled for May 25, 2011.

I mean who wouldn’t want to pull this…or something like it:

That is going to be the holy grail of Ultimate pulls this year. But you can’t go wrong with a Skinner, Eberle, Paajarvi, Stepan, Seguin, etc. The rookies this year are talented which makes this product one of the hottest of the year. If you need some high end to hold you until The Cup, this is it.

How I Would Run A Hobby Shop

Originally, I was going to write about another product preview but I decided to change my mind. When I started this blog I wanted it to be a place to find any information you wanted on products as well as tips and tricks for collectors. I decided to change it up because two product previews in two days would get kind of….boring and repetitive. I don’t want to bore anybody away from the blog so this should open some eyes and get people thinking. This is going to be a long one, so bare with me.

With Upper Deck and Panini really trying to make brick and mortar stores come back instead of steadily washing away, I want to write about how I would run a card shop. I believe that some of these shops are going down because of their owners and the way they run things. There is a brand new era of card shops and this will be about how to create a great shop or optimize your already existing shop so you can improve business. I by no means am an expert in the inner workings of business but I do know what I want to see as a consumer.

Let’s start with location. Location has always been considered very important, but with proper advertising you can afford to grab a cheaper area. If you want a prime spot, obviously you want a place with heavy traffic either by foot or by car. A big sign that will grab eyes is always important as well. I’ve seen shops with barely visible signs and they wonder why no one knows they are there. I also think with proper advertising you can go to a little less trafficked area. Why? Trading cards is a hobby. Most random people would not step into a hobby shop if they had no interest in any of the hobbies offered.

Proper advertising is key to getting people in your card shop. Just remember these three words and make them your mantra. Internet is king. Let’s say it together, “Internet is king”. This means you need to advertise the heck out of your shop online. Facebook, Twitter, CitySearch, hobby forums, everywhere you can think of you should be advertising your site. Yes, this takes work. But if you want to stay in business you will be doing it all. Start a website for your store. Not only will it be great advertising, you can sell items on your store site. The best part of this is you can expand your business and sell nationally. Increased sales means increased profits. Panini and Upper Deck even have benefits if you have a brick and mortar store and sell online. Why would you not do this? Start a site for your store and create an eBay store for your singles and watch your sales increase.

When using social media like Facebook, Twitter, or hobby forums the one thing I don’t understand is why shop owners don’t use YouTube to record and post box breaks or pack breaks in their stores. Chris from Cards Infinity has revolutionized this process. What he does is he takes orders off of his website and then he opens the product for you on camera and posts it on YouTube. He then sends you the contents. People who buy cards online usually don’t want to wait to see what they get, so this is the perfect impulse buy if you know you can see what is in your box immediately. I would also use YouTube to hold group breaks for anyone on the internet who wants to buy into a case. A great example of this is the people at CloutsnChara. Every couple days they hold a chat session and people buy into a group break of either a case of product or a mixed box break and open it live on camera. They move a TON of product this way. When SP Authentic hockey came out, they moved 5 cases of the product in 2 days. 5 cases. How many hobby stores can move 5 cases of any product in two days? All of this could even just be posted on your store’s Facebook and when you promote that, everyone will want to see what is next.

In store is obviously one of the more important parts as you could probably do all of the above just running a store out of your house. Those were ideas that will optimize your business by selling nationally. But in store promotions is where you can get people coming back. My best in store experience was at Wayne’s Sports Cards in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have never seen a store run so well in my career collecting cards and I’ve visited probably 50 shops. They have a huge store with products, supplies, and memorabilia but could easily get by with just products and supplies. I had a nice chat with the owners and learned quite a bit from them how they keep people coming back. Honesty, competitive prices, and treating your customers like they deserve to be treated. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t have a business. The ways they do this is provide promotions, freebies, giveaways, raffles, everything you can think of just for buying something in the store. I bought a couple boxes and automatically was entered in two raffles for free swag and product. While chatting with them they even gave me free promotional cards that were only available 2 weeks earlier that they had laying around. That is how you get someone to keep coming back. I have only been to that store twice, but the only reason why is that I live 1700 miles away from there. I even still keep track of their Facebook because I respect that business so much. I know next time I am in the area I will have my choice of about 4 card shops. Wayne’s is now the only place I will go.

If I could add anything to that store (which they may even do, I’ve only been there a couple times) to promote the shop and get people in the doors is just standard promotional nights. They could hold a group break of a case of new product just released. They could hold a night of Pack Wars. All you need to add is to provide some snacks and drinks and watch products fly off the shelves. You could keep your best customers happy by starting a rewards program. Hell, if someone was sick and called in an order to deliver a box for an extra small fee I would do that too. Just keep people in the store and interested in the products and people will buy things. One of their loyal customers I met there I swear is there daily. There is a reason he keeps coming back to just that one store and that is because he is treated well by the store.

Keeping your local customers happy and expanding your business online to cater to the customer are the two most important things if you own a hobby shop. If you use all of these tips on making your current store better, I guarantee that you will see increased sales. A little promoting of your new promotions and pretty soon you’ll start getting a name for yourself and word of mouth alone will get you new customers. Do you know how Wayne’s got my business? I went to Sports Card Forum and asked the members there where the best store in Edmonton was to buy sports cards. I believe I had about 15-20 answers. Whatever that number was, 100% of them told me to go to Wayne’s. They told me about the 3 other options as well but they told me not to even bother going anywhere else. Isn’t that proof enough that your business is successful?

If I had the money to open up a shop, this is how I would run it and I guarantee you I would be making more money in the first year then any other shop not using these techniques. I just wish the shops around me in Portland, Oregon would do anything similar to this. Sadly, I haven’t found one. If you own a hobby shop in Portland and want to move it to the next level, contact me and we can work something out.

Preview: Panini Gold Standard Basketball

Panini Gold Standard basketball is the next high end product to come out from Panini will be released on May 25, 2011. This isn’t your regular high end product though, this one is trying to set the golden standard amongst high end products with real gold in your cards. That’s right, 14 karats of solid gold will be found in some of these cards. Inside you will find 3 autographs, 2 memorabilia, 3 inserts, and 3 base. All of which are numbered and some may contain real gold.

Marketing idea? Yes. Good marketing idea? I’ve seen worse. I remember Topps Treasury basketball having rip cards that you could rip and pull out real American currency. I think there may have been one more product made by Topps that featured currency as well, but I can’t remember what it was. It must not have been that good. Panini Gold Standard is one product that will be remembered.

Whether or not it will be remembered for good or bad is still up in the air. From what I’ve seen on the sell sheet I’m not impressed with some of the designs and something that really grinds my gears is the manufactured patch autographs. I can’t think of anyone who enjoys pulling those and that is something that will prevent me from buying a product. 2010-11 Limited hockey? I would of loved to get it, but pulling a manufactured patch autograph as one of my hits is not something I enjoy. Finally, I really hope there isn’t any sticker autographs in this product. At a $200 price tag for a box, I hope it’s like National Treasures where everything is hard signed.

However, I do love a few things. I love the Golden Tickets where you can win some cool stuff like a meet and greet with Kobe Bryant. It may seem weird, but I definitely am interested in the 14 karat gold pieces. What card actually puts something worth money in their cards? Well besides the nickels in Topps Heritage. I would also like to see 14 karat gold cards like found in recent Panini football cards. What better product to put those in?

In all, this product will definitely have it’s niche crowd going out to buy it as well as those high end collectors. The fact that a card has 14k gold pieces in some of the cards is definitely a selling point as it’s something that hasn’t been done (unless you count Topps diamonds). And the autograph checklist of possible pulls looks great. But will it live up to all the hype? Will it be one and done or live a long career as a high end product? When you go to your local hobby shop and you see that gold bar packaging on the shelf, you will definitely want to see what is inside.

Panini has posted an abundance of links featuring this product in their blog to get you hyped. You can see if it’s worth the hype with these links:

Panini Peek: 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard Basketball

Mining & Pining: An Early Exploration of 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard Basketball

More Precious Metal Previews from 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard Basketball

There’s Gold in Them Thar Cards! Seriously. More News on 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard Basketball

As of July 12, 2011, there is even more finished product on display here!

The first box off the presses opened by Panini!

See that sweet packaging below.

Panini Releases Preview of 2010-11 All Goalies Hockey

Since I am in a hockey mood still, today Panini America released a little teaser preview of 2010-11 All Goalies Hockey. This product will only come as a boxed set featuring 100 base cards, 5 parallels, and 1 memorabilia card. It features today’s goalies as well as legends such as Patrick Roy, Felix Potvin, and Curtis Joseph. This seems like a page directly taken from In The Game’s Between the Pipes series which is a constant hit amongst hardcore hockey collectors.

A set featuring just goaltenders has always been an intriguing proposition for collectors. This is like a product by Topps that features just pitchers in one product. I have always been a fan of the game as a whole, all players play equal parts on the team, but hockey may be a little different. Goaltenders are probably the most important piece to a successful hockey team. Do you think Carolina would of been in the playoff race if they didn’t have Cam Ward in goal? They gave up the most shots in the league, over 2000 actually, and still had a chance to make the playoffs. If a lesser goaltender were in goal, they may have been much closer to the cellar of the Eastern Conference despite having an above average offense this year.

I believe Panini may be putting this boxed set out as a feeler. I think if this set does well with collectors, next year you can expect a full fledged hobby box product from Panini featuring goaltenders, more similar to Between the Pipes.

If you are a fan of masked men who are the defenders of the goal, this product is right down your slot. Let’s just hope this is a goal and not one of those sprawling saves Dominik Hasek used to do. You can get your glove on this product scheduled for June 8, 2011. Okay, I promise no more hockey puns in this “post”.

Link to Panini’s announcement here: Panini Peek: 2010-11 All-Goalies

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