2008-09 Upper Deck Champ’s Break – the Natural History

March 27, 2009

I’m sure you thought I’d forgotten about this, but I haven’t.  I’ve just been a little bit busier than I would like at work.  My project was showing signs of working, so I was really leaning hard in that direction this week.

The Natural History minis in Champ’s Hockey were a sticking point for many collectors.  There was a lot of negative response.  Basically ‘who wants animals in hockey card packs?’  Personally, I think it is an awesome idea.  Kids like animals.  Kids like dinosaurs.  Champ’s isn’t exactly priced at a kid-friendly level, but I believe there is a retail portion of the product upcoming that is hopefully more accessible.  On some hockey card message boards, the reaction of people who have opened these packs with their kids is ‘My son/daughter and I are going to put together the Natural History minis’.  To me – that’s great.

On to the cards themselves.  In general, the pictures are cool.  Being minis, of course they are small.  If I am really looking for details in a certain mini, sometimes I find myself scanning it to blow it up a few times.  That might or might not mean I am getting old.

The selection of animals included is impressive.  There are dinosaurs, mammals, fossils, prehistoric man, birds, and reptiles to name a few.  My one quibble – Upper Deck seems to have checklisted this set mainly in alphabetical order.   It would have been cooler to have broken it down into subsections by the type of Natural History represented.  There would have been more related cards close together in the binder pages, and also if collectors are looking just to do one section (maybe dinosaurs), it would have been easier for them to track down.

This is the coolest Natural History mini I have pulled to date.  It just barely edges out the Sabre Toothed Cat. I’m not sure what this particular Komodo Dragon was eating, but it looks like he still has a bit to finish up before he inevitably snacks on the photographer.

Overall Grade for the Natural History Minis:  9/10. The cards look great, they are fairly plentiful in a box (1:3 packs, so you should hit 8 out of a box), but with a large enough checklist to make set building a challenge.  As I said, my one quibble is with how the set was checklisted, so I knocked it down a point.

I believe I have covered all the different portions of the product in these posts, so I will have a summary review coming up, hopefully sometime over the weekend.

2008-09 Upper Deck Champ’s Box Break – the Hits!

March 22, 2009

Obviously, the big hits in this product are the fossils, but I didn’t end up with those.  For Champ’s, the fossils and artifacts are case hits, so they aren’t as rare as in products like Allen & Ginter.  For more average breaks – you should get 2 autographs and one memorabilia card per box.  I hit those odds exactly.

In my box, I hit a Robbie Earl autograph, and a redemption for a Dany Heatley autograph.  I also opened four loose packs, and pulled a Steve Mason autograph.  Obviously, the Mason was the best pull – it sells for $50-ish pretty consistently on eBay, and I hope to use it as trade bait to pull in some nice pieces for my sets.  I am working on the base set, the jersey set, and the entire 480 card mini set.

There are some huge names in the autograph checklist – Tiger Woods is the biggest.  Les Stroud (Survivorman) is also in there.  Any of the non-hockey names are SP’d on the checklist.  That was one of the reasons I steered clear of doing the autograph set.  All of the autographs are hard signed though – albeit a bit cramped onto the mini cards.

UD decided against framing the mini relics and autographs, which Topps had done with Allen & Ginter as well as Topps C55 Hockey.   It makes storage a bit tricky (although toploaders and pages are available in these sizes), but I think it makes them a bit more appealing.  It makes them actually seem like ‘mini autographs’.  I’ve never really thought of Topps minis as ‘true minis’ because they are really standard sized.  Maybe its just me.

The jerseys are very similar, and in a nice change – they are slightly harder to come by than the autographs.  There is a basic set of jerseys featuring mostly current and recently retired NHLers, inserted approximately 1:box and then there are Legends memorabilia cards inserted at a rate of 1:case.   My jersey hit was Vesa Toskala.  One nice change is that UD now notes on the back of the card that the jersey piece was worn in a “Sharks game” rather than just an ‘official NHL game’.

Overall score for hits in the product:  9/10. There are some bad names in the sets, as there always are, but there are a lot of NHL stars and superstars as well.  The really big hits (SP autos and fossils) have long odds, but they add something special if you do happen to hit one.  I didn’t hit anything spectacular, but sometimes its nice just to get what you are supposed to.

2008-09 Upper Deck Champ’s Hockey – the Minis

March 22, 2009

Another stop on the box review for 2008-09 Upper Deck Champ’s Hockey.  The minis.  There are base set minis, and then there are parallels for all the base minis.  The base mini cards have black printing ink on the back of the cards.  The parallels are Brown (1:25 packs), Red (1:144 packs), Blue (1:288 packs), and Purple (1:576 packs).  So, long odds on a lot of these for sure.  The parallels combine to fall 1:24 packs.  In my box, I hit a blue back parallel of Brian Gionta.  Nice to get one of the rarer parallels.  Not so nice to get a guy that doesn’t get much hobby love.

Upper Deck extended the base set for the minis – basically, they aren’t a straight parallel for the larger base cards in each pack.  There are 192 mini veterans, as opposed to 100 in the base set.  This is great – it makes buildign the set more challenging and it also gives player collectors of the lesser known guys a little something extra to chase.

There are usually two mini cards per pack.  I had packs with three minis, and I had packs with only one mini.  There was no discernable pattern to this.  Packs with extra minis didn’t necessarily have a ‘hit’ mini or anything like that.

Base minis are said to have a 1923-1924 design.  I can’t find any of the originals on eBay or Google to compare with.  Its a pretty cool design though.  Jarret Stoll and Chris Kunitz were two of the guys I collected when I was hardcore into hockey.

Mini Rookie Cards again have a different design.  I’m not sure if this is also reminiscent of 1923-24 or not.  Mini rookies should fall 1:8 packs.  I hit those odds right on and landed three mini rookies in my box.  None of them were very good – this will be a challenging portion of the mini set to collect, with there being 100 of these as well.

Overall grade for the base minis and parallels in this set – 8/10. Challenging, without being impossible (hey – trading is half the fun of set building), and the parallels give some added value to the box.  One quibble is that I am not a huge fan of parallels where the only difference is visible on the back.  Makes it sketchy buying and trading online.

2008-09 Upper Deck Champ’s Hockey – the Rookies

March 21, 2009

Continuing with my piecework review of the box of 2008-09 Upper Deck Champ’s hockey that I broke early today, let’s finish off the base set with the slightly SP’d rookies (1:2 packs).  There are 100 of these as well.  One more vote for expanding the base set – there shouldn’t be the same number of rookie cards as base cards in a product.

UD went with a completely new design for the rookie cards.  I’m not sure if this is an actual retro design, or just supposed to look retro.  I’m kind of torn on this.  Part of me thinks the rookies look cool.  The other part of me wishes that they looked more consistent with the base set.  Perhaps the same basic design but with a ‘Champ’s Rookie’ designation at the bottom where the regular base cards just say ‘Champ’s’. As might be expected for rookies – there are no stats on the back, just short write up about the player.

With 100 rookie cards, this set hits all the big names, so there are no issues with the checklisting.  A few guys (Ty Wishart for sure) make their RC debut in Champ’s as well. If you are busting this and aren’t sure who you are looking for, these are the names that should make you sit up and take notice:  Steven Stamkos, Luke Schenn, Steve Mason, Kyle Okposo, Drew Doughty, Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris, and Justin Pogge.  There are lots of  good rookies in this year’s crop, so this list is by no means exhaustive.

As I mentioned earlier, the rookies are slightly SP’d, falling one in every two packs.  I hit these odds bang on.  I opened a box (24 packs) + four loose packs and I have 14 rookie cards.  No issues there.  I like SP’d rookie cards – they add a bit of a challenge to the set, and also give a bit more value to the RCs.  You’d need to open up 8+ boxes with perfect collation to nail the entire set, so these cards should have decent value.  Maybe not as good as the ever popular Young Guns, but if this set proves popular with set builders, Champ’s Rookie Cards should be able to pull themselves out of the low – mid end quagmire we sometimes see.

Overall Rating for the RC portion of the product:  8/10.  The design issue is still gnawing at the back of my brain.  No issues with checklist, seeding or quality control keeps this rating up near the top of the grading scale.

Check out my Hamilton

March 6, 2009

My purchase arrived today from Checkoutmycards.com, so in addition to showing off my cards, I figured I would do a bit of a review on the service.

First off, the card.  2008 Bowman Sterling Jersey.  I realize this looks suspiciously like a 2009 Topps Black Wal-Mart variation, but that’s just my scanner.  Its not a huge fan of Chrome.

This was one of three cards I ordered.  I also picked up a Mel Gibson Shirt card for my 2008 UD Piece of Hollywood set, and a Brad Richards parallel /100 from 2005-06 Parkhurst Hockey.  Both of those two cards were for sets I am working on.  So, here’s my review of the service, with each aspect graded /10.

Accuracy – 10/10: I got the cards I expected.  The set up of Checkoutmycards is designed to ensure accuracy.  They scan and identify the cards as part of their service.  This is one of my biggest gripes with some online orders or trades – especially when you are only looking for a specific parallel, and someone misidentifies it.

Price – 8/10: I was happy with the prices I paid for the cards I bought.  I realize that prices are set by individual sellers, so when looking keep in mind that some sellers are reasonable, and as with any venue – some are delusional.

Shipping & Handling – 7/10: My one quibble with the service.  Shipping costs were $3.00  + $0.25 per additional card.  For these prices, I would expect each card to come with a toploader.  The Hamilton was in a toploader, and the Richards was in a toploader.  The Gibson was in a penny sleeve sandwiched between the two.  I consider this a perfectly acceptable shipping method for trades, or bulk low end purchases.  In general, one or two cards don’t add anything to the shipping costs – so, they should pony up for a new toploader.  Why?  This is why.  The watermarked scan is the COMC  scan from the site.  The second image is the scan I made this evening.  Check out the additional chipping on the edges.

This could have been easily avoided with an extra top loader.  Thick cards are prone to chipping, so I think a better choice would have been to have this card in a toploader, and the Richards parallel penny sleeved in the middle.  The Richards also was the cheapest card in the order.  This isn’t enough damage for me to want to send the card back, or go through all that hassle – just a note that some issues might arise from this shipping practice.

So, all that – and still a ‘7’ for shipping and handling?  Yes.  Thick cards suck condition wise.  The chipping and peeling here could easily have happened when the card was penny sleeved prior to shipping.  I’m not going to be overly critical when I’ve done the same thing numerous times myself.

Bottom Line: I would definitely order from the site again.  I might be more hesistant to order multiple cards (saving on shipping isn’t always worth it), but the edge damage isn’t a deal breaker for me.  Sadly, I’ve almost come to expect it from the thicker cards.  I check it out every few days, but right now a lot of the Hamiltons are overpriced.  Kind of like a lot of other venues.