Sunday, August 31, 2014

Product Review: 2014 Topps Chrome Baseball Hobby Box

If you’re a baseball card collector, this is the product your very familiar with. Topps Chrome has always been the standout amongst the giants for popularity and continues to be so with it's 2014 edition.

This year the product will have some slight changes the packaging offering the standard Hobby box as well as a Jumbo Box version. The difference between them is cost, 4 exclusive 1989 Chrome Inserts and 3 additional autographs in the Jumbo.

With Chrome everyone wants collect the Rainbow. Refractors have always been king in this product, X-Fractors, Blue, Black, Sepia, Gold, Red, Atomic, and Super Fractors are consistent in 2014. Along with Refractors, collectors will be hunting down very elusive Photo Variations of 25 players. These seem to be very hard to find with early box breaks, consider yourself very lucky if you pull one in your single box.

Over the last couple of years the inserts within Chrome have been increasingly getting better and more collectible. 2014 is no exception. All-Time Rookies takes those famous Rookies cards and putting them through the Chrome technology. 1989 Topps is another cool retro insert from Topps which puts today's stars in the 1989 design. Die-Cuts are back with the Chrome Connections insert. Topps Shelf is a new insert that looks like another hit in the design books for Topps.

Autographs are a big ticket item in Chrome with all of the hottest rookies from the season put into the product. 45 Rookies are included into the 2014 set, all come with the various Refractor Parallels and all are on-card autographs. These tend to be some of the most valuable Autographs of a players career which make everyone chasing them down. Other inserts have Autographs included among the variations but these are mainly veterans.

Lets see how we did on our Hobby Box:

Base Cards: 58
Base Card Rookies: 18
Refractors: 8 - Bautista, Darvish, Fielder, Samardzija, JR Murphy, Singleton, Headley, Carpenter
X-Refractors: 4 - Alvarez, Billy Hamilton, Ventura, Jansen
Black Refractor: 1 - Dean Anna /100
Topps Shelf: 1 - Adam Jones
1989 Topps Chrome: 2 - Trout, Pujols
Chrome Connections Die-Cuts: 2 - Tanaka (x2)
Rookie Autograph: 1 - Andrew Lambo
Rookie Refractor Autograph: 1 - Yangervis Solarte /499

The Base cards in Chrome always look more expensive and better looking than Series I, II, and Update. You really can't go wrong with any Chrome product in Topps line and collecting the set is always a fun thing to do. Some of the cards do have some flaws from production due to the Chrome technology process.
Refractors are my favorite pulls in the packs. We had a few nice ones come through in our box and regardless of player, Refractors are awesome!
The inserts we pulled are pretty cool. I like the Gypsy Queen/A&G look of the Topps Shelf cards. Very nice looking with the Chrome technology. Who knew the 1989 design would look so much better in Chrome? Well they do in this insert. We pulled both Angels stars which is nice. 
The strange part of this box was that I pulled two inserts of Tanaka Chrome Connections. This was strange to me and we haven't pulled two of the same insert in more than a decade. At first I wondered if they were different versions but no such luck. Nice Die-Cut card though.
The two Autographs we pulled were of Lambo (Standard Chrome) and Solarte (Refractor). Both on-card and both have decent autographs with Solarte's being the better of the two. We didn't pull a top notch rookie or even one that is playing everyday in the bigs, however things can change and both of them have a chance to make it. The Solarte autograph being a refractor will have some good secondary market value. 
Overall we continue to have a love of Chrome. This years product didn't disappoint, the checklist is great, the inserts are better and you can't go wrong with two rookie autographs in each box. You'll be in Refractor heaven with Chrome each year and this year could provide you with a hot rookie like Abreu or Tanaka. We might be buying a few more boxes to put together a set, however buying boxes to do it might take some extra coin that you may not want to part with. We would recommend this box to any Baseball or Chrome collector. Go out buy a box and have some fun!

Most cards/hits pulled in our breaks end up on our site storefront, or our COMC account ThePackGambler. If you are interested in any of the cards we have mentioned please send us an e-mail at

Gambler Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Cost: 5/5
Autographs: 4/5
Design: 5/5
Parallels: 5/5
Inserts: 5/5
Fun Aspect: 5/5

Monday, August 11, 2014

Product Review: 2013-14 UD SPX Hockey Hobby Box

One of the Hobby's most recognized products is back with the 2013-14 edition of SPX. Going back to the 1996-97 product, SPX has always brought the best Upper Deck technology through it's sets.

This years product is again a mid-high range for those collectors at around $100 per hobby box. Each hobby box comes with 12 packs with 4 cards per pack. In addition, each hobby box will receive 1 Bonus pack of UD ICE. These packs have 5 cards with 1 being a UD ICE Rookie numbered from /999 to as low as /99.

Newly added to this years edition are the 1996-97 Retro SPX Inserts. This 50 card set has 40 Veterans and Stars from the NHL along with 10 SP Rookies. The Rookies are hard to find coming in at 1:30 packs. UD brings back the Retro feel to the product which has had a decent secondary market thus far.

Expect to pull 4 hits from each box ranging from Autographs, Relics and Autographed Relics. Rookies are the theme of course this year and you will 1 Rookie Numbered Autograph Relic and 1 Rookie Relic card per box. The other 2 hits will come in a variety of ways as either a Rookie Foil Autograph, Trilogy Rookie Update Autographs, Retro Rookie Autograph, Dual or Triple Relics, or UD Buyback Autographs. Another hit to watch for are the very collectible Shadow Box inserts. These run at 1:144 packs and are considered to be a hit if pulled.

Lots of UD fun to be had, here's how we did with our box;

Base cards: 39 (0 doubles)
Foil Rookies: 5 - Brodin, Pickard, Reinhart, Bellemore, Zadorov
Foil Rookies SP: 1 - Boone Jenner
Rookie Autograph Relic: 1 -Mikael Granlund /499
SPX Retro: 1 - Theoren Fleury
SPX Retro Rookie SP: 1 - Seth Jones
Rookie Materials: 1 - Beau Bennett
Winning Materials Triple Trios: 1 - Fleury, Malkin, Letang
UD ICE: 4 - Giroux, Benn, Staal, Ladd
UD ICE Rookie Level 3: 1 - Mark Pysyk /499
UD ICE Buyback Autograph Update: 1 - Mike Richards

The base cards this year are again nice and have the great techno feel and look of past SPX releases. The foil rookies are ok but seem very basic and have the white line running through the middle with a white on white ROOKIES lettering through it. Not a great look on these cards. Even though you can pull a SP in each box they might deter the average collector on the secondary market. 
The best part of SPX this year is the Retro insert set. You'll find two per box and they are a little thinner than the original series but are just as nice. very happy with our Seth Jones rookie Retro pull, they are one in every 30 packs so this was a bonus so far in this box.
Next up is the Rookie Relic and Autograph Relic. First to the Rookie Relic, not sure if UD was savings pieces of the jersey for a future release but these have to be the smallest pieces of a hockey relic I've seen. You have a card front with a lot of empty space when you do this. Would have been better to either have a dual jersey or a bigger piece of a jersey instead of this. The Dual relic autograph of Grunlund is a great use of space on a card. Not one of the top players to pull but a nice overall card. 
Next up are the 2 additional hits in the product. These could have been anything either Relic or Autographed from UD so we were really happy to pull both of these cards. Our Winning Materials card was a Triple Relic of Fleury, Malkin and Letang. This is one of the hardest cards to pull in the set with the ratio of 1:1442 packs. Too bad they aren't numbered but not complaining about a tough pull like this. Are our card was a Buyback 2009-10 ICE of Mike Richards. This is an On-card auto and was a little tough to understand if it was a buyback or retro card at first. There isn't a checklist to look for of what the full list of Buybacks are nr does it say Buyback on the card. In fact if I didn't know it came from this box I would have though it was from the original release. A suggestion would be to have a stamp like most companies about buybacks on the card. 
Lastly our Bonus ICE pack provided us 4 Base cards and one numbered Rookie of Mark Pysyk /499. I really like the ICE rookies and they always have solid secondary market value. If UD keeps the Bonus ICE packs in the SPX products they will continue to see them fly off the shelves at the hobby stores.

Overall I was a little disappointed in this years SPX. I've been a fan for years and love the base cards each year. The Rookie Foil through me this year though. If it wasn't for the Retro SPX or the four hits per box I might not have picked up the 2013-14 edition. The Winning Materials Triple and the Richards Buyback were the two best in the box by far which didn't make up for the box entirely but made it much better than it was. Hockey collectors will continue to buy this product due to the Bonus ICE packs or the rookie content. There is still a lot of potential in these boxes either from a set collector or ICE collector, but don't look to make those tough pulls on each box. We were lucky on this one.

Most cards/hits pulled in our breaks end up on our site storefront, or our COMC account ThePackGambler. If you are interested in any of the cards we have mentioned please send us an e-mail at

Gambler Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Cost: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Autographs: 4/5
Relics: 4/5
Inserts: 4/5
Fun Aspect: 4/5

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Product Review: 2014 Tristar Hidden Treasures Game Changers Baseball

Every year I love hearing and seeing what Tristar has in store for us collectors. This year, one of the products that peaked my interest was Hidden Treasures Game Changers. Typically when you think of a series like this from Tristar you think of average players from the past or present filling up the boxes. This Hidden treasures product seems to be the same but with some slight variations to previous Hidden Treasures.
The 2014 product will have only 2400 balls which will be sorted into 200 total cases. Each case of 12 will include 1 Autograph ball from a 2014 Hall of Fame Inductee, 2 autographed balls of Hall of Fame members, 1 autographed ball of a current Game Changer, and 1 Double Play Ticket to redeem an additional autographed ball.

Some of the players listed in the checklist include Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Derek Jeter, Mike Trout, Cal Ripken Jr, and the list goes on. The Grand treasure in the product is a Babe Ruth autographed baseball.

Being a baseball fan and lover of autographed baseballs I decided to take a chance on three boxes, lets see how I did:

Box #1: Mookie Wilson (Inscribed "Mets HOF 1996")

Box #2: Jose Canseco (Inscribed "88 MVP")

Box #3: Tim McCarver

Lets start with the packaging. The product looks like it's in a gold bar. The formation is pretty good and still stack-able for those that buy and wait to open. Each box has it's own serial number out of 2400 printed on a Tristar authenticated sticker. I've seen a lot of breakers open the box totally wrong. There are sealed stickers on the bottom of both sides you need to slice through first before sliding the middle piece. The ball is located in the middle in it's own compartment. Tristar still puts the balls into a clear sandwich type baggie which I wish they would stop doing. Each ball comes with it's own Game Changer Facts card describing the feats of the player.
Breaking down each ball I was happy with the pulls. The Mookie Wilson ball is cool being a Mets fan and also that he inscribed "METS HOF" on it. He is under the Game Charger title due to the famous hit that is still rolling through Buckner's legs.

Canseco was my favorite player growing up so this was a major score for me. I still collect items of him for my PC and the one item I was missing was a autographed ball. This ball was also inscribed so double bonus.

Tim McCarver was a puzzle at first to me as being in this product but then reading the card with it understood. McCarver was elected into the broadcasters wing of the Hall of Fame in 2012. Not sure if Tristar pegged him as one of those "Hall of Fame members" or a Game Changer for being a recognized broadcaster. Only if we opened a case with him in it would we know.
Each of the baseballs have a serial number on a Tristar holographic sticker. This number you can use to go into the Tristar database and find out more info on your product. You can also print them off for additional proof of authenticity for your collection. Almost all of the ones I have done in the past provide a place and date of the signed product on the certificate. Another thing about the baseballs is that they are all new Bud Selig baseballs. I'm sure the older deceased player autographed baseballs are either Bobby Brown or older but can't confirm at this time.
Overall from a collector I did well. I pulled my childhood favorite player, a Mets HOFer and McCarver was a decent pull. I saw players like Dontrelle Willis, Aoki Norichika, and Don Schwall on the checklist to name a few that I really hoped to not pull. Avoiding those names out of 2400 baseballs is a pretty good feat. Autographed baseballs are a great collectible item for your own PC or as a gift. Of course the complaints of storing them will never change but having an item like this that the player held in their hand while signing is a pretty cool thing.  If your looking to buy into this product have a look at the checklist first. This particular product is a gamble with the checklist, but if your a baseball fan it's worth it.

Most cards/hits pulled in our breaks end up on our site storefront, or our COMC account ThePackGambler. If you are interested in any of the cards we have mentioned please send us an e-mail at

Gambler Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Cost: 5/5
Autographs: 4/5
Overall Players Used: 3.5/5
Design: 4/5
Concept: 4/5
Fun Aspect: 5/5