I got my hands on a hobby box of In The Game's latest edition to the already stellar releases that have come out this year. Enshrined hit the streets April 29th and has been buzzing ever since. The concept is an entire set made up of players "enshrined" in the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Great idea! I don't know why I didn't think of it first. "Not another Retro set..." you say? You are right. It isn't. Instead, it features portraits of the some of the greatest players to ever lace up skates. The checklist in and of itself would be a reason to try and pick this one up. Check it out if you don't believe me.
I took the plunge and dove into the first real "high end" product that I have picked up in about three years. The last time was when I split a case of The Cup with a couple other collectors. That's the reason I haven't ventured down this path for quite a while. I was burned on my boxes and I have never fully psychologically recovered from it. But this is an In The Game product. There is no way I can get burned here. Especially with a checklist like that.
What's in a hobby box, you ask? There are 5 packs in a box, 6 cards per pack. You will get a total of 25 base cards and they are all numbered out of 175. Based on the print run, you can do the math and figure that there are only 7000 boxes of this stuff. In fact, they are all hand numbered to 7000 on the bottoms of the boxes. That also means that they were all hand collated as well. The 6th card in the pack can be one of quite a few insert sets that will feature either an autograph or some type of memorabilia. The autos are all hard-signed and the memorabilia is all game used, with serial numbering out of 9 or less. There are also Cut Signature cards scattered throughout the release.
(Yeah, that's a Dave Roberts Collector's Choice card and part of a Brian Campbell Ultra card in the background. So what.)
The boxes are all plain brown cardboard shipping boxes with the ITG label on the side and ITG tape across the top. Inside, the packs are all individually wrapped in plastic and sleeved in a cardboard casing. The packs themselves have a hinged lid and the cards are encased in a foam/plastic holder designed to snugly fit around the small stack of cardboard gold.
(The reflective black packs are almost hypnotizing.)
I couldn't wait till I got home to open these so I busted them right in the LCS. At that point it was closing time but the few stragglers that were left were in no hurry to leave without seeing what potential wonders would emerge from this box. The pictures you see, I admit, are staged for effect. I'm just trying to build the excitement level.
Here you can kind of see what the box looks like. My stupid camera always picks up the glare. The box is glossy black with silver embossed lettering for the Enshrined title and ITG logo.
You can't see it too well here but inside, each box contains a checklist that features all the base card players. If you haven't checked the list I posted above, do that now. The players on here are listed in alphabetical order by first name, which is weird. It features the likes of Ace Bailey all the way to Yvan Cournoyer.
And now for the good stuff. Let's see what was inside. First the base cards...
As a set collector, I am always interested in base cards. That's another reason "high end" boxes generally are a no-no for me. The odds of putting together a base set are usually slim to none on releases like this. Since this years set has every base card numbered out of 175, it will be even harder. But I'm going to try anyway. If you haven't seen the previews out there yet, here is what they look like.
Newsy Lalonde - Enshrined 1950; As you can see, the front of the cards are in color and feature a portrait of the player in question. They are high gloss and printed on a heavy stock, about the thickness of a standard "slug" you would get in a pack.
Raymond Bourque - Enshrined 2004; The scans here don't really do justice to how nice these cards really are. I wish there was a better way to show them off. The backs of the cards feature something a little strange in terms of newer set releases...STATS!! It's an amazing thing when you put a players career in a snapshot on the back of a piece of cardboard. It brings a whole other dimension...take a note Panini. As I already said a few times, these are numbered out of 175 and stamped on the back.
Bryan Trottier - Enshrined 1997; I only threw this one on here because I think the portrait is great. If I didn't mention it before, the base set is 200 cards. That means, for the mathmatically challenged, 8 boxes would be the minimum to complete the base set on your own. 8!! Retail value of that alone is about $4,200-$5,000 depending on where you live.
But I'm sure no one is here to look at base cards except me and a couple other people. As stated earlier, there are six cards, one of which is an autograph or memorabilia card with at least one being a guaranteed autograph. There are two types of autos inserted in the product. You will either pull an Enshrined autograph which features a hard signed auto of a player with a black and white sketch above, or, you will get a Cut Auto, which is the harder pull since they are numbered 1/1. There is one card for each member of the checklist. In my box, I pulled two regular autographs. This one...
Bernie Federko - Enshrined 2002
You will notice the card says "Silver Version" on the back. The silver version autographs are not individually numbered but the print run is only 49, as the "Gold Version" makes #50. There are a few in the checklist that are also only out of 48 which include Bob Pulford, Brad Park, Fern Flaman, Rod Gilbert, and Rod Langway. The second auto I pulled could quite possibly be the greatest card I have ever pulled out of any pack of cards, EVER! (at least since the last greatest card, ever)...Jackpot!!
Mario Lemieux - Enshrined 1997
This isn't my only Lemieux auto but I can honestly say it is the only one I have pulled from a pack, and the only one I have that is hard signed, and by far and away my favorite. If nothing else, when this beauty appeared, I felt vindicated for violating my "no high-end" clause. Again, silver version indicating it's one of 49.
Finally, the last three "hits" are the memorabilia cards. The insert sets that ITG put together are a very interesting mix of designs and feature not just sweater swatches, but equipment, uniform parts, and other interesting items. The sets include Complete Jersey, which features a piece of sweater, emblem, and number; Enshrined Lumber, which you can guess is the stick pieces; Stick Rack, which have the player name piece of the stick encased in the card; Mega Memorabilia, which features a full size swatch of emblem from a game sweater; Emblematic, which again features an emblem piece only smaller in size; By The Numbers, which has the players number cut out of the card with sweater swatches embedded into the card; Enshrined Nameplate, self explanatory, unless you don't know that the name plate is the name plate on the back of the sweater; Induction Year, which features the year they were inducted cut out of the card and sweater swatches embedded; and my personal favorite the Complete Package, which features four pieces of various equipment worn and used by the player featured. That's a bunch of inserts but keep in mind, none of them are numbered above 9 in the silver versions and the golds are all 1/1. And, with the exception of the 1/1's, they are all hand numbered.
Here is how I fared...
Induction Year: Aurel Joliet - Montreal Canadiens - Enshrined 1947; Although I always thought his name was spelled wrong, this one was pretty neat seeing come out of the box. Since many people probably don't know Joliat, he was in the second group of HOFers ever elected to the Hall. Though he was small (think Marin St. Louis, only shorter), he helped lead the Canadiens to 3 Stanley Cups back in his playing days and was regarded by many as one of the best in the game. When he retired, he was third in all time goals. The "47" you see here is made up of sweater swatches that actually are sweater. You can see the woven pieces of fabric, a far cry from the newer, manufactured jerseys.
By The Numbers - Jean Beliveau - Enshrined 1972; This card looks way better than the crappy scan here. Again, it's the silver version numbered out of 9 and features a piece of sweater cut in the shape of the Beliveau's number "4". As you can see by the little write up on the back, Beliveau wore different numbers early on in his career but donned the 4 for almost 18 years.
Finally, the other card that made this box...
Complete Package - Tim Horton - Gold Version 1/1!!!; Amazing card. The scan just doesn't do it justice. Here we have four pieces of memorabilia from Mr. Donut himself. There are Pants, a Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey swatch, a piece of skate, and part of his stick showing the letter "M", albeit upside down. It was funny when I pulled this because one of the guys asked me after looking at the card "how many of these did they make?" I almost swallowed my gum. This card moves into a spot on my all time greatest ITG memorabilia cards, ahead of the Gerry Cheevers blocker pad from last years BTP, ahead of the Gump Worsley & Noel Picard jersey/pads combo from 1972 TYIH, but right behind the bloodied piece of Guy Lafleur sweater from the same 1972 box (I don't know if it is blood but it sure looks like it to me).
So let's sum this up. On average, a box is going to cost you about $20 bucks/card unless you can get a really good deal somewhere. That's a high price to pay for so little in quantity. However, I think the quality of this product is unmatched. A base set going to be harder to put together than trying to build an O-Pee-Chee set without help, but it may pay dividends in the long run at only 175 total sets. The "hits" are really where this product makes it's money. There are already over 200 closed auctions for cards from this set and another 80+ for sale as we speak on the Bay. On average, the lesser known autos are going for between $15-25 while the bigger names are getting $75+. The Gold 1/1 versions of many of these are fetching upwards of a few hundred dollars. So it is possibly to make your money back off a box.
Regardless of whether you get into this one for business or pleasure, there is no denying that ITG brought it with this release and despite the hefty price tag, it gets my vote for product of the year so far. It's going to take a huge effort from the others to match what Dr. Brian Price and the ITG team have assembled.
(Despite my man-crush on ITG, I was in no way compensated by them to speak nicely on their behalf. I just appreciate quality products when I see them.)