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Remember the days when you went into your local sports card store and you dished out your weekly allowance to buy a pack or two or three, hoping to get that big hit?
For me, it was Todd Van Poppel, the Oakland Athletics top prospect in the early ’90s. I would see it in the display case at the store worth five whole dollars! But the packs cost less than that and the rush of opening a fresh pack with eight to 10 cards in it was a lot more fun than dishing out $5 for a single card.
Inevitably, that big hit wasn’t there in the first pack, so you end up buying a couple more, and ultimately you end up going home with a bunch of commons. Still, it was a fun experience.
What came next was the fun in organizing all my cards as I collected more and more and tried to build a complete set. That was part of the fun of collecting.
Man, how times have changed in the hobby world. With so many subsets, insert cards, variations, refractors, it’s virtually impossible to complete a set unless you spend a pretty penny.
The only time I’d recommend buying packs today is if you had a few dollars to burn and for nostalgic reasons, you want to tear into one or two just for kicks. The chances of getting so-called hits, whether it’s a autographed card or relic insert, are slim.
Let’s face it. The average age of a collector these days is a lot older than it was a few decades ago. Kids aren’t collecting as they used to (unless it’s of the Magic, Yu-gi-Oh, or Pokemon variety).
If that’s you – the older guy with more disposable income – do yourself a favor and buy a box. Guarantee yourself that one hit or two, which most sports card companies advertise right on the box. The bonus is that you get to open all the packs and pay a little less than you would have buying one pack at a time.
I know it’s tempting but don’t go for the single packs at the Walmarts and Targets either unless it’s for the reason I stated three paragraphs earlier. There are stories of unscrupulous collectors who buy the packs that weigh just a little more than the others (yes, I hear they bring their own scale) indicating a higher probability the hit will be in there.
Now some sports card companies have become wise to these dirty tactics by inserting blank cards of thicker stock. But I’d rather avoid the hassle and buy the sealed box instead.
Depending on your budget, you can buy different size boxes including your typical hobby box (that sports card stores which are still around will typically open and sell those packs individually), the more expensive jumbo box (that includes oversized pack of cards sometimes with additional special inserts), or the cheaper blaster box (contains a few packs in a smaller box often sold in department stores).
Just one more thing to note: Even when you purchase boxes, the hits you do get won’t be worth more than what you paid for the box. Those cheap relics or autographed cards of mediocre journeyman players are often worth just a fraction of the whole box.
But it is part of the fun to buy a box in hopes of hitting the lottery and getting that Kris Bryant autographed rookie card. If you’re risk averse though, the better bet is to forego buying a pack or box all together, and instead purchase the exact card you want on popular sites like eBay and COMC for whatever the market price is at the time.
There are things you need to watch out for, however, when buying online, but we’ll get into that in another article.