Buying Options: The Great Debate

Ok, you’ve made the decision that you’re going to start (or restart) collecting cards and you’ve read up on what the various types of cards are, but now what? How do you know what’s best or where to start with your collecting experience? There are a lot of different opinions on what’s the best bang for your buck, but we’re going to spend some time trying to break down the options and offer some insights, which will allow you to make up your mind as to what fits you best at this time.

Again, if you’re a collector that was around in the 90s or before and are just getting started back up, the hobby has changed in a number of ways so this (and our next post) could be a helpful resource for you as well.

Retail Packs and Boxes

In the world of retail buying, there’s a wide variety of options. Some swear by retail while others avoid it like the plague. Here, we’re just going to present the options and allow you to choose which option suits you best.

Retail Packs

A retail pack of cards is exactly as its name describes – a pack of cards that you can find at any number of major retail stores (Target and Walmart seem to be common places). These retails packs will primarily be filled with base cards and a rookie, but offer a chance at parallels and hits at a relatively low price, usually between $2 and $5 per pack.

Note: Some are skeptical about getting these packs due to “pack-searchers” that will feel out the packs before buying.

Jumbo Retail Packs/Hangers

These are both a step up from the standard retail packs in both quality and price. Jumbo packs can range from $5 to $10, while the hangers are pretty standard at $9.99. They’ll come with more cards – primarily base and rookies still – and will generally offer some exclusive cards to that type of pack. Some of these hangers even guarantee hits, which is one way to go for a big hit without shelling out tons of money.

Blasters

As we continue to move up the retail chain, we come to blasters that go for $19.99 – $29.99. They’re essentially a cheap version of the hobby box, which I’ll explain in more detail later. Blasters usually have about 7-10 packs, offer exclusive blaster parallels, and most will guarantee a hit. Keep in mind, the blaster is a cheaper version of a hobby box, so the hit that you receive is much more likely to be a memorabilia card than an autograph. That said, for $19.99, you get the joy of opening a number of packs, get some exclusive parallels, and a shot at pulling a big-time hit. This is a great option for someone getting into the hobby and looking to build a collection and isn’t solely looking for hits.

Repack Boxes

These retail boxes are made up of a variety of packs and are repackaged by a third party. The packs are wide ranging in brand and also have different years. Many of these boxes will guarantee an autograph and some will also include a hobby pack or two as well. This can be a fun way to experiment with different types of cards. In my first experience with a repack box, I ended up with three autographs in a $19.99 box!

Retail Mega Boxes

The retail mega box is the most comparable item to the hobby box that retail has to offer. While the blaster option offers a shot at a memorabilia or autographed card, the mega boxes guarantee an autograph. Not only do they guarantee an autograph, but the quality of the autographed card is similar to the hobby box than to the typically low-end autographs found in the blaster boxes. For $39.99, this retail option is a strong alternative to the hobby box.

Complete Sets

The final option that we’re going to look at in the retail world is the complete set boxes. These are generally priced at $49.99 and offer the complete base set of whatever brand you are buying. Many of them offer some exclusive bonus cards to catch the attention of those that are wanting a shot at a hit when paying that much money. While it seems that hits have become the focus of the card hobby, many collectors still enjoy getting complete sets. From an investment standpoint, this seems to be similar to a bond in the sense that it will likely increase over time but won’t offer huge returns.

Hobby Packs and Boxes

So the other side of the great card debate are hobby packs and boxes. These are found at your local card shop or can be found in online stores as well. The quality of these packs and boxes is typically higher, but the price is too. You’ll have to decide which fits you best.

Hobby Packs

Simply put, a hobby pack is a single pack taken from a hobby box. The cost of these packs largely depends on the type of card that you are looking into. For comparison’s sake, if you were to look at a hobby and retail pack of the same type of card, your hobby pack would be more expensive due to the increased odds of pulling a nice hit.

Hobby Boxes

The hobby box is the golden goose of the card collecting world. They generally contain some base, inserts, parallels, and at least one hit. Some will contain many cards and have a few hits, while some of the high-end products will only offer a single hit card in the hobby box. In regards to the hits that you’ll find in your hobby box, you’re more likely to find a well-known player in these than the lower-end players that you find in retail. Again, this isn’t to say that you’ll always hit big in hobby and low in retail, but the probability leans that direction. From my experience, hobby boxes are pretty reliable and will live up to the price that you pay for them.

Jumbo Hobby Boxes

The jumbo hobby box takes the normal hobby box up a notch. For example, if a standard hobby box has 1 or 2 autographs, you can expect the jumbo to have a few extra. As you would expect, you pay more for these jumbo boxes do to the additional hits.

Discussion: Do you prefer buying hobby or retail?


We know that there are many elements to the card hobby. Whether you’re just starting out or have been doing it for years, we’ll do our best to help you better understand the ins and outs of collecting. If you’d like to receive our updates, we’d be happy to have you join us on this journey!

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