The Card Collectors Beginners Guide Part 7: Buying Options by Matt Gilman

Written by Matt Gilman

Greetings Fellow Collectors!

card collectingWelcome back to my series of Collecting Basics where I break down the hobby of card collecting and trading cards piece by piece.


In Part 1, we broke down what base/common cards are. Part 2 we got deep into the confusing Sp’s and variations. Part 3 I dove into what parallels are. Part 4 I showed off inserts. Part 5 we looked at autographs and the different varieties of them and in Part 6 we took a glance at memorabilia cards and their differences. I have tackled all of the inner parts of card collecting. But what I haven’t tackled yet is the outside part; where do we get these cards?

Storage Boxes for PSA Graded Trading Cards

PSA Graded Card Storage Box. 3-3/4 x 12-1/2 x 5-1/2″ (inside). Holds 25 PSA Graded Card Slabs. These boxes are made from high-quality paperboard that is wrapped in white paper outside. Boxes feature an interior rail system that the slabs slip perfectly into. The system keeps slabs separated and firmly in place.

Today I will take a look at buying options on the market in terms of card packs and boxes. Sometimes understanding what to buy and where to buy it can be complicated. It wasn’t like when I was collecting as a kid and you only had a couple of options to choose from. Today, there are at least eleven, yes ELEVEN, different buying options for sports cards! Hopefully, my breakdown will help you to decide which buying option is best for you and your budget.
I must mention that most of these buying options are found for all sports and non-sports cards.
baseball and football cards
First up, you will see these simple looking packs only at your Dollar Tree which I call Dollar Tree Packs. These packs only cost $1 per pack but you get what you pay for. In these packs are usually only base/common cards. I would say these packs are intended for collecting beginners and those who like to set-collect. So, if you’re out to hit it big for $1, I am just warning you ahead of time what to expect.

prestige retail pack card collecting
Up next is a retail pack. Retail Packs are found in places like Walmart, Rite-Aid, Target, and other retail chains. Above is a 2010-2011 Panini Prestige basketball retail pack. These packs will have base cards, but will also offer rookie cards, parallels and a rare chance at a hit. Retail pack prices can range from $2.99-$4.99 depending on which store you buy them from. You may also luck out and find some price mark-down packs too.

Now let’s talk about hobby packs. These packs are usually found at your local card shop or at an online retailer such as Dave & Adam’s Card World. These are packs found in Hobby Boxes (we will discuss those in a few paragraphs) but are pulled out of them and sold separately. These packs are marked with an “H” at the top and can run from $3.99 to $100 depending on what products you choose. Most collectors choose the cheaper options on the hobby packs which run $3.99 to $25. The hobby pack I used above of 2018 Topps Heritage baseball is a great example of one of the cheaper ones.
In these packs you can find base, inserts, and parallels; you have a better chance at good hits since it was pulled from a hobby box. Some of these hobby packs may even have a guaranteed hit in them. That depends on the product and the sport.

retail jumbo pack card collecting
Retail Rack/Jumbo Packs are up next. These have been around forever but were made very differently in the 80’s. There is usually a separate top and bottom with a set amount of cards in both sections. They are the same as a retail pack in terms of what you can find and where you can find them, with the exception that jumbos will have more cards and some will have exclusive parallels. Above is a 2013 Topps Update baseball jumbo pack. They are offering 3 blue-bordered parallels that you can only find in these packs.
Most of the jumbo/hanger packs run in $5.99 range, but some of the “chromed” versions will be $9.99 each.
These types of packs can sometimes come with the big hits. I haven’t personally ever pulled anything big but have seen other collectors do so.

retail hanger pack card collecting
Retail Hanger Boxes. These boxes contain even more cards than standard and jumbo packs. This 2017 Donruss football above comes with 50 cards. Some brands and sports will have more than others. These boxes contain base cards but also rookies, inserts and parallels; sometimes hits, guaranteed hits and exclusive parallels that you can only get in these boxes. Some collectors have had great success with these, and others have the kind of luck I do with them.
These hanger boxes run $9.99 usually.

retail pack blaster box card collecting
Up next we take a look at another retail buying option, the Blaster Box. These are $19.99 a box and have roughly 7-10 packs in each. They also usually contain one guaranteed hit of either a jersey card, autograph or manufactured relic. Sometimes they even offer up some special parallels exclusive to boxes like this 2014 Topps Chrome Baseball. Some companies will even put in multiple hits for this price.
My opinion on these varies. When they offer a jersey card or autograph, I would say 95% of the time you are hitting a jersey card. Autographs are really tough to find in these. Some companies do offer the blaster boxes with a straight-up autograph or two guaranteed, but honestly, those are usually the “junk” autograph dump-offs or the ones that companies overproduce. However, if you are a beginning collector trying to build up your collection or a younger collector just starting out, pulling any kind of hit would be exciting. Sometimes I find that the manufactured relics are more fun than the usual hits found in these and that’s why, sometimes, I will buy a blaster box.

retail re-pack box card collecting

Next up is what’s called a Re-Pack Box. These boxes usually contain multiple older retail packs, occasionally a hobby pack, and sometimes a guaranteed hit such as a relic, like in the example I used. Most of these types of boxes range from $5 to $30. It all depends on what size of box you get, as they come in a variety of sizes and sports.

The new kid in the neighborhood when it comes to retail is a Collectors Box. These collector’s boxes are specific to only certain brands such as Topps Fire (in an example) or Bowman Platinum, and you won’t find them in other brand lines like Topps Chrome or Topps Finest. These are brands that are exclusive to only retail stores like Walmart and Target. The one in this example is 2017 Topps Fire baseball that you could ONLY find at Walmart. No other stores. There are different buying options for them, like the ones I have already spoken about, but the Collectors Boxes are retail hobby boxes in a way because they have guaranteed bigger hits. It’s a great option for those who don’t order cards online or have a local card shop to give them access to a “hobby-type” product (more on this shortly).
baseball complete set card collecting
Another collector favorite is buying Complete Sets, such as this 2016 Topps baseball one I show here. These complete sets are well, the ‘complete set’ of that featured product. These boxed sets make great gifts and come with their own exclusives as well. The one above features a 5-card pack of exclusive numbered parallels from the set and they normally feature these types of “hits.”
These sets usually range from $45-$60.

hobby box card collecting baseballLet’s take a look at a Hobby Box. If you are looking for the big hits, this is one option to go with. Hobby boxes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, packaging and amount of hits and cards per box. Some hobby boxes can come with one card per box that is a guaranteed hit, some may come with 300 cards in a box with a few hits. Once again, it all depends on what product you buy.

Retail vs Hobby is no competition. Retail hits are always on the lower end of the spectrum, with them being mostly made up of lower end players, manufactured relics and lots of relic/jersey card hits. Hobby hits on the other hand, they are the better players (most of the time), patches, autographs, Hall-of-Famers, tons of variety relics such as shoe swatches, hat swatches, glove swatches, etc. Hobby Boxes have the kind of hits you don’t expect in retail and rarely find there. In the end, you get what you pay for; it’s all about how much risk you want to take and what you are expecting from that risk. The only Retail worthy box that could come to comparison with a hobby is the Collectors Box in terms of the better hit cards. You can tell this also by doing a price comparison and seeing how the Collectors Box ranges in cost to the hobby as they are pretty similar.
You can usually find older hobby product at a much cheaper rate than newer releases. So, pricing for hobby boxes can range from $20 all the way up to thousands, which I find insane!
hobby jumbo box card collecting baseball
So now we finally take a look at a Hobby Jumbo Box. These are just like Hobby Boxes but really amped up, usually by upping the amount of hits you find per box. A good example of this is the 2017 Topps Chrome box featured above. The hobby box of 2017 Topps Chrome baseball usually comes with two autographed cards per box, while this Hobby Jumbo box above comes with 5 autographed cards.

With more hits, that usually means more money. Hobby Jumbo boxes average $150 or more normally unless you find one of an older product or on sale.

Now that we’ve taken a look at all of these buying options, what do I think are the best buys?

New Graded Trading Card Boxes

When it comes to retail cards, I would normally stick with Rack Packs, Blaster Boxes and marked down items. I always look for the products with the best value first. Anything Chrome or Prizm is a great buying option, especially if you can find some marked down.
When it comes to hobby cards, I go to online retailers and check out their clearance section or look for some amazing deals. I don’t buy new product immediately knowing that in a few months the price of that product will drop. I don’t usually bother with hobby packs as I haven’t had much luck with those.

Well, that does it for today’s Collecting Basics lesson. Next time I will dive into pricing and value on your card collection. I have seen so many collectors ask how to find values on their collection or individual cards and it’s a question I get often as well. We will break down into three parts, how you can put a value on your collection. Stay tuned for that one!
I hope something I wrote about today can help guide you in your journey of collecting sports cards.

Til next time, keep collecting!