As a collector or even if you are beginning collector of sport cards (baseball, football, basketball, etc), there are different options when buying and collecting cards. If you are an experienced collector you already know about hobby vs. retail cards and boxes. If you are new to collecting cards, you will soon find there are many differences between the two. Of course many collectors are many times trying to find that gem, autograph, jersey, or limited edition cards. So lets examine the different types and what the benefits and downfalls to both. So lets take a look and examine both types. Whether you are an experienced collector or a novice, hopefully at the conclusion of this article, you will pick up some tips, secrets, and knowledge of the two types.
First we will look at what many collectors view at the most popular types of cards; Hobby! Many collectors consider “Hobby” card to be the best. For the novice, “Hobby” boxes or packs are sold at hobby stores (local card store, online hobby shops, etc). Several benefits to buying hobby as well as some downfalls. But for the benefits lets take a look:
Hobby boxes or packs will generally always contain much more sports memorabilia (i.e, jerseys, autographs,) as well as limited edition cards like refractors, low number card or limited edition cards. Many collectors also like hobby cards because many times, in fact, more likely than not, the box or pack will guarantee memorabilia like jersey or autograph cards, or limited edition cards.
Almost all major manufacturers of cards, have both hobby and retail. However, like mentioned previously, hobby cards are many times preferred because of their collectible value and guaranteed sports memorabilia included. However this comes with a price!
The biggest downfall of hobby over retail is price. For instance, it is not unreasonable to find a “box or tin” of cards that has just one, that’s right, just one pack of cards for $400.00. Now that pack may have 6 cards, with 5 of them all guaranteed to have major sports memorabilia, autographs, jerseys, both, and usually cards limited or serial numbered to very low numbers (in other words only a limited number produced). In addition to the price is the massive amount of sports memorabilia that is many times produced in hobby packs/boxes. As we know in any market, the more of something produced, in this case memorabilia (jerseys, autographs, etc) will many times lower the value of the product.
So in conclusion of hobby boxes and packs; yes you can and will find major memorabilia, in fact some of the rarest types of and most expensive pulls have been from hobby packs. I recall a Babe Ruth with a piece of jersey shirt, piece of jersey pants, and piece of game used bat and a cut autograph, and was numbered 1/1 that sold for $88,000 a few years ago. But this will come with a price and probably a large one at that.
Now lets look at retail. As the name implies, retail boxes and packs are sold in retail stores (big box retailers). First and foremost, the price is much cheaper, however, you will not get the same guarantees, same memorabilia, autographs, etc. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t find these items or a special gem card, just harder to find. So should you avoid retail? My answer is no!
Here are some examples of a few items I have picked up “retail”. First I found some boxes that were sealed and inside you received several packs of football cards (retail version) from different manufacturers. However in addition to these packs you were guaranteed to receive a BGS (Beckett Grading Services) graded card, who are one of top graders. I bought a few of these boxes for $9.95 each. Now to get a card graded at BGS you will spend around $30.00 (with grading, shipping, insurance) for one card! So I figured I would take my chance. The first box contained a BGS graded 9.0 mint Ted Ginn Jr. rookie card. Next box had a Joe Flacco rookie BGS 9 mint, and the final box had an Adrian Peterson rookie card BGS 9.5 Gem Mint! So I did pretty good for $30.00 total (what I would have spent on one card…). And these were BGS graded, not some fly by night grading company.
Also many times, retail boxes contain cards that can’t be found in hobby, like a special refractor only available in retail. For example, I was at one of the “big box retailers” and they were selling complete sets of Topps cards (like series 1 & 2) in a sealed box. However the different thing about some of these complete sets were that some of these sealed sets had a Mickey Mantle relic card containing a piece of a shirt or jersey. This card was located right on the front of the box in a special window. Now this particular set was made only for this particular big box retail store. The price was $49.95 and it came with both series sets (660 cards total I believe), however, in addition to the cards inside, the Mantle relic card had a book value of $39.00 for just that card. So I actually paid about $10.00 when you think about it. Of course I have always kept things like that sealed to preserve the integrity and value.