Hobby vs. Retail Packs and Boxes

So you’re new to collecting and are ready to start buying some product directly from the stores. Wonderful, welcome to the hobby. But before you go, do you understand the difference between hobby and retail packs or boxes? Sports Card Blog is here to help you.

Manufacturers bring out to separate types of boxes to broaden the spectrum of who and where they sell their products. Retail products are often sold at places like Wal-Mart, Target, Fred Meyer, or Winners (for you Canadians out there). These products usually cost less then hobby products and are good for collecting if you are on a low budget or you want to collect a brand’s set. Hobby products are almost exclusively sold at hobby shops and can get quite expensive depending on what you are buying. Yes, you will receive pretty much the same cards from both retail or hobby. The difference is the odds.

Hobby product odds are usually significantly better to pull something of value in your packs or box. Just take a look at the back of a pack of cards from a hobby box and then from a retail box and you can see the differences in what the odds are to pull something nice. On rare occasions, the odds are exactly the same. In this case, you may find the product cheaper at retail stores, so go for it! But the vast majority of the time, your odds are much better in hobby boxes to get a game used or autographed card as well as those harder to get inserts or rookies. However, one of the newer trends by the companies is to insert special “retail only” inserts to get you to buy retail boxes, so there are benefits to buying retail if you are looking for more then just set building or you are on a lower budget.

But Sports Card Blog, what should I buy?

Buy retail if:

  • You plan on just building base sets
  • Have a lower budget to spend on cards
  • Low priced gifts to fellow collectors
  • Better for little kids who are new to collecting
  • Want to open packs just for fun
  • You don’t have a hobby shop around and are too impatient to wait for online hobby shops to send to you (me!)

Buy hobby if:

  • You want to get better, more valuable hits more often
  • Have a higher budget to spend on cards
  • Want to build a full set (including autographs, game used, and inserts)
  • Want more variety. There are a ton more sets available as hobby only

I hope this helps any new collectors who come across this blog and want to know what is best for them.

Whether it be retail or hobby, may the mojo be with you.

Suggestions to Fix Expired Redemptions

Expired redemptions are a black mark on the hobby today. When you open a pack or a box of older cards you always fear the worst. You don’t fear a career minor leaguer, you don’t fear being shorted hits, and you don’t fear pulling a Gypsy Queen jewel relic (or something like it). You fear pulling an expired redemption, especially if it’s of a great player. I was watching some YouTube box breaks today and saw someone pull an expired Sidney Crosby autograph. How crappy does that guy feel?

Redemptions are in the product because the athlete had not signed the card (or sticker, jersey, etc.) and it was not back in the factory at the time of pack out. That leaves little printed stickers on cardboard telling you they owe you a card. Also on that card is an expiration date. Why? Some states apparently consider redemption cards “sweepstakes” and there must be a definite start date and end date.

First, why not make the end date 10 years from the start date? Extending the redemption end period would solve so many problems. Upper Deck has claimed close to 90% of redemptions are claimed within the two years. How about making it 99% and extending the redemption dates? Especially for those players that take forever to sign. I’m talking to you Vince Carter and Monta Ellis.

Speaking of players taking forever or not signing, why not add in a little something to the contract? If you do not autograph these items by xx/xx/xx your contract for this product is void and you are not getting your money. Hit them where it hurts. I know you want to get checklists out and promos out ahead of time but which is worse? A late checklist or angry customers because they never get their redemption? It should be focused on customers first.

But what is done with the cards once the redemption has ended? Some companies use those cards as replacements to other redemptions that people have sent in. Others are known to destroy those cards. Why in the world would you destroy them? Why not just use some of the older redemption cards as replacements for an expired redemption? How about a box of cards from the latest product for those higher end redemptions? What about another sport? I’m just tire kicking here but there has to be something the company can do.

You want to “bring back the card shop” then do something to help make their boxes worth something if they have extra product laying around. Prices of boxes with expired redemptions are dropping and the “hobby shops” you all adore are having to take losses because of these redemptions. They will continue that trend for as long as redemptions are in products and expire after two years. How much will you be able to get Panini Limited hockey for after their redemptions expire? (In case you don’t get the reference, some Limited boxes have had as many as 3 redemptions inside.)

No Purchase Necessary (NPN)

Do you love the gamble of opening packs or boxes of product? So do I. Well the fact is that it pretty much is a gamble when you buy a pack of cards as you are hoping to pull something big. The odds are stacked against you to pull an insert, game used, autograph, etc. Well because the odds are stacked against you, companies had to create the option of getting one of those cards for free or else they would have to limit the people who could buy packs. If they had to limit the people then obviously the customer base would get smaller and since it would then be considered gambling, it would have to be heavily taxed.

No Purchase Necessary (NPN) is found on the back of all your packs of cards that you open. Right after it gives you the odds of what you can pull, the NPN information is located. Usually it requires you to send an index card with your name, address, and telephone number to an address. Upper Deck’s NPN is slightly different, and in my opinion better. They have you go to the Upper Deck NPN website. I likeĀ  their NPN system better because you don’t have to go through the effort of filling out an index card, putting it in an envelope, and then paying for a stamp. Using the online system you never have to worry about the postal service getting your mail there. I’d love it if every company adopted that system.

Plus if you’re Canadian and terrible at math, you don’t have to answer the always funny “skill testings” question. In case you Canadians are wondering, the reasoning behind the question is basically that Canadian law does not ban gambling if it is a “skill” game instead of just plain gambling odds. So if you Canadians are good at math, that is considered a “skill”. I always thought the best Canadian skill was people with good manners and creating poutine (just kidding, I love you neighbors to the north). The sad thing is, I don’t think you have to actually get the answer right.

I’ve probably entered 10 NPN sweepstakes in my sports card collecting career, accumulating one winning prize. A 2009 O-Pee-Chee Premier Alex Tanguay autograph #/50. I am mainly an autograph collector so I was stoked when that prize came in from Upper Deck. I know it’s not a high value card, but a free card? Can’t beat that.

Purchasing from Online Retailers

If you don’t have a decent hobby shop near you or you have a shop that has outrageous prices, the best thing for you to do to get your card fix is to purchase cards online. That is something I have to do on a constant basis when I want to open some packs that aren’t retail. Sure I could go to Fred Meyer, Target, or Wal-Mart and find some retail, but we all know the best bang for your buck comes in the form of hobby boxes. In the future I’ll discuss the difference between hobby and retail but right now I want to go over the best places to get hobby boxes/packs.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what product you are interested in. What sport are you interested in? Are you into rookies or do you want to try and hit that legendary player’s autograph? Each product that comes out is usually a little different then the next so figuring out what you like/want and your price range is the best place to start.

After that, you need to find out the best retailers online for sports cards. That is the hardest part of the equation. You see, there are many trusted retailers out there in the worldwide marketplace, but there are also several dealers that you don’t want to trust. For me, I won’t be buying boxes from anyone off of eBay who doesn’t have a reputable dealer site. I feel that if I don’t buy from a reputable dealer, I may be getting ripped off. There have been instances of people resealing boxes and packs to try and get all the good cards for themselves. As a matter of fact, someone was arrested recently for doing such things. I don’t want to run the risk. You also don’t know if it came from a sealed case or not. The reasoning you want a box from a sealed case is that everyone has equal chance on getting good cards that only fall once per case of cards. Some eBay or non reputable dealers will open a product and pull the case hit, then sell the rest of the boxes knowing there isn’t a better card in there to recoup some money.

Reputable dealers are the most important thing when buying online to get your money’s worth. Now I’m not being paid or getting anything special for mentioning these companies, I just want you to know the reputable companies. Now if they want to send me something as a thank you, you can find my email on here somewhere. Just kidding. I have two favorite places to buy from that are on my list of preferred dealers. The first is DACW.com or DA Card World. DA Card World has solid prices as well as you get free packs or boxes depending on how much money you spend. Occasionally they will also run promotions for free raffles if you buy a certain product. I like DACW because of those things. but also every box and pack is guaranteed to come from an unsearched box or case. If I get to upstate New York anytime soon I will contact them on getting a tour of their warehouse, but friends have had tours and can personally attest to that guarantee being accurate. My next favorite retailers is Blowout Cards. I like Blowout because most of their products are at the lowest prices on the web. What’s better then low, low prices? They are known throughout the hobby community as providing good customer service as well which I can personally attest to. For instance, I once bought a case of 2008 Heroes baseball from Blowout and found out that the week before it was on sale for $30 less. I emailed the company and was quickly given a $30 credit to use whenever I wanted. That’s good service.

Those are my top two favorites, but other hobby favorites that are very reputable are: CardsByTheBox, Cards Infinity, Atlanta Sports Cards, PGH Sports Wholesale, and DCS Sports Cards.

All these places are great places to start when looking for the best place to purchase your packs or boxes of cards. Check each of these out and look for some other places that you may be interested in.

In conclusion, stick with reputable online retailers if you are going to buy online. You never know what you are going to get if you just buy from a random person off of eBay or anywhere else online and when you are spending your hard earned money on a product, you want to get what you are paying for.

How I Would Run A Hobby Shop

Originally, I was going to write about another product preview but I decided to change my mind. When I started this blog I wanted it to be a place to find any information you wanted on products as well as tips and tricks for collectors. I decided to change it up because two product previews in two days would get kind of….boring and repetitive. I don’t want to bore anybody away from the blog so this should open some eyes and get people thinking. This is going to be a long one, so bare with me.

With Upper Deck and Panini really trying to make brick and mortar stores come back instead of steadily washing away, I want to write about how I would run a card shop. I believe that some of these shops are going down because of their owners and the way they run things. There is a brand new era of card shops and this will be about how to create a great shop or optimize your already existing shop so you can improve business. I by no means am an expert in the inner workings of business but I do know what I want to see as a consumer.

Let’s start with location. Location has always been considered very important, but with proper advertising you can afford to grab a cheaper area. If you want a prime spot, obviously you want a place with heavy traffic either by foot or by car. A big sign that will grab eyes is always important as well. I’ve seen shops with barely visible signs and they wonder why no one knows they are there. I also think with proper advertising you can go to a little less trafficked area. Why? Trading cards is a hobby. Most random people would not step into a hobby shop if they had no interest in any of the hobbies offered.

Proper advertising is key to getting people in your card shop. Just remember these three words and make them your mantra. Internet is king. Let’s say it together, “Internet is king”. This means you need to advertise the heck out of your shop online. Facebook, Twitter, CitySearch, hobby forums, everywhere you can think of you should be advertising your site. Yes, this takes work. But if you want to stay in business you will be doing it all. Start a website for your store. Not only will it be great advertising, you can sell items on your store site. The best part of this is you can expand your business and sell nationally. Increased sales means increased profits. Panini and Upper Deck even have benefits if you have a brick and mortar store and sell online. Why would you not do this? Start a site for your store and create an eBay store for your singles and watch your sales increase.

When using social media like Facebook, Twitter, or hobby forums the one thing I don’t understand is why shop owners don’t use YouTube to record and post box breaks or pack breaks in their stores. Chris from Cards Infinity has revolutionized this process. What he does is he takes orders off of his website and then he opens the product for you on camera and posts it on YouTube. He then sends you the contents. People who buy cards online usually don’t want to wait to see what they get, so this is the perfect impulse buy if you know you can see what is in your box immediately. I would also use YouTube to hold group breaks for anyone on the internet who wants to buy into a case. A great example of this is the people at CloutsnChara. Every couple days they hold a chat session and people buy into a group break of either a case of product or a mixed box break and open it live on camera. They move a TON of product this way. When SP Authentic hockey came out, they moved 5 cases of the product in 2 days. 5 cases. How many hobby stores can move 5 cases of any product in two days? All of this could even just be posted on your store’s Facebook and when you promote that, everyone will want to see what is next.

In store is obviously one of the more important parts as you could probably do all of the above just running a store out of your house. Those were ideas that will optimize your business by selling nationally. But in store promotions is where you can get people coming back. My best in store experience was at Wayne’s Sports Cards in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have never seen a store run so well in my career collecting cards and I’ve visited probably 50 shops. They have a huge store with products, supplies, and memorabilia but could easily get by with just products and supplies. I had a nice chat with the owners and learned quite a bit from them how they keep people coming back. Honesty, competitive prices, and treating your customers like they deserve to be treated. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t have a business. The ways they do this is provide promotions, freebies, giveaways, raffles, everything you can think of just for buying something in the store. I bought a couple boxes and automatically was entered in two raffles for free swag and product. While chatting with them they even gave me free promotional cards that were only available 2 weeks earlier that they had laying around. That is how you get someone to keep coming back. I have only been to that store twice, but the only reason why is that I live 1700 miles away from there. I even still keep track of their Facebook because I respect that business so much. I know next time I am in the area I will have my choice of about 4 card shops. Wayne’s is now the only place I will go.

If I could add anything to that store (which they may even do, I’ve only been there a couple times) to promote the shop and get people in the doors is just standard promotional nights. They could hold a group break of a case of new product just released. They could hold a night of Pack Wars. All you need to add is to provide some snacks and drinks and watch products fly off the shelves. You could keep your best customers happy by starting a rewards program. Hell, if someone was sick and called in an order to deliver a box for an extra small fee I would do that too. Just keep people in the store and interested in the products and people will buy things. One of their loyal customers I met there I swear is there daily. There is a reason he keeps coming back to just that one store and that is because he is treated well by the store.

Keeping your local customers happy and expanding your business online to cater to the customer are the two most important things if you own a hobby shop. If you use all of these tips on making your current store better, I guarantee that you will see increased sales. A little promoting of your new promotions and pretty soon you’ll start getting a name for yourself and word of mouth alone will get you new customers. Do you know how Wayne’s got my business? I went to Sports Card Forum and asked the members there where the best store in Edmonton was to buy sports cards. I believe I had about 15-20 answers. Whatever that number was, 100% of them told me to go to Wayne’s. They told me about the 3 other options as well but they told me not to even bother going anywhere else. Isn’t that proof enough that your business is successful?

If I had the money to open up a shop, this is how I would run it and I guarantee you I would be making more money in the first year then any other shop not using these techniques. I just wish the shops around me in Portland, Oregon would do anything similar to this. Sadly, I haven’t found one. If you own a hobby shop in Portland and want to move it to the next level, contact me and we can work something out.