With their popularity at perhaps an all-time high, it’s becoming increasingly harder to find sports card packs or boxes on retail shelves. And, hobby shops that sell online now jack up new product prices because the demand allows them to increase profits. In short, it’s tough out there for a collector nowadays.
If you’re trying to find sports card packs to rip open to pull the hot rookies or the ultra-limited chase cards, be wary of these potential pitfalls that range from outright scams to disadvantaged situations for the buyer.
Single Packs from Blaster Boxes
Manufacturers now commonly sell groups of sports card packs at the retail level in what are known as blaster boxes. These sealed boxes come with a set number of packs and usually guarantee that buyers will pull a set number of “hits” or insert/chase cards. Some unscrupulous sellers open these up, pull the good cards, and then sell the remainder to unaware collectors online who then have no chance to get the best cards from the blaster box.
Let’s look at an example: the 2020 Donruss football holiday blaster box. Each box came with a Rookie Sweater memorabilia card and a red-green Optic version of one rookie from the set. A shifty seller could open the box, easily find the pack with the Rookie Sweater card because that pack is thicker, and open packs until he hits the Optic rookie. He could then sell the rest of the packs with the two best cards gone from the box.
‘Hot Packs’ by Online Sellers
Online sellers have taken their cues from the manufacturers and have begun selling card lots that contain a guaranteed hit. But unlike the random assortment you’d get from a sports card pack from a manufacturer like Topps or Panini, the value contained in these online “hot packs” is at the sole discretion of the seller.
“No collector in their right mind would allow a LeBron James autographed card go in a hot pack if they’re selling them for $5 each and only have 10 available,” notes Gabe Weeden of Last Word on Sports. “Chances are these homemade hot packs hits are of bench warmers, lousy players who shouldn’t be playing and rookie prospects that were busts.”
Weeden notes that these hot packs are “ingenious ways for collectors to unload junk cards and no-name hits without a paper trail.”
To that end, a number of companies have repackaged sports card packs over the years, often combining them with single cards or lots of cards. Longtime collectors probably remember the Treat repacks you could find at nearly every Walmart in the 90s. Today, a common repack is what Fairfield offers at stores like Walgreens. While you stand a better chance of getting decent value for what you spend than with online-seller hot packs, these are still designed to part you from your money with no big chance of return. But, if your Walmart sports card pack shelves look like the one pictured above – as most of them do these days – I wouldn’t blame you for making the small investment just to have a pack or two to rip.