I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  We as a group of collectors have a habit of breaking everything down into it’s essentials of hits and base cards.  In a typical box we might see one autograph, one game used, 2-3 serial numbered cards, and maybe 6-8 parallels.  I’ve been doing a lot of scouting on eBay when it comes to this and here is what I’ve deduced.

Manufacturers have placed a value of $10 per autograph and game used, and $5 per serial numbered / parallel card.  Seriously, take any box of product up to $100 and apply that formula, you will see it’s fairly close.  So the question now becomes, are those values accurate?  For the most part, they are not.  If you surf eBay as much as I do, you know that most game used can be bought for between $1-2 and even with shipping and handling the total should be around $5-7.  Autographs on average runs $2-3 and with shipping and handling it goes to about $7-9.

The serial cards are different.  eBay sellers place a $1 on average price tag on them.  I buy most in bulk and the shipping is cut down so if I buy 20, shipping is $5 so that about a $1 holds up.  So when we circle back to low end products (up to $100) we can clearly see that from the hits, we don’t make our money back.  Now the million dollar question, what about base?  An entire box of base cards can be had for about $10 for any low end product.  If you include shipping it costs about $16 0n average.  Let’s add it all up:

autograph – $8

game used – $6

parallel and serial – $7

base – $16

Total = $37

Box of 2011 Topps Football = $52 shipped

Answer = NOT A CHANCE (on average)

To me that is disconcerting, now of course the more you pay for a box (mid level and high level) the better your odds are of paying for the box with value.  It must be noted though, that even though the odds are better, the monetary loss is also bigger.  A $250 box such as Leaf’s Best of Baseball might only yield $100 in cards, but it also might have $500.  The higher end cards are definitely a gamble.  A gamble that 95% of us out there can’t afford.

In conclusion, I feel like it’s all a gamble.  Whether you purchase low end or high end you will always be gambling.  On average though there is no way “to make money off a box”.  It’s a lot like Las Vegas, except the manufacturers are the house and we all know you might beat the house a few times, but overall the house always wins, unfortunately it’s with our money.  Is there anything we can do about it?  Probably not, but at least you know.

What do you think?  How much do you expect to lose when you buy a box? blaster?


10 responses »

  1. Well articulated and sad but true. Your analogy about the mfg’s being the house is dead on.

  2. the sewingmachineguy says:

    I don’t look at it as; “will I get my monies worth”.
    I look at it like; “hopefully, I get some Lions or Tigers, and maybe get lucky with a big hit”
    I know going in, that I will most likely pull a patch card of Ryan Zimmerman, or an auto of Jack Cust, and feeling ripped-off about it is pointless.
    I pulled a 2008 Goudey Sport Royalty Tiger Woods auto a few years ago. My heart began to race as I knew I had a monster hit. A hit like that is always in the back of my mind, but I surely don’t count on it.

  3. dave h says:

    Great post, I have been wondering the same thing as of late (mainly because I need to budget my spending on hobby stuff a little more) and one factor that needs to be included is the fun of opening the boxes. Sure you can buy exactly what you want, but there are the surprise hits and fun time of opening up product.

    But fact is, more often than not you don’t get your money back.

  4. Paul says:

    I never bothered to do the math, but I realized I came out on the short end by buying boxes a while ago. Unless it hits deep clearance, I don’t bother any more – I just get the cards I want as singles.

  5. jj says:

    as soon as the odds went on a pack or box ie 1:2500 packs, it’s just like a scratch ticket odds ie 1:1.325 tickets win. But I got into a argument about this before is the hobby gambling. It all depends on who you talk to, if a case of cards cost 1500.00 and your car or housing payment is 300.00 to 800.00 a month, would you risk buying something, for little or no return. But if you collect for the fun, when does the fun end and the profit cross the mind. For me I’ll let someone else bust the product and I’ll reap the rewards with ebay Upper Deck Black made that decision for me.

  6. Tribecards says:

    I quit doing the math when I started collecting Indians cards, circa 1975. 🙂

  7. Corky says:

    Unless you pull the case hit or a seriously low serial numbered high profile superstar or rookie auto/patch/parallel you are going to be out of luck. I now buy 1-2 boxes a year and they are only products I plan on building a set with, I no longer buy product looking to pull a nice hit of a favorite player. So much stuff shows up for auction now and as you pointed out the prices are lower then they have ever been. It is easier to wait for someone else to waste their money on cases and boxes and let them toss up the hits you want at a couple of dollars apiece.

  8. Tom says:

    I always make a profit on every break i do. Including blasters. If you know where to sell certain type cards, and players you never will not break even.

  9. Paulie3jobs says:

    Buying a box is like buying a new car. Once you open it (or drive it off the lot), you’re done. It’s depreciated. Let the other guy buy it, take the hit, and pick up what you need. Me, I usually buy boxes a year or two after their release. 9 times out of 10, you will pay much less. The tenth time (for me at least) was usually SP Authentic Baseball. Most times that product went up after release, not down.

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