There was a time when you would just buy a pack of baseball cards and hope you got a good player. Today, when you want to purchase cards, you have to make several important decisions before starting. Looking at what is available, you may be asking yourself questions like, “what on earth is a hangar box?” Well, aren’t you lucky you found the article to answer all of your questions?
You will not be able to buy or even keep up with everything, so choosing what to focus on is an essential first step. The first significant decision you will make is whether to buy retail or hobby formats. Generally speaking, card shops sell hobby formats. Meanwhile, retail boxes and packs are the ones you see at large general retail stores such as Target and Walmart.
Keep in mind that retail packs are often sold individually. Unscrupulous pack searchers sometimes take advantage of this to search or weigh each pack. By doing so, they can often identify more valuable cards by either seeing through the pack, or locating the higher value cards based on their weight. Be aware of this possibility when buying loose packs at retail outlets, or on the secondary market.
Hobby boxes typically have a higher proportion of rare cards such as silvers, numbered cards, autographs, and memorabilia items. Some exclusive parallels are only available in hobby boxes. Also, some prestigous releases do not have a retail equivalent, such as the Topps Transcendent Collection or Panini National Treasures.
Overall, retail and hobby boxes of a product contain similar cards but the odds of hitting a rare card in a retail box are smaller. Retail cards have a more significant proportion of base cards and fewer parallels.
What makes retail products so desireable is that they are actually available for for Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price at retail outlets, whereas hobby boxes for popular releases simply cannot be had for MSRP. For instance, MSRP for 2020 NFL Optic Hobby Boxes is $100, but even directly on Panini’s website they were $800 and selling out in short order. Meanwhile, blaster boxes of 2020 Optic Football with an MSRP of $20, actually sell for $20 at Walmart and Target if you are lucky enough to find them.
The 2020 Optic Football release is the norm, not an exception. This dynamic is why people around the country are reporting that it is challenging to locate and purchase retail boxes at major licensed retailers. If you look at the various collector forums, pictures of empty shelves and expressions of frustration abound. While Target and some other retailers have limited the number of items individuals can purchase, the shelves will largely remain empty as long as retail products continue to be available at a relative discount to hobby products.
Retail cards are enormous right now, so as a collector it’s important to be well versed in the various formats and terminology.
Blasters are generally considered the baseline retail release.
Companies call these cello packs because they package the cards using a transparent material, which is quite similar to cellophane.
A fat pack is a single packs typically with a hole in the top fitted onto a peg.
Gravity feed boxes open from the bottom. Therefore, each time you take one out, gravity forces the one above it to come down.
Hanger boxes are rectangular boxes intended to hang on a hook at retail.
Mega boxes are most similar to the hobby box counterparts because they contain more cards and typically offer better guaranteed parallels.
Retailers have different pricing, policies, and products so it can make a difference, but not a big one.
Some of the best cards you can find in retail boxes may not have immediately apparent value. Very often, their popularity only becomes apparent over time. A great example of that is the beautiful Topps Baseball Target Red parallels of the early to mid-2010s.
However, there is some concern that the tremendous amount of retail flipping we see right now will devalue many retail sets. After all, the rules of supply and demand will come into play at some point. But as of now, the popularity of retail formats is incredibly high. Ask anyone working at Target.