Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why I still buy random packs, part 2

I often find myself in the middle of never-ending debates concerning vintage vs. modern, or retail vs. online. Periodically, when I feature a modern set that may not be up to my standards, commenters will jump on my negative vibe and say something like, "thanks for reminding me why I don't waste my money on the garbage they're putting out today."


I wasn't really saying "this set has flaws, therefore burn all of your post-1994 cards." I was just saying "this set has flaws."

Or I'll feature a beloved vintage card of some sort and the response will be *crickets.* Not enough modern innovation for the mojo crowd, I guess.

The same goes for retail vs. online. Although I haven't really come across a ton of collectors advocating for retail, I do come across plenty advocating the online route. Their main clinching argument is: "and that's what I picked up for the price of a blaster."

It's a pretty good argument. I can't find any holes in that. I, too, have just about eliminated full-price blasters from my budget as anyone who has been reading here lately knows. There are more cost-effective ways to get the cards that you want.

But I don't want to eliminate retail pack purchases altogether ever.

Here's why:

It's called The Fun Aspect. I am in this hobby for the fun.

Now, everyone's definition of fun is different. You can talk about hunting for online buys as "fun," and I don't dispute that you consider it fun. But I don't. Shopping for cards online for me is almost work. Searching and comparing and calculating. Ugh. I hate shopping period, whether it's in person or over the intertubes. I am not one of those people who gets a high over landing a great deal. So the appeal is lost on me.

I see "fun" when I walk up to the card aisle and am rewarded with shelves and shelves of brightly colored packs and boxes, all of which I can pick up and examine (but not fondle!). I can also buy them and open them instantly. No waiting, unless you count the time you're standing in the checkout line.

Buying random packs also allows me to acquire cards that I can use for trade bait. It's a much preferable way for me to acquire trade bait then to actually hunt down cards of players I don't collect in hopes that I might be able to flip it for something I like. Although that way may be quite effective, that's too much work for me, and really undermines the whole "fun" aspect that is the key factor in this hobby for me.

Another fun element for me is NOT pinching pennies. This doesn't mean I go overboard and throw the family into debt. I have a card budget. It's very small and it doesn't prevent me from paying bills. But I refuse to beat myself up over buying a pack of Donruss Americana if the mood strikes me. Why did I blow $2.99 on that pack? Because I thought it might be fun. That's all. If it turns out it wasn't (and it wasn't), I'm not going to go into my ledger and scribble $2.99 off the budget and write in bright red letters, never do that again!!!!

Buying cards in this manner is not efficient. I'll admit that.

But I'm not in this hobby for "efficient."

I'm in it for "fun."

"Efficient" comes into play in other, more important aspects of my life, aspects that aren't necessarily fun, thereby causing me to use grown-up, adult words like "efficient."

I don't want to use grown-up adult words when I collect baseball cards. The card budget in the spreadsheet is there in the background to make sure I don't go overboard, but otherwise we don't communicate much. I set the budget, it says, "you go out and play," and I'm off.

There are times when money is tight and I need to hold back. I'll stop retail shopping during those times and go online more often -- if I even can afford to do that. But then in a couple of weeks, I'm back to picking up a few stray retail packs again.

And then there's this: you expect me to go to Target or Walmart and NOT stop by the card aisle? If I didn't buy any retail packs, a trip to Target or Walmart would be as dreary as a trip to any other store that I enter. If I'm at Target with my family and can't hit the card aisle, I might as well be in Fashion Bug. Target will never be my friend again.

Same deal with Walmart. In fact, I don't think you would ever be able to get me to Walmart again if it didn't have cards.

So retail-pack shopping often takes the edge off of what would be an extraordinarily mundane/aggravating store visit.

Online card shopping definitely has its positive points. There are loads of cards online that you'll never find in retail, which is almost 100 percent of the reason why I shop online. There are boxes of cards, which I rarely can afford, but they're there. And online shopping makes the mailbox a lot more pleasant part of the home decor.

But sometimes I don't want to sit around and wait for "fun." I want to go out and get "fun" myself.

So, here are some of the cards I got over the weekend while trying to make my hobby fun:

Yes, I really bought another pack of Topps Attax. But the only reason I did so is because I still needed the Dodger Stadium card. Guess what I pulled in the pack? Great fun.

This came out of the rack pack of Chrome. I'm really excited about what Dee Gordon can do in his first full season at shortstop in 2012.

When the orange refractors are paired up with the right team, there is almost no better card. When they are paired up with a company that uses orange as their primary color, as in Gulf Oil, it is an unbeatable card. Throw in a Hooters girl and I'd have to get this baby slabbed.

This card is too weird. But I know someone will take it off my hands.

I bought a single pack of Allen & Ginter. It contained TWO code parallels, two base set needs, a Hometown Heroes card, AND a Flora of the World card.

This is the second Flora of the World card I've pulled, both out of random packs. I believe these are one per hobby box? Someone really wants me to take up gardening.

Walmart has '08 Baseball Heroes blasters for 9 bucks. This is what I thought they should be selling for in 2008. So, now that the price came down to something reasonable, I bought it.

The box was beat to hell. I half expected to open it and all the cards would come pouring out minus the wrappers. That didn't happen. It was pretty much the same dull packs and dull cards I remembered. But emerald Robin saved the day.

I also grabbed a 5-dollar repack rack pack when we were at the drug store stocking up on paper supplies. I know these packs have a bunch of '87 Topps. They also have 1969 cards of Luis Tiant.

This is why I'm still buying random packs.


  1. I agree with you 100%, especially about the Walmart and Target thing. I was in Walmart today and stopped by the card aisle and all I found was rack packs of 2011 Topps Series 2 and Allen and Ginter. That's it. So I picked up two cds instead because there was no way I was going to Walmart and only coming back with toiletries. That would be a waste!

  2. I buy random all the time but I never got a '69 Tiant ! Nice !!

  3. Regarding your comment about slabbing the Markakis card if a Hooters girl is thrown in...it might get rejected for grading on account of having evidence of alteration.

  4. Good post. I agree...I still enjoy buying packs and while I can't control what I get like I can online, the element of surprise is still enjoyable...until your surprise is a John Lackey card or something.

    I find when times are tight and my budget is small (always), online is the way to go because I can get what I want. I think if I had more money to spend on cards, I'd buy packs more often because it is more enjoyable.

  5. Nice! I barley have that luck when I buy hobby boxes. I like the "Museum Collection" effect your scanner's having on that Gordon Chrome.

  6. I'd like to agree with you. And I would like to just pop out and buy some random packs.

    But there are no $2.99 packs. There are $4, $5, $6.50 packs... all with 4-5 cards in them. Picking up 12 cards for just over $20 is not fun.

    I guess if I was lucky enough to live somewhere that had discount packs, or new packs for $2.99, it would be different.

  7. Captain, you need to come visit us in America. Really.

  8. Nice post, and I agree with you completely. There is nothing like that moment when the pack is just about open. It's like Christmas eve, over and over.

  9. Wow, vintage Luis Tiant! Congrats!

    Haven't gotten anything close to that good in those things. And now they have guaranteed vintage ones, but the pack says only three per. I picked up one of those and got four, but it was all '78s and a '79. The "Look for Vintage" I got burned on once, but the other two averaged about 7 vintage apiece, with three '68s total. But the best I ended up with was probably '76 Dusty Baker. Not bad, and most definitely fun, but Tiant it's not.

    I pulled a Flora card out of a blaster too. Pretty sure the retail odds are either 1:144 or 1:196, don't remember which. One of those is Flora, one is no-numbered back mini, a Danny Valencia of which was one of my last good OR fun loose pack pulls. A&G is pretty much fun personified as far as baseball cards go.

    Oh, also my blog and I are still alive!

  10. I've bought three of those discounted 08 Heroes blasters recently. I've also picked up a few cards from people off the Blowout forums in the last week. None of them have arrived, but those are the first singles I've bought online in nearly 10 years. I know it's cheaper, but it's also a lot less fun than opening packs. If I sat there and figured out the Rangers I could have picked up for the price of those three Heroes blasters, well that takes the fun out of it. It's all about the fun for me and if it stops being fun, I'll be out again. It's happened twice before. Mauer huh????

  11. I agree with all of your points. We are here for fun.

    BTW, Nice Markakis card!

  12. After months of Vintage Repack Envy from reading your blog, I FINALLY found a Target that carries them. It was the one near my old apartment, 40 minutes away from where I live now. Good thing I had an eye appointment over that way! No '69 Tiant, but I got a 1976 Topps, two 1976 Traded, one 1977 Topps, a pair of 1978 Topps, and even a 1982 Topps Joe Morgan that I needed. Oh, and you know how they advertise one relic card per eight packs? I pulled a 2002 Fleer somethingorother Bret Boone bat relic! Not too shabby.

    Oh, and if you find yourself willing to part with that Markakis orangeness, shoot me an email. :)

  13. Well said NO, I hope that all of us are still able to have fun with our collections!

  14. This was a great post! Thank you for taking the time out to post it, a real pleasure to read.