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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pack Searching - An in depth look

Pack Searching has taken many forms over the years. From cherry picking racks, cellos and front and back of wax to opening and resealing packs. Many of us have know dealers during the 80's that were known for this. I once traded for a pack of 87 Donruss that was resealed so tight that the wax and paper was burned to the back of the card. I have also gotten Topps packs with two gum stains, with different years of cards, and other damage that made it apparent that the pack had been tampered with. Fleer was notorius for collating their packs in the same way. It is very unlikely that you will pull a high dollar 86 fleer basketball out of a pack because it is easy to tell what is in the pack by the card on the front. In 1989 when I was 13 I got 3 boxes of 1989 Fleer. One Billy Ripken error box and 2 corrected boxes. My parents got them at the drug store that was a couple blocks from our house. I figured this out midway through the first box becuase I had opened some packs before, pulling a Ripken error in the process, and noted that I was getting the same packs. By the end of the third box I could tell you what was going to be in a pack regardless of what player was on the front.

When the Bo black and white got hot, rack packs were searched en masse because all you had to do was look at the one white bordered card in the middle of the pack. In fact, many pre 90 "hot packs" are available. The 75 topps cellos in the auctions I posted last night all have stars showing.

First, I went back and forth of whether I should do this article let alone post it. I expect to get some angry emails. This article was "researched" and written to be informational only. Second, my intention was to write the article the entire time. Third, I didn't go to any stores. I did not search any packs. Fourth, every auction I bid on already had multiple bidders. Did I contribute to this shamefull practice? In a word, yes, albeit briefly. These were auctions that were going to sell regardless. Perhaps the people that I outbid went on to bid on other auctions that they would not have otherwise bid on, however, as of right now there are 767 "hot pack" auctions available on Ebay. That number seems to fluctuate between 750-900 at any given time. So my affect on the huge market for these packs is/was negligible at best.

Pack Searching is one of the most contraversial topics in the hobby today. I don't do it, I don't have the time, I don't think its right, and as the article will show, it frankly is worthless to do so. My point with writing this is to show people that they are wasting their time and money by either attempting to pack search or buying these auctions off ebay.

Here is what I did. I bid on and won a myriad of "hot pack" auctions from different parts of the country with varied products. I could tell that these were retail packs from the auction. Retail Upper Deck Heroes football packs are gold instead of silver, 08-09 Upper Deck Basketball have a Target Logo on them, etc. Many of these retail between $3-$5. Over the last two weeks, I won 16 or so auctions. There may be one or two packs out there that haven't arrived as of yet, but with the exception of a major pull, nothing could change me mind.

Here is a list of the packs:
2008 Donruss Threads Football (4)
2008 Topps Rookie Progression (3)
2008-09 Upper Deck Basketball (1)
2008 Upper Deck Heroes Football (2)
2008 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia Football (4)
2008-09 Fleer Hot Prospects Basketball (2)

Here is a sample of auction titles:
2008 09 FLEER HOT PROSPECTS Jersey/Patch/Auto HOT PACK
2008 PLAYOFF ABSOLUTE Jersey/Patch/Auto HOT PACK !!
2008 08 THREADS Guaranteed LETTER / AUTO Hot Pack

Here are what they tend to go for:
Total $14.25 $17.25 $3.00

08 09 UD NBA GUARANTEED JERSEY RELIC HOT PACK
1 $5.00

08 09 FLEER HOT PROSPECTS JERSEY OR AUTO HOT PACK
1 $4.75

08 09 FLEER HOT PROSPECTS JERSEY OR AUTO HOT PACK
1 $4.50

and

2008 TOPPS ROOKIE PROGRESSION Gu/Auto HOT PACK $4.00 ($7.25 shipped)


The packs for my purposes ran $4 - $6. I wouldn't bid any higher than that. There are 3 pack lots of Topps Chrome auto packs, dual auto/jersey, triple auto/jersey. There are auctions for Legendary Cuts Cut autos. Pretty much anything you want.
Here are my results:

2 packs of 2008 Upper Deck Heroes Football
Joseph Addai and Derek Anderson
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There are two numbered Addai jerseys that have no bids at $.99 and a Derek Anderson with a BIN $1.50

4 packs of 2008 Donruss Threads Football:
Santonio Homes, Heath Miller, Jason Campbell, and Correll Buckhalter
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There is a Buckhalter BIN $2.50, a 2 color /50 Jason Campbell BIN $7.99 good luck with that price buddy. I couldn't find a jersey of the others to price.

3 Packs 2008 Topps Rookie Progression:
Keith Rivers /99 Matt Forte /189 Chad Henne /179
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Rivers $4.99 BIN, Forte 15.90 BIN, 15.99 BIN. I don't see any of these selling for these prices.

1 Pack 2008-09 Upper Deck
Kobe Bryant
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Multiple BIN $14.99, however a dual Kobe/Dominique Wikins Jersey went for 3.91 plus $3.50 shipping here

4 Packs 2008 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia
Steve Slaton, Matt Forte, James Hardy, and Chad Henne
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Henne, failed to sell at .99, Hardy one sold for .25 one failed to sell at .99, Slaton one sold for $1.81 one failed to sell for .99, Forte one sold for 4.25 one sold for 6.

2 packs 2008-09 Fleer Hot Prospects
Kevin Durant and Rasheed Wallace
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Durant No sales data, but a 5 card lot /199 with Dwayne Wade and Durant sold for $6.98, Wallace 2 unsold at 4.99 and one active bid of $1.00

That is all the data on my experience. The listings on ebay will be marked as either jersey, dual jersey, tri, or quad. So there is virtually no way of getting a pack that is not marked as a dual and getting one. You will only get single jerseys. In addition, you will probably not get a patch unless it is so marked.

Although it is possible, there is also little chance of getting a big hit in retail period, let alone out of a "hot pack". Hobby is going to be the only way to get those. The rookie progression and absolute turned out some ok cards, but I could have gotten them cheaper just buying them.

My Threads and Heroes cards are worthless and I would anticipate that out of 2 hot packs, you will get little if anything of value.

That is why pack searchers sell these on ebay because they know very little of value is to be found in these packs. Sure, you will see some people get some sweet pulls by doing this. Pack searchers have more time than the rest of us apparently. I am not sure where they find the time to got to every Target and Walmart to do this.

I was curious to see if the cards in the packs would be damaged because of the search process, but they were not. So there it is, take it as you will. I certainly didn't gain anything through this process. I spent much more money than I would ever get out of these cards and thought that would probably be the case when I started. If this article keeps one person from throwing their money away on these things then I have served my purpose.

My thoughts are: Pack searching is unethical as it cheats legitimate buyers out of a chance to get a jersey so don't buy these, it is a waste of time to try and do it yourself because the packs retail for not that much more than what Pack searchers sell them for. Are these people employed? My conclusions are: "Hot packs" are not a good value and pack searchers know it. Some packs are better than others. For example, UD Heroes were worthless (no disrespect to Addai and Anderson), but Rookie Progression and Absolute at least yielded some rookie jerseys, but you are still better off buying singles on ebay. One thought though, if someone has a bunch of these cards for sale, they either bust case after case because the odds or so long or you are buying the card from a pack searcher. Most of the pack searchers had multiple hits for sale. Pick your poison. Let the flaming begin.

Update I received a question regarding whether I had considered whether these packs were resealed. I meant to address when I wrote the above, but just plain forgot. I was aware of this issue at the time I received and opened the packs. I looked for signs such as where the crimps were on the top and bottom of the packs, the back seal uniformity and tightness along the seal and how tight it was against the back. I looked for marks on all of the cards that would indicate they had been out of the pack. I did not find evidence of any of these issues. Additionally, many of the packs had the security sticker things in them as well as coupons for blaster boxes. It is possible that these were resealed, but I saw no indication of that.

8 comments:

dayf said...

Talking about pack searching on the internet is like talking about the President on the internet. No matter what, one guy from both sides will eventually show up in the thread and start a lot of racket.

Thanks for taking the time and expense to do this though, it's a good real life example of what to expect from these types of auctions and from searching packs. I.E.: not much.

Captain Canuck said...

I've never been tempted by these... I'm one of those "idiots" who bust wax to complete the set. Acquire base cards of my team(Braves) and the like. I know it's cheaper to just buy the set..... but I still like the chase too much.

stusigpi said...

I had yet to see anyone do something like this and I was very curious. Strictly hobby boxes for me from now on.

Has anyone had a truly good hit from a retail box? A nice patch or auto. I saw Mario's Kennedy hair redemption card (Yuck) pull. I have seen some low serial jerseys, but I mean a sweet patch/auto or something to that effect.

stusigpi said...

To the Capn'

I did that for years, but with SP's and the cost of boxes when they first come out, I just can't justify it. A&G is a good example. The boxes run $60-$70 on ebay, maybe cheaper if your a patient, and it would take 6-7 boxes to make a set.

Used to be, I would open 4-5 boxes of topps, fleer, donruss, score and then fill in the 20 or so commons at the card shop or show. Now you can't even rely on finding the cards you need. Trading over mail and buying over ebay is expensive as well.

Personally, I respect the pure collector but alas, too many sets and rising prices did me in. That and the 40-50 monster boxes I had to lug around didn't help.

houstoncollector said...

I pulled a Cal Ripken Jr. Auto from a retail pack of 07 Ultra last year, and a Alex Gorden AU from 2006 Topps rack packs. Also, a 2006 Score Retail Green Jay Cutler RC, which is "worth" like $20-30.

So yes, it can happen. Just very, very rarely.

Laurens said...

Maybe I glossed over it, but did you consider whether or not the hot packs you bought were resealed as opposed to merely the 'hit' packs found at retail outlets.

stusigpi said...

I meant to address when I wrote the above, but just plain forgot. I was aware of this issue at the time I received and opened the packs. I looked for signs such as where the crimps were on the top and bottom of the packs, the back seal uniformity and tightness along the seal and how tight it was against the back. I looked for marks on all of the cards that would indicate they had been out of the pack. I did not find evidence of any of these issues. Additionally, many of the packs had the security sticker things in them as well as coupons for blaster boxes. It is possible that these were resealed, but I saw no indication of that.

Thanks for the question.

jv said...

Pretty good piece of investigative journalism in my opinion. Sometimes you gotta get your hands dirty to get your information. I, for one, am glad that you did this. It's been very helpful.

I agree with the sentiment that you won't pull much from retail. However, my best pull ever did come from retail. An 08 Goudey Babe Ruth Jersey! Other than that, base and inserts...

And crappy g/u Bill Hall, Kendry Morales, and Randy Winn...grrrr