Would you buy cheaper, hitless hobby boxes?

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Plain White Box

By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor

Autographs and memorabilia cards add big costs to production. And while they’re a cornerstone in virtually every modern release, is there room for two types of hobby configurations? It’s something Topps is trying out with Star Wars: The Force Awakens Series 1.

And it got me wondering if there’s room for the approach to be expanded.

2015 Topps Star Wars: The Force Awakens is poised to be a blockbuster entertainment release. But its initial hobby configuration looks a lot like other recent Star Wars sets. Two total autographs, sketch or Medallion cards are one of the key selling points for hobby boxes — besides being the first set to focus exclusively on Episode VII.

But then along came a second style of box for hobby shops, one that has base cards and basic inserts but no hits. Something else these hobby-light boxes have is a cheaper price tag.

Here’s a comparison of the two and how they stack up:


Hobby Box

  • Packs per box: 24
  • Cards per pack: 8
  • Hits: 2
  • Inserts: 48
  • Parallels: 24
  • Suggested Retail Price: $96


Hobby-Light Box

  • Packs per box: 24
  • Cards per pack: 6
  • Hits: 0
  • Inserts: 24
  • Parallels: 24
  • Suggested Retail Price: $48


For about half the price, collectors more interested in building sets can delve deep into the product. It’s more of a retail approach, but one that’s still aimed at bringing people into hobby shops.

It is worth noting that each hobby-light box has three foil cards numbered to 110 that aren’t available elsewhere. They may not have the same intrigue or big-ticket status as an autograph from a lead star, but it’s something that sets them apart a little more.

But let’s think beyond just Star Wars and a single release. Could this hobby-light approach work in other areas?

The collector base today is much more segmented than ever. Originally, there wasn’t a lot of difference in the approach card makers took to products. We had brands to choose from but the basic feel was all the same.

But as the 1990s progressed, styles (and price tags) became diverse. That accelerated even further once autographs and memorabilia cards became the norm rather that the exception. Today, hobby shops can have new packs ranging anywhere from a buck or two to over $1,000. The theory is that somewhere in there, there’s something for everyone.

Sometimes there are basic elements in a release that excite some but the price tag is too high or there are too many premium elements that they don’t find interesting. A hobby-light approach maintains a set’s core identity without creating much in the way of added costs. It expands the potential audience¬† for a product and aims to keep collectors in hobby shops versus retail.

But would there be enough interest to see this idea expanded and make it worthwhile? What do you think?

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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12 comments

  1. Kin 15 October, 2015 at 13:55

    I like it…if we can translate it to sports. I have a hockey player that I super collect and I love the challenges of inserts and parallels. “Hits” are nice and all, but I’m not in this for the money. The opportunity to have more cards of my guy in a lower-end product would be a win for me.

  2. Ryan Meier 15 October, 2015 at 14:21

    As a wanna-be set builder, I am more interested in base, inserts, and parallels. Autos and memorabilia cards have felt “played out” for quite a while now. It feels as if you are paying a premium for a slight chance at a “card of value”.

    The guaranteed “hit” per box has become a standard now– a bad one at that. Let the high-end products have the hits. It just seems cheaper to buy your “hits” in the after market, than throw cash at farming them out of packs.

  3. Mark 15 October, 2015 at 14:51

    “How about the other way around? Let me buy more products that have only hits”

    This already exists in products like Immaculate, National Treasures, Five Star, etc…

    The hits issue really doesn’t bother me so much because the market already has a wide range of options no matter what naysayers complain about. What I really miss are comprehensive sets with large checklists like Topps Total, especially in football. Even base Topps has gone to the dark side. It creates its large checklists by issuing 3-4 cards of the Tom Brady’s and Aaron Rodgers’ of the world instead of being more comprehensive like it was in the 1970s and 1980s. What is really old and tired is the 100-, 150-, or 200-card template sets with added volumes of soul-crushing rookies that don’t make NFL (or NBA) rosters.

  4. Ed Webb 15 October, 2015 at 15:26

    I don’t get how this is different from a retail product? Why not just let hobby stores buy retail product if they have the market.

    There is also the other side, you HAVE to buy these if you want the exclusives in this packaging. Thus forcing master set collectors to buy Hobby, Hobby-Light, and many times Retail if they want every card in the set. I don’t see this as necessarily a good thing.

  5. Andre 15 October, 2015 at 17:11

    How about cutting the Parallels out and giving us more Base & maybe Inserts… I’d be more into that as a team collector. The lower price and more cards would get me to buy more boxes. it would even get me to buy boxes of products I normally wouldn’t buy, while waiting on singles and team sets to show up on E-bay, Com C & here.
    Andre

  6. Paul Angilly 15 October, 2015 at 18:35

    Like the idea, but cutting the base cards per pack to 6? Don’t see the need for that.

    Look at it this way – buy a normal hobby box and you’re paying twice the price, but getting 33% more base cards and twice as many basic inserts, in addition to getting two “hits” instead of none. Taking that into account, buying the cheaper boxes doesn’t seem to make sense. If all you want’s the base set, you can get that off eBay delivered for probably a fraction of the cost of the cheaper box.

    I’d love to see a comprehensive sports card set, though, where card packs are $1 each and you get at least 10 cards per pack. I’d be fine with that, even if it had no parallels or “hits.”

  7. John Bateman 15 October, 2015 at 20:48

    I’m all about the Base – get rid of the parallels and Insert. Go back to the early 90s – Have only 2 or 3 inserts per box.

  8. Steven Pinter 15 October, 2015 at 21:33

    Already too many cards out there that more people want than can have what with serial #’ing continuing to be lower and over-multiplied by another color. The Documentary set at over 4000 + cards is awesome except for the lack of an identifiable player name and repetitive subjects. That set still has activity now 6 years later because of the size . Successful issues were the huge total and 40-man sets , because they didn’t over-parallelize and continue to have demand because no other sets featured many players within those releases. AND their per pack prices were right !!

  9. Craig 15 October, 2015 at 23:31

    I would love to see a return of a topps total type set for baseball where you basically had the full 40 man rosters. I would even like to see cards of Managers and coaches. Alot of players don’t get cards anymore after rookie releases especially end of the bench guys and lower bullpen pitchers. It would be cool for team set collectors and autograph hounds.

  10. Mike Pereira 16 October, 2015 at 00:22

    Thanks Cracknell for writing more of these articles. Hopefully the manufactures get a hold on the feedback and starts caring again. Surprised that alot of collectors are like me and still go to complete sets of products they like and not just hits.

    Suggestion on next article.

    Can we finally have a debate on what is happening with the prices on boxes and exactly how many products is too many and becomes oversaturated.

  11. Chris 18 October, 2015 at 09:28

    I am big hockey card enthusiast that focuses on building base sets rather than chasing the “hits” and as such have all but stopped buying packs from my local hobby shop. Money is tight, so I don’t buy the high end stuff so a big “hit” is rare. I usually buy retail from Wal-Mart or Target when I see something new, or root around on eBay looking for large lots of cards with no particular focus on brand, player or era. I take significant joy out of receiving a box of hockey cards with the hopes of pulling something I have not seen before or adding parts to the sets where I am missing cards. The downside is I have paper boxes full of base cards and a few large card boxes full of inserts, RC etc. I used to be able to parlay those extras into huge team sets (500-2000 cards per team with no duplicates) and sell them on eBay, but that didn’t work out so well the last time I did it a few years back.

    Talking with a guy the other day, we both shared the same dismay about the people who go to card shows, buy boxes, keep on the “hits” or inserts, parallels, RCs, etc and then throw away the base cards in the trash. Such a waste. I would happily take all of those unwanted base cards for newer issues and build my set of commons!

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