Guide to Collecting Retail Boxes
Sports card retail boxes are primarily sold through large retail chains like Target and Walmart. Retail boxes can also be purchased online from smaller retail stores and through eBay. Some Hobby shops will sell them in-store or online, as well. The biggest benefit of buying retail boxes and packs is that they can be significantly cheaper than their Hobby box counterparts.
In brick-and-mortar environments, standard retail boxes are opened and sold by the pack. However, they are also available through manufacturer sealed "blaster boxes." Blasters contain a set number of packs at a price below what it would cost to buy each pack individually. Blaster boxes are normally sold at three different price points ($9.99, $19.99, and $29.99) depending on the quality and quantity of the cards they contain. In addition to sporting a lower per-pack rate, Blaster boxes at retail typically include some sort of added bonus like a free pack or a special insert card.
There are also newer formats like Collector Boxes and Mega Boxes. These often feature a guaranteed autograph, which is more like a Hobby box. As a result, this can cost a bit more.
Exclusive Retail Parallels, Inserts and Sets
Sports card companies have increasingly been making more of an effort to include Retail-exclusive inserts and parallels in their lineup. Most of the exclusive cards come in the form of base parallel cards or standard inserts and rookie card sets. Sometimes there will even be specific relics or autographs that are only found in these Retail formats. Be sure to check out the exterior of the box or pack for exact details as the companies will usually note what is unique to the format.
In some instances, an entire product is exclusive to retail. This generally happens a few times per year in each major sport.
Watch Out for Pack Searchers
Although they are the cheapest means of buying new sports card products, buying individual packs of cards from unsealed retail boxes can be a risky proposition. This is because a handful of less ethical collectors routinely go to Walmart and Target to cherry-pick the packs containing the special hits. The individuals, known as pack searchers, can identify memorabilia and autograph cards without even opening (or paying for) the packs. They determine which packs contain the hits by weighing each of them with a portable digital scale, and/or carefully pressing packs on both sides until they feel a thicker card or a sticker, which can be indicative of an autographed card.
Once they identify the packs that contain hits, they pay for them and go on their way, leaving behind all the hitless packs. Unfortunately, these actions usually go unnoticed by store employees, although a growing number of stores have become aware of this problem and are prepared to take corrective action. One of the safest ways to buy retail sports cards is direct from the retailer online. You can also buy blasters or any other retail box where the packs come within a larger sealed box.
Why Buy Retail Boxes?
Retail boxes are a great choice for young collectors, hobby newcomers, and budget-minded collectors alike. They have much lower price tags than their hobby brethren, yet they are still a fun and exciting way to enjoy collecting sports cards. Player collectors appreciate the inexpensive selection of base cards found in retail boxes. Likewise, set collectors are drawn to retail boxes as they allow them to add to their latest projects without paying the extra charge inherent in buying Hobby boxes. Plus, Retail boxes are easier to find in a collecting world with far fewer card shops around.
Based on the popularity of a product or sport, the Retail supply can be depleted by those looking to flip the boxes online. In these cases, the most affordable way for collectors to obtain cards is to go straight to the source (i.e. Target or Walmart) since that normally means the Hobby boxes will be even more expensive than normal.
In addition to Hobby boxes, Topps often sells Retail boxes for current releases on their website.
Related Topics: How To: Boxes / Cases | How To: General