17 March 2016

Pack of the Day 129: 2016 Topps Heritage Baseball Hanger Pack

I bought some retail packs of Heritage the other day. I regretted it even before I got to the register to pay for my purchases. I regretted it as I pulled the rack pack off of the peg. I regretted the purchase as I selected a hanger box. And I regretted the purchase after I opened the packs and sorted through the cards.

The Red Sox team card was the first out of the pack. That alone was a pretty bad start, by my reckoning. In all I got 51 base cards, 1 SP (Shelby Miller), and 3 inserts. The cards themselves are fine. I like the design. I like the card stock. I like the wooden posed images. The inserts are okay, even though with Heritage the base set is the main draw for me. My problem is that I wasted money just to bust a couple of packs that I knew wouldn't be worth it. I just wanted some new Heritage to hold in my hands.

According to my math and a little bit of eBay browsing in the name of research, you can pretty readily get a Master Set of Heritage (425 base cards, 75 short-printed cards, 50 inserts) for $200, with that amount breaking down to about $35 for the base, $140 for the SPs, and $25 for the inserts. That's around $0.08 for a base card, $1.87 for an SP, and $0.50 for an insert.

That Derek Norris is an okay card for a PC I nearly started. Miguel Sano is on my fantasy baseball team.
I paid $16.94 for my cards. Honestly I probably should have just bought a blaster at that point, but I was already not thinking clearly. Going back to the valuation I mentioned above, I can put a value on my purchase by adding up the 51 base cards ($4.20), the 1 SP ($1.87) and the 3 inserts ($1.50) for a total value of  $7.57. Yuck. That's a $9.37 loss right there. In reality all of the money was wasted, though, because I am probably going to buy a set from a breaker anyway. If I had banked that $16.94 I'd be nearly 8.5% of the way toward saving up for my set. From this point on continuing to bust packs to build a set would likely just increase the loss, as the specter of doubles looms large. There is the minuscule chance that I could regain some money by hitting something valuable, but I'd say Heritage is about the worst product for that kind of hoping. In theory I could trade these doubles with other collectors to gain needed cards, but I've got a couple thousand extra 2014 Heritage cards that show trading will only take you so far. Additionally, postage begins to be an issue. Don't get me wrong. I like trading, but overall it's not the most efficient way to build a set.

I did get the intangible benefits of opening some packs and getting some content for my blog. There is the off chance that some of these cards could be moved to gain something desirable to me. Are those intangibles worth $9.37 to me? Probably not. Are they worth it to someone else? Maybe. Will I keep doing the irrational thing and buy packs when I know it's not the best allocation of my resources? Yes. I know that this thing I do is dumb and I know that 90% of the time I will come away from a retail card purchase disappointed, but I also know that when Topps Series 2 or Bowman comes out I will be there in the card aisle selecting a couple of packs to open and blog about. Heck, there were some 2015 Bowman packs in the discount bin that I am still a little tempted by. Every time one of the different Press Pass racing products with a guaranteed hit comes up in the discount bin I know I will buy it, even though my guaranteed hit is always like a David Ragan sheet metal relic or something that I don't even have the heart to post on my blog. No offense is meant to David Ragan, but that's just not a card that fits into my collection, especially not at the cost of a discount blaster from Target.

I feel like I should apologize for the negative tone of this post. I like cards and I like collecting them. I'm aware that this entire hobby is sort of silly, throwing money around in exchange for bits of printed cardboard. I've just been exploring how I collect and what I might do to expand the joy I get out of the hobby. I am pretty sure that retail packs come in pretty low on the joy per dollar table of hobby activities.


  1. Gotta say, to me, there is nothing more joyous than opening packs. Is it an efficient way of building a set? No. Is it the most cost effective way of building a set? Of course not. Are there better things I could be doing with my time and money? Duh. But if you're buying a set off the rack, where's the fun in that? No. To me--joy per dollar--nothing beats ripping packs. Nothing. (Well, maybe a vintage dime box at a card show, but they don't have card shows where I live). That's why, though you'll get better bang for your buck with a box of flagship jumbos (and much closer to a full set), I'll take the regular hobby box. Because I'd rather open 36 packs than 10. Honestly, I think if you're figuring out the cost per card, you're already missing the whole point.

    1. I didn't necessarily go into this exercise saying, "How can I use my Accounting experience to suck all the fun out of my hobby?" That's just where I wound up. When it comes to set-based products that are readily available on the secondary market, I find it much more fulfilling to go straight to my desired end result by buying a complete set and picking any singles I specifically want up from COMC, Just Commons, Sportlots, and eBay.

      I just find myself at the end of a Topps flagship or Heritage break looking at my stack of cards and thinking about what I could have gotten with that money. It doesn't measure up for me in those instances.

      I like to bust packs as much as anyone, but to scratch that itch I need to pick the right products. Repacks are a good way for me to do that because I get the packs relatively cheap and I don't have certain expectations regarding my end result. I like busting Cryptozoic's comic book products because you usually are guaranteed a complete base set in a hobby box as well as whatever inserts and sketches / hits you would normally get. I participate in group breaks to get that lottery-style thrill that comes with pack-busting. I like to open boxes of Japanese wrestling cards because I know that I will enjoy what I pull from them.

      I'm not against opening packs. I just don't feel like I get a lot of personal fulfillment or value from opening packs of Topps, Heritage, and Bowman as compared to buying a set online and spending the leftover money on specific PC hits.

  2. You want silly? Start thinking about how most people waste the better part of their lives just to earn bits of printed paper!

    1. I dabble a little in gold and silver as an investment, so I've read all the material on fiat currencies and paper money. I tend to have a little more faith in the system than some of the really extreme preppers, but I'm not above diversifying and gathering tangible assets to balance against my paper money portfolio.

  3. Cost efficiency can't be your main focus.
    If you can spend $50-60 chunks, get hobby boxes. Otherwise, figure out what's the best deal in the retail aisle. Then buy until you get diminishing returns in new packs. Then trade for what you still need with the dupes you have. That's what I do.
    That way you have the enjoyment of pack busting, trading, etc. Now if you add up the total cost of the retail packs, shipping to other traders, and maybe even online singles orders, your total will be way above what a set will cost. But like Stubby says, it's so much more fun to build it.

    I will occasionally get the master set of a football product that I otherwise wouldn't be able to trade for or find enough to build the other way. Nice to get the whole thing, but still not as fun.

    1. Cost efficiency isn't my main focus, but I have found more and more that pack-busting isn't always very fulfilling for me, especially for widely-available sets like Topps and Heritage. When I open a Hobby box of Topps Series 1, for example, I wind up with a stack of cards that is 2/3 of a base set, a handful of inserts, and a relic and some parallels of some players I probably don't collect. For the same price as that box I could have a full base set, complete sets of the inserts I want, and maybe a hit and some parallels of one of my PC guys. I personally get more fun out of shopping online for the exact cards I want than I do from the 15-20 minutes it takes me to break open a box of cards.

      I do like building parallel sets. I built a couple years of the Gold parallels from Topps Archives, and I have built a couple years of the Blue parallels from Opening Day. Chasing those sets is a lot of fun for me, but outside of the 2013 Opening Day set I built them mostly on eBay and online store orders rather than through packs, because that's more fun for me.

      I get my fill of the social aspect of collecting through blogging, group breaks, and things of that nature. I participate in trading, but it is probably my least favorite part of the hobby. It feels like I am on unequal footing with every trade partner I have, and that weighs on me. I either have guilt because I don't have the trade bait to reciprocate properly for a trade package I've received, or in one or two cases I feel like I've sent out a package that was never really answered. I try to make up for it by picking things up for people whose collections I am most in-tune with, but that karmic balancing act is something I could easily do without. I am pretty sure that I have responded in some way to most packages I've received, but there are many bloggers I feel indebted to (Zippy Zappy, The Prowling Cat, David from Tribecards to name a few of the many) that I may never be able to fully match in generosity and thoughtfulness.

      The short version of my reply is that it sounds like I get my hobby kicks from a different part of the process than some other hobbyists do, so online shopping and focused purchasing deliver more joy to me than busting packs and making trades. I still enjoy opening packs and sending / receiving packages, but those items rank lower for me than other hobby pursuits.

  4. I'm with you. Although I never broke it down on a per card price. I would much rather just buy a complete set. I busted plenty of packs as a kid. I get zero satisfaction ripping packs now. I purchased the heritage set for right around the figure you stated.. It ultimately leaves me with more money to purchase more cards.

    1. I don't know if I've ever broken it down on a per-card price before, but I've suspected for a while that part of my discontent with busting packs stemmed from feeling like I wasn't getting a good value on my purchases.

      I really enjoy shopping and bidding online, so for me pursuing and getting a good deal on a complete set or a single card that I want is as satisfying as opening packs. I still buy boxes and packs when I can reasonably expect that doing so will get me to my desired end-state (i.e. Cryptozoic packing complete sets in a hobby box, UFC stuff where I don't have a lot of specific PC goals, repacks because they are cheap and don't come with expectations), but for the most part I would rather cut out the randomness and acquire exactly what I want.

      Sometimes I will try to build a parallel set for less than the going rate or at a certain per-card price. I think for one of the Archives parallel sets I built I tried to keep the set build under $3 per card, so I had to really work to get the common and semistar cards cheaply so that I could afford to spend what it took to get the Mike Trout and Bryce Harper cards. I had a spreadsheet with formulas calculating the cost to date and I had to sell my doubles to earn back credit to go toward the build. I didn't quite make it under my threshold, but I was closer than I thought I would be. For me that was exciting and fun.

      I guess we are all looking for something a little bit different out of our hobby.