Thursday, November 22, 2007

Buying guide

Various things related to baseball card and memorabilia collecting.

A random assortment of packs - maybe five to 15 loose packs [usually up to $4 value each].
Pros - ideally you get to bust open some packs, flipping through cards and hopefully pulling something like an autograph insert.
Cons - you probably feel a little let down, if you don't pull anything of significance. Contents are not guaranteed and pack searching maybe a concern if you are buying random retail packs [or from random hobby venues such as a card shop or card show].
Overall thoughts - busting packs is fun, but if you are looking for 'hits,' then grab key singles instead of gambling on unopened product.

Singles - 1 to 10 individual cards [usually up to $40-$50 value each], maybe certified autographs, patch cards, rookie year/rookie card/first-year/xrc auto cards or vintage cards.
Pros - it seems prudent, when you are getting cards you want for your collection [personal and for trade].
Cons - condition is key if you are looking to pick up a card, especially online. Picking up a card already graded by a third party maybe of some comfort.
Overall thoughts - I see myself more of a singles guy, trying to focus on something more concrete instead of something random. My ideal philosophy is grab the single card over something like unopened boxes and to do so as often as I can make a choice.

Singles - 1 to 10 individual low-end cards [usually up to $10-$15 value each], maybe certified autographs, patch cards, rookie year/rookie card/first-year/xrc auto cards or vintage cards.
Pros - you can pick up a handful of cards you know you'll have in-hand, instead of a random assortment of packs.
Cons - it maybe more for instant gratification, but doesn't it all add up, where you maybe picking up 'give-away' type of cards instead of picking up a single card you would rather have five years from now?
Overall thoughts - with so many cards out there, you have to be picky about the particular cards you want for your collection. It seems like you have to watch out for

Complete sets - one [usually up to $35-$60 value each] factory or hand collated set.
Pros - with factory sets, you get all the cards from a particular release. Over the years, Topps ' factory set packaging features full art graphics as well as bonus card [s] inside. For Target consumers, Topps' factory sets feature a Mickey Mantle relic card - like last year, these are probably worn, but not games jerseys/pants. As far as hand collated sets go, you can start putting together the retro products popular with set builders without busting so many boxes off the bat. Often base sets [typically without the shortprints] are available for a bit less than an unopened box [and just slightly a bit more than a blaster box]. Cons - condition may not be the main concern of people who put together sets just to get rid of them [after they've pulled the hit cards]. Sometimes some cards maybe missing from a hand collated set.
Overall thoughts - products like Topps Heritage, Upper Deck Goudey, Topps Allen and Ginter, Topps Turkey Red [just the toppers for me], Bowman Heritage [perhaps this year] are attractive sets to build or to pick up and get randomly signed through the mail/in-person. As far as factory sets go, Dave and Adams maybe a place to look for 'bargain factory sets' from past years, where you are getting a full factory set of Topps, with bonus cards, for about the price of a retail blaster box.

Unopened boxes - one [usually up to $40 to $70 value each] midlevel box of cards.
Pros - with unopened boxes, you often you get the otherwise guaranteed 'hits' one can pull out of most boxes.
Cons - your hits may not be that great and like a pack of cards, you seem to be paying for the package instead of the contents.
Overall thoughts - you want to break down and bust a product, but there just one new product has to come up, luring you with either their apparent uniqueness. For 'rookie' hunters or the more appropriate 'prospectors,' Bowman Draft and Chrome and Donruss Elite Extra Edition is around the corner. Others gems maybe products sitting around and may have come down in price and may just be good for 'bust value,' but not necessarily yielding any valuable cards.

Autographs - one [usually $5-$150 value each] typically certified [with some exceptions] autographs [card, non-card autographs or autographs to be signed at shows].
Pros - you get the autograph in-hand without much of an effort besides plucking down your hard earned cash. You would get a better signature from subjects who may have a rushed version of their autograph and one used for sit-down signings.
Cons - it costs $$$ to get the better subjects, particularly professional athletes. Not everyone is worth $$$ to pay for.
Overall thoughts - how hard to get is the subject? Walking down the street, will the person essentially sign the same thing for you for free? Are the prices to pick up a non-card autograph reasonable, somewhat high but perhaps worth it or regardless of worth [truly astronomical]? Do you only know to get autographs through purchasing them or do you have expertise in fishing for them in-person or through the mail?

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