Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pack Searching 2014 Topps Platinum Football: Back for More

Well, it's been a long hiatus. In the past three months I've only went pack searching a handful of times. It has actually been easier than anticipated. Being super busy really takes your mind off of pack searching.

But last night I just so happened to be out and about with nothing to do and lots of time to waste. 2014 Panini Contenders Football has started to show up in Walmarts across America so I decided to go out and try to search those.  I ended up at my nearest Walmart at 11:30 pm. I like pack searching late at night because nobody is around.

Unfortunately I had already been beat to the cards. I could tell immediately. All the Contenders rack packs were strewn around the card section, and all the 2014 Topps Platinum Football rack packs were off the hangers and sitting in piles on the shelf.  I picked up the Contedners rack packs and inspected them.  I could see the fingernail marks on the wrapper left by the previous pack searcher in their attempts to search them.  I knew that the chances of finding anything in the Contenders rack packs was slim but I checked them anyways. Nope. Nothing.

I then checked the Platinum rack packs.  I knew that finding hits in the rack packs is harder and so I had a chance at finding something that the other pack searcher missed.  After taking a few minutes to search the dozen or so rack packs still for sale, I came to the conclusion that one of the rack packs probably had a hit in it.  I wasn't entirely sure because I couldn't "see" the hit outright, but I was pretty sure.  I whipped out my phone and checked my notes on Platinum from previous years.  This is the good thing about keeping notes in my phone.  After reviewing the notes in my phone I was 95% certain there was a hit in this rack pack and it was a redemption.  I bought the rack pack.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
2014 Topps Platinum Football
Autograph Rookie Refractor
Odds:  1:37

It turned out to be Ha Ha Clinton-Dix autograph redemption.  Not bad. 

This brief return to pack searching was nice.  It was like dipping a toe back into the water.  But I also felt dirty in a way.  I was doing so well trying to no longer pack search.  The challenge of finding hits brought me back.  I get this weird satisfaction from finding hits.  I get more satisfaction from just knowing that I found the hit than the satisfaction of actually having the hit itself.  It's weird.  I know.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Is 2014 Topps Chrome Football the Toughest Product to Pack Search Ever?

2014 Topps Chrome Football finally hit retail stores around me this week despite it being out for about a week now.  I went to a local Target to pick up on blaster box (scans below).

While I was waiting for it to hit the shelves around me I did some research about the product.  I watched breaks on YouTube and read up on the product. 

I'm starting to think that 2014 Topps Chrome Football might be the most pack-searcher proof retail product to hit stores in a long time -- and maybe ever.  Here's why.

First of all, the retail version of the product only has autographs for hits.  There are no jersey card hits in the packs (except for the Walmart blaster boxes which each have a jersey hit in it but I'm not counting those).  This isn't like Topps Series 1 or Series 2 Baseball which has a plethora of bat and game-used hits in it to find.  And let's face it, we pack searchers know that those relic hits are always a lot easier to find than autograph hits.

Second, the autograph hits are pretty much all on-card autographs.  I've watched a ton of Chrome Football breaks online and Topps did a really good job this year getting the players to sign their autographs on-card.  So gone are the days of finding the autograph hits by searching for the stickers.  You can't feel on-card autographs!

Third, the retail product is only sold in rack packs and blasters.  I remember when I first started pack searching in 2012, Chrome Football that year was sold in retail boxes too.  So you had the opportunity to search individual packs to find autographs, die-cuts and minis.  But this year with the product only being sold in rack packs and blaster boxes it's a lot harder to search.  Rack packs can be searched for die-cuts and minis with a little work, but it is tougher and more time consuming.  You're not going to be able to find autographs at all in rack packs.  Blaster boxes are impossible to search for autographs. 

Fourth, the redemption rate in 2014 Topps Chrome Football is less than 1%!  So gone are the days of redemption-heavy products where you could easily find redemptions. 

Fifth, the pack wrappers are foil wrappers.  Even if you bought rack packs and blaster boxes, and opened them up to individually examine each pack, you still probably couldn't figure out if there was an autograph card in the pack since the wrappers are foil and the autographs are on-card. 

Retail 2014 Topps Chrome Football is pretty much the most pack-searcher proof product that I've ever seen.  I'm not sure if Topps did this by design or not.  I'm actually of the belief that they did.  Chrome is one of their flagship brands.  Making the product as difficult to search as possible makes it a more attractive product to purchase on retail shelves since the chances of a hit being there is a lot higher than those products which are easy to search.

So if you're a non-pack searcher reading this blog post, I would say that it's pretty safe to buy retail 2014 Topps Chrome Football without any worry of it being searched dry of all the hits. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I Pack Search & Why I'll Have to Stop

It all started in July 2012.  That's when I googled baseball cards, saw some pictures of 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter, and got hooked on cards.  I loved the retro old school design of Allen & Ginter.  The cards were beautiful, the insert sets were odd yet incredibly interesting, and the autograph checklist in the set was spectacular. 

At that time, I knew I had to buy some of those cards.  The town where I lived didn't have a card shop.  So, where would I go to buy cards?  I had no idea.  So again, I googled for more information.

It turns out that Target sold sports cards.  I didn't know that.  And at about that same time, I also came across something interesting.  I saw something on the internet referring to "hot packs."  What were those?

I googled some more.  It turns out that "hot packs" were packs of cards which were guaranteed to have a "hit" inside of it.  I never knew that you could tell what was inside a pack of cards without opening it, but clearly some people had figured out how to do so.  

I found that intriguing.  

This time, I searched on YouTube and found videos of people opening up hot packs.  Pack after pack which was opened had hit after hit.  I was in awe.  How did these people do it?  

And that's how my hobby, nay, my obsession started. 

For the next few months, I immersed myself in figuring out how to pack search.  I searched the internet for information and free tips.  I watched lots of YouTube videos.  I took notes.  I thought about it in my free time.  I theorized.  And I went out searching to try and see if I could validate all that critical thinking and theorizing by finding the hits.  It was fun.  It was interesting.  And pack searching was thrilling.  

While most people only pack search to find hits (whether to keep in their personal collection or to sell as "hot packs" on eBay), I searched because I enjoyed the challenge.

To me, it was fun to figure out how to pack search each product.  Every card company has its own tactics they use to try and thwart pack searchers.  As a novice pack searcher, you'll fall for them.  I did, a lot.  It's tough on the wallet, but it made me more determined than ever to get better, and get good enough to where the card companies weren't beating me any more, but I was beating the card companies.  To draw an analogy, I wanted to be like a card counter in a casino.  I wanted that edge.  I wanted to be that guy who can beat the house at their own game.

I'm generally too humble of a person to call myself an expert at anything, but after two years of pack searching I do believe I am reaching that point.  If I'm not an expert, I'm at least extremely experienced.  I've dedicated a lot of time and money to this obsession.  I have over 100 notes in my phone about how to search various sports card products which has come out in the last two years.  I meticulously take notes about every product I search, and the product of every store I visit.  It sounds crazy, and I suppose it is.  Remember, I did call this an obsession.  But information is powerful.  The more you know about a product, and how the card company manufacturer likes to try and hide hits, it becomes easier -- a lot easier -- to find hits.  

I do believe I reached that point where I am constantly beating the card companies.  Rarely, any more, do I get fooled by decoys and the other tricks that card companies use to hide hits.  Hell, depending on the product, I can even find hits in rack packs and blaster boxes.  They're harder to search, but I can still find hits in those too.

I started this blog to chronicle my journey from novice pack searcher to pro pack searcher.  At the time, I saw it mostly as a journal to write down memories and stories, for my own amusement.  I thought that in the future, it would be fun to look back at these blog posts to remember these times; to remember when I was once that young padawan pack searcher yearning to be a jedi master pack searcher.  I honestly did not expect anyone to find this blog, and for me to gain a small following.  I thought it would just be me, myself, and I.  

But it turns out that pack searching is intriguing for a lot of other people too.  People were Googling "pack searching" and started running across my blog.  (And I'm sorry for choosing the name "Amateur Hot Pack Hunter" because when I first started the blog and you Googled "Amateur Hot Pack," the top search results would all be porn sites!)  Within a month I had my first comment, and within four months I was getting regular comments.  People were even asking me for tips, and asking me to teach them how to pack search.  Like the old pack searching pros on Youtube (such as deanofmean86 and Tut) had inspired me to try pack searching, I think this blog inspired others to try pack searching too.  At the time, there were no other pack searching blogs on the internet.  I was on the only one.  Now there is one other, and another which has come and gone.  Pack searching seems to be a regular occurring topic on the Blowout Cards forums, and YouTube videos of hot pack openings are still fairly common.  While I certainly can't take all the credit for the surge in pack searching popularity, I can't help but think I played a role in its rise over the past couple of years.  

The rise in pack searching's popularity probably is what led to this:


This might be the first time, at least that I know of, that a card company has actually acknowledged pack searching on such a large scale public platform such as their own Facebook page.  Pack searching must be becoming more prevalent.  

How about that picture?  Wow.  That's some serious pack searching right there.  That guy is, almost literally, camped out in the card aisle to do some searching.  I'll admit I've done similar.  I've brought a fold-up camping chair to sit down while I search, head phones (to help me get in that deep pack searching zone), Gatorade to stay hydrated (pack searching is a sport too!), and some Icy Hot for the arthritis and muscle strain from finger banging all those packs.  Sometimes, when I'm at Target for a really long time, I'll get a couple of those hand carts, flip them upside down, and use them as a foot rest while I'm sitting in my chair doing my searching.  

I don't know if the guy in the picture knew he was being photographed.  Maybe he knew and didn't care.  Maybe he didn't know.  Either way, it got me thinking, have we pack searchers all started going too far?  Are we really only concerned about the hits or making a profit by selling hot packs, and not interested in the base cards or insert cards any more?  What ever happened to just buying packs of cards, because you liked the cards?  Remember the old days when there were no autographs or relic cards in packs?  You just bought cards because you liked looking at the pictures, reading the stats on the back, or for just plain old collecting.  

Collecting.  Isn't that what the sports card industry is about?  Perhaps we've lost sight of that.  I certainly have.  I can admit that.  Although the beauty of the Allen & Ginter set is what initially hooked me on cards, I went through a period after that where all I cared about were the hits.  I was barely looking at the base cards, and was throwing them away.  I only kept the hits. 

But then a strange thing happened after a while.  I almost became jaded to the hits.  When you're not used to getting hits all the time, getting hits is a big deal.  But when you start getting really good at pack searching and you get hits all the time, they sort of start to lose their specialness.  It got to the point where I almost started leaving hits on the shelves after I found them, and even considered joining the ranks of many of my brethren who sell hot packs on eBay.  But instead of going down either of those routes, life went on, priorities changed, my life changed, and I started pack searching less.  Perhaps this change was inevitable.  Perhaps it is what I needed.  

During that brief time away from pack searching I realized I had changed.  I was a different person.  I didn't want to pack search just to find the hits any more, I wanted to buy cards just because I liked the cards.  In a sense, I had regressed back from that pack searching crazed maniac, back to that kid who just wanted to buy cards because they looked so cool. 

Don't get me wrong, I still think pack searching is fun.  I still enjoy thinking about it, thinking about the challenge, and thinking about how Topps (the card company who I believe actually takes the most effort to thwart pack searchers) will try to confuse us pack searchers.  To draw another analogy, I see myself as a code breaker, and the packs of cards like the Ginter Code -- just waiting to be cracked.  

Frankly, I think this code has been cracked.  I learned how to pack search on Allen & Ginter.  I've given the most time, thought, and effort into pack searching Allen & Ginter, and I can definitely pack search the shit out of the product in every form that it comes packaged.  

Now that the code has been cracked, the question now becomes: can I quit?

I already tried.  That was that period when the blog went silent for about three months.  It was extremely hard not to pack search.  When you shop at Target and Walmart regularly for things other than just cards, it's all too easy to stop by the card aisle and see what's available.  Every time I went to Target and Walmart, temptation was eating away at me.  

I'm only human, and eventually I gave in to the pack searching urges.  The appeal of cracking new codes, was just too much.  I missed taking down all those notes in my phone.  I missed having a product I was working on pack searching to think about during my free time.  Pathetic, I know.  Like I said, it's an obsession.  It's a puzzle.  It's a puzzle that I can't help but want to crack.  The hits are a nice bonus and reward for my searching, but my greatest joy comes from the satisfaction of knowing that I've cracked the code when I can successfully find hit after hit in some of the tougher products to search.  

The time has come for me to try quitting again.  The past two years have been a lot of fun, but life goes on.  My life must go on.  I need to concentrate my efforts elsewhere.  As we all grow up, we have to give up things.  I have to give up pack searching.  

It will be hard.  I know that.  I may have a relapse.  Or two.  Or three.  Or four.  Or more.  Obsessions and addictions don't stop overnight.  They don't always stop right away, or even after a handful of tries.  It might take me a year or a few years, but I do think that I have to put this behind me.  

If anything is going to keep me from pack searching, it will probably because I am now more in the camp of collecting cards just to collect cards.  While I still would love to get hits, I also don't mind just getting nicely designed and good looking base cards or inserts.  As somebody who doesn't have a hobby shop nearby, I'll be buying retail.  That being the case, it would be nice if I could buy retail and still have a chance at getting hits.  In a way, I'm almost like those people who say pack searching ruins it for everybody.  

Note how I said "almost" in that previous sentence.  That's because I'm also still of the belief that pack searching isn't illegal, it's not stealing, it's not wrong (as long as you're not damaging the cards while you search them), and buying cards is first come first serve (earlier patrons owe no duty to later patrons to not pack search).  I view buying cards just like buying anything else at the store: you want the best one available and if you can figure out which might be the best one then buy the best one.  So if I go to a store and I see someone pack searching, I will feel no ill-will towards them.  I believe they have the right to do what they're doing.  The fact that they're pack searching may prevent me from buying cards, but so be it.  That's just the way it is. 

So for all my fellow pack searcher readers who have followed my blog for the past two years, I hope you don't think I'm turning my back on you or that I'm the enemy now.  I'm not.  I don't care that you guys are still pack searching.  I wish you all good luck in finding hits.  I just have to quit this fun and addicting habit. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

How Much 2014 Allen & Ginter Have You Searched?

When I go out and pack search, sometimes I'll keep notes in my phone about how much product a store has on its shelves.  I do this to keep track of how much product is being purchased by other card collectors in between my visits to each particular store.  It also helps me know if any restocks have occurred since my last visit.  Yes, this is completely nutty.  It's a product of my pack searching obsession and my psychotic desire for having as much information at my fingertips as possible. 

So this year I kept an approximate count of how much 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter packs I've searched.  Based on my estimates, I think I've searched approximately 625 retail packs of 2014 Allen & Ginter. 

Is that a lot?  I don't know.  For the regular collectors it probably seems like some crazy amount.  But for any other pack searchers reading this blog maybe they don't think it's a lot.  Maybe they have searched even more packs.

Based on the retail print run of 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter, 625 retail packs is approximately 0.35% of the entire retail stock that Topps made.  Maybe some year I'll try to search a whole 1% of the retail stock.  While that is not a lot in the grand scheme of things, it would be an amazing feat to accomplish. 

I think that had I had more time on my hands, the number of 625 retail packs could have actually been bigger.  Sometimes when I was in stores I just didn't have the time to search all the product there.  If I didn't have a job and had more time to drive to all the Targets and Walmarts within a 2 hours drive of me, I probably could have doubled that number. 

So what should I have found in those 625 packs?  Well, based on the retail odds I should have found approximately 26 full sized hits (either full sized relics, framed mini relics, or autographs).  Of those 26 hits, 4 of the hits should have been autographs.

I actually found 15 full sized hits, and of those only 1 of the hits was an autograph.

So what gives?  Why is there this disparity?

Most of it is due to me searching a lot of retail gravity feed packs which have already been searched, and didn't have a hit because other pack searchers had been there before me.  This is typical, and to be expected.  Unfortunately, it also skews my results. 

If I ignore the retail gravity feed packs which I know had been searched before me (and I can safely know and assume this because I didn't find any hits in those packs) then I think the actual number of unsearched retail packs that I had searched was approximately 481 packs. 

What should I have found in 481 packs?  I should have found approximately 20 hits, and 3 of the hits should have been autographs.  That leaves me about five total hits short, and two of which should have been autographs.

What does this all mean?  Most likely I missed some hits.  Hey, it happens.  Sometimes I searched some products and I wasn't 100% sure there was a hit in it so I didn't buy it.  A couple of times there might have been hits there that I ended up missing because I didn't make the purchase, i.e. a false negative.  On the other hand, I had very few false positives this year - meaning times when I purchased packs which I thought had hits in them but didn't.  I think out of all the Ginter I bought this year it only happened to me twice.  The first time I was in a rush and mistakenly thought I had a hit when I didn't.  The second time was a packing error by Topps so that's not entirely my fault. 

How many Ginter packs do you guys think you've searched?  What is the most packs you've searched of any product? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pack Searching 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter: The Last Hurrah

2014 Topps Allen & Ginter has come and gone.  It's been out for a really long time and been heavily searched.  Everywhere store I go to is barren and not a single hit can be found.  Here are the last two hits I found.

Miguel Cabrera
2014 Topps Allen & Ginter
Full Sized Relic
Odds:  1:79

I found a nice Miguel Cabrera bat relic.

Phelps Sweatt
2014 Topps Allen & Ginter
Full Sized Relic
Odds:  1:79

And a Phelps Sweatt relic. 

I was hoping to hit some crazy stuff this year but I really can't complain with all the hits I was able to find in retail.  With that, I'm done.  No more Ginter for me.  Time to move on and concentrate on something else.

Friday, August 15, 2014

I Spy Another Pack Searcher

A few weekends ago I was out on a little day trip, and decided to stop by a Target on the way.  By this point in time, Topps Allen & Ginter had been out for over three weeks.  I knew there were slim chances at finding hits but I figured I'd give it a shot anyways.

As I walked into the Target and started approaching the card aisle I could see the back of a person's head by the cards.  It was a man.  Wearing a hat, looking down intently at some packs of cards in his hands.

Instantly, I knew.  It was another pack searcher.

For a moment I considered strolling right up next to him and finger banging those packs with him.  (Would that make it a pack searching three-some?)  But then I decided against it.  While he and I are very much the same, I like to operate alone and in anonymity.  Instead, I decided to discreetly watch him from a few aisles over.

He looked to be searching Bowman Baseball.  He had some rack packs in his hands, and seemed to be checking out a few loose packs from the gravity feed too.  I haven't even tried to search Bowman this year.  The cards don't really interest me and I'd rather spend my money searching Ginter.

It was interesting to see what techniques he was using.  They were your usual techniques.  Nothing new or groundbreaking.  I wondered if he reads this blog.  I was pretty sure he probably was a subscribing member to one of the two major pack searching websites.  I wondered if I've ever been watched like I was watching this dude.  Probably.  When you've pack searched as much and as long as I have you've probably been noticed... oh, a lot.

I watched him for about ten minutes.  He seemed satisfied with one pack of cards, went to the cash register and paid for it.  I even watched him bust the pack on his way out.  He didn't seem crazy excited about whatever was in the pack but he also seemed satisfied.  I wonder what he pulled.  An autograph?  A numbered parallel?

Now that he was gone it was time for me to search.  I swooped into the aisle and started searching the Allen & Ginter packs.  Lucky for me, there was one hit to be found.

Ian Desmond
2014 Allen & Ginter
Full-Sized Relic
Odds:  1:79

It was an Ian Desmond relic!  Another nice looking card. 

This was actually one of the first pack searchers that I've come across in a very long time.  When I was first starting out, I seemed to run across at least one other searcher every few months.  Now though, I think it's been over a year since I've seen another pack searcher.  Maybe it's because as I've become more proficient at pack searching I don't spend as much time at the stores as I used to.  I have a mental picture of that guy in my mind.  I'll keep an eye out for him again.  He must be local.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pack Searching 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter: My First Autograph

I've actually been keeping track of how much 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter I've searched.  I've been doing that to see how many hits there should be versus how many hits I'm finding.  This sort of gives me an idea of how many hits other pack searchers are finding who have beat me to the stores and how many hits I may be missing.

Based on my how many packs I've searched, I actually figured that I should have come across approximately 2.5 autographs so far.  I hadn't hit a single one yet, so either I was getting a little unlucky, or I had missed the autograph hits.

The fact that I'm due for an autograph has been killing me.  It's been making me want to go out farther and farther on pack searching road trips to find the hits.

One night, when I had some free time and no obligations, I finally gave in.  I hopped in the car and made a 30 minute trek to a Target a couple towns away.

I've had good success at this Target before.  I know it gets searched by other pack searchers, but I've also found hits there from products which have been out for a long time too.  That means that the other pack searchers who do search this store don't visit it very often.  I was hoping that they hadn't visited this store in a while.

When I finally got there and checked out their Ginter stock, I could clearly see that it had been searched.  Much of it had already been purchased too.  Even so, I came all this way to search this Target so I wasn't about to leave before searching it myself. 

I've said this a million times before on the blog, but you never know what you'll find unless you look.  So I looked.  I finger banged the shit out of those packs and came across a hit.

It was the only hit in the store, and it was my first autograph... finally!

Andre Rienzo
2014 Topps Allen & Ginter
Framed Mini Autograph
Odds:  1:144

It was a framed mini autograph of rookie Andre Rienzo!  This card isn't worth a lot, but it doesn't matter.  To me, it has a different value.  It represents all the critical thinking, research, and effort I've put into searching and finding the hits where other pack searchers don't want to search.