Tuesday, July 31, 2012

2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Baseball Pack Odds

Have you ever noticed that the odds listed on the 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter retail packs differ from the odds listed on the 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter "jumbo pack" rack packs?

In case you haven't, the odds listed on the "jumbo pack" rack packs (which contain the equivalent of two packs of cards, and are not to be confused with three-pack "value pack" rack packs which contain three actual packs) are half that of the odds on the retail packs.

For example, on the retail packs, the odds for pulling a Historical Turning Points is 1:8.  On the jumbo packs, the odds for the same cards are 1:4.  Likewise, the odds of a framed relic mini in a retail pack are 1:28, but the odds of getting a framed relic mini in a jumbo pack are 1:14.

Heath Bell
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter
Game-Used Relic
Odds:  1:28 (retail packs)
Odds:  1:14 (jumbo rack packs)

This, of course, all makes sense because the jumbo packs have twice as many packs as a retail pack does, thus, improving your odds two-fold.  So, in theory, every odds listed on a jumbo pack should be half that of the odds for the same pull on a retail pack.

But, quite interestingly, not all of the odds listed in a jumbo pack are exactly half that of a retail pack.
  • Mini, A&G Baseball Ad back
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:296
    • Jumbo Pack odds:  1:152  (should be 1:148)
  • Framed Autograph Mini
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:193
    • Jumbo Pack odds: 1:91 (should be 1:96.5) 
  • Mystery Redemption
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:27,000
    • Jumbo Pack odds: 1:16,848 (should be 1:13,500)
  • Cut Signatures
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:118,368
    • Jumbo Pack odds: 1:50,500 (should be 1:59,184)
  • Framed DNA Relic Mini
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:118,000
    • Jumbo Pack odds: Not Listed
Above, I've shown what the odds should be on the jumbo packs, if we assume that the retail pack odds are the accurate baseline from which the odds on the jumbo packs should be derived.  But as you can see, the odds listed on the jumbo packs differ quite greatly from what they should be.

It might be easier to understand the results if I converted the jumbo pack odds to retail pack odds.  Let me do that.
  • Mini, A&G Baseball Ad back
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:296  (0.00889% better odds)
    • Jumbo Pack odds:  1:304 
  • Framed Autograph Mini
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:193
    • Jumbo Pack odds: 1:182  (0.03132% better odds)
  • Mystery Redemption
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:27,000  (0.00074% better odds)
    • Jumbo Pack odds: 1:33,696
  • Cut Signatures
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:118,368
    • Jumbo Pack odds: 1:101,000  (0.00015% better odds)
  • Framed DNA Relic Mini
    • Retail Pack odds:  1:118,000 
    • Jumbo Pack odds: Not Listed
So, above, I've shown what the odds would be, per pack, between the retail packs and jumbo packs.  Theoretically, they should be equal be.

But quite interestingly, they're not equal.  In fact, a person has a very slightly better chance at getting a mini A&G Baseball Ad back card from retail packs than jumbo packs -- a 0.0089%% better chance, to be exact.  Likewise, a person has a .00074% better chance of getting a Mystery Redemption from a retail pack than a jumbo pack.

On the other hand, a person has a 0.03132% better chance of getting a Framed Autograph Mini from a jumbo pack than a retail pack; and a person has a .00015% better chance of getting a Cut Signatures from a jumbo pack than a retail pack! 

And, a person has a 0% chance of getting a Framed DNA Relic Mini from a jumbo pack because the Framed DNA Relic Minis aren't listed on jumbo packs!!!  I guess Topps decided not to put Framed DNA Relic Minis in any jumbo packs unless that was merely an oversight. 

Bottom line, if you...
  • WANT better chances at getting a Mini, A&G Baseball Ad back card or a Mystery Redemption, THEN buy retail packs instead of jumbo packs.
  • WANT better chances at getting a Framed Autograph Mini or a Cut Signatures, THEN buy jumbo packs instead of retail packs.  
  • WANT a Framed DNA Relic Mini, THEN buy retail packs.  

Disclaimer #1:  Topps does note, on both the retail packs and the jumbo packs, that the listed odds are only "approximate" so everything I said above may be a bunch of hogwash.  But if you believe in influencing your odds in your favor, even in the slightest way, then I would consider targeting certain packs -- whether they be retail packs or jumbo packs or value packs -- to suit your desires.  

Disclaimer #2:  I'm not sure what the odds are on 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter hobby packs, but I'm guessing the listed odds on the back are the same odds on retail packs.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Love 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Jumbo Packs

2012 Topps Allen & Ginter rack packs are a pretty cool buy.  The three-pack rack packs are cool because you get those gold bordered minis.  I think those packs are a little more pack searcher proof too because those bottom parts of the rack pack contain two packs, which make them harder to search.  So I guess if you're going to buy some retail packs of Allen & Ginter, I'd probably go with the three-pack rack packs.

On the other hand, there are also the two-pack rack packs, which Topps calls the "Jumbo Packs."  These are fun to look at because they're ridiculously easy to search.  I mean, you can basically preview the entire pack before you buy it to see who you're getting. 

As I've started to learn, the key to pack searching isn't so much being good at it (because even a dolt can easily find the game-used cards), but just being the first guy there to search the packs.

One day, on another visit to a local Target, I noticed the Allen & Ginter rack packs looked like they had been recently restocked.  And lucky for me, they were the two-pack "jumbo packs" variety.  Within moments I had located a hit.

Jordan Zimmerman
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter
Game-Used Relic
Odds:  1:28

It was a Jordan Zimmerman game-used relic!  Pulling a mini-relic is always an accomplishment considering the odds (1:28).  Nevertheless, I was disappointed it wasn't an autograph.  I'm still looking for my first 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter autographed mini.  I'm hoping that one day I can find one in a retail pack and not have to resort to buying the very expensive hobby boxes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2011 Topps Lineage: Babe Ruth Cloth

On my last visit to the local Walmart some 2011 Topps Lineage got my attention.  Rack packs were on sale for like half of the normal price.  I guess they were trying to get rid of the product since it was a year old.

I decided to give it a look and pulled...

Babe Ruth, Cloth Sticker
2011 Topps Lineage
Odds:  1:12

A Babe Ruth cloth card!  The cloth cards are kind of cool.  Although they are just parallels of the base cards the fact that this was a Babe Ruth card made my day.  The cloth cards have a nice vintage feel to them, and when you couple that with a nice old picture of a Baseball Great, it makes for a great card.

Next time I'm back at that Walmart, I think I might pick up some more 2011 Topps Lineage if I find anything interesting.

Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 Upper Deck Soccer

Does anybody actually buy this stuff?  Every time I go to my local stores, I see the same retail box sitting there untouched time after time.

Seeing as nobody was buying it, I decided I'd give it a look.  Here's the hit:

Jon Busch
2012 Upper Deck Soccer
Game Used Memorabilia
Odds:  1:36
It was a Jon Busch game-used memorabilia.  Kinda cool although I wish it had multiple colors.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Ebay Hot Pack Experiment

Hot packs.  You can either hunt for them yourself or buy them on Ebay.  A quick look on Ebay shows over a hundred listings for 2012 Allen & Ginter hot packs.  Do you dare buy them?  Some people think the sellers have opened up the packs and resealed them with low-value relics.  Others say that it's always possible the seller has incorrectly identified the the pack as a "hot pack" when it's really not one.  There's always a risk involved when you buy something on Ebay and these hot packs are no different.  In fact the risk may be higher than most other items.

I am a curious guy so I decided to buy one myself.  I wanted to see if (1) the hot pack looked like it had been tampered with; (2) whether the seller had correctly identified the pack as a hot pack; and (3) what was inside.

Between the sale price and shipping, I paid just over $10 for this hot pack.

When I got it in the mail, I gave it a quick inspection to see if it had been tampered with in some way.  I was basically looking to see if had been re-sealed some how.  To me, it did not look tampered with at all.  The flaps on the back of the pack were still glued (or sealed) down to the rest of the wrapper.  The crinkle-cut edges were neat and didn't show signs of any glue or adhesive.  The pack didn't show signs of excessive search damage.  No fingernail slashes or marks showed on the outside of the wrapper.  This was basically a very clean pack of cards.

Considering that the card probably contained some sort of relic, all the pack searcher had to do was to give it the simple flex test.  There was no need to utilize any other fancy tests which might damage the cards.

I gave the pack a quick flex test.  Yup, definitely stiffer than other packs. 

I opened up the pack to see what was inside, and...

Brian McCann.  2012 Topps Allen & Ginter.
Game Used Relic.
Odds:  1:28

It was a Brian McCann game-used relic!  Not a horrible hit, but not great either.

I was hoping for an autograph mini, but I think that if the pack searcher thought it was an autograph card that they would have opened it for their self.  From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to sell the relics and keep the autographs.  After all, most relics are only worth about $5 each.  On the other hand, even some of the low level autographs are probably worth anywhere from $10 to $20.  I know that if I found an Allen & Ginter hot pack which I was sure contained an autograph instead of a game-used relic, then I would open up the pack. 

Now that I've seen that buying hot packs off of Ebay can be legit (not to say every seller is legit, but at least the one I bought from is), it begs the question: should you buy hot packs off of Ebay?

The answer to the question is tough, and will vary from person to person based on their desires.

First, if you have problems supporting the pack searching industry, then you probably wouldn't want to buy hot packs from a pack searcher.  So long as people buy hot packs on Ebay, pack searchers will continue to pack search to sell packs on Ebay.  If you don't care about the pack searching industry and supporting a pack searcher, then by all means, go right on ahead and buy that hot pack!

Second, I think the question you should also ask yourself is: do you really want that hit that bad?  I think that in most cases the sellers are probably selling game-used relic hot packs.  As I said earlier, if they knew it was an autograph card, they'd probably open it up themselves to see who it was since autographs are worth more than relics.  So, assuming you buy a hot pack for about $10 off of Ebay, you're essentially paying $10 for a game-used relic (and maybe a slight chance at an autograph card).  Considering that the low level game-used relic cards are only worth $5 or so, it may not be financially worth it to buy hot packs.

Third, I think the final question you should also ask yourself is: are you going to like that card?  For me, I get more attached to cards that I pulled from packs which I hand picked.  The card is more special.  The memories of getting that hit stay with me longer, and I'm more inclined to keep the card rather than sell it on Ebay.  If you're like me, then you probably won't have much of an affinity to the card you pull from the hot pack -- unless you pull some crazy 1/1 card that is worth $500 or more.  So if you're going to end up not being very attached to the card, do you really want to pay $10 for it?  Sure, you could sell the card on Ebay afterwards if you don't like it and recoup some of your money, but that's additional time and effort.

To me, the easiest way to get hot packs other than off of Ebay is to: (1) buy hobby boxes where you're guaranteed a certain amount of hits per box; or (2) do a little pack searching yourself the next time you're at Target or Walmart.  At least when you pack search yourself, you're only paying list price for the pack instead of an inflated auction price like on Ebay.  Plus, pack searching yourself is more fun than simply buying a pack that someone else has pack searched for.  There is a bit of gratification one feels when you open up that hot pack, and you pull out a hit, confirming your suspicions that this pack was a hot pack.  I see pack searching as a game and as a challenge.  I like a little challenge every once in a while.  And winning, by pulling out that hit, is always fun too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2011 Allen & Ginter Parallel(?) Base Cards

I wish I had gotten into Allen & Ginter prior to 2012.  The 2011 Allen & Ginter set looks pretty cool.  I've picked up two blaster boxes while pack searching (yes, despite being a card searcher I do buy retail too!). 

I've noticed some of the base cards have these interesting black flowery stamp designs or something on the front corners.  What are these?

Alex Rodriguez
2011 Topps Allen & Ginter

Are these some sort of parallel base card set?  I can't find any information on these.

Ubaldo Jimenez
2011 Topps Allen & Ginter

Whatever they are, I think they're kind of cool, and I hope to get more of them!

Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Topps Heritage: Torri Hunter Chrome Refractor

Here's another latest hit.  This one came from a retail pack.

Torii Hunter
2012 Topps Heritage
Heritage Chrome Refractor
Odds:  1:77

2012 Topps Heritage is quickly becoming one of my favorite sets to search.  The chrome cards seem easy to find which makes searching the packs fun.

Torii Hunter
2012 Topps Heritage
Heritage Chrome Refractor
Odds:  1:77
And I like the old-school look of the cards.   My next goal: start finding some on-card autographs.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

2012 Panini Prestige Football

For the most part, I've stayed away from Panini Prestige because I know they put decoy cards in their packs.  But after thinking about things some more, I decided that it's not necessarily a bad thing that they put in decoy cards.  This is because they don't decoy cards in ALL of their packs.  Only some packs get decoy cards.  Thus, when you give a pack the simple flex/bend test, if the pack doesn't flex or bend at all, you know that you either have a pack with a decoy card or a relic (or some other fancy card).  Now it's just up to you to figure out if it's a decoy or not.

On one of my visits to a Walmart, I noticed the 2012 Panini Prestige rack packs were stacked deep.  They had obviously just been restocked.  They looked relatively untouched so I definitely might have been the first person to search them.  And search them I did.

Of course, I found like 5 rack packs which either contained decoys or a relic.  So then I started using the other search techniques to decipher whether they were hits or not.  And it turns out, that one of them was a hit!

Ray Lewis
2012 Panini Prestige
Game-Used Jersey Card

It was a Ray Lewis Gamers Jersey Card!  It's actually a pretty nice looking card.  The white fabric matches the white card background quite well.  The fabric even has this very light blue striping to it, which is pretty cool. 

Ray Lewis
2012 Panini Prestige
Game-Used Jersey Card

Unfortunately, in my card searching process, I slightly damaged the card.  I am a little disappointed in myself for doing that.  Those Panini rack packs can get pretty tight some times making it difficult to search them.  Oh well.  It's still a really nice card.

The tally:
2012 Panini Prestige Football Rack Pack - 1/1 (100%)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter 2-Pack Rack Packs - 0/2 (0%)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Retail Packs - 2/19 (10.53%)
2012 Topps Heritage Rack Pack - 0/1 (0%)
2012 Topps Heritage Retail Pack - 1/1 (100%)
2012 Topps Series 1 & 2 Rack Packs - 1/2 (50%)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Need New Hunting Grounds

I think I've hit every Target and Walmart within a reasonable distance over the past week.  And I've already hit some of them multiple times too.  It's gotten to the point where even though I'll go back, I won't always search all their cards.  Instead, I'll just search the sets which I haven't already searched.

Now, I find myself trying to find excuses to get out of town so that I can hit some Targets and Walmarts going to and coming back from my destination.  Yeah, this addiction is getting bad.

Brad Peacock RC; Bryce Harper RC; Hisashi Iwakuma RC
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter

Today, I actually did have a very legitimate reason for going somewhere.  So on the way back home I hit up a Target which I hadn't been to yet.  When I walked in and went the sports card section, I was pleasantly surprised to see the racks of cards and the shelves looking quite pristine.  Either they had just restocked and rearranged the displays, or perhaps this Target hadn't been hit by other searchers yet.

But after about 30 minutes of searching 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter, 2012 Topps Heritage, 2012 Topps Baseball Series 1, 2012 Topps 2012 Baseball Series 2, and 2012 Panini Prestige Football, I've found nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Either this Target has been cleaned out big time, or it's just really bad luck.  I'm not sure, either way, the result is the same: no hits.

Card searching is much less exciting when you know you've already searched all the cards in the store!  I need to hit new stores further away from home, and give the stores closer to me some time to re-stock their displays.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Golden Opportunity: A New Walmart

Searching packs occupies my thoughts more than it should right now.  However, the need to break open some packs has subsided a little bit over the past few days.  I've been breaking open a lot of packs lately and when I think about the money I've spent doing so, I do feel a little guilty.  But then I also think about all that I'm learning -- the techniques and methods for pack searching -- and I am itching to search some more.  I want to try and apply those knowledge, the techniques, and the methods to real-life situations and find more cards.

And so it's Day 5 of my cardboard addiction.  And I succumb to the urge to pack search.

It just so happens that a new Walmart opened in the area.  Yesterday.  How I did not know this, I don't know.  While I was out searching other Targets and Walmarts, I could have been at this brand new Walmart searching there.  After all, when you think about what makes a card searcher so successful, it's mostly just about being there first.  It's about getting to the store to search it before anyone else.  What better opportunity to do that at than a brand new store, that just opened?  That's the golden opportunity.  And I missed it.  I didn't know the Walmart was opening and I missed the opportunity to be there, on opening day, and being perhaps the first person to search the packs.

But I decide to go today, on the second day it has been open, just in case no other pack searchers have hit the store yet.

I pull into the parking lot of the new Walmart and it looks busy.  Really busy.  I'm beginning to think there is zero chance I'm the first one here to search the cards.  But as I approach the card section, I'm pleasantly surprised to see all the cards neatly arranged on the shelves and racks, looking untouched, and very very new.  Perhaps I didn't miss this golden opportunity.

I go immediately to the box of 2012 Allen & Ginter.  It's full and looks completely untouched.  Perfect.  I start feeling the cards.  Within the first few packs, I can tell this box has been searched.  It doesn't look like all the packs have been searched.  The packs at the bottom seem untouched.  But the packs at the top were definitely searched.  I can feel the calling card that a fellow pack searcher has left behind.  To be certain they didn't miss anything, I search the entire box.  Nothing.  Either there was nothing in this box or whomever beat me here got the relic.  Out of curiosity I count how many packs there are in the box.  There are 25.  That's a little odd considering the box says that there are 24 packs in the box.  I'm not sure where that extra pack came from.  Either this box hasn't had a single pack purchased from it (and someone added an extra pack), or perhaps there was one more pack in it that someone bought.   It seems odd to put 25 packs in a box instead of, say, 24 or 26.  Even numbers stack better than odd numbers.  It's a mystery I can't solve, but the bottom line is, there are no hits in this box.

I take more time to search some Allen & Ginter rack packs.  Then I search the Topps 2012 Series 1 & 2 rack packs.  Again, nothing.  For a store that has been only been open for two days, it sure is bone dry.  I suppose that's either really bad luck or this store really has been hit already by another searcher.

I decide to visit another Target close by.  I don't know why it is, but Targets and Walmarts always seem to be close to each other.  I wonder if that's a strategic business decision.  Lucky for me though, because the stores are close by, I can easily hit both of them in an hour.

I've already been this to Target many times.  I know it's been heavily searched.  But I'm there just to check if anything new has been put out.  No, nothing new has been put out.  There are at least 150 Topps Series 1 packs in a gravity box, as well as 150 Topps Series 2 packs in a different gravity box.  As easy as those are to search, I don't feel like going through the trouble to search them.  I only search about 40 of them before giving up.

Instead, I set my sights on some 2012 Topps Heritage.  I've never searched them before, and I haven't done ANY research on them, but I can't help searching them anyways.  And after a moment inspecting the packs, I realize it's pretty darn easy to search them.  Within a few minutes, I locate a hit in a retail pack.  I can tell, using two different methods, that there's a hit in it.

I search the Topps Heritage rack packs too.  One pack gets my attention because it looks and feels much thinner than the rest.  I even count the cards in the pack and it clearly does have one card less than is advertised.  The front of the pack does say that packs with relics or cut signature cards have one less card in them.  I certainly don't feel a thicker relic card in the pack so I assume maybe there is an on-card autograph in the pack (on a regular thickness card).  I decide to buy the pack just in case.

In my car, I open up the rack pack that I wasn't quite sure about.  It's a dud.  It turns out the rack pack did have 16 cards as advertised.  One of the cards was a mini, and thus I couldn't feel or see it when I was counting the cards.  I got fooled.  Oh well.  Lesson learned there.

On to the retail pack.  I break it open.  I'm stunned when I don't see a double or triple thickness card.  Could it be that I was wrong about it?  I flip through the cards.  No, I wasn't wrong.  The thicker card is there, but it's not really much thicker at all.

Nick Markakis
2012 Topps Heritage
Heritage Chrome Refractor
Odds 1:77

It's a Nick Markakis Heritage Chrome Refractor (Odds 1:77).  Not a bad pull.  I don't know who the hell the guy is, but considering the odds of pulling one of these cards, I'm really pleased.

Nick Markakis
2012 Topps Heritage
Heritage Chrome Refractor
Odds 1:77

The card is numbered to 563.  You can see the numbering in the top right corner (I've photoshopped out the last two digits).  Pretty cool card.  I like these cards enough that I decide I'll search Topps Heritage from now on.

At the end of the day, I only searched two stores.  My golden opportunity turned up nothing.  I can only assume other card searchers got to that Walmart before I did.  I missed my chance.  Oh well.  At least having another Walmart around means another store to search regularly.

The tally:
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter 2-Pack Rack Packs - 0/2 (0%, $11.43 spent)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Retail Packs - 2/19 (10.53%, $65.46 spent)
2012 Topps Heritage Rack Pack - 0/1 (0%, $5.71 spent)
2012 Topps Heritage Retail Pack - 1/1 (100%, $3.45 spent)
2012 Topps Series 1 & 2 Rack Packs - 1/2 (50%, $10.76 spent)

2012 Topps Series 1 & 2

Day 4 of my cardboard addiction (continued).

I've just met another fellow pack searcher.  Undeterred by the idea that he might have hit some of the other Targets and/or Walmarts in the area, or that all the other Targets and Walmarts in the area have been searched, I've made the decision to visit two more local stores in the area before heading home.

When I think about how much time, effort, and gas I've put into this pursuit -- all to probably only get small value relics -- it doesn't make much financial sense.  It's an expensive and profitless venture.  But to me, it's not about the money.  It's not about finding relics, then flipping them on Ebay.  No.  To me, it's just about the challenge of finding that relic or autograph.  It's about seeing if I can beat the system.  It's about the excitement of opening up that pack to see if I correctly called it a hit.  And it's about seeing what that hit might be.  That's why I do it.  That, and I have this insatiable addiction.

Soon, I find myself at another Walmart.  I've hit this Walmart every day this week hoping that they'd restock their Allen & Ginter supply, but they have yet to do that.  I see the same few remaining packs in the Allen & Ginter box that I know are duds.  I don't even bother searching them.

Instead, I set my sights on some 2012 Topps Series 1 and Series 2 rack packs.  It looks like the Walmart just put some new ones out on the racks because the rack packs are stacked 15-20 packs deep.  They look relatively untouched and I could be the first person to search them, so I start searching.

Last night I watched some more YouTube videos and got a better idea on how to search rack packs.  And as I start applying that knowledge, I realize how easy it is to search them compared to some of the regular packs.  It's not long before I find a hit.  I can feel a thick card in the rack pack.  It's definitely a hit.  Without a doubt.

One more pack catches my attention.  I'm not convinced it's a hit and I examine it for a good five minutes before I decide to buy it, just in case, although I'm pretty sure it's not a hit.

I go to my car and rip open the rack pack that I wasn't 100% sure about.  And once again, I should have trusted my gut.  A dud.  I see why I got fooled though, and make a mental note of it.  But the real lesson here, is to once again trust my gut.

I move on to the rack pack which I know has a hit in it.  I don't even bother looking at the other cards in the pack as I flip to it.  And boom!  It's a hit!

Ubaldo Jimenez
Topps 2012 Series 1
Golden Moments Relic
Odds 1:36

It's a Ubaldo Jimenez Golden Moments Relic!  And I can't help but think I'm getting the hang of things.  Spotting this hit was easy.  I make a mental note to search more 2012 Topps Series 1 and 2 rack packs. 

The tally:
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter 2-Pack Rack Packs - 0/2 (0%, $11.43 spent)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Retail Packs - 2/19 (10.53%, $65.46 spent)
2012 Topps Series 1 & 2 Rack Packs - 1/2 (50%, $10.76 spent)

First Contact: My First Pack Searcher Run-In

It's Day 4 of my cardboard addiction.  I've just visited a Target and Walmart in the area, and now I'm on my way to another Target on the way home.  This is the same one where I was the first person to pack search a sealed 2012 Allen & Ginter retail pack box.  I want to see if it's still out, untouched, and if I missed any other relics in the box.

I stroll into the Target and go straight for the cards.  I see another man in the aisle scanning cards with some sort of hand-held device.  I don't know what it is.  He looks around, perhaps to see if anyone is noticing.  He's not wearing Target employee clothes.  He's not a Target employee.  He's a pack searcher.

I bail on my approach to the sports card aisle.  I walk right by.  I'm stunned.  I'm not sure what to do.  Do I confront this guy?  Do I just pack search right there next to him?  Do I spy on him to see what techniques he's using?

I decide to spy on him for now.  Lame, I know.  But I'm interested to see how he pack searchers.

So I circle around and pretend to look at baby clothes in the next section over, but really I'm intently watching his every move from 15 yards away. 

He's quite thorough.  More so than me.  He spends a lot of time flexing and feeling packs.  He does the slide test.  He fans cards too.  He's really giving these cards the whole nine yards.

I watch him for about ten minutes.  He searches the 2012 Allen & Ginter gravity box retail pack display.  And then, to my dread, he searches the retail box sitting on the top shelf.  If there were any relics in that retail box which I missed yesterday, he will surely find them.  I watch him inspect all the cards in that box.  He doesn't take a single one.  Apparently, I didn't miss any more relics in that box.  There just weren't any more relics in there.  I watch him search some other brands, and then get bored watching him.  I want to pack search those cards myself.

Joakim Soria
(mini, black bordered)
Odds:  1:5

I ponder what to do.  Clearly, he's a pack searcher.  If I go up there and pack search right next to him, he's not going to complain, right?  A pack searcher can't really get mad at a fellow pack searcher for searching packs.

Part of me wants to go up there, and straight up ask him if he's found anything good.

Fuck it.  I'm tired of watching him.  I walk out of the baby clothes section and walk up to the sports cards.  I pretend to look at the cards for half a minute.  He doesn't even stop searching the cards with me standing right next to him.  Brazen.  Clearly, he doesn't care that he's seen pack searching.  So I straight up ask him "find anything good?"

He seems a little surprised that I spoke to him.  Perhaps he's just not used to being bothered while he pack searchers.  Perhaps he's surprised I know what he's doing but don't seem to care.  Perhaps he's surprised I'm not telling him to stop.

He says no, he hasn't, and that he thinks other people have searched these packs already.  I even start picking up some packs and lightly search them myself.  I play dumb and ask him some questions about his techniques, and his best pulls.  He begins to open up as he realizes I'm there to pack search too.  He goes on to explain techniques, some of his best hits, information on when/where sealed retail boxes can sometimes be found in the store, and how others basically steal from the store by opening up packs or boxes which are guaranteed to have hits in them.

It's all pretty interesting.

I want to ask him what he thinks about people who hate what he does but I don't get the chance.  He eventually leaves, at the urging of his girlfriend who has been patiently waiting nearby.  She clearly knows full well what he's doing.  I wonder if she approves of what he's doing.  She certainly didn't object while I was there. 

It seems like this guy has been here a long time and he's thoroughly searched most of the cards.  I only search a few more packs before I decide this is a waste of time and that I'm better off searching at other stores.  I leave.

The experience was a bit of a shock to me because I didn't think that pack searching was really all that common.  I know I've been reading a lot of stuff on the internet about people being upset with pack searchers, but I just figured it was a fairly rare occurrence.  Seeing that guy there today, and hearing some of the stuff he had to say, led me to reconsider the notion that pack searchers are rare.  To the contrary, there could be a lot of them.

It's not that I expected to be the only person pack searching in my area, but it's quite clear now, that I am not alone.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Knowledge is Power

It's now only the second day of my card searching career.

Well, actually, I'm not sure if I want to call it a career.  It's certainly not what I do for a living.  And actually, I'm not even sure I want to keep card searching.  I've been reading a lot of message board chatter on the internet about how card searching is bad for the hobby, how it mostly hurts little kids, and how everyone seems to hate card searchers.  I spent a lot of time today considering the arguments made for and against card searching, and it weighs on me.  But to me, right now, card searching is mostly just a giant experiment to see if I can do what I always thought was possible: using various inspection methods to determine which card packs contain more desirable cards without opening the packs.

Regardless of whether I decide to keep going down the dark side card searching path, I do know that my addiction is strong and it must be appeased.

After work, I'm out an about hitting up another Target and Walmart in an adjacent town. 

First, the Walmart.  It has an Allen & Ginter retail box on display.  The cards are neatly stacked in the box.  Could I be so lucky that another card searcher hasn't hit this box?  I do know that there is a hobby store in this town.  I figure that where there are hobby stores, there are hard-core card hobbiests, and where there are hard-core card hobbiests, there are also card searchers.

I feel the cards.  None of the rack packs get my attention.  I feel the retail packs.  Three retail packs catch my attention.  Again, I'm not really feeling that unmistakeable "that's a hit!" feeling that I had last night when I pulled my first two card searching hits and my gut is telling me these aren't hits.  But I'm jonesing for more packs to open and I decide that, what the heck, I drove all the way out to these other stores, I might as buy something anyways.  (I'm sooo addicted.)

Russell Martin mini, A&G back, Short Print
Odds: 1:33

So I buy these three packs. 

In my car I open them up.  Dud.  Dud.  Dud.  I should have listened to my gut feeling.

The one good thing about failure is that you learn from it.  And so far, I've had lots of failures.  I've bought sixteen retail packs (now nineteen) and two rack packs.  Only two were hits.  All this learning, all this knowledge, has come at an expense.  A fun expense, but a monetary expense nonetheless.  But I'm feeling more and more confident in what characteristics to look for in a hot pack when inspecting it. 

I'm also starting to think that my initial failures weren't so much because I didn't know what I was looking for (I did).  It was because the card packs I was searching had already been searched, and did not contain hits.  So to me, just starting out, any small deviation in the feel of one pack from the average pack led me to believe it was a hit.  I was sort of ... convincing myself that these suspected card packs were hits just because they felt slightly different from the rest, despite the fact that I knew that they didn't have that definitive "that's a hit!" feelings I experienced yesterday when I pulled two GU relic hits.

Now I go to the Target and remind myself to be very selective when it comes to buying packs.  I tell myself to only buy those packs which really have that "that's a hit!" feeling to them.  I feel the cards in this Target.  Nada nada nada.  Just as I expected.  This Target is really close to the Walmart I was just at.  If card searchers hit the Walmart, then they also definitely hit the Target too.  I walk out without buying a single pack.  Money saved.  Knowledge is power.

The tally:
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter 2-Pack Rack Packs - 0/2 (0%, $11.43 spent)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Retail Packs - 2/19 (10.53%, $65.46 spent)

One Hit Wonder

So I've just got my first card searching hit.  I'm feeling good, and I'm thinking that perhaps I'm finally getting the hang of things.  Unfortunately, the Target where I just got the hit took the Allen & Ginter products off the shelves right after I left.  I'm not sure why, but it must have been due to me rummaging through them for a while.

Undeterred though, I decide that I must take my new-found talents to other stores.  I start driving to a local Walmart. 

Upon arriving at the Walmart I find the sports cards up front by the cash registers.  Lots of people are in line nearby and can easily see me feeling up the cards.  It's definitely not what I wanted.  I'm still a little bashful about this card searching thing and I'd prefer it if nobody saw me doing it.  But the addiction is strong and it pushes me to do it anyways, regardless of who can see me.

So I focus on the cards in front of me.  There is an Allen & Ginter retail box.  It's fairly empty.  I reach inside and pull out the remaining four packs.  Obviously the product is very popular and lot of people have been buying it.  I'm sure other card searchers have probably hit this Walmart before me.  I don't get my hopes up.

I feel the first pack.  No hit.  Second pack... that's a hit!

I know I'm still new at this, but that second pack was definitely a hit.  It was plain as day.  I quickly check the third and the fourth packs for comparison.  Yup, they aren't hits, and the way they feel differs considerably from that second pack.

I confidently walk up to the cash register and pay for that one pack of cards.  In my car I open it up.  Instantly, I can see the black back of the relic.  It was a hit!

I ignore all the other cards and immediately shuffle to it.  It's a Mitch Moreland game-used relic.  Awesome!  Sure, it's probably worth all of $4 to $5 but I'm more excited about the fact that I just picked out this hit.

My second card searching "hit," a
Mitch Moreland GU relic.
Odds:  1:28
Now I'm just brimming with confidence.  I just picked a relic from a brand new retail box at Target, and I just picked out another relic from an already-picked over retail box at a Walmart!

Why stop now???  (Another sign of my growing addiction.)  I start up my car and decide to hit another Target.

Upon arriving at another Target I quickly take my budding card searching talents to the sports card section.  This Target is very popular.  The sports card section is a mess.  It looks like it's been heavily picked over.  Nevertheless, I start feeling the cards.  Two packs seem to catch my attention.  I'm not 100% sure they're hits, but they just seem a little different from the rest.  One rack pack catches my attention too.  I decide to ride my hot hand streak and buy them.  I know they probably aren't all hits, but if even just one of them is...  (Only an addict thinks like that)

I don't even wait to get home to open them.  In my car I rip open the rack pack.  Duds. 

I rip open the retail packs too, hoping to rebound... all duds.  Disappointment.

Perhaps I should have stopped on a good note and just gone home after I got the hit at the Walmart.  That would have been the smart thing to do.  It's like gambling -- quit while you're ahead.  But that's always the hardest part.  You're always lured to the gamble by the prospect of winning more money -- or in my case pulling more hits.  But this time the house got me.  My hot pack pick streak was short lived.  And apparently, I'm still not any good at this whole pack searching thing since I've still only managed to pick two hits.

The tally:
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter 2-Pack Rack Packs - 0/2 (0%, $11.43 spent)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Retail Packs - 2/16 (12.5%, $55.12 spent)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Hidden Retail Box

I'm not one to give up easily.  And I'm stubborn.  Earlier today I just went 0/7 on some 2012 Allen & Ginter retail packs from a local Target.  It was my first attempt at pack searching.  And I sucked.  But I'm determined to pull a hit by card searching. 

After work, I go back to the same Target.  No, I'm not planning on buying any packs here.  Clearly, my fellow card searchers have hit this Target before and wiped out all the hits in the retail display box.  I came back to just see if anyone else has bought any of the packs since I was last here this morning.  After I had picked out the supposed "hot packs" this morning, I put the non hot packs back into the display box in a certain manner.  I put them back in such a way that if someone went card searching through them, it would probably be apparent to me that they had been searched.  I did this because I was curious to see if any card searchers would hit this Target again.  After all, Allen & Ginter has only been out for a few days and I figure that card searchers would probably rather search the available packs sooner than later. 

It doesn't look like anyone has searched the display box since I was at work.  And actually, I'm surprised.  It does look like a few packs were bought since I was gone, but the cards look (more or less) the way I left them.

For kicks, I start to feel up more packs of Allen & Ginter.  I know I thoroughly searched the retail packs this morning, but part of me (the illogical side of me) is hoping that perhaps I missed one and I'll find that hit now.  I spend a good 15 minutes feeling up the packs.  I can't help but wonder if I look suspicious.  Two packs feel like hits and I set them aside.  I decide I'm going to buy them.  Clearly, I'm addicted.  And I'm crazy for buying more retail packs from this Target.  And I'm stupid too.

I glance around the sports card racks one last time before I leave when I something catches my eye.  It's an Allen & Ginter box.  It's hidden behind some other boxes on the top rack.  It looks like it fell behind those other boxes and someone forgot about it.  I move over and pick it out from the back.  It's a brand new, sealed, retail box.

I'm curious how much it costs.  I think about how I just went 0/7 on retail packs this morning, and spent about $24 on those packs.  That $24 is like 1/4th of the cost of a hobby box -- and I'd be guaranteed hits in a hobby box.  I start wondering if hobby boxes really are just a better buy for me since I suck at card searching.

I take the retail box over to one of those Target scanners to scan the bar code, but the bar code scanner keeps telling me there is an error and to seek assistance.

I walk up to a Target employee and explain that the retail box doesn't have a price, and it won't come up on the bar code scanner.   She takes out her fancy scanner thing and scans it.  More errors.  She gets a supervisor who examines the box, and takes it into an office to look it up.  I patiently wait by the front.  Maybe it'll come up in their system at some ridiculously low price like $40.  If so, I'd definitely buy it.

The supervisor comes back.  She's opened up the box.  She explains that they are $3.19 per pack and that it should have been opened instead of being sold on the shelves as a sealed box.  She hands me the box, and walks away.

The gears in my brain are crankin'.  This is a brand new retail box in my hand.  I know that there are supposed to be three hits in a hobby box.  I'm not sure if the odds are the same in a retail box, but I assume that they can't be much different.  Do I just buy this whole retail box at $75.40 ($3.19 x 24) plus tax?  No.  Why should I?  I should card search this box.  I have this rare opportunity to card search a retail box before anyone else gets the chance.  I could easily have the three hits in this retail box if I can successfully find them.

So I walk back to the sports card displays with this brand new Allen & Ginter retail box in my hand.  I feel like I'm holding pure gold. 

I start searching the packs.  The first handful are duds.  Then, boom, there is a hit.  I'm sure of it this time.  This one stood out from all the rest when I felt it.  I feel the other packs.  I know there are maybe two more hits in this box, but I'm having a hard time finding them.  I pick four total packs from the retail box which I think are hits.  I take them to the cash register to pay for them along with the two other retail packs.  While in line, I make note of which two packs are the retail packs and which four packs are retail box packs by discreetly tearing the wrapper on the two retail packs.

In all, I just bought another six packs of cards.  Even though packs are only $3.19 each, it can start to add up -- especially when you suck at card searching like I do and you think packs are hits when they're not.

I go to my car and waste no time in opening the packs.  I open the two retail box packs that I had marked.  Both duds.  Okay, without a doubt, card searchers have hit this Target and pulled all the hits from the retail packs.

Now for the four retail box packs.  I set aside the one pack which I'm 99% sure has a hit in it for last.  I'm ending with that one, just in case I whiff on the other three retail box packs.

I open up the first retail box pack.  Nothing.  Second retail box pack.  Again, nothing.  Third retail box pack.  Nothing.  Holy shit I suck at card searching.

Finally, the last hope.  I hold up the final retail box pack I am 99% sure is a hit.  I feel it again to be sure.  Yup, it feels totally different than the others.

I open it... and boom!  It's a hit.  It's a Chad Billingsley game-used memorabilia!  Finally!  I don't 100% COMPLETELY suck at card searching, I just suck A LOT at it!

My first card searching "hit", a Chad Billinglsey GU.
Odds:  1:28
I'm happy.  I finally got a hit by card searching.  But now, I'm also a bit disappointed I couldn't find the other two hits in that retail box (assuming there were other hits in there).

Why give up now?  (When you start asking questions like this to yourself, you really know you're addicted.)

I get out of my car and go back into the Target to card search that retail box again.  I've only been gone all of like 8 minutes, maximum.  But the retail box is gone.  Completely gone.  I check the entire display of sports cards.  It's not there.  And the Allen & Ginter retail pack display box, and all the packs in it are gone too.  That is very strange.

I can't help but think it has to do with me being over by the sports cards, methodically feeling them up, for like half an hour total.  Perhaps some of the Target staff was watching me and decided to take the Allen & Ginter off the shelves after I left to inspect it (to see if I was tampering with them), or to exchange some of the retail packs with the retail box packs to mess with me.

Either way, I'm not card searching that retail box today since they took it away.  Afraid that they might kick me out or confront me about what I was doing, I quickly leave.  I make a mental note to come back to this Target tomorrow to see if they put the retail box back out again.

Despite whiffing an additional five times tonight, I'm happy with my first card searching "hit."

No, I don't really feel dirty or unethical for doing it.  Hell, it's not like I'm any good at card searching.  Quite frankly, I'm beginning to think I was just bound to hit one by sheer luck and odds.  After all, to date, I've bought 13 packs.  I think relics are about 1:10 odds or so in a hobby box.  Assuming the odds are somewhat similar for retail packs then statistically even if I just randomly selected 13 packs, I was bound to get one relic hit just by sheer luck.  In actuality, on 13 total packs which I thought might be hits, I only was correct once.  I'm shooting 7.69% right now (1 hit out of 13 packs).  I'm still a long ways off from being any sort of threat to the sports card hobby industry or fellow hobbiests. 

The tally:
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter 2-Pack Rack Packs - 0/1 (0%, $5.71 spent)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Retail Packs - 1/13 (7.69%, $44.79 spent)

My First Attempt at Pack Searching

It's 7:58 a.m.  I'm waiting outside of a local Target.  They open at 8 a.m.  I'm here to search their packs before I have to go to work.  My card addiction is bad.  I'm not a morning person at all.  So the fact that I'm here at 7:58 a.m. before work to buy some cards is a testament to how bad this addiction is.

It's 8:00 a.m. finally and they open the doors right on time.  I'm the second customer through the door and go straight to the sports cards section.  This particular target is selling 2012 Allen & Ginter "rack packs" (another new term for me), and "retail packs." 

From watching youtube videos, I know that it's possible to get hits in either of them.  But I also know that since Allen & Ginter has been out a few days, that these packs have probably been thoroughly searched already.  Nevertheless, I start searching them.

I take a bunch of packs out of the big cardboard display box thing and start to search them.  I'm certainly not an expert at this, and I barely know what I'm doing.  I try bending them.  I try shaking them.  I try pressing on them.  Actually, I have just about no idea what I'm doing despite learning a few techniques online last night.

For the first 15 packs, every pack feels the same.  No hits.  But then one pack seems a little thicker than the rest... and it doesn't quite bend as much as the others.  A hit.

And then another pack is a little thicker too.  I give it a shake and I hear something rattling around in there.  A hit.

Lucky me.  It looks like my fellow pack searchers haven't hit this Target yet.

And then hit after hit starts coming.  After ten minutes, I have a stack of seven packs in front of me, and one "rack pack."  I'm not entirely sure these are all hits, but I'm positive that at least two of them are.  I pay for them, and take them home.

I try to have some patience and force myself to wait until the evening to open them.  I can't.  During my lunch break I come home and sit down to open them up.

I grab a blank sheet of paper to write down notes on these packs.  Just before I open them, I feel them one more time, and write down the features of the pack which leads me to believe it's a hit.  I'm thinking that if I am successful at this, then I'll want to remember these things when I pack search other stores.  And if I'm wrong about these packs being hot packs, then I'll want to remember these things too.

I start with the "rack pack."  I open up the non-"hit" side first (another new term I learned over the past two days).  As I expected, no "hit."  Okay.  No biggie.  I open up the "hit" side and....  no "hit."  Okay.  No biggie.  Not a great start, but I'm feeling pretty confident about the "retail packs" I picked up.

I start with a pack I wasn't 100% sure about.  I slowly open it up from the back.  I can see there isn't a black back on any of the cards.  It's not a hit.  I'm slightly disappointed, but I knew I wouldn't be 100% on the "retail packs" right off the bat.

Next pack.  I write down a few more notes as I feel it up before I open it.  Another dud.  Nothing.  Non hot pack.

Third pack.  More notes.  And another dud.  Shit.

Fourth pack.  This time, I'm sure to grab one of the two packs I was 99% sure was a hot pack.  I feel it up.  Yeah, it feels like a winner.  I bust it open... and it's another dud.

I'm beginning to see why I mistook these packs for hot packs.  I write down some more notes to myself.

Fifth pack.  Dud.  Sixth is a dud too.

I saved the other pack that I was 99% sure was a "hit" for last.  I know I couldn't have whiffed on ALL these packs, so I confidently open it up... and I pull out duds.  Nothing.  I completely and totally whiffed on all seven "retail packs."  Clearly, pack searching is a lot harder than I thought and I suck at it.  Maybe spending $10 to buy that supposed hot pack on eBay wasn't such a bad idea after all. 

The tally:
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter 2-Pack Rack Packs --- 0/1 (0%, $5.71 spent)
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Retail Packs --- 0/7 (0%, $24.12 spent)

The only good cards from my first card searching failure:
David Wright (mini, A&G back); Josh Willingham (mini, black bordered, Odds 1:5);
Russell Martin (mini, A&G back, SP, Odds 1:33)

David Wright (mini, A&G back); Josh Willingham (mini, black bordered, Odds 1:5);
Russell Martin (mini, A&G back, SP, Odds 1:33)

Monday, July 16, 2012

The "Hot Pack" Epiphany

It's only been a day since I bought some baseball cards and I'm jonesing for more.  My first taste of Allen & Ginter was a blaster box.  Not a bad value.  $20 for 8 packs.  After tax, it comes out to be about $2.70 a pack.  Sure beats $8 a box for some smokes or throwing money away $1 at a time on Lotto tickets.  At least with the cards, you see some sort of return.

Now though, I'm craving some packs big time.  I need more.  I'm on the internet again debating about buying a whole hobby box.  I check Amazon.com.  Then I check eBay.

I'm looking at the hobby boxes on eBay when I stumble across some listings for "hot packs."  What are these?  I click on a few of the auctions.  Apparently, these sellers are somehow guaranteeing that the packs that they are selling contain some sort of relic.  Interesting.  I wonder how they know those packs contain something.

In the past, I've always though people could game the sports card hobby system by weighing the card packs with a very accurate and sensitive scale, a scale which can measure down to fractions of a gram or less.  After all, some cards, such as the "hits" (as I've learned they're called) probably weigh more than the regular cards due to the thicker cardboard, fabric, wood, or whatever the hell else the card companies are putting on the cards.  If a person has a very accurate scale they could see which cards weigh more than others and voila, they can buy hobby boxes, pick out the "hot packs" (still getting used to all this new terminology), and sell all the non hot packs.  Sort of scammish, right?  Yeah.  But it sure sounds kinda cool.

The only other cool card from my first 2012 Allen & Ginter blaster box.
Ryan Roberts SP mini A&G back.
Odds: 1:33

This "hot pack" idea has me very intrigued.  I do some more research online.  It turns out, I'm not the only who has had these ideas about gaming the sports card hobby system.  Tons of other people have various methods for finding "hot packs."  I spend an hour bouncing around on youtube, and the internet trying to find more information.  Apparently, there is a website www.packsearchers.com, where people who like to "pack search" (another new term for me) share ideas and methods for finding "hot packs."  It costs $5 for a 30-day subscription to their forum.  I'm feeling cheap and I don't sign up although I sure am curious as to what other methods there are to finding "hot packs." 

I have a huge moment of weakness and perhaps stupidity.  I buy one hot pack off of eBay for around $10.  It won't arrive for a week, but I'm really really curious about whether someone can really come through on telling which cards are "hot packs."  I do some more research on this whole "hot pack" craze and find out that a lot of people don't like pack searchers.  It's apparently unethical to pack search.  I did notice that a lot of packsearchers.com's youtube videos had negative ratings.  I guess people don't like what they're doing.

Do more research.  Apparently a lot of people think "hot pack" sellers on eBay aren't legitimate, and will re-seal packs with low-end relics or autographs.  Feel epically stupid for buying that "hot pack" on eBay.  Oh well.

Have an epiphany.  Why pay $10 for someone else to find a hot pack when I can do it myself?

I imagine myself going to the local Target, feeling up all the packs there, and pulling relic cards out of every pack.  Decide I must do it.  Hell, even if I suck at this whole pack searching thing, for the price of one supposedly guaranteed "hot pack" off of eBay ($10-12), I can buy three to four packs of cards for the same price.  Even if I'm only 50% accurate on picking "hot packs", that's like $6 for a relic (two packs) compared to paying $10-$12 for one "hot pack" on eBay.  The math sounds good to me.

Decide to go to a local Target in the morning tomorrow before work.

I prepare myself for the task by searching for more information on how to find "hot packs."  Don't find much.  Apparently everyone likes to keep their methods fairly secret, but I do find some info.  Lots of people on the internet are saying to stay away from retail packs because they have likely already been pack searched.  I to not get my hopes up as I go to sleep.

The Restart of An Addiction

I haven't collected baseball cards in years.  At least 20 years.  In fact, I've been trying to work up the motivation to sell a lot of my old ones that I accumulated as a kid. 

A few days ago, out of curiosity, I went on the internet to see what baseball cards looked like nowadays.  And that's how this addiction restarted.

Somehow, I stumbled upon Topps' 2012 Allen & Ginter set, and I was instantly drawn to it.  The old school look of the cards was eye-catching.  The mini cards were awesome.  I decided that this was an addiction that needed to be fed.  Within minutes I was on the internet trying to find a place to buy some 2012 Allen & Ginter.

Keep in mind it's been around two decades since I bought a pack of baseball cards.  A quick internet search showed that a local comic book shop apparently sold some Allen & Ginter.  The next day I went to that shop.  It turns out, they don't sell any sports cards.  That's odd.  If a local comic book shop didn't carry the cards (and there are no sports card shops in my town), then where would people buy these cards?

The internet.  Duh.

Later I'm at home checking Amazon.com.  Hobby boxes are selling for around $90.  Damn.  That's kinda expensive.

I decide that I need to see what other people are getting from their packs before I decide to throw down some cash on these cards.  I go on youtube and find videos that other people have posted showing them opening up packs and "blaster boxes" (that's a new word to me).  I spend around 20 minutes watching people pull some pretty cool "hits" (another new word to me) from their packs.  They often mention going to Target or Wal-Mart to buy the packs or blaster boxes.  Hmm.  Now that they mention it, I do remember seeing sports cards on sale by the cash registers in the local Targets. 

The very next day I'm at the local Target, plopping down $20 to buy a blaster box of 2012 Allen & Ginter.  I hurry home to break it open.  No relic cards.  No Rookie cards.  Best pull is a not-numbered, Allen & Ginter back, Arnold Palmer mini.  Probably only worth $3 to $5 (I don't have a Beckett).  Mildly disappointed in my blaster box but also strangely satisfied.

Arnold Palmer
(mini, A&G back, not numbered)
Odds:  1:148
Limited to 50
I only manage to go another day before I decide I need to bust open some more packs before I go nuts.  See?  I'm already addicted (again).