Why am I making this list? Well, from a pack searcher's point of view, obviously, the easier a product is to pack search, the more likely you are to search it, buy it, and hit something. On the other hand, tougher products are ones which pack searchers stay away from because they represent the unknown and a much higher of whiffing. So I suppose a pack searcher might find this list somewhat useful to target sets which other pack searchers (such as myself) have found to be easy to search.
Below, I have compiled a list of products which I've rated on a five point scale from: (1) Easy to Search; (2) Moderately Easy to Search; (3) Moderate to Search; (4) Moderately Hard to Search; and (5) Hard to Search. My method for choosing the product's rating depends mostly on how easy or hard it is to find hits, specific rookies, and specific inserts (such as short-prints or numbered inserts).
I've also included a rating for a product's cache -- meaning how often you can find either a hit, a specific rookie card, a special insert, or parallels. This rating is also on a five point scale from: (1) Very Stingy; (2) Moderately Stingy; (3) Moderate; (4) Moderately Plentiful; and (5) Plentiful.
There are some caveats to the list below, though. First, I just jumped back into the hobby mid-2012. Thus, I did not have a lot of exposure or experiences searching products from early 2012. Second, this rating guide is only for retail products. I don't search in hobby. Third, I'm only including products which I've bought numerous times and spent a decent amount of time searching. There were some products where I bought a few packs, and gave mild attempts at pack searching it, but for whatever reasons -- such as there wasn't enough of the product around me or I just didn't like the product -- that I didn't buy a lot of it to really get a good idea at how easy or hard it was to pack search. For example, I didn't buy a lot of Topps Opening Day or Bowman Baseball so those won't be on the list.
Keep in mind these are only my opinions. Some others may find some sets easier or harder to search than I do.
2012 Baseball Products
2012 Bowman Chrome Baseball
- Ease of Searching: Moderately Hard
- Cache: Stingy
Comments: 2012 Bowman Chrome Baseball, in my experiences, was a moderately hard set to search. Autographs are on-card making them extremely hard to find. Die-Cut inserts are easy as cake to find, but are relatively rare with only one per retail box. Finding refractors is possible but it takes a lot of work. Chrome cards tend to stick together and thus fanning the cards can be difficult and tiring on the fingers.
The odds of finding cool refractors in this set is beyond dismal. While basic refractors are 1:4 odds, the next most plentiful refractor is the blue refractor at 1:73 odds. After that is the purple refractor at 1:90 odds. Then it only gets worse with 1:350 odds for gold refractors and 1:700 for orange refractors. Other inserts were unnoticeable to me through the pack wrappers and very hard to differentiate from base cards. Autographs are at a near 1:93 odds and are not guaranteed one per retail box.
This product is definitely one product which I would suggest avoiding unless you are absolutely determined to find stuff, and you have a lot of time to search.
2012 Bowman Platinum Baseball
- Ease of Searching: Hard
- Cache: Moderate
Comments: 2012 Bowman Platinum Baseball is perhaps the hardest set to search of 2012. I spent a lot of money on this product because I like the cards. You'd think that with all the money spent on this product I'd have a lot to show for it and unfortunately I don't. All retail packs come with decoys. Lots of autographs are on-card. Unless you're lucky enough to find the rare autographed jumbo relics which are fairly easy to identify, finding the other regular autograph cards is extremely hard. Searching for numbered parallels is a little easier but still hard as since it is very hard to differentiate a numbered parallel from a regular un-numbered parallel. Redemptions are found here and there and can be easy to find if you know what to look for.
The cache of this product is moderate. There is a guaranteed autograph per retail box to be found, but like I said earlier, they are hard to find. Finding specific inserts is possible as they are plentiful. Finding numbered parallels is possible too although rare. Die-cuts come at 1:10 odds so you can usually find two in a retail box. Searching for specific rookies is pretty much impossible unless you're buying rack packs for the special purple parallels.
Overall, I'd much rather search Bowman Platinum than Bowman Chrome but beware, this set is one of the hardest ones to search for hits. In fact, with the amount of on-card autographs and decoys in this product, 2012 Bowman Platinum is definitely one of the front-runners for my 2012 Toughest Baseball Products to Search award.
2012 Topps Allen & Ginter
- Ease of Searching: Easy
- Cache: Plentiful
Comments: Allen & Ginter is the favorite set for many baseball and non-baseball collectors alike because of its eclectic mix of cards within it. It's also the favorite set of many pack searchers because hits are plentiful and easy to find. Just look on eBay after Allen & Ginter comes out and you'll probably see hundreds of "hot packs" for sale.
When it comes to pack searching, 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter was probably about as easy as it gets. I first started out learning how to pack search on this set. I thought this set was hard to search at first because I wasn't finding any hits. The reason why I wasn't finding the hits wasn't so much because I didn't know what to look for but because everyone else had beaten me to the store and found the hits before me. Once I actually found a "hot pack" on my own, I was finally absolutely sure what to look for and had a lot more success finding hot packs. There are no decoys in Ginter, but Topps does have a few anti-pack searching countermeasures within the packs. You may get fooled by Topps' tricks once but you'll probably never fall for them again after that.
The cache of Allen & Ginter is plentiful. Retail boxes guarantee one hit per box. Gravity boxes should have a couple of hits in them too. Finding hits in value packs (double packs) is insanely easy. Finding hits in rack packs (those hanger packs with 3 packs and bonus gold-bordered minis) is fairly easy too. The ease of searching this product and the cache of hits make this set a favorite to search for pack searchers.
2012 Topps Gypsy Queen
- Ease of Pack Searching: Easy
- Cache: Plentiful
Comments: This set is very similar to Allen & Ginter. The look of the cards is similar. Pack searching it is similar to that of Ginter. The set is easy to search like Ginter. Gypsy Queen hits feel just the same as a Ginter hit. Rack packs can be searched for hits just the same as loose retail packs. There are no decoys in this set. Autographs are rare but are easy to find. Overall, a pretty easy product to search.
The cache of Gypsy Queen is plentiful. Retail boxes should each have some sort of relic or autograph card in it. Usually it seems to be a framed mini relic -- which although not particularly valuable -- is still a nice hit for $3 and change. I also believe there are numbered blue-bordered parallel card in each retail box too. I've come across several of those in packs which I know other pack searchers have searched. It seems like most pack searchers either don't care about those cards or just don't know how to find them.
2012 Panini Cooperstown
- Ease of Pack Searching: Moderately Easy
- Cache: Moderately Stingy
Comments: First things, first, good luck finding this product in retail stores. Most of the retail stores around me only had one retail box and a few blasters for sale and it looks like their stock never got replenished. But if you do manage to find these in stores then it is worth a quick search. Searching this product easy. There aren't decoys. The waxy packs make pack searching it a joy. But searching this product can also be a little time consuming. This product has a lot of inserts within it. A lot. Often you may think you've found a hit but instead it's just an insert. If you do your research you can weed out the inserts from hits, but doing that takes a little time and perhaps a little more effort than most pack searchers are willing to put into a product.
The real problem with this set is that finding wood cards and autographs is fairly rare. Retail boxes have no autograph guarantees. So that fresh retail box you see sitting on display might have nothing in it at all. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that there are any wood cards in the retail box either. I managed to find one after searching a couple of stores but that's all I ever found. This set is definitely one of my favorites to search just because manipulating the cards within the pack is so easy, but the scarcity of hits and the scarcity of the product makes finding anything in this set uncommon.
2012 Topps Series 1 & 2 & Update
- Ease of Pack Searching: Easy
- Cache: Moderate
Comments: Topps' Series 1, Series 2, and Update are quite the staple for the baseball collecting community. For that reason it also seems to be one of the most abundant products you'll find in stores. There are no decoys in this product. Because this product is so abundant, if Topps were to put in decoys it would greatly increase their cost of production. Thus, finding relics ridiculously easy. But good luck finding relics. Because relics are so easy to find you have to beat other pack searchers to the store. And even if you do get to the cards first, there often isn't a guarantee that a relic will be there to be found. There are no relic guarantees in a retail box and relics fall only one in every 72 packs of cards.
Autographs are harder to find since they are not always on thicker card stock and autographs are just extremely rare to begin with. I never found one autograph in all my searching. Short print cards are searchable within rack packs but I rarely find them worth the time or effort. This product is a low-risk and low-reward effort from a pack searching point of view. It never hurts to quickly search these packs when you see them in stores but if you do find something, don't expect it to be much more than a $4 relic card.
And thus, the award for Toughest Baseball Product to Pack Search goes to 2012 Bowman Platinum Baseball. This product was by far the hardest to search. I know this from my own experiences. I spent many many hours searching this product with little success. Although I did find some autographs, the amount of autographs I did find in comparison to the amount of hours I spent searching this product did not make searching this product all that worthwhile.
2012 Bowman Platinum
Cutting Edge Stars Die-Cut
I also know this product is hard to search based on how many packs of it I found which had been discreetly ripped open in stores by other pack searchers. Basically, this product was so hard to search that other pack searchers gave up and just ripped open packs to see what was inside. I saw this numerous times at the various stores I search. It's a shame. It's disgusting. It's illegal.
And I also know that other pack searchers have found this product hard to search because I've found the hits they've missed. A couple of times I've come across retail boxes which clearly have been searched. You can always tell based on how the cards feel. I search the product anyways just in case they missed anything and sure enough, I've found a few autographs they've missed.
So what makes 2012 Bowman Platinum Baseball so hard to search? The answer is very simple. It's simply because they put decoys in every pack. A lot of card companies will only put decoys in 10% of their packs to help hide which packs have the thicker jersey cards in them. But because there aren't any decoys in every pack, everyone and their mother knows to just grab the thicker packs and start your pack searching there. Even if you don't know how to pack search, if you only bought thicker packs you know that you'd have a higher probability of getting a hit than someone who wasn't only buying thicker packs. Thus, by only putting decoys in some of the packs, card companies (like Panini) are clearly signaling to collectors which packs have a higher probability of containing a hit -- the thicker packs!
I'm not sure why more card companies don't put decoys in every pack. It's such a simple countermeasure but it works. Because every pack has a decoy, it defeats the most common pack searching technique used by pack searchers: the flex test. Every pack feels like a hit. It makes searching loose packs in gravity boxes and retail boxes harder. It makes searching rack packs harder too. I wouldn't say it's going to completely stop all pack searchers from finding hits -- it won't because there are other ways to determine if the pack you're holding is a hit or decoy -- but it will make it hard enough for enough pack searchers to search that it might deter them or frustrate them enough to avoid searching the product.
Actually, I do know why more card companies don't put decoys in every pack: because it raises their cost of producing the product. Higher costs means less profit. So as long as card companies are committed to keeping their costs to a minimum, I would expect them to keep decoys to a minimum too. That is good news for pack searchers.
So go forth my fellow pack searchers. Go pack search. My advice to you though: stay away from 2012 Bowman Platinum Baseball.