Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Prisoner's Dilemma and Pack Searching

In the perfect world, nobody would pack search.  Everyone would buy packs of cards without feeling them, bending them, or doing whatever else they do to search them.  But that would never happen.  Why?

I believe game theory, and specifically, the theory of The Prisoner's Dilemma, can explain why.

In case you don't know what game theory is, I'll try to explain.  Taken straight from wikipedia: Game theory is the study of strategic decision making.  In other words, it's just the study of why people do what they decide to do.

The Prisoner's Dilemma is a specific game devised by a couple of American mathematicians in the 1950s to explain why people will behave they do.  The Prisoner's Dilemma is presented as follows:

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of speaking to or exchanging messages with the other. The police admit they don't have enough evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They plan to sentence both to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the police offer each prisoner a Faustian bargain. If he testifies against his partner, he will go free while the partner will get three years in prison on the main charge. Oh, yes, there is a catch ... If both prisoners testify against each other, both will be sentenced to two years in jail.

Thus, each prisoner has an incentive to rat out the other prisoner.  If one prisoner rats out the other and the other prisoner admits to the crime, then the rat gets out of jail and the admitting prisoner goes to jail.  If both prisoners don't rat each other out, they don't go to jail and get off scot-free.  If both prisoners rat each other out then they both go to jail.  A similar Prisoner's Dilemma chart is shown below.  Although the amount of jail time is different, the dilemma is just the same: mutual cooperation is best, mutual betrayal is bad, a unilateral betrayal is really bad for the non-confessor but really good for the confessor.

Clearly, it is in both prisoner's best interests to not rat each other out.  If you were a prisoner, what would you do?  Most people would probably rat out the other prisoner on the hopes that the other prisoner won't rat you out.  The result would be that you would get off scot-free and the other prisoner would go to jail.  You win.  Can you blame a person for thinking this way and wanting this outcome?  Human beings are hardwired for self-preservation.  You want to take care of yourself before you take care of others.  You'd rather have yourself benefit rather than have someone else benefit.

The Prisoner's Dilemma is actually a very similar game to the show The Bachelor Pad.  In case you don't watch that show (I don't but I know the premise of the show) I'll explain.  A large group of bachelors and bachelorettes are put on a show to win a million dollars.  They must pair up to compete against each other and accomplish tasks.  Each week some of them are eliminated.  The goal is to be the last bachelor and last bachelorette remaining. At the very end of the show the bachelor and the bachelorette decide whether to they will split the winnings or keep the winnings for themselves.  If they both decide to split the money, then they'll split the money.  If one decides to split the money and the other decides to keep the money for themselves, the one who decided to keep the money for themselves will get all the money and the one who decided to split the money will get nothing.  (Ouch!)  If they both decide to keep the money for themselves then neither of them gets anything.  (More ouch!)  Clearly, there is incentive for both parties to split the money.  Cooperation will lead to both of them getting half of the money.  But greed and mistrust of the other person will lead to one person choosing to keep the money.  The decision faced by the final two contestants is the quintessential Prisoner's Dilemma, just in another form.

Pack searching is also a prisoner's dilemma.

Imagine there are only two card collectors in one city.  Each one can either choose to pack search or not to pack search.  If both of them decide not to pack search, then they can go about buying packs of cards without fear of it being searched and both of them will get hits from retail!  Buying sports cards will be a pleasant and fun experience for them and any other card collectors who also may come along.  If both of them decide to pack search then they'll end up splitting all the retail hits between the two of them.  Buying sports cards will be very competitive for them, and very unpleasant for any other card collectors who may come along because they won't get any hits.  On the other hand, if only one of them decides to pack search and the other decides not to pack search, then the pack searcher will get all the retail hits and the non-pack searcher won't get any retail hits.  This too, is The Prisoner's Dilemma.

I believe game theory, and specifically the Prisoner's Dilemma is a perfect way to explain why card collectors, especially pack searchers, will behave the way they do.  Everyone wants the best for themselves. Pack searchers, and card collectors in general, want the best cards for themselves.  In the ideal scenario, if everyone didn't pack search then everyone would benefit.  But that can only happen if everyone demonstrates self-restraint, resistance of greed, resistance of the desire to pack search retail products to find the best cards for yourself, and trust in others to not pack search when it can be so easily done.  Can you do all those things?  If you can't, I don't blame you.  I think it's just human nature to want the best for yourself, even if that means others get the shorter end of the stick. 

In the prisoner's dilemma, most of us will choose to rat the other person out.  We will do this out of our concern for self-preservation -- getting the best outcome for our self.  When it comes to pack searching, I think a lot of us will choose to pack search.  While it is not a situation of self-preservation, you still want the best outcome for yourself when you buy a pack of cards -- and that means pack searching.  Do you really trust all the other collectors out there to not pack search?  I don't.  If you feel the same way, I don't blame you.  I think it's only human nature to want the best for yourself and that humans will act accordingly to fulfill that goal.  That means people will pack search.  That means other people will pack search in response to those original pack searchers because the original pack searchers can't be trusted to not pack search.  The result is a cumulative build-up of more and more people pack searching.  Everyone, non-pack searchers and pack searchers alike, will suffer from this desire to find the best outcome for yourself and this mistrust of others to not pack search.  It is unfortunate, but it is how it is.  It is human nature.  In the Prisoner's Dilemma, this is the equivalent of both prisoners confessing. 

Pack searching is a Prisoner's Dilemma, and it is one that we are all likely to lose. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Criminal Pack Searchers

Was out at a local Target last week.  Was doing my thing, just checking out what was new.  Some 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen was out.  It looked searched and I think it was since there were no hits in it.  Some 2013 Press Pass was out too.  I gave that a quick search and that looked picked dry also.  I've been trying to cut back on my searching lately so it's been a while since I've visited this particular Target.

And then I set my sights on all the various blaster boxes.  They looked neatly arranged like the Target people had just fixed up the card aisle.  I went about checking some of the blasters to see if any were worth buying when I came across some which were a little odd.  Odd in that they were super duper light.  I mean, I could just pick some of them up and I knew that they were far too light than they should be.  It wasn't just one... but two... and three... and four... there must have been like eight different blaster boxes which all seemed lighter than their respective factory sealed counterparts.

And then it hit me... they must have been resealed!

I haven't personally seen any re-sealed blaster boxes in my area.  I know that people do that.  By "that" I mean people will buy blaster boxes, take them home, open up the packs, take out the good stuff, put crap cards back inside, reseal it, and then return it to Target.  So I was shocked to actually have come across some.  I inspected the blaster boxes closely.

Yup, they were totally resealed.  If I was a novice card collector, I probably would have bought the blaster boxes and not even realized they were resealed.  But upon closer inspection, you could see that the shrink wrap did not have the watermarks of Topps, Panini, etc.  The shrink wrap was just plain.  And the shrink wrap was also poorly melted together.  Some boxes had really crooked shrink wrap seams, and excess shrink wrap melted on some parts of the wrap.  Again, nothing too noticeable unless you knew to look out for that stuff.

I scanned the rest of the blaster box display.  I didn't find any more.  But what should I do now?  Should I just leave the blasters and just walk away?  Should I tell a Target employee?  If I told a Target employee, would they accuse me of doing it?

I thought about how much it would suck if some unsuspecting collector bought those blaster boxes only to learn that there was only crap cards inside of it.  That would suck.  If that was me, I would be pissed.  I couldn't leave the blasters there and let another collector get burned.  I had to do the right thing.

I pulled all eight blaster boxes which had been resealed from the display and went up to the nearest Target employee.  I explained to him what I had found.  I showed him the resealed blaster boxes with no watermarks on the shrink wrap, and then I showed him the factory sealed blaster boxes with Topps and Panini watermarks on them.  I explained how some very unscrupulous criminal pack searchers buy the blasters, take them home, take out the cards, put crap cards in, reseal the blaster, and then return the blasters.  He was in shock.  He had no idea.

He then went and got the manager.  I explained the same thing to the manager.  She too was in shock.  She thanked me for telling her this and went to call Target Security.  When Target Security arrived I explained to them what happened.  The situation was a little awkward because Target Security has been my nemesis on occasions.  And the Target Security guy probably saw me on the cameras searching the cards for half an hour.  But he seemed willing to listen to what I was telling them and agreed that the blasters were resealed.

I left the store without buying anything since it seemed like it had been searched dry.  But I also left the store feeling slightly better about myself for having told Target employees about the resealed blasters.  I felt like I had done the right thing.

I felt like I had done the right thing.  I'm sure if any non-pack searchers are reading this they must find that statement very ironic.  Me, a pack searcher, saying that I did the "right thing", must be laughable.  I do agree there is some irony there, but a crucial difference between what I do and what criminal pack searchers do must be pointed out.  I don't buy blaster boxes, take out the cards, put in crap cards, reseal the blasters, and then return them.  That is stealing.  That is a crime.

I don't open up packs of cards in the store without paying for them to have a peek at what's inside.  That's destroying store property.  That is a crime.

I don't open up packs of cards in the store to simply take some of the cards without paying for them.  That is stealing.  That is a crime.

Instead, I use non-invasive methods to "evaluate" which packs, rack packs, hanger boxes, and blaster boxes have a higher probability of having a hit within it.  I do not open wrappers or cut open shrink wrap.  I pay for all my cards and I do not return resealed blaster boxes.  I have not committed any crimes.

I know many non-pack searching hobby collectors hate pack searchers, and they consider us (legal) pack searchers the scum of the Earth.  But if we're the scum of the Earth, what does that make these other people who illegally pack search?  Hmm...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Florida Pack Searching

Here's a slightly different blog post from my usual hits showcase.  If you're reading this blog because you like pack searching, well, good news!  There is another pack searching blog now!

FloridaPackSearcher has started his own blog which can be found at floridapacksearching.blogspot.com.

Be sure to check out his blog.  He'll be talking about his hits and giving his opinion on pack searching different products.  It sounds like he'll be giving out tips on how to pack search some new products too.  (Something which I don't really do.)  That perk alone should be enough incentive to go visit his blog.

Anyways, go check out floridapacksearching.blogspot.com/ for more pack searching reading material!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pack Searching 2012 Topps Football ... Finally.

Believe it or not, I have never really taken the time to really search 2012 Topps Football.  I mean, I've checked loose packs and rack packs for relics, etc.  But everyone does that.  That's easy.  I'm talking about pack searching the set for parallels and autographs.   I actually had some time a week ago to do so, and I was surprised at what I found.

Let me preface this post by saying I didn't find any autographs.  Autographs are super rare in rack packs.  Prolific Playermaker autographs are like 1:505 odds for rack packs, and rookie autographs are like 1:720 odds for rack packs.  I'm not saying you'll never find one of those cards, but shit, there are probably only like 50 rack packs of this product in my town alone.  Odds are that unless you live in an area with a lot of retail stores with a lot of this product, you'll just never have enough of the product to search in order to find something.

So, what did I find?

Bruce Irvin
2012 Topps Football
Breast Cancer Awareness Parallel
Rack Pack Odds:  1:17

I did find a nice pink Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) parallel of Bruce Irvin.  I think these pink parallels are actually pretty sweet.  The pink really pops and it's oddly stylish.

Jake Bequette
2012 Topps Football
Camouflage Parallel
Rack Pack Odds:  1:17

I also found a nice camouflage parallel of Jake Bequette.  God, I hate it when Topps photoshops in a player's number as "00".  It looks horrible.

Anyways, from now on I'll be checking 2012 Topps Football rack packs for pink and camouflage parallels.  I wish I had figured this stuff out like 9 months ago when this product first came out.  That would have been nice.  I hate to think about how many rack packs I held in my hand which might have had pinks, camouflages, or even a platinum in it.  Like I said, I just never actually bothered searching this product enough for parallels and autographs to have figured things out.  Oh well.  There's always 2013.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Are Already Searched 2012 Panini Prizm Football Packs Worth Buying?

There is an interesting questioned posed by one, DOUGSEVIER54, on the Blowout Cards forum...

Ran by Target to see if they had anything new that may spark my interest. Behind some random baseball loose packs, I saw 2 Prizm football retail boxes. Both of which had the plastic taken off, but both appeared untampered with otherwise.My immediate train of thought was that the worker that was stocking the shelves surely must have just torn the plastic and set them aside until the currently opened box was empty, or low enough to rotate stock.
So, excited to purchase a new box, I quickly opened it and counted the packs as I walked towards the checkout isle. Bam, 24 packs! Sweet... or so I thought. 
Once I got back to work, I sat in my vehicle and began opening. The very first pack, I felt what every honest collector loathes... The instant anger of feeling the first card or two shoved to the top of the pack. Before opening, I checked every other pack... Yep, exact same thing. On every one. I am still trying to somehow convince myself that this occurred during shipping. But I truly feel that its not just a random occurrence. I guess I'll take it back this afternoon.?
Now, what do you guys think? Is the chance of a higher end Green/Gold/Finite worth opening them, even knowing that there almost will NOT be an auto anywhere in there? 

This is actually an interesting question.  Honestly, it is.  I'm not joking or trolling this guy at all.

First though, before I address DOUGSEVIER54's question, I have to point out some slight irony in this situation.  The high and mighty card collectors on Blowout Cards often make fun of pack searchers for going through so much trouble to find cheap, worthless, $3 autographs.  But then at the same time many of those same people will also complain about how pack searchers are robbing them of those worthless $3 autographs in retail.

See my point?  It's like they don't care about the $3 autographs when they're belittling pack searchers but as soon as they buy some retail and realize that they bought some packs which have already been searched then they get pissed.  It's inconsistent.

Now, I'm not saying that DOUGSEVIER54 in particular is one of those Blowout Cards guys who does that -- maybe he does or maybe he doesn't.  I don't follow that board or their commenters that closely to know.  But it's just sort of funny how one minute the Blowout Cards guys are shitting on retail products with their holier-than-thou-I-only-buy-hobby attitudes and then the next minute they're complaining about pack searchers buying up all the crap retail autographs.

Okay, back to DOUGSEVIER54's question:  Is there a chance he will hit any prizms, green prizms, gold, or finites in already-searched 2012 Panini Prizm Football retail packs?

My answer is yes.  I do believe he has a decent chance of still hitting some regular prizms, green prizms, and any gold or finites which may be in those boxes.

I've spent quite a lot of money on Prizm.  I really like the product.  I think I'm very proficient at searching it; however, I still have not figured out how to 100% accurately find green prizms or regular prizms.  If you give a fresh box of retail chances are I could probably hit one or two of the green prizms in two or three tries.

Now, I've never come across a gold or a finite.  Or, at least, if I have I totally didn't realize it and thus I missed it.  But assuming I hadn't missed it, then there definitely is a chance there might be some gold or finites in those packs also.  Keep in mind, golds and finites are rare so I wouldn't go about expecting to find one in any retail box of Prizm even if it is unsearched, but there is a chance!

So my suggestion to DOUGSEVIER54 would be to open those packs.  Give it a shot.  Maybe at the least he'll hit some inserts.  Perhaps the pack searcher only bought the autograph and not the inserts too.  I don't know.  You never know what you'll find.  Maybe he'll hit an Andrew Luck rookie card variation like I did.  Maybe he'll hit a green Robert Griffin III prizm.  Who knows?  The only way to find out is to bust those packs.


UpdateDOUGSEVIER54 opened the packs and...

 This thread really has gotten out of hand. BTW, not 1 person has commented on what I was even asking! hahaha... SO... without further ado...

1 Green Prizm (some scrub- check my ebay if your curious)... AAAANNNNDDD...

That was all. In the entire box. Not 1 other parallel. Straight base, and 1 green. In 24 packs.

Should have returned it. Oh well!

Well, that sucks.  I know there is a lot of irony in me, a pack searcher, saying that sucks.  But it does.  I've bought packs before which had been searched and not gotten anything.  I've bought packs before which had been actually opened slightly, and I didn't notice until I had already paid for them.  I guess if there is anything to be learned from DOUGSEVIER54's experience it is to: (1) don't buy retail; (2) if you do buy retail then to check really carefully for signs that the product has been searched; and (3) if you do buy retail then stick to blaster boxes which are (sometimes) harder to search. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pack Searching 2013 Press Pass Football: Desmond Trufant Autograph

I'm actually somewhat of a Press Pass fan.  I know it's not a licensed product and typically I hate non-licensed products but I often find Press Pass' cards -- albeit simply designed -- designed pretty well.

2013 Press Pass Football has been in stores for the past week now.  I didn't try to hit the product as soon as it was on the shelves.  I figured I'd let the other pack searchers in my area have a bone or two.  But finally, a week later, I figured it was time to give the product a shot.

I visited my local Targets on days when I knew they usually restocked the cards.  The Targets had two retail boxes out on display.  One was the old one, and another was a new one.  Of course, the old boxes had been hit already.  But the new boxes hadn't been hit.

At one Target I couldn't find the autograph.  That was a bit embarrassing to write.  Well, I wasn't checking every card in the pack.  I figured if the autos weren't where I was looking, then the autograph cards just weren't in the box.  So I left one Target empty handed and went to another Target.

The second Target had a fresh retail box out on display.  I searched that one and did find the autograph.

Desmond Trufant
2013 Press Pass Football
Rookie Autograph

I pulled a nice looking Desmond Trufant blue autograph.  Nice looking card.  Very simple design.  One might call it a minimalist design.  And it features a nice signing area for the athlete.  Not bad for cheap unlicensed cards.

Desmond Trufant
2013 Press Pass Football
Rookie Autograph

After pulling the card from the pack, I took a moment to examine it for information.  These should be so easy to find.  I don't know why I couldn't find it in the first retail box.  Perhaps there just wasn't an autograph in that box?

Determined, I went back to the first Target.  As I rolled up into the card aisle I could immediately tell another pack searcher had been there.  I had only been gone about two hours but in that time, someone had showed up, searched the Press Pass retail boxes, searched some of the 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball, and searched a few of the other retail boxes.  Shit was strewn everywhere.  The place was a mess.  What was once a pretty nicely arranged card aisle was now looking like a war zone.  No wonder why Target employees seem to hate so many of us pack searchers, some of us make the card aisle a pigsty.

I re-searched the retail boxes of Press Pass and didn't find the autograph in the new box.  So either: (1) there was never an autograph in the retail box; (2) there was, I missed it, and the other pack searcher found it.

I'm actually leaning towards possibility #2.  The thing is, I think I was looking for the autograph in the wrong spot.  Yeah, I should just check every card in every pack.  I get lazy, and I only check two or three of the cards in each pack.  When I found the Desmond Trufant autograph, it wasn't where I was expecting it to be. And where I'm not expecting it to be, I don't look.  So yeah, chances are there was an autograph and I just missed it.  Oh well.

Anyways, these are nice looking autograph cards in my opinion.  Yeah, they're simple.  Yeah, they look cheap.  Yeah, it's unlicensed.  But for $3.00 can you really complain?  Nah.

Monday, April 15, 2013

2012 Panini Prizm Baseball

Anybody going to search 2012 Panini Prizm ... Baseball

It seems weird saying Prizm and Baseball in the same sentence.  First it was basketball.  Next it was football.  Seeing Prizm in football was a little weird but it quickly became one of my favorite sets to search (and just to buy without searching).  Now, we're on Prizm Baseball.  After taking a look at the preview pictures on Panini's blog, I'm not so sure about this one. 

Don't get me wrong, I think the golds and the black finites are awesome.  But there is no way you're getting one of those unless you buy hobby.  Yup, regular prizms, golds, and finites are all hobby-exclusive.  Lame. 

But I guess what really sort of bothers me is the fact that since Panini doesn't have an MLB license, there aren't any team logos or names on the cards.  That really sucks.  As much as I like Prizm, I don't know if I can bring myself to buy a product where the logo on a player's hat is photoshopped out, or the player's team name is "Washington Baseball Club." 

Is retail worth searching and buying?  Supposedly there are three greens in retail boxes, along with some undetermined amount of red(s) and blue(s) for Target and Walmart, respectively.  I'm not sure I care to spend the money finding greens/reds/blues in this product when it looks like it might be a huge flop because the lack of license.  I mean, as great as the cards may look, does anyone want a non-licensed card?  Maybe I'm picky, but I don't.  And there apparently are no autograph guarantees in a retail box.  So... good luck finding autographs.  They could be close to non-existent. 

In conclusion, I'll probably be sitting out for 2012 Panini Prizm Baseball.  I'm not that much of a baseball fan to buy it despite it being non-licensed.  No autograph guarantees, no golds, and no black finites in retail means no huge incentive to go out to buy it.  I'll pass.  I'll save up for 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter.  By far, that is my favorite baseball set to collect and search. 

Anyways, if anybody searches 2012 Panini Prizm Baseball, let me know how you did.  Was it easy to search?  Hard to search?  Get anything good? 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pack Searching 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball

More first dibs on Heritage.  Once you figure out the days when your local Target usually restocks the card displays, you don't have to go out searching that often.  Most of the time you can efficiently hit up the store once a week and be sure you haven't missed anything or that the product has been searched before you.  I knew my local Target usually restocks on one particular day so I am sure to visit on those days, and sure enough, new 2013 Topps Heritage was on the shelves (albeit weeks after the release day).

Bryce Harper
2013 Topps Heritage
Target Red Bordered Parallel
Rack Pack Odds:  1:8

I'm a sucker for Heritage.  I know these cards often aren't worth a lot but I just love the way they look and finding hits in this set.  I rarely search for specific SPs, but this red bordered Bryce Harper SP was an easy find. 

Mike Olt & Jurickson Profar
2013 Topps Heritage
Chrome Parallel
Odds:  1:24

Found a cool Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar joint chrome rookie card.  I like how they put two rookies on one card.  It definitely gives this set an old school feel.  And praise the lord that Topps didn't make the idiotic move of putting rookies from different teams on the same card.  I hate it when card companies do that. 

Mark Trumbo
2013 Topps Heritage
Chrome Parallel
Odds:  1:24

Got a nice Mark Trumbo chrome parallel.

Joe Mauer
2013 Topps Heritage
Chrome Refractor Parallel
Odds:  1:42

And a nice chrome refractor parallel of Joe Mauer.  His head looks unusually big for this card.  Kinda weird.

Chase Headley
2013 Topps Heritage
Black Chrome Parallel
Odds:  1:368

And found my first black chrome parallel of Chase Headley. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pack Searching 2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball: Howie Kendrick Pink Bordered Parallel

Finally!  Finding a pink bordered parallel from 2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball has been on my bucket list for a while.  It's taken me a whole two months or so to find one but I finally did.

Howie Kendrick
2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball
Pink Parallel (Breast Cancer Awareness)
Rack Pack Odds:  1:157

Pulled a Howie Kendrick pink bordered parallel.  Wish it was a Bryce Harper or a Mike Trout instead.  Oh well.

Howie Kendrick
2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball
Pink Parallel (Breast Cancer Awareness)
Rack Pack Odds:  1:157

The interesting part about finding this card was that I didn't really know where exactly these were in rack packs.  I had an idea of where they might be, but I hadn't found any confirmation of my theory anywhere on the internet.  So when I finally found the card and it was right where I thought it would be, it was one of those very satisfying "I knew it" moments.   

Saturday, April 6, 2013

So Much For Not Pack Searching 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen

Yeah.  That didn't last long.  I know I just said I wasn't going to search 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen but I couldn't help myself.  I was out doing legitimate errands and happened to be by one of my local Targets.  So of course I stopped by to check things out.  I wanted to see whether they had received their shipment of Gypsy Queen.  They had.  And they had already been hit by a pack searcher.

There's a pack searcher in my area who seems to always put the packs back in a certain manner.  It's very noticeable.  The retail box of Gypsy Queen out on display was arranged in that manner but none of the other retail boxes of older products (which I'm sure he/she had already searched long ago) were arranged in that unusual manner.  So I knew somebody had hit this retail box.

I searched the retail box anyways because sometimes you'll find stuff other searchers miss.  Nada.  Nothing.  Gypsy Queen is easy to search and they had found everything.

While I was searching a tall and overweight female Target employee came over to dump some garbage in a nearby garbage can and asked me if I needed help finding anything.  I recognized her immediately.  She was an employee who had told me to stop going through the Excell boxes once.  I think she recognized me.  I saw her look at the packs of cards in my hand and walk away with a look of suspicion on her face.  It wasn't more than 10 seconds later when I could overhear her telling her fellow employees about how there was a guy over by the baseball cards.  I couldn't hear what else she was saying but I'm sure she was warning the other employees that there was a pack searcher over there and to keep an eye on him.  I practically rolled my eyes.  Have they not figured out yet that I'm not the one who has been cutting open packs of blasters and packs to steal cards???  Every single time I visit this store I pay for what I buy.  If I was truly that interested in stealing cards.... why would I be paying for what I buy???

As I grabbed the rack packs of Gypsy Queen I could practically feel that woman's eyes watching me.  She's going to be annoying to deal with from now on.  Most Target employees who see me searching will often just ask me if I need help and then leave me alone.  They really couldn't give two shits about what I'm doing.  But this woman, she's like a card Nazi.  The woman watches the card aisle like hawk.  She must have appointed herself as overseer of the card aisle and loss prevention cop or something. 

Anyways, I figured the rack packs had already been searched.  Nope.  I guess the pack searcher who had been there before me doesn't like searching rack packs. 

Brian McCann
2013 Topps Gypsy Queen
Framed Mini Relic
Odds:  1:64

Pulled a Brian McCann framed mini relic.  I'm not a huge fan of the black frame this year.  Kinda boring. 

Brandon Morrow
2013 Topps Gypsy Queen
Framed Mini Relic
Odds:  1:64

And pulled a nice Brandon Morrow framed mini relic.  Cool.  I like the backs of these cards and how Topps used that old school looking yellow card stock.  Neat. 

Denard Span
2013 Topps Gypsy Queen
Green Mini Parallel
Odds:  1:50

And pulled a nice green mini from one of the same rack packs as the relics.  Sweet.  Definitely beat the odds in that rack pack.  Again, I'm diggin' the old school paper stock for the backs of the cards.  It definitely gives the cards an old school feel.  I've heard a lot of the colored minis have chipping problems on the back.  This one had a few dings.  And while that sucks, at the same time it gives the card a more worn or weathered appearance like it really is 50 years old.  It kind of adds to the card's character and Gypsy Queen appeal. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pack Searching 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball: Juan Marichal Real One Autograph

I was out at a local Target checking things out not too long ago.  This Target hadn't been restocked by Excell in at least 3 weeks.  They still hadn't received any 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball.  When I went over to the card display I was absolutely shocked to see literally 15 Excell boxes stacked up in the aisle waiting to be put out.  I mean, literally, there were two flat push-cards worth of boxes piled three boxes high just sitting in the card aisle.  It looks like one of the Target employees had already started putting things out because I could see some new 2013 Topps Opening Day out as well as some 2013 Topps Heritage blasters.

I looked for some 2013 Topps Heritage rack packs or loose packs and found a box of rack packs on the shelves.  The Target employee didn't even bother putting the product out on the racks, he/she just plopped that big ol' box of rack packs right down on the shelves.  It was untouched.  A pack searcher's dream.

I started my search.  I took my time and enjoyed the moment.  I looked for red borders.  Looked for Venezuelans.  Looked for Bryce Harper and Mike Trout SPs.  Looked for chromes.  Looked for relics.  And looked for Real One Autographs.

I quickly found three chromes within the rack packs.  I set those face down next to a pile of rack packs, facing up, which I had yet to search.  Suddenly an elderly woman walked into the card aisle and stood by me looking at the sports cards.  She was sort of talking to herself.  She was muttering something about what was what.  I heard her ask out loud, to nobody in particular, which ones were current.  She saw my stack of face up 2013 Topps Heritage rack packs -- the ones I hadn't searched yet.  She picked one up and examined it.  She again, muttered something to herself about which ones were current.

Seeing as how she was confused, I figured I help her.  I told her those were 2013 and a current product.  She thanked me, but quickly got distracted by some 2012 Topps Series 2 hanger boxes.

"Now what are these?" she asked, again, to nobody in particular even though I was standing right next to her.  I told her those were last year's product and they weren't current.  "Oh... But it looks like you get so many more cards [than the Heritage rack packs]."  She looked back and forth between the Heritage rack packs and the Series 2 hanger boxes.

I wondered what she would do if she decided to go with Heritage.  Would she grab some of those rack packs from the pile which I had yet to search?  Would she grab my three face down rack packs which I knew contained chromes?  Should I subtly grab the two piles of Heritage rack packs off of the shelves so she didn't take any more???

Tough questions.

I was basically asking myself whether I should take any sort of action to protect my interests in those Heritage rack packs before this elderly woman nabbed them -- either the ones I had already searched and I knew contained chromes or even the unsearched ones which could have a Real One Autograph.

While I pondered what to do the elderly woman turned to me.  "These are for my grandchildren.  They both like baseball and I was just looking for something small to put into some Easter baskets, " she explained.  

I just about groaned out loud.  Way to make me feel like a giant asshole.  I immediately thought about all the pack searcher haters who always proclaim: think about the kids!  Yes, the kids.  The poor kids.  I felt bad.  I really did.  I thought about these little 6 year old kids or however old they were, and how they wouldn't have a chance at a relic, a chrome, or whatever because pack searchers -- like me -- pick all that stuff out.

I honestly don't give a shit about how my pack searching impacts other collectors who are old enough to drive down to the local Target/Walmart because all those people can do the same thing I'm doing.  All of them can get off their ass, put in the effort to find good cards, and buy those good cards -- just like I do.  First come, first serve.

But children... they're a little different.  They don't know better.  They don't have the intelligence or tools which the teenagers or adults may have to help them pack search.  They don't have the cars or a bike to go out searching whenever they want.  They're the real victims here.

And so, facing this huge guilt trip from this elderly woman who was buying cards for her grandchildren, I decided to let her take my stack of Heritage rack packs which I knew contained chromes, if she wanted to buy them.  I wouldn't tell her they had something good in them.  I wouldn't encourage her to buy the Heritage racks, but if she wanted them, then I'd let her take them.  And if she grabbed some of the rack packs from the pile which I hadn't searched yet, which could contain a relic or a Real One Autograph, I'd let her do that too.  I wouldn't stop her or say something like "but I was going to buy those!" 

I painfully thought of what cards might be in those rack packs if she grabbed them.  What if one of those chromes was a black-bordered chrome refractor?  (I know you can check the racks to see what kind of chrome card it is but I don't do that, I just buy them and surprise myself later on.)  What if it was a black bordered Bryce Harper or something?  I kept looking at my stack of chromes, and woefully said goodbye to them.

"How much are these?" She asked me, holding that first rack pack of Heritage she had grabbed from my unsearched stack.  I told her I thought they were about six dollars each.  I was a bit embarrassed I didn't know.  Has my addiction gotten so strong that I don't even bother knowing how much things cost?  It's gotten to the point lately where I just don't even look at the price any more.  I just buy and throw it on the credit card.  Yeah, I need to get that under control.

She looked back at the hanger boxes of 2012 Topps Series 2 Baseball.  I wondered if there was anything good in those.  I hadn't searched those.  Those have been there forever.  I know they're searchable but I had never bothered to search them because I'm not a big fan of 2012 Series 2.  I figured there might actually be relics in there, and maybe even an autograph if she's really lucky. 

The 2012 Series 2 hanger boxes were $9.99.  She was looking for something cheaper.  "Well, I was hoping there was something cheaper to just put in their Easter baskets."  She then walked behind me to the other side to look at the cards in the retail boxes.  She spotted some more 2012 Topps Series 2 Baseball packs.  This time they were loose packs.  "Oh... these are only $2.00!"

I almost died again.  Of course I had searched that retail box.  I had searched it for relics a while ago.  I hadn't found a relic but I just felt bad knowing I had searched it out anyways.  I don't bother searching for autographs though because they're so rare.  So there was definitely a chance that there might be an autograph in there if other pack searchers hadn't picked it out yet.

She seemed set on buying those 2012 Topps Series 2 loose retail packs.  I wasn't relieved that she was going to buy those instead of my Heritage rack packs.  I honestly wasn't.  Like I said earlier, if she wanted those Heritage rack packs I would have let her have them.  But since she seemed so concerned about buying the latest cards the least I could do was make sure she bought some 2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball.  I told her the packs she was holding were last year's set, and pointed to the 2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball loose packs telling her these were the new ones.  She thanked me, grabbed the two loose packs off the top of the retail box and walked away.

I knew I had searched that retail box a while ago.  The grandkids weren't getting a relic.  I knew that.  Not that I had found one in that retail box but I knew there wasn't one in there.  Again, it's possible there was an autograph in those loose packs.  I don't know.  And even if there wasn't, perhaps one the packs had a cool insert.  I don't bother searching loose packs for inserts.  For a while I was buying up loose packs of 2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball to collect all the die-cuts but I had stopped doing that a long time ago. 

Well, that was that.  I can't quite say I took away a hit from the kids.  The grandmother bought a different product than the one I was searching, and I hadn't hit anything in the product she had bought.  So there was no harm done in this particular incident.  But it still made me think about all the other times -- all the other times I had searched a product dry and some other kid or parent of the kid had come along to buy the kid some cards.

This had to be the most unhappy pack searching trip I've had in a while.

Nevertheless, I went about searching the rest of the rack packs.  And on the third to last rack pack I saw it.  ROA.  I stopped, looked away, then looked back down at the rack pack to check just to make sure.  Yup.  ROA.  As clear as day.  Couldn't miss it.  I had found one.  

Juan Marichal
2013 Topps Heritage Baseball
Real One Autograph
Rack Pack Odds:  1:120

I bought the ROA rack pack and the rack packs with the chromes, and went back to my car.  I know some people sell hot packs after they've looked to see who the autograph is from, but I don't.  I'm not a hot packer.  I don't search to sell for money.  I search to collect.  I'll enjoy whomever is in this hot pack regardless of their value.  I open it up, and pull out a Juan Marichal Real One Autograph (blue version, not numbered).

FINALLY!  I was a little late to the scene with 2012 Topps Heritage Baseball and so I think other pack searchers had beat me to the ROAs.  Ever since last year I've been dying to pull an ROA.  I didn't care who I pulled or that it be a blue autograph.  I just wanted to find one ROA.  It was on my pack searching bucket list, if you will.  So now I can scratch that one off.

Juan Marichal
2013 Topps Heritage Baseball
Real One Autograph
Rack Pack Odds:  1:120

I really like this set.  I love the old school look.  I love the old school cardboard.  I love the old school looking pictures.  But last thing I need to do is find the space to store a large set of base cards, inserts, and parallels from all my purchases.  So with that in mind, and now a Real One Autograph in my personal collection, I feel like I can stop searching 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball now.  I won't.  But there is a much greater chance now that I'll pass some of this product up and leave it for the kids.  I don't need to have every Real One Autograph, but I did want at least one.  And now I have one. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NOT Pack Searching 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen

Well, I think I've decided I'm not going to search 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen.  At first I was going to.  But after seeing the cards on eBay, I'm not really diggin' the design, color, and look this year.  So I think I'll pass.  I'll save that money towards pack searching another set -- one which I do like.

Also, In the future I think I'm going to tone down a large portion of my pack searching.  When I first started this venture it was a big experiment and contest between myself, to see if I could learn how to pack search on my own and be successful at it.  And I accomplished both those goals.  I did learn how to pack search all on my own, and I became pretty successful at it.  I went from never getting hits to almost always getting hits.  It was very exciting and addicting.

Not really doin' it for me this year.

Now though, as a more veteran pack searcher, the appeal of getting the hits has worn off a bit.  I mean, I'd still much rather spend $3 on a single loose pack to get a hit rather than buying a $80 hobby box to get one or two hits.  But I sort of feel like I have better things to do with my time than going out to search for (mostly) low-value $3 relic cards.  If I were to be on my death bed tomorrow, I don't want to look back at this past year and only have memories of pack searching.  There are other things in life worth focusing on too, aside from cards and pack searching.  So I'll tone things down.  I won't go out searching as much.  I'll be pickier about which sets I do decide to search.  I used to want everything because I could simply find the hits.  But now I actually am starting to leave some hits in the stores if I don't like the product.

So that being said, I hope the other pack searchers (and non pack searchers) in my area enjoy 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen.  It's all yours.  I'm not touching it this year.  Have at it.