Friday, January 31, 2014

Pack Searching 2013 Panini Contenders Football & 2013 Topps Magic Football: Another Target Down

I've cleaned out all the Targets in town of their 2013 Panini Contenders Football hot packs.  All of them.  Gone.  No more.

So what's a guy to do on another free night?  Hit up a Target out of town.

I set my crosshairs on a Target south of me.  I had been to this Target twice before within the last week hoping to find Contenders there.  I wasn't so lucky on those early visits.  But now that Contenders was out in my home town, I knew it also had to be out at this other Target too.  My guess was that all the Targets in the area just received a shipment of new cards and the stores had just put them out.  With a little bit of luck, I'd be the first one there.

I made the fifteen minute drive to the Target at night.  More night time searching.  Less traffic.  Less people in the store.  Less stress.

As soon as I walked into the Target I could see the Contenders rack packs hanging from the hooks.  It was here.  Now the only question remaining was whether I was the first one here.

I walked into the card aisle and examined the cards before me.  Everything was neatly arranged like it had just been organized and restocked.  New retail boxes of Contenders and even 2013 Topps Magic Football sat side by side.  First dibs, again.

Within 10 minutes I had found all the hits.  I found an autograph in the Contenders rack packs, the two autographs in the Contenders retail box, and the autograph in the Magic retail box.  The Magic autograph was a redemption which was very easy to find.

Here's the damage.

Jamar Taylor
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Rookie Autograph

Out of the rack pack came a Jamar Taylor base rookie autograph.

Kevin Minter
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Rookie Autograph

And for the retail packs, first was a D.J. Hayden base rookie autograph, and...

Kevin Minter
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Rookie Autograph

a Kevin Minter base rookie autograph.  Nothing special, but still nice to get these cards.

Jordan Reed
2013 Topps Magic Football
Magic Autograph
Retail Odds:  1:25

The Topps Magic pack was a redemption of Jordan Reed.  This is actually a pretty good rookie to get.  Jordan Reed had 45 receptions this last year for 499 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  Pretty good stats for a rookie, and even despite the fact that Robert Griffin III was not doing so well this year.

So, from all the Contenders pack searching I've done, here are the statistics:

    5 autograph from rack packs
+  8 autographs from retail boxes
  13 autographs total
If you're wondering why people pack search, this is why.  In terms of dollars spent, I've spent about:
(5 rack packs x $5 per rack pack) + (8 retail packs x $3 per retail pack) = $49
That's $49 for 13 autographs, or about $3.77 per autograph.  This number doesn't include tax or money spent on gas, but even if I factored those in -- let's just say $4 for tax and $20 for gas -- that would be $73 for 13 autographs, or about $5.62 per autograph. 

In comparison, a hobby box of 2013 Panini Contenders sells for $130 and will yield five (and sometimes six) autographs.  That's a value of about $26 per autograph.  Granted, I haven't hit any huge names in retail that would be available in hobby, but the price per autograph can't be beat. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pack Searching 2013 Panini Contenders Football & 2013 Topps Magic Football: The Eyes in the Sky Are Always Watching

Pack Searching 2013 Contenders Football: Locking Down the Home Territory 

I was on my way to the second Target in town.  The roads were dark.  The car was quiet.  I was on a mission.

I had just cleaned out the closest Target to me.  They had just put out some new 2013 Panini Contenders rack packs and a retail box since I had last visited a mere 24 hours earlier.  I found two autographs in the rack packs and two autographs from the retail box -- and I wanted more.

Pack searching can be quite the addiction when you're finding hits.  Like any drug, once you get going it's hard to quit.  But why would somebody want to quit pack searching?  If the hits are out there, why not go buy them?  And honestly, if you don't go out and buy the hot packs, some other pack searcher will.  Better me than them, right?  Right.  This reasoning may seem a little screwed up or illogical to those reading this who aren't pack searchers, but I think I can speak for all other pack searchers when I say it makes perfect sense.  When autographs are so easy to find, at a mere $3 to $5 a pop, you're going to go out and go find them.

When I arrived at the second Target in town, it was 9:20 p.m.  They closed at 10 p.m.  I had a whole forty minutes to search the store if they had anything new out.  I was mostly looking for 2013 Contenders Football but I was also keeping an eye out for 2013 Topps Magic Football.  Magic had just started popping up in retail stores and on eBay over the past four days.  With a little luck, it might be in my area too.

I entered the store.  It was deserted.  I had noticed that there were very few cars in the parking lot when I arrived, but I didn't think it would be this deserted here.  I am pretty sure there might have been all of 10 customers in the entire store, and perhaps a dozen employees working.

I like pack searching late at night when stores are empty.  I don't have to worry about running into anybody I know.  Of course, the down side is that I'm one of only a handful of people in the store and I'm more likely to go noticed than unnoticed as I search.  No bother.  I would only be here for 10 minutes tops if they had any Contenders out.

As I approached the card aisle, I could see the rack packs from far away.  Contenders rack packs hung from the highest hooks.  Those were the ones that I had found the weekend before and searched.  They were still there.  But was there a retail box?  That was the key question.

And the answer was yes.  Just like the last Target I had visited, right in the very front and center of the shelf was a full and untouched retail box of 2013 Panini Contenders Football.  Glorious.  So glorious!

But wait.  What was this bright and multi-colored retail box right next to the Contenders retail box?

It was a brand new retail box of 2013 Topps Magic Football.  Oh boy.  Jackpot, baby!

Not only had I just come across a fresh retail box of Contenders, but there was also a fresh retail box of Magic right next to it.  The Pack Searching Gods had blessed me today.

I was excited by this find, but I was also a little nervous too.  I knew how to search Contenders, but I was a little unsure about Magic.  It was almost 9:25 now and I only had about 35 minutes to search both Contenders and Magic.  Could I do it?  If Contenders didn't take me long, and Magic wasn't hard to search, then maybe.  This was going to be close.

I started first with Contenders since I knew how to search it.  I hoped that the hits would be within the first half of the box, and not in the last half.  I needed to find these hits as soon as possible so I had enough time to search Magic.  But knowing my luck, the two hits in this damn retail box were probably going to be the very last two packs in the box.

The two hot packs were actually in the first eight packs I searched.  They were both redemptions.  Lucky me.  I looked at my watch.  It was almost 9:30 p.m.  I was making really good time.  I had almost a full half hour to search this retail box of 2013 Topps Magic.

Quite coincidentally, earlier this day while I had a few minutes to spare, I went on YouTube and found some videos of people opening 2013 Topps Magic retail.  One video was of a fellow pack searcher, PK's Hot Find Adventure (his video can be seen here), and the other was a person who opened up three blaster boxes and hit two redemptions. 

After watching these videos, I was very confident I would be able to find the autographs given enough time.  The way Topps packaged the cards this year, was very similar to 2012.  In fact, it was my theory that approximately 10 or 12 of the 24 packs in the retail box could be immediately ruled out as containing the autograph within a matter of a minute with one quick search.

It was now time to put that theory to the test.  I got out my trusty pack searching tools and quickly ran through all the packs within the retail box.  I immediately set aside all the packs which I knew couldn't contain the autograph.  I knew that of the remaining packs, one of them had the autograph.  I ran through those packs one more time.  One pack stood out from the rest, every so slightly.  It wasn't a lot, but it was just enough to where I thought this was the hot pack.

And it was at this very moment when I heard it.

It was the shick shick shick sound of keys bouncing around in somebody's pocket as they were walking.  It was getting louder, and louder.

I knew I looked suspicious.  I had been parked here for the past 15 minutes or so searching these retail packs.  Whomever was approaching could easily just be another Target customer, but it could also be a Target employee or Target security.

At that moment I made the split second decision that it was time to go.  Creating an altercation or getting kicked out of Target was not worth one autograph.  I snapped up my stuff, grabbed my two Contenders hot packs and the one suspected Magic hot pack, threw it all into my hand cart, and started walking towards the noise.

I'm not exactly sure why I made the decision to start walking towards whoever was coming but I did.  I think it was a subconscious decision that I wasn't going to turn and flee.  I wanted to show whoever was coming, in case it was a Target employee or Target security, that I wasn't afraid.

I turned out of the aisle and there in front of me was Target security.

I had been through this drill before many times before.  I like to call it the "flyby."  Sometimes, if you park your ass somewhere in Target for too long and look all suspicious, Target Security will purposely walk by you as a show of force, and to let you know that they're there watching you. They rarely do anything more than just walk by.  Twice before they actually stopped me and questioned me, but those instances were rare.

In that split second that it took me to identify this guy as Target security, I made the decision to play it cool.  I just kept on walking.  I glanced at him, and slightly nodded at him, but that was it.  I didn't say anything and just kept walking.

He looked at me.  I think he was surprised that I was on the move.  He was probably watching me on his video cameras in the ceiling and thought I looked suspicious.  I bet he was hoping to sneak up on me while I was distracted and in the middle of my searching.  He grunted a weak "hello" as I walked by.  Yeah, I caught him off-guard. 

He also glanced down into my handcart as I walked by.  This guy was tall, and a little on the overweight side, so for him to look into my handcart, he totally had to angle his whole head downwards.  It wasn't like he could keep his head straight and just move his eyes down to glance into the handcart, so it was totally obvious when he did it.  Undoubtedly, he was checking to see what I had in there and what I was doing.  

I continued to walk away, pretending to look at items to my left as I walked.  I was actually watching him out of the corner of my eye.  Since he had no other reason to go any further into the store since I was no longer where I was originally, he just stopped, and watched me walk away.  I actually cracked a smile and chuckled to myself.

I know this guy recognized me.  I come to this Target at least once a week, not just to search, but to actually buy stuff too.  And in fact, this guy has done a flyby on me at least once before.  I remember a long time ago I was doing a little searching while I walked, and happened to be in the wine aisle to pick up some vino.  I guess it looks suspicious like fuck to be fingering some cards while you're choosing wine because within a minute, that same Target security guard did a flyby on me and asked me what I was doing.

I imagine that these guys probably have a high-res picture of me, taken from their video cameras in the ceiling, posted up in their little surveillance office, with the words "HIGH RISK" on it.  Laughable, really.  Of all the times I've been here, have I ever stolen anything?  Nope.  I always pay.  Does this guy really think I'm trying to steal shit? 

Anyway, I didn't want to make an incident of it all.  I do have to come to this Target to buy normal stuff (aside from cards) too, so the last thing I wanted to do was to get myself banned from the store.

I went to the cash register to pay for the cards.  I grabbed a pack of gum also so it didn't look so suspicious that I was only buying cards.  I don't think I was fooling anybody though.  Any guy who pretty much is only buying sports cards from Target and nothing else is a pack searcher.

At this point, I was a little paranoid about whether the Target security guy really thought I was trying to steal something.  I wondered if he could ask the cashier for my name if I used my Target REDcard when I paid.  I bet he could.  I decided to pay with cash.  Look at how paranoid one becomes when pack searching!  I'm sure the non-packsearchers reading this are laughing at me. 

The cashier looked at me a little suspiciously as she rang me up.  I was beginning to wonder if the Target people have a secret code or way to communicate that someone suspicious is in the store and that they are supposed to keep an eye on them.  Perhaps the Target security guy had tipped off the rest of the employees before he tried to do a flyby on me.  Bastard.

As I walked out the Target doors, I prepared myself for a voice to call out behind me ordering me to stop.  I prepared myself to run.  Even though I knew I hadn't done anything wrong or stolen anything, I still think it'd be funny as fuck if I just ran out the doors if they tried to stop me.  But nobody said anything and I walked out untouched.

On my way to my car, I noticed that on one of the light poles was another security camera.  I wondered if that damn Target security guy was watching me so he could get a description of my car and/or my license plate.  I altered my path a little to take an angle where some trees would obstruct the security camera's view of me as I walked to my car.  When I got into my car, I immediately flicked off the cabin light too.  Don't want these guys seeing me any more than they need to!  As I drove off, I forgot to leave my car lights off so it didn't illuminate my license plate.  I hoped the trees obstructed the camera's view enough so it couldn't see it.

This is the most excitement I've had while pack searching in a while.  I rarely get this sort of attention.  The fact that there were so few people in the store probably is what caused the Target security guy to focus on me so quickly -- there wasn't anyone else to keep an eye on.

I wonder what the Target security guy's name is.  I should give him a name since it seems like he's going to be keeping a close eye on me in the future.  Hmm.  He sort of looks like a Jacob.  Yeah, Jacob.  I'll call him Jacob from now on. 

All this excitement, and I've almost forgotten about the hits.

Dee Milliner
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Rookie Playoff Ticket Autograph #/99

From the retail box came a Dee Milliner rookie playoff ticket redemption!  Sweet!

Barkevious Mingo
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Rookie Playoff Ticket Variation Autograph #/99

And also came a Barkevious Mingo rookie playoff ticket variation redemption!  Cool!  Not a bad haul at all!

Marquise Goodwin
2013 Topps Magic Football
Rookie Autograph
Retail Odds:  1:25

And from the Magic hot pack, came a Marquise Goodwin autographed rookie card!

Thus far, from pack searching three Targets, I have a total of ten autographs from 2013 Panini Contenders Football.  Four were from rack packs, and six were from retail boxes.  Rack packs are $5 each and retail packs are $3 each.  Thus, for about $38 plus tax, I've hit 10 autographs.  To compare, a hobby box of 2013 Contenders yields five autographs (although sometimes as many as six or seven) for about $130 plus tax.  So my current haul is about the equivalent of two hobby boxes which would cost about $260.  When you look at it this way, pack searching is totally worth the trouble and paranoia of being watched by the eyes in the sky at Target.

 ... The End ...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pack Searching 2013 Panini Contenders Football: Locking Down the Home Territory

One rule I try to follow when pack searching is to always lock down the home territory.  By that I mean if I'm going to go out searching, I make sure to always hit up the closest retail stores first and foremost.  Not only are these stores the closest and easiest to hit, it's easier on the gas and on the time spent searching.  Only until I've hit up all the local stores do I make the effort to venture out further.

On Monday I was off from work.  Without any work or other obligations, I decided to go out searching again to see if any of the local stores had finally put out more Contenders retail.  I hit up both my local Targets again.  The closest one to me had yet to put out anything new.  And when I got there, it still hadn't put out anything new.  The second Target was a little further away, and it was at this Target that I got lucky and found the rack packs of Contenders a few days ago (and where I also bought myself a blaster of Contenders).  I was still waiting for them to put out a retail box.  But again, when I got there, nothing new was out on the shelves.  The same five remaining rack packs were still there and even the three remaining blaster boxes were still there.  I was very surprised that nobody else had picked up a rack pack or a blaster.  Does nobody else in my area care about Contenders?  If only I were so lucky.  I'm guessing all the other card collectors and/or pack searchers hadn't come to this Target yet. 

As I left to go home, I vowed to vigilantly check these Targets every day for the rest of this damn week if I had to.  This was my turf.  And I was getting tired of getting beat to the stores by everyone else.  For once, in a long time, I wanted to be first.  And quite frankly, since these Contenders packs are so easy to search, you had to be first or else you weren't getting anything.

So the next day, after work, I vowed to go out searching again -- only a mere 24 hours since I last went out -- to see if those same two Targets had put out more Contenders.  My theory was that since Monday was a holiday (Martin Luther King day), things would return to normal on Tuesday and perhaps the Targets would get around to restocking the shelves in the card aisle.  That night, as I cooked dinner for myself, I couldn't help but imagine another pack searcher at my two local Targets picking out the hot packs from the newly restocked shelves.  I hoped this wasn't going to be a reality.  But if that happened, then it wouldn't be the first time I've checked my local stores at 24-hour intervals and still gotten beat.  Let me tell you, when that happens, that sucks big time. 

I actually found myself sort of rushing myself when I was cooking dinner.  Time was of the essence!  Who knows whether my competition was out there right now searching my local Targets!

By the time I actually finished cooking, eating, and cleaning, it was nearly 8:20 p.m.  I hopped in my car and drove to my nearest Target.  When I entered the Target, I immediately went over to card aisle and boom!  Right in front of me, hanging from the hooks, were rack packs.  Lots of them.  Perhaps ten or so.  These weren't here yesterday.  This was brand new -- and hopefully still unsearched.

I looked around for a retail box and I didn't have to look that hard.  It was sitting right front and center on the shelves as if a Target employee had just put it out.  And boy, it looked pristine.  It looked completely untouched.  This was a pack searcher's dream.

I grabbed all the Contenders I could hold and started my search.  I downed the rack packs in minutes.  Out of the ten rack packs, I found two autographs. 

The retail box is a little more time consuming to search, but in ten minutes time, I had found the two hot packs.  I took my loot to the front to pay and left the store.

In my car, I checked out the haul.

Ryan Griffin
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Base Rookie Autograph

From the first rack pack came a Ryan Griffin base autograph.  Look at that awful signature.  Was he bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck when he was signing these things?  I don't think I've ever seen such a squiggly signature before.

Jawan Jamison
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Variation Rookie Autograph
Odds:  SSP (#/50 or less)

And the next rack pack had a Jawan Jamison variation autograph.  The variations of this guy are apparently super short print (SSP) based on the preliminary short-print and super-short-print list just published by Panini.  (I'm 99.9% sure I'm going to keep this card since I keep 99.9% of everything I buy -- I'm a collector and not in the hobby to make money -- but on the off chance that I do sell the card I've blocked out the autograph.)

C.J. Anderson
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Base Rookie Autograph

And from the first retail hot pack was a C.J. Anderson autograph.

Spencer Ware
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Base Rookie Autograph
And finally, from the second retail hot pack was a Spencer Ware autograph.  I already pulled one of his autographs earlier.  Now that I have two of his autographs, I'm hoping this guy makes something of himself in the NFL and becomes a star.  He is facing some stiff competition in the depth chart up in Seattle.  He's sitting behind Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, and Christine Michael.

So I cleaned out this Target.  If there were any more retail hits to be had, they were going to come from the blaster boxes which were also sitting out on the shelves.  I wasn't about to buy them at $20 a pop though.

I started my car.  As usual, if this Target had Contenders out, it's very likely that the second Target in town had Contenders out too.  Time to hit up Target #2.

... To Be Continued ...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pack Searching 2013 Panini Contenders Football: A Pack Searching Road Trip

I wasn't even awake yet but I could feel my head pounding.  With every heartbeat it throbbed.  I was hungover.  Perhaps still a little drunk too.  I immediately had a few regrets about drinking so much last night.

Groggily, I opened my eyes, slowly rousing myself from my sleep.  Judging by the amount of light starting to creep in my window, it was still early.  I hate that about getting drunk.  I can never sleep in and I always wake up early.  I checked my phone.  It was damn near 7:30 a.m.  I had barely slept four and a half hours.  I don't even have to get up this early for work normally, and yet I was awake.  Dammit.

I knew I should probably get up anyways.  I wanted to continue my search for 2013 Contenders Football retail.  Last night I had gone out before hitting the town with the guys.  I managed to find a hit in a rack pack, and bought one blaster box for myself.  I knew that there had to be more Contenders retail around me at the other Targets and Walmarts.  I had to get there before the others did.  By "others" I meant other pack searchers, and other card collectors who would buy the whole damn lot of retail Contenders just so they can try and get all the super short print autographs to sell on eBay.  I had to get up.  I kept telling myself that, and I kept trying but I couldn't.  Instead, I stumbled out of bed, pissed out all the beers I drank last night, popped a few Advil with some water, and went back to sleep.

When I awoke again later I knew it was midday.  Bright sunlight was sneaking its way through the blinds.  I checked my phone again.  It was 11 a.m.  I felt a hell of a lot better now.  My head didn't hurt and I felt more rested.  I knew I had to get up and get out of the house to start my search.  Other pack searchers wouldn't wait for me, nor would other card collectors.  It's always a race to get to the cards first.

So I hopped out of bed and got dressed.  My stomach started aching.  I'm not sure why.  It didn't like something I ate or drank last night.  But I toughed it out.  Pain is just in your mind.  I had more important things to do today.  I wasn't about to get a stomach ache sideline me and keep me from pack searching.

It's rare that I have a free day to do whatever the hell I want on the weekend.  It seems like usually I have some errands to run or some family obligation, but not today.  With all this free time, it allowed me to go on a dedicated pack searching road trip.  I rarely do these.  They're too time consuming.  If I were to hit up every single Target and Walmart within 25 miles of me, it would take me almost three hours of driving time alone.  I reiterate, that's just driving time.  The actual time spent searching at each store would vary, depending on how much product there is to search if it's even there at all, but I could easily spend at least 30 minutes at each stop if it had enough product.

I wasn't planning on hitting every Target and Walmart around me today.  Instead, I figured I'd adjust my gameplan as I went along and based on how much product I was finding.  My first stop on the day was a Target in a town about 10 miles south of me.  It's a newer Target.  I like searching at this one because it's in a different town and I don't have to worry about running into somebody I know.  But when I got there, I was disappointed to see that there wasn't any Contenders retail out.  I had assumed that if the Target I had gone to last night had it, that this one would have had it too.  I was wrong.

I got back in my car.  And for a moment, I almost contemplated going home.  My thoughts were that if this Target didn't have any Contenders retail out, then I bet the other Targets I was planning on hitting today wouldn't have it out either.  I was beginning to think that the Contenders I found last night was an aberration.  I thought about things for a minute, and then decided to continue my search.  You never know what you might find unless you go out and see, I told myself.

The next stop was another Target about 12 miles down the interstate.  I've had some good luck finding stuff at this store, but I know it gets searched by another pack searcher who lives in a large town south of me.  I knew that if this Target had some Contenders, there was a good chance it probably was searched already.  At least there was a Walmart near it too, and I figured I'd hit up that Walmart at the same time.  So I started up my car and made the short drive to the next Target. 

When I walked into the second Target I grabbed a little Target hand cart and waddled my way over to the card aisle.  My stomach was still hurting.  Again, I'm not sure why it was but I could sense the need to take a massive shit in the near future.

I was about to turn into the card aisle but I was stopped by a Target cart which blocked the way.  It wasn't the regular Target shopping carts that the customers use, but one of those wire-mesh ones that the employees use when restocking the store.  It didn't even occur to me what this might mean at the moment.  I was concentrating more on finding Contenders retail.  I looped around a cash register to enter the card aisle from the other side, and was startled to see a Target employee in the card aisle.  She was a shorter Asian woman, that's why I hadn't see her earlier.  She had one of those scanners in her hand and was scanning things on the cart and putting them onto the shelves.  She was restocking the card aisle!

Eagerly, I glanced around, all the while trying to look as inconspicuous as possible.  And there before me on the highest racks, were six rack packs.  It took a lot of self-restraint to not just grab them and run to a secluded area of the store to search them away from this employee.  But what about a retail box?  Where was the retail box?  And as if on cue, I glanced to my left at the Target employee, and there in her hands was a fresh retail box.  What luck!

I saw her unwrap it from its cellophane and put it on the shelf with all the rest of the retail boxes of cards.  It was like a bar of gold calling out my name.  Again, it took a lot of self-restraint to not just grab the entire box off the shelf right in front of her and run off with it.  I debated what to do.  It would definitely look a little suspicious if I grabbed all the rack packs she probably just put, and the entire retail box and just walked away.  I decided to just wait her out until she was finished restocking the card aisle.  Her red wire cart was pretty empty already and she didn't have many more things to put out.  I estimated she'd only need another five minutes.  So I walked out of the card aisle and pretended to shop in a few adjacent aisles.  The entire time I was praying that another customer wouldn't come into the store and take the rack packs or retail box.  It was the longest five minutes ever.  Every thirty seconds I would glance over at the card aisle, watching the Target employee, waiting her to finish. 

When she finally finished and pushed the red wire cart out of the aisle, I swooped in like a hawk.  I plucked the retail box off the shelf and the rack packs off the racks and began my search.

The rack packs were easy to search and within no time I had located a hit.  I knew which player it was.  It wasn't a great player or a valuable player but I leave no hot pack behind. 

I started searching the retail box.  This was actually an absolute rare joy.  Usually, I'm always getting beat to stores and when I'm searching a retail box I have no idea if there is a hit there or not.  But since this was a fresh retail box, I knew there were two hits within it and it was just a matter of finding them.

The retail packs are easy to search too.  I had been through twelve of the 24 packs within the box within a few minutes but I still hadn't found the autographs.  I was actually getting a little concerned.  I went through another six packs and still hadn't found the autographs.  Now I was getting really concerned.  I knew what to look for -- at least I thought so.  Was there a chance I was missing the hot packs?  What were the odds that the two autographs would be in the last six packs I had yet to search?

Luckily, the two autographs were in the last six packs.  One was a Playoff ticket autograph.  The other was a redemption.  Phew.

I took my loot to the front to pay for it.  Inside the rack pack was...

Eric Fisher
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Base Rookie Autograph

A base autograph of Eric Fisher.  It's hard to get excited about getting an offensive linemen autograph. 

Chris Harper
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Autographed Playoff Ticket Variation

The playoff ticket hot pack contained a Chris Harper Playoff Ticket Variation autograph!  This card is pretty sweet. 

Alec Ogletree
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Autographed Cracked Ice Variation #/21

And finally, the redemption hot pack was an Alec Ogletree cracked ice variation autograph!  This is a nice hit!  Overall, that retail box was a pretty good one.  Can't complain about hitting a Playoff Ticket autograph and a Cracked Ice variation autograph all in one!

With the excitement of hitting these cards seeping through my body, I no longer felt the pains in my stomach.  I swear, this card hunt can be just as addicting and rewarding as drugs.

But there was no time to lose.  I had to check the Walmart nearby to see if they had any Contenders retail too.  So I made the short five minute drive just down the road to the Walmart.  Inside, the card aisle was as mess.  All sorts of rack packs had been pulled off the hooks and stacked here and there.  It looked like the work of another pack searcher looking for hits.  No Contenders retail was to be found though.  There were some Topps Chrome Football rack packs so I took a few minutes to search those.

As I was searching I heard a raised voice yelling something in another aisle.  I didn't really pay much attention to it at first.  But when I finished searching the Chrome rack packs and exited the aisle, the yelling got my attention.  A Black woman two aisles over was looking down at the other end of the store yelling at someone.  At first I thought she was calling to a friend to get over here.  She was telling someone to get their "bitch ass over here."  Down on the other end of the store I could hear someone else yelling something back at her.  It was a Caucasian man standing in line.  Maybe they knew each other?  It quickly became apparent that they didn't.

"What's your problem?" the Caucasian guy said to her in a defensive tone.

The Black woman kept going on with her rant.  She was telling him to tell his wife whatever he had just told her.  The man's wife was trying to stay out of the argument, stating that she didn't say anything.  Didn't matter to the Black woman.  She was like, "tell that to yo' wife!"

I don't know what the hell the argument was about but it was entertaining.  The Caucasian guy kept his cool and just threw some defensive insults back at the Black woman.  But the Black woman had not shame.  She was loud, and kept pushing on with insulting attacks.  I was actually surprised store security or an employee didn't come over and try to get both parties to shut up and mind their own business.  I have to admit, I was hoping for things to get physical. 

Anyway, the incident was very bizarre.  I felt like I was watching an episode of Jerry Springer.  The entire time I was thinking how the Black woman sure wasn't helping defeat the stereotype of Black women being very loud.  I think she liked the fact that she was being loud and making a scene.  It probably made her feel strong and feared.

Definitely one of the most interesting pack searching trips I've had in a while!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pack Searching 2013 Panini Contenders Football: Finally Found Some

It's been an agonizing past few days.  I've been dying to get my hands on some Panini Contenders Football retail.  It has been slowly popping up around the nation for the past few days and only finally has started showing up around me.

I've been looking for it for the past week, but my first sighting only came a couple of days ago.  It was Friday night, and I had some time to kill before heading out with the guys for a night out on the town.  I drove to my nearest Walmart to check things out there.  Nada.  The card aisle had been nicely arranged by someone, but it was fairly bare.  It hadn't been restocked in weeks.

So I got in my car and drove just down the road to a Target which was nearby too.  Whenever I walk into a Target entrance I always take a look at the rack packs hanging high in the card aisle.  They are always a little hard to see from that far away, so you never know what's going to be over there until you're actually in the card aisle.  From what I could tell initially, there wasn't any Contenders.  I could see the familiar colors of those red Score hockey rack packs and Panini Prestige basketball rack packs, but I couldn't see anything resembling the Contender rack packs.

As I walked into the card aisle, all my hopes were on seeing a nice new, full, and untouched retail box of Contenders.  But there wasn't one there.  I raised my eyes up a little bit, and there before me were some Contenders rack packs.  There were only six of them, but they were beautiful.  I swear, I think they were surrounded by a glowing aura.  I had no idea how long they had been there or if they had been searched already, but it was just amazing to see them.  Where I live, it seems like I'm always one of the last areas to get any retail sports card product.  I'll usually see other people finding and selling hot packs a good week before I'll ever see anything, so it was very unusual for me to find a new release just a few days after everyone else was starting to get it too.

I grabbed all the rack packs off of the hooks, afraid that someone else might walk right up and grab them out from under my nose.  I started my search.

Man.  These rack packs are ridiculously easy to search.  Ridiculously easy.  Within a minute I had found a hit.  I was really hoping for two hits in these six rack packs, but I can't complain too much.  I had just found a new retail product and got to it before anyone else.  I was lucky.

As I put the rest of the rack packs back, I eyed the blaster boxes.  I knew that there was a 66.6% chance of pulling an autograph from the blaster boxes.  I knew that the blaster boxes weren't that great of a value.  You're basically paying about $30 per autograph if you buy blaster boxes.  ($20 x 3 blasters / 2 autographs = $30 per autograph)  I couldn't help myself and grabbed one blaster box for myself.  I was hoping to get some super short print autograph card that I could sell on eBay for boat loads of money. 

The cashier who rang up my cards was a young dude.  He saw the football cards and cracked a grin. 

"You trying to hit something good in these?"  I was surprised to have him engaging me in conversation. 

"Um, yeah." 

"Cool, man."  He nodded.  "Like what?"  At first I wanted to say autographs, but I didn't know if he knew I was a pack searcher or what, so I figured it was better to keep it vague.

"Oh, some of the top rookies," I said.

"Who are some of the top rookies?"  He inquired.  In my mind, I was like, really?  This guy seemed young and the type to be into sports.  He didn't know who some of the top rookies in the NFL were?  That seems a little weird. 

"Um, E.J. Manuel, Eddie Lacy, Keenan Allen."  That seemed to satisfy him.  I guess he thought it was cool that I was buying sports cards. 

In my car, I opened up my loot.  The autograph in the rack pack was...

Michael Ford
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Base Rookie Autograph
Retail Odds: 1:12

a Michael Ford base rookie autograph.  Nothing spectacular.  And I knew who it was when I was buying the rack pack, but I wasn't about to let a hot pack sit on the shelves for another pack searcher to cherry pick. 

Next, I opened up the blaster.  I was holding my breath a bit as I opened up the packs within it.  I knew there was a 66.6% chance of getting an autograph but I was totally thinking to myself that with my luck I'd probably be that 33.3% chance which didn't get a hit.  But I did get a hit!

Spencer Ware
2013 Panini Contenders Football
Base Rookie Autograph
Retail Odds:  1:12

It was a Spencer Ware base rookie autograph. Again, not really spectacular or valuable but whatever.  I'm just happy to get an autograph!

Knowing that this Target had Contenders retail out, I had to check one more Target in town.  I started my car and raced over to the other Target but no Contenders was to be seen over there.  Oh well.  I'm sure it would be out soon and I would check back every day.  My search for 2013 Panini Contenders was off to a decent start.  I thought of all the other Targets in other towns around me.  I would have to search those Targets too.  There was no more time tonight, so I vowed to search them tomorrow.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Still No Contenders Football in Retail Stores Yet...

Despite 2013 Panini Contenders Football coming out in hobby stores almost two weeks ago, it still hasn't shown up in retail stores.  This delay is typical.  Hobby buyers would always complain that retail would hit before hobby and the retail buyers would get the benefits of inflated eBay sales rather than the (supposedly) more loyal and deserving hobby buyers.  Panini listened and has now started delaying the release of retail products until after hobby products have been released.  Typically this has been no more than a week, but this Contenders delay is coming up on two weeks now.  I've never seen a delay this long.

The Contenders set is one of Panini's biggest football sets, so it makes sense that they try and appease the hobby-only crowd by delaying retail longer than normal.  It just sucks for me because I'm pretty much a retail-only person.  I'm dying to get my hands on some Contenders retail.  Of course, so are the hobby-only people since it seems as if some rookie autographs are pretty much retail only.  If anyone is lucky to hit those rookies, the sale of those cards could bring in a nice penny.  Competition to get to those early retail boxes and retail blaster boxes will be fierce.  I imagine some people might even buy the whole damn retail box if they can find one rather than just buying a handful of packs.

So far, there is only one video on YouTube of a retail break.

This delay in the retail launch has allowed me to gather some intelligence on Contenders.  I've bought some single cards on eBay, which have since arrived.  It has allowed me to examine the cards, and get an idea of what I need to look for to find the hits in the retail packs.  Has it given me a huge leg-up on the competition?  I wouldn't say a "huge" advantage but perhaps a slight advantage.  The biggest difficulty in pack searching is just knowing what to look for.  Each company and their sets is a little different.  Knowing is half the battle.  The other half is just being lucky enough to be first to the cards (or if you're not first, that the first person to the cards couldn't find the hits). 

Anyway, I'll be hitting up retail stores this week and this weekend, all the while keeping a keen eye on eBay, YouTube, and BlowoutCards to track where retail is starting to hit. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2012 Topps Chrome Football Blaster Box #5

Continuing on my slow break of nine 2012 Topps Chrome Football blaster boxes, here is blaster box #5. 

Spoiler alert:  This one was kinda lame. 

The only color within the blaster was this purple Jimmy Graham. 

As for the retro cards, from left to right:  Ryan Tannehill 1984 RC;  Brock Osweiler 1957 RC;  and Mohammad Sanu 1984 RC.

And the only good refractors were, from left to right:  Joe Smith refractor RC;  Ryan Tannehill X-Fractor RC; and Dre Kirkpatrick refractor RC.

All in all, a pretty bad blaster box.  I guess the best card was probably the Tannehill X-Fractor. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Panini Contenders Football Retail

Stilling waiting for 2013 Panini Contenders Football retail to hit the stores.  So far no retail hot packs have popped up on eBay.  My guess is that we won't start seeing retail Contenders hit until this weekend. 

Interestingly, there is someone on eBay selling 2013 Panini Contenders Football blaster boxes.  You can see the eBay listing here

Since there are supposedly two autographs per retail box (which should have 24 packs), then there should be about two autographs in every three blaster boxes of 2013 Panini Contenders Football. 

Are these blaster boxes searchable?  Doubtful.  As far as I know, there is no way to tell which blaster box will have the autograph in it or not without downright opening up the blaster itself to search each individual pack.  Who knows how much these blaster boxes will sell for.  But assuming it's $20, then I'm not sure they're that great of a buy even with 2/3rds of a chance at hitting an autograph since most of the autographs will probably be unheralded rookies.

Of course, there are the possibilities that some of the retail autographs are SP or SSP in which case they could be worth a lot, but at $20 a shot to buy a blaster box I think I'll stick to searching loose packs in retail boxes.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2012 Topps Chrome Football Blaster Box #4

Continuing on my slow break of nine 2012 Topps Chrome Football Blaster Boxes, here is blaster box #4. 

Spoiler alert: it was another good one!

Starting things off, from left to right:  Bernard Pierce 1984 RC;  Doug Martin tall boy;  Andrew Luck 1957 RC.

Then, from left to right: Cam Newton refractor;  Aaron Rodgers rookie card reprint;  Bernard Pierce refractor. 

Got some nice X-fractors too, from left to right:  Bernard Pierce X-Fractor RC;  Cordy Glenn X-Fractor RC; and a Steven Jackson X-Fractor.

Hit some color too.  Got a nice Fred Jackson purple refractor, and a base Justin Blackon rookie card.  Too bad Justin Blackon is having drug problems and is out of the NFL for the moment.

And finally... another great hit...

An awesome Robert Griffin III refractor!  I don't have a refractor rookie card of RG3 yet so this was a very gratifying hit for me. 

So far, these first four blaster boxes have been pretty good overall!  I'm glad I decided to keep them for myself instead of selling them. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

2012 Topps Chrome Football Blaster Box #3

Continuing my slow break of nine 2012 Topps Chrome Football blaster boxes, here is box #3.

Spoiler alert: this one was awesome!

The difference in the contents of blaster box #3 and my previous blaster box (blaster box #2) was night and day!  Blaster Box #2 was crap aside from a Russell Wilson rookie card.  Blaster Box #3 was full of great cards!

Here are the more notable cards...

To start things off were some nice base rookie cards and parallels, clockwise from top left:  Mark Barron RC;  Lamar Miller RC;  Chandler Jones X-Fractor RC;  Julio Jones X-Fractor;  Vernon Davis refractor; and Wes Welker X-Fractor.

Go some nice rookie inserts, from left to right:  Robert Turbin 1984 RC;  Nick Toon tall boy; and Brandon Weedon 1984.

Also got some nice color:  Zach Brown purple refractor RC;  Cordy Glenn refractor RC; and Matt Kahlil blue refractor RC.

But the best hits were the quarterback cards:  Andrew Luck RC;  Brock Osweiler die-cut; and Kirk Cousins RC!

The Andrew Luck rookie card is actually fairly short printed and hard to get.   Brock Osweiler is still sitting behind Peyton Manning in Denver.  I'm guessing that in another year or two when Peyton retires that Osweiler will get his chance to prove himself as Denver's quarterback of the future.  And Kirk Cousins is a young QB with some potential.  He's gotta get out of Washington though otherwise he's just going to be a bench warmer behind RG3 for years to come. 

All in all, a very nice blaster box!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Been Pack Searching A Lot Less

Maybe some of you have noticed that I haven't been showing a lot of pack searching hits on my blog for the past few months.  Well, I've really cut back on my pack searching.  No, It's not because I've had a change of heart and feel like it's illegal, or dishonest, or immoral.  I've just been super busy, facing a lot of big bills, and becoming a lot more picky about what I do choose to pack search.

When I first started pack searching, I would search EVERYTHING.  I'd search every sport, every product, every different type of product packaging (loose packs, rack packs, blasters).  Then, about a year later, I started to grow a little more picky about what I searched, and cut it down to football and baseball.

Now, I'm super duper picky and only search football and baseball.  I'll see new basketball or hockey retail boxes (or rack packs) in the store, and I won't even touch them.  I won't even try to see if I can find the hot packs for fun, even if I wasn't going to buy them.

I haven't grown tired of pack searching, but I know that if I did find the hot pack, I'd buy it.  I could never, and have never been able to leave hot packs behind.  Well, maybe like once.  But most of the time I'll buy it for myself, or at least buy it and think about selling it since I know you can make a few bucks doing that.  So it's really about avoiding the temptation to buy hot packs.

I've also been super busy lately.  And, in a way, with so many other things going on my life right now, I feel like I have better things to do than to hit up my local Walmarts and Targets two to three times a week.  I don't know how some of you guys can keep doing what you're doing, finding all those hot packs all the time.  I have a job, and other obligations in life that I have to meet outside of work so finding the time to hit up my local stores every week can be a bit challenging.

I've also decided I'm going to avoid most retail Panini products since they seem to put out shittier versions of retail than they do for hobby (i.e. Absolute), and the quality of hits from their retail products are pretty crappy compared to Topps.  Honestly, I'm trying to think of my best Panini hit from retail, and I don't think I can really name one.  Actually, after checking my "hit list", I think the best Panini hit I've found in retail was that 2012 Andrew Luck Prizm variation rookie card.  All my other good hits have been from Topps retail.

Alright.  Now that I said I'm going to avoid most Panini retail products, one Panini retail product that I am looking forward to is 2013 Panini Contenders Football.  It streets on Friday for hobby, and retail should follow a week or two later.  There are supposedly two autographs in a retail box.  I'll be trying my best to visit my retail stores to be the first one there.  Hopefully, I'll hit some autographs and have something to show off on the blog!