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Discussion: 2012 Topps Packs - What's the difference?

Updated on March 6, 2012

2012 Topps Series 1 Hobby Box

Hobby or Retail: What's the Difference??

For those of you out there who are confused on an annual basis about the product choices surrounding the Topps base set, this hub is for you. Topps offers their base product in a variety of ways, through a variety of distribution channels and at a variety of price ranges. This is great for Topps, but highly confusing to most collectors, especially people just entering the Hobby who want to start with the flagship Topps brand.

Let’s differentiate a few things right off the bat. Many people have asked me about Topps Opening Day. Topps Opening Day is it's own product. It is essentially an inexpensive, retail-only version of the Topps base set. It appears with an Opening Day logo on each card and the odds of hitting inserts, parallels and anything considered a "Hit" are very long. Opening Day is a starter product for kids which is great, but it isn't related to Topps Series 1.

There are two main channels of distribution for sportscards - Hobby and Retail.

Hobby packs/boxes are sold in your traditional brick-and-mortar baseball card store also known as a hobby store. A regular Hobby Box has 36 packs with 10 cards per pack. There are usually 2-3 inserts/parallels per pack and the cost per pack is $2.50. If you buy a hobby box, you are guaranteed a game-used or autograph card. There are also Hobby Jumbo packs which cost $10, come 10 to a box and contain 46 cards per pack (at least 4 of which are inserts/parallels). If you buy the whole box, you are guaranteed 3 game-used or autograph cards. The odds of getting other big hits goes way up when you buy the Jumbo packs.

Retail packs/boxes are sold in big-box type retail stores like K-Mart, Target and Wal-Mart. They can also be sold in any other retail store like Modells. Regular retail packs look like hobby packs however, they come 24 packs to a box, contain 12cards per pack and usually only have 1 insert per pack. There is no guarantee of finding a hit if you buy the whole box. Packs usually cost $2.

Retail packs/boxes come in a variety of sizes and price points. I'll try to define them all below though not every type of pack is available every year:

Rack Packs - usually found on a pegboard with 2 pockets these days. May be packaged with a special card and cost is $5.00

Cereal Boxes - The cereal box is like a retail jumbo pack but it doesn't have the better odds of a Jumbo pack for finding hits. These were issued in small boxes with 1 special card of a retired player for a few years. The cereal box retailed for $10.

Hanger Packs - These are usually found on a pegboard and they come boxed as well. The hanger pack is also essentially a retail Jumbo pack. It also does not have the same odds as the Hobby Jumbo pack though it can have a special card packaged in it. Some years they do, some years they don't. This year, there is a Giveaway card guaranteed in each hanger pack. Hanger packs retail for $9.99 but beware of Toys R' Us who charges $12.99 or $14.99 for these. It's the same product so do yourself a favor and go find sompelace else to buy them at.

Blaster Boxes - These are found on the shelf for $19.99 ($27.99 at Toys R' Us) and offer a hit in every box. They also might contain parallels based on where you bought the box. Target Blaster boxes have an extra pack of cards with a Black border, whereas Wal-Mart blaster boxes have a special pack with Red borders.

Retail Specialty Packages - Lately, Topps has been creating packages for the big-box retail stores that include a number of packs, guaranteed Giveaway cards and 3 specialty cards in the $14.99 range. While I don't like having more confusion added to the mix of pack types, this type of package really does satisfy a collector on a number of levels at a very affordable price. There are packs to open, guaranteed Giveaway cards and specialty cards which are always either retired players (think Mickay Mantle, Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken) or hot young stars/rookies (Bryce Harper, Starlin Castro and Mike Stanton). These are a good buy whenever you can find them.

For retail buyers, let me caution you that buying packs from the 24-pack box or the drop-down display case could be problematic. The packs could be searched by pack-feelers or just plain damaged since they aren't secured in any way. Since the Blaster boxes and package deals come with guarantees and are relatively secure, I would stick with those products.

Note that in retail products, buyers can choose from packs at $2 to blaster boxes at $20 or a full retail 24-pack box in the $40-$45 range. The Hobby buyer can choose from packs that are $2.50 or $10 with a Hobby 36 pack box in the $65 range and the Jumbo box in the $100 range. Topps has products at a wide range of price levles to satisfy any type of buyer. Smart marketing....

I hope you found this helpful. I will be reviewing 2012 Topps Series 1 within a day or so. I've had it since the day it came out but I'm still not sure how I feel about it... (not a good omen there).

If you have questions, please feel free to ask me.

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