Friday, June 13, 2008

2008 Topps Series 2 - Retail vs. Hobby Packs

Originally posted on my LiveJournal account June 12, 2008

In this post I will look at the difference between buying similar amounts of the same product through different channels. Being the frugal minded Baseball Card collector that I am, whenever the option arises to get added value for my purchase I try to take advantage of said offer. Shopping at K-Mart the other day for formula I managed to sneak in a blaster box of 2008 Topps Series 2 Baseball containing 5 packs and 1 additional 3 card pack of K-Mart exclusive rookies.

So what did I pull?

Here we go:

2008 Topps Series 2 K-Mart Exclusive Blaster

5 x 10 card packs
1 x 3 card exclusive pack
$9.99 retail price.

Pack One

  • 525 Gary Matthews Jr. OF ANGELS!
  • 616 Jon Garland P ANGELS!
  • 344 Mike Rabelo C Marlins
  • 479 Bobby Abreu OF Yankees
  • 375 Fausto Carmona P Indians
  • 411 Jason Kubel OF Twins
  • 365 Derek Lee 1B Cubs
  • 463 John McLaren M Mariners
  • 410 Alex Gordon 3B Royals
  • 474 Yuniesky Bettancourt SS Mariners
  • Topps Town Code

Normally I would be upset at a pack without a single stinking insert, BUT in this case, I don’t mind since I got TWO of my favorite new Angels. Neither card is all that spectacular, but they should be the first cards of both players in Angels uniforms, and that’s cool. I didn’t realize that Matthews made his debut for the Padres in ’99, and that in his 10 seasons he’s now played for 7 different teams. Garland is now in his 9th big league campaign and thus far it appears that he’s reverted to his 2005 and 2006 form, with a 6-3 record and a nifty 3.61 ERA. If he can win 18 games like he did in 05 and 06, I’ll be a happy man.

Some sports card bloggers have been disparaging the ToppsTown inserts as being just junk, but I’ve actually opened up an account there and I’m enjoying the diversion thus far. Yes, it’s for kids, but there is a neat virtual card collection that you can play around with, plus the cards have stats that impact the free mini-games. No, it’s not rocket science, but it is kind of fun. Each code gives you 8 additional virtual cards, an item for your avatar and an item for your clubhouse, which is your ToppsTown pad. You also get points towards buying more avatars and clubhouse items, but which don’t appear to be redeemable for prizes beyond the virtual kind. This is where I feel that Upper Deck Kids has an advantage, because instead of only giving virtual prizes, their redemption program offers real and valuable prizes, such as boxes of product , signed memorabilia and video games. My daughter has already received one box of Upper Deck Series 1 for 225,000 Upper Deck points, and we’re working on a box of Series 2 for 250,000 points.

Pack Two

  • 542 Adam Kennedy SS Cardinals
  • 643 Matt Murton OF Cubs
  • 621 Denard Span OF Twins RC
  • 373 Casey Kotchman 1B ANGELS!
  • 593 Randy Wells P Blue Jays RC
  • 558 John Russell M Pirates
  • 405 Travis Hafner DH Indians
  • 459 Mike Sweeney DH A’s
  • 496 Brad Lidge P Phillies
  • 348 Craig Monroe OF Twins
  • Fathead Discount
  • Get grades

Now this was a disappointing pack, simply because the Angel that I pulled is a double. Ah well, there’s two rookies in this pack, but I have no idea who they are, so let’s look and see: Wells is a 25 year old out of Iowa who has pitched in one game thus far, with no ERA and 1 walk as a reliever. He’s a former catcher who switched to the mound in ’03, so I seriously doubt that this card will ever be worth more than a couple of bucks. Span last played at the big league level in April with the Twins and hit .258 in 31 AB with no homers and only 2 RBI, since then he’s been sent back down and is out 3-4 weeks with a sprained finger. The back of his card says his former mentor was Torii Hunter of the Angels, so I guess that’s something.

Pack Three

  • 464 Rocco Baldelli OF Rays
  • 559 Jonny Gomes DH Rays
  • 634 Kenny Rogers P Tigers
  • 623 Trey Hillman M Royals
  • 638 Juan Pierre OF Dodgers
  • 489 Joakim Soria P Royals
  • 414 Andrew Miller P Marlins
  • 624 Joe Torre M Dodgers
  • YR90 Aubrey Huff Hits for the Cycle
  • TS14 Jake Peavey Padres
  • ToppsTown Gold

In a pack with two inserts, it’s pretty sad when you consider the best card to be the ToppsTown Gold. I had been wondering about the insert ratio for the Gold cards (looks like 1:36 or so) and what they did that was better than the regular codes (you get a choice of cards to pick for your virtual collection, and more points than a normal card, plus the additional clubhouse item and avatar item. Yes, getting two different 1:6 inserts is nice, but really, they were lackluster inserts. Of course, I know a certain blogger would be happy with the Miller single, so maybe I can trade for an Angel or two.

Pack Four

  • 430 Ryan Braun OF Brewers
  • 439 Josh Hamilton OF Rangers
  • 594 Mike Morse OF Mariners
  • 431 Delwyn Young OF Dodgers
  • 443 Greg Dobbs 3B Phillies
  • 618 Pat Neshek P Twins
  • 352 Miguel Batista P Mariners
  • 491 Cliff Floyd DH Rays
  • AR86 Khalil Greene SS Padres
  • HCM-1924 Coolidge vs. Davis
  • Checklist 1 of 4

A good number of bloggers don’t particularly care for the political cards that are being inserted in this year’s sets, but being a political junkie I enjoy them. I really like the design of these “versus” cards from Topps too, and they don’t seem to be that hard to pull. That said, a 55-card 1:6 insert set MIGHT be difficult to put together, however it might be possible after the election is over and we resume our natural political cycle.

Pack Five

  • 396 Randy Johnson P Diamondbacks
  • 548 Garrett Olson P Orioles
  • 390 Troy Glaus 3B Cardinals
  • 481 Manny Parra P Brewers
  • 428 Jair Jurrjens P Braves
  • 620 Gary Sheffield OF Tigers
  • 407 Johnny Damon OF Yankees
  • 421 Brandon Backe P Astros
  • 331 Dave Roberts OF Giants
  • 356 Manny Corpas Gold Parallel #0718/2008
  • All-Star Rookie junk
  • ToppsTown Code

The Johnson card has him hitting, which I’m sure some genius at Topps thought would be cute, but most baseball fans would consider stupid, myself included. I might be able to trade the serial numbered Corpas for something good, but I doubt it. I didn’t even realize that Sheffield was still playing!

Here's the Johnson and the gold-foil Giles that will show up later.

Bonus Pack

  • RV18 Jayson Nix 2B Rockies
  • RV19 Blake DeWitt 3B Dodgers
  • RV20 Hiroki Kuroda P Dodgers

Um…how can Topps call a 2008 card of DeWitt a Rookie when they made one of him in 2004? That’s cheating.

I lost a contest on ESPN radio a couple of months back because I couldn’t spell Kuroda’s last name, but at least I knew who he was. These are actually pretty nifty cards, with a different color of gold then the regular serial numbered inserts, AND different front pictures. For example, Kuroda’s regular RC is just a posed portrait, and this one is an action shot of him pitching.

Overall Notes: I liked this blaster better when I didn’t actually look through it closely. It’s not a bad blaster by any stretch, but it’s not a spectacular one either, and for twice the price I can get a ton more Upper Deck Series 2 and I’m guaranteed a relic or auto. Still, any time I get three Angels I’m a happy guy, so there.

Here’s the pack rating system that I’ve just come up with, I’ll apply it to the above and get a numerical breakdown.

1 star = total junk
2 stars = a couple of stars, RCs, a single Angel or a junk insert.
3 stars = one super-star, Vlad Guerrero or decent insert.
4 stars = any relic or auto.
5 stars = the best of the best.

Pack One – Two Angels = 3 stars.
Pack Two – One Angel = 2 stars.
Pack Three – Two junk inserts & gold ToppsTown = 2.5 stars
Pack Four – One decentish insert, one junk insert = 2.5 stars
Pack Five – One decent insert = 3 stars
Bonus Pack – 3 exclusive RCs (though one isn’t an RC at all). = 2.5 stars

Total stars: 15.5
Average: 2.58 stars

Total Cards: 53
# of Angels: 3
# of 1:5 inserts: 1
# of 1:6 inserts: 3
# of 1:12 inserts: 1
# of pack exclusives: 3
Ratio of Angels/Inserts to commons: 11/53

Total Cost w/Tax: $10.81
Cost per card: $00.204

Now let’s take a look at the four packs of Hobby Topps Series 2 that I bought this afternoon:

2008 Topps Series 2 Hobby Packs

4 x 10 card pack
$2.00 per pack

Pack One

  • 409 Jason Giambi DH Yankees
  • 570 Homer Bailery P Reds
  • 495 James Shields P Rays
  • 620 Gary Sheffield OF Tigers
  • 594 Mike Morse OF Mariners
  • 431 Delwyn Young OF Dodgers
  • 452 Kevin Slowey P Twins Gold Foil Variant
  • 387 Sean Marshall P Cubs
  • 526 Juan Encarnacion OF Cardinals Gold Parallel #1779/2008
  • TS03 Justin Morneau 1B Twins
  • Get Cards junk

It seems that there’s gold foil variations on the card fronts in addition to the other parallel series (gold serial numbered to 2008, black serial numbered to 57, and platinum 1/1) So that makes four different parallels in this series? Err, nope, checking the Topps Series 2 Sell Sheet there’s “silk” parallels numbered to 50. Of course that last series if only 100 cards, but still, FIVE parallels? That’s a bit much, until I remembered how many variations there are on the UD Starquest cards. Special.

BTW – Homer Bailey is one of my all-time favorite baseball player names, along with Boof Bonser and others that I’ll share as we go along.

Pack Two

  • 423 Mike Sciosia M ANGELS!
  • 410 Alex Gordon 3B Royals
  • 474 Yuniesky Betancourt SS Mariners
  • 587 Chris Snyder C Diamondbacks
  • 403 Nate Robertson P Tigers
  • 451 Brian Giles P Padres Gold Foil Variant
  • 576 Dave Bush P Brewers
  • 625 Greg Maddux P Padres
  • 420 Nick Swisher OF White Sox
  • 647 Randy Winn OF Giants
  • Checklist 2 of 4
  • ART junk

Well, at least this pack had the big boss, Mike Sciosia right on top, otherwise, total junk. Well, I can’t say Greg Maddux is junk because flipping it over there’s an awful lot of red on the back (you know, red stats indicate league leader), but no inserts other than the gold foil parallel isn’t that great. I did get card #420 which is always a plus. Back in the day Topps used to put the super-stars on card numbers 100, 200, 300 etc., I’m pretty sure that practice has gone by the wayside, but wouldn’t it be funny if they still did it for card #420? In any case, this year it’s Nick Swisher.

Pack Three

  • 578 Ricky Nolasco P Marlins
  • 381 Jeff Francoeur OF Braves
  • 626 Mike Redmond C Twins
  • 481 Manny Parra P Brewers
  • 428 Jair Jurrjens P Braves
  • 424 Aaron Harang P Reds
  • 512 Placido Polanco 2B Tigers
  • 383 Jered Weaver P ANGELS!
  • AR98 Mike Lamb 3B Rangers
  • HCM-1880 Garfield vs. Hancock
  • ToppsTown Code

This was a very good pack in my estimation; I got one of my favorite Angels in Weaver who is sporting the awesome pageboy do on the front, a junk All Rookie insert, another of the political inserts, AND a ToppsTown code. Too bad that the middle of the pack had a couple of doubles in the exact same positions as an earlier pack in this batch. Add to that that all four of the packs came from the same stack (bottom right) of a brand new box, and one might not be as happy as one should be. Still, so far, it’s the best pack of the four.

Pack Four

  • Red Hot Rookie Redemption #7
  • 496 Brad Lidge P Phillies
  • 348 Craig Monroe OF Twins
  • 463 John McLaren M Mariners
  • 573 Adam Eaton P Phillies
  • 613 Melvin Mora 3B Orioles
  • 461 Jacoby Ellsbury OF Red Sox
  • 380 Grady Sizemore OF Indians
  • 642 Mark Kotsay OF Braves
  • 511 Jeff Francis P Rockies
  • ToppsTown Code

Just goes to show that one card CAN make a pack great, when that one card is the hit of the box. Well, I’m not sure that these redemptions ARE THE hits of the box, but they are seeded at 1 per box, so that’s pretty nice. The rest of the pack is pretty lackluster, but I’ll be anxiously awaiting Topps announcement about who I’m going to get if I redeem it and not sell it. So far this particular card appears to be selling for between $5 and $10, but depending on who the player ends up being, it could possibly be worth twice that, or half of that, you just never know.

Overall Notes: I started this Blog posting wondering if it is actually better to buy your product at a hobby store rather than mass-market retail. I suppose that I wanted mass-market to come out on top since I have far more opportunities to purchase at mass-market, rather than at the hobby stores, and until I pulled that redemption, I would have said that mass-market wins. However, when hobby gets inserts that Retail can’t even touch, you know where to shop.

By the Numbers

Pack One – Two decent inserts = 2 stars
Pack Two – One Angel = 2 stars.
Pack Three – One junk insert & decent insert, an Angels & ToppsTown = 3 stars
Pack Four – One Spectacular insert = 4 stars

Total stars: 11
Average: 2.75 stars

Total Cards: 40
# of Angels: 2
# of 1:5 inserts: 1
# of 1:6 inserts: 3
# of 1:36 inserts: 1
# of 1:?? inserts: 2 (the gold foil parallels)

Ratio of Angels/Inserts to commons: 9/40

Total Cost w/Tax: $8.66
Cost per card: $00.2165

Final Notes:

Hobby purchases are most probably your best choice 99% of the time, if for no other reason it supports a dying sector of the hobby. Yes, brick and mortar sports card stores are dying out, where there were once 10,000 or more hobby shops in the U.S., there are less than 1,700 left today. Well, that and you tend to get better stuff.

I’ll keep you updated as to what card the redemption is good for, and what I decide to do with it. EVERYHING else other than the Angels and the political inserts is up for trades.

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