Should You Buy Packs Or Individual Cards?

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A common question I come across often with new collectors is whether or not they should buy packs, whether they be from hobby boxes or retail, or just go on eBay and buy cards individually. The truth is that the right answer can be different for any given person. It all really depends on what sparks joy for you in the hobby. There are definitely some factors to consider before going all-in on one choice or the other though.

Why Buy Packs?

  • The rush of the dopamine hit. Let’s be honest, ripping packs can be as addicting as gambling. When you grab a box of cards and start ripping the packs knowing you could pull a 1/1 or some other crazy valuable card, it feels good. Let’s not talk about how eight times out of ten the cards in the box are not valuable enough to match what you paid for it. It’s the experience that matters, right?!
  • The set is fairly new. When a new set is first released, it can be a few weeks before singles become available on eBay and prices can fluctuate like crazy. This can be a good time to grab some FOTL stuff and hopefully get some good hits before everyone else. It can also be a good time to sell the hits you don’t want before the market becomes too saturated with other sellers.
  • You haven’t narrowed down your collection’s focus yet. Maybe you haven’t yet decided that you’re a Dan Marino collector or a Giants cards only collector yet. Maybe you’re still getting into card collecting and you are using packs to discover what direction you want to take your collection.
  • A fun activity. This is kind of the same point as the rush of the dopamine hit, but ripping packs is just a fun activity. It can be a great way to bond with your kids, friends, spouse, or whoever.

Why Buy Individual Cards?

  • Buying individual cards is more cost-effective than pack searching. If you know what you want for your collection, then 99.99% of the time it will end up being cheaper to buy the card(s) online or at card shows instead of trying to naturally pull them from retail or hobby packs. Unless of course, you’re one of those lucky dudes from Reddit who pulls epic hits from wal mart retail packs.
  • You can build your PC much faster. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars a month on packs that will never hit the cards you’re looking for, you can go on eBay today and pick up pretty much any card that you are seeking. It might seem like you’re spending more when you throw down $100+ on a single card, but if you actually did the math on how much you’d likely spend on packs searching for the same card(s) you’d see that in a lot of cases $100 isn’t much. You can go from 0 to a large PC within a weeks time when buying individuals.
  • No more buyer’s remorse. At least you shouldn’t have any. You know that feeling full of regret you get after ripping a $100+ box and getting essentially nothing good? Yeah, you don’t have to feel that anymore when you switch to buying individual cards.
  • Want your cards graded? Buy graded cards! This is a big one for me. If you don’t want to worry about having to ship cards off and wait for them to be graded, buying already graded individual cards can be SO convenient. No need to pick, pack, and ship. No need to sweat whether or not your cards will come back with the grades you want.

So Which Is Better?

In my opinion? A little bit of both. With that being said, I lean more towards buying individual cards to build my PC 90% of the time. However, if I’m out at the store and see a retail box I might impulse buy it for fun. I’ll also order a random hobby box from time to time. The main thing for me when it comes to packs is that I try to set my expectations low and automatically assume that in most cases the value of the cards will be less than what I pay for the packs. Because in most cases, that’s how it goes.

So what about you? Are you a pack chaser? Or an eBayer? or Both!? What’s the way to go? Leave a comment below!

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3 years ago

Just getting into the game and I was wondering about this as well. I may be wrong about what I think but, The safer way in my opinion is getting those undervalued cards especially basketball and hold on to them for a while. The Hobby packs etc. Are very similar to sports gambling but as long as you don’t buy exclusively just packs you can splurge every now and then as you mentioned. You had some awesome points here, I appreciate the article.

2 years ago

I have a box of 2017 Panini Prestige Football fat packs that I paid almost $600 for. After watching people opening boxes on YouTube I got nervous because I have only seen one Mahomes rookie pulled from those packs. I am thinking of packing out the box and just buying a PSA 10 card from somewhere. What do you think? Open it or pack it out?

2 years ago

I am new as well. Why wouldn’t I just buy a whole boxed set each year, sticking to a consistent set, and then individuals or packs of other sets occasionally? If I chased every set out there, it would take forever and cost a fortune. Seems like an investment thesis of “I am going to focus on this set XYZ each year” will have the best payoff, plus it gives me a solid collection which is part of the fun (looking at them…). Am I wrong and are there much better ways?