Let me start off this post by saying I honestly don’t care how much box prices cost as long as the cards look good. As long as the cards are cool to display and showcase top notch design work, Ill buy them regardless of price. However, the same cannot be said for most of the collectors out there. Because the hobby is composed of collectors who have all sorts of “I only collect..” statements about their collections, box price is a huge issue that is not really being addressed in a widespread way. Panini may put out product after product that costs 80-100 bucks for 3-4 hits ad nauseum, but it doesn’t really benefit anyone when this happens, especially with the way they usually construct box content. Same goes for Topps and Upper Deck, as eventually people are going to grow bored with configurations, and the money will drop.
Now, its not all bad, as there are still a lot of products like Topps, Topps Chrome, and now Score that deliver a lot of fun without a lot of risk. A collector can drop 50 bucks on a box and walk away with some great stuff in the case of these three products, but it takes a certain type of collector to enjoy the experience of opening these cards. People like me, who only care about autographed cards, are probably going to avoid these types of products unless there is some extemporaneous factor, for instance, like Bryce Harper cards in baseball. The bottom line is that you cant make everyone happy, but I defitely think there is a lot of room for improvement in each level of the box price spectrum.
Low End (60 bucks and below)
There needs to be a reason to buy the cards other than hits and collecting the set. Topps has done an amazing job with this by offering rare case hit variations and an easy to follow parallel structure in just about every one of their low end sets. Because of this practice year after year, collectors assign higher value to the parallels in Topps sets than they do in sets from other companies. Also, Topps rarely numbers their insert cards, whereas Panini numbers just about every aspect of the product. I think that each low end set should feature a great design for the base cards, autographed cards at least one every other box, and lots of chase elements to bring in more facets of the collector base. If more programs like the Gridiron Giveaway or Diamond Dig were available, that would be icing on the cake.
Middle End (100 bucks and below)
These products are where 90 percent of Panini’s calendar falls, and almost every one of the products offers the exact same configuration. Its terrible. Not only that, but so many of their products look like they were designed by a high-schooler on MSPaint, that it takes away from the “value” of the box you buy. In order to save this type of product, there needs to be a worthwhile box chase for everyone. That means that jersey hits are rare and far between and there are at least two autos per box. We all know that Rookie content is mandated by the license, but that doesn’t mean that veteran content should be forgotten. In a perfect world, there should be at least one hard signed subset (rookie or otherwise) in the set, and there should be some aspect of hall of fame or retired content as well. Most importantly, each card needs to look like it was designed to be that card, not some parallel of that card. What I mean is that jersey subsets need to be ONLY jersey, and auto subsets need to be ONLY auto. No more of this incomplete crap that Panini stuffs into each of their sets, ones that look like the person forgot to apply the sticker.
High End (200 bucks and below)
This is where we start getting into gambling territory. On a box that costs in this range, there needs to be some sort of stipulation that guarantees some sort of value in the box. Not saying every box has to get exactly the money back, but there should be something in place to help out people that get skunked. Say, you can submit your break to be entered into a contest for prizes or something like that. I think it would take some of the salt out of the wound and maybe would bring some people up to this buying level if they knew they werent going to get skunked as often. Upper Deck was great in saying EVERY case of XXXX product would contain an auto of a top group of players, but I think it needs to be more than just that. Secondarily, there needs to be on card rookie content in these types of sets. There is no excuse for it not to happen, and that is the bottom line. Stickers are not necessarily outlawed, but the majority of at least the rookie content needs to be on card. Additionally, there needs to be a ramped up vet/retired element to the set, so that it is more than a negligable part of the checklist. That is a dealbreaker for most collectors, especially with the price of boxes being so high for a bunch of rookies. When 90% of the rookies become less than superstars, box hits and value of older products drops significantly each year. This is where vet/retired content comes in.
Super High-end (600 bucks and below)
This is very simple. All on card autos. Good mix of rookies and vet/retired. Well thought out checklist. Superb design. No un-autographed jersey cards. Excellent case hit crop, and elite chase aspect. There had better be close to no skunk boxes for this price, you better have something for every person who pays this price of admission. This better be your best looking product of the year, and that needs to be an overwhelming feeling that runs through the collector base. It cant be one of your mid-end products with a few extra hits in a 1 pack configuration, RIGHT 2009-2010 National Treasures?
Again, these are all what would happen in a perfect world. Of course, its not the way things are considered before, and none of this factors in cost of production. I will say, this IS a pretty good representation of what I think could drive people to buy more of the products that are out there, and that is a big factor of maybe why card companies are in the position they are in right now.