More Discussion On Box Content Trends in the Industry

If there is one sore point for collectors as of late, its box content and return on the money they spend on any given box. I, for one, agree with them on this point if not only because of how many times I have gotten burned on an expensive box. The main thing that I always tell myself is that I have some extra insight into why box content is the way it is, but it is no less frustrating when I get $2 worth of hits out of a $100 box.

Most of this argument stems from two specific parts of the spectrum, not the parts that are displayed in every product preview from any of the companies that manufacture the cards. Scrub autos and 2 dollar jersey cards are the majority of the hits we get in each box, and I get the distinct feeling that there are more frustrated wax breakers than happy wax breakers at this moment. The question remains, how important are they to the content of a product?

In terms of jersey cards, I have to say that they are watered down to the point of nausea with a lot of people. I got some feedback that they do make some money for high volume breakers in some sports, but for one person opening one box, I fail to see the benefit. The benefit is perception of the box’s content for the manufacturer, as I know that there are still a vast majority of consumers who look at the 4 hits per box as a reason to buy in the first place. If those jersey cards were listed as normal cards, and the content was labeled as 1 autograph per box and nothing else, sales would plummet due to perceived value prior to purchase. It’s a tactic that prevents initial loss of sales, in my opinion, but actual value in the hits themselves are REQUIRED for the product to go UP in price after release. Otherwise, many of the boxes end up on Blowout’s daily deals for drastically reduced prices.

My take on Jersey cards?

They don’t belong in products that cost more than 85-90 dollars a box, unless there is an autograph also present on the card. Although they are relatively inexpensive to make, which I know is a driving force behind them, I would guess that using that money to improve other facets of a product would guarantee more long term value for the end user in breaking the box. Its not even close to the whole answer, but it’s a start, or at least worthy of some consideration. If the companies want to produce a lower end product, toss them in! When someone pays 50-60 bucks a box, they have a more prominent overall value in the grand scheme of things. As I have heard from retailer after retailer (online and LCS), it’s the long term pricing that affects their business the most, not the initial sales. Boxes never maintain value, so MSRP at cost for the sellers usually ends up being higher than eventual selling price to their consumers. Bad news bears indeed.

This brings me to the second thing, which is centered around the autograph content in any specific product. I am sure that most of you know that up to 40 rookies are invited to Los Angeles every year to build memorabilia and autograph content for the entire year. Its why Cam Newton and AJ Green are prominently featured in so many products, as are players like Bilal Powell and Jerrel Jernigan. If you examine past year’s crops of rookies, more than 80% of the players at the rookie premiere are out of the league before attaining any type of status. A mere 10% hold their status as a worthy player long term. That is not a good stat. However, when it comes to the scrub rookies in a product, the percentage of success is so low that I begin to question whether these cards have a place in the industry other than for money reasons (again, the driving force).

I completely understand that initial gains on products are why they are done the way they are, but unless long term value is also explored, we are going to have more problems than ever. NFL autos cost more than many of the other sports combined. Career life expectancy is also the shortest of any sport, and I know that is a contributing factor in the cost. Yet, if you asked 100 collectors, would they rather have 1 good auto every 4 boxes or 1 auto every box, I would venture a guess at results being more geared towards the previous – as long as one factor was changed. Box cost coming down to a reasonable level.

We could play the “would you rather” game all day long, but we aren’t the ones that should be asking the questions. It should be the manufacturers asking their production teams. It also means that production teams need to be composed of at least one person who knows their ass from their elbow in terms of the hobby side of things – not the money side of things. A marriage of the two sides is utopian, but a compromise of the two sides is reasonable.

Im not saying that scrub autos should go away. Its just that they shouldn’t be in every single product during the year. There has only been a handful of Brady, Romo and Arian Foster, and the reason their cards are as valuable as they are is BECAUSE they are so rare, not because of the production. If they were in every product, they wouldn’t be worth what they are today. Three to ten players over the course of TWELVE years does NOT give companies a pass. We should expect one or two products a year from each company that functions like Contenders or Bowman Draft in baseball. It should NOT be every product.

On the flip side of the token, Rookie Premiere player attendees need to be shrunk to avoid more Antonio Pittman, Jordan Todman, and similar from happening. I want autographs of Cam Newton and Christian Ponder, but Vincent Brown is a stretch. We either need the same amount of content from the good players spread out, or more content from the good players at a higher price. I would pay more for a box if I knew that my hit was more likely to be Julio Jones or a similar vet star than Edmund Gates.

Again, this is all discussion that isn’t tied to a budget, which I understand is my main problem – I am not in this industry, nor do I want to be. However, as a collector, I hope these are the discussions being had at the people who are.

10 thoughts on “More Discussion On Box Content Trends in the Industry

  1. Box content is definately the worst thing in the hobby. I wouldn’t break anything Panini, or anything Topps high end. Panini is totally lazy/cheap as shit with every product, even National Treasures the last couple of years. Topps high end is vastly overproduced. It’s like they bring there model from low end-cool looking designed cards but hits being like 1 in 20 boxes to high end. If I’m spending 100$ plus a box I better have some good odds at hitting something.
    Around 75% of my breaks were UD, and now they’re pretty much gone, so I won’t be breaking anything until some changes are made.

  2. Let’s put it this way…I love the thrill of opening a box of wax as much as anyone else…and the last five boxes I have busted have been:

    1988 Topps baseball ($4/box)
    1992 UD Baseball ($8/box)
    2011-12 UD Victory Hockey ($30/box)
    2009 Goodwin ($18/box)
    1993-94 Parkhurst Hockey ($10/box)

    Why? Because today’s boxes are overpriced and filled with content I do not want (i.e. most inserts/ “hits”). It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even buy boxes of the sets I am building, because it’s cheaper to do it on Ebay. What does that tell you?

  3. Great article…I agree it is very dishearting to bust a $150.00 box and pull 3-1 color jersey cards and an Jordan Todman auto redemption card.
    Lets hope someone from the industry sees this article and gives it some thought.

  4. How do you fix this? By creating insert sets that don’t suck.

    Panini has a lot of problems, but #1 amongst them is the fact that their “insert” sets look like subsets from low end 90s products. Someone should remind them that there was a time when “hits” or “chase cards” didn’t require an autograph or a patch. Why has the hobby been simplified to the point where everyone only goes after those two elements?

    I think perception is also a problem. Years ago, you often would get very little in boxes, but it was simply because the cards you wanted were tough to pull. But now Panini forces it down our throats – “YOU GET 4 BIG PULLS! VALUE!” and then most of the cards are absolutely worthless.

    If there were other elements to the products and these hits were actually tough to pull and/or seen as an extra bonus, collectors would not be so unhappy. It’s the fact that they sell their products based only on these cards to the point where these 3/4 hits make or break your box. PANINI – YOU ARE ALLOWED TO INCLUDE OTHER COOL ELEMENTS OF YOUR PRODUCTS.

    It’s obnoxious. I’m mainly a basketball collector, and all of the money I have saved by not buying Panini boxes is going straight to 11-12 Fleer Retro. I won’t even be chasing the autographs – I want the inserts.

  5. Great post. I tend to buy a box of each product except score. I’ve found Topps jumbo and chrome to be the most fun to break. Cost and varity of pulls like the variations which I love make it fun and they are cards I will spend the most time with searching eBay and good stats on the back. Still when it comes to the big hit autos Topps is unfriendly but I don’t get to bent because the price is fair.
    Panini is where I tend to get the hot auto like Ingram, jones, or newton or u just get complete junk very little in the middle which is where Topps seems to sit. I will rip a panini box in seconds 4 hits and hardly glance at the inserts and the base is poor.
    Interesting is for base cards my buddy’s kids come over on Sunday’s 6 or 7 boys run around ages 7-12 while we watch the game. For some peace I hand them base sets eilite, threads, Topps, chrome, legends, limited, ceritifed, etc etc it never fails thy gravitate to the Topps cards and chrome it has to be the photos. Kids like the action like a snow game card and team cards. Head shot or body shot no background they just grad a brady or manning and don’t even sleeve them.
    Things I love: base card variations, rookie variations, refracters, veteran autos, and the price of a panini box a year later so cheap.

    What I miss: sets like 2003 certified fabric I the game such an awesome set. NFL license Sp authentic nothing beat pulling a gold rookie.
    Topps sets like all – American with autos and
    That set that had the nick names with the dolphins killer B’s the purple crush, butch Cassidy and the sundance kid ( Jim kick and Cosonka), no name defense ( will Jake Scott ever have another auto?) and there were no rookie cards to chase just pure veterans not valuable but rare certified autos. Classics, legends, NT do not fill this void and could not get into magic, mayo, or philidelphia the checklists did not make sense. Topps please make another pure retro set I want a certified nick buaconti (can’t spell)
    Don’t understand: playoff absolute 44$ a pack for roddy white jsy? Size of my thumbnail? Huh? What? Why? Those are the boxes, packs where u think why do I do this hobby? This set must die nothing compares to it’s lunacy of perceived value. I pick on it because it’s like that year after year not a one off like timeless treasures. Topps legends? Where r the legends? Delone Carter is not one probably won’t be. This set should be pure retail blaster only drop 20$ get a jsy card. Cut autos thatdont have the name on the front cant read the sig and even if I could no idea who it is and the back of the card just says congratulations u have a cut auto of Amanda Hugnkiss. Who? What? And it’s numbered to 399?
    Anyway love your blog always read never post. Agree jsy cards r brutal, Topps is on the right track, the hobby needs a little surprise once in awhile like a throwback set to get out of the rookie chase. I think with less sets and no UD Topps could put out an all American type set like in 04 05 and get more interest. I miss NFL sp authentic, I do like panini limited for the checklist about the only set that might have a seau auto or heaven forbid a Jason Taylor and contenders not so much for the main autos but they do pick up the later guys/ free agents might be the only set to have a Charles Clay.

  6. I think that one of the reasons that box content has become so mediocre is that the manufacturers do not pay a price when a product bombs….distributors do. Remember that very little product is sold directly to consumers…most is sold to distributors like Blowout or DACardWorld or directly to dealers, and they’re the ones who get hurt financially when a product does not sell well.

    Also, most of the major manufacturers do minimal genuine market research. They should be asking themselves “why would a collector want this card?” about every single thing they produce. But they don’t, which is how we end up with product filled with mediocre memorabilia cards and scrub autos.

  7. when a product “bombs” we very much pay a price…in much lower sales the next year. what about the ever rising royalties from the leagues?

  8. Gregg,

    Who is “we”? Do you work for one of the manufacturers?

    True, if a product bombs, you will sell much less of it the NEXT year, but you can always change/improve it in response to customer feedback. But you’ve already been paid for it by distributors and dealers for THIS year before opinion forms, and they are the ones who get stuck with boxes that nobody wants to buy because the product sucks.

    BTW, if you do work for a manufacturer, I (and many others, I’m sure) would be very interested in hearing about both you product creation process, as well as you market research process.

  9. Yea the majority of the jersey and auto’s are the guys that really aren’t all that great. It is very hard to pull more Newton’s then it is Randall Cobb. The card companies did that on purpose of course. That is why I just like to stick to ebay and specifically buy which one’s I want. But occasionally I do like to try and gamble for my self.

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