Here’s a hypothetical: you have two boxes of 90s era baseball trading cards. One is a factory sealed case of packs, 24 packs of six cards each. No part of this box has been opened to the air since it left the factory decades ago. The other is a plain white storage box containing 144 cards from the same series of cards. All those cards were once sealed in packs, but someone else went to the trouble of opening them first. Heck, they could be the exact same cards that are the one in the sealed box. Which one sells for more?
The Value of Possibility
Savvy readers have already figured out that, all things being equal, the sealed box sells for more. That’s generally true across the spectrum of collectibles, but reason why is different for cards. A sealed action figure, for instance, is worth more because it lets the buyer know exactly what to expect. It ensures that the figure itself is in factory-fresh condition, with no hidden wear or tear. Sealed trading cards, on the other hand, are worth more precisely because the buyer doesn’t know what to expect. Machines apportion the cards randomly, so no one actually knows its precise contents. A rare, valuable diamond-in-the-rough could be in there!
Or not. That’s the fun! The buyer is betting that there will be a bigger payoff than their buy-in. All it takes is one perfect card to make up for multiple boxes of common cards. Which is always part of the thrill of card collecting, but is particularly acute when buying long-sealed specimens.
Pack Breaking: A Cottage Industry
Pack break streams are the new hotness in the online collecting community. You can find streamers who specialize in the form across YouTube, Twitch, Popshop Live, Facebook Live, basically any video streaming site. The format is simple: the streamer takes a sealed pack of cards, vintage or new, and opens them live on camera. Some outlets specialize in selling the sealed packs to viewers before opening them live, adding an extra dimension of interactivity to the proceedings.
This can also lead to some embarrassment, such as when YouTuber Logan Paul – as well as a generally respectable authenticator – wound up with egg on their face. Paul purchased a sealed box of 1st Edition Pokemon booster packs for $3.5 million. Baseball Card Exchange, a recognized dealer/authenticator, certified the box as genuine. Paul opened the box on camera with both the previous owner and a BCE rep present. It turned out to contain G.I. Joe trading cards re-sealed inside empty Pokemon boxes. At least two buyers, as well as a reputable middleman, had been fooled by a textbook pig in a poke.
Mind you, it is entirely possible that Paul wouldn’t profited from his investment even if the boxes had been genuine. The odds of getting at least a few big money cards were good, sure, but good odds are not the same thing as certainty.
Selling The Thrill
Obviously the specific value will vary based on the cards in question. An unopened case of 1st edition Pokemon cards may sell for millions while unopened Fleer baseball cards from the very same year would not, but both are worth considerably more sealed than (potentially) the same cards would be loose. Once the packs are opened, they must be evaluated based on the individual card values. While sealed, they carry the value of their potential. It’s not what they contain, but what they could contain, that buyers are interested in.
In the modern trading card market, a skilled seller is one that knows how to handle both loose cards and sealed packs. Moreover, they have to know how to navigate the risks of both as well as any speculator. It requires a certain degree of knowledge, one that folks who aren’t already deeply involved in the current market might lack. If you’ve inherited a collection, or are ready to sell your long-dormant one, let Back to the Past help you make it happen! And if you have a comment or a question about this article (or any other), hit us up below or on social @b2pcollect.