During the last Dallas Card Show, I had a conversation with a person who, like me, is not a full-time dealer but does set up at shows and sell online. In this man's case, he has purchased most of his cards from unopened boxes over the years and uses the cards he gets from boxes to try to recoup his cost and serve other collectors.
I do know where he is coming from as there is something instinctively nice about being able to serve collectors with similar goals in finishing sets. Personally I do not take my modern "commons" with me as they are not that well sorted and I don't want to spend the energy to pack and unpack these cards and sometimes only for a few cents. To me, that is not a great risk/reward strategy. I would say if a show lasts for several days and you have extra room then bringing in modern commons may not be a bad idea. In fact, at a show such as the National, where most vendors have space behind their booths, the extra money you can make from those cards is certainly a better deal.
But our conversation also led us to point two of this which is, at which point does the common card price actually match or come close to the average cost per card out of the pack?
Once upon a time, when you opened a pack of 15 cards at a cost of 30 or 50 cents, which was the approximate cost in the late 1970’s and most of the 80’s, then you could ask as little as two or three cents each. You could actually make money at that point with table prices being cheap and volume much higher. And, if you opened the new packs and got a couple of popular rookies and some extra stars, you were really doing well.
One of the hidden secrets of the hobby through the overproduction era is that you were almost "guaranteed" a profit by opening the packs and boxes of those cards, sometimes even at a retail level. To use a late 1980's experience, if you paid $11 or so for a new box of cards you were paying two cents each across the board. So again, the profit was there and with only expanded interest in the rookie card craze as well as big time stars like Mike Schmidt and other guys who were obvious Hall of Famers, the profit drum truly was beating.
Well, fast forward 25 years or so and the hobby world has sure changed. What my friend and I agreed upon was there are still some issues in which the price of your commons is going to be the cost per card from a box. There is a sweet spot where this is still true and while we may disagree on when that break occurs there are still many boxes which are opened in which the "common" value can match the cost per card.
Products like the newly released Allen & Ginter commons can often be sold at local shows for around 50 cents each and then everything else is gravy. And I suppose that brings us to the question of cards in this decade. Do you want to open boxes and packs in which you feel safe or do you want to open boxes and take your chances at the home run in some of these packs? The beauty of the hobby is this decision about being more like the old-timers or more like today's gamblers is up to you.
We'd love to hear your opinion on this –or anything else.