Chris Muccio

How the Unopened Pack Market Looked in... 2003 (a look back)

In 2003, the world of sports cards and collectibles was changing due to the way the internet was evolving.  Real pricing data, not the kind you would get in a price guide, but the kind that showed actual market prices was available IF… you were willing to put a little work in to gather and interpret it.

As it turned out, I was.  I was only a few years removed from getting my MBA and had a lot of experience working with large data sets, more specifically converting raw data into strategic insight.

Let’s set the stage for 2003.  The country is in a recession and about to get into the 2nd Gulf War.  The stock market was significantly off it’s “dot-com highs” and the online world we know and live in today, was not even in its nascent stage.  In fact, it wasn’t until 2004 that Facebook was even launched at Harvard.

There was no direction as to what information to gather and how to gather it.  I had been a user of eBay for a while and thought there must be a way to harness all of that data to get a better understanding of an interest of mine; unopened packs.

marlins 2003 championsFlorida Marlins 2003 Champions

 

For those of you who grew up in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, before cable TV, the internet and social media; you know the feeling of getting a few brand-new packs of cards in your hand.  It was absolute nirvana!  Perhaps you heard at school that your local candy store got their first cards of the season and you’d spend the rest of that day counting the minutes until school let out so you could run out to that shop and spend your paper route money on some new packs.

That was how it was for me as a kid.  It’s funny though.  As an adult, I still loved the idea of unopened packs but now, I didn’t want to open them, I wanted to collect them.  In many ways, it was my way of saving history.

 

1970 topps wax and cello pack

Unopened 1970 Topps Wax Pack and Cello Pack

In 2003 I got to work on a hobby of mine; gathering pack sales data across all 4 of the major sports.  I focused on the 1970’s, which represented the high point of my early collecting days. 

1970 Topps Rack PackUnopened 1970 Topps Rack Pack

I quickly realized that there was a lot of information that was being lost to time.  Things like product codes, reasons why Topps did things like rolling out test issues, series, etc. So, I started to gather archives on these.  It was also the first time I started to see people resealing packs and not being above the board with what they sold.   I may have seen 1 other example prior to 2003 but now I was seeing multiple sellers using eBay on a fairly repetitive scale.  eBay after all was possibly the perfect vehicle for this as there was no human interaction, selling on the web was new and there was no "sheriff" to patrol.  It was in essence, the wild west. 

The reason I bring this up is because now my data gathering process had an additional layer of complexity.  I had to determine what I believed to be genuine pack sales and eliminate those that seemed to be fake. 

After gathering 6 months of data from January ’03 through June ’03, I was able to build a variety of data sets for wax packs, cello packs, rack packs, grocery trays and boxes.  I'll share the 2003 table for baseball rack pricing below.  

 

Topps Rack Pack Prices ('03)

Year

Average Price

($)

Low Price

($)

High Price

($)

1970

1,409

1,275

1,525

1971

1,023

911

1,321

1972

1,150

505

1,531

1973

485

455

516

1974

301

229

387

1975

189

147

355

1976

98

68

136

1977

47

27

100

1978

33

24

58

1979

21

15

43

 

Observations from 2003

My feeling at the time was that based on quantities, while 1975 was extremely popular, there was a massive amount of that year's unopened product available compared to the other years.  While 1970 had the highest prices, I thought that it was still way undervalued based on the limited number of sales that had taken place.  Same with 1972 and 1973.  1971 was a different story.  There were 3 different types of racks that were selling – each with a different header card.  Perhaps because there were 3, there were more of these than the years just noted, which was odd to me as I had always thought 1971 was under produced.  Also, at the time, I owned 2 full boxes of 1977 racks and have come to deeply regret parting with those as 1977 prices today have skyrocketed.  My guess is those two boxes would be worth $40-$50,000 today as those packs were in pristine shape. 

Another interesting thing to me at the time was how packs with stars were selling. 

In the early 1990’s, packs with stars would sell for about 3x the value of the stars showing.  So if a 1978 rack pack had an Eddie Murray rookie showing on top, and that was worth $50, that pack would sell for $150.  However, the funny thing was that my ‘03 data indicated that "3x model" had evaporated.  Star packs were selling all over the board in terms of pricing.  Some had significant premiums, while others barely sold.

jjekane-78-rack-pack-murraySource

 

Looking Ahead

 

I’m still very interested in data, pricing and unopened packs.  Now, there is more data available and it’s more accessible.  Over the next couple of months, I will continue to share some of my older data as well as provide some insight as to the prices the market is currently seeing, which as most in the hobby already know, is significantly higher than it’s ever been.

If you have questions or comments that we can address in future posts, please feel free to send them to us and I’ll do what I can to address them.

 


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