When you are looking to buy collectibles, the task can be daunting if you aren’t a seasoned collecting / investing veteran. There are tons of choices and variations of products and those choices can be overwhelming. This page is designed to give you some clear definition to cut through the mess of variables and help you find the product that’s best for you.

Let’s start with some of the basics:


This is a designation you will see all over the place! If you are new to sports cards or collectibles in general you may be wondering why different types of product get labeled with these different designations… I mean, trading cards are all part of “The Hobby” right?!

While that is correct, these two different terms are important to understand before investing in any sealed products and also good to know the variations in each version (which we cover later in the article.) Alright, time to breakdown the macro of “Hobby” and “Retail” designations:


When a product is referred to as “Retail” it simply means that you can find it at a Big-Box store (or mass retail) like Target or Walmart. Typically each major retail chain has their own product configuration so be aware of the differences before buying. The box/pack may look very similar and even scan for the same price, but on the side or back it very likely will list some exclusive parallels that are different per store.

An example of this is 2020 Mosaic Football (by Panini America.) Hanger boxes at one store had “Blue Reactive” parallels while the other store had “Gold Reactive” parallels. This type of difference is common between products at those big chain stores so just make sure if you are buying for your personal openings or collection that you know the differences to avoid disappointment.

The benefit to buying this retail product? Price point. The cost of the retail products is significantly less and can be a perfect first purchase for a new collector looking to dip their toes into the hobby. In fact, that is the entire purpose of this product which is why it usually sits near the registers at the front of most stores. It is meant to be an impulse buy for kids or parents while they wait to pay for their normally shopped for items.

PROS: Cheaper to purchase, Good for first-time collectors, Plenty of variations if you want to collect entire card rosters

CONS: Limited “Hits” available, Some big-ticket items aren’t available in retail, As of writing this the product can be VERY hard to find due to scalpers


If a product carries the “Hobby” designation it means that it is only available through hobby stores (such as your local family owned card shop.) Hobby products have been the backbone of the collecting industry for 30+ years and are where the real “Big Hits” can be found. These products are typically ONLY and STRICTLY sold/monitored to local hobby stores from wholesale distributors or the manufacturer directly.

The hobby product is allocated so as to protect the print runs and investment value of the product. Hobby boxes also typically come with guaranteed hits and many times more of them. In addition, most low numbered cards and some hot exclusive variations can only be found in the hobby version of the product.

Biggest benefit to hobby product? You can hit the big-time cards from these boxes AND you are more likely to get a hit like an autograph as well. Hardest aspect is finding a local card shop near you (but obviously sites like eBay can help you there if no local option is available.)

PROS: Big Hits are more readily found in hobby, Usually guaranteed hits per box, Most of the low numbered or harder to find short prints are here

CONS: Price point on hobby is MUCH higher generally, Can be hard to find a local hobby shop in some areas, Investment to risk is or can be significantly higher


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