Football card prices, what the heck?!

My soon-to-be eight year old son is into football. By extension, he’s into football cards. Many of the kids at his school are as well. This is cool, as I remember fondly the days of my youth when my friends and I traded cards and saved allowance money to go down to the mini-mart and buy cards for 25 cents a pack of 15 or $1 for those long plastic multi-packs with like 100 cards in them. Those days are apparently LONG gone.

My son wanted some more cards over the weekend. No problem. I figure we’ll go down to Meijer and pick up a box with some packs in it as I always see them for sale on the endcaps in the toy aisle. We get there and I’m shocked! Holy shit are they expensive! My choices were a “box” of 10 packs with 5 cards in each pack, or a “box” of 24 packs with 3 cards in each pack, plus the promise of “rookie” Reggie Bush and Matt Lineart cards inserted into the box. Nevermind the fact that each so called box was big enough to hold 50+ packs of cards or the fact that someone can legally get away with calling 3 cards wrapped in foil a pack, the prices on these boxes were $20 and $13 respectively. I went with the 24 pack (72 card total) box for $13 rather than spend $20 on 50 cards. When we get home we discover that the cards in the box are COLLEGE cards, not NFL, despite there being no description of them as being such anywhere on the outside of the box, even in the small, small print (the same print which explains that the packs are “repackaged” by the distributor, meaning in essense that anything valuable has been pre-removed for your convenience).

Turns out my son wasn’t at all dissapointed, as he now has cards from several players he knows and likes to watch (Matt Lineart, Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Jay Cutler, etc.) that show them in college uniforms with their college stats, which he thinks is cool and unique, so in the end it was cool. But honestly I was more than a little ticked off that they could get away with selling college cards in a blatant attempt to pass them off as NFL cards, even touting “rookie” cards in the set.

SO I went online to see if I could find some packs of actual Topps/Upper Deck/Donruss/Fleer/Whomever NFL Football Cards. What…the…hell? So called BOXES of cards come with as few as 5 packs to a box, 4 cards to a pack for a total of 20 cards? Some are a little better, at 8 or even 10 packs to a box, with 5-11 cards per pack. The prices are insane though. $1 a card is not unusual. It looks like some sets may be priced lower, with boxes of 40-50 cards selling for $20 (so $.40-$.50 a card), but there seems to be no reasoning behind it. Every box touts special insert cards that could have autographs or game worn jersey pieces, but the odds of getting one are so low that you’d need to buy 500 cards (25 boxes) to even have a chance at seeing one.

What is the deal with this hobby? Why so expensive? Why are they pricing kids out of it? Am I just missing the “standard” edition football card sets somewhere that are meant to be purchased and collected by 7-12 year old kids? How can parents hope to afford this? I don’t want my son going to school with a binder full of $1+ cards…he could be carrying around $250 worth of stuff at eight years old, that’s insane!

Anyone with a little insight into the hobby care to advise me on how my son can collect football cards without me going broke in the process? He doesn’t care about value, only about having cards of his favorite players.

What sports card collecting is today is what got me out of it as a kid in around '91-'92 with all the speculators. Upper Deck came in with their fancy cards (Ken Griffy Jr. #1 '89 Upper Deck) with holograms, and glossy fronts and the others (Topps, Donruss, Score and Fleer) all felt they had to step up their game.

It feels like it’s hard just to find a pack of cards that is just a pack of 10-15 players.

Blame wizards of the coast??? and their fanatical MtG following at raising the interest in collectible cards? Although I think you can still get a pack of 15 cards for about $2.50. (It’s been a long time since I’ve purchased cards)

The cost of research and other stuff that goes into M:TG (pro tour, etc.) so outstrips sports cards it’s not comparable. Speculators and the fancy-pants editions ruined sports cards the same way they ruined comics in the early '90s.

From my experience looking for cards for my son the past week or so, I think nixon66 hit the mail on the head. Every damn pack/box claims to be stuffed with chances to pull a rare autograph card, jersey card, glassy mirror/refractor/atomic refractor/radioactive isotope card or other similarly lame shit. It’s like at some point the cards stopped being about the players and teams and became little lottery tickets instead.

I have yet to find an edition from Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss, Bowman or anyone else that is just plain football cards that feature all the NFL players on small rectangular pieces of cardboard suitable for collecting and trading with your friends.

I’m thinking there is actually an exploitable market here. Someone needs to just print basic football/baseball/basketball cards again, one set a year, no special inserts, all players/teams represented and sell them for $1.50 for pack of 10.

Target has pretty good prices on boxes.

I honestly think the companies just inflate the prices then over produce. I have a fairly extensive hockey card collection that although still worth something (plus my enjoyment) the values have been steadily dropping since I started collecting 15 years ago.