30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Made to be Broken

Outside of speeding on the freeway, playing poker with friends, or walking outside of the crosswalk every now and then... I'm usually pretty good about obeying the law.

But a few months ago, I chose to walk on the wild side, live the life of a rebel, go against the grain, and modify the traditional Reverse Box Break rules.

As far as I can tell, Brian over at Pirates Treasure Room came up with the term with the help of Plain Gray Swatch... which essentially means to build a custom box of cards based on what collectors would typically pull from an unopened hobby box.

I focused my attention on this year's Topps Tribute, because I really liked the look of the autographs and relics when they started hitting the open market back in July.  Collectors were guaranteed to pull three autographs and three relics with approximately eleven base cards and one parallel from each factory sealed box.

However after scouring eBay, Beckett, and COMC... I discovered that Topps failed to include any of my main PC players on the base card checklist, so I made the executive decision to substitute the eleven base cards and one serial numbered parallel with three more autographs.

Here's a breakdown for my custom box of 2016 Topps Tribute baseball:

6 Autographs
3 Relics
0 Serial Numbered Parallels
0 Base Cards

When I started this project back in early August, boxes of this stuff were selling in the $240 to $260 price range, so that's the budget I set for myself.  Was I able to stay within my budget?  Let's find out...

Purchase #1: Jose Altuve Blue Autograph  $21.25

eBay Purchase: $18.50 (+ $2.75 shipping)

I picked this card up within a week of Tribute's release.  At the time, I was just starting to build my Altuve PC and the idea of a Reverse Box Break hadn't come to fruition.  However by early August, I had started targeting specific cards, figuring out fair prices, and in September I went on a shopping spree...

Purchase #2:  Frank Thomas Rightful Recognition Orange Auto $60

eBay Purchase: $60 (free shipping)

Prices of Frank Thomas autographs have fallen now that he actively signs cards for just about every Topps product, so I probably should have waited a little longer for one of these.  Well... at least this card fits into two different PC's:  my Frank Thomas PC and my Prime #'s PC.

Purchase #3:  Steve Carlton Orange Auto $15

eBay Purchase: $15 (free shipping)

Purchase #4:  Rickey Henderson Rightful Recognition Orange Auto $42.62

eBay Purchase: $40 (+ $2.62 shipping)

Purchase #5:  Greg Maddux Relic $4

COMC Purchase: $4 (free shipping)

It didn't take me long to figure out that relics were going to be a problem, because I wasn't able to find guys I wanted at reasonable BIN prices on eBay.  By the time I factored in shipping, singles were in the $5 to $8 price range.  That's when I turned to COMC for help.

Purchase #6:  Reggie Jackson Ageless Accolades Auto $37

eBay Purchase: $34.38 (+ $2.62 shipping)

After buying this card, I did a little research and discovered that Topps completely swung and missed on this card, which celebrates Reggie winning the American League MVP Award in 1973.  The problem?  He's featured wearing the uniform the Athletics wore from 1969 to 1971.  Oh well.  It's still nice to add a Reggie on-card autograph to my collection.

Purchase #7:  Buster Posey Green Relic $4

COMC Purchase: $4 (free shipping)

Buster was my first purchase that didn't target a specific PC, but I was happy to add this card to my collection nonetheless.  I've grown to appreciate his game over the years as I've watched him develop into a Bay Area fan favorite.

Purchase #8: Craig Biggio Purple Relic $1.60

Card Show Purchase: $1.60

My third and final relic was actually part of a large lot of cards I picked up at the Serramonte Card Show back in September.  I paid $25 for 40 autographs and relics, which breaks down to $1.60 per card.  I don't really collect Biggio either, but like Buster I don't have any problems with adding this card to my collection.

Purchase #9:  Greg Maddux Rightful Recognition Orange Auto $63.61

eBay Purchase: $61.01 (+ $2.60 shipping)

From the beginning of this project, I knew I wanted one of the cards to be a Greg Maddux autograph and it was nice to wrap up this custom box with such a beautiful card.  Like the Frank Thomas, it actually fits into my Prime #'s PC as well.  It's also the most expensive card in the box.

When all nine purchases are added up, you can see that I ended up spending $249.08... which is falls perfectly within the budget I originally set.

As with most things relating to card collecting, there are pro's and con's with my project.  Let's go ahead and get the negative stuff out of the way.

#1:  Prices for boxes and singles have fallen since its original release.  I've seen boxes sell for as low as $160 on eBay.  Plus online shops have them for around $180 a box.

#2:  Since two of my cards were purchased off of COMC, I had to wait until their Black Friday deal to receive free shipping.  So even though my final purchase was at the end of September, I didn't actually have the entire box in my possession until last week.

#3:  All three of the relic cards I purchased came with the same old vague, "the relic contained in this card is not from any specific game, event, or season" guarantee.  I personally think collectors who spend $250 on a box of cards deserve a better COA.

#4:  Building a box prevents you from pulling high end autographs like Mike Trout, Ichiro Suzuki, or Hank Aaron.

On the other hand, I am very pleased with the outcome of this project for several reasons:

#1:  The cards are shiny and thick.  <insert "that's what she says" joke here>

#2:  All autographs are on-card, which is what originally sold me on this product.

#3:  I was able to hand pick cards that fit into my collection.  What are the odds of me ever buying a box of this stuff and pulling autographs of Mad Dog, The Big Hurt, Lefty, Rickey, Reggie, and Altuve?  My guess is zero.

Overall... I was very happy with the outcome of this project.  In fact, I'll probably do another one next year.

How about you?

Would you ever consider following in Roy-z and Brian's footsteps and doing a Reverse Box Break?

I understand that this pretty much only works for higher end products, since the average collector isn't going to go out and individually buy 360 Topps Series 1 base cards.  But if you've ever dabbled with higher end boxes, then it's another option for you.

I hope everyone is enjoying a safe holiday season.  Happy Thursday and sayonara!


  1. Never done it but you did an answer job!

  2. I don't know if I would do it or not, but it is a cool idea.

  3. Interesting idea..not sire any modern set would tempt me though. And here is something I probably shouldn't say out loud.....Reggie Jackson has some very cool cards out there.

  4. This is a great idea, and you did very well with it! I might try it sometime, perhaps with Panini Immaculate or Topps Strata ;)

  5. I don't think I've ever gone out with a specific budget and tried to match a product card for card with the box breakdown, but it's something that I keep in mind for just about every product I buy into.

    Like you said, the positive side of buying singles versus busting wax is that you get exactly what you're after and can skip out on the lower-end filler hits (or tailor the lower-end hits to your interests), while on the other end of the risk curve you miss out on your chance at pulling the really big hits in the product.

    Nine times out of ten I think buying singles is the best value, but the only way I'm ever going to get a superstar hit is by taking a risk on a pack or box. I guess that's why I still buy wax from time to time.

    "So you're telling me there's a chance. YEAH!" - Lloyd Christmas

  6. It's an interesting concept. I'm a base-set collector so not sure It would make sense for me, but it is amazing how well it worked within your budget!

    RAZ, great movie quote

  7. That's a terrific reverse box! It's probably the wiser way to go about it, but I love the rush/anticipation of having a high-end box to bust, even though I'm nearly always let down by the results.

    And yeah, Reggie was rocking bushy facial hair by 1973, so it's odd Topps used an early picture of him on that card.

    Oh, and I got your package yesterday, Fuji.. thanks! I'll post about it soon.

  8. Nice. I've been doing something along these lines with the Fleer Retro Marvel sets. The base cards do not particularly impress, so I've just been slowly trying to accumulate one of all the fancier inserts (except for the obscenely expensive Jambalayas and green PMGs /10) and at least a page worth of creator autographs for less than this year's Dave & Adam's Black Friday sale price for a 2015 box (around $130).

  9. I may give it a shot one day. That Reggie Auto at that price is amazing, what a nice looking card. Three of your cards, Buster, Reggie and Rickey would fit into my PC right away and I still need Big Hurt and Maddux autos in my HOF collection, your box probably lines up similar to how mine might go.

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