Hobby VS Retail: Differences & What to Buy

June 16, 2022

The sports card hobby is booming with the demand for products at possible an all-time high. As new sports collectors have made their transitioning into buying, investing, and even flipping sports cards, many questions may present themselves. One of the biggest questions that presents itself when learning about the various sports card products is what is the difference between Hobby vs Retail sports cards?

Hobby VS Retail

As you continue to do your research on learning about Hobby VS Retail sports cards, you will learn what the difference between retail and hobby is, how many packs are in a hobby box vs how many packs are in a retail box, and even the different types of products available for hobby and retail. Looking to learn more about sports cards, take the time to read our Beginners Guide to Sports Card Collecting. Continue reading on to learn more about Hobby VS Retail including are hobby boxes worth it, are retail boxes worth it, Pros and Cons of Hobby VS Retail and our answer to how to know what to buy.

What is the difference between retail and hobby?

There are many differences between retail sports card products and hobby sports card products despite containing the same main set, base inserts and parallels that are featured within the product. These differences include where to buy retail and hobby products, quantity of packs and cards within the product, odds to find a specific card are different, and most importantly for many new collectors the price to purchase is different. Another main difference is some retail products will offer retail exclusive cards only available within that product while hobby boxes also offer exclusive products only available to hobby boxes.

As you get to chance to learn more, the main difference that lands each their respective names is that retail boxes and retail sports card products are sold in retail stores whereas hobby boxes and hobby products are sold within a hobby shop or what you might know of as your local card shop (online card shops as well).

Hobby VS Retail: Where to buy?

Are you in the market for a hobby box or maybe you’re looking to get a retail box or blaster box but just not sure where to buy retail boxes or hobby boxes? Retail boxes are only available from retail stores typically big box stores such as Walmart and Target while other store chains like Dollar General, Walgreens Pharmacy, and even other dollar stores. A note to remember though before running out, with the demand levels extremely high not all retail stores have product in stock, and some may even require you to go to a special checkout counter.

Hobby boxes are only available from hobby shops within the sports card industry. These hobby shops may be a local card store within your community or nearby town as well as online hobby shops that specialize in selling sports card products. In some cases, local card stores and online hobby shops may also offer retail sports card products in addition to their hobby products.

Hobby VS Retail: Product Comparison

Now that you know where to buy retail boxes and hobby boxes, you must figure out what makes the two products the same and what makes a hobby box vs retail box different. This will vary from product to product as well as sport to sport.

Hobby VS Retail

Similarities of Hobby VS Retail Sports Card Products

Despite being purchased and only available at specific stores, hobby and retail products are built around the same designed base set along with many of the same inserts, parallels, and with some products the same autographed and memorabilia cards. For example, if you look at 2022 Topps Series 1 Baseball checklist, you will see the 2022 Topps Series 1 Base Set features 330 cards as well as various inserts to include Topps Series 1 Base Stars of MLB Rundown, Flashiest Feet and Generation Now. Each of these cards are available in box hobby sports card products and retail sports card products.

Differences Between Hobby Boxes and Retail Boxes (Hobby Products VS Retail Products)

Since the base set, majority of the parallels and majority of the inserts are featured in both hobby and retail products, you might be wondering what the differences between them are outside of where you need to purchase them. These differences may include a wide range based on the various products you are looking to buy.

Always take the time to do your homework on to make sure you purchase the right product to meet your needs. These differences include:

  1. Cost & Price
  2. Pack/Box Odds
  3. Exclusive Inserts/Autograph/Parallels
  4. Quantity of Cards/Packs Per Retail Box or Hobby Box
  5. Product Availability


Hobby VS Retail: Cost & Price

Depending on the level of collector you are the cost and prices of retail vs hobby vary based on the product with hobby products typically costing more money and in some cases a lot more money. It is hard to give an exact dollar comparison, but a retail pack of Bowman baseball may cost $4 per pack whereas a hobby pack may cost $8 per pack.

Hobby Odds VS Retail Odds

The hobby box odds and other hobby odds will be lower with a higher percentage chance of pulling a a hit (specific insert, memorabilia card, autograph card, parallel, short print, etc.). Meanwhile the retail box odds and other retail odds will typically be higher with a lower percentage chance of pulling a hit. Like cost and price, odds will vary from product to product to company to company (Topps, Panini, Upper Deck, etc.).

Always research the product for example if you are buying NHL hockey cards, Upper Deck hockey offers the same odds for a variety of their inserts including their Young Gun inserts which were 1:4 packs.

Hobby VS Retail

Here is an example of the odds for 2022 Topps Series 1 Baseball Specific Print (SP) variations:

Hobby Pack                         1:112 Packs

Hobby Jumbo Pack             1:34 Packs

Retail Pack                          1:98 Packs

Blaster pack                        1:112 Packs

Other odds that are different when it comes to hobby and retail are most hobby products guarantee one autograph or memorabilia/relic card per box compared to no guarantee in a retail box or product.

Exclusive Inserts, Autographs and Parallels

One of the biggest differences between retail and hobby products are the exclusive inserts, autographs and parallels that may be available to that product. Luckily both hobby and retail products often offer exclusive cards to that product. For example, with 2022 Topps Series 2 Baseball, the Gold Foil Parallel is exclusive to Hobby Jumbo boxes while Black Parallel and Clear Variations are exclusive to either hobby boxes or hobby jumbo boxes. While 2022 Topps Baseball, the Royal Blue parallel is only available to retail packs, blaster boxes and hanger boxes.

Other products such as Panini Prizm Football offers Blaster Exclusive Rookie Lazer Prizms within retail blaster boxes. In addition, over the years Topps have offered produced patch cards and emblem cards that are exclusive to blaster boxes with one guaranteed per blaster box.

Hobby VS Retail

Always research the product to decide before purchasing any sports card products. Furthermore, these exclusive parallels, short prints and inserts have the opportunity to hold higher sale prices when receiving a high grade from BGS VS PSA.

How many packs are in a hobby box?

Another key difference is the number of packs that come in a hobby box will typically be higher leading to more cards obtained per product. For example, a box of 2022 Topps Hobby Baseball and a box of 2022 Topps Retail Baseball will both contain 24 packs. Whereas you may find another product where the hobby box offers 20 packs of cards compared to 10 packs in the retail box.

How many packs are in a retail box?

When considering on looking at retail boxes of sports cards, you will have to do your research on each product as the number of packs in a retail box will change from product to product. For example, 2021 Panini Prizm Football Blaster box contains six packs per box with four cards per pack compared to 2018-19 Panini Prizm Basketball Retail Box offers 24 packs per box with four cards per pack.

Product Availability

Last difference between hobby boxes and retail boxes are the availability of the product you are interested in purchasing. What this means is if you are looking for Topps Baseball you will be able to find products in both hobby and retail, while a high-end product such as Panini Flawless Football will be a hobby exclusive. Higher end products are typically not available in retail versions. For example, Panini Flawless Football is available only as a hobby product.

Now that we have cleared up the differences between hobby and retail products, two other questions that are very popular present themselves. The first is “are hobby boxes worth it”. The second one is “are retail boxes worth it”?

Are hobby boxes worth it?

To answer the first of those questions, it simply comes down to the sports card collector collecting the products. If you are a beginner collector or buying cards for a kid, hobby boxes and hobby products may not be worth it because of the cost of the product. However, if you are a serious collector, hobby boxes offer the highest odds and overall higher content of cards available per product. In addition, hobby products are available in full cases that also often offer special case hits of high-end inserts, autographs, or memorabilia cards.

Are retail boxes worth it? Are blaster boxes worth it?

To answer the second of those question is much like answering “are hobby boxes worth it”. It comes down to the collector purchasing the product and what they are expecting. Hobby boxes are cheaper opening the hobby to kids and new collectors. In addition, hobby boxes also offer some exclusive parallels and inserts only available within that product. The same can be said for blaster boxes as some offer exclusive cards available to that product that may have some interest among the collector’s community.

Pros & Cons of Retail Boxes VS Hobby Boxes

As you look at both retail boxes vs hobby boxes as well as other products offered by both, the Pros and Cons of both might make it easier for you decide which of the products is right for you.

Pros of Retail Boxes

  • Lower Costs
  • Some Exclusive Inserts/Parallels/Autographs
  • Purchase them at Big Box Retailers

Cons of Retail Boxes

  • Quantity of Packs and Cards Per Pack May Be Less
  • Fewer Cards Per Box (based on product)
  • Lower Odds

Pros of Hobby Boxes

  • More Cards Per Box
  • More Cards Per Pack
  • More Exclusive Cards within Product
  • Case Hits (1 Per Case)

Cons of Hobby Boxes

  • Expensive
  • Purchase only form Local Card Shops or online Card Shops

Best place to buy hobby boxes

Since we covered where to buy retail boxes and products, we will look at the best place to buy hobby boxes. One recommendation is doing your research on the best local card shops in your area, then making a trip to them. Test out the environment, get a feel for the employees/owners, and see what they have to offer. Local card shops offer you a chance to meet real collectors and build a base with other collectors in the hobby. Best place to find these shops is to search sports card stores near me.

A second recommendation is looking at high respectable online sports card websites such as Blowout Cards and Dave and Adams Sports Cards to name a few. Last place you can look is on eBay as some products may be available for purchase on the marketplace while also allowing you a chance to look for older products that might be available. Lastly you can also search for local sports card shows in your area by searching for sports card shows near me.

Finally, before going, to answer the question should I buy a hobby box or a retail box, our opinion is it comes down to your comfort level of cost, what you are looking for and what you are expecting to accomplish from the product. If you want to just open some products, retail boxes are the way to go without having to spend a fortune. Meanwhile if you are looking for high end exclusive cards, or guaranteed autographs, memorabilia cards, and relics, you will want to buy hobby boxes and products.

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