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Collectors Cards

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Collectors Cards

by Don Troy

Peggy Wilkins wrote:
This reminds me of something I've been meaning to ask for a long time. Why are the collector card sets so expensive, anyway? I am not familiar with the cc market; are all card sets that costly? The price is the one thing that has kept me from buying them, even though I'd like to have them.

Also, could someone explain what's the difference between buying the set with the binders vs. buying "foil packs" vs. buying whatever else might exist? What's the idea behind the packs?

I do have a set of June collector cards (though it's inexplicably missing three cards) that I bought for $15. Why was I able to get a set for $15 when the full sets cost $90?

We'd better go over the terminology to answer your questions We need to define sets, chase cards, binder sets, foil packs and foil boxes, and autographed cards.

Sets are usually taken to mean all the common cards for a given month from 1 to 120 plus three checklist cards and 6 previews for the next month for a total of 129 cards. These "Sets" are usually sold for between $10 and $20 although since the February set has been sold out at the sources it is generally priced a little higher. So far sets from January to September have been issued. October is expected soon.

Chase cards are more rare than the common cards that make up the sets above. In foil boxes you generally find 6 chase cards among the 360 common cards. There are 6 Playmate of the year cards issued for each month, and two or three groups of three celebrity cards for each month. Added to the 129 commons you would have 144 cards total. Chase cards can be identified by gold ink legends on the cards. Bought individually chase cards may go anywhere from $1 to $10 each often the PMOY and Celebrity sets are sold by dealers as groups.

Binder sets were manufactured to eliminate the need to trade or search for individual cards to make sets. A binder set has both the common set of 129 card and the chase cards collected and packaged together in a binder. They were issued both to Playboy Catalog and to distributors such as Diamond and Card World, after the March binder set the binder sets from Catalog are not quite the same as from other distributors. I don't know why Playboy set their binder prices where they did, until recently the lowest retail for a binder set I was aware of was $65. (not through Playboy). Dealers could make ersatz binder sets by taking cards from foil boxes and purchasing empty binders from Sports Time.

Foil packs and boxes were designed for card collectors used to the sports card and non-sports card market, this is how most cards are distributed. When you buy a foil pack you get 10 cards and the chance of a chase card or autographed card. When you buy a foil box you get 36 foil packs. Foil packs for most months cost $1.25 to $2, but bought in boxes you would usually get a discount. A case of boxes contained 10 boxes. In most foil boxes you could expect to get 2 complete 129 card sets, and 6 chase cards which would include one autograph, and a stack of extra commons. Since there are only 6 chase cards to a box and there are a total of 15 chase cards for each month you would need to open at least 3 boxes to put together something like the binder set of 144 cards and you'd be left with a lot of extra cards.

Autographed cards were only issued in foil packs to begin with and starting in February each card was numbered, in later months the card was printed with the legend "Authentic Signature xxxx of 2750" These cards are called certified autographs and can run from $12 to $100 for a Pam Anderson certified. Usually they are $15 to $25. Some of the Common cards and some of the chase cards were autographed but you would still only get one to a box of foil packs. You cannot get an autograph with a binder set. Autographed cards are considered separate kind of chase card.

Most people bought the packs to get a chance at the autographs, or because the card collectors are used to buying cards that way, or because they wanted extra cards to trade or sell. Common sets are cheap because dealers went after the chase cards, and broke down foil packs to get them.

Over the five years or so the cards were marketed, what was offered changed and evolved. Sports Time would constantly add items such as Jumbo cards, special editions, and collectors autographs. I'm not surprised if people find it confusing, it is confusing.

Peggy, I think if you check your $15 set you will find that I has 129 cards or at least it should. I should be able to find the missing ones for you. The $90 set Playboy offered would have the additional 15 chase cards. If you figure them at $5 each (an average for chase cards) and include the common set you come up to $90, the binder would be thrown in.

Collectors Cards 101 ends.


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1998/12/27