A Rookie's Guide to Buying Wax
Breaking back into the hobby after a couple of decades away can be daunting. I've compiled a few nuggets of information that I believe I would have found helpful when I first started getting back into the swing of things. Edits or expansions are more than welcome.
Where to buy wax boxes
Your local card shop is always a great place to start (be sure to check out the Card Shop Locator to find shops in your area), but there are also many large online retailers (also known as "wax jobbers") specializing in sealed wax boxes. The two biggest, by reputation, are:
- Dave & Adam's Card World has an incredibly deep inventory of sealed wax boxes and cases, including a far deeper selection of retail boxes than any other dealer I've come across. They also operate four brick-and-mortar cardshops in the Buffalo suburbs.
- Blowout Cards also has an enormous Hobby inventory (though a relatively small retail inventory), and they very often have the best prices in the business. They too, recently opened a brick-and-mortar shop in Chantilly, VA.
Other online retailers of note include:
In addition, the Baseball Card Exchange has a decent selection of older product.
What kind of boxes to buy
The number of cards per box can vary widely among the types below, as can the insert card ratios, so be sure to review your options carefully before making a purchase. There are seven major varieties of wax box:
- Retail box. Sold as mass-market retail outlets like Wal-Mart or Target. Generally more affordable than Hobby boxes and often containing retail-exclusive inserts.
- Blaster box. Small, low-priced boxes generally containing 8-10 retail packs (though the exact number can vary by manufacturer).
- Rack box. A box of long, thin packs, usually containing two or three compartments of cards. Generally meant to be sold in retail stores. Insertion ratios similar or identical to retail packs.
- Hobby box. Generally more expensive than retail packs, but the insertion ratios are much better, and the boxes will often contain more cards (for instance, a retail box of 2012 Topps Series 1 contains 24 packs of 12 cards, for a total of 288 cards; a hobby box of 2012 Topps Series 1 contains 36 packs of 10 cards, for a total of 360 cards, but can cost as much as 50% more).
- Value box. A Topps-specific product, often sold in both retail stores and hobby shops, generally containing:
- 5 hobby packs of a basic Topps product, such as 2011 Topps Update;
- 1 pack of a high-end Topps product, such as 2011 Bowman Chrome; and
- a Value-Box-exclusive card of some sort.
- Jumbo box. Jumbo packs, which are sometimes also called 'fat packs,' contain three to four times the number of cards in a retail pack, and generally feature very favorable insert ratios. As well, many manufacturers issue insert sets or parallels that are "jumbo exclusive."
- HTA box. "Home Team Advantage," a promotional program created by Topps, shipped exclusively to hobby stores; HTA packs are often indistinguishable from jumbo packs, and generally have insert ratios similar or identical thereto.
The two largest:
- eBay. Buying sealed wax on eBay can be tricky. There are deals to be had, but be patient, and make sure you're completely comfortable with the seller. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. A really cheap box at Blowout might be your lucky day; a really cheap box on eBay might be a scam.
- CheckOutMyCards.com. A consignment seller of single cards; often referred to as COMC. They do not sell wax, but their existence is worth being aware of. (Both eBay and COMC can be useful for flipping hits in order to get money to buy more wax!)
Smaller supplies (penny sleeves, top-loaders, team bags) can often be purchased most economically from your local card shop, or at the websites listed above. Larger, more unwieldy supplies, on the other hand (cardboard storage boxes, sorting trays, and other items that are difficult to ship), can be prohibitively expensive to buy online in small quantities, and are therefore generally best purchased at a local card shop or in quantity from a large supplies-focused retailer like BCW. (See the Collecting Cards FAQ on this site for some good tips on card storage and sorting.)