In a nutshell, opening packs of cards (to me) is the essence of what this hobby is. If nobody opened the packs......the cards would never see the light of day and thus never make their way into people's collections.
For the last couple of weeks, pack ripping has been a topic of discussion with other hobbyists, shop owners and even friends of mine who aren't into hockey cards. It's a subject that made me look at it from a number of different directions (after all, this hobby seems more complex than ever) and it's really made me appreciate the positives (and the negatives) that it possesses.
When I was growing up, the only way I could obtain cards was to either buy packs and open them or trade with other kids. And in order to do some trading, you would need to have some cards in your arsenal - thus....a little pack ripping.
I can't remember a year when I didn't spend my hard-earned quarters on some pieces of cardboard wrapped in those wax packages. It's something I looked forward to, something that I enjoyed and it's something that I strongly connected to collecting.
When I returned to the hobby in the 90's, pack ripping was an obvious element to me. I couldn't imagine not opening packs. In fact, the concept of box breaking became more apparent to me (of course we're talking ProSet and Score so it wasn't as ridiculous as it potentially can be these days).
Today, I rip the odd pack of cards as I've subscribed to more of the box breaks. But it can go one further - case breaks. I know I'm not the type of collector that sees myself doing that on a regular basis.
So what is it about opening packs that makes it so appealing?
I think it's the "little lottery" element that gets people excited. Trying their luck and maybe hitting that highly-desirable of uber-expensive card......or both. Obviously people enjoy buying a pack for one price and walking away with a treasure 3, 4 or 10 times that of what you paid. Who wouldn't. I also think people like working towards their collecting goals through pack ripping. Building sets, collecting teams and shovelling traders into their monster boxes in hopes of parlaying it into something that fits in your personal collection.
I think people enjoy it at its most basic level. They might not end up enjoying the product or the results of the rip, but the process of opening packs is something I think few of us hate. If it were, we wouldn't do it.
I mentioned earlier that pack ripping has evolved from a one or two pack adventure at the corner store to a time committing box or case break that is far more criticized. So what has changed?
I think first and foremost, the target audience of most products is billed towards an older demographic. Gone are the days (for the most part) of kids flocking into the 7-11 to gobble up wax packs. I also think that the level of expectation a collector has when opening packs is greater. A stack of base cards staring you in the face as you open your tenth pack is definitely more of a letdown to collectors today than it would have been 30 years ago.
It's a changing hobby, and the card companies are trying their best to keep those collectors ripping open their product.
So why does pack ripping get a nit of a bad rap these days?
I think it's because a person entering the collecting world today can experience a very fulfilling hobby experience without ever opening a single pack. Something that was pretty much impossible back in the 70's and 80's.
The word ebay comes to mind. Now one can browse the biggest card show at anytime, from anywhere wearing whatever it is you want to wear in front of your computer. The ability to pick up EXACTLY what you want without having to go through the whole process of opening packs, looking for a person to trade with and scouring local shows with the faint hope of success is gone. Now it's all right there at your fingertips. You don't even have to pull out the wallet and it'll be sitting in your mailbox in no time.
That's more the hobby experience for people - and that's perfectly fine. But I think it has drastically reduced the number of people buying packs and experiencing that aspect of the hobby. And sometimes I worry about that.
Is that why I rip packs? No way. But I think about it sometimes when I do. I think that this might one day become a lost art. I think that one day you will just go to your computer and buy everything you need online. And I don't really want that at all.
The essence of pack ripping takes me back to a time when I was 8 years old and getting a ride to the store from my dad. It takes me back to a time when I learned about my favorite heroes and reinforced my allegiance to my team. It also takes me back to a time when I would spend hours organizing (yes.........it sounds silly). Sorting the cards from my pack rips into sets, creating checklists and wantlists that will give me my '396' and figuring out what players were left to track down.
All in the name of fun. And still today, pack ripping remains fun.
Even if some of those other elements are now gone.
Do you open packs on a regular basis? Do you enjoy it? Why do you do it?
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