Guest blog post from Sam Breniman

When I go opening boxes, I’m always looking for the big hit. The card that makes me stop and go, “wow”. I enjoy opening boxes regardless, but really, I imagine that many other people who break boxes are looking for the same thing! It’s the “big hit” factor that makes me wonder why people so often ignore the subject of my article: old wax.

Now, I’m not talking about ancient stuff. Your 1990 Pro Set boxes may still be a better fit for the junk pile, admittedly. Even then, I’ve had a fun time opening some old junk wax. But let’s look at some potential bargains. I’ll pick out a few specific items that are likely overlooked by the majority of card collector’s out there. Let’s start with something that still isn’t completely forgotten by breakers out there: 2006 Fleet Hot Prospects Football.

Let me start by admitting that these boxes are by no means perfect. They have a few expired redemptions. Not a lot, but they exist. And you have to consider that the 2006 rookie class really doesn’t have the star power that it once did, and you’ll be kicking yourself or looking for a time machine when you pull a Vince Young or Matt Leinart auto. But for under $30, you still have a shot at some big hits. The key here is the veteran hit. Yes, you can still hit a nice Jay Cutler or Reggie Bush that you would probably be happy with. In fact, my last time breaking Hot Prospects, I hit a very nice Jay Cutler letter autograph. But the real star power lies in the veterans. Brett Favre autos are lurking in here. So are John Elway and Brett Favre dual autos. Ben Roethlisberger autos. Peyton and Eli Manning autos. LaDainian Tomlinson autos. A Paul Hornung and Joe Theismann pairing. And the list goes on, with the game used check list including many of the same names. Are you assured any of those? By no means. But you’ve got a shot, which is what breaking boxes is really all about.

Let’s check in on the other box I’ve become a big favorite of. This one goes back over a decade, and I have not run across a ton of collectors who even know about it: 2002 Playoff Honors Football. Again, the rookie class is not one that still lights the world on fire, though you do end up with some pretty cool gems like Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey, Brian Westbrook, and of course, Ed Reed. The veteran checklist here is even crazier, though. You’ve got Emmitt Smith autos. Walter Payton game used. Autos of guys like Barry Sanders, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Marshall Faulk… the list goes on! Again, you are not going to be assured of getting hits like this, but you have a chance. There are plenty of high priced boxes today that don’t have this type of checklist star power. And this is another area where your cost is under $30 per box.

Again, both of the boxes listed are under the $30 range. I’ve personally opened quite a few boxes of 2002 Playoff Honors, and I’ve been treated to some very nice hits. I opened up several patch autos with players in their college uniforms, which you simply cannot get from Panini products these days, for example. One of these was an Ahman Green patch auto which had enough demand that it was traded only days later. A Brett Favre patch that I really enjoyed came out of another box. And as a side note, every box of this product ended up yielding more hits than advertised. I believe I opened 8-10 and every one had at least 4 hits, which is always a nice bonus. As for the other product I mentioned, I helped to run a case break of 2006 Fleer Hot Prospects, purchased right here from Atlana Sports Cards, and everyone involved in the break had a blast. Did we hit any monsters? We hit some pretty nice ones, including the previously mentioned Jay Cutler letter autograph, and a Santonio Holmes quad memorabilia auto numbered to 99. But it was still a blast to have that chance, and to do so for around $300 for an entire case was an incredible bargain. That’s right, an entire case for around $300. There are current boxes that cost over that amount, and with a little planning, you can do AN ENTIRE CASE for the same price or less. Talk about giving yourself more chances to hit it big! Plus, if you’ve never had the thrill of opening a factory sealed case, give it a try. It’s a heck of a lot of fun.

The big veteran hit aside, you have another factor to take into consideration. Going back a few years, one of my favorite bargain boxes was 2005 Leaf Certified Materials. You could get boxes in the $40 to $50 range at that time, and now look at it! Prices for all 2005 products have skyrocketed with Aaron Rodgers’ rise to fame. A similar thing happened with 2005 products with Ryan Grant. And now, you see it happen with 2010 products with Colin Kaepernick. Is it likely to happen with someone from the 2002 class now? Not incredibly likely, no. But what if it does? A card from 2002 Honors may be taking up room in a common box now, and suddenly be a hot commodity a month into the football season. You just don’t know who is going to get hot and when.

So, the next time that you are looking to enjoy a box break or two, consider browsing the older boxes. Don’t automatically keep yourself on the current year of products. If you remember the two things I went over earlier, you’ll do well: keep the veteran hits, and the “you never know” factor in mind at all times! You might surprise yourself with a hidden gem or two, or at the very least, have a blast while opening a few boxes of cards.

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