The Sad, New Face of Collecting

Lately, it seems collectors cannot go a single day without hearing or seeing a retail flipper weighing and/or searching through unopened retail packs. While this has been a problem I’ve personally encountered for nearly two decades, thanks to rabid discussions on social media, the word is finally getting out. The image below comes from Twitter where a user snapped a photograph of a collector/flipper sprawled out on the card aisle floor sans footwear going through all the retail packs searching for the “hit”, AKA the autograph and/or game-used memorabilia card.

To some, this may seem like a victimless crime. Who hasn’t been ripped off by Topps or Panini at one point, right? Others look at the fact that most “hits” in retail products are of utility players barely worth the time and effort to create an eBay listing. The most arrogant collectors just look down on others for spending money on retail when there are Hobby-exclusive products that are safe from this type of behavior. Yes, there are exclusive and extremely overpriced Hobby products available but even those boxes aren’t safe and haven’t been for quite some time.

Back in 1991, in the middle of the Junk Wax era and during the absolute madness that came from Donruss’ Elite inserts, there were already horror stories going around of card shop owners weighing boxes of 1991 Donruss and leaving the rest for sale to unsuspecting, mostly young collectors. These stories eventually made their way to online discussion groups on AOL and later, through message boards. Today, we still hear these tales on card blogs and social media. Collectors never forgot and you can bet they will never forgive. Once you earn the label of a scammer in this hobby, you are as good as done.

Now imagine running an online business selling trading cards in 2021 and then openly admitting to all your followers and potential clients that you weigh boxes. That’s exactly what ‘limitedissue‘ is doing and somehow he’s still moving products. As of Sunday, however, things got so hot that he was forced to turn off commenting on his Downtown brag post. As of today, the post in question is still up but don’t be surprised to see the evidence taken down very soon and everything wiped clean including the username. Bragging online about ripping off collectors doesn’t exactly make for a great business model.

Thanks to the wonderful world wide web, we can easily look up the information to LimitedIssue’s domain name registration. As it turns out, the domain is registered to a Mark Ibarra from New Jersey. I was able to find his email, home address and even his phone number but I’ll go ahead and keep that information private. Just remember to never, ever buy unopened products from anyone named Mark Ibarra from Jersey because what you will likely be paying for is pre-weighed boxes that gives you no shot at anything worthwhile. Protect yourself and protect other collectors.

While collectors can be a greedy bunch at times, not everyone is the same. Everyone collects differently and robbing someone from pulling what to you may be worthless $2 relic, is 100% criminal. Retail odds are already stacked to the roof and having these fat, greasy pack-feeling geeks making things worse only takes away from the joy that opening baseball cards provides. There is no way to stop card shop owners and these retail flippers from committing these acts but hopefully there’s still some good out there somewhere. For now, your best bet is to buy directly from manufacturers whenever possible.

Does Pack Searching Even Matter?

While I never take part in message boards, I do like to lurk occasionally, especially Blowout Cards’ forum. This week, one of the more popular topics was a guy who was photographed pack searching (with a scale) at a Target in Minneapolis. To no one’s surprise, he was also involved in a pack-searching expose well over a year ago …wearing the exact same, stylish sports coat. So who is this grown man, spending all his afternoons digging through retail packs while risking online and possibly criminal exposure for $3 dollar Albert Pujols and Evan Longoria game-used relics? Yes, that’s what they sell for on eBay every single day of the week.

Let’s face it, game-used memorabilia and certified autographs are dead unless you are lucky enough to pull a super-hot prospect auto or a star relic patch. For the most part, these cards that once ruled the hobby are now nothing more than cheap filler. The magic of the “hit” is gone, especially from a brand you can find at Target. If you really want to pretend like “hits” still matter, you’re going to need to a couple of hundred dollars for a box of Topps Triple Threads or even more and you still will likely end up with absolute trash most of the time. It really is time for a new hobby innovation because the card industry completely killed game-used relics and certified autographs.

Now, for the guy pictured below … let’s hope he gets what’s coming to him. I’m sure he’s hawking those “hot packs” on eBay because lord knows opening them up is going to put all his trouble pack-searching to waste. I can’t think of a more pathetic way to spend my time at Target than doing this in a section usually reserved for children. This is why it has been well-known for decades to avoid open retail pack at all costs. Spend a little more and go the blaster route or if you really enjoy the product and want to support the industry, splurge and get yourself a Hobby box because odds are, someone has gone through every single pack at Target and Wal-Mart already.

You can check out the full Blowout Cards thread HERE.