Whenever I watch a box break video, I wonder about the cost / value ratio of the featured product. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to do the math. Using the 2019-20 Upper Deck Series 1 product as a base case, I calculated the expected yield of a hobby pack. The analysis allowed me to track the inserts that contribute most (and least) to the average pack value.
The average 2019-20 Upper Deck Series 1 hobby pack yields $2.12 worth of cards. At $3.33 a pack, the cost-to-value ratio is 63.7%.
- Base cards are worth 4.5 cents apiece, as the entire base set can be purchased for $9 + shipping
- Every insert in a subset (Young Guns, UD Game Jersey Subset A, UD Game Jersey Subset B, etc.) is equally probable.
- An insert card's value is determined by its lowest member price on COMC. When a card could not be found on COMC, its price was estimated from eBay. If the card could not be found on eBay, its price was estimated as the average of the other cards in its subset.
- The cost of selling cards (shipping fees, eBay fees, COMC fees, and income tax) was not accounted for in calculating a pack's value. Time spent (and its cost equivalence) on selling cards was not accounted for, either. If you were in the business of opening packs for the sake of reselling, all of these factors would have to be considered.
Notes about the Analysis
- The types of subsets, the cards within each subset, and the odds were taken from here. Throughout, odds relating to hobby packs were used.
- In most cases, prices from COMC were retrieved using a homemade bot. Throughout, I verified that a subset, as well as certain cards within a subset, had a value that is aligned with my expectations. I spot-checked a small percentage (~5%) of the cards for verification.
- The average pack yield is calculated using the "expected payoff" equation from economic game theory. At this time, I cannot provide a distribution function (probability vs. pack value), as the analysis is done in terms of averages. I am actively working toward writing a pack-opening simulator that should shed light on this distribution function.
- Inserts come along with a cost penalty for replacing base cards (4.5 cents apiece). Generation Next Jersey Relic and UD Game Jersey cards generally replace 3 base cards (due to their thickness), and this fact was accounted for. Let me know if any other cards are thick, and I'll adjust the analysis.
- Numbered cards were not accounted for, as they are far too rare to make a significant difference to pack value. With odds less favorable than 1 : 242,308 packs, a numbered card's value would have to be > $2,500 to change the average pack value by a single penny. For this reason, they can be ignored.
- Inserts that are only found in tins or special packs (i.e. Black Friday) were not considered.
- Inserts for which odds are not published were excluded from the analysis. This leads to a slight underestimation of the value of the average pack.
Inserts Considered in this Analysis
Young Guns (1:4)
Young Guns clear cut (acetate, 1:288) (See Note)
UD Canvas - Standard (1:7)
UD Canvas Young Guns (1:48)
UD Game Jersey (varies)
UD Portrait (1:6)
NHL Draft SP - Standard (1:12960)
NHL Draft SP - Gold (1:60000)
Ceremonial Puck Drop Autographs (varies from 1:65000 to 1:242308)
Generation Next - Standard (1:15)
Generation Next Jersey Relics (varies)
Rookie Retrospective Jersey (1:576)
Signature Sensations (varies)
30 Years of Upper Deck
Ceremonial Puck Drop (Non-Auto)
Clear Cut Foundation Duos
Clear Cut Leaders Trios
Day with the Cup (Limited data available - assumed $25 / card)
Shooting Stars Centers (1:64)
Shooting Stars Defenders (1:192)
Shooting Stars Left (1:12)
Shooting Stars Right (1:96)
Base - Clear cut (Acetate, 1:96) (See Note)
Note: Large number of cards in this subset were not found on COMC. Average values were calculated from the cards that were found on COMC.
Inserts not Considered in this Analysis
Base Clear Cut Exclusives (N/AV)
Base Photo Variations (N/AV)
30th Anniversary Stamped Buybacks (N/AV)
Shooting Stars Red Parallel (N/AV)
UD Canvas Signatures(N/AV)
Base Retired Photo Variations (ePack only) Shooting Stars Left (Retail only)
OPC Glossy Rookies (Tins only)
Shooting Stars Goalies (Tins only)
Base Exclusives (#/100)
Base High Gloss (#/10)
UD Canvas Printing Plates (#/1)
UD Canvas Young Guns Printing Plates (#/1)
UD Game Jersey Patch (#/15)
UD Portrait Base Parallel (Gold / Platinum)
UD Portrait Rookie Parallel (Gold / Platinum)
Young Guns Exclusives (#/100)
Young Guns High Gloss (#/10)
Clear Cut Honored Members Update (#/100)
Young Guns Jumbo
1994-95 Rookie Tribute Die-Cuts (Black Friday Packs only)
Sophomore Sensations Set
What types of cards give a pack its value? See the following table for a summary. This number is a balance between rarity (which decreases value contribution) and value (which, of course, increases value contribution).
|Card Type ||Contribution to pack value (cents) |
|Young Guns ||81 |
|Shooting Stars Left || |50 0 (Retail only)
|Base ||36 |
|UD Canvas Young Guns ||22 |
|Young Guns - Clear Cut (acetate) ||16 |
|Base - Clear Cut (acetate) ||12 |
|UD Game Jersey ||6 |
|30 Years of Upper Deck ||6 |
|Signature Sensations ||5 |
|Pure Energy ||5 |
|UD Canvas ||4 |
|UD Portrait ||4 |
|Generation Next Jersey Relics ||3 |
|Clear Cut Foundation Duos ||3 |
|Cup Components ||3 |
|2019 NHL Draft SP ||2 |
|Rookie Retrospective Jersey ||1 |
|Ceremonial Puck Drop ||1 |
|Day with the Cup ||1 |
|Shooting Stars Defenders ||1 |
|Ceremonial Puck Drop Autographs ||0 |
|Clear Cut Leaders Trios ||0 |
|Shooting Stars Centers ||0 |
|Shooting Stars Right ||0 |
- Opening packs, boxes, or cases of 2019-20 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey cards is not an investment. On average, 36% of a pack's value is lost when it is opened. The numbers are far more uninviting when selling costs (and time) are accounted for.
- From a purely economic perspective, it is far more sensible to purchase single cards than packs.
- Do not fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy. After a bad streak, you cannot "break even" by opening up even more packs. On average, every single pack comes alongside a loss. As described above, if you're chasing a particular Young Gun, just buy that card.
- You should open packs of 2019-20 Upper Deck Series 1 if the joy of doing so outweighs the lost cost ($1.21 / pack).
- This project ate about 7 hours that I will never get back.