Collecting baseball cards was such a huge part of my childhood in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Sure, it was the "junk wax" era and most of those cards aren't worth anything these days, but I remember vividly trying to get complete Fleer and Leaf sets. Opening the Topps Black Gold redemption when I was a kid where I got to send off for that entire short printed set was the greatest moment of my short, sheltered life up until that point. It took literal months to get them from Topps, but it was worth it.
Through my middle school, high school, and college years, the collecting stopped. I had very little money to speak of and I just had too much else going on in life to really pursue it anymore. However, I never lost my love of baseball and right around the time that the Braves were coming out of the rebuild, I got the itch to collect again. I went down to the local card shop (seriously, they still exist...you should go visit them) and saw that 2019 Topps Series 1 boxes were in stock at a very reasonable price. I cracked it right there in the shop and looking back at me from one of the packs was a short-printed Mike Trout autograph numbered to 25. That is where the sickness began again.
Baseball card collecting can be very expensive these days
Even for someone that collects on a narrow bandwidth (one team, one player, doesn't care about autographs, etc.), baseball cards are really expensive these days and there is an impossibly large selection of products to choose from. Sure, you can buy non-licensed (aka no team names or logos) cards pretty cheaply, but the base sets we grew up have continued to go up in price as people chase rookie cards and there are premium products that can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for just a handful of cards. Those cards are often sweet, but that is still a lot of money and presents a barrier of entry to new collectors.
However, it just isn't true that its impossible to collect baseball cards on the budget in this day and age. If you want to get a base team set put together each year from the standard flagship products, you can do so without difficulty whatsoever. Another way one can do it, though, is to find value opportunities in breaks (more on those in a bit) and do a bit of hustling to assemble an even greater collection over time. Over the coming weeks (and maybe months?), that is exactly what we are going to do.
Building the ultimate Braves card collection on a budget
The rules here are simple. Myself as well as Josh Hill who is a FanSided Content Director and who also runs our Twins site will be entering the same baseball card break each week. A break is when you purchase the right (either for a specific team or assigned randomly) in a given product opening. A lot of the time, that is for a full case of a given product, but half cases, single boxes, or even a mix of different products. One big piece of advice: always use trustworthy sources when buying into breaks that show the openings live on video. You don't want to get scammed out of your hard-earned money.
Once the break is completed, we will decided on who won the given week based on what we got. This is strictly for bragging rights and trash talking which I assure you has already started in earnest. Then, we can do whatever we want with those cards to further our personal collections including selling, trading, or keeping the cards. At the end (whenever that is), we will see what the collections look like while providing updates along the way.
The first break or how to get lucky from the start
For our first break, we settled on using Firehand Cards for a few reasons. One, I have used them for years and they have proven to be extremely trustworthy, reliable, and are one of the OGs when it comes to hobby breaks. They aren't sponsoring this endeavor in any way and I suspect they will be quite surprised when they see that we started this series. Second, they always have the new products rolling in and do take great pains to have options for collectors at lower price points. You can certainly find the high dollar stuff there as well, but the budget angle is what we are going for here.
Once Josh did some test runs with the fine folks at FH to get comfortable, we landed on doing a mixer random teams break. At around $62, it was a very reasonable price for a random team break that has a variety of quality products in it. It didn't hurt that Josh had gotten quite lucky in his test run and I was eager to get in on that action.
The break itself consisted of one box each of 2023 Bowman Chrome HTA, 2023 Topps Tier One, 2023 Topps Chrome, 2022 Topps Gold Label, 2022 Topps Museum Collection, 2023 Panini Immaculate, and 2023 Topps Tribute. I highly recommend searching up those products' checklists on Cardboard Connection if you are curious as to what those products are about and what you could open. Several of these boxes by themselves can be very expensive to buy, so this seems like a great way to take a shot at some really nice cards.
This was a random teams break, though, so there was the matter of rolling for our teams. Josh ended up with the Rangers which was pretty fortuitous given their World Series run and the fact that one of the top 2023 rookies to chase in collecting right now is Josh Jung. As for me, I rolled: the Braves. Rather be lucky than good any day.
Overall, I cannot complain about the results of the first break. I hit the Braves which is exactly where I want to end up with this collection and we got some hits. Topps Chrome gave us an insert Michael Harris II rookie insert as well as short-printed parallels of Vaughn Grissom's rookie card (negative refractor, valued at around $12) and a Spencer Strider insert (gold parallel Future Stars numbered out of 50, around $25ish). Bowman also gave me my first autographed hit with a purple (numbered out of 250) Bowman 1st auto of Geraldo Quintero. His cards aren't worth a lot right now, but Bowman 1st autos are always worth speculating on at low prices as they are the "true rookie cards" these days and can go for big money if guys make it to the majors.
Sadly, I was not victorious this week as Hill's Rangers draw proved to be a good one. In addition to getting a base Jung rookie out of Topps Chrome which was a nice pull, Panini Immaculate ended up being my undoing. Texas' breakout star Evan Carter doesn't have a rookie card in products yet, but Immaculate does have some prospect hits in it and Josh hit a Carter relic auto numbered out of 49 with a piece of a sock in it that is conservatively worth around $80 and is probably higher now after the World Series win. Well played, Hill. Well played.
Given that I drew the Braves, there is a strong likelihood that I will hold my spoils from this week, at least for now. The Vaughn Grissom parallel is one that I am going to keep an eye on as there is a chance the Braves could trade him this offseason and he would probably immediately get playing time with a new team, but that is a longer term sort of thing. Tune in next time as we try to build out the ultimate Braves collection from scratch on a budget.