Hobby Boxes Or Blaster Retail Boxes: What’s The Difference Between Them?

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A question I see a lot of collectors who are new to the sports card hobby ask, is what the difference is between the different kinds of boxes out there.

In short, Hobby Boxes are more expensive to buy, not available at retail stores, and contain more high-value and rare cards from a product’s checklist.

The intricacies of every product are slightly different, so the exact differences between Blaster (retail) boxes and Hobby boxes depends on the product, but generally they have some key differences applicable to all products.

I’ve covered everything you need to know about the key differences between Blaster retail sports card boxes and Hobby boxes, below.

Table of Contents

What’s The Difference Between A Hobby Box And A Retail Box?

Quick Summary:

Price: Hobby boxes cost more than Blaster boxes and other retail products.

Cards Inside: Hobby boxes contain more big hits than Blaster boxes, with more low numbered cards, autographs and memorabilia, for example.

Where To Buy & Accessibility: Blaster boxes are available at large retail chains, whereas Hobby boxes are only available at card stores, making them less accessible and harder to buy for some.

It’s important to note that a good deal of what can be found in a Retail box can also be found in a Hobby box, and vice-versa.

Usually, Hobby boxes have more of the high-end and popular cards like autographs and memorabilia, but a lot of retail products have them as well.

The differences in the type or level of cards that can be found in Hobby boxes compared to retail varies from product to product.

Sometimes a product’s retail box configuration is generous for hits, or include exclusive inserts or parallels, which makes them more compelling.

Blaster (Retail) Boxes

What Is A Blaster Box?

A Blaster box is a sealed box containing packs of sports cards, which are bought at retail stores like Walmart and Target.

The price and the amount of separate packs inside a sealed Blaster box is dependent on what product the box is for – For example, a Panini Prizm football card Blaster box will be priced differently and will include a different amount of packs and cards than a Panini Score football card Blaster box.

The Pros Of Blaster Boxes

Easier To Buy:

A big pro for Retail boxes is the ease to buy them. While sports card shops for Hobby boxes might not be as common as they once were, retail shops are everywhere.

Having Blaster boxes and other retail sports card products available at multiple different local stores makes things easier for collectors.


One of the key differences for collectors deciding between Retail boxes and Hobby boxes is the price.

Although price varies depending on the product and configuration of the box, retail boxes are cheaper to buy than Hobby boxes. Most Retail boxes aren’t considered expensive.


Blaster boxes and other retail sports card products do often include some exclusives of their own, although they’re not usually considered big hitters – Some are popular though, and hold good value.

The Cons Of Blaster Boxes

Fewer Hits Than A Hobby Box:

While it is still possible to hit valuable cards like autographs or relics in retail boxes, many sets save the low numbered, big-hitting cards for Hobby boxes.

The level of card you can get in a Blaster box depends on what product it is.

A Blaster might usually contain a manufactured relic card, for example, but an autograph or a game-used relic might not even be available – Or available at very long odds.


The world of retail can be frustrating for a sports card collector.

Sometimes, getting your hands on the product you want comes down to a bit of luck, or knowing where and when to look.

One product might surface in one part of the country, but not show up in another part until much later.

There’s also the risk that even if they do come into stock at your local Target or Walmart, they sell out before you have a chance to buy a box, either without a further restock, or a long wait for one.

That’s not to say the same can’t happen with Hobby boxes, but at least they’re sold at hobby shops that are more likely to have info on when a product will arrive; If you become a regular, they might even start holding some for you.

Risk Of Pack Searching:

This one is maybe a bit controversial to include, but unfortunately there’s ‘collectors’ who negatively impact the hobby by pack searching.

Blaster boxes are known to have been bought from retail shops, searched, resealed, and then returned.

Stores then restock the returned box back on the shelves, for another unsuspecting collector to buy, leaving them no chance of hitting anything valuable.

While it might not be common, the risk of it has to be considered a con of buying retail sports card boxes. It’s something that comes with the loose return policies of some major retail chains, unfortunately.

Hobby Boxes

What Is A Hobby Box?

A Hobby box is a sealed box containing packs of sports cards, which are bought from individual dealers and smaller sports card shops. They aren’t available to collectors at the big retail stores like Walmart and Target.

As with Retail boxes, a Hobby box’s price and number of packs and cards inside depends on what sports card brand or product the box is for.

Usually, you’re more likely to find autograph and memorabilia hits in a Hobby box than you are in a Retail box.

The Pros Of Hobby Boxes

Usually More Hits:

With the higher price point of Hobby boxes, it’s no surprise that it’s going to mean more hits for collectors.

The configuration of Hobby boxes is aimed towards more hardcore collectors, so they focus on premium cards like autographs and memorabilia cards, which are usually easier to find than they are in retail products.

Premium Exclusives:

With Hobby boxes, you’re not just going to find more hits, they also have some of their own premium exclusives, whether that’s autograph or memorabilia cards, or parallels and rare inserts that you can’t find in retail products.

Some higher-end products, like National Treasures, are Hobby only, so essentially everything from the set is Hobby box exclusive.

Supports Small Businesses:

Something which shouldn’t be underestimated is the role and importance of having sports card shops, which are still very much a backbone of the hobby.

Buying Hobby boxes from the smaller and specialized sports card shops, instead of products from the big retail chains, helps them as a business.

There’s not as many sports card shops as there once were, so keeping the ones we do have is important.

The Cons Of Hobby Boxes


One of the big pros of retail products has to be a con for Hobby boxes – They cost more to buy.

The premium configurations and higher odds of big cards in Hobby boxes comes at a price.

For casual collectors, Hobby boxes are considered expensive, and maybe not the way to go for those who just want the enjoyment of ripping packs.


I’ve already touched on the fact that card shops aren’t as common as they once were; For many, getting to a card shop to buy a Hobby box is a tough ask.

Collectors usually haven’t got the luxury of multiple local stores with Hobby boxes, like they do with retail.

There’s also the chance the product you want will be out of stock by the time you do get to your nearest card shop.

Obviously there’s the option of buying online, but there’s shipping rates involved, and some places will require a minimum quantity.

Also, if a collector likes a product and wants to buy more, ordering online doesn’t have the same instant gratification like being in a store does.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Hobby Boxes More Expensive?

Hobby boxes are more expensive than Blaster boxes and other retail sports card products because they’re generally aimed at more hardcore collectors.

Their configurations include more big hits like autograph and memorabilia cards, which you’re more likely to get from them.

Can You Get Autographs Out Of Blaster Boxes?

It is possible to get autographed cards in Blaster boxes and other retail sports card products, although it’s a lot less likely than getting them in Hobby boxes.

It also depends on the product, it’s not exactly common for Blaster boxes to include autographs – The box itself will specify whether it’s possible to get one inside.

Where Can You Buy A Sports Card Hobby Box?

Hobby boxes can be bought from local card stores, or online. They can also be bought directly from the manufacturers, like Panini and Topps.

Do Hobby Boxes Have Better Odds?

Hobby boxes provide better odds at getting rare and valuable cards than retail boxes do, which is why they’re more expensive to buy.

Do Retailers Sell Hobby Boxes?

No, Hobby boxes can’t be bought at retail chain stores like Walmart and Target. They can’t be bought online from retail websites, either.

What Is The Difference Between First Off The Line And Other Hobby Boxes?

A First Off The Line box is an early release, which usually includes a unique parallel exclusive, which isn’t available in the standard Hobby box (which is released later) for that product. You can expect to pay more for a First Off The Line box.

It’s worth noting that there’s no guarantee of getting the exclusive parallel in the First Off The Line box, but it does give a collector access to the full set before the regular Hobby box is sold.

Picture of Jason Clarke

Jason Clarke

Jason is a lifelong sports fanatic and a huge fan of the NBA and NFL. He's long been a collector of sports cards - For over 20 years in fact. He collects various different sports, as well as some non-sport cards. He has a particular soft spot for 90s basketball inserts. Find Jason on X (Twitter): @jason_clarke91.
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