Well, it took some time but PSA pack grading is finally here. The service has been in the works for about a year and it was created after listening to requests from hobbyists across the country. Our team wanted to ensure that we laid the proper foundation for a service that should have a serious impact in the market.
So, in a market filled with so many choices, where do packs fit in?
Unopened packs, for a time, were one of the hottest collectibles during the hobby boom. In the 1980's, I can remember collectors fighting over unopened packs of all types. Of course, the question whether or not the pack should be preserved or opened in hopes of finding a great card inside. Perhaps, that hope is part of the reason collectors still do preserve unopened packs because the hope is usually much better than the reality.
I can remember some interesting pack stories from back in the day, even as recently as the 1990's. The only PSA Gem Mint 10 1952 Topps Andy Pafko #1 card was pulled right from the middle of a pack during the decade. It was the result of a dealer taking a gamble and that gamble paid off, big time! I can also remember the mid-1990's find of 1960 Topps cellos, which produced many of the high-end Clementes and Mantles you see in the marketplace today.
While there were some success stories, the amount of risk involved was quite great. Not only was pack searching a problem in the past but, even if you found an original, unsearched pack, the chances of pulling high-grade examples from the packs were miniscule. The uncertainty of card quality is what prevents even the most tempted pack collectors from unwrapping these tiny packages.
Today, in the wake of this new PSA service, unopened packs are certain to gain more attention. Will they reach the popularity of the 1980's? It's hard to say. In the aftermath of card grading, the driving force behind much of the pack busting, vintage packs have become increasingly rare. In fact, it will be very interesting to see what has survived and, hopefully, the PSA Population Report can assist in that area.
Packs also make for a great fit into PSA's Set Registry. Not only will there be "pack run" categories on the site, such as all of the 1960's Topps baseball packs, but packs can also be incorporated into the existing card registry for bonus points. For example, for the ultimate 1952 Topps baseball card collection, perhaps one pack from every known series would be required for completion. There are many interesting ways for packs to apply to the registry concept.
Today, in response to the initial question of how packs fit into the current state of the hobby, I think you will find two main categories of pack collectors. There are those who are traditional pack collectors, collectors who focus on packs and packs alone, and there are those who buy packs to supplement an existing card collection. I think there will probably be more growth in the latter area than anywhere else because packs are a natural extension for the card collector, especially one whose entire collection is based on the PSA grading standard.
PSA graded packs are sure to pack power.