More and more recently we have seen the Blaster Box popularity increase within the collector community. Companies are following this trend and pushing them out to retailers for almost every brand and sport. The questions that have come up are: "Why is the Blaster becoming so popular?" and "Is it better to buy Blaster or Hobby nowadays?"
I for one, have not been too intrigued by Blasters in the past. You would mainly get stuck with a bunch of base cards, inserts and the odd retail subset. The "Off market Companies" (which I like to call them) offer Blasters with different selected hobby packs of a sport or multi-sports with a chance to pull a Game Used or Autographed card. Of course they would always show a Pujols or Brady card on the front of the boxes to entice people to buy. It never seemed worth it to spend $15-30 on a blaster when you could
put that towards a hobby box and receive more for your money.
Jumping back to 2008 I did notice a change with Blasters, in particularly with Topps. This year I noticed they were adding a Game Used card within each Blaster. This was something new, guaranteed and very hot within the collecting world. Most people would pull a common Jersey or Bat card but you did hear of the odd person pulling an above average hit in the Blasters.
Following the 2008 Blaster guarantees were more Game Used cards, Extra packs of higher end product, Special Rookie card Parallels, Manufactured/Commemorative Patches and Retail Parallels. Blasters have now created their own market for the hobby. Companies now were hitting on all cylinders too. They knew the set/team/player collectors would want those Retail Parallels to complete their collection, and they knew Game Used is still a strong product within trading and secondary markets. Plus this was also expanding their target market to the retail shoppers, some of which were in the hobby before but stopped going to Hobby shops or maybe they didn't have one around. The main target is the kids though. This has been lost in the hobby and we need to have the next generation pick the hobby up again. They are going to drive the hobby well after we are gone, and buying cards when we were kids and having the accessibility to them is much different nowadays and harder to reach them.
The value within the Blaster boxes can vary, but you are in much better odds now than previous years. Take 2012 Allen & Ginter for instance, every time I read a Box Bust review or topic on the blasters people were coming away with really decent pulls. In fact a couple of the postings had better hits in a Blaster than one of a Hobby box. Could this be really true? Blasters becoming better places to find hits?
Well it turns out that 2012 Blasters are a better chance to pull those tougher hits in some of the products. We've seen Dual Autographs, Ginter Autographs, and above average Relics pulled in all of the 2012 releases so far. Allen & Ginter seem to be leading the way with those better odds of pulling a decent hit in a blaster over the others but even still blasters seem to be the way to go.
As for the "Off Market Companies"; I feel like you can have some decent hits coming out of the guaranteed blasters. Keep in mind though, most of these Blasters are dealing with older over stocked product that boxes were busted and pulled into the blasters. I recently bought one of these blasters a month ago where I posted the packs and cards I received. For the $25 it cost me to take a chance on pulling a graded card it didn't really pan out. The Yzerman Jersey card was a decent pull for a Blaster of this type, but the value as a whole was not worth it.
For me it is a little harder to buy a decent Blaster in Canada of any sport. Hockey is mostly offered at retail for us, but we have seen a Blaster of baseball and a rack pack here more recently this year at the local Walmart. I bought a Blaster with a split of 2012 Heritage and Topps Series 1. I was shocked when I saw them so of course I had to pick one of those up. It was more for the "Wow we actually have baseball blasters?" factor than the search for a Blaster hit factor. I didn't do too badly on the Heritage side with pulling a C.J. Wilson Relic which was a surprise. The Topps side was nothing special but I pull pull that hit in the Blaster.
Question is would I buy it again? Maybe, if we were to ever get a Ginter blaster up here I might be tempted to buy it since we have hardly any Baseball Blasters up here. When I take the occasional trip to the US I do run into a local Walmart and see the Blasters offered and pick one up just for fun.
In the long run currently I would stick to my Hobby box buying over Blasters. I find the value is much better with the Hobby boxes and you know what you are getting in the boxes over the Blasters. Now being The Pack Gambler this might weird for me to say since I love the gamble on busting products. I just find if I had $200 to spend on Blasters or 1 Hobby Box/1 Pack I would take the latter of the two. For the value of the Hobby Box or Single High-End pack I like the odds much better than the Blasters. Keeping in mind Blasters aren't that cheap either, the average Blaster retails for $20 so with 10 Blasters for the $200 I might come away with 2-4 hits on average. This is very similar odds with Hobby boxes or High-End packs, which typically sell much better on the secondary market than a card pulled from a Blaster.
In conclusion I believe that Blasters are a key part to the hobby. It brings the kids back into the hobby which was lost when cards started becoming scarce in convenience stores and retailers. From a collectors point of view, you can take it or leave it, but the kids are key. I like the way companies are marketing the Blasters with hits and extra bonuses to draw interest. This will only continue down the road which will improve the industry. I know a lot of people buy Blasters only and have a great time with it, they are fun to bust open and are cheaper than buying a Hobby box. Collecting and busting boxes should always be fun, whether Blaster, Hobby Box or Packs the fun must be there. In the debate of Blaster or Hobby......it's really up to the collector in you.