What is an Unopened Frankenbox?

Vintage unopened sportscard collecting is incredibly popular. But whether collectors prefer individual packs, boxes, or cases, there are some unique complexities in the market. Last July, I wrote about one of those intricacies in explaining what a Topps X-Out box was. This week I want to talk about another topic people might not know about that dramatically affects the prices for boxes in the unopened market, and that’s the frankenbox.

A frankenbox is a box of packs (wax, cello, or rack) put together with packs from different boxes. Essentially, a person can rummage through packs and remove those with stars showing and replace them with other legitimate packs that don’t show stars. The box is still genuine and full of legitimately unopened packs, but not in the way the factory released them. Frankenboxes are common with cello and rack packs, because like in the examples that follow, you can easily see the cards. Frankenboxes are also common when a set’s wax packs have lighter wrappers and stars show through, or pack sequencing is known.

1977 Topps Cello Packs
1975 Topps Rack Pack

In the picture that follows, you can see how easy it would be to remove the Mantle cello pack and replace it (assuming you have a spare 1960 Topps pack just laying around – but imagine the same principle with more common releases).

1960 Topps Baseball Cello Box

Unopened authenticators may still label a known frankenbox as legitimate. The packs themselves are good, but they wouldn’t validate the packs as original to that specific box unless marked from a sealed case.

Factory authenticity is also why the Baseball Card Exchange only wraps vending boxes that they remove from sealed cases; otherwise, they cannot guarantee certain cards haven’t been removed.

So if a box is not labeled from a sealed case (FASC), there is a CHANCE it has been searched. It’s not a guarantee one way or another. But this is why collectors are willing to pay a lot more for a box that has been labeled as from a sealed case.

There are going to be FASC boxes that don’t have any stars showing. And there are authenticated boxes that are not marked FASC that will have stars showing and potentially came from a sealed case. The FASC designator didn’t come about immediately when authenticators started wrapping boxes. And if they are sent a box that happened to come fresh from a case, they wouldn’t know that and wouldn’t mark it from a sealed case.

Here are some examples of how the Baseball Card Exchange labels boxes from a sealed case.

1981 Topps Football Unopened Wax Box From a Sealed Case
1983 Topps Baseball Unopened Cello Box From a Sealed Case

In my article on ten things I won’t do in the sports card market, I mentioned that I wouldn’t ever make a frankenbox. But I can see why some collectors, particularly those who collect packs with stars showing, would break boxes and send in packs for authentication. But replacing packs to me to make another box seem disingenuous.

In costly boxes, the best authenticators explain the pedigree of a box with an additional letter. 1986 Fleer basketball boxes have a known makeup, so collectors have removed and replaced packs with Jordan stickers, for example. A legitimated factory box should have three complete sticker sets plus three additional stickers. Plus, the centering and coloring of the wrappers need to be consistent, along with gum placement, seals, folds, etc.

The following letter for box #X0054 is how the Baseball Card Exchange labels an intact factory box.

1986 Fleer Basketball Box Authentication Letter

This next letter for box #X0117 describes a box that is not believed to be factory-issued and can affect the price by tens of thousands of dollars.

1986 Fleer Basketball Box Authentication Letter

Remember, just because a box is not labeled from a sealed case doesn’t guarantee a frankenbox. But if you collect unopened material, and want to ensure you aren’t buying a frankenbox, look for a from a sealed case label or a detailed pack description for more expensive boxes.

If you have any other information to share or questions about frankenboxes, be sure to drop a comment down below or reach out to me over on Twitter.

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