Is it cheaper to buy complete sets or one card at a time?

Is it cheaper to buy sets that are already completed or put them together one card at a time? Obviously, once you get past collecting all of the holo cards, it’s fairly cheap to buy the rest of the cards, such as the commons, uncommons, and non-holo rares, all at once. Is this more cost effective than buying a complete set all at once? I see ebayers mark up the price of complete sets they’re selling all the time. I’ve noticed that if a complete set is in good enough condition, an auction usually goes for more than the fair market value of the set at the time. Just curious. I’m collecting the Rocket set right now one card at a time. I saw an auction for the full unlimited Rocket set go for more than $1900 the other week. I’m on pace to spend nowhere near that price when all is said and done. I just found this phenomena interesting. So, what do you think is the most cost-effective way to collect?

There is no clear answer kind of

For non modern (WotC-BW/XYish) it’s always cheaper to buy singles. The boxes/packs are just too expensive. For modern product, it’s probably a mix depending on how cheap booster boxes are. You could get one box and get almost if not all commons and a bunch of the rares and holos in one swing… or you could get a ton of duplicates and have to buy more to get more duplicates in search of the few rares you’re missing. Totally anecdotally, I think it’s best in current modern sets to buy 1-2 boxes and fill the rest in singles

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Getting base sets without ultra rares definitely is cheaper to buy outright.
Depending on the set(s) and if the card(s) are playable or not you can see a difference in a complete set.

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I will say singles, cos you can get some dirty steals on some. A full set will always have a premium cos they save you the time and get a steal on one is odd.


I think part of it depends if you’re based Internationally (outside of the US) or not.

If you’re buying WOTC singles (commons/uncommons) to complete a set at $4 + $18 shipping each, it doesn’t make sense to buy singles at that point. Complete sets become a lot more appealing.

I think the answer will be a little bit different for each set. One could approach buying a complete non-holo set and chasing individual deals on the holos, or a complete UC/C set and chasing the rares and holos. I think it depends on the market and the set, so take a look at completed listings to get a sense which sets might favour buying individual or as complete sets.

Also, it’s currently a lot more difficult to find older complete sets with the demand where it’s at right now, so that may not even be an option depending on how quickly you want to complete the set.

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Singles unless the set is brand new (like on launch day or close to it). After a few weeks, buying singles almost always is cheaper. Sealed product has what they call a gamblers premium. People pay a premium for the sealed product because it is fun and exciting to open packs and see if you get that expensive chase card. Also sealed sells at a premium because you know you have a fair shot at pulling PSA 10 cards. Buying singles you always run the risk that someone has “pre-graded” the cards and took all the PSA 10s for themselves. The singles you are buying are the duds so to speak.