There's lots of different ways to buy Topps this year. Here's a run down of all the ways I've come across so far.
Hobby pack - 10 cards $1.75-$2.00
Retail pack - 12 cards $1.99
Retail Jumbo pack - 36 cards $4.99
Hobby Jumbo pack - 50 cards $10 if you can find anyone selling them by the pack
Basic difference between a Hobby and retail pack is that Hobby packs have a slightly better chance at pulling the autogamer cards and there are several hobby exclusive inserts such as Ring of Honor, Silk parallels and printing plates. Retail packs get you a few more base cards for your buck as well. The basic inserts are found at the same ratio in both the hobby and retail packs: 1:1 ToppsTown, 1:4 Turkey Red and Legends and 1:7 gold parallel. Retail jumbo packs seem to either have a Legends or a Turkey red card, plus a 1:2 shot at a gold parallel and a ToppsTown card in each pack. Hobby jumbo packs give the best bang for the buck, including a Legends, Turkey Red, Ring of Honor, Gold border and a ToppsTown in every pack. Also, there is a 1:2 shot at pulling either a relic, auto, Legends manufactured letter patch or WBC redemption card. These are rarely sold by the pack though, and will cost at least $10 a pop.
The best value for a box is the HTA jumbo boxes. You'll most likely get the complete set, 10 of each of the low end inserts and 2 relics, an autograph, the patch and the mysterious WBC redemption card. If you don't want to drop $90-$100 on a jumbo box though, there are retail options:
Wal-Mart "Cereal box" 55 cards with 1 Chrome legend card $9.99
I saw some of these at Wal-Mart yesterday, but was so perplexed by them that I didn't get one. Part of the confusion was that I had seen these before packaged with a binder and plastic sheets and didn't know what to make of the small boxes. I was under the impression that they would be in a large box with the binder and pages and cards inside, but it looks like the binder and pages are just add-ons when sold online. The cereal box itself is about the size of one of those collectible card game "deck protector" boxes used for storage and have either Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams on the box. Cereal box is the actual name for this product, I scanned the barcode to check the price and it is set up with that name in Wal-Mart's inventory.
The other thing that confused me was the insert ratios. The hook for this product is the one-per-box Chrome refractor Legends card. The checklist can be found here at the bottom of the post. It's a decent checklist and has some nice players in there. I would have put in say, Cobb and Clemente over Munson and Sisler but that's just me. My confusion was over the other insert cards. ToppsTown cards were listed at one per box, but no others were guaranteed on the package. The odds on the side showed gold cards at 1:2 boxes and various other parallels and variations at higher odds, but no Turkey Red or Legends. It does look like there is a Turkey Red and Legends card in there though along with the Refractor. That makes the Cereal box (you know, like those little boxes of cereal you'd beg your mom to buy and then only eat the three good cereals in the package and leave the raisin bran to rot in the the pantry) package sort of a low-rent HTA Jumbo pack. I'm intrigued though and I might have to go back and pick up a Ruth for further study.
Target $19.99 Blaster
Here's a blaster sighting with a picture of the package. It's your typical blaster, 10 packs plus a bonus for 20 bucks. The bad news: the packs only have 8 cards each. Since there's a big ad on the side of the box promoting the 10 ToppsTown code cards in the box, that leaves 70 actual cards per box. With inserts. make that about 62-63 base cards in a box. for comparison, 6 packs of retail for $12 will get you 66 cards (minus ToppsTown) and two retail Jumbo packs has the same 70 cards for $10. So Topps definitely went the el cheapo route with the cards in the blasters. HOWEVER... Topps upped the ante on blaster box bonuses with some manufactured patches. These aren't fake letters either, they appear to be official logos from significant events. The checklist is very nice as well, although I'll bet money that if I get a blaster I'll pull Don Larsen. The cards kind of look like the manufactured patches that Upper Deck has been doing throughout the decade, except now they are obtainable by the unwashed masses. I haven't seen any of these in the wild yet, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I'll be buying one or not due to the reduced card count. The problem is I can probably buy the exact card I want outright and still have enough money to buy a couple of Jumbo packs and get the same number of cards. It's a neat idea though, I'll give Topps that.
I'm not sure if there are any other flavors of Topps packs out there, like the 10 dollar 80 card Super Jumbo pack that I found for 2008 Updates & Highlights, but I'll keep on the lookout. I'd give equal time to Upper Deck, but so far all I've seen are $5 hobby packs and $20 blasters. (just between you and me, Hobby packs are the way to go if you can swing it) Once retail packs and Fat Packs start appearing I'll give you the rundown on those too.