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Friday, November 1, 2013

Group Breaks: Love 'Em Or Hate 'Em, They're A Hobby Force

Card collecting essentials that didn't exist when I started collecting:  "hits", jersey cards, certified autograph cards, memorabilia cards, the internet, blogging, pack searchers, and group breaks.

Group breaks have become a mega-phenomenon in the world of card collecting.  Virtually everyone in the card collecting community is well aware of what they are and how they work.  For those of you that aren't, allow me to enlighten you.  A group break is simply a monitored box opening event sponsored or hosted by one party and participated in by many in order to receive cards pulled from favorite players or teams or just for the purpose of getting "hits".  There are many formats to a group break including team oriented, player oriented, or product oriented.  There are also many styles within those formats like random, u-pick, draft, or lottery.  I have hosted a group break before and I can speak first hand that they are a ton of work.  But in the end, they are fun, exciting, and very engaging.

My first experience with a group break came a few years ago when I decided to resurrect my Pittsburgh Pirates collection.  At the time, I had well over 3000 Pirate cards but not much between 1999-2005.  I read another bloggers plea for participants in a relatively affordable box break that included 7 products from those years.  Since one spot only cost me $7, I was in.  That break netted me 48 cards, including a low serial numbered rookie and a memorabilia card.  After that, I was hooked.  I participated in two more breaks, picking up the Pirates in both.  Then, there were two more after that occurring simultaneously.  Then another.  And another.  It was exciting.  So exciting, that I thought I could do it myself.

So I took a stab at my own group break a couple years ago.  I had quite a few boxes of early 2000s hockey that needed good homes so I hosted a hockey break.  As most seemed to be baseball oriented, I figured a hockey break would be something different and peak the interest of at least the blogging community.  The turnout was pretty good with me taking one spot and two spots left unfilled.  I allowed participants to purchase a team + a random.  That way, 15 spots would be the total number of entries (14 if you count me) and it shouldn't take that long to fill.

A bunch of "hits" were pulled including a Sergei Fedorov Patch, various multi-player swatch cards, and a Henrik Zetterberg Rookie Auto.  I busted boxes on camera, posted the results and shared the videos for the world to see.  My video making capabilities needed some work but it was fun and people seemed to enjoy them.  Logistically, I probably should have charged more for a spot considering I took a bath on packaging, shipping, and the sheer labor.  But that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  Or so I hear.

Today, breaks have changed a bit from when I first got involved.  While there are still many out there that allow for the choice of teams in the blogging community or through auctions like Ebay, many breaks run by larger groups or organizations have turned to random or lottery breaks.  These types of group breaks will allow for the buy-in on a number of spots.  Once the spots are filled, numbers are randomly assigned to teams and participants.  At the end of the lottery, the teams are matched to the entries and those become the teams your entry fee is paying for.  I have participated in about a half dozen or so of these and I am torn.  When you get to pick your own teams, there is that anticipation knowing you are getting something that fits your collection.  But random is a crap-shoot.  It is exciting in the beginning but can sometimes result in disappointment either after the lottery or after the actual break.  Fortunately, the random breaks I have bought into were hosted by Collector's Revolution and included a random free-break for those not receiving any hits.  That at least gives you an opportunity to still get something even if the boxes were duds for your team.  Here is what I got in my last break...a low numbered Jersey/Patch of Stephen Weiss when he played for the Florida Panthers.


I have noticed another trend in group breaks as well.  Many breakers are now limiting their card shipments by only sending out the "hit" cards or everything but base.  Some will offer to send base cards for extra shipping but many don't make that option available.  As a set collector and general player collector, I'm not a fan of that format and generally don't participate in those.  If I am paying $8-12 for a spot or more, I want everything related to my teams I was assigned.  At least then I don't feel like I flushed my money.

To date, I have participated in 18 group breaks as a participant and have hosted one on my own.  I plan on hosting another one sometime in the next six months or so, possibly over the Olympic hockey break.  I haven't decided yet on timing or product type but it will certainly be a nice mix of product with the potential for some nice cards.

What is everyone's take on group breaks?  Do you like them?  Do you despise them?  Have you participated in the past?  What are some of the GEMS that you have received from the breaks?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

10 comments:

  1. I've always been a little leery of group breaks. While I can see the allure of a shot at a big pull, it seems like the odds are stacked firmly against getting your moneys worth, especially since the Pirates have so often been under-represented in sets.

    But I did participate in 3 group breaks over the last few months where the overall cost and base card needs matched up pretty well, so I figured at the very least I would come away with some base cards I needed. Those breaks hit a Fleer Starting 9, a couple of Topps Tek Diffractors, a Bowman Chrome Gold Ref auto, and a Gypsy Queen wood mini /5. Talk about good luck.

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    1. That is beyond good luck. You may have hit a streak.

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  2. Well when you do, I will be there ready to pay up for my spot. I really enjoyed the one you hosted and I certainly don't mind paying a couple extra bucks to help make up for the fleecing the USPS does do its fellow patriots.

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    1. Very cool. I'm working on something, at least in my mind, of what I would like to see. It's going to be hockey, it's going to be multiple boxes, and it's going to be fun.

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  3. it all depends on the cost and product for me... like you mentioned, I would like something back for my money, thus, base cards.
    Those breaks centered around 5 card packs that are all hits hold no interest for me. Yeah you could score big, but odds are no.

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    1. I haven't come up empty yet on one but I have definitely not gotten my proverbial money's worth either. My problem is that I'm always leering of only buying one spot because I figure I boost my chances with two or three. Then I spend three times as much for only one hit. It's all good though.

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  4. The only break I've ever been a part of is the one you hosted. It was fun to watch but I don't know if I could ever do the higher end ones. I mean, part of the fun of busting wax is...busting wax, not watching someone else do it.

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    1. That is very true. But I'm glad I was your first. Lol!

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  5. I just purchased the Hawks in two different Artifacts breaks and didn't end up with a single card. I'm not really that bitter about it since I only paid $4.00 for each spot and knew the risks going in. I have had some luck in the past so I know I'll buy into more when new products are release, especially the ones I have no intention of buying any boxes to break myself.

    As for the DFG breaks, I'm always in for a spot or two. You don't even need to ship my cards, you can just bring them to a show.

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    1. Well, I've been burned sort of in the Artifacts group breaks. Gotten two hits but you can see the one above. Oh, well. I suppose everyone needs me to get on the stick and get this thing organized.

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