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.