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Old 01-21-2018, 09:57 AM   #1
HardwoodHits
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Default How Box Breaks Nearly Destroyed Me (Even after Pulling Karl-Anthony Towns Prizm 1/1)



It was late 2015 and I stepped into the trading card aisle of my local Target looking for a gift for my then 9 year old son. His birthday was in just a few days and I was looking into my past to give him a gift he'd remember for a lifetime.

When I was around his age, my brother and I would save up enough cash over the course of a summer for a handful of trips to the local card shop. I still remember opening those packs and pulling Jordan, Kobe and the ever popular refractor. Hitting a refractor of any player was a thrill. While we had our fair share of disappointments, those are memories and moments that I'll cherish the rest of my life.

So there I was, 25 years later preparing to enter into a new era of collecting. I grabbed a box of target exclusive Panini Excalibur for right around $100. At that price point, I was under the impression that I was buying the top of the line in trading cards. Back in 1997, $100 was more than enough for the nicest box at the shop.

I had heard rumors of Panini and knew that they had an exclusive NBA deal, but I had no idea how big they were. At that point, I hadn't visited a local card shop, and quite frankly I didn't even think they were around anymore.

My son opened the box which contained 60 cards including 3 autographs or memorabilia on average. Jordan Adams, Joel Embiid and Bruno Caboclo were the notable hits. Sitting there watching him open these cards, I began to wonder what kind of cards he could possibly pull from this product. We immediately headed over to YouTube to see what we could find.

Searching "2014 Excalibur Basketball" opened the door and box breaks entered our world. Like most people, I didn't quite understand breaking at first. Why would someone pay someone else to open a box of cards for them? The best part of the hobby was hearing those packs pop, slowly revealing each card and seeing those refractors shine.

I did some more research and began to understand the appeal of buying teams in breaks and receiving only the cards from the team that you purchased. And my local team, the Indiana Pacers, were usually one of the cheaper teams available.

I stumbled upon Breakers.tv and jumped in to a few breaks to try it out for myself. I'll admit, it was exciting. It was really nerve racking as I began betting on cases and taking a chance. But at the same time, it was really exciting. Every box was an new opportunity. And somehow in the back of my mind, I kept thinking THE BIG ONE was in the next pack. Sure I won a few times, but in most cases I regretted the chances I took. But what happens when you lose at anything? You try again. Others are hitting, surely your next. At least that's how I justified it.

Here is where the story shifts. While I never had the resources to buy as much as I wanted to do to fulfill this guilty pleasure of mine, my mind shifted to how much money I could possibly make if I was the one on the other side of the camera. I mean after all, opening the actual cards was the best part of the hobby right?

If there is one thing I have learned over the last few years, it's the importance of being transparent with your struggles. It's an important part of the growth process. I have a brief disclaimer for the remainder of this article. My struggles might not be your struggles. By no way am I casting judgement on people that break, buy into breaks, or support this industry. I'm simply sharing my perspective and doing my best to shed light on the struggles I've faced along the way. There are some really fantastic breakers out there that run legitimate operations and are doing it the right way. There are also phenomenal people out there with the resources to participate in breaks. With that being said, here is the rest of the story.

In early 2016, just a few months after jumping back into the hobby, I started Wiley Breaks. I picked up a few cases of cards from a few different online retailers and jumped onto Breakers.tv. For the next 10 months I opened a lot of cards. There wasn't a Panini product that I wouldn't touch. Pretty much every new basketball release was on my store. I did my best to offer the lowest prices around. Even so much so that I rarely made up the cost of the case that I was breaking.

In my mind, I guess I had thought that it would be as simple as opening cases, sorting and shipping. There was one really important variable that I hadn't considered, people. As a breaker, I met some really great people that i'll likely be in contact with for years to come. People that I still text or hit up on Instagram to this day. There was the occasional rude customer from time to time, but for the most part, I'm thankful I was able to meet a new community of friends.

Throughout my time as a breaker, I struggled to fill cases quickly. I'd sit up in the evenings and do my best to fill as quickly as possible but the struggle was real. Often times I would get within three or four teams remaining and I'd either give a deep discount, take the teams myself, or push the break to the following evening.

If you've ever opened a box of cards yourself, it's very hit or miss. It's pretty rare that you'll pull a card that pays for the box. But every once in a blue moon you'll hit a monster. And man are there monsters out there. It's part of the appeal. I personally pulled the 2015 Karl-Anthony Towns 1/1 from Panini Prizm basketball. The odds of pulling a card like that are very very slim. That card simply put is the best card in the entire product.

Because of this, most of my customers went home empty handed. These were people that I liked. People that trusted me. People that spent money on cases that I had purchased. People that I texted with. People that had families. People that I called friend. And it wasn't like I was making money on this endeavor either, we were all in the same boat.

This is where my internal struggle began. The debt alone was troubling, but I kept telling myself I could crawl back from the deficit. Best case scenario I could profit $200 on a case. After fee's, taxes, supplies and shipping, I rarely broke even. The financial burden was building, but the emotional burden was too much to bear.

I can think of one moment in particular that became the tipping point. I had a customer contact me via email requesting that I send his cards to his office because his wife did not approve of his hobby. I was sickened when I read the email as I realized that i'm sure there were others that suffered from the same addiction. I saw many people come and go. People would buy into breaks for two or three months only to disappear. Guys would come in and drop thousands of dollars in desperation for that unicorn hit. Nobody really examined the odds.

Towards the end of my run, I tried my best to make things right. I'd send emails to all of my customers encouraging them to only participate if they could financially afford to. I encouraged those who were struggling with the addiction to walk away. I harped on the importance of family and honesty. I was speaking to myself just as much as I was speaking to my customers.

Ultimately, I closed shop less than a year after I had decided to open the business. I had to come to terms with the realization that while there were many healthy hobbyist I was interacting with, I was fueling the addictions of countless others.

So where does this lead me? In nearly one year of breaking cases, I felt terrible about the position I had put myself and others in. It's by the grace of God that I was financially able to recover from the situation I had put my family in.

The hobby doesn't have to be a dark place full of greed and jealousy. I've met some of the most incredible people who genuinely care for the well being of others. I've witnessed random acts of kindness. I've seen adults helping kids build their collections and i've seen kids paying it forward. That brings me a lot of hope. Hit me up anytime on Instagram @hardwoodhits, via private message here or simply continue the discussion below. I'd love to hear your perspective.

Last edited by HardwoodHits; 01-21-2018 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 01-21-2018, 10:35 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing your story. The gambling aspect of the hobby helps to add a lot of fun, but it really can get people in deep.
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Old 01-21-2018, 10:37 AM   #3
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Great perspective. Really appreciate you sharing. I don't think the awareness factor is high enough in the hobby. It can very easily turn into a gambling addiction that is written off under the term "hobby." Its by no means the breakers' fault or even responsibility, but I would like to see more of them call attention to the gambling nature of the hobby. I feel like a lot of them play into the "you only need 1 big hit" mentality just to move product. This forum doesn't help much either, just by default. So many stories of hitting long shots and not enough perspective on actual odds. Not anyone's fault, just how it is. I think we could use more attention on stories like this.
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Old 01-21-2018, 10:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcarado View Post
Great perspective. Really appreciate you sharing. I don't think the awareness factor is high enough in the hobby. It can very easily turn into a gambling addiction that is written off under the term "hobby." Its by no means the breakers' fault or even responsibility, but I would like to see more of them call attention to the gambling nature of the hobby. I feel like a lot of them play into the "you only need 1 big hit" mentality just to move product. This forum doesn't help much either, just by default. So many stories of hitting long shots and not enough perspective on actual odds. Not anyone's fault, just how it is. I think we could use more attention on stories like this.
Thanks for your encouragement. And yeah I totally agree with your points. I did the math on the odds of pulling that Karl-Anthony Towns 1/1 from Prizm, while the 1/1 odds average out to about 1 per 20 cases or so, the odds of pulling THAT EXACT CARD multiply greatly.

After breaking for nearly a year, I can only think of a handful of times where people hit cards worth thousands of dollars. Infact, the only person that profited at the end of their run was the one guy that pulled that Towns.

I don't think we do a good enough job in the community of addressing the real odds and providing help and support for those struggling with addictions. One of the main reasons I struggled filling breaks was because I did my best to encourage healthy financial decisions. It's not exactly good for "business" as a breaker to give people the actual odds. It's those breakers that push towards the NEXT BIG PULL that fill breaks quickly providing the next high.
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Old 01-21-2018, 11:11 AM   #5
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What did that KAT sell for? Unlike gambling at least I have the cards I opened or purchased. I will admit that I felt like I was way into searching out the next card I “needed” and needed to chill. I was also playing catch up because I had been away for so many years. Even if I overpay for a single it’s still way cheaper than buying box after box.
I now mostly buy singles and buy a box or three when the price is right and my son is bothering me to bust some wax.
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Old 01-21-2018, 11:19 AM   #6
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While gambling and the related addiction exist, this is still the systemic problem of the lost art of collecting cards to just collect. It can be a team, a player, or a set, but focus is what keeps the pursuit in perspective and when to call the breaks off and move on safely, both financially and mentally. I collected all over the place for many years and there was a point where the monthly costs were just painful to talk about. I changed my perspective last year and month by month it’s getting better and leaner to live within and enjoy the hobby without the expenses killing you.

You brought up getting nothing for the price of the break or hinging on the next big pull despite super odds, and the focus of collecting your favorite team, player, or set eliminates this habitual appetite for finding a $1000 card to be happy. Now, the addiction and perpetual gambling is a mental disorder and there are groups to counsel about that. It’s similar to hoarding and overplaying the casino.

Sorry to see your biz didn’t work out, but separating what you can control and what you can’t (people and their problems) is essential to life in general.
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Old 01-21-2018, 11:41 AM   #7
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Wow. Thank you for your very honest and frank retrospective of your journey. You definitely brought up some things I had never considered before, especially from the breakers point-of-view.

I'm curious where you are now with the hobby.
Casual collector?
Done completely?

...and, always great to see another Hoosier on the forums!
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Old 01-21-2018, 12:21 PM   #8
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This thread deserves to be in the Basketball Hobby section, not this dark hole where nobody can read it. Great read OP
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Old 01-21-2018, 12:24 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by IndyKMB View Post
Wow. Thank you for your very honest and frank retrospective of your journey. You definitely brought up some things I had never considered before, especially from the breakers point-of-view.

I'm curious where you are now with the hobby.
Casual collector?
Done completely?

...and, always great to see another Hoosier on the forums!
Thanks for your feedback. I base my collection around Gordon Hayward and have pretty much focused on picking up singles. I still love picking up boxes for special occasions or birthdays but 90% of the time, I end up being disappointed at the outcome and wish I had just put the cash towards picking up a card that I like. I actually picked up a box of Prizm with Christmas cash this year and found myself feeling that "I need a big card to sell" begin to creep in. I don't participate in group breaks anymore simply for the fact that for me personally, they feel like more of an addiction. Same reason some people can't drink and some people can.

I love the hobby and as a father of four, I feel like I have a responsibility to help lead them and be open and transparent with my own person struggle. My oldest son and I collect Oladipo and Hayward. We tend to stick to non-memorabilia cards. I'm trying to teach him the value of holding onto a card long term vs. constantly trying to flip for profit. It's really easy to always focus on the next best thing instead of being thankful for what you have.

My love for the hobby has shifted towards preservation of personal collections and out of that idea, I launched HardwoodHits.com. I sell wooden stands that hopefully help people enjoy the cards they own.
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Old 01-21-2018, 01:43 PM   #10
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Thank you for presenting such an important topic in a well-versed manner.

I really hope the moderators and the owners of this web site don't try to take down this thread because of the nature of the topic. Several posters have been threatened with ban hammers because it irks the management to discuss the gambling aspect of the hobby, unfortunately.

I think the emergence of group breaks has made it too easy to spend too much money in a short period of time.

That's why i've stuck with breaking by myself - in a way it controls what I have access to and how much I can spend in one binge.

Online breaks allow you to electronically pay for breaks 24hr a day, like a casino.

If I am to be threatened to be banned for making this comparison, please give me a warning at least, I'm still technically encouraging people to buy wax to slow down their addiction.
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Old 01-21-2018, 01:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hermanotarjeta View Post
Thank you for presenting such an important topic in a well-versed manner.

I really hope the moderators and the owners of this web site don't try to take down this thread because of the nature of the topic. Several posters have been threatened with ban hammers because it irks the management to discuss the gambling aspect of the hobby, unfortunately.

I think the emergence of group breaks has made it too easy to spend too much money in a short period of time.

That's why i've stuck with breaking by myself - in a way it controls what I have access to and how much I can spend in one binge.

Online breaks allow you to electronically pay for breaks 24hr a day, like a casino.

If I am to be threatened to be banned for making this comparison, please give me a warning at least, I'm still technically encouraging people to buy wax to slow down their addiction.
You really think you’d be banned for that?

B-ball collectors are a weird bunch.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:00 PM   #12
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You really think you’d be banned for that?

B-ball collectors are a weird bunch.
They watch you like hawks in the Baseball section.

The basketball boards are like inmates running the prison compared to the BB section.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:10 PM   #13
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It can be addicting. The odds are even worse than in the casino.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:26 PM   #14
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I was spending about $1500 a week on boxes and finally got away from it thank god. Then my friend passed away and his family asked me to look thru his cards to help pay for funeral and stuff. Well they didnt tell me they let the kids get to the cards first. He had every good rookie card from the 60’s to the 2000’s. Every single good card was gone. Only stuff was basic base cards. Anyway in this period i decided to buy a pack for the hell of it at walmart and pulled a alex gordon cut out card. Cant remember what brand but sold it for $200. Pulled me right back into a $1500 week habit for another 2 years. Finally got out again when the building i had my oil change in sold and i was kicked out. Here i am 7 yrs later and again im into it but no where near what i was. I like getting in on case breaks and a box here and there. I think i now have control over my habit. Lol. Yes its addicting but i LOVE it anyway.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:28 PM   #15
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Great read, as said above, this should be in the hobby talk section.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:58 PM   #16
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Excellent post! I find myself in swings - months of no activity and then a couple months of heavy purchases only to try and make a profit on that product. After all is said in done, it was fun but there is no chance at making a quick buck. And then in retrospect, I think of all the things that could have been purchased with that cash. Total buyers remorse. Live and learn!
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Old 01-21-2018, 03:48 PM   #17
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Thanks for sharing. My opinion has always been that group breaking is toxic. Never seen the appeal.
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Old 01-21-2018, 04:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
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It can be addicting. The odds are even worse than in the casino.
Not even close. The odds in the casino are much, much better if you play the right games and have strict discipline.
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Old 01-21-2018, 04:52 PM   #19
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Amazing post, thank you for sharing your story.
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Old 01-21-2018, 05:10 PM   #20
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I broke with you often and was sorry to see you go.
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Old 01-21-2018, 05:42 PM   #21
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Amazing post, thank you for sharing your story.
Thanks! It's important that we have these conversations. Glad to meet you.
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Old 01-21-2018, 06:00 PM   #22
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Thanks for your story, OP.

I also had my moment of clarity regarding box breaking as well. Thankfully I never went deep into debt or spent more than I could afford, and I never really got into higher-end boxes (i.e. $100+/box), and so I thought it was fine.

I'd buy a few boxes every few weeks and wouldn't think too much about it, but those $50 boxes add up. You buy a few per month, and you're looking at probably a $4k+/year habit. Yea, you can sell off some of the cards, but you rarely break even, much less turn a profit.

And even if you hit a nice one, then what? You have to get fleeced by ebay, then shipping, then dealing with potential scammers that buy your card.

It's just not worth it. I basically quit cold turkey - the only buying I do these days is when my COMC account gets up enough to where I cash out for BC gift certificates. I'm basically out of the game now in terms of buying with money out of pocket, and I find that I'm much happier.
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Old 01-21-2018, 07:19 PM   #23
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Yup, the manufacturers had to do this in the early 90's because the industry was not doing as well and had to implement something to boost sales - Lots of people my age were very disgusted with the over production of cards - They know EXACTLY what they are doing and if you have an addictive personality, cards are not something I would probably get into - You have to have self control
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Old 01-21-2018, 07:21 PM   #24
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Hey man. Good to see you here.

I appreciate your perspective immensely. It motivates me to share some of what I’ve seen in my 30 year run in our hobby. We all have some very real obsessive nature within ourselves. And this hobby brings that to the surface. I’ve seen dozens of people’s lives tarnished by the hobby. On the other side, I’ve made hundreds of friendships and spent so much time doing something that I love.

At the end of the day... I’d give three pieces of advice.

1. Don’t spend more time or money than you’re willing to lose. Read that again. Follow it.

2. Buy what YOU like. People are always chasing the next big thing. Don’t. Don’t buy crap you don’t like because you think you’ll make money. I know it’s tempting. Don’t do it.

3. Let your spouse/significant other know what’s up. That’s right. Be honest w them. If you’re not on the same page with those things, then spend time on your relationship. Because cards are just cards. It’s fun. But it doesn’t really matter in the end.

Thanks again op for the post. Good thoughts.

Adam
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Old 01-21-2018, 07:28 PM   #25
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My take on box breaking is this.

IF you HAVE to sell what you pulled instantly after breaking, for financial reasons.....then you cannot afford to break.
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