6 months ago, you couldn’t find a box break that wasn’t already sold out. It seemed box breakers couldn’t bring the product(s) in fast enough to support the demand. Prospective buyers would flock to multiple breakers to scoop up their favorite team(s) and/or the team(s) with the hot and upcoming prospects.
The Nationals (Harper) and Angels (Trout) were gone as soon as they were listed on the web site of the breaker. The Colts (Luck) and Redskins (Griffin) were gone before the breaker hit refresh on their latest listing.
It seemed every day, no less than 5 new breakers, were following me on Twitter and asking me to peruse their web site for all the latest products and deals. People that had little, to no business, breaking boxes came out of the wood work.
Maybe I am mistaken. Maybe I just got a false sense of the direction of the online portion of the hobby. However, it seems over the past 2 months or so, box breaking has slowed quite a bit. Is it because of the change of weather? Folks are out with their families more?! I doubt it. Ebay sales have seemed to screech to a halt as well. More families are spending less on hobbies these days.
It’s not just trading cards either. I was speaking with my dad the other day about hobbies in general. He mentioned that toy trains (his poison of choice) has seen a drastic dip in both online sales as well as the overall value of the product. Trains that once sold for $100 are being listed at auction beginning at $0.99. The seller is ecstatic to get rid of the item for $10! Can you imagine selling a low-grade 1969 Mickey Mantle card for $10? Can you imagine being happy that you got that much?
Talking to multiple local collectors, there seems to be zero interest in group breaking at the moment. Even in person where there is instant gratification. No one wants to spend good money without any guarantees of getting a decent return on investment (ROI). It’s hard enough to sell them a box that guarantees them 3 autos for $100. There’s no guarantees those autos will be worth than the cost of 1 pack combined.
Box breaking has become a rich man’s game. Another way to gamble, while gaining a tangible asset. Even if you get skunked in a break, you still do get “something”. But for the average collector on a moderate hobby budget… A $30 gamble is a huge potential loss. Especially now that most breakers have went to a random team format.
Why have they went the route of a random team format? Well, because… Um… No one wants the Marlins. Or Padres. Or Astros. Or Twins. Or… you get the point. There is a half dozen teams that a small group of collectors want for their personal collection. Yet, for the guy with $100 a month to spend on cards, spending $25 on a random team break and ending up with the Marlins doesn’t seem like a good ROI. And if the breaker sells the break by team, then they won’t sell the same group of 6-8 teams.
I recently found myself bored and looking for something to do. I got into a small, affordable, break. I bought 3 spots for $18. There was only 1 box being opened, so my chances of getting a decent ROI were below-average at best. I was randomed the Marlins, Padres and Tigers. The product being broken (2013 Bowman) was not terribly impressive for any of those teams. So before the box had even been broken, I realized I essentially flushed $18 down the toilet. The end result? A pile of base cards and 1 gold parallel that I would be lucky to sell on ebay for $0.99.
As the initial excitement of online box breaking started to wane… I believe collectors started getting smart about their money. “Why spend $30 for a random team (on the chances they may get a ROI) and if I get something good, I can sell/trade it for something I do want”. Why not just spend the $30 now? Buy packs at a LCS if you want the thrill of “gambling”? Buy an individual card(s) for my personal collection. Spend the money on something I know I want that I can appreciate more than a random stack of cards.
Sure the Live Case Breaks and Mojo Breaks of the world will always be around. I am sure you can always find a box break to get into if the fancy strikes. I predict the number of box breakers that will start to close up shop will increase over the next few months. They had there 15 minutes of fame and their day in the sun… I believe collectors have become smarter with their resources. I believe a lot of folks have realized their money is better spent on certainty as opposed to chance.
The days of “Boom! I just nailed a $60 auto” are over. Since it cost that collector $400 to finally get something good.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe it’s just me that changed my perspective. I just don’t think so. And if I am wrong… If breaks are still selling out as strong as ever… then enjoy your ever-growing stacks of random base cards and $2 autos… While my personal collection continues to grow… and grow… and grow…