Ramblings: Case Breaking Pavilion a Good Idea

There is always a tipping point when a concept or a type of merchandise has taken the hobby by such storm that a separate pavilion is created for the National. Sometimes the idea is one which makes perfect sense such as the separate Olympic memorabilia pavilion.  Sometimes these rooms are created to deal with a new heavily collected item. Yes, beanie babies were so popular at one time that even the National Sports Collectors Convention gave them their own room. To me in retrospect, that seems like the Billboard Disco Awards of 1979 when disco seemed to be taking over pop music. Well, there was never a second Billboard Disco award ceremony nor was there a second Beanie Baby room.

Rich Ramblings 2014However, the latest pavilion created for the National Convention does make sense. A Case Breaking Pavilion will be part of the show floor in Cleveland, a separate area for what’s become a bit of a hobby phenomenon over the last few years. There are a few things to understand about case breaking at any show which is 1) you need room to do it and 2) it helps to have them in public so there is no suspicion of the best cards not being pulled in an honest fashion.

2014 Topps Heritage boxDone right, I’m a big fan of case breaks for collectors and dealers. I’ll use Topps Heritage as an example. I checked case prices from a leading hobby retailer before I began writing this (and we understand this issue has now been out for a few months) and the cost with the cheapest shipping was approximately $70 per box or $850 for a case.

If I had a store I would probably have to put those boxes out at $100 each and hope they sell where if I did a case break at $40 per team, I’d make the same amount of money—maybe more.  For many collectors the concept of spending $40 for a chance at a hit works out better than spending $100 for a box where you only are guaranteed one hit, which in many cases is a relic card worth maybe $5 on the secondary market.

For dealers, the only drawback is there is some extra work involved in breaking down the case into team order and prepping those cards for shipment but there is the guarantee of getting their monies back in one fell swoop. In addition, collectors feel less of a pinch at $40 per team.  You get fewer cards, of course, but there’s less risk if hits are what you’re after.

As a dealer, I want to ensure that all my teams are drawn randomly rather than by team draft as I want all my customers to feel they have the same equal shot at a good card.

caseCase breaks are actually sort of a return to the past, even if the method of distribution is different.  Years ago, when I worked at Beckett, we used the pricing data of dealers like Neil Hoppenworth, Gary Walter, Gerry Guenther and many others who broke cases and sold individual cards, team sets and larger lots through hobby publications. We would use their prices, sometimes even calling for the latest information on current cards. It was a key part of how we gathered pricing for the old Beckett Baseball issues. Dealers such as those who were out there selling to the public on a daily basis offered one of our best ways of getting an idea of what cards were in demand.

And when you talked to these dealers and others every month like I did, you got a pretty good understanding of their case breaks and what they pulled. I remember that some of the smaller sets would have perhaps one or two players from the Kansas City Royals and sometimes it would take a full year for a collector to hit the $100 mark in new cards purchased from that specific team.  Yes, for those who doubted what we said, in my days at Beckett we really did speak to many case breakers such as the ones I mentioned and other dealers such as Lisa Stellato, Ted Straka and Eddie Silard and we always used their information with respect since they were retailing their cards.

Today, the concept of case breaking has now evolved and as I have written, this concept has shot new life into the hobby. I always believed my local  should have been more aggressive about the case breaking aspect and done those a bit more, To me, the chance for one of his customers to pull a major hit for minimum money would only add to the store’s appeal. I think, that done right, case breaks can add a lot to shows or stores. I know we had a prospective case breaker for our first Plano Card Show at Adat Chaverim and I will reach out to him before our second show on August 31 as we have plenty of classrooms where he can hold court. In fact, if anyone is interested in using our show as a meeting place for case breaks on show day, we’ll be happy to accommodate you in exchange for a donation.  Drop me a note if you’re interested.

And as for me, my LCS has only done one case break and I was lucky enough to pull an autograph from Bowman.  Although it was not one of the big name,I knew the draw was done honestly so I was happy with what I received. And the cost for that was even less than a full box. A chance to dream for a price less than a hobby box sounds more and more like a winner to me. I hope for all concerned the case break pavilion does well at the National and maybe we’ll see it become a fixture.