We talk a lot about how case breaking can allow collectors to acquire cards from a certain product instead of having to shell out money for the entire box. They can reserve a spot in advance either through selection or through a random process by participating in a group break. We all know by now, several of them signed up to do breaks at the National this year and it was heavily promoted, although we’re not yet sure how successful the idea was. Competition among breakers is stiff indeed.
While as both a prospective client and as a possible breaker I would prefer a totally random selection, there are some breakers who do allow teams to be selected in advance and possibly even at different price points depending on the team and the players involved.
The next step after case breaking might be ‘set breaking’. Find a set and then break it randomly for a profit and give everyone an equal chance at the "key" cards. It may only work for certain sets with cards that are highly sought after, but it’s an interesting concept and we’ve seen it happen recently with a 1986-87 Fleer basketball set that was broken and distributed. A smaller, valuable set like that seems ideal but others would be candidates.
To give a simplistic example, a complete 1952 Topps set graded PSA 8 was sold in its entirety at auction several years ago. To make our example easier to understand, let's say the winner of the set paid $307,000 for it and then and charged collectors $1000 per card to enter the drawing. With 407 cards in the set, that would give the set breaker a $100,000 profit before any expenses.
And while I realize many of us don’t have $1,000 lying around to take a chance on the Mantle card which would be the big winner, but there are many other cards which would bring a decent return for your investment. In fact, I always thought many dealers missed out on a great marketing opportunity when the Barry Halper collection was auctioned off about 15 years ago. To me, and I think I posted this on some hobby message board of that time, a sharp dealer would have bought those sets, which did not sell for a great deal of money, put all the cards in envelopes along with a video showing that was done, and then selling the cards randomly.
I remember my dad having a couple of cheaper stamps from back in the day which were certified as being from the King Farouk collection and I always that was such a cool item to have. And I would have been thrilled to have a small piece of the famed Barry Halper collection when it was sold.
So, my opinion is that you can adjust the monies to a level where most people would join. I think just about pre-1974 set can work and even a whole group of sets after that as well. Many sets would likely require only a $2-3 buy in and most can afford that. It can be a headache for 500+ cards but keep in mind many collectors would purchase multiple slots.
Legal issues? That’s something that would need to be thoroughly investigated before anyone opted to do it on a regular basis, but I suspect it could be done. And in thinking about this, I'm pretty sure that back in the 1980's some dealers actually did this with some sets while set up at various shows. So once again, everything old is coming back around again.
So I have two questions for you: The first is what do you think of this concept? Secondly, if you approve, what sets would you break in this way? My email appears at the bottom of this column.