Since it became a thing back somewhere in the early 2010s, I’ve written about breaks, breakers and the breaking business. I’ve watched breaks. I’ve heard about big hits in big breaks and shared the news. I’ve seen those big hits go for big bucks.
Not until Tuesday evening, however, have I ever actually… broken. Most breaks are about modern hits and I usually swing more from the vintage side. What happened is a reminder of why.
My inaugural breaking experience did not go well and reminded me why when it comes to the hobby—even after being in it for what seems like about 150 years and writing about it for a about 125—I can still make bad choices.
Armed with a $100 credit on the Loupe app and about 15 rare minutes of downtime, I purchased five spots in a 2023 Topps Archives Signature Series break being offered through one breaker on the platform. There were ten spots—a half case—being offered. I decided to buy five spots. The deal with the credit I’d gotten via a PSA membership was that you had to spend ten bucks to get your $100 credit but in this particular case, you could only buy one spot at a time. So…I spent $50 and used $80 of my free credit. Not a great start.
The break soon filled and it was time to see those ten boxes ripped.
First, I was awarded my five teams via random draw. When a player from one of those teams came out of the box, he would be mine. The checklist wasn’t terrific, but hey, it would be fun—and I could finally say I’d participated. I liked the one card per box simplicity and how fast it would go. I didn’t have all night.
The breaker went through the ten boxes and pulled some decent and not so decent autographs but not one player from one of the five teams I was assigned had emerged.
The break was over– and then it hit me. There was never a guarantee I’d get anything for my 50 bucks (which would have been $155.94 had I not had any credit to spend) and that’s exactly what had happened.
I could sense the broadcast was coming to an end so I quickly typed a message telling the breaker I was new at this, didn’t get anything and was just wondering… what happens now?
The breaker quickly mumbled something like “Yeah, sorry, we’ll maybe toss you some packs or something. We really don’t want people to walk away empty handed. But with these single card breaks like this and Flawless and some others, that’s kind of the way it works, not everyone gets something.”
He quickly logged off.
It would seem like some free break credit or a few packs would have been the least a breaker can do for those who get shut out in these situations and that should be said up front.
It was a rookie mistake, I guess. I should have thought about the math before buying in. For the price they were charging per spot I should have realized it was a possibility. The spot cost was less than the cost of the box. But breakers sometimes do promotional events or get some fantastic deals on boxes. I’d always assumed that something that bad just didn’t happen anymore, now that the break business has supposedly matured a little. It just never entered my mind there was a decent chance I’d flush 50 bucks down the toilet.
The thing is there was no disclaimer anywhere—written or spoken before the break —that if I bought in and my team didn’t exist among the ten boxes in the break that I’d get absolutely nothing for my money. I’m no lawyer but that seems like a potential problem to me, depending on the state where a breaker is located. Sign up for a break and you don’t sign anything stating you accept the risk.
I can tell you that as a first-time break buyer, I was completely turned off. Most importantly, I have to believe that there are plenty of complete hobby newbies who come into breaks and make a similar mistake or are confused as to exactly what it is they’re buying, what their odds are of pulling anything worthwhile, etc. They just want to get in on the action. How many do you think may have tried it since the pandemic boom, didn’t understand the odds well and were thus permanently soured on it? Too many breakers are consumed with inside jokes and nonsensical banter to offer product information and explain the parameters of each break.
I mean, there are far better ways to blow that much money. Toss 50 bucks into a dollar machine at the casino over the course of ten minutes and it’s not likely you’ll lose everything. The one- armed bandit usually tosses back at least few coins here and there.
We’ll see if the company follows through on their promise to send some consolation packs but I’m not holding my breath. I’m not going to “out” them here because I’m sure it’s standard practice for other breakers, too. Undoubtedly, more experienced customers understand the risks. Why they’re willing to take it—multiple times—is beyond me.
I know there are collectors—even those who break regularly—who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in the course of a couple weeks and wind up with virtually nothing to show for it even if the odds are a little better. Sure, there are big hits that come out of breaks but the odds make it pretty clear that most who buy in aren’t coming out ahead.
I know some appreciate the chance to connect online with other collectors on any given evening and feel entertained but the actual experience for anyone who participates should be better than what happened to me, shouldn’t it? I know there are great breakers with great reputations who do whatever they can to make customers happy and construct breaks and costs so that no one gets skunked or nearly skunked. Good for them. That’s smart business. Breaks should be constructed to where that possibility is minimized or eliminated. The more you help those who patronize your company at least feel like they didn’t lose their shirt the more likely they are to return. Basic stuff.
Ah, well. It’s not the first time I’ve lost money in the hobby and it probably won’t be the last.
At least I’ve still got $20 credit left.