A trip to a sports card shop turned into an afternoon to remember for a young collector in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Chris Justice, who has been running daily box breaks through his Cards Infinity site for eight years, was doing his usual 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. live session on Tuesday when David Hawa walked into the store with his 11-year-old son, Alec.
“They were looking around, and he (Alec) was being really cool and nice,” Justice said.
The Hawa family had moved to Wilmington from Conway, South Carolina, on January 29. David had the day off from his job as an ultrasound tech at a local hospital, so he decided to take Alec to Justice’s shop, The Hobby Box. After some pleading, David decided to buy a hobby box of Topps Chrome Football. It was the first hobby box for Alec, who began collecting six months ago with whatever money he can scrape together.
“He talked me into buying the cheapest box,” David said.
What happened over the next few hours would be mind-blowing, as 33 collectors combined to buy Alec $1,129.50 worth of product.
“It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Justice said. “These guys were spending their hard-earned money. I couldn’t believe it.
“Everyone kept buying boxes and saying ‘This is for the kid in the orange shirt.’”
Justice’s shop is set up so that his viewers on his streaming channel can watch customers break boxes live on a “breaker table,” so a “room” of about 150 collectors got to watch Alec’s reaction while he opened the Topps Chrome.
“I was in the back uploading videos when I got a phone call,” Justice said. “He said everyone in the YouTube room wanted to buy (Alec) a box.”
So, some of the collectors chipped in with money and gift certificates to buy Alec a box of 2015 Platinum football.
That opened the floodgates.
As Alec was opening his gift, more money was donated — $50, $25, $10, $10, $10, another $50 — until $193 more had been pledged.
With that cash — and the money that kept pouring in — Alec was able to buy another box of Platinum and 2014 Topps Museum Football.
“I never would have expected people to be so generous,” Alec said. “Inside, I was jumping for joy.”
“It was incredible,” said David, who never collected cards but said he thought it would be a good hobby for his son. “I was shocked. Their generosity was incredible.”
Alec confessed at first that he didn’t realize he was on a live feed as he opened packs. He figured it out after people began commenting on some of the cards he was pulling.
One was an Andrew Luck rookie autograph redemption card from Certified football. “I didn’t even know what it was,” Alec said, “but in chat they had huge capital letters going OMG.”
Alec’s favorite players are Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and newly minted Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis. He had good luck (pun not intended) in pulling some of their cards, including a Beckham rookie patch card from 2014 Platinum and a Bettis dual jersey autograph card from Upper Deck’s 2013 Ultimate Collection.
He also pulled a 1/1 Dion Jordan rookie card — also from Ultimate Collection — and a Blake Bortles from 2014 Playbook.
“He also pulled a sick logo patch card of (Bucs tight end) Austin-Seferian Jenkins,” Justice said.
In case you’re wondering whether Alec might go to eBay to sell some of those big hits—the Luck card, for instance, could fetch $500 or more — his father said no way.
“No sale,” David said. “These are Alec’s cards.”
At one point, Justice said, Upper Deck Marketing and Social Media Manager Chris Carlin entered the chat room and “was dumbfounded” by what he was seeing. When Carlin took to Twitter to tweet about it, Justice said, it swelled the room to more than 200 viewers. Later, Justice shared Alec’s experiences on Facebook, where it received more than 500 likes and 40 shares.
Leave it to videos and social media for a story to go viral.
Justice has been on the cutting edge of Internet technology since opening his shop in March 2006. He quickly realized that regular customers and walk-ins were not going to sustain his business, so he turned to video.
“I was like one of the originals,” he said.
Justice may not have been the first dealer to use the Internet for box breaks, but he certainly refined the art.
“I came up with the idea of videotaping in March 2007,” he said. “I’d upload a video, I thought it was fun. Then I saw some live breaks but they weren’t very good, they’d run forever and the people would show every base card they pulled. Boring.”
So Justice decided to go live and pepper his box breaks with jokes and dialogue. It caught on.
“Now, everyone and their grandma is doing it,” he said.
His epic day finished, with more than 20 boxes of cards in his possession, Alec came home with his father and showed off his swag to his mother, who was aghast.
“She said ‘Oh my God, what have you done?” David laughed. “And I said ‘nope, I spent 40 dollars.’”
For a parent trying to get his son interested in the hobby, it was money well spent.
And for those 33 collectors who donated so much cash, they got nothing in return monetarily — but certainly, the smile on Alec’s face was worth the cost.