No longer just an old schoolboy hobby, sports card collecting has reached an unprecedented surge of interest in recent years, thanks to the Internet. The latest craze? Watching someone open up a pack of baseball cards live in front of an online audience.

The Covid-19 pandemic barred many sports card enthusiasts from visiting their local hobby shops. What was left was a gaping void, a desperate and very human need for community. Card collectors frequented these establishments not only to purchase a coveted sports card, but to chat all things cards with the store owner. 

When you merge an All-American hobby with the popularity of YouTube unboxing product videos, you get a new pastime that is part ritual, part treasure hunt, and part performance. This new form of entertainment is called Box Breaking.  

What Is Box Breaking And How Does It Work?

When a card enthusiast is interested in a certain type of card, and not just the random selection included in a single pack, they search for a reputable breaker business online. On the breaker website they will find a listing of card cases at various price points. 

The customer then buys into what is called a “group break”, this is essentially a case that will be opened for a group of customers who will share the cards. This is done by team. 

For example, one customer may buy all the LA Dodgers cards, another may buy all the NY Yankees cards. At much more affordable prices, others might buy all the Royals cards, and so on.  

Cases can be divided by boxes or randomly, until all individual slots have been sold for the entire set. Finally, the breaker opens the boxes and shows the cards to an audience on a livestream as customers hope to see their cards appear before their screen. 

These livestreams can happen on social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook. Thousands tune in to watch someone flip through sports cards for hours. 

These livestreams are far from dull and formulaic as hundreds of viewers chime in on the live chat, making commentary and cracking jokes. 

After the live stream is over, the breaker sorts all the cards in the boxes and mails the cards to the customers. 

Why Has Sports Card Collecting Reached a Fever Pitch?

The pandemic and the subsequent government-mandated lockdowns brought the US economy to a screeching halt, producing rampant unemployment and impacting small businesses. Hobby and sports card collecting shops were impacted as they were forced to shut down or constrained to operate at a very limited level.  

Added to the mix were strict social distancing orders and the elimination of all group gatherings. This broke sports card collector communities apart. 

Box breaking allows card collectors to regain a sense of community by moving the thrill of opening card packs at their local store to online. 

Heads of box breaking companies have also mentioned that the lack of live professional sports for months on end created a need for an outlet to trade their cards. 

Mike Jaspersen, co-founder of Jaspy’s Case Breaks, said that at the start of the pandemic in mid-March of 2020, their revenue doubled due to the stay-at-home regulations nationwide. 

Jaspersen said:

“People weren’t working, they weren’t leaving the house, there was no sports, there was no DraftKings.  It’s entertainment — people stream it on their TV.”

Chris Justice, owner of Cards Infinity, experienced a 25% increase in his business since the pandemic-driven lockdown in mid-March. He also saw a 15-20% increase in new customers. His livestream break viewership has also doubled. This has been seen across the board with many breaker businesses. 

The Sports Card Industry Has Matured

The baseball card industry saw a drop in domestic sales from $1 billion in the ‘80s to the early ‘90’s to $200 million in 2012. Although primarily driven by box breaking, the card market owes its unprecedented comeback to online retail. Collectors are now seeing sports cards as a significant “alternative investment.”

According to Sports Collectors Daily, eBay’s sports category sales from the months of March to May 2020 were reportedly 92% higher than the last three months of 2019. Basketball cards experienced the greatest increase in sales. 

Recently the card of celebrated basketball star Lebron James sold for a whopping $5.2 million dollars. It was the most expensive basketball card ever sold. 

So why are these cards commanding such a high ticket price?

According to serial entrepreneur and collector Gary Vaynerchuk:

“Good old-fashioned supply and demand – it’s as simple as it gets. LeBron, Luka… somebody plays extremely well, people then want that player and then that player inevitably has cards which were produced in very low production and are very limited.”

Another critical element that grants the card its value is its current condition. There are third-party companies that exist solely to authenticate and grade the card’s condition, using a 10-point grading scale. 

Don’t Stay In The Fringes: Get A Box Breaking Merchant Account

It is clear that this “old-school hobby” is now an exploding market that is highly lucrative as it becomes more mainstream. Breaker businesses are now partnering up with the major producers of sports cards such as Topps and Panini to reach a bigger audience.  

Box breaking has become the future of sports card collecting. 

With the complexities of launching any online business, a merchant should be fully aware of its implications and will need to seek out a reputable and trustworthy box breaking merchant account. This merchant account should be able to handle the sheer volume of sales while keeping customers’ credit card information safe. 

If you are a merchant that is considering getting in on this highly lucrative online business, look no further than contacting Pinwheel for all your credit card processing needs. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re just a phone call away

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