What are “Group Breaks” and Should I Join?
One of the most exciting evolutions of the sports card hobby in the 21st Century is the advent of sports card group breaks or group breaking, as it’s usually known.
If you’ve been itching to get back into the sports card hobby or are just a sports fan looking for a new way to follow your favorite team or player, group breaks are a great way to get in the mix.
If you are unfamiliar with how group breaking works, here’s a quick guide.
What is a “Group Break”?
Group breaks are a group of people pooling their money to buy an entire case of sports cards. Some cases can be quite expensive, especially those guaranteeing a certain amount of memorabilia and autographs per case. A group break distributes the cost across a group of customers.
Once the breakers open a case of cards, they distribute the cards among the group. Breakers determine the distribution through a pre-arranged stake held by each participant. Sometimes team assignment is based on which team you purchased (“pick-your-team” breaks), while other times, breakers perform a random team draw (“random-team” breaks).
In a “pick-your-team” group break, team prices vary based on several factors. Teams with top-tier rookies (think Joe Burrow or Zion Williamson) and teams with popular veterans (think Kansas City Chiefs or New York Yankees) will cost the most. Meanwhile, teams with lower-tier rookies or with a lower number of “hits” (autographs or jersey cards) will cost the least.
In a “random-team” break, the participants divide the case’s cost by the total number of teams (30 in a case of MLB cards, 32 for a case of NFL cards, etc.), and everyone pays a flat rate. All participants are then randomly assigned a team in the break.
How Does it Cost to Join a Group Break?
The hobby is changing every day, but generally speaking, you can get in most group breaks for between $50 and $100. Some higher value cases can be as much as $200-250.
There are also “multi-box” or “multi-case” breaks involving more than one case of cards, which increases the cost but gives you more chances to get a “hit.” One online breaker frequently hosts 40-50 box breaks with an entry price of around $600 per spot.
While there may be some sticker shock with those prices, keep in mind that you are still paying less than you would if you bought an entire case of cards or even a single box. A 12-box case of 2020 Panini Prizm Football costs about $13,000, and most online retailers sell single boxes for around $1,100.
But getting into a “random-team” style group case break of Prizm football costs only around $180-200 dollars, depending on the group breaker. For a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay for an entire box or case of Prizm, you can put your stake in part of a case and still have a chance to hit something nice.
Card manufacturers like Topps, Panini, and Upper Deck put out dozens of products in all the major sports every year, at various price points, so there’s no end to the possibilities for collectors. Group breakers have responded by providing many different kinds of breaks to buy into, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that fits your price range.
How Does a Group Break Work?
Most group breakers advertise their breaks on their websites, while some sell their spots on eBay. Once you buy into a break, you should receive information on when and where the breakers will stream it live.
Almost every group breaker broadcasts the break live, either on YouTube, Facebook, Periscope, Instagram, or elsewhere. Depending on the type of break, you may want to watch and comment on it live or want to catch the recap later.
Most hobbyists agree that there’s nothing quite like watching a case of sports cards opened up live. You never know what might come out of the case or what unique cards you might pull.
What Cards Will I Get?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that every case of sports cards is different. Manufacturers pack boxes of cards at random.
You may buy into a group break and end up with very little. Or even nothing at all. However, most breakers include “skunk protection” (“skunk” is a popular industry term for when you hit nothing in a break) to help ease the pain of spending the cash and coming up empty.
You will more than likely walk away from a group break with a few more cards to add to your collection, plus a great experience in the process. Most breakers keep their group breaks fun and exciting, adding some flair to the live stream.
Then there’s the chance you walk away from the break with a rare, high-value card, like this Justin Herbert Silver Prizm, which sold for around $5,000 on eBay recently. Plenty of group break fans love the chase of hitting those rare cards, and it keeps them coming back for more.
While you should never expect to hit anything huge in a group break, it makes the experience very memorable when you do it. Many breakers keep a gallery of “big hits” on their website, commemorating the break and granting customers eternal bragging rights.
In the end, group breaks primarily provide a new way to appreciate sports. Whether you want to collect cards of your favorite team or player or take a chance at a high-priced, up-and-coming rookie, these breaks open up a new world of possibilities for sports fans.