Sports Card Stores Are Being Burglarized At An Alarming Rate In Florida 

August 25, 2023

There have been a large amount of sports card shop break-ins since 2020. Over the last few months, these burglaries have primarily occurred in Florida.

Another trend we have noticed is that the burglaries started as primitive smash-and-grab affairs, some failing spectacularly. However, they have become increasingly sophisticated. For more, read our coverage of the sports card burglaries increase in Florida.

The increase in sports card burglaries in Florida

A rash of break-ins to card stores has been reported in the area of Boca Raton. We are aware of two stores that have been hit. One is South Florida Baseball Cards, located in Delray Beach, Florida. The other is Boca Sports Cards, which is home in Boca Raton on Marina Boulevard.

There may be other shops that have been hit as well. The police have yet to release any details, so we probably don’t know much.

 It appears that the person involved is specifically targeting hobby shops. Surveillance footage has shown the alleged culprit drive up in a jeep with no license plates. They then circumvent the security system in South Florida Baseball Cards and Boca Sports Cards.

After the burglaries, we spoke with Mark Zarafu, the owner of South Florida Baseball Cards, about the break-in. He has been in the business since 1993 and was very upset that his place of business was hit.

He said that he would do whatever it takes to get the person involved. Mark told Cardlines, “If I have to sell my house, I am going to get this guy. I am killing myself, and I’m on crutches, and he thinks I am going to work for him? Not. He messed with the wrong guy.”

Trouble in the neighborhood

Mark told us that he initially believed his business had been targeted because he was new to the area. Zarafu said, “I was taking it personally that I just moved here, and someone was already breaking in. But when I saw that other stores had been through the same thing, I knew that wasn’t the case.”

The local police force has been very understanding and willing to cooperate. The Delray Beach Police Department is investigating the case. It is reportedly under the care of Sergeant Chris Trapasso of their Investigative Division.

Mark also told us that his stepson is a police officer, which will help the case gain priority with an overworked police force. In addition, Zarafu told Cardlines that “two of the policemen there do Whatnot and know the hobby.”

What was stolen in the card shop break-in in Florida

The store has reported that the following items have been stolen. The overall value of these items together is estimated at about $35,000. Items stolen include the following:

  • Signed Jerry Rice and Joe Montana Helmet (from Fanatics)
  • 5 – Boxes 2023 Bowman Baseball Jumbos 
  • 12-  Boxes Donruss Optic Baseball 
  • 6-   Boxes Panini three two Baseball 
  • 8-    Boxes 2022 Garbage pail Kids 
  • 12- 2022-23 Bowman Chrome University Basketball
  • 14 Boxes 2022 Topps Chrome Lite Baseball 
  • 30 Boxes 2022 Topps Chrome Baseball Mega Box
  • 7 Boxes 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Jumbo 
  • 2 – 40 Box Cases 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Blasters
  • 2 – 40 Box Cases 2023 Bowman Baseball Blasters
  • 1 -40 Box Case 2023 Garbage Pail Kids Goes on Vacation
  • 2- 6 Box Cases of Scarlet & Violet Pokemon Boosters
  • 1 -40 Box Case 2022 Topps 2 Baseball Blasters 

The following SGC Graded Cards

  • Approx 100 – 2018 Leaf Live # 11 Shohei Ohtani SGC 96 Mint and higer
  • 100 or so -2019 Panini Instant Dn-Zw Zion Williams Draft Night SGC 9.5 and higher
  • Approx 100- 2019-20 Panini Instant Fl-Zw Zion Williams First Look SGC 9.5 and higher.

If you have any information on the break-in or whereabouts of these items, please contact the Delray Beach Police Department at 561-243-7888.

Previous cases of sports card thefts in Florida

There have been multiple break-ins targeting card shops in Florida. The two break-ins in Boca were similar enough that we believe they are related and were likely executed by the same individual.

However, other high-profile cases have been in other parts of the state. In March, a few masked burglars broke into two hobby shops in the Panama Beach area, which is located in the Florida panhandle between Tallahassee and Mobile, Alabama.

In that case, they made out with a much bigger haul. They reportedly took cards and memorabilia worth $180,000 from the Instant Replay Sports Cards store alone.

One of the items was reportedly a Mickey Mantle card worth at least $15,000. Not long after that, the same group allegedly broke into the PCB Coins and Cards store on Panama City Beach Parkway. 

How are the break-ins being executed?

In March, another break-in was reported in Florida. The target was the Wonder Water Sports Card Store in Clearwater this time. The stolen goods included a massive amount of unsealed wax. In this case, the security footage was made publicly available. Therefore, it provides us with a glimpse of how these things occur.

You can see that the burglary occurs in the daytime, which is somewhat surprising. The burglar manages to enter the premises by breaking the lock using appropriate tools. It takes him a shockingly short amount of time to enter. Less than a minute from what I could see.

The individual is dressed in a non-descript manner and enters nonchalantly. He has been in the store and heads immediately to the sealed wax behind the register. About four minutes after entering the store, he leaves with two massive garbage bags filled to the brim with sealed wax boxes.

But he is not done; the burglar returns about a minute and a half later. He then takes a few cases and another garbage bag filled with product and leaves for good.

Burglary at Wonder Water Sports Card Store in Clearwater FL Caught on Video Tape

Failed card store burglaries In Florida

These burglaries only sometimes succeed. A more primitive attempt to rob a hobby shop in Broward County, Florida, failed. The store owners,  AA Mint Cards, at 9630 Stirling Rd., in Cooper City, decided to release the surveillance footage from their store back in 2022. You can see the video in this article.

In this case, the approach taken by the culprits is far more primitive than in recent break-ins. Here, you can see a person take a mallet and bash the store doors repeatedly in the hopes that they will give.

The would-be burglar makes the mistake of trying different sections of glass rather than focusing on one part until it potentially shatters. The culprit gives up. Then it appears another individual, perhaps the person designated to be the getaway driver, comes to try to finish the job.

The second culprit has even less success and patience than the first and quickly runs away. The whole thing lasts for less than two minutes.

The damage they caused was around $10,000. But the high-quality glass on these doors may have saved many times that of stolen goods. Aaron Amarant, one of the store owners, said, “Thank God we spent much money on some good glass.”

Burglaries happening in other parts of the country

Florida is a hobby center with its fair share of crime. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the “Sunshine State” seems to have the most break-ins. However, since the COVID boom in the hobby, there has been a severe spike in burglaries involving card shops.

And it isn’t always break-ins. At Wow Sports Cards in Randolph, NJ, a senior citizen was spotted stealing a card while the staff’s back was turned.

BUSTED! - $100,000 STOLEN At Sports Card Shop

But perhaps the most dramatic break-in took place in Reno, Nevada. The owner of the store received a call from the police informing him that the doors of his store had been pulled off their hinges by a truck. The culprits tied their stolen truck to the door, and you get the picture. You can see the damage here.

Final thoughts on Florida sports card burglaries

Since there have been hobby shops, there have been break-ins. But the incidences of such cases has undoubtedly gone up. And it makes sense. Stores are keeping increasingly small amounts of cash, so old-school targets like gas stations aren’t what they used to be.

Therefore, stores that store valuable stock are more tempting than they used to be. As we all know, the value of cards went up significantly during the COVID-19 era, and they have remained high ever since.

The thieves often go after unsealed wax because it is generic and hard to trace. Therefore, that usually makes up the lion’s share of what is stolen in these break-ins. Graded cards, especially the newer hologram-protected PSA ones, are far easier to trace.

But this is an unfortunate development. Hobby shops have been squeezed for years. Online purveyors can provide lower prices as they have no overhead.

The big card companies have been cutting allocations to hobby shops for years. The last thing these stores need is the expenses of robberies and break-ins. And no, insurance does not cover everything. You always end up paying out of pocket. So, remember to support your local card shop. They are the heart and soul of the hobby.