Random Thoughts on Group Breaking

   

I've spent the last few weeks watching a multitude of "group breakers" on Vaughn Live hawk their items for sale.  The group breakers are performing the break, live, on the free streaming website. There is a chat box so that everyone watching can comment or bargain with the breaker. On any given night, there can be upwards of 25 different group breakers on Vaughn Live all essentially doing the same thing. Most breakers can get between 5-50 people watching their break at any given time.

1) Most don't handle valuable cards properly

For one, these guys need to learn how to handle the cards themselves. Stop getting your fingerprints all over the cards! Do some of you "group breakers" out there realize that when you send a card in to get graded if your greasy fingerprint is on the card that it impacts the final score? The base cards you can grease up with your fingerprints, but hold valuable cards on their edges and do not touch the surface.

2) Back Ally Breaks

Most of these breaks are going down in some cheap looking 1 or 2 bedroom apartment. Guys, here is a tip, turn the camera away from you when you look like a scrub. I live in one of the most dangerous cities in the United States and some of these group breakers could live in my hometown with how they act, dress, and communicate with their customers. Many will curse, many will mouth off to people in the chat room, some will even brag about how much money they just made. In addition, there is usually some bad 1990's "FAKE Pearl Jam" rock playing way too loud in the background.  If they actually listened to Pearl Jam I'd have more respect for them. But listening to bands imitate Eddie Vedder and crew is painful.

One person in the industry called these group breakers innovative. I doubt he has ever spent a few weeks watching these guys try and break cards on Vaughn Live.  Setting up a $20 webcam and begging the 12 people "in a room" to buy into a break is far from innovative.

3) Some are conducting illegal raffles

Some "breakers" on Vaughn Live will conduct illegal raffles where they use random.org to select the winner of their raffles. One breaker gets pictures of cards on his cell phone from someone who wants to "raffle" a card. The breaker will then conduct a raffle for the card...... even though he doesn't even have the card in his possession. Typically they sell 10 spots in the raffle for $5-20 depending on the value of the card. Once 10 people pay, the breaker conducts the raffle on random.org. One person wins, the rest are left with nothing. Conducting this type of business is illegal in every state in the United States (even if you the breaker are not making any money). I challenge any breaker to prove selling cards in this manner is legal.

There are private Facebook groups called names like "Jam & Jelly" where they will do these raffles in a more private setting. I really don't have a problem at all with gambling. I wish that online poker was legal and regulated. I like to bet on sports when in Las Vegas. But if you choose to do illegal, non regulated forms of gambling, do it in private. Idiots.

4) Many aren't breaking cards, they are trying to fill spots

It's amazing how much work goes into filling a break for some Vaughn Live group breakers. They will spend sometimes hours sitting in front of the camera trying to fill spots in their break. I've spoken (using unprofessional curse words) about how hard it is to scale a group breaking business. It takes time opening the product live on camera, it takes time sorting the cards, it takes time shipping the bubble mailers. To make a lot of money you'd have to break almost 7 days a week. For some, it takes days or even weeks of promoting, tweeting, and being live on camera to try and fill a break. You can't really go to Vaughn Live to watch cards being opened, but you can go there to watch people try and sell spots in a break.

5) Drama

One night, a breaker got his PayPal account shut down. He was running illegal raffles and PayPal froze his account. The kicker was quite a few of his customers also got their PayPal account frozen too. To show you how dumb these breakers are who run the illegal raffles, they will use PayPal to receive payments for the raffles. Instead of paying the PayPal transaction fee, they ask their customers to send payments via "Gift" which charges no fee on PayPal. But, they then make each person send a $0.01 PayPal payment via the normal "Goods" option which does charge a fee. This is so they get the shipping information for the buyer if they win the raffle. It also allows the buyer and breaker to be covered under the PayPal buyer protection policy.

If you know anything about PayPal, they have a filter where they can see all the $0.01 transactions processing through their database. People who work at PayPal know that there is very little reason to send someone $0.01.  More often than not, if you send someone $0.01 on PayPal you are doing something shady to try and skirt the fees PayPal charges. PayPal could probably care less that they are running illegal raffles for worthless sports cards. PayPal cares when you are trying to take money out of their pocket. Pretty simple. Dummies.

On another occasion, a breaker had the feed on his Vaughn Live glitch just as he was showing the random.org results for who won his raffle. The chat box lit up that something was amiss. The look on the breakers face was priceless. He had no idea what to do. Relying on a free streaming service like Vaughn Live will cause these problems. The video quality sucks. The webcams some of these guys use suck. They typically don't have a backup camera going in case a problem arises. Clowns.

6) Breaking cards on camera is not innovative

If it was so innovative why does a new breaker pop up everyday? They all essentially do the same thing. Anyone can buy a webcam. Anyone can sign up for the free Vaughn Live. Anyone can buy from a distributor with the proper tax I.D. number. Some of these guys look like they just got off the graveyard shift at the lumber yard. These aren't "tech" guys. Many can barely work their webcam properly to show the results on random.org or the cards themselves. Many breakers only use Vaughn Live. They have no physical website. They have nothing proprietary. Zero. Nothing. They bought a webcam. They bought a case. Then they started to hawk spots on Vaughn Live. That isn't a great business model. That's a business model any lumber yard worker could copy.

7) Big ego's

I get the impression some of these guys think they are "celebrities" of sorts. The breakers who get 50 people in their room usually have the camera turned toward them so you can see their face (and usually their scrubby apartment). I've seen breakers rap to music on camera. I've seen breakers act like they are on their phone, but they have their eyes glued to the chat box to see what the people in their "room" are saying about them. Some breakers will make cocky and snarly remarks to people in the chat box. One breaker had his wife come in, look down disgusted at the cards on the table, and asked the breaker when they were going to lunch.

I've personally been around some of these guys at events like the Las Vegas Industry Summit and the National Sports Collectors Convention. Many don't realize that the sports card industry is a weak business. Distributors and manufactures will fluff and blow you for buying product from them. It doesn't make you a celebrity.

8) Legit vs. Shady

Some group breakers have a cordial relationship with other breakers. They will buy into each-others breaks or (illegal) raffles. But you can tell there is a hierarchy of sorts in terms of group breakers. Many of the breakers who have physical websites, or have been doing breaks for a long time, seem to run things legit and honest. Only a handful of group breakers on Vaughn Live conduct illegal raffles. I get the feeling that the group breakers who do try and run a legit business, and stay away from the (illegal) raffles, have a negative attitude toward the shady breakers. The shady breakers take business away from the ones who do things legit. I'm actually stunned that group breakers who do run a legit business don't take a harder stance with these shady ones. The competition in the group breaking category is only going to increase if the distributors and manufactures don't limit who can buy this stuff at the wholesale level. If I ran a legit group breaking business I would try and expose the shady characters. It's not personal. It's business.

9) Leaving Money on the Table

These guys could make more money. In the last year I've made $400.00 in ad revenue on YouTube by posting a few videos. $400.00 is pennies. I know that. But these group breakers are cranking out videos each day, hour by hour. They could easily make several thousand a year by uploading their videos to YouTube. When has Vaughn Live cut any of you group breakers a check? Google will cut you a check. What some of these "innovative" group breakers probably don't know is that they will need to properly title, tag, and write good descriptions on their YouTube videos to make good money. It will also help to link to your videos on a physical website. Many of these breakers don't even have a website so the prospects of them making an extra grand or two on YouTube is probably hopeless.

Why don't they sell other things besides spots or (illegal) raffle items? I guess some do. If I had a group breaking site I'd have a bunch of other crap for sale too. Supplies, individual packs, full boxes, full cases, I'd start to build inventory. I'd create an online store. I'd run affiliate ads to eBay, Amazon and anyone else who wanted to cut me a check by just putting a link. These breakers have a base of customers. They have people who trust them. Take more of your customers money. And do it before there are 100 breakers doing the exact same thing you are doing on Vaughn Live.

10) I'd buy into some breakers breaks

There are some group breakers who are running a good business. They treat their customers good. They have backup cameras in case something goes wrong. They have real websites. Quite honestly, some of them are good guys. People I would trust not only with a break, but in life. It's the scummy shady guys on Vaughn Live that hang a dark cloud over the group breaking industry. The distributors and manufactures don't care if some of the breakers who buy from them are scum bags. Most distributors make most of their money selling Magic the Gathering, other gaming cards and board games. They could care less if some scum bag on Vaughn Live wants to illegally raffle off some spots in a group break. Until there is some cleanup and some of the shady group breakers get wiped out of the business, group breaking will be looked down upon by many people in the industry.