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What is a ‘Break’ – Definition – The Sports Card Glossary

One phenomenon that has gained a lot of traction in The Hobby since about 2020 (during The Pandemic) are “breaks”.

Breaks are a card buying format where, rather than buying a whole box of cards (or a case of cards), you buy a portion of a box of cards (or case). This is referred to as “buying a spot” in the break. Other collectors buy spots too, until all spots are taken. Then the “breaker” (the person who had originally purchased the box of cards and is hosting the break) starts the break.

A breaker opening packs of Panini Donruss Optic Baseball on camera for a break.

Typically, breaks are broadcast live via YouTube or another live streaming platform and collectors whom have purchased spots can follow along and even participate through chat with other collectors. In that sense, breaks are something of an experience. An opportunity to open cards with other collectors, albeit in a digital setting, with a chance to hit really valuable cards that you might otherwise not be able to afford.

During the break, the breaker will open each pack of cards in the view of the video camera. The breaker will then shuffle through each card in the pack, showing each card to the camera. For more rare cards, the breaker might pause, let out a cheer or a congratulations to the owner of the spot that won the card, and talk about the card a bit. (Whether its numbered or autographed, how rare it is, how exceptional the player is, etc.)

Common break formats

  • Random Teams: You are buying a team spot, for example the New York Yankees. All cards with featuring players from the Yankees will go to you. In this format, all spots are priced the same and the breaker will use a randomization tool to assign teams to spots. You’ll find out what team (or teams) you own at the start of the break. This format is great when there is one big team that everyone wants to buy, for example the San Antonio Spurs during Victor Wembanyama’s rookie season.
  • Pick Your Team (PYT): You choose which team you want to buy a spot for. For example, you collect Toronto Blue Jays cards, so you buy the Toronto Blue Jays spot. In this format, spots are priced differently based on the potential relative value of the cards you could get for each team.
  • Pick Your Player (PYP): You choose which player you want to buy a spot for.

Where to find breaks

You can find breaks on eBay, on social media (TikTok, Twitter/X, etc.), on forums (Blowout Cards). Search for phrases like “basketball box break” or “baseball case break”.

An example Pick Your Team (PYT) break spot available for bidding via eBay. In this case, the team is the Atlanta Braves and the break will consist of a full 12 hobby box case of 2024 Topps Chrome Black Baseball.
An example Pick Your Team (PYT) break with spots available for purchase via Twitter/X.

What to watch out for

  • There have been many breakers caught live on camera stealing and/or scamming cards. With sleight of hand and other tricks, breakers have been known to stealthily slide valuable cards off camera for themselves, which is basically stealing.
  • You aren’t guaranteed to get any cards. Especially in the case of PYP breaks, if the box of cards has no cards of the player whose spot you bought, you’ll go home empty handed.
  • You aren’t guaranteed any good cards. You could easily pay tens or hundreds of dollars for a spot and only get a selection of invaluable cards. Breaks are a bit of a gamble.
  • Not all cards ship all the time. Some breaks explicitly state things like “Only shipping color, numbered cards, hits, rookies” or “Base cards don’t ship”.

Rory Hansen

Rory Hansen is a San Diego-based sports card collector and social media influencer. Considered an expert in the process of grading sports cards, he regularly advises other collectors on how to assess, prepare and submit cards for grading. Originally from Canada and now living in the US, Rory collects both hockey cards and baseball cards. His personal collection focuses on Shohei Ohtani, Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish, Pavel Bure, Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo.