Group breaks are quite the polarizing topic in the hobby these days. Some see them as an opportunity to bring more people into a hobby that is fraying at the edges. Others see it as a ring of carnies that serve to hook gamblers into spending money on impulse. There is reason to believe its both, but when one exposed as a sham, the whole model comes under fire. In fact, I would argue it restarts the whole conversation on whether or not this hobby really is as seedy as some people think it is.
Without diving deep into the group break model as a whole, the scam is pretty easy to understand. On Blowout, a member ran breaks where nice hits from community boxes were switched out with lesser hits he had purchased from members and opened in his own personal boxes. Im not quite sure how they were able to do this on a live feed, but that is why the good scammers never get caught, I guess.
This person was caught pretty much red handed by a member who was able to match serial numbers, cataloging a card they sold and seeing that card “pulled” from a pack in a group break by this individual. From the vantage point presented, it looks like this guy has been running the scam for a while. As we have seen COUNTLESS times in the past, it takes an event like this to start the referendum on how at risk group break participants can be in any given break.
Let me say I am not looking to scare people away from group breaks. I like group breaks. I participate in group breaks. There are a lot of good people out there. They are not unicorns, believe it or not. That being said, when I participate, I UNDERSTAND the inherent risk implied with such an odd transaction. Consider this: we are literally handing money to someone for them to spend with our trust and open cards we would normally open ourselves. There is trust there. So much trust that I dont think people truly understand that there are some really shitty people out there who will exploit it until they get caught.
If you do not know that shitty people are everywhere in this hobby, you cant swing a dead cat at a card show without hitting someone who has been scammed or run the scam themselves. Whether its fake patches, fake autographs, or just overall immoral behavior, its everywhere. YOU are the only person who can protect YOU, and that’s that. I have chided publications like Beckett for trying to present the hobby as this wonderful utopia where every company farts rainbows and cries holy water, but its not. In fact, it might be just as disgusting a place as ever. The only thing is that the internet has removed the face from the perpetrator. They become usernames on a forum or a handle on twitter.
Arguably, this is where group breakers are the exception, as many present themselves as characters and personalities. They want you to break with them over their competitors, so they come up with some of the most annoying catchphrases and animated graphics to make you feel like they are worth the trust you are implying on them. Its the same concept as any on air personality, especially the ones like we see on QVC and other shopping networks.
My dad imparted some wisdom on me when I was little, and I have hated myself each time I have failed to heed the warning.
“If there is money to be made, there will be someone out there who will try to take advantage of the people who are unwilling to educate and protect themselves. The wolves will ALWAYS eat the sheep.”
This applies so much to this hobby that it isnt even funny. In fact, I would say its one of the main reasons I started this blog back in 2007. I wanted to be the voice that people could use as a reminder to look at things with a different perspective. The hobby isnt a place where good people dont exist, they are out there. But at the same time, if you cant recognize the wolves, you will be eaten with the rest of the sheep. Trust me on that.
I remember back to when the 2007 Rookie Premiere autograph forgeries first started to hit the market. I received A LOT of criticism for saying the cards werent real. No one could fathom that real cards made it into the hands of a person who would singlehandedly bring down an entire year’s worth of this set. To review, the cards were blatantly forged. So blatant that Topps was forced to serial number the cards starting in 2007, only after I pestered them mercilessly. BGS stopped grading the cards out of fear, and rightfully so.
I also remember back when group breaks were in their infancy, and an asshat decided it was a good idea to not show all the cards in a break when the grainy video was clear enough to everyone that he was holding back a big hit. Stories like this are everywhere, and that’s just the start of it.
A few years ago, someone on blowout convinced people to send him thousands of dollars to participate in grab bags that looked to be loaded with high end goods. When he walked away with the money, everyone freaked out.
The main point, in case I havent beat you enough in the face over the last 800 words, is that trust is a luxury. If you cannot live with the consequences of someone exploiting that trust, its time to move on. I will say, there are a few people I trust implicitly in this hobby. However, it took more than a fancy website and some stupid catchphrases for me to put that trust in their favor. Years and years worth of back and forth has led me to understand what I believe to be trust. They could be mass murderers for all I know, but thanks to those many dealings I have had, I can go to bed at night knowing that I can live with the consequences if they turn out to be assholes.
If there is one lesson we should take away from this, it cant be that a big scam is the only thing that gets us talking about education and prevention. This the same with any tragedy out there, and thankfully these hobby scams never take any lives. There is a reason people are so green to the idea that people will fuck them over without a thought. Its because they dont have many warnings at play that serve as educational checkpoints. Sure, there are voices that have remained constant out there, but I will say that even I have backed off talking about this at a regular pace. It literally happens so frequently that it is too taxing to continue being the white knight to the 10 people that still read my blog (9 if you take my dad out of the mix).
I will close with this. Education is the only defense against the ever growing intelligence that continues to evolve within the scams of our community. They will ALWAYS be a few steps ahead because money is the root of collecting. When money is involved, things get nuts. You will not be able to stay ahead of the crazy fucktards that sit in front of their computer screens and find ways to exploit the stupid. The only thing anyone can do is learn from what they see, operate every transaction with a skeptical eye, and never trust anyone so much that they lose that safety net. If you can make that work, you will be fine.