In this digital age, many traditional businesses have had to pivot to stay relevant. The world of sports card collecting is one of them. Josh Cantor of West Orange recognized this evolving market and launched an online business in July, presenting live-streamed sports card box-openings in a raffle format for avid sports card collectors. Cantor’s company, Lightning Breaks, sells baseball, basketball and football cards via the industry’s latest, virtual, method: group breaking. Participants in a group break share the cost of a box of cards, and Cantor opens each collection during a YouTube live stream. Members of each group break receive the cards that correspond to the sports team they chose or were randomly assigned.
Cantor fell in love with sports as a young kid, spending his allowance on the latest release of baseball stickers, player cards and other sports collectibles. Currently a statistical analyst, he contends that “collecting cards combined two of my greatest passions, baseball and statistics.”
Where this passion once took a backseat to family priorities, his hobby resurfaced as a business venture with help and inspiration from his children. Even his daughter, Tara, who is less interested in sports cards, helped to create the business’s logo.
Utilizing his skills in statistics, Cantor organizes the group breaks to maximize the randomness of the raffle, where participants can opt for a better chance at value for a higher price. Specifically, the raffle is split into two modes. In the “Random Break” mode, participants pay a fixed price to be randomly assigned a team, and can subsequently only receive the cards of players on that team in the group break. The same goes for the “Pick Your Team” mode, but this time entrants receive players’ cards from the team they choose, and pay a different price based on the number of valuable cards that team has in the set.
Each set of cards contains a checklist, including the number of autographed cards, relic cards and rookie cards a certain team might have. This checklist allows for the pre-determined pricing of each team in the “Pick Your Team” option. For example, Cantor explained, “if a certain box is guaranteed to have one or two autographs, we want to make pricing fair based upon the probability of getting an autographed card or a highly sought out player, like a Zion Williamson or a Joe Burrow.”
Each entrant will be shipped the cards from the box corresponding to the team they chose or were assigned. Cantor even allows group break participants a window of time to trade or sell the teams they’ve won. Unique to Lightning Breaks is that every break has one free random team; one lucky entrant in each break will receive an extra random team and, in turn, likely receive more cards.
Cantor offers casual, inexpensive breaks as well as high-end breaks for the more serious collectors. The website’s shop even provides boxes available for personal breaks for entrants seeking a full box. For a small fee, Cantor offers entrants the option to put specific cards they won on eBay, if they’d rather sell them. Similarly, Cantor can professionally grade a card, per an individual’s request, for a nominal fee.
Whether they have bought into a group break or not, everyone can view Lightning Break’s live streams on YouTube. In addition to viewing the opening of boxes of cards, participants can talk to one another in the live chat or simply comment about relevant teams or players. The live streams are warm environments where entrants can bond over their love of sports, and speak about their recent wins from the group break.
Over the past few months, the pandemic has caused tremendous popularity in sports-card collecting. Big box stores simply don’t hold most of the popular Topps and Panini cards, and smaller stores are raising prices due to high demand. That’s where Lightning Breaks comes in, giving serious card collectors and hobbyists a chance to win some cards.
While there are many types of “breakers” offering similar services, Lightning Breaks aims to cultivate a fun and entertaining atmosphere for entrants and their families, even if one doesn’t hit a valuable card.
Cantor explained, “Our main hope is that our business can create a community for collectors and all sports fans to come together and experience the hobby in a new, unique way.”
The best place to sign up for a break is on the website, www.lightningbreaks.com. Alternatively, anyone can join the live streams and even enter a group break from there. For the latest updates, find Lightning Breaks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
By Josh Gindi