Hobby Musings: Catching up with Chris Justice from Cards Infinity
KS: Chris, what got you started the trading card world?
CJ: I used to collect cards in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I then went to college, moved around a lot and forgot all about cards. Around the year 2003, my friend showed me that the current cards had jerseys and autographs on them. I thought that was so cool, so then I got back into sports cards. I was checking the only hobby store in my town, around 2005, and noticed that their prices were super high compared to online. I then decided that I would start my own card store. I figured I could beat their pricing by a ton and at the same time be enjoying a hobby I love. So I started my store in early 2006 and went from there.
KS: You’ve got a longer history with box breaking than most. How did you get started doing them?
CJ: I started taping a few of my regular customers that would come in and break boxes. They would come in and buy the new releases and allow me to tape them opening it and upload it to YouTube. This turned out to be pretty fun for all the viewers. The viewers could watch my YouTube channel and see if they liked how newly released products looked. I then came up with the idea in early 2007 that I would start a website and do box breaks for other people. I thought it would be really cool if people could order boxes from my website and have me break them on video. I would then upload the video for everyone to see. This would create an online community for people to trade, discuss and comment on cards they visually saw on a live break. Many of my friends would tell me that no one would allow you to open their box and then ship them the cards. They said that people opening their own box was all the fun. I thought people love interaction and instant gratification, so I did it anyways. And now, 12 years later, you can see how big it has grown.
KS: When you first started doing it, what was the online box breaking landscape across the hobby like?
CJ: There was next to no one doing it. You had people like Dr. Wax Battle that would tape a customer every now and again and upload it, but the video quality was really poor and the camera angles were really poor. Then there were a couple other people that would tape themselves opening their own boxes, but the camera angles were not great and the videos were way too long. Other than that, that was pretty much it. Not a lot of action back in 2007 when I started.
KS: From the time you started online breaking to now, how has that part of the industry changed?
CJ: The box breaking/group breaking portion of the hobby has grown 1000 times. It seems everyone wants to get into box breaking or group breaking. I can see why too. It is a lot of fun and a super interesting way to enjoy the hobby. Not to mention you can make a living at it. Back in 2007, only the super whales could afford cases of Exquisite, etc. Nowadays you can just group break it and everyone gets to see these super high-end cards. Topps is now putting out $25K boxes, so group breaking is really the only way to open those. Yeah there are a few that can afford that, but very few.
KS: What would you say is the biggest challenge of doing online breaking now?
CJ: I would say the saturation of the market. Back in the day, it was just a few of us doing breaks, so you could put up breaks and they would fill in 30 seconds. But in today’s world, there are so many people doing box breaks and group breaks that the market has been spread out. To be honest that is a good thing though, it spreads the word of sports cards, card breaks and group breaks. It is really good for the hobby when there are more people bringing attention to the hobby.
KS: I couldn’t help but notice that your site has a gallery of big cards you’ve pulled. Out of all them though, which would you say is the biggest?
CJ: To be honest I haven’t updated that section in about 4 to 6 months. I need to do that. The biggest card I have hit was probably the Mike Trout Gold Refractor Autograph from 2009 Draft. Not the sexiest card, but monetarily speaking, the biggest card ($25 to $50K based on grade). I pulled a NT Durant Logoman autograph that was pretty big too. Over the years if you open enough boxes you are bound to find some big ones lol.
KS: Online breaking has both supporters and critics for various reasons. Either way, it has become a standard part of the hobby. I have to ask though, what do you think is the future for it?
CJ: To me it seems the breaker’s side of the hobby grows every year. I am sure that will plateau and level off at some point. Box breaks and group breaks have brought so many people back into this hobby. I have had tons of emails over the years from people that have stated that my box breaks brought them back into the hobby. The more exposure cards have, the better. Box breaks, group breaks bring that exposure, especially on social media.
KS: The role of the brick and mortar store has been talked about often by several people in the hobby, especially over the past few years. What do you think the future of the LCS is?
CJ: I personally think that the LCS is very important for the hobby. People can interact online, do box breaks online, do group breaks online, etc. But there is nothing better than going in, talking cards with your LCS, touching a box, reading the latest Beckett, etc. The hobby store provides a local place for collectors to gather and do trade nights, box breaks and so on. I do realize that online has probably dominated the LCS over the last 5 years, but I surely hope that the online business never takes out the LCS.
KS: If there’s one piece of advice you could give to the trading card manufacturers when it comes to online breaking, what would it be?
CJ: I don’t think they need any advice. They know how important breaking is to sports cards now. Back in the day, they may have been a little reluctant, but now they understand that without online box breaking and group breaking they would lose a TON of business. I would be willing to bet that more than 50% of all product produced is now affiliated with some sort of online box breaking or group breaking. I think they are all aboard with the concept and enjoy it.
KS: On the other side, what advice would you give to customers about online breaking?
CJ: The advice I would give is to do your homework. Research all the people/companies before just jumping into someone’s breaks. Believe me there are a lot of great breakers out there that are honest and great people. But there are a lot that are out to get your money and cheat you, so just be careful. Should I say Brandin Cooks to /99?
KS: If you could change one thing about the trading card industry, what would it be?
CJ: I hate to sound like a broken record but redemptions. I hear so many complaints about redemptions. I understand their use and why they must be in there. I really do. You can’t delay a product for years just because certain big named players don’t send their cards back in time. But at the same time, people spend 100’s and 1000’s of dollars chasing these big named cards. To have them wait 3, 4, 5 years to get that card is beyond ridiculous. They shouldn’t have to wait more than 6 months, MAX. Then at that point they can exchange for anything of equivalent or HIGHER value of the item they were waiting for. That is only fair. It is certainly not fair to the customer to have to wait years for a card. Then finally the player doesn’t sign and their card values have gone way down. So now they send you a Jace Amaro autograph. So unfair. And don’t get me started on expired redemptions. I will say Panini is the best in the world on expired redemptions.
KS: Looking at it a little broadly, what is currently the most popular sport you’re seeing requested for online breaking?
CJ: For me NFL is always the most popular sport. I mean the NFL owns a day of the week lol.
KS: Which sport do you think will be the most popular in trading cards in 2019 and why?
CJ: I would always say NFL. It just seems year after year that NFL cards are always hot. Don’t get me wrong, it is really rookie based though. Such as last year with Ohtani for MLB, Barkley, Baker for NFL, Doncic for NBA, etc. If you have hot rookies coming out of every sport, then all cards will be super hot, IE Zion will be leading the NBA cards.
Hobby Musings: Catching up with Chris Justice from Cards Infinity
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