By Michael Reuben aka mreuben

Everyone may have their own strategy to properly bust a box of cards, and for everyone it’s different. Heck, even the way we refer to this process seems to vary amongst all members of the hobby. Breaking a box. Busting wax. Cracking a case. Simply, opening some cards. Developing one’s own strategy for bringing these treasures to life in a collection is a serious task that all of us must consider.

First things first, you must figure out where the process will take place. If you’re lucky, you don’t have to find some secluded place to avoid that disparaging glares from loved ones uncertain as to why one would ‘waste money on a little kid’s hobby’. Personally, I have to make sure I’m secluded from my cat that doesn’t seem to have figured out the collectable value of these little pieces of cardboard. In my younger and more formative years, I would be able to camp out somewhere on the floor to start opening my packs. Today, with some creaky knees, it’s best to find a table with some open space around me.

 Now, you have to organize the space you’ve selected. Obviously you want to make sure it’s as clean as possible. You’d hate to get some Cheetos residue all over your refractors. The main debate is whether or not you have your storage already set up so that the cards go directly into their protective housing. Personally, I’m a stacker. Even if I keep my 3200 count box on the table while I’m opening cards, the first place they go is into stacks rather than the box itself. Because I’m a stacker, there has to be a lot of freed up room on this table.

That of course brings up what comprises these stacks. Whenever I have the opportunity to buy cards, I always seem to go all in. And with the diverse tastes that I have in collecting, that means a variety of boxes. Therefore, each of the different sets I’m opening need at minimum their own stack. But the stacks do not end there, my good friend. That might work when I open up some 1990-91 Skybox to fulfill any retro kick I might have, but we live in the age of hits and inserts and parallels. As primarily a base set collector, these all need to be separated, but it’s not that simple. Whereas base sets will always get their own stacks, a number of factors go into how the others are stacked. When a set has a nice looking insert, I’ll probably try to put the little set together – assuming of course that it’s a numbered set, I don’t have the patience to try to put together a set that isn’t numbered. So now the inserts and parallels go into two separate piles – ones I’m looking to hold onto and those that I’m willing to trade or sell. Then of course, come the hits. These again go into two separate piles. Very rarely, I will pull a hit that I actually want to keep. My two DiMaggio relics come to my mind right away. Most of the time, I see the autos and the game used cards as fantastic trade bait. Again, here lie my two separate piles.

Now that my initial piles have been created, and all of the wrappers have been tossed (as per my wife’s training), you’d think I would be done. Oh, no. This is where the set-builder takes over. I can safely store all of the inserts, parallels, and hits that I will eventually get set up to release to a new, more appreciative owner, but all of those base cards. All of those sets to put together!

Out come the blank checklists. Our stacks of base cards are neatly divided in two – cards needed to build the set and doubles. From there, the doubles stack can be divided – those worth trading on their own, those worth holding onto in the personal collection, set filler for someone else, and the newly created pile, cards that my brother might want. Now we have upwards of nine different piles from some boxes. That can be more stacks than packs.

 Ah, what used to be such a simple task as a child has evolved into a significantly more detailed process, but somehow the excitement will always remain.