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Collector Ben Smith, Midwest Box Breaks helping break stigma of breakers

Collector Ben Smith's fascination with collecting sports cards and breaking led him to create Midwest Box Breaks.

Ben Smith's story starts out like many others. Collected as a kid but was eventually pulled away by other things that draw our attention, only to return when the nostalgia bug bites us again.

Smith’s entrance to the hobby started in 1983 with a Topps Baseball pack that contained a Tony Gwynn rookie card and Jesse Barfield’s second-year card, but it was the more talked about home-run hitting Barfield that peaked his interest. When he returned to the hobby in 2017 he was lucky to still have his original collection.

Friends turned him onto breaking and soon the collecting bug hit again. He loved breaks and the many facets of it and soon he was amassing additional stacks of cards.

Ben Smith of Midwest Box Breaks.

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Two things fascinated Smith: the art of breaking; and the community of breakers, which he was becoming a big part of. The gears were turning. On a trip to a Cubs game with well-respected breaker Chris Keller of “Top Shelf Breaks,” Smith had many of his questions answered.

He was convinced to take the plunge but also knew he wanted to do some things differently and with his own spin. His memory went back to his younger years working on farms and summer jobs just to afford a half-box of cards and how the hobby community helped him get through some down days. He didn't want his newly formed Midwest Box Breaks to be just a hobby ATM. He wanted breaks available for all budgets, he wanted to help people fill sets/needs and to build a beneficial community of hobbyists helping one another.

Once established, he wanted Midwest Box Breaks to give back, and he has given to children's and veteran’s charities. The company has formed partnerships with smaller hobby entities. Even on a local level, MBB has supported minor league teams and community events.

Smith looks at his role as more of a community facilitator than a breaker. He's built an ecosystem that encourages trading, random acts of kindness and helping fellow collectors. He's hosted weekly sales threads and in February 2021 launched a discord server for trusted sellers, which has generated more than $350,000 in sales with zero issues.

In January he launched a hobby NFT with a utility that allows access to exclusive deals, games, content and hobby resources. And they recently introduced the MBB Marketplace on ISO Commerce to promote hobby community and sales opportunities.

Smith knew he wanted to be more than a hobby one-way street and he's built a multi-level community that encompasses collectors of all levels and promotes working together.

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Like many of us, the stories about bad and unscrupulous breakers annoy him and he hates how even good breakers are unfairly labeled when indiscretions occur. He wants Midwest Box Breaks to be an example of what's good in the genre and he is constantly moved and inspired by the unselfish acts that occur in the hobby ecosystem he has created. He loves how those efforts are contagious and he tries to lead by example.

One of his favorite memories is when ESPN baseball analyst Pedro Gomez came on during a break to talk baseball and share some personal moments and stories on air. It hit the Midwest group hard when Gomez passed away unexpectedly a short time later.

Smith is a firm believer that the stories, camaraderie and outreach opportunities coming from the Midwest group are bigger and longer lasting than the big cards pulled during breaks. The hobby has gotten him through some down times and he is doing his part to return the favor.

John Newman is a collector, dealer and the host of the Sports Card Nation podcast. Catch his Hobby Quick Hits on Monday and his guest interviews on Friday on your favorite podcast plat­form. You can reach him at sportscard­ or on Twitter at @ sportscardnati1

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