Shapiro collected cards as a kid but was entirely out of the game as recently as early 2020. While working at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, he saw a social media post by Gary Vaynerchuk stating that he would “rather invest in sports cards than real estate”. From that point forward, Ryan was hooked.
“I hid in the extra bedroom in my house from my girlfriend, watching and buying cards”, said Shapiro. “I was a consumer. My girlfriend didn’t get it. She was like, “what are you doing?” We started PullKingz downstairs in my living room. I had to text my friends to jump into the breaks just to fill them. I never gave up, and I kept going.” PullKingz now has over 13k followers on their Instagram page and fill those same breaks within minutes.
Besides Gary Vee, Shapiro credits Mike Vinokur, owner of the wildly popular Pullwax Marketplace, for inspiring him to get into the breaking industry. Both reside in South Florida, which has become quite a hotspot for these types of pages.
“Mike from Pullwax is a true inspiration to me. When I first started this, I watched Mikey when he only had five people in his life, and I was buying in his breaks. It’s so crazy how life works. We work together now. I love Mikey. He motivates me to be better.”
For those that have never watched a Pullwax break, it is one of the best shows currently on social media. Vinokur and his team of young breakers - most notably “Lil P” - unbox an endless stream of valuable cards nightly.
“What Pullwax has always wanted to do is take the esports world and the sports card world and kind of mesh them together. Sportscards have been around forever. Esports is brand new. They are two totally separate generations, and I want to mix the two. When an athlete comes into my store, I want to sit down and play video games with them and then open a box.” said Vinokur, who credited his parents for getting him into sports.
“As a kid, I was a die-hard sports fan. My family came here from Russia as immigrants. The one thing they loved about America more than anything else was sports. Miami Dolphins, Miami Hurricanes, and the Miami Heat. When I was 13, I became a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I loved Ben Roethlisberger. I went against my roots, and my family almost threw me out.”
Like Shapiro, Vinokur collected sports cards as a kid but was out of the game for a while before starting Pullwax. His first business was a successful high-end sneaker store in Miami named Sneak Peek Luxury.
“I was collecting in 2003-2004 when LeBron, Carmelo, and Wade were rookies. As time went on, cards were just not cool anymore.” Vinokur said. “I learned everything from sneakers. With SneakPeak, I developed great relationships with so many athletes from every league. I just got tired of being the sneaker guy. I wanted to get closer to sports.”
Breaking has become big business, with some products bringing in eye-popping dollar amounts. “The biggest break we’ve ever done was Panini National Treasures First Off the Line NBA”, said Vinokur. “One box. We had 500 people in the live. Each spot, I think, was $1800 to get in. There were 15 spots. Two teams per spot. It was NUTS.”