With trading cards selling for record prices, it could be said sports cards are booming.
Here are 4 tips you can use to help you sell more & make more during a trading card boom.
I even show you a TOP SELLING product I’ve made thousands selling.
Failing sucks. Email me if you ever want to know more about how not to run a store.
Store Opened 2006 – Closed 2008
1) I thought I was smarter than I was
In 2006 I was 24 years old and I convinced my brother it was a good idea to partner up and open a sports store. In it we would sell baseball cards, hats, fan apparel and other sports items everyone had to have. My brother had reservations about the plan but I can make a compelling case at times.
The plan – loosely configured in my own mind – would be an ‘on the cheap’ operation. We had both worked at a local card shop through the 1990’s, I had worked some retail management jobs, it shouldn’t be that difficult I thought. Going cheap in reality turned out to be a blessing, as it saved us from a mountain of debt after the store closed in 2008. But I didn’t know how to run a business. I had no clue how to control inventory. I didn’t stay firm on the margins I had to make. When things got tight financially, I had a hard time adapting, and maybe if I was a smarter retail business man, I could have got some product in the store that sold.
The store was 990 sq. ft in a 6000 sq ft retail building that had other stores. In Turlock, CA they called it the ‘Mini Mall’. Rent + utilities was around $1,150 a month. My brother and I shared a 2 bedroom ‘cottage’ that ran $750 a month. Neither of us had a car. We didn’t live a baller lifestyle….. at all….. Initially things went very well. There were days when I had over $1,000 cash in my pocket from the sales of the day.
Starting in late 2007 and into 2008 the United States experienced one of the biggest economic downturns in decades. But that is a side story and a poor excuse as to why the sports store failed. Many other businesses and even card stores were able to weather that crisis and are still in business today. When adversity struck and instead of $1,000 in my pocket I had $0 after a days work I wasn’t quick to make changes and react to the poor economic environment.
2) Couldn’t handle the stress
After about 6 months of success when the business opened, things started to get rough. Some days I would barely sell anything and at times, there would be no sales at all. Working for 8 hours and have nothing to show for it can make the walk home a humbling experience. It gives you a sick feeling in your gut. Most normal people probably don’t choke back tears when they leave work. Failing at something wears on your soul. At least it did for me. It’s difficult to think about those times now, it’s a place in time I never want to revisit.
3) I didn’t understand work ethic
My 24 year old ego didn’t understand that in order to succeed at something, it usually takes a good deal of planning, research and relentless drive to get the job done. I thought I could open a store and on the basis of my past limited experience I would win at business. Dead wrong. I needed to grind each and everyday to scratch out a living.
When sales slowed I felt defeated. I didn’t motivate myself to come up with unique ideas to bring money in. Yes I sold on eBay, but as most know, your margins on there are razor thin, even back in those days.
I didn’t take advantage of selling Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh or other non-sport type items because it just wasn’t something I knew that much about. I know card shop owners that make their living on gaming cards and the sports items are just a side gig. I should have been more motivated to find ways to make my business a success instead of feeling sorry for myself and the situation I had created.
I really didn’t understand work ethic until after my card store closed in 2008. Desperate for money I went to work for a health care office, with two other guys around my age. When I got employed I knew nothing about health care. Nothing. They were making about $2,000 a week profit when I got hired. Thrown into the job, and a fire lit under my butt, I was working 15 hour days, on-call 24/7, talking constantly to nurses, patients, and insurance companies…. Two months into me being hired the office was raking in $20,000 a week in straight cash profit. Corporate headquarters called me the “Golden Child”. My ego re-inflated.
I didn’t stay at that job for very long. I’m not cut out for 15 hour days. But I learned that I had to step up my game in my next venture, and not have the lackluster work ethic I had during my card shop days.
4) Didn’t have a clear vision on what to sell
Getting un-opened boxes of sports cards is easy. Sports card wholesalers are straight forward and simple to deal with and your minimum orders are usually cheap. But what about selling New Era Hats? I did that. Called New Era, paid the $10,000 minimum to become a licensed dealer and ordered a ton of hats. It ended up being a bad idea.
The New Era sales rep that I was dealing with had an ego twice the size of mine. Which is okay. I learned that employees of most companies care about their pay check #1, their job security #2, their big clients #3, what was for lunch #4, and small fish like myself were far down the line.
The hats would sell, but the $10,000 initial order left me strapped when I should have held some cash back in case times got rough. I needed inventory that I could turnover quickly, and hats would stay on the shelf for months waiting for the right head size to walk in the door.
5) Not built to clock in and clock out
Owning your own retail store is a full time gig. You don’t get to make your own schedule. You don’t have much free time. It’s not the glorious thing it’s made out to be at times. I remember the store got robbed on Thanksgiving Day when I was away with family. I had to open on ‘Black Friday’ cleaning up broken glass and talking to cops.
I’m not cut out to clock in at 8 a.m. and when the work is done you can go home. I know now that I enjoy my freedom. Sitting behind a counter of a sports store 6 days a week is not how I’m going to make it in this world. It would have been nice to have known that back in 2006. In reality the sports store in Turlock, CA was a semi-expensive learning experience.
Best people to work with while owning sports store (2006-2008):
Beckett Magazines – easy to become a retailer. Great business sales representatives worked there. Could get magazines at wholesale cost and the ones that didn’t sell just ship back via USPS media mail (cheap) and get a refund. The magazines would sell very well, especially the baseball and football ones.
WinCraft – I should have bought more product from them. Check them out if you are in retail. I loved dealing with them and their products can be cheap and high margin. Very low minimum order.
Global Sales Wholesale – whenever I needed cards using the wholesale license – I went to Global Sales first. Back in the day I toured their card store and warehouse when I was visiting their neighborhood. There was a guy named Jeff who took care of every case I needed of 1996/97 Topps Finest Basketball.
Good eBay Sellers – takes some time and research but there are retailers on eBay that sell bulk lots of sports items that can easily be re-sold for big profits.
On June 3, 2015 I started this COMC account with $100 cash. I wanted to see how much money someone could make over a year selling cards casually on COMC. I came into this challenge already with years of selling on COMC under my belt – so my only purpose for this account was to flip cards already on the site. What most novice COMC sellers don’t realize – sending cards into COMC (and paying processing fees) is the worst way to utilize the website & generate profits.
First, let’s start off with a look at the account at the present moment (7/26/2016). Currently I’m very low on cash – simply because I’ve found over the years pre-National (NSCC) you can normally find lots of people trying to liquidate inventory of older cards in an effort to free up cash for one of the biggest events of the year. Just a few weeks ago, I had over $70 cash – so I’ve done a ton of buying over the last 30 – 60 days. Consequently in a few months – you’ll have the biggest e-commerce shopping day of the year (Black Friday/Monday) … so smart sellers I know are gobbling up inventory now so they can be ready for the big day.
One note about my asking price ($1,165.45) above. It’s fairly well-known by veteran COMC sellers that I would be able to liquidate this account (in a Port-Sale) for about 80% – 90% off my asking price. That would be the turn-and-burn type price. Realistically I think I can get about $0.25 – $0.35 per card … which would value the account in the $250 range. Remember, I started this account 13 months ago with $100 and I could (likely) easily liquidate it for around $250. Of course, I’m in no rush to liquidate this account – in fact, I’m raising prices & driving margin/profit even higher than when I started in 2015! How many eBay/Amazon sellers you know are able to do that??
Let’s take a look at the account stats on a more detailed level – since above only tells a partial story. I get the Total Cost figures below from my sales history, which I have linked below if you want to take a look at all my sales.
Cards Purchased: 4,336
Cards Sold: 3,344
Total Sales: $837.53
Total Cost: $546.88
Total Sales: $344.66
Total Cost: $229.66
Keep in mind this is for 6 months of selling during 2015.
Total Sales: $492.87
Total Cost: $317.22
Sales History Data
Here’s a Google Doc with every card I bought & sold on COMC inside this account. How many eBay sellers you know show their data like this?? The data shows how much I paid for each card – and how much it was sold for.
A few things about the numbers you see above. The 2015 Stats are only for 6 months of the year since the account was opened in June of 2015. Consequently, the 2016 stats are essentially a 7 month figure since they are YTD. Overall the two figures give you about what you could expect over the course of about 1 year.
How Do I Find The Cards To Buy
Almost all of the cards I purchased were via sellers who were running a sale. About 1 – 2 times daily, I visit the COMC recently posted sales list. The sellers closer to the top will have just had their sales posted – and theoretically have not been picked through as much as sales that have been running for some time. I try to focus on sellers I don’t recognize running sales 65%+ or more. On COMC if you go to the recently posted sales – you will find that many sellers are almost consistently running sales. I personally don’t want to spend more than 5 – 10mins per day searching for cards – so I usually ignore any sellers who constantly run sales.
More recently, I’ve been trying to buy cards that are serial numbered to 100 or less. I feel that buying these cards limits my downside a bit because the sheer number of cards available to send into COMC (and for sale on other sites) will be lower than non-serial numbered cards. I’ve also found that you can re-price these cards for 300%+ and they will still sell often enough to make it worth the patients needed. Additionally, when I ran spring-cleaning/Black Friday sales on COMC – I’m able to be more aggresive with my discounts (usually 60% off) which looks good to the customer – and I’m still clearing a very good profit.
Those two buying tips alone are enough to generate a profit on COMC. However, there’s lots of other factors involved in making money. Some of you might have more time and knowledge than myself about these things and could experience higher returns than what I’ve presented. My last buying tip is to buy when everyone else is selling.
Other foods for thoughts. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about COMC over the last year – many sellers trying to use COMC exactly how they use eBay. Most are trying to send in lots of new(er) cards into COMC – That’s an amateur mistake. Remember, COMC & eBay are two completely different e-commerce platforms. I just showed you can make 190% on an account with only $100 in it … why on earth would you want to send cards into COMC when you can make 190% annualized just flipping the cards already on the site?
We call this logic: jumping over dollars to pick up pennies in the finance world.
Other than that, in my opinion, selling large volume on eBay is a job I don’t want – one that requires you to invest time into packing/shipping/listing items on a regular basis. Not to mention the customer service you have to provide each customer during/after the sales process. Given all the extra work required to sell on eBay – your margins are going to be (at best) low single digits. COMC has a different fee structure, (that many amateur sellers complain about), but what they are forgetting is that you can run higher margins due to the fact you’re not working as hard for the sales on COMC.
The other point I’ve made to eBay sellers in the past is to use COMC as a way to expand your sales. Instead, so many sellers just want to sell the exact same way they have for years on eBay. That’s a huge mistake. If you already have good sales on eBay – why would you want to cannibalize those sales with the same one’s on COMC?? That’s a business logic that you learn almost day one at any business school worth paying for …. but it’s a mistake I see all too often in the e-commerce world. COMC is a completely different e-commerce site than eBay. Just because the same product is being sold on both sites – doesn’t mean the same type of selling techniques will work on both sites.
Other things to keep in mind. I’ve discussed this $100 account numerous times on the Sports Card Show Podcast – so a portion of the collecting community knows it’s an account strictly to make money. It’s possible my sales are better if I don’t openly advertise this is an account strictly to make money. Also, during 2015 I was focused on rapidly turning over my money – so high margins weren’t something I was concerned about. During 2016 – I have shifted my focus primarily on cards that I can re-price at 100% – 300%+ markup. The only thing to keep in mind is it’s harder to find these types of cards to purchase, and these sales take longer to materialize. Patience is key.
Feel free to share your experiences with COMC below.
How To Drive Traffic To Your Sports Card Website Like A Pro
Subscribers to my sports card dealers newsletter got an exclusive sneak peek of this article …. which means I’ll barely need to promote this article via other sources because over 1,000 people will visit from sending out one e-mail. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could send 1 e-mail and drive thousands to your website???
So you’ve got a domain, website, and things for collectors to buy – all you need now is customers. Seems simple enough, but getting people to not only visit a website but also pull out their wallet or login to PayPal is the critical step most e-commerce sites that fail don’t properly think through.
The #1 mistake I see the vast majority of sellers make is they use ebay only as a selling tool rather than a traffic/lead generation tool. Sports cards is a high volume type business where you’re making lots of smaller sales over the course of a month. Even smaller sellers can sell 50 – 100+ items a month on ebay, which is a tremendous opportunity to acquire a large customer list over time.
Most sports card sellers on ebay are just happy when they make a sale, which triggers the pack/ship process that follows. However, many top sellers on ebay look at a sale as an opportunity to acquire a customer. Instead of looking at every sale on ebay in terms of profit/loss from a bottom line result – look at it as an opportunity to grow a user base that will re-order next time on your e-commerce website.
But I might be getting ahead of myself …. as I probably haven’t convinced all of you why using ebay as a lead generation/advertising tool is a much better idea than as your main selling/revenue source.
Let’s assume you’re selling 100 items per month, and we’ll assume for an average selling price of $10 dollars each.
Sales = $1,000/mo
ebay Final Value Fees = ~10% per sale
ebay Fees Per Month: $100
ebay Fees Paid Per Year: $1,200
Would an extra $1,200 in your bank account at the end of the year be nice? For most people that’s a mortgage payment, a few car payments or a few weeks wages. Not to mention, $1,000 a month in sales is really small, imagine if you sold $2,000, $5,000 or more a month on ebay … the money you are giving to ebay would be even larger.
Now I’m not suggesting pulling the plug on ebay sales 100% …. but as you can see, paying ebay 10% FVF’s off the top of every single sale adds up to lots of money over time. What I recommend instead is to use ebay as a customer/lead generation tool to drive traffic to your website where you don’t have to pay 10% of sales off the top to ebay. A reasonable goal is trying to reduce your final value fees by 20% – 50% over a period of time … which would be significant savings, and we haven’t even calculated the other added benefits from acquiring a customer.
How do I drive traffic from ebay to my website?
Good question. First, you’ll need a website. Luckily this isn’t 2002 (when I started my first sports card website) and it’s exponentially easier (and cheaper) to setup a website today. So I’ll assume most of you know how to setup your website. If you don’t know anything about how to setup a website – I suggest you teach yourself or find someone trustworthy to at least help you with the setup process of the website. For a fee – I’d be more than willing to help anyone looking to setup a website.
Okay so how do you use ebay as an ad network than a selling platform?
The first thing you need to do is look at every ebay sale as an opportunity to acquire data from your customer, not just get his/her money for that one sale. Your goal with every ebay sale should be to get the customer to grant you permission to contact them again so you can get their money over & over again … not just once.
– E-Mail list/Newsletter/Social Follows
This is e-commerce 101 but so few actually execute it at all. I still get e-mails from Blowoutcards, DA Cards and other places in this hobby that I haven’t shopped with in a long time. However, (as you can see) these companies are at the front of my mind because they consistently market me so when I do need something I’m far more likely to remember I can go directly to their website than buy from their ebay store.
Don’t have the inventory/selection of the big guys? That’s ok. I never said you needed to blast your subscribers & followers offers/deals/product in every e-mail/tweet. An effective e-mail campaign will actually include some informative e-mails, contests, and other updates. Ultimately if you can’t compete on selection or even price – you can compete on service and the way you develop that service relationship is by reaching out to your customers even when they aren’t buying from you.
But I’m getting ahead of myself …. and I think it’s obvious that an e-mail newsletter for just about any size business works. The real challenge with newsletters is building your e-mail list so you can regularly send them out to hundreds or thousands of customers. Remember, a customer must opt-in to you contacting them again or it’s considered SPAM. I will say that many ebay sellers (especially coin dealers) will automatically add me to their e-mail lists – which is something you can do, but I consider it bad form and is likely considered SPAM. The methods to collect user information have gotten easier over the years, and instead of sending out e-mails from your own web-server … I’d recommend using a 3rd party designed for sending out mass e-mails.
What E-Mail Newsletter Software Do I Use?
Now that you have a tool to design & send out newsletters here is essentially how I (and lots of other ebay sellers) collect user information from ebay buyers:
I can think of 4 legitimate (non-SPAM) reasons to contact a customer who buys from you – which gives you 4 opportunites to get the data you need.
I realize ebay/PayPal automatically do much of this for you these days – and that’s by design. Customers are worth a lot of money, that’s why ebay/PayPal tries to insulate them as much as possible so they don’t realize the customers can buy the items from you directly. Be sure to do your own due diligence on ebay policies about what you can/can’t send inside invoices and other customer communications as I’m sure it’s changed since I was selling online over 10 years ago.
Use ebay to acquire e-mail signups & social followers so you can market that customer later on. When you are just starting out building your e-mail list, incentivise a user signing up for your e-mail list by offering them a discount on a future purchase. Your goal with acquiring these customers is to get them to re-order on your website where you don’t have to pay 10% final value fees to ebay.
Other Things ebay Sellers Can Do:
How To Drive Traffic To Your Website:
Okay, so you’re going to now look at every ebay sale as an opportunity to get the customers e-mail & social following so you can market that customer again to visit your website to buy next time. Remember, if you don’t have many sales/customers … don’t expect to grow your e-mail list very quickly. Instead, view it as a long term marketing strategy that will pay off if you work hard at it. If you are an existing seller with many customers already – you’ll be kicking yourself wondering why you didn’t implement this strategy sooner.
But there are more ways to market an e-commerce website than an e-mail list and Facebook. Below are some more advanced techniques that more experienced sellers should be working on as well:
If you want my honest advice – I suggest ignoring organic (SEO) traffic entirely in the beginning. One reason why is because you could easily rise to the top of Google search results and get traffic – but there’s no guarantee that those visitors will be willing to whip out their credit cards to buy something. Remember, the goal with a web-store is to drive sales … not necessarily traffic. You’d much rather get 10 visitors to your website that all buy something than 1,000 that don’t buy a thing.
The other thing with SEO traffic is unless you are selling an item that you will regularly have in stock (maybe like trading card supplies) it’s not worth your time to SEO a page that will be gone once the item goes out of stock.
Ultimately organic traffic will come & go. Personally I’d much rather a visitor come to my site directly or through direct communication (e-mail newsletter) than randomly finding me through a Google search. Also, properly marketing your website via e-mail & social feeds is one major part of SEO, so you’re actually going to see a boost in organic traffic the more you market your website.
That all being said, SEO is not very complicated and not something you need to pay for. Outside of not worrying about Google/search engines at all – I suggest just putting up good content. I see lots of sellers tweeting valuable information about products … which is great for Twitter, but would be more effective on your own website. I’m not saying don’t tweet the information – but maybe at the end of the day summarize your thoughts in a blog post so those that don’t read your every word on Twitter will see that you offer valuable information. This content will be what ranks in Google, which will then bring eye-balls to your website.
Just remember, a good website doesn’t need any SEO or fancy tricks to get to the top. Speak to your customers & not Google when you write and you’ll never worry about your Google rankings because the customers will come to you.
When people ask me what “I do” I normally say I setup websites even though that’s only a small portion of my income. The followup question is usually “how do you get to the top of Google?”
To which I reply – just pay for it.
The fastest, most reliable and often cheapest way to get to the top of Google is just pay for it. What I love about buying ads on search engines is that once you dial-in the ad … it’s a gift that keeps on giving. The other fact is sports cards is NOT a competitive industry like plumbers, realtors, or other e-commerce sites …. honestly it’s downright cheap to buy traffic on Google, Bing and Facebook in the trading card business if you know what you’re doing.
The fact is most sports card sellers have no idea how to effectively buy traffic from popular search engines. Honestly, most people in the internet marketing business don’t know how to effectively buy traffic – so I’m not going to provide all the secrets to success here for free … but I’ll give you some basics to think about.
Ad Buying Summary
You need a call-to-action on your landing pages so you can compare that to the cost of the ads. If it costs $1 worth of clicks to sell 1 item on your landing page … that item needs to generate more than $1 in profit to be a sustainable ad. Testing different landing pages, keywords, ad-text … ect could yield some easy sales, and not to mention ability to market those customers again like we discussed earlier.
There’s way more to ad buying than I can possibly explain here. However, it’s worth investing some time & money in testing some ads on popular search engines & social media websites. I spend more on Google ads in one month than I pay for my home, car and all other bills combined every month because they work. Google even sent me a Google Credit Card to pay for my ads and they get one of the recent college grads who work there to call me every month. Microsoft/Bing, Facebook and others do the same. Spend enough on ads each month and they’ll extend the same treatment to you.
Even if you were to practice the techniques I preach above to a tee … buying and then reselling stuff on ebay isn’t a very complicated business model. It has a very low barrier of entry, that’s why sellers are always ‘undercutting’ your prices online. Not only that, trading cards is a seasonal business with ups/downs that make it even harder to sustain income month after month. That’s not saying you can’t live comfortably on ebay sales – but it should not be the be-all-end-all of your business. Truly wealthy people often have multiple sources of income coming from numerous investments. The skills you learn marketing your sports card website can translate into other business models … and those business models can often be even more lucrative.
2013 Las Vegas Industry Summit Information – The Orleans Casino March 17-20, 2013
1) Talk to everyone
Seems obvious, but this is by far the most useful thing you can do at the Las Vegas Industry Summit. While there you can interact with card shop owners, company employees, wholesale distributors, and many other really interesting people from this industry. If you have a card store, this is an opportunity to share ideas with other shop owners and take home a game plan to drive more sales.
There may not be much of an opportunity to talk to fellow shop owners during the scheduled presentations. The presentations are mostly “fluff” from the companies who paid for corporate booths on the show floor. Some of the scheduled presentations are similar to when someone comes into your store to sell you on some advertising. This is where you have to open up and talk to people during breaks in the schedule. Some things I would ask fellow shop owners are: What products besides sports cards are hot and moving off the shelf? Where are they getting product and can you find better deals with another distributor? Are there some in store promotions that will help bring customers in the door? Most of the shop owners I’ve talked to at the Summit over the years are very open, honest, and willing to share intimate details about their business.
Each day the Summit Show Floor will be open and this is a great opportunity to get some 1 on 1 time with people. For some, this might be your only opportunity all year to get this face time. Take full advantage of it, build some contacts and relationships, it can be very important to your business. I strongly urge you to talk to as many people as possible while there, go in with an open mind and look to find some new ideas to grow your bottom line.
2) Bring some food
I remember the last few years at the Summit it feels like it runs all day, leaving no time to grab some lunch or take a few pulls on a slot machine. On a few of the days “lunch” is provided but the food may not fit your needs. Grab some snacks and some liquid fluids somewhere.
The Orleans has options as far as food goes. There are some quick fast food choices and a snack shop. The sports book in the casino usually has some $2.00 hot dogs during the late afternoon. Don’t get left going hungry at the Summit, it could impact your mood and your ability to communicate!
3) Get Your Money’s Worth
You paid the $300+ just to register to attend the summit. Transportation, hotel, taking care of things at home can make it an expensive event to attend. Don’t go home feeling like you held back. You are coming to the Summit for a reason. Make sure you seek out all the information and get answers for the questions you have. If you have concerns, now is the time to voice them. Most of the communication in this industry happens over the phone or internet. The Summit is the time to corner someone face to face. You paid the money to attend and you are in charge of making sure you get value out of coming.
Also in the don’t be shy category: Get all the free stuff you can. Seriously. You should be able to come home with at least $500 in free loot. You spend all year promoting and selling this stuff, and for some, with little to no help from the card companies themselves. You’ve earned the free stuff. Take it home, sell it, give it away, do whatever, just get as much as you can.
4) Spend a night in the Orleans Casino
The Orleans, where the Summit takes place, is off the strip. It’s not a glitz and glamor hotel/casino like the Aria or Bellagio. At the Orleans you’re more likely to see “family night” at the massive bowling alley then rich high rollers. But you gotta hang out one night at the casino. You get to see some “company employees” who probably don’t have the bankroll to be playing $20 a hand blackjack (per diem anyone?). Have enough free drinks and the lounge band they have playing will sound good. You’ll probably meet some interesting local Vegas characters who don’t like the craziness of the Strip.
It can be a fun time. Most of the people who attend the Summit probably will be staying at the Orleans so it’s also a good time to chit chat after the schedule is over with for the day.
5) Come Home and Execute Your job is not done when you leave Las Vegas. You’ll have lots of ideas floating in your head. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Executing ideas is what puts money in your pocket. Digest what you learned at the Summit when you get home. Talk over things with your customers and fellow business partners. Don’t just come to Vegas and hear about things you can implement to make more money. Figure out how to execute them and make the ideas become a reality. It’s on you to do that.
Dates: March 17 – 20, 2013
The Orleans Casino
4500 West Tropicana Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89103