Topps Employee: When a redemption card is put into a product, we generally have an agreement with each respective athlete to sign cards for us. However, an athlete's schedule, agent, desired compensation, etc. are all subject to change and greatly affect our inability to insert the particular card in.

My Take: So do you really have a deal?
 

 

Topps Employee: Unfortunately, this does not always guarantee a timely signing session, as professional athletes travel frequently, as well as have varying degrees of willingness to sign cards for us.

My Take: But you have a deal, right?

 

 
Topps Employee: For some redemption cards we have to schedule a printing with an upcoming product release.

My Take: the quote is in regards to a customer waiting for a redemption card. If you read carefully this unlocks one of the reasons why cards take so long to be redeemed from Topps. They will print your card when it fits into their time schedule and budget. Topps will tell customers that their card has "yet to be constructed", thus the delay. Topps will wait until it becomes cost effective to print cards waiting to be signed by an athlete. There are times when they have a scheduled signing session with a player, but fail to have the cards printed in time to get signed.
 

 

Topps Employee: Customers chose to purchase a redemption for a specific player, at their own risk.

My Take: If you buy a redemption card on eBay, and are waiting for it to be redeemed by Topps, don't tell them you bought it on eBay. Tell them you got it out of a pack.

 

 

What if I pull an expired redemption from an old Topps product?

Topps Employee: Independent retailers and large retail stores can of course choose to sell our boxes of cards that contain expired redemptions. We cannot have them recall our product just because 2 cards inside are expired.

 

 

Pack searching at retail stores like Target & WalMart?

Topps Employee: Pack-searching and tampering retail stores has become somewhat of an epidemic, and one that we are constantly trying to police and prevent. However, once our product ships to the retailers, there is little we can do to stop this unfortunate kind of criminality.

 
 
 
   
Funny Topps Redemption Collector on Facebook created a redemption card for Topps. He wants to send them this card for a box of 2013 Triple Threads Baseball. At some point in the next three years Topps will be able to redeem the card for cash.

My name is Ryan. Please contact me if you are waiting on a redemption card from Topps.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
   

Below is a chart that shows what each product cost at the original (Pre-Sale) wholesale price, and compares it to the current wholesale price. In addition, I included the price of quasi-distributors Blowout Cards and DA Card World. To buy wholesale sports cards, you need to have a valid Tax ID number. Some wholesale distributors will only sell to you if you have a brick and mortar store. It's possible to buy products at wholesale without a card store, most group breakers buy cards at wholesale.  You do not need a Tax ID number to buy from Blowout or DA Card World.

As you can see most products dropped in price from the original wholesale price. To me, this signals weak demand across most Baseball, Basketball and Football products. Panini and Upper Deck did not make very many hockey products for the 2012-13 NHL season because of the strike shortened year. 2012-13 NBA products featured a "double rookie class" but demand was still soft.

Questions:

  • Aren't these card companies supposed to be making collectible products?
  • How do card stores make money with this landscape and margins?
  • Check that, how does anyone make money with this landscape and margins?
  • How does Panini throw 2 separate VIP parties during 2013 when......... to me......... I have no idea how they could be a profitable company.

Observations:

  • Topps has some cash in the bank and can weather a down year.
  • 2014 will see an uptick as better draft classes are on the horizon for the NBA and NFL.
  • It's a buyers market if you like to stock pile inventory or do group breaks of older product.
  • It's a buyers market if you like to just open boxes.
  • You could probably take a look back over the years and see similar numbers during years when there were weak rookie classes in the MLB, NBA and/or NFL.

Links:

 
   
I can be reached by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter @SportsCardNews  

 
   
The "Wholesale Pre Sale" Price comes from the original date of solicitation.
Current Wholesale, Blowout Cards and DA Card World prices are from December 3, 2013.
 

 

 

 

 

Wholesale
PRE SALE

 Current
Wholesale

 Blowout
Cards

 DA Card
World

2013 FOOTBALL

 

 

 

 

2013 Panini Absolute Football

$120.00

$110.00

$144.00

$144.95

2013 Panini Certified Football

$75.00

$67.00 

 $69.95

 $77.95

2013 Panini Momentum Football

$150.00

 $122.00

$150.95

$155.95

2013 Panini Elite Football

 $90.00

 $77.00

 $79.95

$83.95

2013 Panini Playbook Football

$150.00

$138.00

$158.95

$159.95

2013 Panini Prizm Football

$75.00

$50.00

$76.95

$85.95

2013 Panini Prizm Football JUMBO

$135.00

$105.00

$146.95

$115.95

2013 Panini Prominence Football

$90.00

 $49.00

-

$68.95

2013 Panini Limited Football

$78.00

 $71.00

$94.00

$94.95

2013 Panini Playbook Football

$150.00

$138.00

$158.95

$159.95

2013 Panini Rookies & Stars Football

$72.00

 $60.00

$76.95

$79.95

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Bowman Football

$72.25

$119.00

$99.95

$139.95

2013 Bowman Sterling Football

$223.25

$170.00

$179.95

$174.95

2013 Topps Football

$47.25

$35.00

$35.95

$39.95

2013 Topps Football JUMBO

 $77.25

 $60.00

 $73.95

 -

2013 Topps Chrome Football

$56.50

$60.00

$65.95

$72.95

2013 Topps Finest Football

$82.00

$87.00

$93.95

$103.95

2013 Topps Inception Football

$74.50

$76.00

-

$82.95

2013 Topps Platinum Football

$78.25

$60.00

$67.95

$69.95

2013 Topps Prime Football

$74.50

$58.00

$64.95

$64.95

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Leaf Metal Draft Football

$70.75

$40.00

$46.95

$42.95

2013 Press Pass Football

$86.75

$50.00

-

$39.95

2013 Press Pass FanFare Football

$78.75

$39.00

$37.95

$40.95

2013 Sage Hit Low Series

$87.50

$40.00

 $44.95

 $39.95

2013 Sage Hit High Series

$87.50

$48.00

$49.95

$39.95

 

 

 

 

 

2013 BASEBALL

 

 

 

 

2013 Panini Cooperstown Baseball

$72.00

$47.00

-

$52.95

2012 Panini National Treasures Baseball

$300.00

 $525.00

-

$619.95

2013 Panini Pinnacle Baseball

$54.00

$33.00

-

$40.95

2012 Panini Prizm Baseball

$75.00

 $38.00

-

$49.95

2013 Panini Prizm Baseball

$75.00

 $53.00

-

$55.95

2013 Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks

$75.00

 $69.00

$79.95

$79.95

2013 Panini Hometown Heroes Baseball

$90.00

 $90.00

$83.95

$84.95

2013 Panini USA Champions

$54.00

$32.00

$34.95

$36.95

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Bowman Baseball

$53.75

$58.00

$62.95

$59.95

2013 Bowman Baseball JUMBO

$99.25

$127.00

$132.95

$139.95

2013 Bowman Chrome Baseball

$56.50

$45.00

$49.95

$53.95

2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects

$53.75

$51.00

$58.95

$59.95

2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Jumbo

$98.75

$118.00

 

$129.95

2013 Bowman Inception Baseball

$74.50

 $85.00

$94.95

$99.95

2013 Bowman Platinum Baseball

$78.50

$60.00

$69.95

$72.95

2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Baseball

$74.25

$59.00

$64.95

$69.95

2013 Topps Archives Baseball

$74.25

$44.00

 

$49.95

2013 Topps Chrome Baseball

$56.50

 $64.00

$69.95

$75.95

2013 Topps Finest Baseball

$82.00

 $80.00

$86.95

$89.95

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball

$89.25

 $65.00

$64.95

$69.95

2013 Topps Heritage Baseball

$53.75

$52.00

$54.95

$64.95

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League

$53.75

$37.00

$40.95

$35.95

2013 Topps Museum Collection Baseball

$163.75

 $180.00

$189.95

$203.95

2013 Topps Opening Day Baseball

$21.00

 $24.00

$28.95

$30.95

2013 Topps Pro Debut Baseball

$53.75

 $48.00

$52.95

$59.95

2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball

$47.25

$25.00

$24.95

$29.95

2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball JUMBO

$79.50

 $49.00

$67.95

$69.95

2013 Topps Series 2 Baseball

$47.50

$25.00

$29.95

$26.95

2013 Topps Series 2 Baseball JUMBO

$79.50

$49.00

$49.95

$49.95

2013 Topps Triple Threads Baseball

$159.75

$145.00

$149.95

$163.95

2013 Topps Tier One Baseball

$82.00

$67.00

$69.95

$71.95

2013 Topps Update Baseball

$47.25

 $28.00

$34.95

$37.95

2013 Topps Update Baseball JUMBO

$79.50

$60.00

$69.95

-

2013 Topps WBC Tribute

$222.50

 $89.00

 $95.95

 $81.95

 

 

 

 

 

2012-13 BASKETBALL

 

 

 

 

2012-13 Panini Absolute Basketball

$120.00

$70.00

$73.95

$75.95

2012-13 Panini Brilliance Basketball

$75.00

 $45.00

$51.95

$54.95

2012-13 Panini Contenders Basketball

$90.00

 $72.00

$79.95

$77.95

2012-13 Panini Crusade Basketball

$90.00

$57.00

$59.00

$62.95

2012-13 Panini Elite Basketball

$90.00

$70.00

$69.95

$67.95

2012-13 Panini Flawless Basketball

$950.00

-

$2,124.95

$2,250.00

2012-13 Panini Gold Standard Basketball

$150.00

$120.00

$119.95

$122.95

2012-13 Panini Intrigue Basketball

$112.50

$100.00

-

$99.95

2012-13 Panini Innovation Basketball

$75.00

$57.00

$57.95

$49.95

2012-13 Panini Immaculate Basketball

$300.00

 $480.00

$534.95

-

2012-13 Panini Limited Basketball

$75.00

$55.00

$54.95

$49.95

2012-13 Panini Marquee Basketball

$90.00

$60.00

$59.95

$59.95

2012-13 Panini Momentum Basketball

$150.00

 $88.00

$99.95

$85.95

2012-13 Panini Basketball

$54.00

$36.00

$38.95

$29.95

2012-13 Panini Past & Present Basketball

$75.00

 $49.00

$48.95

$49.95

2012-13 Panini Prestige Basketball

$72.00

-

$59.95

$63.95

2012-13 Panini Preferred Basketball

$150.00

$148.00

$149.95

$179.95

2012-13 Panini Select Basketball

$105.00

$98.00

$102.95

$115.95

2012-13 Panini Signature Basketball

$90.00

 $72.00

$78.95

$68.95

 

 

 

 

 

2012-13 HOCKEY

 

 

 

 

2012-13 Panini Anthology Hockey

$75.00

$62.00

$64.95

$67.95

2012-13 Panini Prime Hockey

$187.50

$190.00

$189.95

$209.95

 

 

 

 

 

2013-14 HOCKEY

 

 

 

 

2013-14 Panini Prizm Hockey

$75.00

$60.00

$70.95

$63.95

2013-14 Panini Score Hockey JUMBO

$75.00

$59.00

$64.95

$55.95

 

 

   
Sell Special Cards on COMC
Topps lost money on the now defunct eTopps. I actually thought it was a good idea at the time, but the expenses behind running an operation like that has got to be pricey. One solution to some of the costs is if Topps just had to print the cards and let someone else handle the shipping and secondary market.

It just so happens a company exists that could do all those things for Topps or any other card company. COMC.  Produce some special cards, create a company account on COMC and sell the cards. Once someone buys one of the cards, COMC then handles the rest. It beats the card company setting up their own eBay account (like Topps Vault) because they would then have to handle all the shipping, buyer questions, returns, etc.
COMC eTopps Card 
I guess it's not as easy as it would seem. COMC typically handles cards on consignment from collectors and dealers. Card companies creating cards and essentially "setting their own price" might rub some the wrong way. I can see that argument. But I'm also on the side that wonders why most new cards have to come out of a pack. Topps essentially set their own price on eTopps cards. Panini sold Orange Pylon Prizm Parallels on their own site via auction, but didn't just start the cards at $0.99 cents. You can see here what those Prizm Pylon cards sold for.

Another negative factor besides potential collector angst is backlash from the almighty wholesale distributors. These distributors faithfully buy these card companies products, even the crappy ones. Without the distribution network, card companies would become much more expensive to operate. In a word, it's called inventory. Topps might be able to scratch their back at the same time. Create a small set of cards that are serial numbered #/100. Sell half on COMC and use the rest as box toppers, wrapper redemptions, or some other promotion that aides the distributor.

Selling cards like this would get hot player cards on the market a little quicker. When Yasiel Puig got off this summer........... Topps had one card of his on the market. Ouch. It took some time for a set to be released that had his card in it. I hate the over dilution of cards being flooded onto the market as much as the next guy. But one insert card of Puig on the market when he pops is a joke. Topps could make A SMALL PRINT RUN of Puig cards on demand and get them into the market quick. It might even create buzz and hype for the next set to come out that will have more Puig cards.

Cold Call Group Breakers & Card Store Owners
I had a job managing about 50 nurses who I would find in-home health care work. Insurance companies and the Government would pay $28-250 an hour to take care of a patient and I would find a nurse who could hopefully work for $14.00 an hour.  It's a real lucrative business because insurance companies and the Government are willing to pay out the nose. 

One day my boss came and told me to call all 50 of my nurses to "check in" and see how things were going. I wanted to strangle him.  It would take a whole day or more to do that. Reluctantly I put in the calls and it was in fact a great idea. I was able to find out some of my nurses were willing to work more, which meant more money for me. I also found out some of my nurses needed common medical items, like gloves, which meant I could get out of the office and go deliver them to a clients house. Getting out of the office was like found money.

Call On Your Phone
So hey, card companies, give your group breakers and card store owners a call. Don't call them with the hopes of stealing them away from your distributors by signing them up to a direct account. That's the beauty of putting in a call to them. It's not even a direct sales call. You can just get their feel for what the market is for your stuff. Some group breakers have been opening a wide array of product for many years, they can give you insight into what works and what doesn't. And guess what? By reaching out to them I can guarantee some will feel greater loyalty toward your company and order more product. I'd be willing to bet on that. A card company putting in such calls would also be helping their main customer, the wholesale distributor. Group breakers and card store owners might even tell their distributor sales rep, "Oh hey, Joe Blow at Panini called me the other day. Super nice guy we talked a lot about their NFL cards. You know, tell you what, add a box of Prizm to my order."

Card companies will tell you they already do this. Problem is, they only involve the people who, in all honestly, would be buying their product regardless. Examples of this are the Topps Five Star Club, Panini's Hobby Roundtable and Upper Deck Diamond Dealers. I get setting some of your biggest collectors and dealers apart and give them special treatment. No problem with that. But give smaller business owners an opportunity to reach that next level by giving them a vote of confidence. It wouldn't take that much time. Lord knows there are not that many card shops still around. Many group breakers don't have business phone numbers but you can probably easily find their email address.

It's hard running your own small business. Especially when you are buying and re-selling product. To make any money in this industry you have to push heavy volume. That's a lot of work! Card companies should reach out to as many dealers as possible. Make them feel welcome. I don't think it would be that hard.
  
Create Arizona Fall League Sets
I am biased toward the Arizona Fall League. I look forward to going to Scottsdale each year to watch AFL games like a little kid waits for Christmas. The games are sparsely attended despite some great MLB prospects on display. In fact, most of the people who go to the games are after the autographs. Many AFL autograph seekers don't even stay and watch the game. They come early and don't just want one Kris Bryant autograph, they want him to sign all 10 of their cards. Most autograph seekers at the AFL are very well organized, with elaborate binders holding cards, and some have a supply of bats that could stock a little league team. Are some of them going to sell these autographs? Sure. But you'd be surprised how many are just there to keep every autograph they get. Believe me, I've tried to buy autographs from people there (because I know they are real) and they are unwilling to sell even the scrubby players.
Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs
If Topps created Arizona Fall League sets they would sell. People wouldn't want to buy just 1 set, they'd want to buy a ton of them because they are trying to get 15 Byron Buxton autographs. Sets like Topps Heritage Minor League may not appeal to many collectors, but autograph seekers love the base cards because they are perfect for getting autographs on. Plain Jane Bowman cards are also very good for autographs. Topps could easily produce some real simple prospect cards for the Arizona Fall League without hurting the value of their very important Bowman brands.  

There are some logistical problems with creating the sets. The rosters for the AFL gets released toward the end of August, with games starting around October 8-10. It gives Topps a month long window to create cards, but one of the cool things about the AFL is the prospects wear their affiliations Major League Uniform. The players also don a special New Era hat depending what team they are on (Scottsdale Scorpions for example). It's pretty awesome seeing Kris Bryant wear a Cubs uniform and it would be even more awesome on cardboard. One way around this is just create a card similar to Bowman or Topps Heritage Minor League using pictures already available. They wouldn't be as nice, but people would still buy them.

Another factor is that the rosters for the teams can change. Some players get hurt or their organization changes it's mind from August-October and they end up not playing during AFL games. Some pitchers don't get named to a roster until September. Guys get hurt and get replaced. It should be noted that Topps does advertise the Bowman brand at the Arizona Fall League. During each game the PA announcer does a commercial read about Bowman and there is a Bowman banner in some stadiums. Topps sponsored the 2013 Bowman Hitting Challenge, which was a real fun event, hopefully they do that again in future years. I was watching the hitting challenge with a noted sports card researcher, and we found it amazing that you couldn't buy any cards at the games. Seems like it would be an ideal place. There would be some challenges to creating Fall League sets, but I think there would be interest.

You Can't be Sued for Being a Jerk
By and large the hobby "media" is soft. What they do an effective job at is copy and pasting sell sheet information onto their websites.  That's not a knock, it's actually a valuable resource. There are many websites that provide pertinent information for collectors. Very few of them though want to rock the boat.  Look at the state of the sports card industry the last 20 years. Card store owners are going broke by the day. Companies like Panini and Topps churn out so much product that it dilutes the value of cards already on the market. Redemption cards..... that expire....... and sticker autographs fill boxes that cost $150+ each. Yet every set that comes out there are some that will sing it's praises. Sometimes it appears nobody is looking out for the long term health of this industry, only seeking that next quick check. I visit card shops around the U.S. that are going broke, but all I can find on the internet are eBay's most watched cards.  

Some members of the hobby media get free boxes from companies. Which I guess would make it all but impossible for the person getting a free pull on a slot machine to rip into a card company. That's understandable. It's essentially hush money. Websites and blogs do help pump dollars into the hobby community. In reality, sports card sites probably don't get enough credit for that. Companies like Upper Deck, Panini and Topps have a very weak presence on the internet so it serves their interest to have others pump their product without fear of anything bad slipping out.  Negative hobby stories are usually relegated to a forum or kept private.   

Sports TV rights have soared since the 1990's. Apparel makers like Nike and New Era rake in the money producing licensed jerseys, hats, t-shirts and other fan items. The value of sports franchises have skyrocketed the last 20 years. Player salaries have exploded. The sports card market has tanked. That's not good folks. The popularity of sports has risen since the 1990's, but the popularity of sports cards has been crippled. Wake the F up. Something isn't right. The business model behind selling these cards isn't right. It's flawed. Small business owners are going broke trying to sell these cards. Distributors milk group breakers and shop owners for every penny they can. So much crappy product comes out each week. The margin is SUPER SLIM on all this stuff. From Panini Flawless to Topps Series 1, the margin is a joke. The secondary price of 2012-13 Panini Flawless boxes went up after release in part because distributors held back inventory. When a product gets hot distributors squeeze dealers with initial pre-sale allocations and then step on their neck by jacking up the price after release when it's time to re-order.  It's hard to make money buying and re-selling in the card game. "Media members" get free boxes of cards while shop owners can't pay their bills.  Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Raffle Sports Cards Using Fantasy Sports
It was kind of funny to see a multitude of online group breakers raffle off items for sale. There are many reasons why running a raffle is illegal, but there are some easy ways around it. One way to essentially raffle off cards is conduct a fantasy sports challenge between the people who pay for a spot. The fantasy game can even be set up to last only one day. Most people think they are good at fantasy sports so I could see interest in it. There are many daily fantasy sports sites that will let you set up one day leagues yourself for free. You could probably even handle the scoring yourself by creating your own daily fantasy salaries or copying them off of one of the popular daily sites. Most daily fantasy sites will let you download their salaries into excel.

One downside is the instantaneous nature of the current random.org raffle system. It's quick and easy to get 10 people to pay and then run a raffle. By running a fantasy sports game, you have to get these people to fill out a lineup and wait for the games to complete. If you do group breaks it takes a lot of time to sort, pack and ship certain products. Running fantasy sports raffles on the side might just add too much work to the equation.
  
 
Ryan T. @SportsCardNews
42 N. Sutter Street
Suite 313
Stockton, CA 95202
 
   
   

It's a really bad idea to open a sports card store. No really, it is. The idea of running a store like that might be appealing to the mind. You get to hang out all day talking sports, be your own boss, make your own decisions, and become a small business owner. The American Dream. I'd generously say that 95% of people who start a sports card store will fail. Will end up losing money. I owned a store from 2006-2008. I worry that the stress of running a losing business at that time took years off my life. I wrote about some of my failures in this February 2013 article

There are people who can probably make a sports card store work as a small business. For those brave souls out there willing to give it a try, here are some thoughts and things to consider.


Diversify Your Income
Easier said than done. Especially when spending full time running a store. Trust me, you need to find multiple ways to get a check. You have to diversify the items you carry in your store. Here are some quotes from current card store owners I've visited during 2013.
  • Iowa Store Owner: "Magic The Gathering keeps the doors open, but I love talking sports."
  • Illinois Store Owner: "Yu-Gi-Oh keeps the doors open."
  • Arizona Store Owner: "You can't make money selling these new (sports card) boxes. It's not a business, it's a hobby."
  • California Store Owner: "The margin is so slim with sports cards that you have to do other things like eBay, Magic The Gathering, Comics, lot's of things."
  • Montana Store Owner: "We do most of our business in coins, it's what we are known for, but the cards are fun and brings in a different crowd."
Magic the Gathering

It would be very wise of you to become familiar with Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon and other forms of gaming cards before starting your store. Do at least a month of research and understand what makes these cards popular. You can get these products from the same people you buy your sports cards from, so it's not like you have to set up a bunch of different accounts with distributors. The gaming cards could become over 50% of your total business, so it would be wise to really understand the market for those type of cards.

The ideal situation is have some other "source" of income and not just diversify the products you sell in your store. Like have a website you make money on. Marry someone who makes a ton of money. Organize your own sports card shows and charge dealers to set up tables. Run Magic The Gathering Tournaments. Be a winning black jack or poker player. Do group breaks online. You get the idea.

I'd actually advise finding a different source of income in some other niche or field. Have a source of income completely unrelated to sports cards and your store. Think about the other things in your life that you are passionate and knowledgeable about. There might be a way to turn that into a small (or big) check per month.

 
Location, Location, Location
You could get the best retail location in New York City and go broke running a sports card store. You'd spend too much money. Counter that with opening a store in a small town for $300 a month in rent. You might be able to make that work, but you'll never be popping champagne. It's a delicate balance. Paying top dollar for a prime location can break your bank quick. There are reasons why people don't start sports card stores. You typically go broke doing it. You can speed up that process having a few slow months and have $2,500 a month in overhead..... before you buy any inventory.
Big City Blues 
I don't really know how or where to pick a location for a sports card store. I failed. I was in for about $1,150 a month for rent and utilities. Not a huge number, but I also had to live somewhere, eat, pay many other bills, so you can see where it adds up quick. If I had to do it over again I would test out my business at a local flea market or event where I could sell my stuff for a cheap table fee. Get some inventory and give it a test drive for at least a month or more. Get a feel for the area and think long and hard if I could make it work.

Sign a short term lease. Like maximum 1 year. Don't let the landlord sucker you into more years. Retail space is plentiful in so many areas across the U.S. That market has tanked hard. People are begging people to rent retail space in most locations. You have leverage being the business owner in this kind of retail property environment, so don't be afraid to bargain on price either.

Go CHEAP Young Man
Your bills are going to pile up fast. Rent, insurance, utilities, internet access in your store, lunch money everyday, inventory, display cabinets, taxes, on and on. It's not a good idea to open a sports card store, so if you are going to gamble, don't risk too much money.

Go Cheap on Your Initial Inventory
Be careful with the inventory you buy to initially stock your brand new store. You really need to get a feel for what people in your local area will buy. You may love Panini Flawless, Topps Triple Threads and big hit products. But your customers may like cheap Topps sets like Series 1, Archives and Allen & Ginter. Do you have a Magic the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh crowd? Can you sell board games? Can you sell fan items like keychains, bumper stickers, patches, etc? Save some ammo for your first re-order. I guarantee you will regret buying something from your initial spree to fill your store.

Don't Blow Money On Traditional Advertising
There will be many suckers who come into your store to try and sell you on advertising. They range from radio, niche magazines, newspapers, Yellow Pages, sports teams, etc. Don't waste your time with these people. You'll add another $50-100 a month to your bills even going cheap with the ads. Just hustle and you'll get people to come into your store for little to no money.
No Ads
Buy some cheap paper and print up your own flyers. Talk to people, network, make friends. Most of your business will come from your own local city unless you open up shop in a tourist area. You can get involved in the community without spending money. I'd rather coach a little league team than put my business name on the jersey. I'd rather schmooze up the local newspaper writer and have him write a story about me for free. You can get into the Yellow Pages for free. Nobody listens to the radio, and the shows that are successful on radio you don't have the kind of money to buy ads on. I'd rather create my own podcast/radio show before buying a paid spot on a local station. You can create your own podcast for as low as $5 a month. Believe me, you can get people to listen to your shows with little to no effort.

Use the Internet
When I had my store, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was build an eCommerce site or post on MySpace (stop laughing this was in 2006).  Some businesses use free platforms like Facebook as their solution to reaching customers on the web. Services like WordPress and Blogger make it very simple and easy to create a passable web presence today. I sold a lot on eBay during the years I had my store, several thousand dollars worth of stuff per month. I probably would have created my own web store, but the eCommerce solutions at that time were weak and are now outdated.  Today you can find many powerful and easy to use eCommerce solutions to create your own web store without too much technical skills.

If you have a store, there are several things you can do to help your web presence for little to no money.

RULE 1:
Don't pay anyone to design your FIRST website.  I am being serious. If you know a friend who can help you for free, go for it. Email me and I will give you free advice. Most people who design websites outsource the work to non-U.S. countries. If something goes wrong or you get hacked you'll have no idea what to do. These website guys will also try to lock you into a bad hosting plan as well. Take the time and learn how to do it yourself. Once you've done it and feel comfortable, you can then pay for additional sites or work done on your existing site. Learn how to set up a simple website. That can end up being very valuable for you even if you flunk at your sports card store. 
Random Picture
   
Wordpress, Blogger, Joomla or something else?
If you want to post simple daily or weekly content, go with WordPress. It's super easy. Try not to run too many plugins and the ones you do use keep them up to date. If you want just a landing or splash page, where you will post your store information and not much else, you can get away with using Blogger. Using Blogger you'll even be able to re-direct a .com domain to a Google server without paying a hosting bill (saving you at least $5-10 a month).

I wouldn't advise going with Joomla, although it is my favorite platform to use. It's a little more complex and difficult to get started. Sports Card Radio is set up on Joomla. You can customize your web pages in more creative ways on Joomla, but if you just want a simple turn key option go with WordPress or Blogger. I think it's much easier to make your website look "nice" on WP or Blogger, which is important because your site will be a first impression for customers who initially find you online.

There are a lot of help forums and free information about how to set up websites. If you are ambitious enough to start your own store you can set up your own website without any help or prior skills. Search Google or WordPress help forums if you get stuck or frustrated. It's not as hard as it looks, you just have to be patient and open up your mind to learning something new.
Get your customers' email address.
Just trust me. Find a way to do it even if it costs you money. This should be obvious how important this is. Companies like Groupon exist because of email marketing. Think about what you can do by having your customers email address. Build a database and value that thing like gold.
Money Sign 

You need to go through an online mail service program or your emails will probably be flagged for spam. Browse around and find the one for you, Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, there are other options as well for around $15-30 a month until you build up a huge database of email addresses.

Today, I would have an iPad in my shop, prominently displayed in the store where customers could enter their email address for my store's mailing list. I'm dumb that I didn't do that in 2006, as email marketing has existed since the start of the internet.

  
What's Up With Twitter?
If you have a store you should have a Twitter account but don't let it suck your time away. You won't get a huge amount of business off Twitter unless a bunch of people in your local area use it, or you have an online store you can promote. If Twitter was around when I had my store I would probably post pictures of nice cards that got pulled from the shop. It can also be a source of information at times, but again, don't waste too much time building a following.
Twitter

If you notice a lot of your customers using Twitter you might be able to create a Twitter coupon or promotion, but don't look at Twitter as a revenue maker for you.

What's Up With Zuckerberg's Facebook?
I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I could see it being more successful for driving business than Twitter. For one, you aren't limited to 140 characters and more of your customers will be using Facebook. If I had a store today I would try and post at least a couple things a week about my shop on Facebook and attempt to build a following.

Social Media Tends to be a Fad
Don't spend too much time wasting hours on Facebook and Twitter. Honestly, you should spend more time building out your own website or email list if you enjoy using those social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter could die off just as MySpace and AOL instant messenger did. Be quick to adapt if a new trend arises. Look at other outlets like Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Pinterest (more for female niches) to see if you can use those to your advantage. I can't stress this enough, don't waste too much time with social media unless you intend to start an eCommerce store.  You can still build a decent following on social media sites without spending too much time on them. You can leverage your email list and websites to gain likes and followers.

Side Note
SITES LIKE TWITTER & FACEBOOK HAVE MULTI BILLION DOLLAR VALUATIONS. BOTH COMPANIES COULD AGGRESSIVELY TURN ON THE ADS AT ANY TIME AND MAKE SIGNIFICANT REVENUE. IT SHOULD SPEAK VOLUMES THAT THOSE SITES ARE WORTH BILLIONS. YOU CAN SET UP YOUR OWN SITE AND PROBABLY MAKE SEVERAL THOUSAND A MONTH WITH LITTLE EFFORT ONCE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING.


Use Card Shop Finder
Card Shop Finder will put information about your shop for free on their website. I have the Card Shop Finder app on my phone and I use it all the time when traveling. I never would have found the shops in Iowa, Montana, Illinois, Nebraska, Arizona and California without the app and website. I use the app, go to the store, and start spending money. It's foolish if you are a card store and you don't get listed on Card Shop Finder. Did I add that it's all for free? This is what I am talking about "hustling". There are ways to promote yourself for free and get real results.
Card Shop Finder
  
Low Ball Everyone Who Tries To Sell You Something
Some days you will get more people who come into your store trying to sell you 1990's cards then you will customers. If you see something you might want to buy (WHICH IS ALMOST NEVER THE CASE), don't pay anywhere close to what it's worth. Most of these people coming into your store need quick cash and will take anything they can get. Literally try and insult them with a low ball offer. If they don't want to sell to you at your price, let them walk out the door..... they'll probably be back later ready to take the deal.
1990 Topps Frank Thomas RC 

Don't Expect Any Help
There aren't going to be a whole lot of people who will help you on your journey. Don't expect a phone call from Panini, Topps or Upper Deck. Why those companies don't reach out to the businesses who are selling their product more, I have no idea. Those companies usually try and sucker you into a situation where you have to buy a certain amount of product to get love from them. Buying direct from the manufacture is a good example. So is Panini's Hobby Roundtable. Why don't they have an employee who cold calls card stores everyday regardless how many orders they've placed?

The honest truth that you will come to find out is that Panini, Topps and Upper Deck's real customer is the wholesale distributor. Those are the guys who get comped trips to the NFL Rookie Premiere, VIP Party's, free autograph stuff and more. Panini, Topps and Upper Deck all have the same business model. Sell through the product to the distributor. They don't care how your sales are going.

Topps has many younger employees who probably have no clue how difficult it would be to run a sports card store. Panini has made efforts to help certain hobby stores, but they are also guilty of fluffing distributors like no other. Upper Deck is a real small company now and will probably be sold, pieced off, or go broke in the next few years. Those things take time to unravel.

If you have questions about starting a sports card store you can email me, I am willing to help you for free: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


 

It's Ok to Fail
I actually did do a lot of the tips I suggested when I had my store. A very small percentage of my sales were from sports cards. I had some other small sources of income not related to the store.  I went cheap on a lot of inventory but also blew off a lot of money too.

If you fail at running your own sports card store, don't be afraid to call it quits and throw in the towel. Perhaps you are just not cut out for that type of business, but still want to be your own boss. Figure out why you didn't succeed at running your store. Where could you have saved money or spent more time on? Is there another area of the sports card industry that you could be successful at in some way?

Dust yourself off and come up with another idea. Always remember to diversify your income no matter what type of business you run. Don't ever put all your chips in one basket.

 
 

Ryan T. @SportsCardNews

  
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