2014 Las Vegas Industry Summit - Sports Cards

Orleans Casino - Las Vegas Summit

Dates: March 16 - 19, 2014

Location:
The Orleans Casino
4500 West Tropicana Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89103

Website: www.theindustrysummit.com

  
2014 Las Vegas Sports Card Summit Schedule:  
Sunday
  • 11:00 – Registration (the freebies keep getting worse each year)
  • 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM – Show floor open, featuring displays from industry companies desperate for money.
  • 7 PM – Retailer Reception (everyone bounces out to live the Vegas life)

Monday
  • 9:00-11:00 – Sports Auction Panel Discussion moderated by ESPN's Michele Steele and Kelsey Schroyer.
  • Not much else - go play some craps

Tuesday
  • 7:45-8:45 AM – Breakfast/presentation
  • Hit the buffet up, the breakfast provided might be weak
  • 12:30-1:30 PM – Industry luncheon
  • That's about it

At some point Panini will give away Black Boxes and everyone will be joyous for a second.

Wednesday
  • Everyone leaves on Tuesday night or this morning. Not much to do this day.

EXCLUSIVE: Full 2014 Las Vegas Industry Summit Schedule

 

 

 

The Las Vegas Industry Summit had a long history of gathering sports card professionals together for an annual conference. Roughly 300-400 people attend, consisting of a collection of sports card shop owners, card company employees, and a mixture of others trying to make some money in the sports card game. Corporate sponsors pay $3,195-5,000+ for "booths" and presentations where they can try and promote their business to those attending. This is not a "card show" like the NSCC. The Industry Summit is a place to go if you have a business venture and are trying to gain contacts or customers.

Sports Card Radio Gets the Boot
The last three years I've been to the Las Vegas Summit. The tone of the Summit is in large part tailored to brick and mortar store owners. That's not really my game. I failed at running a sports store. I don't go to the Summit in hopes of making contacts to grow any type of sports card business I have now. In all honesty, sports cards is a very small business where I only see a few people and companies who can make real money. By real money I mean millions. Aside from the few "real ballers" there are thousands of people in the sports card game trying to scratch out about $28,000 or less a year. I'm not going to break my back in the sports card game for that kind of money.

So for me, it's fun to go to the Summit and post tweets on Twitter with updates about what is going on. Twitter is a niche thing in the sports card world. I wouldn't say a lot of "collectors" are on there. The sports card community on Twitter is filled with people usually trying to promote/sell something. Actually, it's the perfect demographic for the Summit, as you can probably count on one hand how many "true collectors" attend the event in Vegas. Twitter isn't really my game either. Aside from a few key times of the year, I don't tweet that much. It actually sounds stupid to even be writing about how much I tweet. For me, there are easier ways to monetize, and get traffic to content I create on the web......and I'm not limited to 140 characters.

One thing to keep in mind, card company employees and the Summit event organizers are very wrapped up into Twitter. Some of these guys must check their phone 150 times a day. It's a key place for Topps, Panini, Group Breakers, and anyone else trying to scratch out a living to promote their business. For me, it's a perfect place to blast off on them. When collectors are having issues with customer service and redemptions, Twitter is the best place to go and let Topps know about it.

It's probably hard to believe, I know, but people email Sports Card Radio everyday. Usually they want to know about a specific set or what something is worth. The last couple years a lot of emails have been about customer service issues, mostly pertaining to Topps. In 2013 I looked at the Summit as an opportunity to tee off on sports card company employees on Twitter and let them know their customers weren't happy. Not everything I posted was negative, but I did have some Nick Young moments and got some shots up. Because of those Twitter posts from last year, I was told I would not be able to attend in 2014 shortly after registering this year. If I was 2014 Las Vegas Industry Summit organizer Kevin Isaacson I wouldn't have let me attend either! It's one of the few smart things I've seen him do as Summit organizer.

 
   

Censored Hobby
The "media" that covers the hobby is weak and soft. Sports cards in general have plummeted in popularity since the mid-1990's, yet you rarely see discussion about how and why that happened. And more importantly, why it continues to be a weak business today. Hobby "media" tends to ignore the declining business and will generally pimp and promote anything that comes out of the corporate offices of Panini, Topps and Upper Deck. You can see why the hobby media would steer in that direction. If you want to pick up a check at the end of the week, you better not make anyone at Topps or Panini upset with your news organization. If it means putting food on your table, by all means, pimp every set like it's as great as 1952 Topps.

Summit organizers limiting who can attend their event will also further the soft approach to covering sports cards. If you ever want to attend, or plan to attend the Vegas gig, you better not be barking on Twitter. Trust me! Company employees and Summit organizers could care less about cut and pasted articles on a website. They don't care about your radio show or podcast. I've spent countless hours promoting crappy sets of cards. I've spent waaaaaaay more hours helping to promote crappy sets of cards than I can even count. I'm also not a fool. These card companies don't make collectible cards. They come out with way too many products. Only a few sets each year are any good. There are very few people with any passion in this industry. Most are just trying to pick up that meager check each week. Shame on me for wanting the industry to shoot for higher aspirations.

And oh - some of you "media members" are real jerks to some decent collectors who email you. Why don't you light up a card company for coming out with their 26th set during a month? Why are you dogging a collector? Damn that pisses me off.

 
 
 

Kevin Isaacson
Isaacson pulled me out of an Amazon presentation to discuss "my tweets on Twitter" during the 2013 Summit. He estimated that I had 750 tweets during the four day event. I was impressed he took the time to count, that couldn't have been easy. He did have an issue with a few of the things I had posted, mainly one that said he was responsible for "double selling" a spot in a group break he was collecting payments for. The double selling created confusion and upset a store owner who had never been involved in a group break before.

I told Isaacson that he shouldn't be so concerned about my posts on Twitter. I said "I'm going to go home and watch baseball, I could care less about this (expletive)." His response "Me too!" The Las Vegas Industry Sports Card Summit is a money making venture for Isaacson. He has very little other dealings in the sports card industry.

I remember a conversation I had with him a couple years ago, kind of before the whole "group breaking" boom. I told him that if I had a group breaking business I would be worried that Blowout Cards and DA Card World would start doing breaks and that could squeeze the already tight margins. Card shop owners already know all about this game. Collectors love Blowout Cards and DA Card World. I've yet to find a card shop owner with anything nice to say about them. Isaacson laughed me off the phone at the notion Blowout and DA would conduct group breaks saying they were strictly a pack and ship business (isn't that what group breaking is, but just more work involved?). Currently Blowout and DA Card World are selling group break spots. I could go on with other examples about Isaacson, but the key thing to know about him is that he actually knows very little about the sports card industry. When the 2014 Las Vegas Sports Card Summit is over, he's going to go home and watch baseball too.

 
 
 

Mark Sapir's Hands Were Shaking
One of Isaacson's BFF is former Topps employee Mark Sapir. I always found that Sapir didn't seem to have a care in the world about collectors when he worked at Topps. The customer service problems they were having while he was employed, he would brush off, saying that wasn't his department.

During a Topps presentation at the 2013 Summit, I went on Twitter and voiced my displeasure about the way Topps was handling some things. It seemed like a good time. The funny thing was, Sapir, who was in charge of the Topps Twitter account at the time, was like 20 feet away from me and I could see him constantly scrolling through his phone to check. He looked like a clown. He could care less that 200 card shop owners were in the room to hear what Topps had to say. All Sapir cared about was what I was saying on Twitter. Idiot.

After the presentation, I was gathering up my stuff when Sapir approached me. The first words out of his mouth were "What's your deal? You don't want to have some kind of partnership? It's like that?" His hands were shaking. On my life, his hands were shaking. I laughed. "I have no interest in any kind of partnership. My brother and I built a sports card website without any help from anyone in this room. I don't give a (expletive) about anybody in this room."

He was stunned. How could some wannabe blogger tell him that? Isn't that a sports card webmasters dream to have a Topps employee approach you, with hands shaking, asking for your help? He turned his back to walk away several times, as I kept telling him I had no desire for any kind of "deal". Yet he kept turning around to try and soften me up. Sapir wanted to provide me with things like, Topps checklists and information to put on my website. I couldn't figure out what was in it for me, since I'd spent the last few years putting up that crap without any kind of help from him (not to mention I've never been cut a check that says Topps on it). A few months prior he offered me a similar "deal". The only caveat being, and this is his quote: "If I ever see you say anything negative about this company (Topps), especially on Twitter, I'll cut you off for good."

Needless to say, I never took any kind of "deal" from Sapir and Topps. Partnerships are not my game. If you own a website, and someone wants to partner with you, run away as fast as you can unless they are holding a fist full of cash. Sapir left Topps just weeks after the 2013 Vegas Summit. Today he spends his time on Twitter doing more ranting and raving than I do. A lot of his tweets center around how weak a business the sports card industry is today. Something that has been painfully obvious for many years now. It's a shame while he was at Topps he never did anything about it.

 
 
 

Why did I write this even if I can't go and am going to watch baseball?

I care about the sports card industry because I've spent my entire life involved in the business in someway. When I was in 7th grade I got to work at a card shop every weekend. That was freaking sweet. My friends at school couldn't believe it. When Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in a game in 2006, I had cases of 1996/97 Finest Basketball, featuring his rookie card, stacked to the ceiling. I made so much money that day on eBay. My brother and I went flat broke running a sports store from 2006-2008. After a rough day at the store, where I'd be there and literally sell nothing, I would walk home with tears in my eyes. You can't cry if you don't care.

Running a brick and mortar store isn't my game. Twitter isn't my game. Being soft, in a stone dead dying industry, just to collect a check isn't my game. Those interested in the 2014 Las Vegas Sports Card Industry Summit should still go if they want to. It wouldn't surprise me though, if in the future, there are more choices when it comes to conferences like the one in Vegas. If the current Summit continues to be more selective with who can attend, look for someone who has more smarts about the industry than Isaacson to host their own. I would certainly be willing to provide help, but it's not like anyone with intelligence would need my assistance. Someone told me Isaacson made $50,000 organizing the Summit one year. Sounds like a decent business model. Sounds like less work than group breaking. Give it a shot if you feel up to it. Maybe those last few sentences were why I wrote this....

I get the sense that people like Isaacson think at some point I'll go away and everyone can just keep collecting a check in peace. Hey guys! I've been at this since I was in 2nd grade. I'm not going anywhere. The industry keeps shrinking it seems each year, but I'll stick around. I'll just keep doing my thing. Maybe I'll have an ace up my sleeve. If I do, I certainly won't have to ask for anyone's help.

 

 


 

Ryan Tedards