My Time as a Sports Card Collectibles Dealer

Atlanta Braves
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After my time as a flea market dealer I decided to become a sports card collectibles dealer. It seemed simple: buy low and sell high. I was still in high school, had a car, and most importantly had the internet. The strategy was to buy sports cards that were desired locally from people in other parts of the country at a discount. With the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins being popular teams in North Florida, there was plenty of inventory available.

After amassing a decent collection of sports cards that I thought were desirable I signed up to have a table at a Saturday show in my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. In the back of the Beckett magazine there was always a list of shows around the country and the Tallahassee show only came around three times per year — it was a big deal.

I drove my little red Nissan pick-up truck stocked with sports cards, and a little wood display case my dad built for me, over to the local armory. Never having done a sports card show before, but with a little bit of retail experience from working my table at the flea market, I was excited and nervous. The show was a huge success. In that short six hour show I made $500.

Every show I did after that first one was a failure.

The first show made me think this sports card collectibles thing was easy money. With the internet I had an abundant supply of cheap cards, my costs were low since I was merely a high school student, and I didn’t have to go to too many shows. What I didn’t realize was that in my market the same people would come to every show looking for new cards to complete different collections (e.g. every Chipper Jones ever, or the 1989 Upper Deck set of Atlanta Braves). At the first show I had inventory they’d never picked over before, and thus a ton of cards for them to purchase. Even though I had purchased new cards in the interim, as a percentage of my collection there weren’t nearly as many new items, and my subsequent sales reflected that.

With three total shows under my belt I had learned my lesson. I itemized and listed my entire collection on a sports card collectible news group, took a few bids, and ended up selling everything for $1,600 to a guy that drove down from Nashville in a little Honda Civic hatchback. It was a clean exit and my time as a sports card collectibles dealer was over.

What else? Have you tried turning a hobby into a business without luck?

5 thoughts on “My Time as a Sports Card Collectibles Dealer

  1. I recall the late 80s, early 90s sports card boom – and especially Beckett Baseball Monthly – with great affection. I was too young to cash in on the fad, but I did learn some early business lessons through the course of my wheeling and dealing during the 5th grade lunch period:

    1.) Ask for what you want – Wade Boggs cards in my case.

    2.) Know what the other guy wants – Drew liked Joe Oliver and the Cincy Reds, Joel was a sucker for Jose Canseco, Justin went for any trade involving a Washington Redskin, etc.

    3.) Don’t take “no” for an answer.


  2. David, I still have my extremely large baseball/sports card collection (350,000 cards). I have yet to find a buyer for my 350,000 card vintage collection. I have had more pleasure fooling with my collection over the years and have stumbled upon some great deals (e.g., mint, Wilt Chamberlain rookie card for less than $1.00!). I am a special collector of items related to my favorite team, the San Francisco Giants…I hope to meet you sometime in the near future.

    Wayne Betowt (Jennifer’s father)

    1. Wow, that’s an impressive collection! I enjoyed my time as a sports card collector — the cataloging/studying was just as fun as the hunting.

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