Saturday, December 17, 2011

Don't Leave!

I like to check out the different collecting forums on occasion. There are a lot of knowledgeable collectors posting interesting and helpful topics on these boards.

Unfortunately, one of the common posts I see is about someone leaving the hobby. Often, the collector states they are tired of the high costs of cards or they are tired of trying to keep up with the ever expanding product lines.

I’m not knocking anyone’s approach to collecting. I love reading about all the different ways people collect; whether it be set building, massive player collections, or cards that feature odd themes like mustaches or serial numbers. It’s all good and it’s up to the individual to decide what they enjoy.

What I would like to do is offer some advice to those who are feeling overwhelmed and are thinking of leaving the hobby. If this is you, maybe it’s time to simplify things and take a different approach. There are many ways to do this but I’ll just give one suggestion here.

Build vintage team sets of your favorite team.

First, pick your favorite team (that’s the easy part). Second, pick up an empty card album and fill it with a bunch of 8 & 9 pocket plastic pages to hold cards. Third, create check lists of Topps cards for your team from somewhere in the mid 1960’s to the mid 1970’s. Fourth, plan on picking up a few cards to start your new, simple collection. Fifth, and most important, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT CONDITION!

Your long term goal is to just build team sets of your favorite team from the years when Topps was the only producer 1952 – 1980. Don’t worry about the sets in the 1950’s just yet or the fact that Bowman produced cards in the early 50’s.

The cards from the mid 60’s to early 70’s are actually quite affordable if you don’t stress about condition, even the hall of famers can be inexpensive in many cases. The cards from these years are also easy to find at almost any card show, on ebay, and at other online stores.

As you pick up the cards just put them in your album by year. Take your time and buy a handful of cards each month. You’ll be surprised at how fast your collection will build up but how long it will take to complete. There is a nice balance between progress and challenge in this approach.

If you’re a Yankees fan or like another team with some expensive ‘key’ cards don’t worry. Look for some really damaged cards to fill the holes or even better, just look for a reprint card. Maybe someday you’ll have a little extra money to buy the real thing.

As you’re working on these team sets you’ll probably find some good deals for cards from the 50’s or even the key cards. Don’t get impatient and start trying to find these deals, let them come to you. Pick a dealer or two and a show and work with them overtime. Dealers will often put things aside for you and give you good deals if you are a repeat customer.

I could go on and on but my point here is that before you leave something you once enjoyed so much, take a step back. Collecting probably didn’t seem complicated when you first started because you kept it simple. Maybe it’s time to take a step back.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What's wrong with these cards?

I received an order through my online card shop the other day that brought back some good memories. I suppose a blog entry about what people order might be interesting, but I'll save that for another day.

This particular order was for most of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals cards we had in stock, not surprising considering they won the World Series. I happened to get into an email exchange with the Cardinals fan who placed the order and found out he was putting together some Cardinals team sets. (I always enjoy when these email exchanges happen because I feel it adds a 'Mom and Pop' feel to an online store).

Why did this order spawn a memory you might ask? Well, I'm a Tigers fan and I was born in 1968 so the follow trivia question may shed light this.....

Question - What 2 teams played in the World Series in 1968 and what team won?

Answer - The Detroit Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games!

Alright, back to the memory..... In 1979 my dad took me to my first card show. He wasn't a collector and I had never been to a card show but it was a day that really hooked me into collecting. I was a little overwhelmed by the variety of cards and had no idea what to buy. That's when my dad, the non-collector, suggested we buy some Detroit Tigers cards from 1968 when they won the Series. My dad was always balanced in what he gave me but on this day he pulled out Tiger card after Tiger card from one of the dealer's boxes. Below are two of the cards he bought me that day.

Can you see what's wrong with them?

Sure the Bill Freehan is a bit off center and the Norm Cash has a few rounded corners but look closely at the top of the cards.

Do you see the 'A.L. ALL STAR' that's hand written on top of them?

That's right, this dealer wrote on the cards!!! Can you believe that?!?!

Guess what, it didn't bother me! I had 1968 Tigers cards in my collection and that was the year they won the World Series! Did I already mention they won the World Series the year I was born?!?!?

These cards have actually remained in my Tigers' album ever since and I doubt I'll ever upgrade them. They remind of of that day with my dad and a simpler time of collecting.

Is there really anything wrong with these cards?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Best Trade I Never Made

Have you ever looked through your collection of baseball cards or sports cards and noticed how many memories these little pieces of cardboard can stir up? I’m always amazed at how many seemingly ‘common’ cards in my collect have a story behind them.

I can think back to 1980 when a neighborhood friend of mine out in Kansas pulled a George Brett card out of a pack. George was the hottest thing in Kansas back then and I remember thinking how lucky he was to get that card. Every time I look at that card in my collection I think of that kid carry the card around in his pocket the whole summer.

I remember the first Tiger card I pulled from pack in 1978 was a Dave Rozema rookie card with the gold rookie trophy in the bottom left corner.

I also remember my first true vintage card was a 1958 Steve Boros card my friend gave me back in 4th grade. The card had a crease and some badly rounded corners but I didn’t care, too me it was really cool (and I still have the card in my collection today).

The reason I bring this up is that I had the pleasure of breaking open a few 1981 Topps vending boxes and I came across a card that really stirred up some memories.

The 1981 Topps baseball card set was the first set I ever completed. I remember buying one wax box for $9 at a local card show which gave me a good start on the set. Then, week after week, I would go to the local drug store which had baseball cards for sale and I would buy pack after pack I also did what any kid did back then……I traded like crazy with my friends.

By the time school arrived in the fall I was down to the final card I needed; card #705 Ted Simmons. As luck turned out, my best friend happened to have doubles of that card and he wasn’t even a Cardinals fan. I thought it would be simple to pull off a deal so we made plans to trade cards one day after school.

Well, as we all know, trading is not always that simple. We haggled for at least an hour and although I can’t remember exactly what I offered him I’m sure it was a good deal. How could it not have been a good deal? I was trying to trade for a single common card! Alright, maybe Ted was considered a minor star but I’m sure it was a good deal.

My friend declined to trade and I couldn’t believe it. I went home that night still missing that final card and I couldn’t understand why my friend wouldn’t make the simple trade.

I was upset but a few days later I received a mysterious envelope in the mail with no return address. I opened the envelope and guess what I found inside….

That’s right; my friend mailed me the card and asked for nothing in return. I completed my first set of cards and I was happy as could be. To this day my friend and I still keep in touch even though we live in different parts of the country and sometimes I wonder if this old Ted Simmons card had something to do with it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What would you do different?

One of the topics I wanted write about in this blog is what it's like running an online card store. The bad news is, I haven't written much on that topic or any other topic lately. The good news is, business has been picking up so I've been busy filling orders and trying to get new inventory online to meet customer requests. The hurricane we had on the east coast this weekend forced me to stay inside so I was able to dedicate some time to the other parts of running the business like updating my store software, adding new videos to my youtube channel, and writing a blog entry.

When running an online card store, or any business for that matter, you have to make a ton of decisions about how to run your company. These decisions range from something as large as, 'What business model are you going to create?' To something as small as 'Should you use scotch tape or painter's tape to seal the cards in top loaders?' The general business model at Sandlot Cards is pretty simple; list single cards online to help people build their player collections and sets, provide quality service, and attempt to create a 'Mom and Pop' type feel to our store, even though it is an internet only business. Now that we are well into our second year of business I've been reflecting on what, if anything, I would change in that model. 'Are you going to sell unopened material?' is a popular question we've received from our customers. I suppose that would be a simplier business model and might provide more income but it's not something I plan to pursue right away. However, that's looking forward, my intent with this blog entry is to look back and ask myself the question, 'What would you have done differently?'

If you look at my website you'll notice I have categories for all the major sports along with categories for each year within the sports. Before I went live with my website I purchased a large number of cards in all major sports from a dealer who was going out of business. My intent was to backfill my invetory with those cards and add new product as it came out. As time goes, I find it diffucult to keep up with all the new product coming out and at the same time to keep backfilling my inventory. Does that mean I regret the decision to cover all 4 sports? No. I don't think there are enough dealers out there that support sports outside of baseball. When was the last time you saw a dealer with basketball cards numerically sorted by set/year at a card show? Heck, when was the last time you saw any dealer outside a major show with numerically sorted cards from the 80's or 90's, or even two years ago!

So, is there something I would have done differently? Yes. I think my approach to backfilling my inventory was too optimistic. I don't think I would have purchased the inventory of the shop that was going out of business. Instead, my approach to backfilling my inventory should have been to buy sets and break them up. The simple reason being, it takes too much labor and time to sort through 5000 count boxes and weed out the cards with very minor dinged corners or centering issues. Even though the monetary cost is higher, it makes more sense from a time and labor perspective to purchase complete sets and break them up. I can't say I totally regret buying that inventory though, the kid in me has a blast every time I open one of those 5000ct.boxes inside.and get to sort through all the random cards inside.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bowman Prospecting

I just finished adding 2011 Bowman cards to the inventory at Sandlot Cards. I have to admit I don't enjoy adding this set as much as I do other sets. Perhaps it's because of all the minor league players that take time to research and figure out if it's worth putting a premium on their price. Projecting major league talent is a difficult enough task for professional scouts, how can a guy like me figure out which guys might have a chance.

One of the first things I do is to check out some of the sports card forums to see who is getting the buzz. This year it seems like most of the hype for players in this product revolves around Bryce Harper, Brandon Belt, and Paul Goldschmidt. No surprise here.

The next step I take is to check out the stats of each player. This is the part of the process that gives you a chance at finding an overlooked player. This year I found the name Dave Sappelt, who currently plays for the Cincinnati Reds AAA Louisville team.

Sappelt may be getting some hype but since I've missed it I thought others may have missed it too. I'm sure Reds fans are keeping an eye on this guy. He's batting .333 so far this season and is a .300 lifetime hitter in the minors. I'm no expert but I think a guy who hits .300 at all levels of the minors has a shot at getting a job somewhere in the majors soon. One thing that may be holding him back is that he is only 5-9'. I know there are questions of whether players on the smaller side can handle the grind of being an everyday player in the majors.

Anyway, we've added a few of his Bowman Prospect and Bowman Chrome Prospect cards in our inventory. He might be worth a look for those prospectors out there.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I've been busy lately trying to broaden the card selection at Sandlot Cards. Sometimes it doesn't make sense what direction I'm going. For instance, I've been working on adding a bunch of 2003/04 Topps Basketball cards online. Not sure why I chose these cards other than I found a nice selection in the mountain of cards I have yet to add online. In addition, we're nearing the NBA Championship series so I thought it would be nice to simply add some basketball cards.

While I was in the middle of this set and my shipment of 2011 Bowman hobby boxes arrived. I wasn't quite ready to start adding this but who can resist opening new boxes. So I opened box 1 and nothing exciting happened. So I set up the video camera to film the second box break. Good thing I did because it may be the best break I've had so far.......

First, I opened a pack that had the basic Bryce Harper Bowman Prospect card............

Next I opened a pack with Bryce Harper Bowman's Best card.

Finally, I came across this beauty, a chrome refractor serial #'d to 799

I've added the basic set to my inventory and plan to add the prospect cards and post the video this weekend on my YouTube channel. If you're collecting Bowman cards or Bryce Harper check us out.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

To Tape or Not to Tape

As baseball season kicks into full gear it's been tough trying to keep up with all the little things surrounding our website such as blogging. So I thought I'd take a few minutes today to give a little more insight into what it's like running an online card store.

When I started SandlotCards I thought the concept was pretty simple; put cards online, take orders, and send out the cards. Little did I know something that seems simple, like packing cards, would take a lot of thought. For many orders I would put the cards in a penny sleeve, pop them into a top loader, and put a piece of tape over top loader to keep the card from slipping out.
Then one day I was on the Sports Card Forum and I read a post regarding putting tape over the opening on a top loader. Seems like many people did not like it when it was done. I never got a clear reason why but more than one person posted in the forum that they did not like this practice. I had never received a complaint about it but I decided to stop the practice and pay the extra few cents to seal the top loader in team bags.

This isn't any big insight as to what it's like running an online store but it should give you some idea as to the many decisions that have to be made when running a store, even on something as simple as putting a card in a top loader. How to package the different varieties of orders is a whole other ball game!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Bird

I was searching through some boxes today trying to find out which cards I should add to my online inventory next when I pulled out a stack of cards made by Topps in 2005 called ‘The Legendary Years’. It’s not the first time I’ve come across these cards but for some reason I took a closer look at them today and found this card of Mark Fidrych.

I’m a huge Tigers fan and it just so happened that I started to follow them back in 1976 when Mark Fidrych set the baseball world on fire with his performance and antics on the mound for the Detroit Tigers. If you were a fan of the game back then you couldn’t help but like ‘The Bird’. Many people might consider him a character, or a bit of a clown, but from everything I’ve read and seen he was one of the most down to earth guys the modern era of baseball has ever seen.

If you don’t know much about him, he got the nickname ‘The Bird’ because he was tall and gangly and resembled Big Bird from The Sesame Street. There are pictures of him kneeling down and manicuring the pitcher’s mound with his bare hands between innings. But he’s probably most famous for talking to the ball while on the mound, although I believe he said he was really talking to himself.

I guess he was truly a character of the game but if you saw the famous (in my mind) interview of him on the field after dominating the Yankees on Monday Night Baseball back in 1976 you got an insight of how down to earth this guy really was. I remember him grinning ear to ear and looking around as if saying to himself, ‘Enjoy this while it lasts because you’re lucky to be here.’

Sadly enough his career was cut short. He dominated the league in 1976 going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA as a 22 year old rookie. (Imagine what a guy’s rookie cards would be going for with that kind of rookie record these days). In 1977, he hurt his knee in the spring but as the season progressed he seemed to be back on track. However, arm troubled developed and by the all-star game he was done. He never regained his form and bounced between the minors and majors over the next few years before retiring.

The Bird was the guy who turned me on to baseball and you can imagine the excitement I received when I pulled his rookie card from one of the few packs of cards I opened my first year of collecting back in 1977. I carried that card everywhere, I stuffed it in my pocket, stacked it with other cards in rubber bands, etc. However, even with all the dinged corners and creases it just might be the most valuable card in my collection.

You see, back when The Bird was struggling in the minors to make a comeback I got to see him play for the Evansville Triplets (the Tigers farm team back in 1980) when they visited the Wichita Aeros. So my brother took me to a game and I took that card with me. Late in the game I went down by the dugout and asked one of the players if they could tell Mark Fidrych I wanted an autograph. I was trembling when Mark started walking towards me, after all he was my hero! He came over and told me he would give me an autograph after the game because he would get fined if he gave me one during the game. So I stood there and waited, and waited, and waited….I guess felt sorry for me and was willing to pay the fine because he came over and said he would give me the autograph before the game ended. So I pulled out my favorite card of all time, my dinged up Mark Fidrych rookie card from 1977 and he signed it……

I don’t really know how to wrap up this ling post other than to say, this is what baseball and collecting is all about. I’d love to hear if anyone else has a story like this.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beware of Heritage Green Tint

We all know Topps loves inserting short print (SP) cards into their releases these days. The recent release of 2011 Topps Heritage is no exception. In the set there are a number of 'Green Tint' cards where the photo has a greenish tint to it.

I have not been able to find an official checklist yet of which baseball cards have this feature but you can bet there are a bunch listed on ebay. Based on the photos I have seen the variation is subtle, yet when compared to the 'normal' version of the card it's pretty clear. The tricky thing is there are a number of cards with green backgrounds that do not appear to have this green tint.

Of course, it looks like there are a number of these 'normal' cards with the green background listed on ebay as green tint variations (just go to ebay and do a search on 2011 Topps Heritage Green Tint). I just wanted to throw this out there in case someone is planning on purchasing these variations on ebay. My advice is to stick to the auctions where they show the normal card and the green tint card side by side. Alternatively, do a search on Google to see if you can find confirmation of which cards have the green tint variation. If anyone finds an official list please let me know and I will post it here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

First Card Memories

One of the great things about being involved in a hobby, be it baseball cards or anything else, is the people you meet along the way.

I've been sending a few cards out over the last couple of months to a gentleman who gives them to the kids he teaches. A father of one of the children asked that he send me a link to this article. It was a small gesture but to me it was nice to know someone thought enough to pass it along. I enjoy reading light pieces like this so I really appreciated the thought.

The article itself is about a father sharing the experience of his son opening his first pack of Topps baseball cards. It reminded me of the first card I ever received.

I got my first pack of cards back in 1977 but I have no idea what it contained. However, the year before my sister came home from school with some type of scholastic newsletter or magazine. In that magazine there was a strip of two or three baseball cards which she didn't want and one of the cards was a 1976 Ron LeFlore Topps card (it was a real Topps card to the best of my memory). So I ripped the card out and carried it around with pride for days. I didn't even bother me that the edge of the card was torn, I had my first card and it was a Tigers card. I suspect if I had kept this strip of cards in tact it would be very rare now and worth some money, of course I didn't care about that stuff when I was 8 years old. Thus my collecting journey had begun.

Does anyone remember their first card or pack of cards?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In my last blog I revealed a new type of box break I wanted to try where I would pull a group of cards from one of the many tens of thousands of cards that I have yet to list online. I happened to pull a group of 2003 Chrome cards. First, I realize why it takes so long to go through a book of 5000 cards and try to list them in my inventory. For this particular group there were actually 5 different sets of 2003 Topps Chrome cards present, which meant I had to create 5 checklists and price 5 sets of cards. (Life was so much easier prior to inserts).

There were about 259 cards total and it turned out the bulk of the cards were 2003 Topps Chrome Traded (195), not the base set cards like I expected. Here are what they look like......

There were only 14 Topps Chrome base set cards but they were all draft pick, prospect, rookie cards. The highlight included 2 Joe Mauer/Justin Morneau rooke cards along with a Jose Reyes (Mets) and Victor Matinez (Indians) rookie card. (There was also a Drew Henson Yankees card...remember him?)

Things got a little better when I started seeing serial numbers. First there was nice group of 17 Chrome Refractors numbered to 699. Here's a quick breakdown by team and a few of the players...

17 2003 Topps Chrome Refractors (SN/699)
2 Cardinals - J.D.Drew
1 Mariners - Freddy Garcia
1 - White Sox - Sandy Alomar Jr.
1 - Pirates - Reggie Sanders
1 - Diamondbacks
1 - Orioles
1 - Cubs
2 Rockies
1 RED Sox - Johnny Damon
1 Astros
1 Expos
1 Dodgers - Brian Jordan
1 Giants - J.T. Snow
2 Blue Jays - Eric Hinske

The serial numbers kept coming as there was a group of 29 Gold Refractors numbered to 449....

Here's the breakdown...

4 Cubs - Todd Hundley, Moises Alou
1 Rockies
1 Royals
2 Astros
2 Twins
2 Mariners -Edgar Martinez, Kazuhiro Sasaki
1 Red Sox - Johnny Damon
1 Angels
2 A's - Keith Foulke, David Justice
2 Brewers
4 Padres
2 Diamondbacks - Matt Williams
1 Giants - Trevor Hoffman
1 Marlins - A.J. Burnett
2 Reds
1 Cardinals - J.D. Drew

Finally, I came across 4 Black Refractors numbered to 199.....

1 Diamondback - Craig Counsell
1 Angels - Tim Salmon
2 Tigers - Shane Halter, Brandon Inge

It was pretty cool finding all the serial numbered cards and fun to pull some random cards to list online. I will do this type of 'break' periodically so you can see what it's like to go through random 5000 ct. boxes of cards.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Deck

If you read my last entry I mentioned that I'm going to try a different type of box break. Having purchased tens of thousands of cards from a dealer that went out of business, I need to force myself to start getting those cards online. So I've picked a random box and pulled a subset of cards from that box which I plan to add over the weekend.

The box I picked seems to contain mainly 2003 baseball cards and the group of cards I pulled from the box are 2003 Topps Chrome. I took a quick peek and it looks like there are traded cards and serial numbered cards so it could be a cool mix. This weekend I plan to have the cards online and I'll reveal more details of what was pulled.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Different Type of Box Break

One of the biggest challenges I've come across in running my store is adding the new cards that are coming out each week to my online inventory while trying to add cards from the older sets.

I've always wanted to deal with cards in one way or another but the defining moment came when I visited a local card shop last year. On that visit the owner told me he was quitting the business and he wanted to sell all the 5000 card boxes he had in stock. We worked out a deal and before I knew it i was hauling away more boxes than I knew what to do with. I spent the next few weeks just roughly sorting the cards by year and brand, all sports were present. My plan was to build my website and start listing all the cards I had recently purchased.

It took me a few months to build my site (I may blog more about that another day) then I was ready to start listing cards. My first thought was that I should list the current year of Topps baseball cards. Then I decided I should add some current cards for hockey, football, and basketball. I also broke some sets I had from my personal collection, picked up some bargains each month at local shows, and I continued by adding those cards. Before I knew it I was chasing new sets that were coming out each week and month. Now, a full year later I'm looking back and realizing I still have all those cards from my initial purchase and I've only listed a bunch or cards from the 2001 Topps baseball set. So I've come up with a new idea for a 'Box Break' to fix this problem.

You see, I love watching videos of box breaks on YouTube or reading blogs about boxes people have broken. So I've decided I'm going to randomly pull a group of cards from the 5000 card boxes I have in stock, this will be my own type of box break and I'm going to be forced to list them online. I'll sort them, add them online, and then I'll write a short blog about what I've found. I have no idea of what I might pull but I do know I have cards of all types from all manufacturers, most from the late 90's to 2008 or 2009. I have no idea where this will go but if you've ever dreamed of sorting through a few hundred thousand random cards that's exactly what I'll be blogging about. Stayed tuned.......I'll announce my first 'break' in a day or two.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Advertise for Your Competitors (SEO Part 2)

It's funny how ideas for a blog entry pop into your head.

This morning I woke up and checked the email I received for my online store. I found a 'nice' letter from another website looking to exchange links to each others sites. So it got me thinking, have you ever looked at a website and found a page where they provided links to their competitors? If so, have you ever wondered why sites that are in competition with each other would do this? It's like walking into Target and finding a sign that says, 'Shop at Walmart!'

Well, if you haven't come across this practice you can find it on my site by looking at my links page. This goes back to the question of why would a site do this? It's all related to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). One thing Google takes into account when doing their rankings is how many sites are linking to your site. There are a few types of links; one being the reciprocal link. This is a link where you and another website exchange links. In the end, it helps both sites improve their ranking in Google. So if you're starting an online store it can actually be helpful to work with your competitor rather than work against them. Besides, within the sports cards business we've seen so many variations of cards and sets of the years there is no way one store can carry everything a buyer is looking for, so why not help collectors find alternative sources to build their collections? Besides, if you provide a quality service you shouldn't worry about people not coming back.

I have more to say about this topic of linking and the email I received this morning but I'm going to keep this entry short. Look out for my next entry (hopefully tomorrow) where I outline a new type of 'box break' which I plan to blog about in the coming weeks.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Philly Show

Just got back from the Philly Show. For anyone who didn't read my last blog entry this is one of the bigger shows on the east coast. I found it odd that the Philly Show website did not have the list of signers posted. I believe the organization that runs this show has a different website and I found the list of signers on there site: MAB Celebrity Services.

As for the show, I got there late but I did catch a glimpse of a couple of former players such as Lenny Dysktra, Orlando Cepeda, and Thaddeus Young. While I was looking at cards at one table I over heard a lady talking about how pleasant Thaddeus Young was compared to someone else whose name I did not hear. I always find it interesting to hear what the players are like when they attend these shows.

The show itself had a decent crowd even though I got there late in the day. However, it looked like there were less dealers this year and I noticed a couple of major dealers where missing as well. The good news is that the handful of dealers I spoke to all said that the crowds and business where good today. (I did my part to contribute!) One dealer pointed out that it might have helped that there was less competition.

The Philly Show, in my opinion, is typically heavy with vintage card dealers and this show was no exception. Since I'm focusing on the modern cards until I had to search a little harder for items that might help my inventory. I ended up picking up a 2008 Topps Baseball Series I Jumbo box and a 1996 Topps Baseball set at good prices. I also picked up one of the last 2010/11 Upper Deck Hockey Series II boxes that I could find (note: these were selling well at the show). I also picked up and box of UD Hockey Series II Jumbo Rack Packs which are supposed to have a better hit rate on the Young Guns than the hobby box. Yes, it's an odd mix of purchase but I was looking for good deals to help fill holes in my inventory.

Finally, I had a blast searching through a the inventory of a couple of dealers looking for interesting inserts. I basically I looked for serial numbered cards and other inserts that might fit into collection of people who have ordered from me recently. I'll just put these online this week and see if they surprise some people.

This got me thinking, I'd love to know what players and teams you collect. I'd love to have a list of players/teams to focus on and I could keep an eye out for cool inserts, jersey cards, or other parallels which I could put into inventory. I'd also like to send out an email periodically (quarterly?) that is tailored to your collection which highlights the cards we've added of your player/team. Just drop a comment here or send me an email at of a player or team your collecting and I'll keep an eye out for their cards when I'm at the shows.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


March can be a frustrating month when you're waiting for spring to arrive. You start getting some nice breaks in the weather and then just when you think spring is close you get smacked with a few more weeks of miserable cold weather.

However, when it comes to collecting, March is probably my favorite month. You have all the optimistic news coming out of spring training about the next hot rookies, Topps baseball cards are in full swing, and Heritage is just around the corner. But the most important thing March means to me is The Philly Show.

If you live near Philadelphia (actually King of Prussia) PA, The Philly Show is probably the best show of the year. It's been running since 1975 and has about 100 - 150 dealers/tables. There is usually a great lineup of HOF's signing each day and the last few years they've had an ex-Philly player signing for free. All the major grading agencies have booths, many of the major auction houses are there, as are many of the dealers you see advertising in the major hobby publications.

The show is also held in the fall and last year was the first time I attended that session. Unfortunately the turnout seemed lighter than in the spring. I'm curious to see what the turnout will be this weekend and who will be signing. I usually like to bring a couple of cards for guest who signs for free. I do find it odd that the show starts tomorrow and there still isn't a list of who is signing on the website. You would think that would help draw a crowd. If the crowd is light again then the promoter needs to take this into consideration.

Anyway, I'm not sure what day I'll attend but I write up a quick note afterward to let everyone know how it was and who was signing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

SEO and Baseball Cards (Part I)

Have you ever looked at an online card shop and wondered why they have links to their competitors? SEO is the reason why.

What the heck is SEO?

When running an online business SEO is an acronym you need to know. If you walk through the Computer section of your local book store you'll most likely find numerous books on this topic. There are also people out there making a living at it. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In short, it's the practice of getting your website favorable listings in the search engines such as Google.

If you're selling cards through Ebay or if you don't view your website as critical to your business for some reason then you probably don't have to worry about SEO. However, if your primary (only) method of sales is through your website then SEO is probably the most important thing you can do.

There is a lot to it so I'm going to break this down in a couple shorter blogs and I'll try to avoid all the technical boring stuff.

The best way for me to explain it is to describe what I've gone through with When I was ready to go live with my site I told the search engines about it. Along with that, I suggested keywords and phrases that I expected people to type into their searches when looking for a site like mine. The keywords were be something like 'buying baseball cards', 'sports cards', 'hockey cards', etc. (I avoided terms like 'singles' because I didn't want to get listed as a dating site). Then I sat back and waited to find my site on page 1 of the search engines. And much to my surprise, I started finding my site listed.......on page 29 of Google.

How many times have you typed something like 'baseball cards' into a search engine and then looked at page 29 of the results to find a card shop? That should tell you how many hits my site was getting once it was finally listed. So I started researching what I needed to do to improve my 'ranking' and that's when I discovered the term SEO.

(It's getting late so I'll pick this up in another blog entry. Feel free to let me know if you want me to add more technical details about this topic otherwise I'll continue to give a broad overview).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Going Through 1000's of Commons

One of many things you need to do when running an online card store is to get cards into inventory. Seems obvious but when you deal with modern commons like I do it can be quite a challenge (probably why most dealers don't bother). The main challenge at the start is trying to keep up with the new stuff and back fill the past years at the same time. I've adopted a method of alternating between the two.

This week I completed adding 2011 Topps baseball cards along with the inserts to my online inventory. So over the last 2 days I decided to finish adding the 2001 Topps baseball cards I had in stock. This is a project I've attempted a few times and is a perfect example of what this business can be like.

I bought the inventory of a dealer who went out of business a couple of years back and I have literally a few hundred thousand cards to sort through. It sounds like a blast and in some ways it is. When I first got the cards I sorted through them and put them in rough order by sport, brand, and year. (That was a blast!) Now, when I want to add something to inventory I have to put the cards in numerical order and grade them. That's the hard part.

I initially pulled about 2,500 Topps baseball cards out of storage for the year 2001. I sat down and started inspecting each card and unfortunately I found small dings on the corners of many cards or minor scuff marks on the face of the cards. It took me countless hours to inspect each card, of which I probably rejected over 70% of the cards. It's painful when you have 9 cards of one player and you decide none meet your strict requirements to list online. The reason I do this though is that people ordering common cards online don't have the luxury of inspecting each card for themselves so I have to provide a service they can trust.

Once I finished with those cards I found a second group of 2001 Topps baseball cards in another box. The good news was there were only about 300 cards and I could tell these were from a set break of Series I. I could tell this because there was only 1 of each card and the numbing stopped at 400. In addition, almost every card met my requirements for listing. This set was a lot easier to work with.

I guess the logical question is (when dealing with modern cards) whether it's better to buy large collections which are cheaper but more labor intensive or to buy sets which are more expensive and less labor intensive. I'm not sure yet if I have an answer, I bought the large accumulation but I'm also picking up bargain sets when I find them at shows. I'll keep you posted on how it works out.

Oh yea, one note about the large accumulations; there was a stack of 2006 Donruss Elite football cards in the second box of cards from which I pulled the 2001 Topps. Naturally, for fun, I sifted through it and found an Aaron Rodgers rookie card. I guess that's a vote for buying the accumulations! Not an expensive card but a fun one to find among commons.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Jim Leyland Story

One of the fun things about attending a sporting event is the chance you have at gaining a life long memory. If you attend enough events throughout your life you end up with a collage of memories that you can look back on with great enjoyment. The funny thing is, each one is unique in its own way but many of them are no more special than the next.

For instance, I remember seeing Goose Gossage close out a game at Yankee Stadium late in his career and how the place went crazy in a meaningless game. Or the time I saw Rod Carew hit a rare home run in the 12th inning of a game in Anaheim. Fun to see and think back on but nothing anyone is going to go crazy over.

However, we also have those memories that deserves a spot that is front and center of that collage of ours. These are memories that make the other events pale by comparison and JimLeyand gave me one them back when I was 11 years old.

You see I'm a huge Detroit Tigers fan and back in the very early 1980's I lived in Wichita, Kansas. I didn't get to many (any) Tigers games back then but my Dad would always take me to the Triple A games when the Tiger's Evansville farm team came to town. My Dad always worked long days so it was special that he would take off early for those on those summer evenings when Evansville was in town We would always be the first in line when the ticket window opened, off course attendance was pretty slim at those games but he wanted to make sure we got the tickets right next to the Evansville dugout.

Before each game I would stand there in my Tigers cap during batting practice and ask every player who walked by for an autograph. I remember seeing guys like Marty Castillo (HR in '84 World Series), Mark DeJohn (long time minor league got a cup of coffee with the Tigers), Rick Leach, and Mike Chris. These were players many people wouldn't remember but they were my heroes those summers. The players appreciated my loyalty after seeing me there night after night and I got my share of batting practice balls and broken bats.

On one of those balls I decided to get every player I could to autograph it. I good progress getting all the position players to sign it and then I caught Jim Leyland as he walked by. However, before he signed it he started chatting with me; asking me if I played baseball, answering my questions about the players, and telling me about some kids he knew who played baseball. Just general chit chat but I was thrilled (I still have no idea how long it lasted but in my memory it was about 10 minutes).

When he was done chatting he took the ball signed it and commented on how it looked like the whole team had signed it. I told him I was close but I was missing a lot of the pitchers because they always hung out in the bullpen. At that point he grinned and said, 'Hop over the wall and come with me.' Right then I knew he was taking me to the bullpen. So I hopped the wall and security came running but Jim waved him off and said I was with him. He walked me to the bullpen and told one of the pitchers, 'This is my friend Erik, make sure he gets everyone's autograph.' Then he told me to enjoy the game and that he had to go. (I wish I remember who the pitcher was because he was one of the nicest players on the team).

So there it is, probably the best memory I'll ever have related to sports. I'm sure Jim did something like that many times over his long career, I just wonder if he realizes how much joy he really gave a kid and the memories it still provides even 30 years later.

If you have any similar experience please leave a comment. I'd love to hear about them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Best Investment - $10 on Bad Wax

There is a term in the card industry called Bad Wax. I'm not sure where is started but there is a good blog that explains the concept ( On the blog there is also a section called Craig's List Idiots where the blogger contacts people who are posting outrageous offers to sell cards on Craig's List and posts a humorous transcript of the email exchanges. Worth a look.

What is bad wax? Simply put, it's the cards that were produced between the mid 80's to mid 90's. The cards where so mass produced there is little or no value to them in the industry. Unfortunately, many people invested in cards during this period and are disappointed when they go to sell their cards and find out they are almost worthless.

Well, I have to say one of the best investments I ever made was in 'Bad Wax'. You see, a few years back I took my son (9 years old at the time) to his first card show. I wanted to get him into the hobby but I wasn't really sure how to do it. He is a Philly fan so I bought a few Jayson Werth cards at the show but could tell he was not really into it. Then we stopped at a dealer's table who had big boxes full of 'bad wax', worse yet the cards were all dinged up. He offered one box for $5 and I thought to myself, 'What a waste of money.' But before I knew it my son was hovering over the box sifting through the cards with wide eyes. At that point, the dealer just smiled and said, 'The best deal in the place.' I knew he was right. Then he offered me 3 boxes for $10 and we had a deal.

My son was grinning ear to ear when we hauled those big boxes in the house (thank goodness my wife was a good sport and told him how lucky he was). I explained to him how I used to sort cards as a kid by year and then put them in numerical order to complete sets. And that's what we did each night for the next week. We sorted through junk wax, we had no concern about the condition of cards, and talked about the players and cards. Truly the best investment in cards I've ever made.

The one problem, my son now wants to buy every box of cards he sees when we go to a card show.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wanting to Sort Some Cards

Well, here I am tonight wanting to sort some cards and add them to my online inventory yet I'm writing a blog entry. Why would I do this when I have the chance of opening a random box of cards or a lot I've purchased and finding out what gems I can add to my inventory?

The truth is I can't sort cards every night because there are too many other things that have to be done to keep the business running. One of them is paying taxes which requires organizing receipts and records for tax purposes. Not a fun topic but a necessity if you want to treat this as something other than a hobby. And this explains why I am writing a blog entry.....I'm procrastinating!

Anyway, I wanted to give you some insight into what it's like running a card business (online) and tax preparation is one of the realities.

There's no way I could sum up everything that goes into running this business in one or two blog entries so I thought writing an entry once or twice a week about what's on my to do list that day might be interesting. If you like this format let me know? Suggestions are always welcome!

Now, on to the tax preparation.....but don't worry 2011 Topps Baseball Cards are on the way!!!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Running an Online Card Store - Not Easy!

Have you ever thought about opening a card shop? I think anyone who enjoys collecting cards has probably had this thought at one time or another, whether serious or not. Maybe it happened when you where busting open a box of cards, 'Wow, imagine if I could do this every day and make a living at it?' Or maybe it happened when you attended a local card show, looking at the dealers with all those 'hits' laid out on their tables or under glass. To me it was a combination of the two but I always gravitated towards the dealers who catered to the set builders. All those cards lined up in numerical order by year or neatly put in the plastic pages of binders.

I had my first thoughts of what it would be like to deal in cards when I started earning a little spending money by mowing lawns. I was able to buy my first wax box in 1980. I spent what seemed like hours opening the packs, sorting the cards, and admiring the stacks of cards from my purchase. I thought I had hit it big time and how fun it would be to set up a table with my 'huge' purchase at a card show. Then I'd put rubber bands around those neatly sorted cards and put them in a shoe box (yea, I didn't quite have it all figured out yet).

Anyway, let me cut the history lesson short and explain why am I writing this blog?

I've seen more than a few posts in forums on people wondering what it would be like to run a card store so I thought it would be an interesting topic. Being that I actually opened an online sports card store last year I thought I could give some interesting insight as to what went into opening the store, what it's like running the store day to day, and why I started this business. Believe me it's been harder than I thought it would be!

In addition, I plan on writing about what it's like having a son who is starting to enjoy the hobby. Kind of like a 'Collecting through the eyes of a Kid' section.

Finally, I think I have a few interesting collecting/sports related stories; like the time Jim Leyland had me take a walk with him at a minor league game.

So is this something that you'd come back to read? I'd love to hear what you think.....