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!!!!