Saturday, April 21, 2012
Baseball Card Shop Memories
This morning’s story about the Honus Wagner card in the Victoria Advocate brought back memories of my baseball card shop I had in the 90s. I remember it well, because 1991 was Jeff Bagwells and Pudge Rodriguez's rookie year and their cards were selling like hotcakes.
I've told this story before, but it takes some explaining of how I got interested in selling baseball cards because I'm not a salesman. I used to work with a fella who would sell the gold from his teeth if he thought he could make a profit. He sold guns, jewelry, coins and baseball cards. He knew that I was a rabid Astro fan, so one day he came over to show me his collection. We were at work, so he left the collection with me, knowing I would purchase something. One day he invited me to go with him to baseball card show. That's all it took to become hooked as a consumer, and I would soon become one of them. After several shows, I decided to open my own store.
I know a lot of people think that I get my economic theories from a liberal clearing house of books and blogs, but that is far from the truth. I don't believe there's a truth certain when it comes to economics' because human reaction cannot always be predictable. My beliefs come from what I learned from owning a service station and a card shop. You have to love what you're doing, or you'll never be good at it and you have to listen to your customers and your help.
I was lucky; my older daughter was a good athlete and a sports fan, so she joined me and insisted that she would work on commission. I probably would have failed without her new ideas because she kept up with the latest trends like holograms, other memorabilia, and to this day, I don't know where she picked up her selling and marketing skills. One day friend of mine dropped off 3 boxes of old Dallas Cowboy cards that the police officers used to give away to kids, thinking I would want them. I didn’t think they were worth messing with so I put them aside. My daughter looked through the boxes, sorted them and sold everyone of them. I overheard her telling a customer " you know Michael Irving is going to make it to the Hall of Fame, so the $5.00 you are paying today, will bring 10 times that" and to my surprise, he said, " you’re right, give me two of them." She took the cards of the players who weren't going to sell on their own and started making team sets and inserted them into grab bags.
On another day, I saw some literature from the Mormon Church behind the counter and asked my daughter if she was going to join the Mormons, she smiled and said," who do you think, buys most of our basketball cards?"
Once a month we would close our shop and compete against the other dealers at the card shows. Those shows became a family event where my wife would open the cases of cards and started sorting them, taking out the special high-dollar cards and taking instructions from my daughter on what to do with the other cards. My daughter's husband would take care of our grand kids and joined in the sports conversations with customers. After the show, everyone would help pack up and take inventory back to the shop before we all met up to eat a big meal.
All that came to end one night when I got a call from the police department saying that my store had been broken into. The burglars didn't take any money, just my high-value cards. I learned years later that one of my old competitors hired some local gang bangers to rob my store, but I forgot about it and perhaps it was an omen to get out while the getting was good.