30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Monday, July 26, 2021

Day in the Life of a Card Show Dealer

Sometimes you don't appreciate the work that goes into something until you do the job yourself.  I have obviously been to numerous card shows over the past four decades.  There have been a handful of times that I helped my buddy sell cards at shows and conventions.  I've even sold cards while working at two different card shops and setting up at the local flea market.

But I've never set up and sold my own stuff at a card show... until this past weekend.  And I've gotta say... it's a lot of work.

I probably spent five hours going through boxes and pulling out cards that didn't fit any of my PC's that I thought might draw interest from other collectors.  I'd say 95% were sticker-graphs of hall of famers or fan favorites I've hoarded over the years.  The other 5% were graded cards I could live without.

After hand picking cards I was willing to part with... I started surfing eBay and PWCC's Market Price Research to get an idea of what these singles were worth and labeling them.  That took a couple of hours each day over a three day period.  Thank goodness I'm on summer break.  No way I could do this during the school year without burning myself out.

My collection is pretty much stored in either boxes, binders, or top loadersMagnetics are too bulky, so I figured I'd clean out my excess card supplies.  I started digging through them and pulling out every reasonably clean one-touch magnetic holder I could find as well as a small stack of brand new magnetics I had.  The process might sound simple, but it took at least two or three hours.

Last, but not least... I started going through storage boxes to see if there were any unopened wax boxes I might be willing to part with.  After an hour or so, I found four boxes that seemed interesting and worth the table space.  Sadly... I only sold one of them.

Inventory selection was only the first step in the process.  The next step was the show itself.  The show was from 9am to 5pm, but I was up at 5am loading the car and on the road by 5:30.  I stopped along the way to pick up my friend who helped me.  After picking up some coffee and snacks, we were off to the South San Francisco Convention Center.  I think we arrived a little after 6:30am.

The two of us unloaded the car and brought everything inside to our table... which we spent the next hour or so setting up.  My helper isn't a collector... so I gave her a quick introduction to card collecting and before we knew it... people started filtering in.

The next eight hours sort of flew by (at least for me).  I had a lot of fun talking about cards and every now and then selling a single or some supplies.

In the end, here is a summary of sales from Saturday:
  • Used Magnetics (x16)
  • New Magnetics (x9)
  • New Toploaders Package of 25 (x2)
  • Graded Rookie Cards of Derek Jeter, Shohei Ohtani, and Kobe Bryant
  • Autographs of Magic Johnson, Vince Carter, Will Clark, Ozzie Smith, Chipper Jones, George Gervin, Dennis Rodman, John Stockton, Kevin Durant, Bob Gibson, Dwayne Wade, Yao Ming, Monta Ellis, Baron Davis, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer, and Miguel Cabrera
  • Unopened Retail Box of 2001 Upper Deck Golf
We started cleaning up about 15 minutes before the doors closed and were walking to the car by 5:15.  It was a pretty tiring experience, but I'd definitely classify it as a success.  It was nice to see things from a dealer's perspective.

Quick takeaways:
  • I didn't sell a single football card.  I don't even remember anyone asking to see one.
  • My buddy had mostly $5 and under cards at his table and he did really well.
  • There was a lot of interest in San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors cards.
  • Wrestling and MMA were popular, but I didn't sell any of my autographs.
  • Evan Longoria stopped by my table, but didn't buy anything.
  • I didn't sell a single hockey card, but one guy looked at my stuff.
  • Nobody purchased my box of 1994/95 Emotion Basketball, but it drew a lot of attention.
Would I do it again?  Definitely.  It's not something I plan on doing on a regular basis, but if my buddy continues to promote shows... I'll support him by setting up.  The key is making sure I have a friend there to help watch the table and keep me company.

That's why I want to give a huge shoutout to my friend Michelle.  For someone who had zero interest in the hobby entering the day, she sacrificed a full day out of her busy schedule to help me out.  She made several sales on her own and even took the time to document every sale we made.

If that weren't enough, she's offered to help out at the toy show my buddy is promoting in two weeksThank you Michelle!  You're awesome!

I also want to thank two of my homies: Ben and MikeBen was originally going to set up with me, but couldn't.  However he loaned me both of his display cases and Mike hooked me up with the table.

By the way... if you're wondering if this is my first step towards leaving the hobby, I assure you... it isn't.  I love collecting and can't imagine walking away from the hobby again.  That being said... I've gotten to the point where I've literally run out of storage space and need to move stuff that doesn't fit my collection in order to make room for new stuff.

I also want to clarify that I don't flip items sent to me in care packages.  Actually, that's not completely trueSix of those new magnetics were part of a contest package I won last year.  And there's a chance some of those used magnetics came in a care package at some point.  However none of the cards I took to the show were gifts.

Well that my card show recap as a dealer.

If you have any questions about this experience, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

Until then... 

Happy Monday and sayonara!


  1. I could/would never do this. I don't have the inventory (never will I have unopened boxes just sitting around), nor do I have the patience with customers anymore.

    I'm assuming Longoria was signing at the show, otherwise, whaaat?

  2. My question......Is Michelle single? :) Pretty cool to Longoria to peek at your table.

  3. I will assume you came out on the plus side financially, or I hope you at least covered your overhead,and gave Michelle a generous cut.

  4. Sounds like you had a fun enough time, hope you came out okay financially, or at least flat for it.

  5. night owl - i've been a flea market hoarder for over a decade. i rarely passed a good deal up when it involved cards and over the years i've accumulated a pretty large unopened wax collection. as for the customers, everyone who came up to the table were pretty cool. and since i was on the other side of the table, there was plenty of space so i wasn't annoyed by anyone getting into my personal space.

    as for longoria... i honestly had no idea who he was until after the fact. the guy who recorded the event for the promoters told my friend that he interviewed him. i guess he was there to buy some cards for his daughter or something. i heard he purchased a high-end graded ohtani for her (them?).

    johnnys trading spot - yeah she is. and yeah it was. i just wish i would have recognized him. it wasn't pointed out to me that he was there until after the fact.

    sg488 - i'm pretty sure i did in regards to what i paid for the products. i could have gone back and tracked what i paid for a lot of the autographs i sold, but it would have been a pretty big research project. the bottom line is i was trying to move some stuff to make room for stuff i really want. outside of snacks and gas, the show didn't cost me anything. as for michelle... she refused to take payment. but she wants to go to another baseball game, so i'll pay for that and buy her a thank you present of some sort.

    crazie joe - i did pretty well. i have the number, but not sure i want a digital footprint of how much i made. already gonna pay a ton next february to uncle sam for my ebay sales.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve debated setting up at a show just to get rid of the excess I’ve accumulated over the years. Sounds like it was a lot of work, but a good experience!

  7. Sounds like you did quite well! Always could be better, I suppose, but selling all the stuff you did must have brought in a pretty penny. Congrats!

  8. Evan Longoria randomly strolling through a show? Cool!

  9. Ah that brings me back to the early 90s when I'd set up at shows with my dad and my best friend. It was a ton of work, and not much of a money maker, but was so much fun. Looks like you had a good one!

  10. Such a cool experience!! Crazy that hockey and football wasn’t popular at the show. Great recap and it was fun following along. Congrats on surviving the first one!

  11. Tell me more about Mike. Sounds like a great guy and you are lucky to have him as a friend! Lol

  12. Fun post to read and some great cards that you sold! Glad it was a good experience even though a lot of work! I saw the E-X box in that first picture and went Oooh!

  13. It's nice reading about a sellers's perspective at a card show, from a collector's point of view - if that makes sense.

  14. I wished I had a show just to visit lol. Youre lucky to be where you live with both card and toy shows. I would be even more broke than I already am!

  15. Very cool that you set up a table at a card show and sold off some of your surplus items. My friends and I got a table at a small show about 20 years ago. I dont remember selling much but it was a cool experience, especially with a friend.

    Your inventory is awesome and I wonder if being a dealer at a winter show might be a different experience? I'm sure the football cards would garner more interest in-season.

  16. Thanks for sharing the experience! Looks like you sold some good stuff, too!

  17. This was very informative, thanks for sharing all the info. Looks like it was really the biggest names that sold. I've got so much stuff I could probably make a little money on, but this shows how much work is involved, and I don't want my hobby to start feeling like work.

  18. daniel wilson - it was pretty time consuming. wouldn't have even attempted it had i not been on summer break. but i am glad i did it. great learning experience and it put some money into the wallet

    the diamond king - yeah, i was happy with sales. i tried to price my stuff at the lower end of ebay... plus i only sold one card at sticker price. the rest was discounted

    jeff b - yeah. i wish i would have recognized him when he was actually at my table

    sean - it was a lot of fun. a lot of that had to do with the people around us. we were set up next to two of the guys i buy stuff from at the flea market

    sumomenkoman - maybe next time you can come up and hang. i think it's in october

    anonymous mike - yeah. he's okay ;D

    cardstacks - yeah... there were at least three people who talked about that box. even though i didn't sell it and probably won't... i'd still bring it the next time as a conversation piece

    laurens - thanks. that's what i was trying to get across with this post. i definitely have a deeper appreciation for what dealers have to deal with at shows

    matt - hopefully covid numbers don't begin to soar, so that we'll be able to continue having shows. i can't remember having this many shows in my area since back in the 90's. according to my buddy, he said every vendor wants their tables for his next show. and most of the ones he spoke too did really well.

    chris - thanks. being single without kids... i've put a lot of money into the hobby since 2008. it's kind of nice to get some of it back. i'm still a collector first, but i do need to clear out some space. eventually i want to bring some excess sets. as for football... the next show is in october, so hopefully there will be some interest in that.

    the lost collector - thanks! i hope some of the people that bought stuff remember my deals and return in october.

    bo - yeah... hobbies should be fun. i'm hoping the next time around it'll be less work. the good news is i know what to expect (which will bring down my anxiety level).

  19. Thanks for sharing the background info. I was gonna ask where the picture was of Longoria, but I see the answer above. I don't see a scenario where I would sell collectibles. If I didn't want them, why buy them? Plus, the whole patience thing and the urge to see what the other tables had.

  20. I've always thought about setting up to move non-PC stuff, not really looking to profit just looking to turn it into PC stuff. I ended up moving a ton of my non-PC stuff for 86-87 Fleer set minus the Jordans a couple months ago so now I dont really need to setup.

  21. It's long been a pipe dream of mine to set up at a smaller local show one of these days. I don't have anything near the kind of inventory that most vendors have, but at the very least I'd like to set up a few dime boxes and let people dig, just like I enjoy doing so much. (The toughest part for me would be getting up at 5 AM...)

  22. jafronius - you pose a good question. i have two answers. sometimes i buy cards that i love at the time, but my interests change over time. sticker-graphs are a prime example. ten years ago, i had no problem adding them to my collection. these days i don't usually buy them unless the player doesn't have any on-card autographs. the other reason i buy stuff even if they don't fit my collection is because i'm a bargain hunter first and foremost. i've always enjoyed finding great deals at the flea market. i did have the urge to see what other people were selling. that's why it's important to have someone with you, so they can watch your table while you roam. that being said... i didn't want to be rude, so i walked around quickly and didn't really take the time to dig through too many boxes.

    brad's blog - the idea of turning a profit is tricky. i've dumped so much money into this hobby over the years that i doubt i'll ever actually turn a profit. however if you look at what i paid for the cards i sold... then i definitely turned a profit. that 86-87 set is awesome. i have one myself, but i don't have the jordan rookie card (just the sticker)

    nick - one day, i hope to have dime boxes available to customers. sadly, i've donated most of my cheap cards over the years. maybe i'll stumble across a collection or something though. as for waking up at 5, i'm a morning person. that being said... i didn't get a very good sleep the night before, because i was nervous about the show (don't ask me why, because i have no idea why i'd be nervous about a show)

  23. Man, that really was a lot of work! But if you were to do it more often, I'm sure you'd get a rhythm going with the whole routine, and it would seem a bit less daunting (and even more fun). Keep us posted!

    1. gregory - you're probably right. the next show might involve a similar amount of time invested... because i'll be adding some low-end stuff to my inventory (that was really popular at my friend's table) which will involve digging through boxes to pull stuff out. however from that point moving forward (if i decide to continue setting up at shows) it should be only updating pricing.

  24. When I was stationed in Denver, we used to do the Mile High Flea Market about once a month. Ten dollars got you a parking space-sized area, and an additional $5 got you an 8-foot table. I agree with you about it being a royal pain getting everything priced and displayed. My wife isn't really into cards, but she enjoyed helping me at the show. When we would go back home to Iowa on leave, I would pick up a bunch of Broncos cards to resell. Besides football, I sold baseball, basketball and comic books. We'd usually clear anywhere from $50-$100 a weekend. As an E-4 in the military at the time, it definitely helped.