The Top 10 Critical Things You Need When Selling at a Baseball Card Show; The Essential Guide
I hope everyone is having a fantastic week, and for baseball fans, I hope that your favorite team is where you want them to be, EXCEPT if they are in the same division as my New York Mets! Is there any more hair to pull out of this head of mine? Let's not go down that ugly road. It's so ugly, we'll call it fugly (umm, RTFM, lol!)
I don't know about you, but I still get those first date jitters the night before selling at a card show. The thought of all of the people, and seeing some great friends and talking sports and cashing out a little, all shares the same headspace with the thought of all of those hours and being cut off from anything outside of my little table-zone. And then the stomach rumbling starts just from the thought of hunger!
So, in order to combat this psychosis of mine, I made a list of the top 10 things you need to have in place and with you when selling at a Baseball Card show (or Sports card show of any kind, Coin shows, or even Comic Book Shows). These items are not listed in any particular order, with each one being quite an important part of a successful day at the show, but they fall into 4 categories: Technology, Human Beings, Goods, and Last Minute.
1. Internet Access; The worst thing you can do is find yourself at a card show and you have no pants on. The next worst thing is to find yourself at a card show with no access to your online price guides, eBay, your website, your home network, etc. Bad move. Make sure and verify that the venue has Internet access or WiFi. If not, I'll present an idea shortly in another item in this list. If they do have access, make sure you have all of your passwords, as well as your tablet, smart phone, laptop, and ALL power cables and chargers. Again; ALL power cables and chargers. Hint: Bring an extension cord in case the outlet locations are not convenient.
2. Security; Look, for the most part, people are honest. But the few bad apples out there really screw things up for everyone else. Of course, you should cover the front of your table with an overlapping thick tablecloth, with your boxes weighting the edges of it down to avoid anyone from sticking their hands in for freebies. Your table should be set up with the high risk of theft items in the middle. I learned my lesson years ago when I had a 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly Rookie stolen right off my table. It was so busy at the show that I never even realized until re-inventorying that evening. That was pre-tech age, and now I suggest, if you have a little bit of tech savvy in you, to pick up a mini PC USB Camera that you can have record to your laptop or tablet, with ample hard drive space. At least you'll have footage to show to the venue and the police. Hint: Stay alert and stay present in the moment! Watch out for "distracters".....they usually come in pairs and one asks you nonsense question after question, while his accomplice swipes things from your table or underneath when your attention is being overloaded.
3. Never underestimate the power of having good table neighbor's when it comes time for that bathroom run. I suggest if you have friends who are vendors, make sure you have your tables all together in one spot so you can all repay the favor. I don't want to hear you had no friends, so you just brought an empty whiskey jug. Weirdo! If you don't have friends, make some with your new table neighbors and gauge your level of trust with them. Chances are, they'll approach you first for the favor!! The power of friends can also help with the WiFi issue, as you can invest in a WiFi Signal booster, have a chat with the Venue Security, and plug it in closer to the WiFi location, ideally half-way between you and the WiFi Source. Then, you guys will be online in no time. Hint: If you do this, please don't put up a sign that says, "Vendor Web Access, $39.95 one-time fee". It's enterprising and straight-up honest hustling, but just not cool to do! I'm such a tech-geek!
4. You need a "Runner"; Check the availability of a "runner", such as your teenage kid, wife, husband, uncle's brother’s nephew's roommate, anyone who can run over that 1971 Seaver you have someone ready to give you 5x book value for. Anyone at all. Do you have a pet seal? Pay him with fresh fish after the show. Seriously, I've been stranded before. Plan ahead.
5. One Binder full of cards of the player or players signing autographs that day. Their popularity spikes on those days, and even mediocre players rise to superstars the day they sign autographs. You will sell a lot of these; Every one either needs one for signing, or wants to have one to be a part of the action.
6. A notebook to track everything you sell. Just as I described earlier, it gets crazy, and sometimes you have 5-7 people looking at your cards, while 3 others are trying to hand you money. Remember I mentioned to stay alert? This will help you truly weigh out your Gross Sales, and also, it will help you document where each card went vs. wondering where it went.
7. Top Loaders/Penny Sleeves/Bags/Business cards; Customer Service is key. I always say their 1st purchase is not the most important, but their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on. Build a relationship in a field we all love. Rules of thumb; Every card they buy under $10 gets a sleeve. Every card over $10 gets a Sleeve and a Top Loader. Sleeves are a penny each, Top Loaders are 30c a piece. It's a worthy investment. On multiple card purchases, offer them a bag. And every single person that buys from you or stops to look at your cards gets one of your business cards!
Last Minute Essentials:
8. Change or Cash for Parking, etc; Scout out the venue and see if the parking is free, if there are meters, a garage, etc. Can you pay via Credit card or Cash? Do you pay for your table on show day? Make sure you have your credit cards you use for Shows and Cash +10, which I call Cash + 10% extra (If you need $100, bring $110).
9. Snacks and Water; Trying to talk to someone while your stomach is grumbling is tough and even embarrassing, but even more importantly, it leaves you talking without any nutrition in you, and that can lead to "dumb-mouth". It sounds funny, but it can compromise your virtue; You might give an incorrect price or forget something. If I don't eat, my blood sugar tanks, and I kind of wander around until I realize, "Oh yeah, I skipped breakfast and now it's 3PM". Not a good image to set around your peers or potential customers. So I suggest that you bring with you enough snacks and water with you to hold you over during the show. Proteins like nuts and sugars like chocolate will suffice, or even better, pack some nice mini sandwiches you can chomp fast. This isn't a culinary dining experience. Also, it will get hot when the room is loaded with people, so hydrate yourself by drinking plenty of water. Of course, you will have your group of table buddies we discussed earlier, but bringing snacks and water with you keeps you behind the table, and the less you have to leave the fort, the more sales you can make.
10. Hygiene: Nobody else will stand up and say this, but I've been at shows with sweaty vendors that needed to refresh. Folks, these places get crowded and very hot. for the sake of all things holy, use underarm deodorant, and it's fine to wear a hat, but there is nothing wrong with using some hair gel and styling it up. Remember, brush those fangs nice and white, because you want to flash those pearly whites a lot.
One bonus piece of advice is confidence. Bring it. Nobody put a gun to your head to sell at the show. You chose this! It's your hobby, your business, and you know it backwards and forward. Be an authority, and make some friends and remember that the folks across the table from you are there for some of the same reasons. We have our own lingo and swagger, and think of it as a huge club meeting of like-minded folks.
Please look for my Essential Guide with the top items needed when you're attending a card show, which is planned for in a future post.
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