After doing my taxes I realized I wasn’t spending enough on my business. It’s something I’ve struggled with the last couple years. I have some of the best computers and internet service money can buy. Aside from time and money, those are the two key expenses in my line of work.
So if I couldn’t spend money on my own business, I needed to start another one. I’ve sold before on eBay and I want to sell on Amazon, so why not give it a shot.
Many hobby shop owners or part time sellers may have much more inventory to start with, which could greatly add to your own success. I began selling this month on eBay and Amazon with essentially zero starting inventory. I have a long history of selling on COMC and came into the month with about 35,000 cards for sale.
Most of the products for my eBay and Amazon inventory was purchased from wholesalers found on the Official Hobby Wholesale List.
Here is how I did in March.
Net Selling Costs Include: eBay Store Fee ($24.95 a month), all USPS/FedEx shipping fees, eBay Final Value Fees and PayPal fees.
Shipping Supplies Cost Include: Bubble Mailers, tape, mailing labels, top loaders, snap tights, etc.
eBay Account: NorCal-Sports-Cards
What I have left:
Total Inventory: $4,819
Total Shipping Supplies Inventory: $74
- As of 3/31/2017
Here are all my orders from March on eBay:
I shop quite often on Amazon and am surprised I don’t see more card products for sale. As I found out over the course of the month, the rules, restrictions and understanding seller fees is probably what prohibits many sellers from taking advantage of the channel.
Despite the challenges that Amazon poses over eBay, it is something I am very intrigued by. I sent in a very small amount of inventory to Amazon, compared to what I had listed on eBay. One day I sold 11 boxes. Who knows how many I would of sold if I didn’t run out of inventory.
I am intentionally vague about what I am selling on Amazon because it is something I might invest some time and money into.
Total Items Sold: 27
Total Fees: A Lot
Total Profit: $104.69
Total Inventory Listed on Amazon: $943.08
You can see how little inventory I have listed for sale on Amazon at months end. Only $943. It didn’t take much of an investment in terms of time or money to make the $104 I did on Amazon during March.
Here are my all-time stats from that large account:
I had a lot of fun selling items on eBay. Was pleasantly surprised that despite only having about 300 listings active at any given time during the month, things did sell. Most were fixed priced, buy it now listings, with an offer option.
But eBay won’t work for me most months. My full time business from July – December requires 10+ hour days. The time it took to make $300 on eBay was far too much. I’ll stick at it for the next few months, because it is fun and I have $5,000 in inventory to burn through. But I will have to limit my hours spent on eBay toward the end of July.
Once I got over the hurdle of learning the complex nature of Amazon categories, restricted categories, FBA fees, inventory placement fees, storage fees, long term storage fees, special fees that apply only during the months of October – December, and many other selling obstacles……… believe it or not….. selling on Amazon is way less time consuming than eBay. After I found a few items that were selling, I would just order the products, get them, slap a different shipping label on them, and wait for Amazon FBA to do it’s work.
I also had some success with Amazon sponsored product advertising. I’ve had experience advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other ad networks. Once you learn one platform, you basically can figure out them all. Advertising led to 2 successful sales.
If I am able to build up some inventory on Amazon without hitting a hurdle, advertising will become a huge part of my day-to-day time spent on selling. This is a stark contrast to eBay where most of the time spent is on listing and fulfilling the order.
If you are a seller and aren’t using advertising, you are behind the curve.
I’ve also done 3 podcasts on selling on eBay and Amazon that provide additional information. You can find those on Sports Card Radio.
Subscribe to my newsletter for even more tips:
Hopefully prior to reading this you’ve started your online store. This will provide you the necessary knowledge and infrastructure to complete this next task.
Beginning on MLB Opening Day 2016, Topps will now print to order cards based on day-to-day events that occur during the MLB season. The cards are only available for purchase on the Topps.com website for 24 hours. Pricing starts at $9.99 with free shipping. A complete checklist with print runs can be found on the Topps website.
With the cards not being sold in traditional packs and only being sold directly on the Topps website, it would appear as though there is no direct way to profit from Topps Now cards.
But I’ve identified two ways that store owners can potentially profit from these cards and will provide two real world examples.
The idea behind this should be very simple for you to understand. You’re opening or have a card store, perhaps some of these Topps Now cards can be flipped in your store. The cards get cheaper the more you buy. Free shipping is included.
Topps Now Pricing:
If they create a card of a player in your local market, ordering 20 and charging $9.99 for them in your store or online might work. Or maybe you take pre-orders on them yourself and take little to no risk at all.
Here is an example of a dealer who has created a Topps Now buyers club. Couldn’t you do this in your own store or with your own online reach?
This is a perfect example why you need to set up your own website and potentially an online store. By doing this you can take advantage of anything that Topps decides to do.
In the Opening an Online Store article I mentioned how I made well over six figures from affiliate income on the website Sports Card Radio. Providing information about cards has always been more lucrative for me compared to trying to sell the cards myself.
You won’t make six figures flipping Topps Now cards in your store. In fact, the print runs have been low for many of the initial cards they released.
Despite the low print runs, I did notice that some of the secondary market values for the cards were decent. I saw that as an opportunity to promote the cards and began putting banners up on the various sports card websites I own to promote Topps Now.
The good news is, you can get paid by Topps to sell Topps Now cards or anything else they carry on their website.
I’ll show how much I made in just a few days with very little effort and I’ll walk you through how you can do the same on your own websites.
In 6 days I referred $699.98 worth of business to Topps.com. These were from a couple homemade banners I made and put on Sports Card Radio. The banners took you to the dedicated Topps Now page on the Topps website. Despite two of the purchases being for Translucent Football, I still get credit for anything they buy on the Topps site.
Topps pays a measly 3% of sales for affiliates. That is on the lower end of the spectrum for affiliate deals, but this is an easy conversion for me, so I’ll take just about any percentage I can get.
So from the $699.98 in sales, Topps will pay me $21. This is all done through their affiliate provider, Rakuten Affiliate Network. While $21 doesn’t seem like very much, this comes from just throwing up a couple banners that took 5 minutes to make.
By having some early success, I can dedicate more time to the Topps affiliate program and will probably use Facebook and/or Google ads to test the profit possibilities and hopefully make some real money.
But lets not get too complicated right now… let’s just show you how to sign up for the Topps network yourself.
Go To: Rakuten Affiliate Network and log in or register for a new account. Registering for an account is very similar to other affiliate accounts. Provide as much information as you can about your website. Advertisers like to know you speak English and are from the U.S. or Canada.
Once you are logged in and approved, find Topps and apply to their program. One easy way to find them is in the Advertiser search box.
Once you find their page, go ahead and apply under the offers tab:
The next thing you are going to have to do is wait. You will not get accepted right away. It took me several weeks to get approved for the program, but the wait time may have been cut down.
This is part of the website game. You have to be patient and wait to get accepted into programs at times. If you have a sports card website with even moderate traffic, this should be a converting program for you. In other words, it will be worth the wait.
Once accepted into the program, the first thing you might notice is the banners and links that Topps currently provides are weak. It’s like they haven’t updated the program in awhile. So what I had to do was go to the “Deep Linking” option and link to the Topps Now page myself. I also created my own banners to help entice clicks.
You can go to any page on the Topps website and create an affiliate link on the Rakuten Affiliate Network.
These links can be put on your own website, on social media, or even into your email campaigns to your subscribers. You can promote anything Topps sells on their website and get a percentage of the sale. If Topps begins to sell more product exclusively through their own website, you can directly benefit from it.
Don’t be one of these hobby shops that grumbles and complains every time Topps, Upper Deck or Panini decides to try something new. Most of the time, with a little bit of thought and effort, you can profit from any situation thrown your way.
This data is for the last 7 days prior to the date posted below.
Updated March 21, 2016
If you’re not already aware, many of these sellers are consignment sellers. Very few people would consistently have access to this many cards so selling other people’s cards is highly profitable. As you can see, even if pwcc_auctions or probstein123 only made a small profit margin on sales …. it’s still quite a bit of money given their massive amount of volume. While scaling up to that level isn’t viable for most people, using your expertise to sell other people’s stuff on ebay is a good business model to think about especially if you plan on opening a retail store. Here is a decent article about becoming a consignment seller. Here’s another article that breaks down about how much you can charge for being a consignment seller. Keep in mind though, it’s not all glitz & glamour. In fact, one article I read discusses ebay’s tough standards to be a consignment seller & I’ve heard other complaints from many other sellers too. Here’s another good article explaining that selling anything worth less than $250 might not even be worth your time. So it’s not for everyone, but it can be a segment of your overall business model & it could potentially bring in leads/clients that might do business with you again one day.
While existing ‘old timer’ card shop owners might never venture over to the online side of the business, anyone just starting out or planning on being in the sports trading card business for a long time should build an online presence.
The online marketplace website options online is consistently changing. Gone are the days where you need to spend lots of money, or list a ton of items. Many sellers are reaching buyers one-on-one via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and even collector forums. Many group breakers started with a live-streaming channel & used social media to sell spots.
If you’re just starting out, building your network of connections via free social media routes is fine. Strictly listing items for sale on sites like ebay, craigslist, or other free/pay-as-you-go type sites is fine for most sellers too. However, in order to really generate consistent revenues – I believe you need some kind of presence online, one of which that you own. Additionally, websites can draw customers into your store if you own a shop already. Not to mention, there are more ways to make money with website content … so your work building a webstore goes beyond just making sales.
All options are going to have pros & cons. The marketplace software options I’d avoid 100% of the time are one’s that take a percentage of the sale. You’re already going to pay payment processors & other website related fees, you don’t need your marketplace software taking a percentage of the sale along with it.
First I’m going to walk you through how I would setup an online store. There are lots of other ways to do this, but as you will read later on, there’s a reason why we’ll use a content based platform like WordPress to be the backbone of our e-commerce platform.
You can register your domain where you wish, but I’m used to Godaddy.
If this is your 1st website, they will install WordPress for free. There are other hosts, but from my experience Hostgator is fairly solid, cheap & they have a standard Cpanel interface, which either you or any of the programmers you hire will want to use.
Don’t try to cut corners here. Also, it’s not that expensive. Let your host/domain provider handle the SSL process. Even if you plan on running all payments through PayPal – SSL is a must for any e-commerce site. Also, we will be collecting (and storing) customer data, such as addresses & orders – so the extra layer of security is needed.
That’s about it on the hard cost side.
= $264 all-in your 1st year.
Remember, $264 is with no coupon codes/discounts … ect. Compared to starting a brick & mortar card shop this is pennies. If you can’t afford the costs I have listed above – I don’t think you’re ready for your own e-commerce website, but you can read on if you wish.
Now things get a bit more technical. Getting to this point is fairly easy because your hosting company should do all/most of the initial install for no additional cost. The rest requires you to teach yourself the technical knowhow (recommended) or learn to outsource the technical aspects you don’t understand (also recommended, but requires some knowledge). Or you can just pay me to do it (highly recommended if you have the budget for it).
The above would take me about a day or two. For those that have no experience working with WordPress or developing sites. The above could honestly take weeks or even months. If you’re not ready to teach yourself the basics of WordPress design/implementation – you should probably outsource everything except listing the products. Outsourcing isn’t particularly difficult when done right – but you do have to know how to communicate with programmers who don’t speak English all that well. I recommend giving outsourced workers one specific job & that’s it. So using the above example – I would hire someone to do my logo. Then I’d hire someone just to style my WordPress site. Then I’d hire someone to integrate PayPal. Hire non-English speaking programmers for 1 job at a time, as it gets too messy if you try to explain multiple jobs.
The other thing you can do is contact me. The only problem with that is I’m not cheap. Even though it wouldn’t take long for me to help you setup your webstore – my time is extremely valuable to me. The time/effort I’d save you contracting or learning how to do all this yourself on YouTube or reading support blogs is worth a lot too. Basically I could setup your site to where all that was left to do is list your inventory (which is similar to ebay … or you can bulk upload inventory via excel). My starting price is $349 and it can go up from there depending on the complexity of your design requests. Please feel free to contact me if you’re interested.
An example of a basic WooCommerce store setup
Okay, so there are other webstore marketplace providers. However, I like using WordPress mainly because it does allow you to build out content portions of your website …. which I will get to in a little bit could be the most valuable (and profitable) portions of your website.
Personally I’d avoid listing anything online where your margins are slim – such as un-opened boxes. Given the competition, and the fact that Blowout Cards & DA Cards are run by distributors themselves – you have no reason to compete in that marketplace. That should help alleviate any problems pricing boxes in your shop differently than you would online.
Start off specializing in a certain product/inventory
So we know that there’s absolutely no need to try and compete with DA Cards & Blowout Cards in the un-opened wax marketplace. If you’ve read our Group Breaking profit margin article, you’ll know that margins can be slim there too, and that’s breakers with a following already. But we can learn something from group breakers. Essentially they serve a very small niche market of sports collectibles …. and I believe that’s a really good strategy. What I think the best starting point for a new e-commerce store would be to specialize in one product.
Here are some examples:
Why You Want To Specialize
You might ask – why should I specialize? First is it’s easier for your store to stand out & look authoritative. You could have a store called “World’s Best Sports Card Shop” and have 20,000 items listed … which is a lot. Only problem is COMC, ebay, and Beckett have way more cards. However if you advertised yourself as the “World’s Best Green Bay Packers Shop” with 2,000 cards … you might actually be telling the truth. While ebay/COMC and others have more Packers cards – the casual buyer (who often isn’t price sensitive) will be more impressed with your store that caters to their needs. Second is targeting your customers becomes much easier & cheaper! Instead of trying to attract a wide range of collectors to your site; attracting a very specific buyer & having the inventory to meet their needs is more likely to increase your sales. Also, targeting those users on Google, Facebook and other places is easier & cheaper because you won’t be wasting a ton of money on ads that don’t target the right people. Someone searching for “Green Bay Packers” cards might be more inclined to buy off a site devoted to those cards than a site like ebay where that user would need to sort/search through thousands of items they aren’t interested in. It also allows you to tailor specific items to these fans, such as Green Bay Packers fan packs, grab bags or other grouping of items.
Remember, when you’re just starting out as an e-commerce website – it’s far easier to target a market with fewer sellers. Certainly if your webstore becomes successful you can branch out into other areas, but it’s critical you begin small & target a specific market first. Take group breakers websites for example. Some of them have been able to stick around mainly because they are providing a service to a specific niche customer that exists in this industry. Finding your own unique niche will mean you have less competition, and your site will stand out among the many that already exist.
When you are unique, you also get pricing power. In order to compete with Blowout Cards prices, you’d have to sell the product below costs. Since that’s a really dumb idea, creatively adding value to a product/cards is the way to make more money. Group breakers add value by breaking live on webcam. Team set and rip/flipper type sellers add value by grouping together collectible cards in quantities set builders/collectors are searching for. It’s not overly complicated, you just want to make sure you are looking for ways to add margin to your sales … not undercut someone already in the market.
Now we get to the point where I explain why we are using WordPress. One of the reasons I like using WordPress, even for e-commerce client setups is because it allows you to leverage the blogging platforms strength which is content display. To start your sports trading card e-commerce store, here are the 5 things you should include right away.
Why is content other than products for sale so important?? I actually learned first hand that free content is more profitable than selling cards! Back in 2006 I just started a card shop with my brother. While it seems like a really fun job, there are lots of time where you’re just sitting there by yourself in your card shop. I would pass the time by writing sports card collecting tips & put them up on my e-commerce website. After a while I started noticing the most popular pages on my website were the content pages & it was in-turn leading to more sales. After I closed my store I started working on a new sports card website called Sports Card Radio. Many of the tips I posted on my original e-commerce site are still on the site today.
The most interesting aspect of it all, was I found out that simply referring people to ebay via links on my website was more profitable than actually selling the cards themselves! I did so well referring customers to ebay that they invited me to Las Vegas several years in a row to an industry conference. Since then the program has cut back on its payouts (which is typical in the affiliate business) but I dug these stats out of my e-mail which show two of my better years. GMB = Sales …. so I was able to refer $1.182 MILLION dollars in sales to ebay, which in turn netted me $57,080 …. far more profit than I ever made running a card store!
Anyone interested in learning how you can make a living posting free content online can contact me here.
That’s why I recommend the WordPress/WooCommerce setup for an e-store. If your e-store idea flops, un-install WooCommerce with one click and you can easily turn it into a content only website, which as you can see can be wildly profitable. Also if your webstore really takes off and you need to migrate to a more robust platform – that’s not too difficult given the open source nature of WooCommerce – exporting your inventory might be easier than on a proprietary solution like SquareSpace, Weebly or Wix.
You could have the best items & the best prices but don’t sell anything. So you need to drive traffic to your website.
Instead of trying to squeeze out profits on ebay, I’d try to squeeze out returning customers to your webstore. Simple things like ordering cheap business cards on VistaPrint and including them in every shipment. Also add each buyer to an e-mail list & send them an e-mail with links to your webstore … not ebay. Inside your e-mails, include some of the content you are working on above & include some photos, fun stuff … ect. Not every e-mail needs to be a sales pitch.
I use to not value Facebook all that much … but that was in 2008 when it was first starting. Thankfully I setup pages to all my key websites and have a nice base of fans and let them all kind of grow at a slow trickle over the years. The biggest reason to have fans is because Facebook allows you to “boost” posts you make to your page for not that much money. For example … a typical post to your Facebook page will likely only reach a small percentage of the people actually following your page. In my experience it can be around 10% – 30% of your actual fans will see your post. That’s because Facebook shows posts on users timelines based on some kind of internal algorithm. In other words … they make you pay to get closer to 50% – 80%+ views on your posts.
While in some cases it’s not worth paying to boosts your Facebook posts, keep in mind even a well crafted e-mail campaign isn’t going to be opened by all users. If there was a way to boost the opening of my e-mail newsletter I’d probably pay it … and that’s the beauty of Facebook. For a few dollars (usually $2 – $5 per boost) you can boost a post and get a large portion of your followers to see it. That’s why it’s important to get Facebook users to like your Facebook page. That way you can re-market those users with targeted Facebook posts you boost so they all can see it. Some examples of good things to boost are:
Why is it so important to capture your customer data (e-mail/interests/location)?? The obvious ones are you can send them an e-mail anytime you want! That can become very powerful as your list grows. Even small lists of 200 – 300 subscribers can yield big results, imagine when you get to 2,000 – 3,000 or more names in your e-mail list!! Only a small fraction … like 1% or 2% need to buy something from you for it to be a profitable day.
Additionally, just like I talked about earlier with web content being valuable – having a large list of e-mail addresses (and Facebook likes) is valuable in lots of ways. You can leverage that and charge other businesses to be included in your e-mail newsletter or Facebook post too!
When I owned a card store, one of the the dilemmas I found with having both online/offline sales was pricing product at one price in my store, but in order to be competitive online, the pricing had to be much lower online. In those days I was selling more via ebay so it wasn’t a huge issue, however in today’s landscape, brick & mortar card shops really could use the extra income/cash flow an online store can bring.
First thing to do is know your customers. While ebay, COMC, Blowout Cards & others have gotten more popular over the years, I was always surprised how many of my sports card customers were not interested in buying cards online. Many simply just enjoyed getting out & shopping maybe with their kids as a bonding event. Most of my regular ‘big spenders’ would usually visit my shop on a lunch break, or after work. Opening packs for them was kind of like going to the saloon or bar, the guys didn’t care if they were paying 20 – 40% or more than online prices.
If that’s the case, I wouldn’t worry too much about having different prices online vs your store prices. Second, remember that you’re not setting up an online store to compete in the low 10% margin stuff. Trust me, it’s not worth your time. If you are a hobby shop owner already, just focus on listing items that you have good margin selling. Also, use your website as more of a testimonial to your business so when new customers located in your area are searching for shops – they end up coming into your store because you had a nice website. When I owned a store – my website advertised that we were buying …. as anyone that owns a card store knows, can often be some of the best deals if you’re willing to tell 9/10 people their 1990’s cards aren’t anything. My phone would often ring off the hook from people looking to sell cards – normally at prices where I could easily turn around and make money selling them.
In summary, if you have a card store, I understand you can price things at ‘internet prices’ online and be charging customers more in your store. Also, if you have employees or someone take over in the shop for a day or two … managing inventory can be somewhat difficult if it’s co-mingled. But I still think it’s important to build your online content & reputation online. Use your website more as a tool to convince people to come to your store location rather than buy online. For existing customers, use your website to get them to sign up for e-mail lists & to follow you on Facebook so you can expand your reach.
The list of people who started a website to only give up on it is longer than failed card shops. From my 13+ years building websites of all kinds – I can tell you that it takes time to see results. Those times have shrunk quite a bit if you pay for advertising on Google, Facebook and other mediums … but someone on a shoestring budget can expect to not see results for 6 – 12 months. It took me 2 years to build up Sports Card Radio to the point where it was earning nearly 6-Figures per year … if I had given up when my e-commerce site flopped – I would have never reaped the rewards.
So the key is to be patient. E-Commerce websites are all about testing, re-testing & adjusting. Things change quickly. What works today, won’t work tomorrow. However, someone not having success today can make a few small changes and see big results down the road. Invest just 10 – 15 mins per day over 6 – 12 months and you’ll be ready to leverage that work into something that can earn income for you.
I give lots of information out for free. It’s my hope that my successes & failures can provide you with some insight into the hobby. My focus will always be on providing great free content. But sometimes people need more individual attention. If that’s the case, please contact me using the form on this page.
Hello, you’re obviously interested in having us help you build your sports card business & brand. Before we get started & I get more information from you, I want to make sure I’m a good fit for you. Quite honestly, I turn away more people than I accept, not because I don’t want to work with you, but because you don’t need me. Someone on a shoestring budget is better off figuring this all out themselves. Someone with 500,000 cards to list should use Beckett Marketplace or COMC. Someone with 50 cards to list should just stick to a 3rd party solution ebay/COMC as well.
If you’re a young kid with no money and/or no college degree, I’d suggest focus on school even if you don’t intend to graduate. Believe it or not, I was still in college at the time of owning my first card store – but it’s not something I’d recommend. Unless you want an e-commerce or affiliate marketing consultation … opening a brick & mortar card store advice is not for you.
If you are a father with children to feed – my advice to you is avoid opening a card store like an STD. You could offer to pay me $1,000/hr and I wouldn’t give you advice on how to open a card store. Someone like this is better off in the e-commerce or affiliate marketing space.