Category Archives for Startup

One Month Selling Cards on eBay, COMC & Amazon

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.

88
Total Orders
  • Total Sales: $1,369.20
  • Net Selling Costs: $543.63
  • Shipping Supplies Cost: $22.69
  • Cost of Goods Sold: $492.44
  • Total Profit: $310.44

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
Advertising: $2.68
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. 


I had my best month selling cards on COMC in several years. 

Total Cards Sold: 1,253
Advertising Fees: $18
Storage Fee: $8.27
Revenue: $550.80

I am on a lifelong freeroll on COMC after flipping over 75,000 cards. I break down one of my large COMC accounts on YouTube.

COMC Account: Sports Card Radio

Here are my all-time stats from that large account:


Observations:

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.

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Starting An Online Sports Card Shop

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.

What Marketplace Software?

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.

  • Register your domain at Godaddy
    Cost: $0.99 on sale or $14.99 full price

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.

  • Change The DNS Settings at Godaddy to point to Hostgator
    Basically you need to point the domain to the server at Hostgator that will be the home of your website’s files. Hostgator will send you an e-mail with the nameserver address (usually 2 of them) that you’ll need to change on Godaddy.
  • Buy an SSL Certificate & have Hostgator install it for you
    Hostgator I think has a free option for business account. Otherwise about $40 – $99/year

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.
$15 Domain
$150 Hosting
$99 SSL
= $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).

  • Install WooCommerce Plugin for WordPress.
  • Find a theme you like & customize it with your logo/color scheme.
  • Integrate PayPal, and other forms of payment processors.
  • Make sure you’re forcing SSL at checkout
  • Then make sure your website shows up when you type https://yoursite.com AND https://www.yoursite.com.
  • Start listing some test inventory.
  • Tweak your categories & menu structure based on inventory
  • Test order a product to make sure the order process & payments are going through
  • Tweak the order flow to meet your sites needs.
  • Explore all the WooCommerce add-ons as you grow your webstore.
  • Promote your store via a small ‘beta’ network of people
  • If all goes well, begin marketing to your target market

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.

ecommerce setup

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.

What to list?

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:

  • Only 1/1 Cards
    One of One cards are interesting because you can often buy them on ebay for affordable prices. I could see having a standard markup (roughly 30-50%) and building out a webstore from there. You could also advertise that you are buying 1/1 cards which would bring in even more potential leads/customers.
  • Only “Green Bay Packers” Cards
    Insert whatever team you want, but teams like the Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, Yankees, Lakers, Bears, Cubs, SF Giants, Red Sox … ect have deep fan followings that love to collect their cards. Listing all one team is certainly going to impress a fan that visits your site.
  • Only ‘Vintage’ Cards
    The sales of what’s considered vintage baseball (and football/basketball) are in my experience, some of the fastest selling cards (if priced correctly).
  • Only “Golf” Cards
    Insert any one of the non-major sports like Soccer or MMA above since there’s far less websites that cater to those folks.
  • Only Complete/Team Sets
    Maybe you have a ton of base sitting around. That stuff does move on ebay, usually in complete set or team set form. Building out a webstore where you list sets is viable. I remember when I ran my card store – one of the most requested items were complete sets of Topps Baseball that dad’s wanted to give to their son each year. I could see targeting new fathers with some kind of advertisement & maybe getting them on a renewing subscription if you wanted to get real fancy.

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.

  • Pictures of your store
    Have as many pictures of your smiling face & shop as possible. This helps build trust & give a face to the business. If your family is involved, snap a few smiling photos with them at your shop even if you’re all pulling each others hair out most of the time.
  • Testimonials
    Having other people tell you you’re great is good for an e-commerce website. Assume every visitor to your website has no idea who you are – and it’s your job to get them to trust you.
  • Hobby shop/Collecting Tips!
    This website you’re reading right now wouldn’t exist if people weren’t out there searching for information on how to run a hobby shop. Why not provide your own tips? How about post some buying/selling tips? Maybe post some tips you’ve learned about selling on ebay! See some hobby trends based on what you see everyday – post those on your site too.
  • YouTube Videos
    I’ve been casually posting videos of opening packs, going to The National, and other sports card related stuff online for a while now. The interaction & value I see from YouTube is exceptional. If I was a retail/e-commerce shop today, I would focus primarily on YouTube and Facebook to drive traffic today.
  • Collector Data
    If we’re selling Green Bay Packers cards … put up downloadable/printable checklists for Green Bay Packers players. If you’re selling 1/1 cards – put up the top 10 selling 1/1 cards each month. You might find that putting up this data becomes some of the most popular parts of your webstore!

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!

ebay stats

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.

Driving Traffic To Your Store

You could have the best items & the best prices but don’t sell anything. So you need to drive traffic to your website.

  • Use ebay as a lead generation machine

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.

  • Get people to like you on Facebook

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:

  • Contests
    Probably the best thing to boost. You’ll get likes/shares .. ect. Don’t expect too much reaction to your contests though if you’re just starting out. Someone with few followers could be giving away good stuff but no one will care. That’s why you should start small with your giveaways & try to reach as many people as possible. Single cards you can place in a plain white envelope are a good way to reach lots of people quickly. The goal is to build up a following of people who know you deliver on your contest promises … then cut it down to better prizes … but where you only need to ship one or two packages max. The ultimate goal is to gain Facebook fans so we can market them with stuff we make money on.
  • Sales/Discounts/Coupon Codes
    This is less effective if you’re contently discounting. Imagine if Apple had a 50% off sale on all of it’s products …. the internet might actually temporarily shut down because they rarely discount their items. However if Gap announces a 50% off sales, almost no one will notice because they discount all the time. If you rarely have sales – announcing that on Facebook & boosting the post is a great way to drive even more sales.
  • E-Mail Newsletter
    You should always be trying to get your Facebook fans to sign up for your newsletter and vise-versa. That way if Facebook bites the dust like Myspace … we at least have the users e-mail. Also, if you can boost a Facebook post where you can judge the cost against the amount of e-mail sign ups you get … it can be really easy way to judge the value of your Facebook ad campaigns.
  • Google Ads
    Recently Google has eliminated the side-bar ads that used to display on desktop computer search results with a Products Listing Ad (PLA) where it’s essentially photo’s of you products. Not sure you really need to step it up to this form of advertising in the early stages, however Google ads are really effective if you have a brick & mortar shop. Setup correctly, someone located in your region would type in ‘sports card shop’ and your result would appear #1 in the organic position & the paid position.
  • Card Shows
    Always be marketing your shop at shows. Have a tablet or signup sheet on your table too that allows people to sign up for your e-mail list. Maybe attach a contest to it to give people an incentive to sign up.

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!

Card Shop Pricing Dilemma

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.

Patients Patients Patients

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.

Need More Help?

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.

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Should You Really Open A Card Store?

If your best friend came to you and said they wanted to open a Ty Beanie Babies store what would you say to them? You might try to talk them out of it. OK, you would ask them if they were crazy, and then wonder if they had used drugs recently. You’ve probably been exposed to sports cards your whole life, so you think opening a card store might be a good idea. To be perfectly honest, opening a sports card store is about on the same level as opening a brand new Blockbuster video location.

Toughest jobs in sports: Baseball Card Shop Owner – Yahoo Article

Before you start any business you should question if it’s a good idea or not. That is the healthy thing to do. Especially when your business involves something as risky as sports cards. It’s been almost impossible to keep a card store open the last 15 years. What makes you think you can survive when so many others have failed? 

If you aren’t selling sports cards online, and making at least a few thousand dollars a month doing that, you have no business opening a card store. Online is probably where you need to break into the business. There are probably some old time dealers still in business today that have never touched the internet. But those guys probably have several decades more experience then you do. Just because you collected cards in the 1980’s-1990’s certainly doesn’t mean you have any chance of running a profitable card store.

Do not open a cards store if:

  • You’ve never set up and sold cards at several different card shows and had success
  • You think eBay, Twitter, Facebook and the internet is the devil
  • If after 6 months of slow sales you’ll blame DA Card World and Blowout Sports Cards for all your problems

Personally, I wouldn’t open a sports cards store unless it was to ramp up an existing successful business I had going already. Say I was killing it selling cards on eBay or Check Out My Cards. Clearing a few thousand a month profit. I might consider opening a card store just to have a place for my inventory if I sold a lot on eBay. Maybe I was making several thousand a month conducting group breaks online, same idea, I might open a store for strategic reasons associated with group breaking.

Don’t open a card store if you lack motivation:

Most people act too quickly and don’t think through what opening a sports card store means. When you open a card store you are buying a full time job. A full time job that guarantees you no paycheck, will require long hours, and you’ll have the potential to lose your entire investment. You will most likely get robbed during your time as a card store owner. Very few shops make enough revenue to hire someone on a full time basis, so most of your days will be spent behind the counter at your shop. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle at all.

Outside of your own family and friends, you will not get much help from anyone when you open your card store. Topps and Panini America will not care about you or send over a welcome package. Your distributor won’t call you unless you owe them money. You are the star of the show and if you can’t strap it up and be ready to work 7 days a week and potentially lose money, get a normal job.

Don’t open a card store if it has to pay for your personal bills right away:

You must factor in your personal bills before you open a sports card store. If your store revenue has to pay for your own day-to-day life then you have now increased the amount you need to make per day by a lot. Many people open a card store and don’t take into account how expensive their daily life is. If you don’t have a handle on your own personal finances, don’t open a card store.

If you expect to be raking in money right away and will be able to pay for your personal bills like food, rent, entertainment, car, and such……. keep dreaming.

If you have a child and think opening a card store will open the door for you to pay for a college eduction…. please stop.

If you are still interested in starting a sports card shop, this website will try to walk you through some of the necessary steps you’ll need to take and what to expect.

How Much Money To Start With?

The answer to how much money you need to open a sports card store varies greatly depending on the location and size of your card store. My best advice is to start cheap, cheap, cheap. Let me repeat that. Everything you do in the process of opening your store, do it as cheaply as possible. DO NOT BLOW LOTS OF MONEY ON A BASEBALL CARD STORE. You are opening a card store, not a Las Vegas nightclub. Odds are, you will fail at running your shop successfully. But if you are willing to take the gamble to open a store, at least start at the penny slots and move up to the high limit room later if you have success.

This page will serve as an example to how much money it will take to open a card store. Every step you take when opening your sports card store you should be looking to save money. You are taking a big risk opening a store, so don’t compound that risk by blowing a lot of money.

Below is a hypothetical step-by-step example of how I started a card store for:

$9,797

What Happened Next?One Month Profit Loss Example


 Permits, Fees & Tax Stuff

*If I was in a partnership there will be a $70 fee to the State of California Secretary of State.
If I had employees there would be other permits, insurance, and paperwork required to submit.

Permits, Fees & Taxes Total: $163.00


Location

I’ve found a retail location that I like. I’m going to sublease a spot inside this Grocery Depot store. While that may seem strange, I have solid reasoning. Below are some pictures of the Grocery Depot and the location inside where my store will be.

400 Square Feet – $0 Deposit – Month to Month – $400 Per Month

1) It’s cheap, small, month to month lease, and comes with some built in walk up traffic.

2) Stockton, CA is notoriously dangerous and in the wrong location, you will be robbed. Inside this Grocery Depot I’ll be safe.

3) Directly across the street from the Grocery Depot is the nicest shopping center in the entire city, Lincoln Center. With some well placed flyers I can get some people to walk over.

4) I get to use the display cabinets, cash register and other furniture items which will save me a few hundred dollars.

1st Month Rent Total: $400.00

Money Saving Tip #1: Sign a Short Term Lease


Furniture – Display Cases

The location I picked out has display cases, a cash register and other furniture, but I’m going to act like I have an empty space to work with and calculate what it would cost me to fill it.

Furniture Total: $456


Electronics

  • I have a mobile hotspot from Sprint. $55 – Per Month.
  • I’ve bought quite a few computers off the Dell Official Store on eBay in the past. Always a good deal. I’ll take a laptop this time. $200.
  • Got to have a printer to print shipping labels. $29.
  • I have a few scanners, but in case I didn’t this should work. $60.
  • Will need 2 outlets to plug some stuff in. $13.

Electronics Total: $357


Wholesale Accounts

You have many options when it comes to sports card distributors. You can pick and choose which one works best for you. The distributors I used when I had my card store are no longer in business. Personally, I’ve heard good things about GTS and will start by using them for this new store. I will sign up for other accounts if my business goes well, but all I’ll need initially for sports cards is GTS.

WinCraft is an amazing place to find cheap, licensed sports items like stickers, pennants, key chains, pencils, basically almost anything.

I sold Beckett magazines when I owned my own store. They are easy to work with and people buy them. No matter what you think of the price guide, I’ll repeat it, people buy the magazines. You can return whatever you don’t sell for a refund. You do have to pay for return shipping, but you can ship it via USPS Media Mail and that is generally very cheap, even for a lot of magazines.

1) Sign up for a WinCraft Sports account. Free.

2) Sign up for a GTS Distribution account. Free.

3) Sign up for a Beckett Media account. Free.

Money Saving Tip #2: Don’t go overboard on your initial inventory.


VistaPrint

VistaPrint is an amazingly cheap place to get business cards and other promotional stuff. Here is a business card I created in about 5 minuets. To get 500 of this business card in 8 days it would cost me $16.33.

ScreenHunter_112 May. 17 11.26


Social Media Accounts

Sign up for: Twitter – Instagram – Create a Facebook Page – Free


Sign/Banner

I need a 10 foot banner to hang above my door. All I want it to say is BASEBALL CARDS. Getting this made can cost about $60.

Banner Cost: $60


Phone Number

This is an area where I need to combine my own personal bill with my business bill. The cheapest At&t smart phone plan is $65 a month for a single line. But I don’t want to give out my personal cell phone number to my business customers.

That’s where the free Google Voice comes in. When setting up your Google Voice account make sure you get a free new number from Google. Then, you can forward that number to your cell phone, all for free. My phone number is: (209) 645-1991 and that just forwards to my regular cell phone number.

Total Phone: $65 Per Month


Credit Card Processing

Processing debit and credit cards has changed a lot since I had my card store back in 2006. Now you can get a free Square card reader and run payments off your smart phone or tablet. This is the way to go. You can use it anywhere, and it charges 2.75% on all swipes.

Total Credit Card Processing Setup: Free

Exclusive: Get $1,000 FREE PROCESSING using this link from Square.


Inventory – Fan Items

Here is what I plan to open my store with. I’m only getting items from WinCraft, GTS Distribution and Beckett initially. As I get a feel for what my customers want I will adjust.

NOTE: Prices for WinCraft items will be a little off. I have an older inventory list and the prices for the items I get might be slightly more or less.

5 – Colin Kaepernick Pennants$20 ($4 each).

5 – 49ers Pennants$10 ($2 each).

5 – 49ers Bumper Stickers$5 ($1 each).

5 – 49ers License Plates$10 ($2 each).

I’m going to get the same or similar inventory for the following teams: Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, L.A. Lakers, Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s.

Total WinCraft: $315


Inventory – Unopened Wax

You can decide for yourself what type of sports card products you should carry. My store is going to be inside a Grocery Depot. People aren’t going to come in looking to buy a case of Panini Flawless. I need cheap, inexpensive new packs because initially those are the only ones that I might have a shot at selling.

NOTE: I know most of these products suck. Some of these packs I can sell for $0.75 cents each and double my money.

1 – 2015 Bowman Baseball $56
1 – 2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball $45
1 – 2011 Topps Allen & Ginter Baseball $55
1 – 2014 Topps Chrome Football $40
1 – 2014 Bowman Chrome Football $38
1 – 2014 Panini Hot Rookies $36
1 – 2013 Score Football – $15
1 – 2013 Topps Strata Football – $35
1 – 2014-15 Panini NBA Hoops – $52
1 – 2008-09 Upper Deck Victory Hockey – $9
1 – 2001 Upper Deck Golf – $10

GTS Distribution Total: $391

Found all of these boxes and packs on Craigslist for only $100.
30 box lot of 1991 Stadium Club Dome sets for $3.33 each. $100.

Craigslist Total: $200

Total Unopened Wax: $591


Inventory – Single Cards

Most people starting a sports card store will probably have a fairly large collection of single cards from their own collection to initially get them going. I will want to have LOTS of boxes of single cards for people to go through. These are going to be a high margin item for me. I think I could get enough cards to stack to the ceiling for $500 by checking Craigslist and tapping into my local resources.

Single Card Inventory: $500


Inventory – Supplies

I have to give a rough guess as to how much I’m going to initially spend on supplies, but I will list out the things that I want to have. You also have to pay for shipping from your distributor when you buy supplies so that will be added in.

NOTE: Don’t pay attention to the Amazon price, that is just to give an example of the item.

Supply Inventory: $400

More Information: Buying Sports Card Supplies Direct


Inventory – Beckett Magazines

I can return what doesn’t sell, but I’ll probably go light on my first order. Maybe 3-5 of each magazine until I see which one sells the best. I’m not 100% sure of the current direct cost of a Beckett Magazine but I’ll go with $2.50 and update if I can find the correct price.*

Beckett Magazine Total: $50

Beckett Media Information – Wholesale $5.00* – SRP – $9.99*


Random Supplies

Most of these items can be found at the dollar store.

Broom and dustpan: $8
Trash Can: $5
Trash Bags: $5
Printing Paper: $5
Glass Cleaner: $1
Towels: $1
Paper Towels: $1
Pens: $1
Tape: $1
Notepads: $1

Housecleaning Total: $29


Inventory Re-Load

After I get a better idea who my potential clientele is and what they want, I’m going to want to re-load on some inventory since I didn’t buy a whole lot to start. You can be fairly liberal with this number, but I’m going to set it at $3,600 since my location is fairly small, only 400 Sq Ft.

Setting this money aside gives me an average of $300 a month to buy inventory as I need it during the first year in business. Although I wouldn’t obligate myself to use it during slow months. For the holiday season, October-December I may spend more then $300 a month to account for increased traffic at those times.

Inventory Re-Load: $3,600


Rent Runway Money

You don’t want to run out of money in your first few months of opening your store. Even when starting a sports card on the cheap, as we’ve done here, it’s a good idea to stash some cash away when the inevitable pinch comes.

I’m going to stash away 7 months worth of rent into a bank account I don’t have quick an easy access to. Don’t touch this money unless it’s for rent.

Rent Runway: $2,800


Totals

Permits & Fees: $163
1st Month Rent: $400
Display Cases/Furniture: $456
Electronics/Internet: $357
Business Cards: $16
Banner/Sign: $60
Phone Number: $65
Fan Items Inventory: $315
Unopened Wax Inventory: $591
Single Cards: $500
Supplies Inventory: $400
Beckett Magazines: $50
Housecleaning: $24
Inventory Re-Load: $3,600
Rent Runway: $2,800

Total: $9,797

 

What Happened Next?One Month Profit Loss Example

Don’t Go Overboard on Your Initial Inventory

My best advice would be to open your store with as little inventory as possible and get a feel for what people in your area want to buy. You will make mistakes in your initial ordering for your brand new store. Don’t compound that problem by getting stuck with thousands of dollars of products that collect dust on your shelves.

For example, I didn’t realize there were so many Dallas Cowboys fans where I was located (California) – and I would have done better if I stocked more of their items and less of teams/items that weren’t popular in the area when I owned my card store.

Don’t go overboard with your inventory to start. You can easily and quickly buy more if you are able to move through some packs or boxes during your first few days of opening. People won’t be coming in and buying cases! Trust me, you won’t catch a whale in your first few days. You may find that cheaper packs sell the best. Or maybe your customers only want to buy football packs and don’t care about baseball. Each market is probably different. It’s best not to get stuck with a bunch of inventory that just sits on your shelf.

In my article about starting a card shop for $10,000, I left myself $300 a month for an entire year so that I could buy inventory as my business developed. Leave yourself some money so that you can purchase new items from your store throughout the first year you are open instead of blowing it all in the beginning.

Get a State Business License

Get a State Business License

This is actually remarkably easy. I was able to get my California business license in about an hour and it cost about $30. In some cases you can even get your business license online.

Here is a great resource for a state by state guide to the permits and licenses you’ll need to get for doing business in your state. If you open a brick and mortar store, you might have to:

  • Be subject to a yearly fire inspection of store – annual fee may be charged.
  • Have a Fictitious Business Name
  • Obtain a Seller’s Permit – needed in California for the state sales tax.
  • If you hire employees there will be several permits and forms you will need to fill out and post inside the business.

Need More Help?

Amazon Kindle Book can show you everything you need to know about getting a business license in your state.

How To Get Your Business License And Sellers Permit In All 50 States

Register Your Business Name

Register Your Business Name

If Bob Jones opens a sports card store and calls it “Bob Jones Sports Cards” he won’t have to register his business name. That is because his last name is in the business title. If he wants to call the store VIP Sports cards he will need a fictitious business name.

You typically register your “Doing Business As” name with the county clerk or your state government. When I registered my business in California I had to place a fictitious business name notice in the local newspaper. After running your ad for about 4 weeks the newspaper will send you a “Proof of Publication.” There was a fee associated with this, for me it was $100. Check with your local agency to see how it is done in your state.

Not every state makes you do this so be sure to check. If you only have an online business, more then likely you will not need a fictitious business name.

Get a Federal Tax ID Number

How to get a Federal Tax ID number:

You are going to need a Federal Tax ID number when you do your taxes. The process of getting a Federal ID number is fairly easy and is best done online.

Apply for your Federal Tax ID here.

Once you have your ID number, you get one immediately by applying online, you will be able to use it to:

  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for business licenses
  • File a tax return by mail

Some states require you to have a Federal Tax ID number in order to open a business license within their state. Check your local state regulations to see what is required for you.

Decide the Legal Structure of Your Business

1) Decide the Legal Structure to Your Business

This sounds daunting but it’s actually fairly easy. Most people opening a sports card store will fall under sole proprietorship or partnership. Here are various structures you can set up your business under:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • LLC (Limited Liability Company)
  • Incorporation – S-Corp, C-Corp

This is all about taxes. If you set up your business as a sole proprietorship you will report your personal and business income taxes using one form. If you set your business up under an LLC your taxes became more complicated.

Some states require you to file legal partnership papers if your structure is a partnership agreement.

See this page for more information on legal structures.

My recommendation: unless you have more then two people in your business, or have been apart of an LLC before, go with a sole proprietorship or partnership. Your taxes shouldn’t be that complicated to figure out on your own using one of those options.

Once you begin to have success and make money, you can always change over to an LLC for tax purposes or to add additional owners to your business.

Need More Help?

This Amazon book can walk you through the process of starting your own business.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide:
Starting Your Own Business, 6th Ed