Wed. Jan 22nd, 2020

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Tips on Setting Up at a Sports Card Show

7 min read

Sports card shows have been a dying breed since technology has evolved. There use to be at least one every weekend most likely at a location near you, but these days a sports card show is rare. They’re still out there though and many are actually doing pretty well. If you have one near you and you’re thinking about setting up? Go for it. Setting up for the first time could be tedious, but the end result can be a lot of fun. A lot of people setting up for the first time find it overwhelming and don’t  know where to begin. I was there once myself and I will give you some of my tips below to hopefully help make things easier for you and be able to enjoy yourself more.

What are you selling: The first thing you need to do is to figure out what you’re going to be selling. Cards from local teams usually do really well. Always try to have local players and teams. Bargain boxes that go for about a quarter or so each are also very popular. Try to showcase players that are currently hot in every sport you’ll be selling. Certified autograph and memorabilia cards are extremely popular and will attract attention to your table. Vintage is good too. Stay away from common cards from the late 80’s to early 90’s. These cards were mass produced and doesn’t sell well at all. Investing in cheaper packs and sealed boxes will gather interest as well.

Organization is key: After you figure out what to take with you to sell, you’ll need to organize everything. When people stop by your table or booth, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to look around. The easier it is to find items they’re looking for, the more you’ll sell. Don’t just throw all of your cheaper cards in a bargain box and hope for the best. Organize the cards by team and sport. Have all of your local players sorted with each other. Autograph and higher end cards should be sorted by sport as well. Having everything organized will also help you out if someone asks for something in particular because you can find it easy and quick. 

Supplies:  There are also some certain items that  you will want to take with you that will make your setup better. Here are some additional items that are recommended.                                  Extra penny sleeves and toploaders 

Tablecloth (if one isn’t provided)  $25 to $50 in change (mostly of $1 and $5 bills) I recommend a cash box too.                                                 

Extra pricing stickers                            

A writing utensil and paper or index cards  (sharpies are perfect)     

A comfortable chair. Camping chairs are a good option.                   

Hand sanitizer                          

Pricing: This is where a lot of people have the hardest time and become stressed. Pricing too low could hurt profit, but pricing too high will cause show patrons to lose interest. I always price my cards using Ebay’s sold listings. You’ll want to stay near that range, but pricing cards just a tad higher is okay. Have a price clearly marked on every card because most buyers won’t ask what the price is. I use small white yard sale price stickers and I place them on the penny sleeve. I never place them on the top loader due to the stickers leaving residue on them. I always have the price visible on the front, but many vendors choose to place prices on the back of the card. Also, make sure your bargain boxes are priced as well. Offer incentives on those cards to encourage someone to buy more. For example, if your bargain cards are a quarter each, offer five for $1 or thirty for $5. The better the deal, the more you’ll sell. A common mistake that many sellers often do is that they overprice local players. Don’t fall into the local markup trap. Buyers are smart and most know roughly what a card goes for. If they feel that you’re trying to take advantage of them with the local guys, they’ll move on to the next table. If you have a card of a local player that goes for $5 online, sell it for around that. Don’t put a $15 price on it. You may sell a couple cards that are heavily overpriced, but selling more for less usually trumps selling very little for more. Give yourself some room to negotiate on prices, but don’t jack it up too high. I usually add $2 to $3 what the eBay sold listings are. Basically, I’m just including the shipping cost as my negotiation room. We all want to make money at a show, but being too greedy will hurt your business.

Pricing all of your cards is recommended. If they’re priced right, buyers will show more interest.

Self promote and get support:  Card show promoters usually do a good job at promoting the event, but take it upon yourself to let people know you’ll be there. Try to generate more traffic anyway you can. Advertise yourself on a facebook group, or just let friends and family members know you’ll be there. Sometimes placing a craigslist add is useful especially if you’re looking to buy as well. Asking friends or family to come out and support you could benefit you in making a few more sales or getting a little extra help. It never hurts to have a buddy watch your table if you have to leave it for a few minutes. It also helps give you more time to browse other tables while keeping your table more secure.

Setting Up: So now it’s the day of the show. Being your first time setting up, you’ll probably feel excited and nervous. When you arrive, don’t be intimidated by larger setups. Stick with your game plan. Whip out your table cloth and start getting your table in order. Put your bargain boxes, cheaper cards, and popular players towards the front of the table and your more expensive cards to the back. Have everything laid out neatly and try to fill the whole table. If you have too much, stack cheaper cards on top of each other to save room. If the table doesn’t look full, space your cards and boxes out a little more. If the promoter allows for a small backup table, take one. Usually a 4×4 card table is efficient. It may be a small set up starting out, but you can still look good. Make sure to have your bags and protectors handy. Another good practice is to arrive early and set up quickly. Being set up on time will attract any early birds to your table. It also will give you more time to browse other vendor tables. Who knows. You may find something for yourself or something cheap enough you can flip.

In this setup, I have all of my bargain boxes and local players towards the center of the table. I also keep a chair on that side of the table so buyers can sit down while they look.

Engage every visitor: Greet every visitor that approaches your table. It doesn’t matter if it’s another vendor or a patron. Most vendors are buyers too. Always be friendly and willing to answer any questions and treat everyone with respect, including kids. Often times, they’ll be your best customers. If you’re shy or just don’t know how to start a conversation, ask the customer a little about themself. You can ask something like “do you have a certain team or player you collect” or “what kind of cards do you collect.” You don’t have to chat them up the whole time they’re browsing, but at least chat a little. Many vendors will greet a customer and then say nothing else. That can make for an awkward moment with many customers. You want to build rapport and relationships along with making sales. If they have a Facebook account, ask them if you could add them as a friend or invite them to join a card group you may be in. Be enthusiastic when talking to people, but don’t over sell it. Be willing to help and go the extra mile. Show them that you want to be there and are happy to be there. If someone sees you having fun, you’ll make their visit to your table more enjoyable for them. Also as a courtesy, if a buyer is talking to a vendor beside your table, don’t interrupt. Just calmly wait your turn. 

Always greet and chat a little with everyone that checks out your table. Ask what they collect. It could lead to more sales in the future if you know what they like.

Don’t get discouraged: While there’s going to be times when your busy at your table, there will also be times when you’re not. Don’t get discouraged when that happens because it happens to everyone. Utilize that time to browse other vendors, reorder your table, or grab a bite to eat. Also, don’t take offense if someone browses your table and doesn’t buy anything. You may not have what they’re looking for or they may just take a lap around the show first to see what everyone has before they commit to buy anything. Kindly thank them for stopping by. Your first show is always the toughest. Don’t set your goals too high. If the card show doesn’t seem like a success, don’t show your disgust. Make the most out of an unfortunate situation. Try to buy cards at a good deal to sell online or work out some trades. Always remember to keep a positive attitude and have fun. 

Card shows should be fun for everyone! Utilize some of these tips to make your selling experience a pleasant one. Special thanks to Nathan Freeman for allowing me to use some of the photos from his sports card show in Barboursville, WV