Richard Frye and Timothy Teixeira came to Europe as part of the U.S. military a number of years ago, but it didn't take long for the two American sports card collectors to realize their options for participating in the hobby were limited.
They had plenty of room for their cards, but opportunities to expand their collection or meet others with the same interest wasn't nearly as easy as it was back home.
Determined to bring collectors from the service together with a strong and growing base of locals who liked collecting as much as he did, Teixeira began running a card show in Germany in 1995.
It wouldn't be the last.
In fact, the shows are still going strong 15 years later and the two have also launched a website, CardsFX.com. With forums, blog posts and information, it's helping connect European-based collectors of sports cards, regardless of nationality.
"In the past the majority of card and memorabilia collectors put their collections away once they arrived here in Germany because there was just no one place for them to turn to for buying, selling, and or trading. No realistic way to expand their collections." Frye related to Sports Collectors Daily via email. "We enjoy the hobby and really wanted to help fill the gap of this fallacy that we identified, so CardsFX was born."
Based in Mannheim and Kaiserslautern, the volunteers who run the CardsFX community hold card shows in Germany about four times per year according to Frye who says they currently average about 20 dealer tables per event. Once held only inside military installations, the shows now take place in area hotels.
"They are a great way to meet people with the same or similar interests, a central point for military personnel and local nationals to interact," Frye stated. "And the shows are a super way to buy, trade and sell some of your collection while having some fun and getting out amongst the locals here in Germany."
While a relatively large population of Americans stationed in Germany helps, a surprising number of Europeans collect U.S. sports card products. Basketball is the most popular sport among collectors there according to CardsFX, followed by hockey, football, soccer and baseball. Most gravitate toward the same players that are in demand here like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Sidney Crosby and Peyton Manning.
Since nearly every German student learns English, communication is rarely a problem when business is conducted with a German citizen at the CardsFX shows. Those not fluent in the language usually know enough to get by in a conversation.
"Of course for the ones that may have trouble, 99% of the time there is always someone close by that can help with any translations to get the point across," Frye related. "We pride ourselves on the linguistic ability of our community. We have people from all ages, backgrounds, cultures and language levels that are multilingual, ranging from languages that reach as far east as China to as close as France and of course the predominant language outside of English here is German."
Finding local vendors and collectible stores that carry American trading cards is possible, but Frye and Teixeira have found that, just as in the United States, much of the buying these days is being done online.
"The one niche we have been able to carry is our card shows," Frye stated. "There are still a number of people that enjoy the camaraderie and collections that are available at a show that we host and come out regularly to support our functions."
Buying cards is one thing. But what about getting them back home? The military can usually make sure that those who have made a commitment can get everything back across the ocean--even if there is more material on the return trip.
"The weight they are allotted in most circumstances is more than enough to cover their household goods as well as their card collections," Frye. explained. "We have not heard of any issue to date of where the collection was so vast that someone was having trouble getting it home."
The CardsFX founders believe their internet presence will provide a foundation for the hobby in their part of the world.
"Through continued support from the community we plan to carry on our efforts to grow this great hobby here in Germany and across Europe and we really look forward to helping people have fun, network, make new friends and expand their collections."