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Ramblings: How to Make Sports Card Shows Better…for Everyone

by Rich Klein

One of my great joys in this hobby for nearly 40 years now is attending (or setting up) at shows. Granted there are far less shows than there was during the peak days of the hobby but a good show is always something appreciated. However, the people willing to be involved in shows on all levels does seem to be decreasing and in case you wondered why, just about every group in the hobby shares some of the responsibility. With that in mind, here are some suggestions to make shows better.

1) Promoters:  Do some promotions and promote your product as well. Whether you promote your show by local advertising, email advertising or even posting on message boards, do something. I do realize that the hobby media is far from what it used to be but there are still ways to get word out about your shows.

That includes, look for inexpensive players (usually retired) who will sign at your show (s). Many players may never have done a show, and if they had cards or played in the highest league, one can usually find photos or cards of the players. A small outlay there can bring nice rewards.

Lower the table prices. Yes, I'm all in favor of free enterprise, but you might just be able to draw more dealers with lower table prices. One of the great hidden hobby secrets during the golden age was the National was actually one of the cheapest shows in terms of average daily table cost. When table prices are affordable, then you just might get more dealers to set up. And in today's world, the real money comes in dealer to dealer business. Why do you think almost every collector who really knows about the National does what they can do to arrive during dealer set up period.

And for promotions: do the following: Mainstream Media may not be what it was, but still important. Perhaps an ad in a local paper or a cheap radio ad may bring in collectors. Some areas local TV ads may not cost very much. And most hobby chat boards are very courteous about an occasional post for a show. I know the Net 54 Message boards encourage local shows to post. And when I set up at a small card show at my local card show, I must have posted on 10 different message boards. That did help bring to the store several new collectors who may have even become regular customers.

2) Dealers: Well, lower your prices on your items if possible. Marking the price on the items is not a bad idea either. Remember your collector base in many cases knows the EBay price of what you are trying to sell so being a multiple of EBay is not the way to generate a ton of sales. I don't know about you, but when I was at a card show behind the table, my purpose was to, you know. actually sell some cards. I know selling cards can be tricky but remember do you want to make a sale or make a customer. I was a great believer in making a customer.

And on a different level, please shower either that morning or the night before. I know this sounds strange but we used to have a statement about shows in the Boston-Washington megalopolis. That term was "East Coast Stench". I can tell you that there are times in the summer for one day shows that you will be lugging in merchandise and there is not much you can do when the temperature and the humidity are both over 90 and you brought in 12 loads. However, at many shows during many days you can be reasonably clean. The National lets you drive to your booth and have your material unloaded.

3) Customers:  Understand that prices are going to be a bit more expensive at a show than on the internet. There is a premium fro actually being able to see a card.... Also does not hurt if a collector, actually leaves their home and goes out to meet other collectors, dealers. etc. The point is there are things you can see in person at a show that you may have never thought about previously. And being surprised and going home with a neat item is certainly an unexpected benefit.

I'm sure there are more aspects to shows, but if everyone does their part, we can have decent shows around the country again. It would be nice if I could actually go a decent middle to large sized show in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The promoters of the small show near me do an overall good job, could be better but for the most part, they do pretty well. If more promoters did what they attempt to do, then the hobby would be better off on an overall basis.

Love to hear your comments and opinions.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Ryan Gluesing says:

    I've never sold at a show, but I've heard several dealers say they're not doing shows anymore because table fees were too high. Many dealers wouldn't make their table fees back over the show because the shows were under-promoted and the tables were overpriced.

    Promotion is important! And so is a low/free entrance fee. I attend shows on the free "preview days" for multiple reasons, but partly because I don't want to spend 10% of my $100 budget just to look at cards. I want to use that money to add to my collection.

    I agree with the points of selling at a fair price. And I shared my thoughts with some of the dealers at local shows and they saw their profits increase by taking my advice. That advice: bring dime/50-cent/$1 boxes with decent cards inside. Kids and budget collectors love that sort of thing! Sure, selling a $50 card means a lot of money at once, but I'd rather spend $50 on a stack of "worthless" inserts and semistars that fit into my collection. Just because someone's selling some 2012 Topps inserts on eBay for 99c each plus $3 shipping doesn't mean you have a $4 card.

    Plus, remember how budget stores (WalMart/KMart/etc) make a big profit: they sell a lot of stuff with very low profit per-item. The same applies to table fees, admission, and cards! Word spreads, and next show, more people come! "Hey, there were lots of dealers there so I had a lot of variety! And it was cheap to get in! And the cards were priced well so I spent hours browsing!" That brings more collectors in and thus bigger profit.

    Just saying…

  2. Very nice. How about this, if doing a show in Boston, bring some New England material? I hate driving down from Maine to hear, "I have some stuff, but didn't bring it today".

  3. Interesting points; thanks for sharing the article!

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