One Pennsylvania dealer is proving the little guys can compete..even at the biggest sports card show of the year.
They're the ones who load up a big van and point it in the direction of the show, no matter where it is. Not dependent upon card shows to make a living, but risking a big chunk of disposable income in hopes the return will be there come Sunday night.
Mixed among the deep pocket dealers and auction houses are guys like Steve Werley. A high school French teacher from September through May. A card dealer when the final bell rings.
The Orefield, PA resident filled his vehicle with the usual array of hard to find cards and began the drive West nearly two weeks ago. A stop to visit a family member was first, then it was on to Anaheim where he's set up behind a table at the National for the 11th year. "I have a lot of oddball and test issues so if I miss this, I'm missing the boat." he said of the show that traditionally brings the most serious collectors out of the woodwork.
While Werley expects to do well in Anaheim, the expenses quickly add up for dealers. "The booths are about $1200 and normally I'll set up 2 of those when we've been on the east coast. I took only one this year to help pay for the hotel and gas." To make ends meet requires a lot of sales.. and a lot of faith in the buying public. "I always try to hit about ten grand for the national," he said.
Werley's inventory is an ecletic mix. One of the big ticket items he's hoping to move at the National is a 1967 Topps test issue Pete Rose priced at $9500. "It's a very rare issue," Werley explained. "I have 1967 punch-outs, '69 and '70 Transograms. It's items like that I stand a pretty good chance of moving because no one else has them."
Acquiring his inventory through larger auction lots, he'll re-sell them piece by piece. One would think eBay would be the place to sell the more unusual pieces, but Werley sticks with the show circuit. "I do fewer shows..there just aren't a lot of the good ones left anymore."
Sunday night, he'll pack what didn't sell and begin the drive back to Pennsylvania with his family who flew to Orange County and spent the first day at Disneyland. A few more shows may follow this summer. Then it's back to the classroom and 'oui' to French class.