What’s Hot In The ‘Almost Old Enough To Drink’ Card Shop

As the folks on Sesame Street would say, this week’s episode is brought to you by the number 20.

On Tuesday, December 11, 2012 my store, Mike’s Stadium Sportscards turns 20.  What started out as a “sure what the heck, I will buy your store” from the gentleman who owned it has turned into a true passion and calling.

I managed Stadium Sportscards for six months before purchasing it and thinking back, I remember wanting to fill every inch so badly that I put a 25-cent Lawrence Taylor into a case rather than leaving a spot blank.  The (original) LT card did sell for two bits and since then we have moved another ten million or so in cards.

While I missed Bomania and Cansecomania, I have had the privilege of being part of Shaqmania, the shorter lasting Kerry Woodmania, Ichiromania, LeBronmania (and to a lesser extent since I am in Colorado Carmelomania), CrosbVechkinmania, the no way in the world these guys won’t change the world 2006 NFL Rookie Cropmania and most recently Luck/RG3mania.

Along the way I was introduced to some successful non-sport related items like POGs, Pokemon, Magic (I keep waiting for the David Copperfield card), Yu-Gi-Oh and some others.  There were of course some not so well received gaming lines such as Bakugan, Digimon, Huntik and who could possibly forget YuYu Hakusho?

From the millionaires fighting with billionaires file, my store survived the 1994 NHL lockout, the more painful 1994 MLB strike (that nuked the 1994 World Series and effectively killed MLB sales until Cal Ripken  Jr made it cool again), the 1998 NBA lockout, the season killing 2004 NHL lockout, the 2011 NFL lockout (how we had a season without the HOF game is beyond me), the 2011 NBA lockout that contracted the season so significantly that I should have just moved into Pepsi Center for my side job and of course the current NHL lockout.

Suffice to say cards did not look like this in 1992.

It has been simply incredible to see the massive changes we have seen with packs and boxes specifically with what they now deliver and how they price.  Back in 1992, an OMG SICK MOJO hit involved pulling a card numbered to 10,000.  These days, the only thing numbered even close to that would be the 08/09 Topps Signature YI JianLian autographed cards.

Back then, if you mentioned a jersey card, it meant simply pulling a card of a traded player in their new uniform.

An autographed card was a single that you had brought to a game and got signed or perhaps lucked out and got back in your SASE.

As for online changes, even Al Gore could not have seen all the advances we now enjoy and can’t go a day without clicking on.  Can you all imagine a world without Sports Collectors Daily, eBay, company websites, blogs, card dumper sites, Dealernetb2b.com, Beckett.com, COMC.com and online shows like Cardboard Connection Radio?

I WISH I had a few of these gems the day after the Broncos won their Super Bowl games!

As for highlights, there are too many to mention.  While it didn’t happen in the store, having the Broncos shock the world and beating the Packers in the Super Bowl changed my life for about an entire year (until they won their second in a row).  As the second ticked down in that game, my friends were screaming about how the Broncos and Elway finally had their Super Bowl victory only to look at me in slight concern as I was jumping up and down screaming, “I’M RICH!  I’M RICH!”

Hosting autograph sessions in the store like this one with Denver Nugget Ty Lawson (Sam on my shoulder) is always a highlight.

I raised each of my two children in the store.  One particular day with my son Sam was a bit more memorable when we both ended up being part of a Topps conference call.  I tried to time things perfectly giving him his bottle 15 minutes before the call was scheduled to begin and putting him down for his afternoon nap.  Things were going great until he woke up early and I had to change his diaper.  Suffice to say it was the only time I’m aware of a call with Topps that included the phrase, “Is that a baby?  Does someone on the call have a baby there?”  A sincere thanks to all of my shop buddies on the call and Alan Narz for not dropping dime on me.

Big hits? Yeah, we have had those too.

Then there were the hits.  A few that quickly come to mind include a LeBron James rookie year autographed jersey card that came out of our first case of 03/04 Exquisite, a Ted Williams 1/1 booklet card highlighted by his name off the bat barrel and of course the day one lucky shopper found the 1/1 SP Legendary Cuts Richard Nixon single that had not only a cut signature, but also a strand of Tricky DIckie’s hair.

Mistakes, I’ve had a few…there was the day a case of 1992 Bowman MLB that belonged to another store that mistakenly got dropped off at my store on release date.  I would have never kept it since it belonged to another shop, but I remember calling him and letting him know of the UPS mistake, and being glad when it finally got picked up based on its terrible history up to that point.

As for the biggest move I would like to do over?  That is an easy one.  Well it involved 03/04 Upper Deck Exquisite NBA again.  The day it hit, most shops were swimming in 03/04 funds, but the prospect of selling the industry’s first $500 pack was still daunting.  As you read above, my first case delivered rather well and while was not looking to restock, I saw that another dealer was offering to pay the full half a grand SRP on as many boxes as I could deliver.

I made a call to my local distributor and found out he had 47 boxes still in stock and wanted the going rate of $330 each.  A few calls later, I had made what I thought was massive money to the tune of $170 x 47.  Checking going rate these days, holding onto a few of them might have made sense with one dealer currently offering $13,300 for a 3ct case.

Being part of incredible promotions like Black Friday has made owning Mike’s Stadium Sportscards a labor of love.

One of my favorite annual happenings has always been attending the Hawaii Trade Conference back in the day or the more recent Las Vegas Summit events.  It is always a pleasure seeing so many of my hobby brothers and sisters and where else could one get insulted by Bobby Knight as I did in Hawaii back in 2001 right after he was let go by Indiana, or have the pleasure of asking Larry Fitzgerald if then teammate Matt Leinart was having any parties while we were in town for the Arizona event.

Back when I opened, the hottest release was Classic basketball since they had the exclusive for Shaquille O’Neal.  These days, the current hot list includes 2012 Topps Chrome NFL, 2012 Topps Triple Threads NFL and anything that my customers can purchase that gets them Black Friday packs.

Next year, I am looking forward to my shop turning 21 so that I can finally take it drinking or perhaps visit Las Vegas with it.

On a slightly serious note, I cannot think of a profession that I would have wanted more than card shop owner.  It has been a tremendous privilege being a small part of the Colorado sports scene and more importantly getting to know so many incredible mile high collectors.  I am already looking forward to the advances and changes we will see in the coming years and hope to be part of it for another few decades or so.

Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, Colo.  You can read his column here every week, focusing on what products are selling best in hobby shops. See his eBay listings here. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter.  Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook  and you can email him at  [email protected]