He’s a familiar face at some of the nation’s biggest shows. But Bill McAvoy started dealing in baseball cards long before it was fashionable.
By Joe Milliken
Surviving in the ever-changing world of sports card collecting can be a daunting task for any company or entrepreneur, never mind thriving in the business for over 35 years. But such is the story of Bill McAvoy of McAvoy Sportcards based in Omaha, Nebraska.
While in the Army and stationed in Cambridge, Maryland in 1973, McAvoy joined the Mid-Atlantic Sports Collectors Association, an early collectors group that held monthly meetings and launched one of the first card shows at the local American Legion Hall in 1973. Bill and his wife Jane set up a table, offering some cards in brown paper lunch bags, and the rest they say, is history.
McAvoy was a collector who soaked up the knowledge he gained by attending the shows and corresponding with other dedicated collectors in a hobby that was popular but not yet mainstream. Along the way he dealt with several of today’s most well-known hobby names long before they were known by collectors across North America.
"I sold a 1952 Topps Mantle rookie card for $5 to 10-year-old Rob Lifson (who later formed Robert Edward Auctions) and a 16-year-old Bill Mastro who went on to form Mastro Auctions," McAvoy recalled.
After moving back to Omaha two years later, Bill would participate in upwards of 15 shows a year for the next 25 years, and has attended nearly all of the important national conventions.
McAvoy preferred to build his business without a brick-and-mortar operation, a model that continues today.
"We don’t have a store front, instead serving our clients through a combination of our web site, an eBay store and auctions, card shows across the country along with mail and e-mail orders."
McAvoy Sportcards inventory stocks over 30,000 cards including vintage baseball cards from 1933-68, card sets and vender boxes, coin sets and
vintage basketball and boxing cards. They also offers unique sports
memorabilia items, specializing in Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and
"Probably the most valuable item we have bought an sold was a T206 Honus Wagner card in 1991," McAvoy stated.
A few other interesting items the McAvoys have handled include a rare Bob Feller sculpture, a team stock certificate from the first professional league , the "Boston National Association" dated 1871, a 1939 Baseball Centennial ring and a Joe Louis clock dated 1940.
Keeping up with the internet age and new opportunities to serve clients is vital to any dealer’s success. McAvoy Sportcards was one of the first card companies chosen by CardPricer.com to market their inventory through an interactive "wish list". The free service keeps dealers in touch with collectors, while also helping collectors to find specific cards. It’s one way to help bridge the gap between buyer and seller in a more timely and effective manner.
"Thirty years ago most transactions in the hobby were done by trading and exchanging want lists through the mail," McAvoy concluded. "Even at the few early card shows in the country, there were some cash transactions, but more trades. With the internet, almost everything is less personal and done through eBay and/or web sites."
Over the years, McAvoy Sportcards has developed into one of the most successful and well-respected card dealers in the business. "I have been collecting and selling cards and memorabilia since 1973, therefore I have a lot of knowledge, experience, contacts and inventory to offer. I have a wide knowledge of the market, and specialize in baseball cards from 1933-68."
Turning young fans into collectors is vital for the continued growth of the hobby and McAvoy has some advice for those just starting to collect with hopes of seeing an appreciation in value.
"If a young person invests in card collecting and only collects new players he is familiar with, his transactions become like stock day trading depending on aspects such as daily stats, injuries, off field issues and such," McAvoy advises. "I would advise to focus on collecting vintage Hall of Fame players in excellent to mint condition. Their statistics are already established and you can usually expect about a 10-to-12% per year return on your investment."
Joe Milliken is a freelance writer and is also the Sports Editor at
The Message For The Week, based in Chester, Vt. Contact Joe at his web site: www.jemwriting.com or at [email protected]