It’s nearly 2,400 miles from Brian Marcy’s base of operations in Arizona to Atlantic City for the National Sports Collectors Convention.
He’s among the ultimate road warriors at this year’s show, which is set for July 27-31. When his company, Scottsdale Cards, sets up shop he will traveled about as far as any dealer among the hundreds on the floor.
Marcy has been a fixture at the National since the junk wax era. That includes two previous trips to the Jersey Shore. He’s developed some strong feelings about the trip, preparations, logistics and successfully sell.
He’s learned the hard way, what works, what doesn’t and how to make it work.
Time is valuable
For past Atlantic City shows, he would drive as much as three, 12-hour days followed by six long days on the convention floor.
“This is my 33rd National and I used to drive to them all, and we stopped,” Marcy says. “That was about about eight, nine years ago. My dad used to go with me but he got up in age and it just got to the point where he was shot for a couple of weeks after we got back.”
It’s not so much the drive, it’s the fatigue of those long days at the show, then having to pack up and make the long trip home.
“You were excited when you were going there. You’re all pumped, ‘hey, it’s a big show, we’re going to make some money.’ And then by the time the show is over, you’re exhausted.”
He’s simplified and found a smarter, more efficient way to do business at big events like the National.
Less is more
That means packing high-dollar cards and items that will give him the most bang for his buck while taking up as little space as possible.
That space is a couple of carry-on bags for the flight and some pre-shipped items they’ll ultimately haul from Philadelphia.
When set up at the show is complete, they’ll have filled 10 x 15 foot booth with rented display cases and a tall, vertical display case for three-dimensional, autographed artifacts.
“I’d love to drive and be able to bring a bunch of mid dollar stuff instead of just high dollar stuff, but the extra money I’d get doesn’t offset the six days of my life that I lose on the road,” Marcy says.
“When we used to drive we used to do two to four booths. Now I’m just down to one. Because of the logistics, I don’t get enough benefit out of the second boost to offset the extra expense.”
That doesn’t factor increased expenses for employee wages, meals, hotel rooms and in his words the “extra everything else.”
“I try to keep it where there’s just two of us going. That way it’s one hotel room. I mean, it’s still expensive, but I just don’t think the second booth brings enough extra sales to justify all the extra work that it entails.”
Big ticket items boost the bottom line
Packing fewer cards and other collectables is his operating strategy. But the cards he packs are powerhouses.
“It’s about 75 percent vintage and 25 percent modern. Of that, most newer cards are elite basketball stars including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.”
He’s planning to bring a 1930 Yankees autographed ball and some cards and memorabilia of legends and popular players. “If I’m shipping autographs across the country, I don’t want to ship stuff that’s $50,” he explained. “I want to ship items that are $500 or $1000.
Online rules the day
Marcy says the overwhelming majority of his revenue comes from online sales. That’s about 75,000 items inside his stores on eBay and Amazon. He estimates another 150,000 through the ScottsdaleCards.com website.
“It’s all online. I do maybe one or two shows a year to show my face and let people know I’m still alive. It’s not a big profit center. Maybe I’ll run into an older collector who wants to sell a collection.”
The week at the National is profitable but is just a tiny part of Scottsdale’s yearly revenue.
Be prepared to adapt
Marcy is passionate about vintage cards, saying it makes up more than 90 percent of his core business. Cards from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s sell especially well. But, he’s adjusting.
While he’s focused on classic, proven cards, it’s hard to ignore modern cards because there’s so much money changing hands.
“Modern cards have gotten so crazy. How do you not buy it when it comes when you go to an appointment and they have modern cards, if they’re good. I’m not going to say no, if the price is right.”
Like many long time dealers and auction houses, he’s essentially learned the current era card market on the fly. In the information age, it’s much simpler to self-educate, even on cards and collectables.
“I know very little about it, but I know enough about car conditions and everything else. And I have a phone and a computer. I can look it up. It’s not that it’s difficult to do, it’s just that the old dog doesn’t want to learn too many new tricks.”
Favorite venues for the National
With four decades of conventions behind him, Marcy has formed distinct opinions on what makes a good show and ways to improve and he’s not afraid to share his concerns about Atlantic City.
He says he’s not alone.
“It’s well run. The facility is fine. The biggest problem with Atlantic City is logistics for just about everyone outside of people that are a short drive away.”
He’s not sure the reasoning behind the Jersey Shore.
“There’s some benefit for them to do it, but the outcry from the dealers is not to go back to Atlantic City.”
He says he’d support a permanent show in Chicago.
“Everyone’s favorite location that I’ve talked to is Chicago. And why they don’t just leave the National in Chicago, I have no idea. Why do we need to travel to all these other cities? Chicago works. It’s a non-stop flight from anywhere in the country and that show is two miles from O’Hare (Airport). It checks every box you could ever want.”
And it’s in the middle of the country with a wealth of great hotels and dining within walking distance of the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.
“You don’t even have to go into Chicago. You can just do everything you want right there if you’re just working and eating.”
You can find Brian Marcy and Scottsdale Cards in booth 1813 at the 2022 show.