Greg Morris’s love of sports cards started as a young kid as he traveled to shows all around his native Southern California.
After a few decades away from the game, he became involved again when he made a sudden decision to buy a hobby shop. He gave that up after a short time, but began selling cards online from his kitchen table, a venture that eventually expanded to other rooms in his home.
He’s come a long way from those days. With over 6.3 million cards sold, Greg Morris Cards now stands as one of the top 10 largest sellers on eBay in the United States by volume across all categories. All categories–not just trading cards. With a busy consignment business and tens of thousands of cards listed at any given time, his listings are hard to miss. Morris auctions over 80,000 cards each month, mostly breaking sets and partial sets as well as single cards.
We sat down with him to discuss his rise to prominence in the world of online selling, his love of vintage cards and the staff that helps him.
Tony Reid- A wise person told me a long time ago, when you attach your own name to your business that is the ultimate sign of belief in yourself and what you are doing. Can you speak to deciding to put your name on your business and the thought process behind that?
Greg Morris– My name and my brand means a lot to me. I wanted people to know that I stood behind what we do. That doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. We make mistakes. I wasn’t going to hide behind some name and try to be anonymous. When I first got into the business, I had a lot of bad experiences. I felt that it was important that people know my name and know that I was going to do the best I could for them because I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
TR–As a kid, you used to travel to card shows in Southern California and that sparked your interest in the hobby. What was it that brought you to the hobby initially and what kept you here?
GM-I used to do it a lot as a kid. I got into it, my father was a big sports fan. I used to go to a shop in Studio City when I was about seven years old. I was very into it. When I was in high school I started to go to card shows at different malls in Southern California. I did pretty well. People would be shocked at how much sales we were doing. I just always loved it. I loved buying. I still love doing the buying.
I stopped doing it when I was in high school. I didn’t look at a card until I was 31 or 32 years old. I bought a card shop on the spur of the moment. I had gone into one of the shops I had used to go to in Tarzana, which is in the L.A. area. I talked to the guy who still there that I used to deal with when I was a kid. He said he was thinking about selling. He gave me a price. I said OK. I’ll buy the shop. That is how I got back into it.
TR–Can you tell us what it was like selling cards from your kitchen table as a side hustle?
GM-I only had that shop for about a year. I sold it. I wasn’t my thing to sit in the store. I still wanted to do it so I started doing it in my house. My wife didn’t understand it. My family didn’t understand it. At the time, I had gone back to school to get my MBA from UCLA. The other students there, when I told them what I was doing, they didn’t get it either. They think its kids’ stuff. It took me awhile to figure out where I thought a good niche would be and what a good strategy would be but it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. It went from my kitchen table to our back house and then I got a small, little office that was maybe 400 square feet and it grew to where it is now.
TR–What does the Greg Morris Cards setup look like today?
GM-We are about 7,000 square feet and there are 33 people. I want something much, much bigger, though, so I am in a constant state of frustration. We sell a lot of cards. Last year we ran a little bit over a million auctions. This year is a little bit slow because the industry slowed down. We anticipate we will do at least what we did last year.
TR–Those numbers and the figures that coincide make you a top ten seller on eBay. You have 400,000 unique feedback and 100,000 auctions per month. There are times over the years when you level up. What has that growth and leveling up encompassed for you over the years and how have you continued to expand?
GM-Originally I started with vintage. That is what I knew. I just kept buying more and more as I learned more and more. I think I am pretty good at buying online from auction houses and then on eBay. At one time I was the largest buyer of anything on the site. That’s a whole story unto itself. There are a lot of technological challenges. eBay’s cart can’t handle when somebody is putting in 2,000 items a day.
The hard part has been when I tried to do more graded material or more modern material. It’s challenging because it takes a while to learn each little niche. We also try to do some memorabilia and that has been a bit of a struggle as we are still learning. Vintage has been what we have been good at. The other big thing that happened about five or six years ago was that we started taking consignments. That also helped up our numbers. I want very badly to get into other categories in our industry but it’s not easy. It takes along time to accumulate the expertise. I’m so busy just keeping things running with the vintage that it’s a bandwidth issue for me.
TR-Let’s talk about the eBay listings. You place GM CARDS is all of your auction titles. Those capital letters and brand recognition really means something to your customers and to you as a company. Can you speak to that high level of name recognition and what that has mean to business?
GM– It’s hard. The reason why I put that in the title, I think, originally I saw that PWCC was doing it. Anything that we can do to make it easier for the customer to identify our cards, we found, is helpful. Keeping the brand up and making sure we are doing everything right is difficult. I used to grade every single card that was up and that we sold. Every card was looked at and graded by me. After I got to about 13 million cards I have progressively brought in other people to help grade.
It’s something I am very sensitive to. I hate making mistakes and we do make mistakes. We really try hard not to. I feel like if you look at the landscape, even though it’s hard for me to let other people grade the cards. I think we still do a very good job. Anything we can do to let people know it’s our card, we will do. When we make a mistake we will always take responsibility for it. I think that builds a lot of loyalty. Buying raw cards is like the Wild West. When we buy stuff, God forbid, we have to do a return. Some of these sellers just go berserk. They make it impossible. Forget it, I will just eat it. I never understood that. A lot of times mistakes can lead to loyalty. He messed up but he’s taking the card back. We take it back. It doesn’t happen that often. I don’t understand sellers that don’t want to have a return policy. It’s a great way to build customer confidence.
TR–The vast majority of dealers, sellers and shop owner shy away from offering a grade on a raw card. There is a lot of offering an opinion but clearly distancing themselves from any accountability for an amateur grade and for good reason. You are the opposite. You take on that responsibility and at the level and volume you do is astounding. Can you explain the mindset and process behind it?
GM-It’s hard. Sometimes I get frustrated with people who get very angry with us if we get something wrong. What I always want to say is, if you can do it better, go for it. It is really hard when you are doing this level of volume. I don’t want to make mistakes. I would love if they had some technology that would grade the cards more accurately. I would still say, although we are imperfect, we still do a very, very good job. It is the number one thing for my business that is always on my mind and creates a lot of anxiety for me.
I think I have a really good team of graders. I still grade cards but not nearly as much as I used to. It is really, really hard. Whatever problems I have with PSA or SGC, I get it. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s just the nature of the subjectivity of it. There are a million things that could be wrong with the cards. Not only do you have to see it, because sometimes you just miss it. You miss a crease or some sort of alteration, and then you have to interpret correctly and then you have to interpret it consistently. I wish that people understand that it’s really hard.
TR-Your day is just packed from the moment you open your eyes until you close them again at night. We’ve talked about a lot of challenges and difficulties. What is the most fun and enjoyable part of your day?
GM– I love buying. That part has never gotten old. I just love it. It’s fun to see when you make a good buy. It’s not so fun when you make a bad buy. I feel like it is our secret sauce. The day to day stuff of keeping everything going and dealing with problems is not exactly something I love doing. REA (recently had) a big auction and it’s coming down to the end and I’ve bid on 800 auctions, I feel like it’s just very exciting.
It’s frustrating at the end because I have to move so quickly but I love my process. I love watching as we sell the stuff. Hopefully we make a reasonable profit. Buying is the best. Everything else, I could live without a lot of it.
TR- I think we are all familiar with the eBay selling process and how many interesting customers are out there. With your volume and longevity, what has bene the most memorable customer you’ve had on eBay over the years?
GM-I am a little detached now. When I was basically doing everything it happened at least a few dozen times where I would sell a card and get a message from the buyer saying “That’s me.” I actually made some friends with guys that were professional athletes that were on those cards. Also, it’s the people who were very appreciate to get the card or share a story from childhood. That always made me feel good. That negated the one or two percent of people that are just horrible to deal with. Most of the people are very good. There were always those nice messages you got that made me feel good about what I was doing.