Chris Buckler of Buckler Sports Cards has been a fixture behind the tables at some of the hobby’s major shows. He’s a regular at the National Sports Collectors Convention. He also buys and sells online through eBay and his own established website. Over the winter, though, he took on a new venture: co-owner of a card shop near his home in Louisville, KY.
Located on Brownsboro Road Louisville Sports Cards has filled a void. The closure of another long-time shop in the city offered an opportunity for Buckler and his partner, Chase Kightlinger.
“We’d been looking for a different place to source inventory and there was also a need in Louisville,” Buckler told Sports Collectors Daily during a visit on Tuesday. “There really aren’t any other places in town that are strictly card shops. I was really trying to diversify my business and find a permanent place where I could buy and sell cards and meet local collectors. I really had no idea what to expect but so far, so good.”
Buckler says while some days can be slow, the latter part of the week brings in a crowd that includes those interested in the newest hobby boxes, others who browse through several boxes of vintage singles and bargain bins and some who want to pick up supplies. Each week, new customers find him through his local ads, a show he has also been promoting and via word of mouth.
Stocking the Store
“We have new cards, old cards, oddball cards, autographs, some memorabilia and supplies,” Buckler said. “Really just a little bit of everything. We have a full run of vintage singles from 1956 through 1979 for set builders. We have 50-cent bins up to $2 and $5 bins. On the modern side we have singles, group lots, Hall of Famers, inserts and autographed cards. We try to have something for all different types of collectors. We have the most wax packs of anyone in the state from what I was told.”
Online and In Person
Most of his customer base consists of adults but he’s also been encouraged by the number of young people who’ve come in, primarily to buy packs. He stays open until the early evening hours some days, to accommodate customers who work through the late afternoon.
Buckler is an eBay Powerseller with an online shop that includes cards from some of the hobby’s most popular and rare vintage sets.
“eBay has pretty much been the bread and butter for years but it’s nice to now have a shop and be able to talk to people face-to-face,” he said.
While major professional team sports hasn’t come back to Louisville since the ABA’s Colonels folded in the mid-1970s, there are over 1.2 million people in the metro area with plenty of fans and a roll call of collectors. Here, though, baseball and football cards don’t dominate sales.
“Kentucky’s a basketball state,” Buckler explained. “Basketball is king. I’m a baseball guy and I didn’t realize until I opened the store just how popular basketball really was here. In terms of the new boxes we sell, basketball outsells football by 3 to 1 and baseball probably 5 to 1. It blew me away. It helps that Kentucky and Louisville both have great college basketball programs that produce a lot of NBA players and customers are always chasing those rookie cards. Each school has a huge following.”
Buying to Sell
Buckler says he’s already bought one fairly sizeable collection and is hoping that once word about a local outlet for buying and selling spreads, he’ll pick up some more.
“Once a week someone comes in with something but like everyone we get a lot of calls about Jose Canseco rookie cards,” he joked.
With no pro sports franchises, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what to stock, but after working at another shop for years, Kightlinger knows most of the area’s collectors and tries to help stock the type of items he believes will sell, even if there are no truly local pro franchises.
“A lot of the guys who work at Louisville Slugger are big collectors and it seems like they all cheer for a different team,” said Buckler. “I’m a Reds fan and they have a big following here since we’re close to Cincinnati but it’s also a mixed bag with some Braves, Cardinals and Yankees fans.”
Proceed with Caution
Buckler says his advice to anyone starting a new sports card shop is to be careful about trying to do it alone.
“I don’t think anyone now can have the knowledge required to cover the entire industry from vintage cards to modern cards to memorabilia and autographs. Find someone who knows something you don’t and team up with them. If a modern card collection comes in you want to know that part of it and vice versa for vintage. I would never have chosen to do this if I hadn’t been able to cover all of the bases.”
Louisville Sports Cards conducts box breaks on a regular basis and hopes to add more events for local collectors in the future, sharing the info via their Facebook page. They’re currently open Tuesday through Sunday and can be reached at (502) 919-7088.