Chris Jara from San Francisco recently sent us this email:
I saw your recent article discussing $.25 boxes at shows and your mention about having guests sign at your shows. Are the signers being compensated? If so, is it a flat fee?
Our local show promoter is trying to get someone to sign but the prices he is seeing are really high.
Well, first thanks to Chris and for all who responded on the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page (now with more than 60,000 likes) to our recent column about quarter boxes. And to reiterate for those who commented without actually, you know, reading the article…let me do a quick re-hash .
As a promoter, my first priority is to SELL the tables. A vendor with multiple tables of quarter boxes makes it easier for me to sell out. However, I do need to limit the number of vendors who take multiple tables and only sell monster boxes full of singles otherwise we will not have enough variety within the room. Having said that, again this spirited discussion proved that we have tons of collectors who appreciate those cards while some collectors who believe only higher end cards are worthy of their time. The answer is, one of the great aspects of the hobby is a person who comes to a show with a few bucks and some change can stand shoulder to shoulder with a multi-millionaire and both share the same love for collecting cards.
Regarding show guests, of course, we all want to have autograph signers whenever possible but as pointed out a real key is getting them at a reasonable price point. Chris, just like your friend, we’ve been approached by agents wanting large sums of money for their clients. Sometimes, spending more money may make sense and other times, the number is so high the only person who will make money is the athlete. Getting a Hall of Famer or current star to leave the house for less than $10,000 is sometimes a challenge.
One of our goals is to have reasonably priced athletes—often times a former player– at a price point where we can provide free or very low-cost autographs to the public. Without giving away too many trade secrets, one of our successes in getting athletes to sign involves various contacts I have made over the years. These contacts are informed as to our goals financially and what we wish to do. One other aspect to understand that breaking even on a player is perfectly fine by us as we’ll draw more people and also build more show momentum for future shows. Yes, obviously a profit is preferable but break even on a guest works just fine in the long run. A good experience for the player may open some doors to other guests, too.
Sometimes our contact just provides us with player contact information and sometimes they serve as the ‘front man’, since they work on various projects directly with the athlete. By utilizing our contacts, we will continue to work on getting more guests. One of our contacts even gives us a plug to his separate mailing list.
What that really means is you, your promoter and many dealers should always look for ways to bring collectors into the room. Having a contact who knows a current or former player or player representative is a big help. Last month we actually had a collector give us contact information on a 1960’s-70’s player who lives less than 10 minutes away from our shows. If he wants to come, we’d be thrilled to have him. Again, the key is to let everyone know you are looking for players to sign and ask as many people as possible. The whole key is ABP (Always Be Promoting).
And remember the player does not always have to be a star or superstar to have a story. Late Friday afternoon while I was getting ready to shut down for the weekend at work, I checked ESPN.com and was surprised to see a photo of Jeremy Brown, which was taken by Tabitha Soren. Brown was one of the first players selected by Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s in the fabled 2002 “Moneyball draft” while Soren was on MTV in the early 1990 and married the author, Michael Lewis.
In the movie, you might remember the famous scene where Brown (or at least the actor who plays him) hits a homer but doesn’t realize it and winds up in the dirt at first base. Brown didn’t develop into a star. In fact, his big league career only lasted a few games, but he’s a symbol of the turnaround in Oakland that’s now a part of pop culture. He even had a few cards. Brown is now a coal miner in his home state of Alabama. If you had a show anywhere near where he lived, wouldn’t it be worth asking if he’d accept a couple hundred bucks to sign autographs and talk with fans and collectors?
In almost every area of the country, there are players worth bringing into your show who wouldn’t cost much. Many old-timers are grateful to be remembered and happy to show up for a small fee. Some might do it for a donation to their favorite charity. You just never know. It sometimes just takes a little legwork to learn who they are and get in contact somehow. The worst they can do is say no.
Speaking of working hard on our shows, I’m always looking for new ways to promote both my non-profit show and our show at the Southfork Hotel and found we have more than 20 different outlets we use that cost absolutely nothing. Show calendars, social media, Craigslist, coming events lists in local media, forum posts, blog posts and the list goes on. If you set up at a show, be sure your promoter is doing his part by utilizing those free avenues. It’s the least they can do. And if they aren’t, do it yourself. Most collectors like hearing about shows, even if they’re not able to come or don’t live nearby.
Meanwhile, I’m pleased to say we have again just about sold out our Plano show. We’re happy to have several vendors coming from 3 to 5 hours away and thank them in advance for the long drive they are making to support our non-profit event.
And if Jeremy Brown just lived closer…