Our upcoming show is going to be the biggest show we will ever have at the Southfork Hotel as we are also the final event to be at the hotel before the sale becomes official and we move up the street to the Comfort Inn and Suites. What that has meant is we will have many vendors who have never set up at one of our shows before and even some who’ve never done a show period. Thinking about this and seeing many threads on different message boards asking for advice on taking a table for the first time brings me to just note some of the things I would suggest.
To me, the first and most important aspect is to ensure all your cards are priced. Now, I do realize in some cases pricing one’s cards may not be possible but do try to price as many as you can. If a card is not priced in Beckett, I check eBay and look for the same card or something similar and use that information as a guide. There are a few people who believe they can remember all the cards they have for sale and quote the prices off the top of their head but for buyers asking “how much is this one?” five or six times gets tiring. Trust me, pricing cards is paramount to success. It’s perfectly acceptable to place a bunch of cards in a box and just have a sign saying “3 for $1” but on singles, make it clear what your asking price is.
Depending on the level of cards you have for sale, you might want to bring or purchase a showcase to protect your best cards from both potential thieves and potential accidents. I had a dealer at one of my shows not pay enough attention and drip water onto a bunch of 1953 Bowman Color cards. OUCH! Those things do happen and even though you’ll have to open it several times for inquiring buyers (hopefully), it’s a worthwhile investment if you plan to do multiple shows.
Bring enough cash to make change. Almost every single show, no matter how much change I start with, I run out of singles at some point. $50 is a good start and be sure to have five and ten-dollar bills, too as many buyers will pay with a $20. And if you are a dealer, you probably need to bring whatever coin change you deem appropriate.
Be social. Do not be afraid to ask people who step up to your table what they are interested in. Many times collectors will just keep walking while on other times the start of a conversation is the beginning of a long-term relationship or a nice sale. There is nothing wrong but looking at a Reds cap, for example, and asking if they are interested in cards of players such as Joey Votto or Johnny Bench. Making conversation is the best part of the show for many collectors and dealers. It’s nice when I see the customers at my show and am able to ask them how their lives are going. Hobby friendships are the best.
Remember supplies such as pens, price stickers, a notepad and calculator—and if your local show doesn’t have snacks, bring a few—and maybe a sandwich and drink for lunch.
Take notes on what seems to sell for you—and for other dealers—so you can come with some of that merchandise next time. Be observant, listen to what collectors are asking about and how they prefer to buy.
Don’t be discouraged if the day doesn’t turn out to be a huge money-maker. It’s often a challenge—especially at small shows—to turn a big profit. Much of it depends not only on attendance but what the attendees on that specific day collect.
Be prepared to buy. While it’s not likely a 1952 Topps collection will walk into the room, some of your customers will also be looking to sell items. Be ready. Sometimes the potential to turn a profit on such deals or add a nice item to your collection for low cost is simply a matter of having a little extra cash on hand or asking someone “what’s in the box? Anything you’d like to sell?”
It’s best to figure out what your purpose in setting up will be. Some of you will want to simply sell off duplicates or unwanted cards just to raise some cash and clean up your abode. In that case, be ready to deal. If cash is what you’re after, don’t go home with nearly as much inventory as you came with. If your purpose is to sell enough cards to buy other cards for your collection, you can be a little choosier and possibly swing some trades with other dealers. Maybe it’s a combination of both. There’s no set answer for many. Just as with collecting itself, how you want to establish yourself is entirely your call and that’s part of the fun, too.