Recently, Beckett Media hired long-time hobby dealer and store owner Rob Veres to spearhead a project using the trade name Beckett Business Solutions. Having known Rob for nearly 20 years let me assure you that no one has a better feel for what retailers both big and small go through on a day to day basis.
Although what Rob has done is basically unique in today’s business, in reality what he has done is become the 21st century version of Larry Fritsch and that is truly a complement. You see, maybe 30 years ago, you knew if you needed a card there was a good chance Larry had it in stock. Today if you need a card there is a real good chance Rob’s company, Burbank Sports Cards, has it in their massive inventory.
So, also understanding the need to be transparent in today’s world, Beckett Business Solutions, with Rob at the forefront, has released a demonstration video on You Tube about a new project set to launch in about three months. While a lot of what Rob says is dead on, I do feel there are areas of opportunity for BBS to improve. So, as that great sportscaster Warner Wolf would say, ‘Let’s go to the videotape!’ (well today it’s called You Tube) and see what the fuss is about.
The first part of this video deals with the frustration of a collector looking for J.J. Watt or J.R. Smith or even Suds Sutherland cards. This is a very legitimate problem as for the most part, most retailers are not going to have these cards in their shows or stores or even have a way of displaying them in a manner that collectors will easily find them. One suggestion I will have is to make “hobby stores” part of a global network in which if a customer comes into a shop, they can tap into many different outlets to find what they’re looking for. I understand there are many different ways to do that, but imagine if you knew you could go into Nick’s or Triple Cards (the stores nearest my house) and create your order on site for Dallas Stars cards not in stock at those stores. That is a win for the store owner with the extra traffic and a win for the store owner as he shares in the profits on the transaction.
The biggest issue we as a hobby have with this, is let’s face it, if you think you can get that $1 card for 75 cents, you most likely will not. I remember back in my brief foray into store ownership/management that people would tell me they would actually spend 30 minutes driving to save 10 cents each on 50 sheets or basically when you counted gas, car wear and money, losing money to save $5. We need to educate our retail customers that if you are a specific collector, it is okay to spend a bit more to for a more efficient way to collect. Remember, no matter how good of a job we do as retailers, the collector still controls the pocket book when all is said and done.
Another issue touched upon was shipping costs. That is a real issue in this hobby as, you guessed it, in many cases the cost to ship cards actually far outweighs the value. While especially true on cards from the junk wax era, that is still true of many base cards through the present day. To me, that is why establishing store fronts as drop off/delivery places is key to the future as then you can create a need for more shipping which reduces prices. I know when I was at Beckett we got great rates on shipping and I’m always amazed that COMC is able to ship so cheaply.
I think most dealers if they made the 10,000 card purchase Rob mentioned would pull any cards they believed would be possible quick sales for them, be it autographs, relics, older cards or local heroes. Then they might list the next grouping of cards on eBay or send them to COMC which does all of the work in exchange for a fee. Then the next grouping would either go into discount boxes or be used for fillers in grab bags. That, for many one person shops, may be the best way to deal with a collection.
Frankly that is why so many collectors in today’s world focus on the hits. The reason the “hits’ are easier to deal with than bulk cards. Let’s face it, who wants to do extra work if they can possibly avoid it and still make a profit?
A few other random notes to deal with on this subject, of which I’m sure there will be more. This is truly a cooperative effort and begins with the card companies and moves down the food chain. We, as a hobby, need all the checklists available in one spot. That includes sport and non-sport checklists and old and new checklists. Now that also means that some significant time and effort to do work and get all those lists into one place. That also includes items not yet catalogues. Also, I know that sometimes checklists take too long to get into the marketplace. All of those things need to be fixed. How many sales do people lose because they have cards that are not in any centralized data base?
For a lot of reasons, I hope Beckett’s idea works, but frankly even with Rob and his efforts, I wonder if this is just going to be too much of an uphill struggle to further structure the hobby into an easier way for all to buy and sell single cards. It definitely bears watching.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]