Trading used to be a staple for card collectors. It’s making a comeback in at least one hobby shop thanks to the Upper Deck/Tim Hortons hockey card promotion in Canada.
Customers coast-to-coast have easy access to packs at the coffee and donut chain. Sold for $1 with a beverage purchase or $2.99 without, packs contain base cards with the chance of an autograph or relic. When collectors in and around Winnipeg wind up with duplicates, they stop at Mike Bergmann’s shop to buy or trade for what they need. The promotion—and the informal trading sessions– have become a huge hit.
“I’ve been open four hours today and have not had a chance until now to eat and email,” Bergmann told Sports Collectors Daily late Wednesday afternoon. “That’s how it’s been for the last three weeks. I have experienced nothing like this in almost three years of having my own sports card store.”
Bergmann, the owner of Lower Level Sports Cards, has accumulated a stock of the Horton’s Upper Deck cards. Rather than immediately sell them outright, he started letting customers trade with him first, then buy if they still needed cards or wanted to put more money into the set.
“The neat thing about the Tim Hortons promotion was that people were buying packs to make the set,” Bergmann stated. “They weren’t going for the big hits, the jersey cards, autos and auto jerseys. That was a bonus. This promotion was all about set building.”
One customer suggested the option of having trading sessions with other collectors and after spreading the world through social media about ten people showed up to trade with each other two days later. A week later, the number of traders doubled and last Saturday, nearly three dozen showed up to trade with each other and the store throughout the day. Bergmann plans one more trading session this Saturday.
“I set these trading sessions up so that I could help as many people as possible to complete their sets. I feel bad when someone starts a set and cannot finish building it. I want to help collectors finish what they want to complete.”
Having sports cards accessible at places where fans go every day has brought some fresh faces into his shop. If you’re picturing a bunch of men over 40 doing the swapping, think again. Bergmann says there has been interest from female fans and kids as young as four have come to his little store to trade.
“For me this promotion is the essence of sports card collecting. Opening packs that are more affordable, working with others to make the set, socializing after trading sessions, figuring out prices together through supply and demand instead of always relying on a price guide. This was a great opportunity to figure out values of cards based on correlation and demand.”
Bergmann says the only thing that’s come close to creating a hobby business boom was the return of the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 but this one has far surpassed it in terms of collector interest. It’s also led to sales at his shop.
“I also tried to show those who were new to the hobby or hadn’t been into it for a while the new hockey card products that were out in case they wanted another set to build. Some have even ventured into buying the new 2015-16 Artifacts Hobby boxes. Three quarters of my first shipment of Artifacts were bought by people who got back into collecting because of the Tim Hortons promotion. Even wives who thought sports card collecting was for children before the promotion have gotten into not only collecting Tim Hortons hockey cards, but now the 2015-16 Artifacts autograph and patch cards.”
Having witnessed the positive benefits first hand, Bergmann says he’d love to see similar promotions with other sports but would welcome a return of “Timmie’s cards” again next season.
“A lot of credit needs to go to Upper Deck, Tim Hortons, the NHL and the NHLPA and whoever else was involved in putting this promotion together. They did an amazing job.”