I woke up Tuesday morning and took some packages to my favorite place to mail things: Sprouts Farmer’s Market. The post office inside this grocery store chain is kind of like Fight Club with the shortest lines ever AND when I was done, I could pick up healthy snacks and things to enjoy for lunch back at the shop.
When I was standing there, waiting to mail my packages, I saw an unusual drawing on the dry erase board and asked about it. I realized what it meant around the same time I was told what it meant; that the location was closing. Not just the post office part, but the whole store. I reminisced with the clerk about how much I appreciated his always being so cool and he shared that he always enjoyed my visits and my quirky sense of humor. We talked about where he would go and how much he enjoyed working there.
I shopped the store and noticed the areas that had not been restocked as usual and it hurt me to see a place I had come to enjoy, filled with people who I genuinely appreciated and who weren’t just clerks, cashiers and stockers. Apparently they will be open through April 8 and while I’m looking forward to going back a few more times, I’m not looking forward to the store being gutted and seeing the long faces on the employees who are still there.
I bring this up because it was my fear for so long that my shop and so many others would eventually suffer the same fate. I mean there have been a dozen or so things that were surely going to put card stores out of business. Card shows, eBay, breakers, allocations and so many more oppositions were supposed to take out card shops, leave us gutted and bleeding out before we locked our doors and went the way of so many unnecessary shops. I mean who needs card stores when you can save $3 on a box of cards by buying it online? Why go to a card shop when you can have your box broken for you online and mailed to you quickly and efficiently?
Well, I’m here to tell you that (hopefully) your LCS is as strong as ever, kicking backsides and taking names. Mine is and I’m hearing the same from so many other card store owners as well. We can thank all the rookies, industry summits with incredible idea exchanges, a little Facebook group I started a few years back with daily idea exchanges and so much more.
Actually, we can probably thank breakers as much as anything. Products are getting more visibility than ever before with their online presence and IF you have a healthy direct allocation and distributors who take care of you, then you should be able to take incredible care of your collectors. If not, it’s like being invited to the buffet and being told that you’re welcome to watch the party happen.
With very few exceptions, products are performing incredibly well. It’s weird to have mixed feelings with most sales as I wonder IF I can bring in those releases again and also how much more I will have to pay to accomplish the same.
While I wish I could do something to help the Sprouts near me stay open; seeing it about to close has made me more inspired to stay open and to serve my collectors as well as possible. It makes me want to order more, stock more and be more prepared to offer competitive pricing for my collectors. I was probably destined to evolve and get my shipping done with stamps.com, but just customers who like to shop at my store, I enjoyed going somewhere, seeing someone I liked who knew what I wanted on each order and who cared about me more than just being a number. It’s hard to put a price on personal interaction. We all need it.
Fortunately, it looks like card stores will not only be around, but will be flourishing for the foreseeable future and I’ll just have to get my healthy food options somewhere else I guess.
Ah but I know you’re not here just for a business and morals lesson, Let’s talk about what’s hot and these days, I could probably go 20 deep instead of just chatting up five releases.
1) 2018 Panini National Treasures NFL
Thanks to a “bomb cyclone” weather system that hit Colorado and some neighboring states, I took in only three of of my NT boxes on release day. The other 64 boxes I ordered hit both the Monday and Tuesday after and while not everyone who walks into my store can drop what it takes to get a box or case, those who have, have been walking out with the same grin I had when I drove my new car off the lot a few years back.
What I am hearing from some is that they will be resisting the temptation of busting it and hoping it goes the pricing way of its brother from 2017. If the online seller pricing and buys on Dealernet are any indication, they might just be onto something as it is well beyond double initial cost and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon (boxes are pushing $800 on eBay). For what it is worth, one of those first three boxes yielded THE Lamar Jackson 1/1 RPA card and I might be done wondering what my store’s Card Of The Year will be.
2) 2018 Panini Encased NFL
In spite of so many of the singles from Encased grading well below what you would have expected for essentially an uncirculated product, this release is similarly moving for double cost and the only reason I have any left is that one wholesaler held my shipment until I had more to ship together and I was willing to pay $265 a box from a different wholesaler.
Just like NT, I pulled a beast for one of my collectors in the form of a Tom Brady autograph numbered to 5.
The non- graded rookie relics are highlighted by the Rookie Cap Patch Autographs with some way cool relic swatches that you don’t see in too many other products. Something tells me by the time you read this, the six boxes I just brought in will be distant memories. They’re selling for upwards of $300.
3) 2018 Panini Select NFL
I remember starting off my boxes in the $149 range and almost feeling badly about it since they usually run out of the gate in the $119 range. Fortunately I pulled some monsters for my shredders including an Aaron Rodgers autographed patch card with only two copies out there. There are the usual suspects of parallels with possible 1/1s and the crazy Zebra editions. With three hits per box, many collectors are seeing good value returns and I hope that they are because some online prices have climbed to well over $200 (at least at the time I am typing this out).
4) 2018 Panini One NFL
Sadly I said goodbye to my last box of Panini One yesterday. While I will post a buy price for it on a popular dealer site, I do not expect to bring it back in anytime soon. It was designed to retail in the $100 range and barring five rookie QBs, Sequan and many others falling off the map, it will be a $200+ box the next time it sees my shelves.
At the initial SRP, it delivered very well with a mix of those rookies and some solid veterans helping out also. Panini went a little deeper with the rookies and I saw a number of boxes that left collectors wanting a bit more than just one card. In spite of all that, here I am about to drop well over double initial cost just to put it back on my shelves.
5) 2018 Panini Plates & Patches NFL
Plates & Patches NFL might be the best steal out there since it is “ONLY” 1.5x over cost when I’m trying to restock it. Fortunately I went crazy deep on it and still have some of my direct and distributor allocation to offer. With one printing plate, autographed card and relic card per box, collectors are digging the third year of P&P, which is selling for around $130-$140…for now.
So there you have it, a clean sweep of the hot list by Panini and their NFL offerings. Sure I am selling new releases like Topps Series 1 and Heritage MLB, Select NBA, SPx NHL and others like I hoped I would have, but for the first time since the Summer Of Aaron Judge (if there even was one), there is a single manufacturer represented on the hot list. Now if I had only read this article a few months back, I would have never put out any of these cases upon release. Sadly, we just have 2018 Panini Flawless NFL and Honors to round out the season and I am already regretting not selling my soul, before mentioned car and plasma to have them coming to my shop.
Looking ahead, I see releases like Topps Inception, Topps Gypsy Queen, Prizm Draft Picks Collegiate football and of course the beast known as Bowman taking their spots on the hot list because surely I will not have 2018 NFL releases for much longer at the current pace. As always, please visit your LCS and give them a shot at earning your business and perhaps they have a few current NFL releases to rip. Or if their experience is like mine, perhaps not.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. His column normally focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected]