I’m coming to you live from Ball Arena where the Nuggets just dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers and I’m waiting for my son Sam, who is a locker room attendant (formerly known as a ball kid) to get off work. I’m taking advantage of this available time since it is about all the time a shop owner has these days.
Granted, I could be complaining about things having gone radically the other way roughly a year ago, but owning a shop these days is more challenging and more time consuming than any other time I could remember in my 28 years of ownership.
My shop specifically is busy from when we open at 10AM until we close at 6PM during the week and on Saturdays, it is not uncommon to have to ask collectors to wait at the door until we can assist other shoppers while maintaining a safe, but fun experience for everyone who was supporting the shop. Throw in a new Pokemon release like we enjoyed last week and well, you could imagine what it was like for those same 8 hours.
Throw in the fact that everyone is wearing a mask, many also have hats because of the winter chill of Colorado and top it off with sunglasses and trying to recognize regulars from new collectors takes a facial recognition system. My surveillance system is equipped with one but when it comes to greeting customers, my eyes will have to do.
Somehow these days, shop owners are also supposed to:
*Go over preorders with distributors
*Hope that Brian Gray doesn’t sell out of each new Leaf release as fast as Panini does with 1st Off The Line
*Put away shipments
*Take an appropriate amount of time to clean and disinfect
*Pee (Yes, we have to use the bathroom from time to time)
*Find distributors who still have supplies available
*Go over inventory lists with those same distributors so we can re-order releases at ~90% of market level so we can maintain our allocations
*Oh yeah, help collectors find the right releases, better understand which of their singles should be sent in for grading, take time with brand new collectors to share that there is more than just Prizm (No disrespect to Panini, but seemingly every first time visitor seems missile focused on that one brand) out there to collect and maintain relationships with long-time shop supporters.
*Purchase cards from collectors who want to sell at 95% of comps
*Dream of what it is like to go outside, breathe fresh air, attend The National and the many industry gatherings put on by Beckett, Panini and Topps so we can hang with our hobby brothers and sisters
*Answer social media messages from collectors
*Prepare breaks and ship off breaks/Singles Night sales
*Write articles that you love doing when friendly reminded by your editor
*Consider sleeping after you price 100 or so singles for your display cases or pre-pried team boxes that are so popular in my shop
I’m sure I’m leaving a few things out, but please consider the many hats your LCS owner wears as they seek to have what you’re looking for on your visits. Again, I’m not complaining, but I want to share a little of what it is like to own a shop these days as seemingly everyone in the world is enjoying the hobby.
So, before my teenager says goodnight to Nikola Jokic and convinces me to take him out for his fifth meal of the day, let me please share my shop’s Hot List.
1) 2021 Topps 1 MLB
As usual, I made it about a week before my jumbo boxes ran out the door and I do not have hopes of finding more at less than I went to public with. Fortunately, as usual, I have a more than ample supply of 2021 Series 1 hobby boxes to still assist the many shredders who either haven’t made it over yet or who still need help working on their base sets, insert sets or who simply love buying this annual rite of sports card passage.
While #toppsday has been eclipsed by #bowmanday, it is still my favorite MLB release of the year as I get to see so many collectors continue collecting a base set instead of an $800 box with five singles or a $300 box with just one.
2) 2020 Panini Optic NFL
I try to get my first day pricing right as much as possible but realized that matching Panini at $799 might have been a bit excessive for Optic. Yes, I made a social media post to those who purchased 2020 Optic football boxes from me that they could enjoy a $50 credit on their next visit. Since that time, at least one online retailer has taken their boxes to over $1,000 per. As always, seemingly anything that features chrome technology is as popular as tickets to any sporting event these days. I’m now sold out of hobby boxes, my distributors seem to be sold out as well and perhaps I should be seeking those $50 repayments back (No, I will not be doing that).
3) Pokemon Shining Fates
Yes, we normally talk sports cards on this website but Pokemon cards are on the radar of pretty much every shop owner these days. Technically, based on the first three days of release, this should actually be in the #1 spot. I remember a few years back when Pokemon ran an ad during the Super Bowl and I was thinking, “why the heck did they just throw away $ million?” Suffice to say they could afford that commercial and perhaps the rest of the second half with the OMG resurgence that they have enjoyed.
Shining Fates was available in Elite Trainer Boxes, Pikachu boxes, pins and tins and come Sunday, the third day of release, none of those styles were available at the shop. I spent most of today sharing with collectors over the phone that I’m hoping to see a large restock order this week and can’t wait for wave 2, wave 3 and wave 4 sooner than later so my collectors can keep catching them all.
4) Topps Dynasty Formula 1
Apparently this will go down as the most varied Hot List ever with the inclusion of this new high-end racing release that’s part of Topps’ new deal with F1. We have gotten used to Topps Dynasty in baseball and now, for the first time ever, these single card boxes are designed for the 200+ MPH club instead of the HR hitting club.
Collectors are floored with the $1500+ box prices as they hunt down the possible zipper relics, racing glove relics, signed suit flag relics and so many more autographed cards.
Thinking back to a year ago when Topps approached direct accounts and told them that they would need to buy Star Wars, UFC, racing, MLB stickers, MLS and more how much of a favor they were actually doing for hobby shops.
5) 20/21 Panini Hoops NBA
Clearly shops were prepared for the interest in Hoops based on how well Prizm Draft NBA was performing as the season has gotten into full swing. What my shop was not prepared for was the rabid interest in the first release from the current NBA season with rookies in their pro uniforms. Packed with two autographs, boxes are being so well received, that even thought I started off with six cases I’ll soon be hunting for more.
I recently did a ten-box break that resulted in a dual autographed redemption card that was good for signatures from both Anthony Edwards and Steph Curry. The days after I pulled that gem live, were filled with even more collectors going for boxes than they were before. I’m thinking back to about a year ago when so many collectors were lamenting the 2020-21 draft class and how there would be no reason to bust boxes. Suffice to say that the reports of the current year NBA sales has been greatly exaggerated.
So there you have it, the top 5 selling releases at my shop. I would suggest checking in with your own LCS to see what is on their list and see how they compare.
Thanks for giving this a read and let’s see which boxes appear on next month’s Hot List.
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. You can email him at [email protected]
Check out past editions of What’s Hot here.