As many of you already know, my family and I moved to Valencia, Spain in Summer 2018. I run a couple of different US-based businesses, and all of our family is in the States, so we travel back quite a bit.
I returned to "The Hobby" in 2021 in a big way, and have been wanting to experience everything from actually having a great "#mailday," to ripping product to even attending card shows.
For some reason, I tend to struggle integrating what I'm super-passionated about hobby-wise as an individual with family time.
For example, I've always loved playing golf, but have to have a different mindset playing golf with my kids.
I also love fantasy football, but since my son got into fantasy football, it has changed from a competitive activity to a more fun one.
Now, I'm not going to sugar coat this, the competitive side of me still yearns for it to be my solo activity and not have to share it.
At first, I started to feel the same way about collecting sports cards again.
About to turn 40, it started to reinvigorate me and my initial thought was one of excitement about a passion that could be mine and only mine.
Sports cards started to provide me a place I could go mentally for a challenge and escape.
And when I realized my kids wanted to do it with me, I thought it was awesome, but knew it would challenge me a bit.
Challenge me to be more patience, inclusive, empathetic and supportive. All of which are hard for me to be, but necessary and fulfilling.
Why am I writing all of this? Well, the point is that because my kids are interested in sports cards, it's made me a better, more strategic and thoughtful collector and businessperson in the hobby, but also a better person and father.
Case in point, attending the Nashville Card Show on July 10 in Antioch, Tennessee.
My son Max and I went and had a blast. Below are the key things we learned from our experience. But without Max and my daughter Samantha getting into collecting, I probably would not have attended the show.
The father-son time we had was priceless, and far and away the best part of the day, but there are also some practical things we learned at the show together - about the hobby, from a collecting and business standpoint.
Here are our top five takeaways from the July 2021 Nashville Card Show:
1. People are helpful and open-minded. My experience at the Nashville Card Show is that every single person was helpful, open-minded and willing to talk. Out of the probably 100+ people at the show, my 11-year old son Max and I felt like we talked to just about everyone. From Nashville Sports Cards and Collectibles Show Promoter Jeff Roberts to all of the sellers who had tables set up and all of the attendees, Max and I spent about four hours showing all of our cards to just about every table, making trades, telling our budget, and negotiating.
Max and I each brought about 50 cards from our PC. We knew the cards we brought were NOT cream of the crop, yet we made several trades; especially Max. He traded up quite a bit, and came away with a Ja Morant Panini Mosaic Rookie PSA 9, and a LeBron James 2004 Upper Deck Rookie that would probably grade at about a 7 or 8.
I honestly expected everyone to laugh at us and brush us off based on the cards we brought into the show, but each vendor was willing to come down on price, and make trades.
2. Card Shows are more valuable business lessons than school. Okay, this one will strike up some controversy for sure, but I believe taking your kid to a card show and letting he or she navigate their way through is a far more valuable life experience than sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher spew facts.
Watching my son go through the show with a ton of interest in wheeling and dealing, I could see his brain processing each move. He was patient, calculated and thoughtful. He was clearly using more critical thinking skills than any other time I've spent with him.
As bad as he wanting things to happen, he learned not to rush through his decisions. He learned how to ask people questions, and picked up a bit on the art of sales.
If for no other reason than this, I'd recommend giving your kids some chores, paying them a bit extra and taking them to a card show with their budget locked in. Talk to them about a goal they want to achieve at the show, and set them free to try to accomplish it.
Win, lose or draw, it will be an amazing experience for them.
3. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. I made two bad moves at the show from a business standpoint. One was that I didn't really negotiate. Max did. And he felt GREAT after the show as a result. I didn't, and I felt like I left something on the table. I watched 90% of the show as my son made his moves, but the 10% of the show that I was making moves, I was just having fun and not thinking critically. In hindsight, I easily could have walked away from the show with more than I did, and I regret that a bit, but there are more shows in my future, and now I know.
I'm not saying to try to win every deal; nobody likes "that guy." But I'm saying to go back and forth within reason at least a few times with the seller or table you're trying to strike a deal with. Make them think for a while. Even if they turn you down, it will still be a win, because you made them think.
Remember, they drove a long way too. They got there early to set up. They took a risk laying all their cards on the table (literally), and they want to leave with money in their pocket. They will come down on price, trust me...
...which leads me to my next takeaway...
4. Be weary of price stickers. Seriously. This was the second mistake I made. I was looking at some vendors' booths with price stickers on slabs and cases. This psychologically made me forget to check eBay comps. Two times in particular I transacted just trusting the price sticker on the slab, and not double checking killed me. People are honest and will make deals with you, but because of the volatility of the market, all price stickers are meaningless. Assume a card is worth nothing compared to the sticker on it. Always double and triple check. Combining this with number 3 will put you in a better spot at card shows.
5. SGC Could Be King. By the end of 2021, SGC could be the new king of the sports card slab world. I know it seems unlikely that PSA will be dethroned, but the Nashville Card Show solidified what I'd already been experiencing elsewhere, the price of SGC Slabs on the secondary market is doing nothing but increasing. SGC has become the choice of grading submitters, and customers have no problem at all paying similar prices to PSA slabs. Transactions at card shows are NOT seen online, and I'm here to report that SGC Slabs have increased in value based on my experience at the Nashville Card Show. With PSA and BGS and even CSG backlogged until further notice, and SGC cranking out slabs; by the end of 2021, I would not be surprised if even online data started to show SGC creeping in as the new king of slabs.
The hobby is alive and well. We saw people invigorated by sports cards. We thought there might be 20-30 people at Lighthouse Christian School in Antioch. Instead, there were ~150-200 all day long, and many kids.
A big shout out to Tri-Star Cards. Two young teenagers and their dad had a very well organized, size-able collection ranging from a $0.50 box all the way up to $1k+ slabs and a Panini Noir Basketball break they were selling slots for.
These young men were not only impressive from a card collection standpoint, but clearly were honorable young businessmen, talking to Max and I for a long time, sharing their story, discounting their cards for us, and even dropping me a free Cassius Winston rookie card since I'm a huge Michigan State fan.
Everyone was interested in a free pack of Panini Megacracks Soccer from Spain (La Liga) and was willing to learn who to collect from that set from Max and I.
The amount of currently untraceable transactions at card shows are a sign that eBay is far from the only place that cards are changing hands, which is amazing for the hobby and the business of the hobby moving forward.
The Nashville Card Show is free to attend, is typically twice a month and I highly recommend it. For more information on the Nashville Card Show, following them on Twitter at @nashcardshow.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about our experience at the Nashville Card Show.
Paul Hickey is a Digital Creator, spending about about 60% of his work time building WordPress websites for small businesses, 20% of his work time running an eCommerce Sports Cards and Digital Collectibles business at NoOffseason.com and another 20% of his work time authoring books and creating digital art in the form of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).
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