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  #1  
Old 02-20-2017, 04:13 PM
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Default A conversation with a couple veteran dealers at a card show

Went to my local card show yesterday and this time ended up in a 1/2 hour conversation with a couple of 30 year veteran dealers of mainly post-war cards. The dealer I was mostly speaking with has never sold directly on eBay. Never. And, of course, he hates graded cards, although he agreed that’s it’s a necessary evil. Here were his major points (I thought he was nuts!):

1. He does not consider eBay as any sort of indication of the current market. He had a ’49 Leaf Wagner ungraded (I’d guess a 4 at most) for $240 firm. I showed him eBay sold listings of comparable cards for, at most, $180. Showed him 3 or 4 on eBay for sale right now graded and probably better than his (his was centered but soiled) for less than $200. Didn’t care.

2. Claimed that there is a “show” price vs. an eBay price and as he travels around, he’ll eventually get his price.

3. Claimed that he sells raw cards at shows easier than he can sell graded cards because people think they’re smarter than he is.

4. Claimed that raw cards at card shows attract set collectors more than graded cards do, which was another reason he avoided them.

5. He also understood completely why I wouldn’t pay $60 more for a card I could buy on eBay right now - but didn’t care.

I walked away fascinated by the conversation, but I just can’t make sense of it. This was a smart, articulate guy. And the other dealer agreed with everything he said.

My only thought was, isn’t this why card shops and card shows have largely died out? He’s basically a middle-man, and eBay has, for all practical purposes, eliminated the need for a middle-man. Seems like this guy is trying to survive on a 1985 business model of what a sports card dealer is. Or am I missing something? How, exactly, do dealers make money today?
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Old 02-20-2017, 04:56 PM
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I think the only point I agree with is #4

I think set collectors prefer raw unless competing for the ultra high grade stuff, and I'll bet those guy want to find nice raw cards at raw card costs, grade them themselves and hope to score big if they grade 8+

The other points are not logical, but pretty stubborn.

Now, depending on where that dealer acquired his inventory, he may *have* to charge higher to make any profit. Then his market would be anyone who (like him) doesn't use eBay to buy cards.
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Old 02-20-2017, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SAllen2556 View Post
Went to my local card show yesterday and this time ended up in a 1/2 hour conversation with a couple of 30 year veteran dealers of mainly post-war cards. The dealer I was mostly speaking with has never sold directly on eBay. Never. And, of course, he hates graded cards, although he agreed that’s it’s a necessary evil. Here were his major points (I thought he was nuts!):

1. He does not consider eBay as any sort of indication of the current market. He had a ’49 Leaf Wagner ungraded (I’d guess a 4 at most) for $240 firm. I showed him eBay sold listings of comparable cards for, at most, $180. Showed him 3 or 4 on eBay for sale right now graded and probably better than his (his was centered but soiled) for less than $200. Didn’t care.

2. Claimed that there is a “show” price vs. an eBay price and as he travels around, he’ll eventually get his price.

3. Claimed that he sells raw cards at shows easier than he can sell graded cards because people think they’re smarter than he is.

4. Claimed that raw cards at card shows attract set collectors more than graded cards do, which was another reason he avoided them.

5. He also understood completely why I wouldn’t pay $60 more for a card I could buy on eBay right now - but didn’t care.

I walked away fascinated by the conversation, but I just can’t make sense of it. This was a smart, articulate guy. And the other dealer agreed with everything he said.

My only thought was, isn’t this why card shops and card shows have largely died out? He’s basically a middle-man, and eBay has, for all practical purposes, eliminated the need for a middle-man. Seems like this guy is trying to survive on a 1985 business model of what a sports card dealer is. Or am I missing something? How, exactly, do dealers make money today?
I agree with everything you said and for the reasons you listed, but you have to ask you self what has made him successful for the last 30 years? He is right about one thing, he will eventually get his asking price. It may surprise you that a 30 year dealer has never sold on eBay, but just the opposite is true too. There are 30 year collectors that have never bought on eBay. Those are probably the kind of customers that keep him in business and the reason he'll eventually get his asking price.
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Old 02-20-2017, 08:41 PM
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It wasn't stated that he was a successful dealer for the last 30 years, just was a dealer for the last 30.

Now, you may say that he must be successful if he has lasted 30 years. Probably true, but don't discount the possibility that someone exists who deals for other reasons than making money.

He may have enjoyed your conversation more than you did.

Who's to say that on a particular day that he does not sell even one card, such an interaction may be his highlight and he's satisfied. Takes all kinds.

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Old 02-20-2017, 09:41 PM
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I think this is a perfect example of a generational gap, and for some people he is correct, but for just as many if not more people they would only buy off eBay and would never go to a show. There are also people like my self who go to the national or the philly show or chantilly 1-3 times total per year and buy the rest off of eBay or from scd or from dealers they have bought from for years. The only local Card show is at our mall every year, I go every year and haven't bought a single item from it in more than 5 years. In this great hobby it takes all kinds, we all take different paths but doesn't necessarily mean 1 is right and 1 is wrong, sometimes it's best to agree to disagree and move on.
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:09 AM
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No doubt ebay has taken away from shows and LCS's in general. I still set up at local shows and compete with Iphones on ebay as a normal situation. I usually do pretty good because I get my pricing from completed ebay sales. I know what I have and what can be had for more or less. Information is key.

And I agree about his success too. I am guessing the guy is successful in his own mind and that is all that matters to him. Good for him....we'll keep moving on now...
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  #7  
Old 02-21-2017, 11:49 AM
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I think most of what he is saying makes a ton of sense. For him. I am sure he can put out a nice card at a show marked $80 and eventually sell it, even though on ebay it's clear the going cost is way less. Someone will fall in love with the card and buy it on impulse. Hell I've bought smaller priced items because they jumped out to me off a table at a show only to get home and realized I overpaid. If the price is below $100 I won't lose any sleep over it, and am happy to in a way underwrite small dealers. And I have no doubt people see ungraded cards at shows all time and think they can submit for a better grade that what dealer thinks it is. Hell, I've done that too.
These guys are trafficking in cards that aren't rare. Their buyers are not the people perusing PWCC or the major AHs for high end stuff. People make a living selling socks and underwear at flea markets. They are hitting a different audience than Amazon.

Last edited by Snapolit1; 02-21-2017 at 11:51 AM.
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  #8  
Old 02-21-2017, 12:00 PM
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Having hung out at a lot of shops for different hobbies I've learned a little about what things look like from a dealers view.
So here's my take on things as a somewhat older collector. (Figure 40 years come September....I'll have to celebrate somehow!)

The time when they started was right during the big boom of the late 80's. Anyone starting then who survived has some idea what they're doing. I'd estimate that somewhere over 95% probably closer to 99% of stores and maybe 70-80% of dealers have folded up since then, Most of them in the mid -late 90's.

Inventory control in a hobby related business is really the key. Both control of how much is bought and what is bought, and in what's sold how quickly.

Some stuff is easily bought for very little, and should be moved along quickly.
Other things are harder to come by at a really good price, and those should be sold a bit more slowly.
A show dealer also has to have the right sort of stuff on display to attract buyers. Specializing is very helpful. I tried a couple times as a very generalized dealer and didn't do enough to keep trying. With no clear display of what I was about people were confused, and even if they stopped I didn't have a whole lot of whatever their particular interest was.
A shop has more overhead and has to be a bit more careful. The one local one that's still around doesn't do much really old stuff, and is really diverse, comics, pennants, whatever sells. They also move inventory very quickly once they see the demand shrink. One day I stopped in right after Curtis Martin went to the Jets. They were removing all of his cards from the showcase, plus packing up all the ones not in the case. Pre-Ebay they'd sold the whole inventory to a NY area dealer. Good move, they immediately moved what would soon be unsaleable inventory, and the NY guy got an instant inventory of what just became popular locally. (They're quite active on ebay now)

Small Ebay dealers can work more like that, buying stuff for nearly retail and moving it within a week or so with nearly no overhead. And since what they sell is searchable, there's no need to keep attractive inventory on hand to draw customers, just a constant stream of new stuff.


From the flip side, a good dealer either in a shop or at a show will usually have some knowledge about what they're selling. And a mindset that can take the answer to "Hi what do you collect" and pick out stuff from their inventory that might fit and that might not be on display or might be missed in a larger inventory.
They can -and should - also suggest other sort of related things to collect.
The really really good dealers can help guide a collectors collecting and collection to be a much better collection. Often by pointing out a special item that might not even be theirs.
They can also convey a lot more information about cards and sets that a buyer might not know.

When I was starting I wanted a T206, but was a bit too cheap to spring the 1.50 for a typical common. One day I went to the shop and they said "hey Steve we set a card aside for you" A T206! And horribly beat. but only .20!
A bit later they gave me a really beat P2 for free. After I moved away I came back to visit and shop while visiting friends. And was surprised they still had a box in the back room with my name on it. (Where a bit of interesting but largely unsaleable to anyone but me stuff ended up)


Sadly, not all dealers are like that. It's one reason so many washed out in the post 94 time period. Many of them were underfunded, and chasing product to have all the new stuff even if they lost money overall. And many of them didn't even know what something was if it wasn't in Beckett.

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Old 02-21-2017, 01:52 PM
1952boyntoncollector 1952boyntoncollector is offline
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Its a hobby to him, not a business. Some people will pay for something right there on the spot as an impulse for a higher price then wait for the mail and risk not liking the card and having to return it.

Ive seen sellers in this hobby get a first offer and argue with the potential buyer that the offer price was waaay to low and then when they decide to sell the card and cant find anyone to offer as much as the first offer guy just sell the card for less to the second guy because of pride.
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Old 02-21-2017, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by 1952boyntoncollector View Post
Its a hobby to him, not a business. Some people will pay for something right there on the spot as an impulse for a higher price then wait for the mail and risk not liking the card and having to return it.

Ive seen sellers in this hobby get a first offer and argue with the potential buyer that the offer price was waaay to low and then when they decide to sell the card and cant find anyone to offer as much as the first offer guy just sell the card for less to the second guy because of pride.
Yep. Card right now on eBay was $1800 BIN or make an offer. I offered $1500 and dude came back with $1750. I rejected it is seconds as a stupid move and was done with him. It's now discounted to $1350 and I refused to buy it.

Last edited by Snapolit1; 02-21-2017 at 04:30 PM.
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Old 02-22-2017, 07:13 AM
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In my experience pretty much every dealer at a show is this guy. I honestly don't think they really want to sell their cards. The concept of a show price has always baffled me. Gone are the days of only being able to buy what's in front of you. I see these types of sellers as the same people with museum collections on eBay. I think there is a big dealer population who just like displaying cards.

Last edited by packs; 02-22-2017 at 10:34 AM.
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Old 02-22-2017, 07:13 AM
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One thing for sure: selling cards is a lot trickier than buying cards. Maybe that's why there's so many auction houses these days. The guys who couldn't make it as actual dealers figured out that it makes more sense to take a cut of an auction rather than try to directly buy and sell stuff.
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Old 02-22-2017, 07:32 AM
1952boyntoncollector 1952boyntoncollector is offline
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Yep. Card right now on eBay was $1800 BIN or make an offer. I offered $1500 and dude came back with $1750. I rejected it is seconds as a stupid move and was done with him. It's now discounted to $1350 and I refused to buy it.
Right thats only in this hobby. If there was an item for sale at Walmart for $1800 (in theory) and i was offended by that price and was willing to offer $1500 which was reasonable to me and 2 weeks later the item was $1350 and i still wanted the item and had the same financial means as i did 2 weeks before, i happily buy the item at that cheaper that i would of paid earlier price, but in the card buying and selling hobby, its a hobby not a business for most.

Last edited by 1952boyntoncollector; 02-22-2017 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 02-22-2017, 07:54 AM
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I think there's a major difference though: Walmart isn't an individual.
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Old 02-22-2017, 10:27 AM
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I think there's a major difference though: Walmart isn't an individual.
Well if i was looking to buy a used card from an individual who wanted $5000 and i thought $4000 was fair and i needed this car to go to work and i saw it listed for $3500 a month later, i would want it. (even if there was a lot of disputing about whether $5000 or $4000 was closer to a fair price earlier and i was accused of lowballing at $4000) I would be happy to pay the $3500

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Old 02-22-2017, 10:33 AM
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I agree with that but to me that's not an apt comparison since baseball cards aren't necessary.
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Old 02-22-2017, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
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I agree with that but to me that's not an apt comparison since baseball cards aren't necessary.
Opinions vary greatly on if they are necessary or not.
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Old 02-22-2017, 11:08 AM
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Haha fair point.
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Old 02-22-2017, 08:19 PM
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Yep. Card right now on eBay was $1800 BIN or make an offer. I offered $1500 and dude came back with $1750. I rejected it is seconds as a stupid move and was done with him. It's now discounted to $1350 and I refused to buy it.
Sounds like someone I have dealt with or rather, tried to deal with, before.
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Old 02-22-2017, 11:42 PM
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I would be willing to bet for every dealer that has never sold on eBay there are a hundred collectors that have never bought on eBay. They don't have a computer, they don't like/understand technology or they just want to hold the card in person before they buy.

Go to any decent size show and look at how many guys are there with notebooks or sheets of paper with their checklist. Why don't they have their checklist on their phone or iPad? Because they are old school and not into technology.
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Old 02-23-2017, 05:02 AM
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I would be willing to bet for every dealer that has never sold on eBay there are a hundred collectors that have never bought on eBay. They don't have a computer, they don't like/understand technology or they just want to hold the card in person before they buy.

Go to any decent size show and look at how many guys are there with notebooks or sheets of paper with their checklist. Why don't they have their checklist on their phone or iPad? Because they are old school and not into technology.
Right. Exactly the point that I was trying to make.
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Old 02-23-2017, 07:10 AM
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Right. Exactly the point that I was trying to make.
My fave folks to chat with, when I set up locally, are the guys with the paper sheets of checklists. The ones with the iphones and ipads, not so much. Call me old school....
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Old 02-23-2017, 07:25 AM
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Can't tell you how many times I am at a show and I find a card I'm am interested in and I can't even find the guy whose table it is because he's gabbing across the room. Happens all the time.
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Old 02-23-2017, 08:47 AM
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Well, I'm old school and i do not have a cell phone. Never had a cell phone, and never will. I do have a laptop, and often purchase on Ebay and through auction houses. The interesting thing I find when chatting with dealers at card shows is it appears there are people who want to actually sell their items and others who just want to display what they own. Most collectors just enjoy the hunt for items they covet, so if you can't get what you want today, it will likely appear later...patience is the key. Regardless, you meet all types in this hobby, that's why it works for me, and my friends and family could care less.
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Old 02-23-2017, 10:29 AM
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I mostly use paper checklists, and I didn't buy a card on eBay until 2013. I guess I consider myself a very late graduate of the old school. These days I still have my lists, but I have my phone with me as well to check prices. A dealer actually said to me that it was dangerous to have my checklist on my phone because I could get hacked.

Sadly, I do not think I'll ever go back to the show I've been attending, despite the interesting characters I've met. I'm tired of walking in with $500 and walking out with $490. It's just not for me anymore. And I've often had the same problem of trying to find the dealer whose card I'm staring at - makes you wonder how common thievery is.

I've been to the most recent National in Cleveland and hope to make a trip of it this year to Chicago with a couple friends. At least there you see cool stuff - that I can't afford!
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Old 02-23-2017, 11:29 AM
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Quote:
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Can't tell you how many times I am at a show and I find a card I'm am interested in and I can't even find the guy whose table it is because he's gabbing across the room. Happens all the time.
+1 I went to a Chantilly show a few months ago (my first show since the late 80's) and noticed the same thing. I had a few hundred earmarked to spend and did end up spending it. There were some dealers who had stuff I was interested in, but wouldn't even acknowledge me for some reason because they were bs'ing with other dealers. I ended up having some nice conversations with more attentive dealers and spent my money on their cards. I probably would've ended up buying some "over priced" cards with the dealer the OP is referring to if I had a similar conversation with him. For me, the personal attention/collecting conversations is the reason to go to and spend money at shows.
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