The ULTIMATE Card Shop — Your Input Needed!

June 10th, 2011

I love card shops. I’ve loved them since I was a little kid growing up in the late 80s and early 90s in southern California. Even though they were everywhere, the hobby was booming so there was plenty of business to go around. By the time I returned to the hobby in 2009 I realized that it was MUCH harder to find a card shop than it was a decade earlier.

A lot can be said about why card shops have slowly drifted out of mainstream popularity, but the most common reasons I’ve heard are:

 

—The popularity of the hobby has decreased exponentially since the early 90s

—Manufacturers allowed online wholesalers to sell directly to the public at razor-thin margins, thus under-cutting the brick-and-mortar shops that must charge a profit in order to keep the lights on

—The increased cost of sports cards has made it harder for “Average Joes” to collect

—Local card shops suffered due to ineffective business/marketing/sales practices

—Manufacturers began marketing more towards adults and less to kids, so the future of the hobby has stalled

—Over-abundance of cards in the 90s caused values to plummet along with the hobby’s reputation
etc, etc.

 

Honestly there are a million reasons why we can’t find card shops as easily as we used to. But this article isn’t about that. It’s about designing the ULTIMATE card shop. Many of you have followed me along on my never-ending “Local Card Shop Road Trip.” If there’s one thing I realized during my travels it is that card shops are as unique as the people that run them. I’ve seen beautiful, organized card shops and I’ve seen clutter-filled, messy card shops. I’ve been kicked out of a card shop at 7pm despite the fact that I just walked in 15 minutes earlier after a six-hour drive and I’ve been in card shops that treated me like a life-long friend on my first visit.

—–So here is my question: If we had an unlimited budget to create the perfect LCS, what would it look like?

I’ve spent a lot of time day-dreaming about this and I think I have some good ideas. I’ve been inspired by my favorite card shops, restaurants, stores, man-caves, and a lot of other places. The following is a brief list of some of my ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

 

—Modern-aesthetics (lighting, wall-mounted shelving, sleek art work)

—Flat-Screen TVs mounted all over

—Make the “counter” a bar-like environment with bar stools to encourage folks to hang out

—Beer on-tap (and soft-drinks for the kiddos)

—VIP room that can be used for box-busting-parties, case breaks, video breaks, illegal poker games etc.

—Offer every customer to video-tape their break and post it online for them

—Have a “Wall-Of-Fame” where top customers and top pulls can be honored

—Have a couple of iPads available on the counter for web-browsing, pricing lookups, etc

—Contests, Contests, Contests (Prizes/Prizes/Prizes)

—Golden Tee arcade game

—Exceptional organization/cleanliness (including SUPER clean bathroom with Dyson hand-dryer)

—Leather couches to loung on

—Darts and/or pool table

 

Basically, I would want to make the card shop a place to hang out, to talk sports, to drink beer, and bust wax. I would love to make the card shop a place where everyone goes for march madness, fantasy football, the playoffs, etc.

——What do YOU think?

——What would YOU add or subtract from this list and WHY?

——What makes up YOUR ideal card shop?

 

Give me your thoughts in the comments below…I will compile the responses to the best of my ability and make some mock-ups of the ULTIMATE CARD SHOP.

I will also send out some nice prizes to two random commenters.

 

Share This Article

26 Comments on “The ULTIMATE Card Shop — Your Input Needed!”

  1. Jerry Halloran

    That would Be AWSOME imagine if it was like a chain all over the country so everybody could have a card shop that they would go to instead of ordering online sometimes. Great Idea once and again Senseii

  2. I agree, Jerry. My thought is this: GameStop is EVERYWHERE…why can’t we have a franchise card shop everywhere? Of course my “Ultimate LCS” idea probably wouldn’t be feasible as a chain :-) It would be the Mecca of card shops! Look forward to hearing some of your ideas!

  3. Great ideas! I am lucky because I have a great card shop close to me (Jim&Steves Sportscards). Your ideas all sound pretty good. I really like the “wall of fame” idea a lot. I always thought a pop machine or vending machine would be nice since sometimes the hours fly by.

  4. Weirdmaniac

    Well I had some great ideas about the Ultimate Card Shop until I read this article. All my ideas have already been used so I’m fresh out of ideas. The card shop would be really nice if it had like a movie theater in the back. Also it would be great if professional sports athletes frequently visited to sign autographs. My movie theater idea might be a little crazy but youve got to admit that would be cool. I can’t wait to see what this shop turns out like!

  5. Travis Makuk

    I like most of the ideas. I wouldn’t go with the beer on-tap because it could ruin someone’s day spilling onto cards they just bought. I would go with bottled drinks, this way if someone knocks their drink over it won’t go everywhere. I think a card shop should be more kid friendly. Most shops I’ve been in don’t have a space for kids. They’re the ones going to keep this hobby going. So, we should set up a play room for the kids and have kid size table and chairs so they can sit and open their packs and boxes. Also, have a tv in the room set to cartoon network so they have something to watch. We can call it the Hobby Shop Playplace.

  6. I love your inputs man.

    I always thought an LCS should be a ‘Hangout’ first and a store second. So, an espresso machine with some ‘finger food’ available is a must (some Sandwiches, chips, peanuts, etc.)

    Maybe the alcool is too tricky to obtain (with licenses and all) but soft drinks are a most and table and chairs, lots of them, so that collectors can bust in peace and don’t be bugged by the kids and the wife at home when busting and sorting.

    Also, Group Breaks and Pack Wars should be organized weekly.

    My ideal LCS will also have an ‘Auction / Consignments’ wall were collector leave their cards and you sell them for a little cut (not more than 5%)

    Also, NO CARPETS, keep it as clean as possible and make it smell good too (Coffee and food helps the good smell).

  7. - tons of selection
    - cheap commons boxes
    - trade nights
    - live draft breaks (I think if I ever found an LCS with life draft breaks I would lose my mind)

  8. Travis M.

    I like most of the ideas. I wouldn’t go with the beer on-tap because it could ruin someone’s day by spilling their drink onto the cards they just bought. I would go with bottled drinks. This way if someone knocks over their drink then it won’t spill everywhere.

    I think a card shop should be more kid friendly. Most shops I’ve been in don’t have a space for kids. The kids are the ones going to keep this hobby going. So, we should set up a play room for the kids and have kid size table and chairs so they can sit and open their packs and boxes of cards. Also, have a TV in the room, set to Cartoon Network, so they have something to watch. We can call it the Hobby Shop Playplace.

  9. John Kenney

    great article Serge ….. hmmmmmm ….. how would I build my Ultimate Card Shop ???

    tons of clean Windex’d glass counters full of vintage and newer goodies at “reasonable” prices ….. packs behind the counter, and a big sign stating “no pack searching allowed here :)” ….. back wall full of freshly dusted boxes and shelving(guess you figured out by now, I hate dirty looking shops), and the main showroom full of cool vintage goodies and memorabilia :)

    autograph signings (when possible) free for kids !!! (who cares if it’s just a punter or back up long snapper, just get the kids something cool to remember when they grow up) and contests for tickets to the game ….. sure you can give away $60 in cards but if you gave away two $30 tickets in the “nose bleed” section may get both the kid and Mom/Pop excited about the game again :)

    Tuesday nights ….. baseball trading night, Wednesday night ….. football trading night ….. Friday night ….. Magic and other “adult” games trading night, and all day Saturday and Sunday tables would be set up solely for kids to trade with all their friends in a safe, and friendly environment NO PURCHASE REQUIRED !!! :)

    Hours 12-9PM 7 days a week :)

    Now most importantly I would have a staff of truly knowledgeable employees, in staff shirts, pressed pants, cleanly shaven, no bed head, with zero attitude period !!!

    I just hate going to a shop and having a dirt bag behind a dirty counter that thinks all your cards are crap and all his cards are the best investments ever …..

    “hmmmm, so you pulled a Mark Sanchez RC auto #d to 50 eh ….. too bad he plays for the Jets, he’ll never amount to anything in this League, I pulled a Big Ben RC auto #/5 last week, now that’s a QB you should collect, definate HOF’r ….. I’ll give you $20 trade in on your Sanchez, he’ll be too hard to move round here, nobody collects him”

    You know the guy, we all have to deal with him lol

  10. Obviously I can expect $30-50 more from a LCS than online, but some stores will charge two to three times the usual price. I really wish there was a way for the LCS and online to coexist.

  11. Jimbodious

    I love going into an LCS that has older boxes on sale cheap (like a clearance section.) I also like the idea of encouraging people to hang out and be comfortable, because I hate feeling rushed. The longer people hang out, the more they generally buy. I also like it when the singles are organized and not just scattered wherever they happen to put them.

  12. Re: Weirdmaniac

    Like the movie theater idea and I also think it helps to have local athletes come by for signings. Thanks for your thoughts!

  13. Re: Travis M.

    Great point on the beer on tap idea…I would NOT want to spill beer on my cards. How about if the counter had built-in cup-holders and top-loader holders? Kind of like how poker tables have built-in cup-holders and chip-holders.

  14. First I’d have a wide selection of products to choose from. I’d also have plenty of singles with a focus on the local or states’ teams. I would also have it decorated with pictures & lithographs of sport greats & HOfers. I’d want a decent size TV above & behind the counter that is always on ESPN or a game that’s happening. Along with that I’d organize a trade night that traders can come in & trade in a pleasant atmosphere. once or twice a month sponsor a group break or pack wars to include special prizes & pizza with other refreshments. I’d like to have once a month specials on packs or boxes & a contest for the best pull of the month. A couple tables set off in the back for folks to shoot the breeze on sports, cards & other memorabilia. Seasonal specials for holidays & a birthday club drawing for the youngsters to keep them in hobby as well!!

  15. blevins26

    First off, great idea for an article. I’ve been thinking about this exact idea recently. I just got back into the hobby about 9 months ago and I’ve been visiting various card shops. Here’s what I can offer based on my experiences:

    -Display hobby boxes and singles in stand alone cases throughout the store organized by manufacturer, year, player, team, whatever. I hate how most card shops are set up with the good wax behind the counter and the good singles inside the front counter. Too intimidating for a first timer.

    -Set up a rewards program for frequent buyers that gives them incentive to do all their business with the store. I’d venture a guess that a lot of us spend in the thousands each year on cards (although we’d never say that out loud). Give us an incentive to make every purchase through the LCS by offering kick-backs based on your yearly spending. And, btw, it better not be a handful of worthless retail packs!

    -Beer/Sports bar atmosphere is a must. In fact, it might be easier to just pick a chain that is struggling, say, Hooters, and retro-fit a hobby area into the restaurant.

    Again, great article, keep ‘em coming!

  16. A lot of great comments and ideas so far. I think it has to be a place where people want to hang out so comfortable seating like the leather couches is a must. There should always be small events and contests going on but there should be 1 big event each month. This could include group breaks, giveaways, athlete appearances, etc but it should draw the casual collector to the store at least on this 1 day each month.

  17. Michael Simmons

    I would make it a place to hangout watch sports and bust wax and do all things sports. They could have food and just be a relaxing place to be. I think there should be some contests every now and then. They should also get some athletes to come and do signings. Maybe some good looking women in the backround?

  18. Dustin Abernathy

    I like the theater idea too, but you have big screens all over anyway, so why not show films on those. If you have a place big enough for a theater I would put a radar gun cage, football passing game to targets, and maybe a half court with adjustable rim for the local kids to hang. Maybe offer popcorn and sell cheap sodas and hotdogs. Kinda like a little stadium. Kids play and parents spend money. Fathers and sons or daughters could challenge eachother in hoops, throwing speed, or passing accuracy. Love the topic and ideas.

  19. Re: Dustin Abernathy

    Wow….awesome ideas I hadn’t even thought of sports cages.

  20. I think you kinda nailed it Serg.What you want to do is create an atmosphere to keep people around just like a bar would do.The longer they stay the more money they will spend.
    The addition I would make is a wall/board called the “Trading Block” Where you can post cards that your customers are looking to trade. What this will do is bring people into your store and thats what you want.Added benifits would be you have first dibs and any card someone is looking to trade,and if someone is wanting to trade it,they are going to be willing to let it go at a bargain and you have first dibs on that as well.
    If you have a pack and box busting area it would be great.If you go to an LCS and buy 5 packs and dont get any hits,you are going to buy more packs instead of leaving the hits for the next guy,so you want to encourage people to open them at the store and when they get a hit give them a penny sleeve and congratulate them. The great experience will make them more than happy to spend 120 on a box at your shop instead of buying it online for 100.

  21. Being a collector and working at a LCS has gathered me this. You don’t want people to hang out too long but you want them to spend there money. THis is how we do it and I think it is pretty good, not perfect but good. We have 3 counters one for each sport basketball football and baseball. With each section having 2 counters one for vintage and one for modern. Then we have a sofa and a table if you wish to sit and bust packs or for the parents to kick back and allow there kids to look around (or even spouses) We are also a memorablia store so the walls are covered in framed memorablia from hofers in all sports to Public Enemies to game used memorablia. Then we sell novelty type stuff like key chains garbage cans ect. Like I said this isn’t a “dream” this is reality so there arent as many bells and whistles. But we have considered drinks and things but the fact that everything is condition sensitive tells us that we shouldn’t so we never have. If any one is in the Northen Kentucky area check us out our name is Planet Collectibles.
    Thanks Sensei for a great read.

  22. itsdagooch

    I think somewhere in your “dream list” ….half-naked / naked women would be pretty cool too.

  23. Re: itsdagooch

    Haha…I guess I never said anything about making it a “family” place, lol.

  24. ahh see that wouldnt work for me….if there were to be naked women in a card shop I would never have money to spend on cards

  25. RE: John Kenny

    Now most importantly I would have a staff of truly knowledgeable employees, in staff shirts, pressed pants, cleanly shaven, no bed head, with zero attitude period !!!

    I just hate going to a shop and having a dirt bag behind a dirty counter that thinks all your cards are crap and all his cards are the best investments ever …..

    “hmmmm, so you pulled a Mark Sanchez RC auto #d to 50 eh ….. too bad he plays for the Jets, he’ll never amount to anything in this League, I pulled a Big Ben RC auto #/5 last week, now that’s a QB you should collect, definate HOF’r ….. I’ll give you $20 trade in on your Sanchez, he’ll be too hard to move round here, nobody collects him”

    You know the guy, we all have to deal with him lol

    You have no idea how perfect you just described it.

  26. those dyson hand dryers are awesome i used one down in Baltimore… every card shop NEEDS one lol

    but seriously my LCS has it down.. i love that place low prices friendly owners stuff flies off the shelves.. I go there every week to every other week and they hang on to stuff for me too.. They held a Tebow mcfarlane variant in the back for me

Leave a Reply