Friday, October 23, 2009

Buying to Sell - A Foray Into the Business Side of the Hobby

Once in awhile, opportunity knocks - when it does, hopefully you're there to answer the door.

Last week I was given the opportunity to purchase a large lot of high-end singles for a fraction of their book value. Before jumping into any kind of analysis of current buy/sell trends, a concrete definition of "high-end" has got to be established.

I've always considered high-end to be a blanket term covering the "best of the best" - the best cards of the best players. If Crosby signed it, it's high-end. If Orr wore it, its high-end. If a card pictures Jussi Jokinen and is stamped with some silver foil indicating that it is /10, it is immediately classified as an immoveable object... sometimes. More on this later.

So I threw some money in the mail (its only paper, right?) and the next day a shoebox arrived on my desk. The box was jam packed with beautiful cards, and included a vast inventory of singles with patches and autographs including most of the game's big names, past and present.

As could be expected, I tucked away a handful of prized items including several additions to my Martin Brodeur autograph collection and one piece I have always hoped to add: a Mario Lemieux Patch/Auto from my favourite set of all-time (06/7 The Cup Limited Logos). I then went about scanning and cataloguing every item included, even the ones I had pulled aside.

Once scanned, the cards were posted on Hobby Insider and made available for sale. Below are some observations and comments from my first week "on the job":

* Don't knock it until you've tried to sell it * - I have constantly mocked and ridiculed card manufacturers over the past several years for their constant inclusion of Lanny Macdonald in their sets. As responses to my sale thread began to filter in, I quickly ate my words. My first sale was not of a Sidney Crosby rookie year autograph, nor of a Mario Lemieux 1/1 Artifacts Patch card... but of a Lanny Macdonald Superlative Jersey card. The item brought back $12 of my investment, and taught me an important lesson -- just because I personally am not a fan of a certain player does not mean that he won't sell!

* Make a Deal * - If I hold onto this item for six months, will I get $5 more for it? A question that has plagued sellers of all non-perishable products for generations, and one that I was faced with immediately. While it is possible that someone out there might pay me $17 for an item, I am happy to sell it to you for $15 to keep the cards moving, regain a small portion of what I have invested in the lot and most importantly...

* Make Connections * - so that you will tell all of your friends in the hobby that I gave you a fair deal on your new high-end addition. Being fair makes for a positive experience for both buyer and seller, and can generate buzz and lead to future transactions and opportunities for each party. What's that old saying - where there's smoke there's fire? Well... where there's one collector of a given player with a decent monthly card budget, there are often several others, who are often in contact with one another. Moving that ITG Ultimate jersey card for $12 to one of them may lead to moving that Cup Scripted Swatches card for $120.

* Beware of Time Zones! * - If you're listing on EBay or simply creating a thread in the buy/sell section of your favourite online forum, remember that the world doesn't revolve around the city you live in. Make sure your thread remains visible to those out West, who are often just settling in for their evening when those around here call it a night. Including collectors from out of town or out of country leads to more exposure for your items and the excitement of waking up to a mailbox full of emails regarding potential deals.

* Stick to Your Guns * - Remember how much you have invested in a certain piece or lot, and don't be bullied into lowering your prices by those who may have more pull in the hobby, or more funds. Getting your price for a card is essential to recovering your investment, and more importantly, making a decent profit through the adventure. A little bit of market research and intuition should be enough to help you decide if a buyer is trying to make a deal, or take advantage of you only to turn around and sell your item for more than you were bold enough to charge.

* Appreciate the Surprises * - You may come into posession of an item that doesn't impress you a whole lot, but another collector may value more than anything in the world. It goes without saying that a buyer who has been searching the globe for a certain card will pay you more for it than someone else, and in some cases, more than the card is worth, just to lock it up.

* Be Patient * - Very few sellers will make 150 sales in a day, especially if their consumer base is limited to those who frequent an online community. It may take several weeks or months to fully capitalize on a bulk investment. Be willing to wait, keep an eye on market trends, and have fun!

Stay tuned for a post next week as I detail my first ever experience running a table at a card show!