It started as a simple Facebook Marketplace purchase for a listing of 1 million sports cards. Now, I’m in the process of opening the first sports card shop in my community in more than two decades.

Garage full of sports cards
My garage after unloading my 1 million card find. It’s unclear when I will park my car in here again. (Image: Johnny Kampis)

But first, let me backtrack …

Market Boomed and Busted in the ’90s

Like many minors in the 1990s, I grew up collecting cards. The market really boomed during that time, leading to significant overproduction and an eventual crash. By the time of the downfall, I hardly cared, having graduated college and moved on to other pursuits.

While I sold off bits of my collection from time to time, I mostly schlepped those boxes around with me, in various moves from city to city over two decades. Now settled (hopefully on a permanent basis) in my hometown of Cullman, Alabama, in recent years, I finally decided to sell off the rest of my collection – other than a few sets and singles my dad bought for me as a child.

Even though I was selling off my collection, I still looked for opportunities to buy and sell cards as part of my side arbitrage gig; I regularly hit up yard sales, thrift stores, etc. for resale opportunities. That’s how I stumbled onto a listing last summer for those million cards, stored in a shed in a nearby town. After surveying the various sets, singles, and sealed wax boxes, and determining I could liquidate them online for a nice profit, I bought the lot, returning in a U-Haul to drive them back to my town and store them in my garage.

As you might expect, it took a while to comb through everything. In fact, as I write this, I still haven’t examined every box five months after the purchase. I have, however, learned some fun facts, such as that Macbeth is John Paxson’s middle name, and that Ed “Too Tall” Jones is 6’9”. I found several of the infamous Billy Ripken 1989 Fleer cards with the F-word on the knob of his bat, and learned the story of the Fred Marion 1990 Pro Set “dangling belt” card.

There was a pleasant surprise when one box marked “Olerud” revealed, instead, about 400 Michael Jordan cards. And, I found a 1993 SP baseball set containing a near-mint copy of Derek Jeter’s rookie, perhaps the most sought-after card of the ’90s. In the run-up to Jeter’s Hall of Fame induction this July, that card has seen a significant spike in price.

The 1993 SP Derek Jeter rookie awaiting grading by PSA. Copies of the card graded as near mint have sold for upwards of $3,000 on eBay in recent weeks. (Image: Johnny Kampis)

My copy, awaiting grading by PSA, may be worth half of what I paid for this entire lot.

Field of Sports Card Dreams

By searching through this collection, the stock of a card store that operated in Moulton, Alabama, from 1987 to 1993, I renewed my own love of collecting. I also discovered that the sports card market experienced a boom in 2020.

Partially due to the lack of live sports during the pandemic, partially due to hot rookie classes in basketball and football, and partially due to people my age (with more disposable income) getting back into collecting with their children, the market had never been hotter. Visit any Walmart or Target and you’re likely to find empty shelves instead of boxes of sports cards because people buy them as soon as the stockers arrive.

That’s when inspiration struck. I would find a retail space to fulfill my ’90s dream of running my own card store and get in on the market, better able to buy new product from distributors, and cash in on the craze. The plan also involved moving my home office, where I write for OG News and various other organizations, to this store, shifting from writer to salesman — and back — hopefully throughout the day. I had a dream and the start of a plan.

In Part 2, I’ll share my efforts to buy my own commercial building for this endeavor.

Comments

  1. Hi there! Where in Alabama are you planning to open your shop? I’m up in Hoover, and would love for a local card shop to open up.

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