How to Start a Sports Card Business

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Since starting this site and my podcast on Soccer Cards, I’ve seen plenty of new businesses enter the Sports Card industry. It’s awesome seeing more and more people try to turn their hobby into a business, but ask anyone who has tried and it’s a lot harder than it looks.

So, if you’re looking at how to start a Sports Card Business, this article will give hopefully give you some inspiration.

There are plenty of different types of sports card businesses you can start. Here are a few of the more popular ones.

Using an Online Storefront (eBay, COMC, etc…)

The most common way people make money with sports cards is…. well, selling sports cards.

Using a ready-existing online store is probably the easiest way to do that, and it’s something that most of us already do to an extent.

Turning your eBay (or another online storefront) store into a full-time business comes down to selling a lot of cards.

Pros

  • Using something like eBay is great because you don’t have to look for customers like you would if it’s a new store; eBay is the biggest sports card marketplace in the world.
  • Most of the time, these businesses take care of customer service, which is a weight off your shoulders.
  • You don’t have to worry about updating websites, paying for hosting, or any of the other tech problems that come from owning your own site.
  • There are plenty of people who sell on eBay full time, so it can be done.
  • Sites like COMC let you buy inventory and re-list straight away, so you can constantly be flipping cards.

Cons

  • You’ll need inventory. A lot of inventory.
  • The vast majority of sales you make will be cheaper cards. So you’ll need to be posting a lot of packages.
  • When you’re working on larger sales platforms you’ll have a lot of competition. This will often result in a bit of a ‘race to the bottom’ with prices. There’s always going to be someone cheaper than you.
  • All sales platforms will take fees.
  • You don’t “own” any of the stores you start. If you’ve got an eBay store that’s 100% of your business and all of a sudden you get kicked off eBay (or something unforeseen), then 100% of your business goes with it.
  • You can’t keep customer lists.

If you want to know more about the different ways to sell sports cards on platforms like eBay read this article selling sports cards. The article is eBay-focused, but the point of the article can be used for any similar platform.

Starting Your Own Sports Card Store

In a similar way to the last business model, you can sell cards in your own store. This store can be online, or in-person either with a physical storefront or at card shows (or a mixture of all three).

Basically, you’ll be doing a lot of the leg work in order to get your name out there – but if it works, you’ll make a profitable long-term business.

Pros

  • No seller fees from eBay or whatever site you’re using.
  • You don’t have the competition of thousands of other sellers on the platform.
  • If you’re selling in person, you get the ‘feel factor’ of customers who come in and buy. And I don’t know about you, but I always walk out with a few extra items when I go to my LCS compared to browsing eBay.
  • You own your customer data like emails. This makes it easy to market directly to your customers; something you can’t do on eBay.

Cons

  • It’s really hard to get started. You need to find your own customers, and keep them happy!
  • There are greater upfront costs when starting your own store. If you’re starting a physical store, then there are obviously a lot of costs involved there. If you’re starting online, you need to set up a website with a storefront.
  • If you’re starting an online shop getting traffic is really difficult. There are hundreds of sites out there where you can buy cards. What makes yours different?
I know nothing about this breaking group, nor do I condone them. This is just an example of one I found on Facebook.

Starting Your Own Sports Card Breaking Business

Personally, I don’t really like Sports Card breaking as a business model. Well, I don’t really like breaks at all – and breaking as a business model has taken a part of that

For those new to breaking. Basically, the person/business (the “breaker”) buys either boxes or cases of product and sells spots in their “break” to people. So, if you’re got a box of NBA products, you might separate it into teams. Then people can buy a team’s lot.

So, I’m a Timberwolves fan, and I only want the Timberwolves cards, I’ll buy that Wolves spot in a break to avoid having to pay for a full box.

If you want more details on the topic, read my older article on how sports card breaks work.

Pros

  • There can be really high-profit margins. For example, some people pay premiums for spots in breaks upfront before they know how good the cards are in the box
  • The ability to create a little “community” around your breaks. A lot of the most popular breakers are always at it. They can create a small group of committed customers who keep coming back.
  • There’s the ability to get stock at a decent price.
  • With that, you can also get some “hobby fame” if that’s your thing. That helps promote your business too. There’s a reason why you see “those” breakers going completely over the top when they pull a nice card.

Cons

  • Breaking is in that grey area around gambling, and depending on your state or country, might sit firmly on the gambling side of the law. So I’d definitely make sure you’re legally covered.
  • You’re pretty much reliant on getting products at good prices. If you’re paying retail for boxes, then you’ll need to break a lot to earn considerable money. However, with that comes a higher upfront cost.
  • Upfront costs in general are a con of breaking. You need to buy the boxes upfront, and if there’s a lack of interest in your breaks, then you’re stuck with all the inventory.
  • You’ll need to show the breaks live via stream. There are a few ways you can do this (Facebook Live, Instagram, YouTube) but you need to record everything you do. IF you’re not one to be in front of the camera, then it’s not really for you.
  • You need to stick to a set schedule (the best breakers have set breaking times/days to make it easier for return customers). So if you’re starting breaking as a side hustle, it can get pretty time-consuming.
  • Sending all the singles out can be a nightmare
  • You need to organize payment processors. Is everything going to be done through DM on Instagram, or are you starting a website?

Starting Your Own Sports Card Website

You can start a sports card website like this one, and create decent money without actually needing to sell cards. Basically, you write articles about sports cards, and you can make money either through ads on the website or through affiliate sales.

Pros

  • There isn’t any inventory.
  • Costs are pretty cheap to begin with. Starting a website can cost well under $50 to pay for a domain name and hosting.
  • The income can be passive (to a degree). There are articles I wrote years ago that still generate some revenue. I just update them every now and then.
  • It can be somewhat easy to scale. If you outsource writers, there’s theoretically no limit to how many articles you can publish in a day.
  • It can be done whenever you have time. If you have time then you can write every day. If you only write an article a week, that’s fine too.

Cons

  • It takes a lot of time to generate any money. It can be half a year before you earn anything. So there’s a lot of work going in at the start.
  • You’ll need a little bit of a background in creating websites.
  • In may ways, it isn’t a ‘sports card’ business as much as it is a media business. So you’ll need to love the process.

 

Service-Based Sports Card Business

Plenty of people creates a service-based business for sports cards. This can range from people who do group submissions to grading companies, all the way to vault services that offer a secure place to store your cards.

There are plenty of different service options. But most will have similar pros and cons.

Pros

  • There are usually upfront costs (granted, starting a vault service is a lot more expensive than starting group subs) that you’ll need to pay in order to get off the ground. However, the costs aren’t as high as pre-ordering thousands of dollars of inventory to sell.
  • Profit margins can be high depending on the service.
  • Many services can be systematized, so completing the service itself gets easier over time.
  • The business can grow over time. For starters, if you’re doing group subs or cleaning cards for grading, you can get started with just Instagram instant messages and eventually grow into having a website and all the other bells and whistles once you’re getting constant business.

Cons

  • You need to find your own customers.
  • You are responsible for customer service, and dealing with any issues.
  • Often you’re responsible for other people’s cards. Personally, I know I’m not comfortable with a stranger sending me a card with thousands of dollars to then send to PSA or another grading company.
  • You’ll be responsible for reporting and keeping tabs on expenses and earnings when it comes to tax time.
  • Everything is very ‘you’ focused. It’s hard to take a week off when you’re constantly getting orders.

I love service businesses outside of the hobby and think they’re a great way to start a cheap business. However, when it comes to sports card businesses, I think there aren’t too many services out there that really make sense.

Stating Your Own Sports Card YouTube Channel, or Podcast

This is a little similar to the website, there are plenty of other content creation avenues to turn into a business. YouTube and podcasts are popular ways to try and earn some extra income. Just remember though, that YouTube or Podcasts are way less glamorous than they sound.

Pros

  • No inventory.
  • You can create a small community around you and your episodes.
  • Generate money through ads, or subscriptions.
  • You don’t have to spend all day going to and from the post office.

Cons

  • Because sports cards are still a small hobby in the grand scheme of things, your total audience number will be on the small side.
  • Lots of the time, ad revenue won’t be enough – so you’ll need to compensate with a second revenue model.
  • It’s very ‘you’ heavy. You often need to be the face or voice of the project.
  • You can be flexible on when you work.
  • You’ll often put in a lot of hours honing in your work and getting better at creating content.

Starting Your Own Sports Card Business

There’s plenty of options to start a business in the sports card industry. This article gave you a few options.