If you were collecting cards in the 80s or 90s like I was, you know that card shops were a ubiquitous sight in almost any city. Where I grew up, I had 6 card shops in a 10-mile radius from my house. While this may sound like a dream compared to the relative difficulty of finding a card shop in the era of online shopping, I quickly discovered that not all card shops are created equal.
As a kid, there was nothing I loved more than going to a new card shop. But sometimes, my experience was less than extraordinary. On one occasion, I had bought some packs at a shop I frequented due solely to its proximity to the dry cleaners my mother went to. On my way out of the store, I ran into a friend who had an Upper Deck bat card of Willie Stargell. He showed it to me and told me he wanted $10 for it. A relic card of a Hall of Fame player? At that time, this was basically like striking gold. I couldn’t get the money out of my wallet fast enough. As soon as we completed the transaction, the shop owner came over and told us if we ever bought or sold our own cards in his store we would be banned for life. I was mortified! Certainly I would have understood if this were a card he had for sale in the shop at a higher price, or if he thought that I was spending my money that I had set aside to purchase from him, but I had already made my purchase from the shop and this was not a card he had anywhere in the store.
Another time at a different shop, I had sorted through a quarter box of singles – my favorite pastime as a kid (and still to this day). I found 38 cards, which brought my total with tax to $10.07. I only had $10 with me —I was 12 years old, with no income and no credit card. The shop owner told me I’d have to put a card back in order to pay for my purchase in full. Even as a preteen, I remember thinking: “Can’t you cut a kid a break over 7 cents?”
But by and large, my experience with card shops has been mostly positive throughout my life. And I have found that the card shops I enjoy frequenting have several things in common.
- They encourage congeniality among customers. My favorite shops have always had some kind of weekly or monthly trading day or trade night, where customers can buy from, sell to, or trade with other customers.
- They treat children well. I’m no longer a child, and don’t have one of my own, but I enjoy seeing shops that treat children in a way that makes them want to return. Children are the future of the hobby — without their interest, cards will become a relic of the past.
- They have a wide variety of items for sale. I’ve been to stores with just singles and no wax, or just wax and no singles, or just modern and no vintage. Obviously it’s impossible for every store to carry everything, but I appreciate the effort shops make to carry a wide range of products.
- The employees make an effort to know you and learn your interests. It shows that they care about you not just as a customer or as a collector, but as a person who is sharing in the hobby.
There are obviously many traits that make a card shop great, but these are the first few that jump into my head. In your experience, what are some traits that make a card shop one that you go back to time and again? Comment below for the chance to receive a free grab bag, courtesy of Big League Cards!