Monday, June 30, 2008

Free Training To Sell Etopps In-Hands

When I was in college, I wanted to get a job in my college town as a waiter. I thought I could earn big bucks in tips so I could save up for spring break.

I remember walking down down College Avenue and saw a few wait staff positions available so I would walk in and apply. Each time I was asked the same question: do you have any experience waiting on tables?

No, I would say. But I was willing to learn.

Sorry, they would say. You have to have waiting experience to apply.

Long story short I did get a job at one of these a dishwasher.

I tell this story because selling etopps in-hands can be tricky without experience. I'm sure you've been served at a restaurant by a waiter or waitress who you could tell was new - nervous, worried, scattered, etc.

So as a new seller of etopps in-hands, you can either pretend you have the experience or get it for free by volunterring at next month's National in the etopps booth. You will be trained and you will learn how to sell these cards from the bottom up. And this invaluable experience will give you the confidence to do this on your own.

Being able to sell these cards under experienced etoppers' supervision is priceless. We did our first card show months after econ 2.0 (2003). I'm sure any of us would have given this a go if he we hadn't acquired the experience at the National that summer.

You will be reading future blog posts from me about selling these cards but they will not be as helpful as the crash course you will get in Chicago.

So if you do not have a reason why you should go to this year's econ, I hope this has inspired you. Here are other reasons why you should go:
  • You get to put a face to a name from the message board. Most everyone calls each other by their message board name. You'd be surprised how many come to each year's econ who post very little on the message board.
  • You get to meet people who are cool.
  • If you collect any kind of sports memorabilia, bring a drool bag to the National.
  • You can see how in-hand cards are presented, pitched and sold from start to finish.
  • You get free stuff as a thank you for volunteering at the etopps booth as well as more free stuff for registering and attending the econ.
  • You can win more free stuff (in-hands, Topps sealed hobby boxes, uncut sheets of etopps in-hands) in the raffle at the econ.
  • You can meet the captain of the SS Etopps: Commander Mark Sapir and his crew.
  • You can meet the guest speaker who has not been determined yet. Last year, the guest speaker was freakin' Bob Feller, the oldest living Hall of Famer.
If cost of the trip is an issue, you can sell a good chunk of the free stuff you will get to offset the cost. I have easily broken even from the econ trips I've taken to National at Cleveland, Chicago and Anaheim.

The hotel will probably cost more that the airfare depending on how many days you are there. Consider sharing your room with another etopper (or two).

In summary, what you will gain will far outweigh the costs for this trip to Chicago.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Marketwatch - June 27

As of today, June 27 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 231
Sell-Through: 42.42%
Average starting price: $4.29
Average final price: $11.08

Highest Single Card Sale: 2006 Brett Favre Event
Highest Mult-Card Sale: Etopps Lot 165 Different Titles from 2000-2007: $350
Highest Graded Sale: CTNW 1952 Joe DiMaggio, BGS 9.5, $40
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2007 Ryan Braun, $202.49
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None

Other best sellers:

  • 2003 Brandon Webb
  • 2007 WWE The Rock
  • 2001 Paul Pierce

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: Brett Favre 50,000 yards Event, 9 bids.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Autograph Offering: 2007 David Wright

At 3:00 p.m. this Thursday, anyone who really wants one can log on to his (or her) etopps account and buy a David Wright autograph for the price of $59.99. I suspect anyone who really wants one can log in at 3:30pm on Thursday and buy a David Wright autograph, and while they are at it, if they forget until Friday, even though we are talking a decent name from the Big Apple, I suspect you can pick one up just about any time this weekend as well.

I could be wrong 0r I could be Wright (actually, I won't, I'll pass). All I know is that his last two offerings were for a little less cash and far fewer cards. His 2005 card saw 45 signed and his 2006 had just 37, yet his 2007 is going to be offered on 98 cards or more than doubling all of his prior autos. A quick look for any sales of the prior offerings shows one currently offered and while it has a couple of days left the price has been bid all the way up to $11.50. We all know how sniping works, but if this really was a hot ticket it would have already been moving. Instead it seems to be pricing about where the rest of David's regular autos seem to price and that is well under this offering price.

So the upside is clearly Wright is a very good player though not a superstar in collecting yet. He also plays in the biggest market but those are not Yankee pinstripes. And, even with a little bump up since last time a price of $59.99 is about what a good pack runs these days and if anyone pulled a David Wright I think they'd be happy. But for me, I am again passing on Topps offering of a third card with little chance...but feel free if you are a fan, it could still be a Wright move, just not one for me or for anyone but a Mets fan. BSTEE.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What I Learned From Ebay Live

I'll break down this entry into three areas: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, the Good:
  • In the vendor section, VeriSign was offering anyone with a paypal account an extra layer of protection for their account: for free. I chose the wallet card. After logging into your account, you will go to a page on paypal that asks you to enter your Verisign security code. And here's the kicker: you press a button on the card and the security code shows up. The next time you log in, you press the button on the card and the code disappears and another shows up. In other words: you're paypal account cannot be hacked into. While this service is not free online, I highly recommend it.
  • I found what I was looking for. The information sessions I attended were helpful and insightful (blogging, law, taxes). One of the sessions inspired me about my ecommerce business model. The majority of the notes I took were either websites or email addresses.
  • There were a lot of classes that offered everything from the basics of ebay to advanced practices. There was never a time slot that did not have something I wanted to attend. It was more about what to give up. In hindsight the one session I wish I had gone was the collectibles roundtable.
  • In more than one session, I was warned about something that can be related to etopps: pricing. A great way to ruin your business selling etopps cards on ebay is lowering your price in reaction to another seller selling the same card 5 cents less than you. How many times have you lowered the price of your etopps in-hand listings based on your competition? What if you offered something else to go along with the in-hand like a free card stand or free shipping or a checklist of other cards you have for sale from the team of the player that the buyer bought? In other words, how do you stand out from the crowd?
Now, the Bad:
  • Before the Keynote Address: this occurred Friday morning at 9AM in a giant room at the convention center. Ebay, a multi-billion dollar company offered measley donuts, coffee and pepsi beverages at tables in the back that felt more like a bone was thrown at those in attendance than breakfast.
  • There was something too corporate about the loud PA system and jumbotron stimulation getting pumped into the room before the 9AM keynote address, like audio/visual coffee.
  • During the Keynote Address there was a suspense in the air about what would be said--correction: I felt suspense. I wanted Lorrie to say whoever is in this room gets a listing fee discount for the rest of the year. That would have been cool. Instead, it was a lot of patting on the back to the community, how the DSRs are working and an extension of the changes that have already taken place. What I realized is ebay is a platform we pay to make money. What you may not realize is you are also paying for the privilege of having so much eyeball traffic. There are now 80 million registered users worldwide.
  • Later that morning, I inquired about a line of people standing in front of one of the many ebay booths. The two head honchos of ebay were doing a meet and greet. Guess who didn't get in this line.
Last, the Ugly:
  • There was a roped-off room that sold ebay merchandise: shirts, caps, ebay live exclusive clothing, backpacks, golf jackets and (my favorite) bobblehead dolls of the comic-book characters created for ebay live that were associated with the ebay live pins given out. It just didn't make sense no matter how many times I walked into this area to buy anything that said ebay on it: why help a multi-billion dollar company advertise?
  • At almost every information session I attended, I heard the theme song from the Batman tv show from the 60s. This audio cue meant another ebay live pin was available that had not been available yet. And every time that song played, there were at least a few people who would rush out to get them while the song disrupted the lecture. In the hallways, I sensed frowns by ebay employees when I politely turned down pins that were handed to me.
  • But the worst pins were the ones offered by a few vendors that had blinking lights on them. Some attendees insisted on wearing these seizure-inducing lapels on their lanyards. When I saw this, I knew this would probably be my last ebay live convention.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Marketwatch - June 20

As of today, June 20 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 201
Sell-Through: 42.29%
Average starting price: $2.97
Average final price: $10.49

Highest Single Card Sale: 2007 Joba Chamerlain, $49.99
Highest Mult-Card Sale: (5) Chipper Jones Refractor Lot 2002, 2004, 2005: $.99
Highest Graded Sale: (tie) 2004 Larry Fitzgerald Raw Card Review BGS 9.5, 2004 Kevin Jones Raw Card Review BGS 9.5, 2004 Lee Evans Raw Card Review BGS 9.5, all sold at $4.99
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2007 Joba Chamberlain, $152.49
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: 2006 Chris Paul McDonald's Rookie PSA 10 - $108.01

Other best sellers:

  • 2007 Ryan Braun
  • 2007 Ken Griffey Jr.
  • 1958 Mickey Mantle Reprint
  • 2007 Daisuke Matsuzaka

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 1958 Mickey Mantle Topps Reprint, 11 bids.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Autograph Offering: A&G Prince Fielder

This is an interesting offering, which may not mean a great deal, just interesting.

This Thursday you will have the opportunity to purchase a Prince Fielder etopps Autograph for a fairly reasonable price of $45. Where this just the third card of The Big Prince I would say it is an easy pass. Over a year ago 97 of his first year (2006) etopps cards were offered for a very fair price of $45. At that time his cards were really hot, now maybe tepid is is the word.

That card was a winner both at that time and even now as it was the first offering of the big Milwaukee slugger. That card could and still can be used in the contest, and though his average and even power is a bit off this year, he is still a good one to toss in to the contest when he plays 7 in a week. But this card is different, it is not a base card so no contest impact, it is not an early year, second year or even third year card so that is out. It is not exactly cheap but not any more expensive than the last time he was offered. So what makes this interesting????

This is the FIRST Allen and Ginter Autograph offering thus far. The auto run is only 45ct which means that whether the entire set is offered, most of the set is offered or only a fraction, anyone looking to collect the set is going to need one of the 45 offered here. At most there will be 45 A&G autographed sets, that's it and it all starts here.

While most etoppers are pure card collectors. They pass on the inserts and go right to the base card. That is why you buy at IPO, for the base cards, and this is not a base card it is as close as etopps gets to an insert. But, the A&G set is a beautiful set and even the least popular players have held up with print runs of 999.

So can you make money flipping an etopps Prince Fielder auto? Most likely not, right now. Anyone not on etopps is not going to be particularly interested in an autographed insert card. Anyone already on etopps is going to have a chance though the print run is small so maybe there could be a bit of a bump. But the best shot is after a few more of these A&G cards come out and the collectors pile on, then we could have a hot card....very interesting....BSTEE

Monday, June 16, 2008

Get The Deer Out Of Your Headlights

This always happens when I'm on vacation: I'm trying to find a sandwich shop in the town or city I'm staying in. I skip past Subway for something more local. Only when my blood sugar starts taking a dive do I find a local eating establishment. By then I'm feeling dizzy and ready to bite into any hand or foot that passes in front of my face.

In this state of disorientation, I walk into the sandwich shop in search of a menu of offerings that's hanging over the high counter. Other customers are ordering and paying for their food briskly while I stare and become overwhelmed by the 35 different sandwiches you can order, each having either a cute or corny name.

"Can I help you," snaps a voice behind a tall pickle jar that stands on the counter. It's said like probably been said hundreds of times already and the words snaps in the air like a whip.

I don't say anything. I'm trying to decide between a Marvin the Martian or a Forrest Gump but I'm sure I look like a deer in headlights.

Again, I hear "CanIhelpyou."

"Nope," I say to the picklejar and head for Subway I had passed earlier.

If you are selling more than 30 in-hands at a card show, it's not going to take much to overwhelm a customer if they have never heard of etopps. And you'll be surprised by how many have not.

As I have stated in an early post, you are much better off putting each card on a single-card display stand or display tower rather than lying flat on the tablecloth. Most likely, the overhead lighting (fluorescent) will reflect on the cards if lying flat.

Picture all of your cards, each on display and lined up in rows or neat columns. How do you prevent your customer from having the deer-in-headlights reaction to your table?

There are two ways: your table presentation and your customer service skills.

The first one is easier because you can do this prior to the show starting.
  • Center Stage - create an area on the table that will showcase the high-end cards (autos, graded etopps, etc) as well as the popular local heroes whether baseball or football. We had one display tower full of Yankees and Mets and the other had hot-selling football rookies.
  • Group the cards by sport and by team, preferrably alphabetically so you can find the cards quickly if a customer asks you for a team or player that you have. It can be embarrassing when you cannot find what the customer is asking and you most likely will lose a sale this way.
  • Since current players sell more, group the cards by year if you can. The 2008 or 2007 will most likely sell the most unless it's a star player or hot rookie.
  • Make it easy on the eyes. Get in front of your table and set the cards up this way. Don't have them too close together.
  • Make some cards stick out - we would place an index card behind a card on the display stand to indicate "rookie" or "low print run" or "Last One!" to create more demand for the card.
No matter how you set up your cards, customers can get overwhelmed. Don't think it's only because of your cards. Usually this is an accumulative effect from checking out so many tables with so much stuff being available. Being overwhelmed is a pretty normal reaction to a card show as a customer. It's your job to make it easy for them to browse your table. Here are some ways to break the ice and turn browsers into buyers:
  • "I know there's a lot to look at so take your time. We'll answer any questions you have."
  • "These cards are really good at reflecting the light in here. We've got special sunglasses to help you see the cards better."
  • "Is there a sport, team or player you're looking for in particular?" (usually the customer gives this away by what they're wearing.)
We would get in front of our tables and guide the customers, giving them an idea of each card's design for each year. A good part of our sales pitch was educating the customers about the etopps online platform. Sometimes we could spend 15-20 minutes talking to one customer depending on the questions we were asked. Even if a sale wasn't made afterwards, it was good to have someone at our table. The more people you have browsing, the attractive your table will be better for others nearby.

A solid, professional presentation is not just about having the best display tools, it's about how you use them to make it easy on the eyes for customers. They'll know whether it's worth looking beyond a glance or not. And when they do look, it's up to you to convert the looking into buying.

And I will show you how.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Marketwatch: June 13

As of today, June 13 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 322
Sell-Through: 49.07%
Average starting price: $4.16
Average final price: $9.71

Highest Single Card Sale: 2007 Joba Chamerlain, $42.41
Highest Mult-Card Sale: None
Highest Graded Sale: 2006 John Lester BGS 9, $13.48
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2007 Tim Lincecum, $190.57
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None

Other best sellers:

  • 2007 Adrian Peterson
  • 2001 Alex Rodriguez
  • 2001 LaDainian Tomlinson
  • 2006 Tom Brady

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2007 Joba Chamberlain, 19 bids.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Autograph Offering: Dustin Pedroia

Tomorrow etopps will offer 100 autographed etopps cards of last year's AL Rookie of the Year, Dustin Pedroia at 3pm EST for $69.99.

Why now? His batting average is not that great and the offering would have been sweeter in the lag time between Alex Gordon and the rest of the baseball autographs we've seen so far this baseball season.

But this is etopps and every autograph has sold out so far, even last week's Ryan Howard. Since Dustin Pedroia is a Red Sox you can expect a sell-out within a few minutes.

I'm beginning to believe the consumers of these autographed etopps cards this baseball season will buy what they want without the slightest secondary market value hesitation.

If you are invested in flipping this card, your only hope is to sell to etopps members who will miss out on this one for whatever reason but I don't think you can double your money.

His rookie auto card, the 2004 Topps SP Prospects Auto sold10 dollars over what etopps is asking on ebay. If you spend $30 more, you can get his signature on a bat certified by Steiner.

Call me crazy but when some people are spending what you are paying for this auto on a full-tank of gas, you have to start thinking about whether this is worth the money right now or not.

As some people have indicated, a sell-out is a good thing for it's in-port value because 100 taken out of port means a print run of just 399 which is a pretty good thing.

I would recommend buying the card after the auto offering.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The P Word

The "p" word in selling in-hands whether on ebay or at a card show is pricing. I call it this because of the controversy that goes with it.

One school of thought is to use cardtarget's 7-day average for the price of an in-hand. Another is to charge whatever you want. Another is to base your price on the supply of each in-hand you bring to a show and there's another about factoring in your total expenses for a show.

I'm not going to recommend "the right way" to price your in-hands. That's up to you.

Just keep a few things in mind when pricing your cards:
  • You will most likely be the only dealer at the show selling etopps in-hands, thus having no competition.
  • Your customers may have never heard of etopps before so this is their first impression and pricing is a big part of that first impression.
  • They may not care what an etopps card sells for on ebay, whether in-port or in-hand. They wouldn't be at this card show if they were so gung-ho about ebay's prices.
  • Be prepared for the question, "how much do these cards book?" There is no book value for etopps cards and this may make a customer uncomfortable. Explain how you determine the price of your cards.
  • There's a lot of competition for a customer's dollar. Already their wallets get thinner from the admission charge and the cost of getting autographs.
  • Be customer-oriented. If you're asking $12 for a card and a customer offers $10, accept the offer. If the customer wants to buy $35 worth of cards, discount the cards so they're getting $5 back. In other words, use your prices as a starting point.
  • Be flexible. If a number of people show interest in your cards but walk away when they find out the prices of what they want, you may need to re-think your pricing strategy. There's nothing wrong with making a profit but there's nothing right about price gouging. You need to determine prices that will work for you without alienating your customers.
  • Know your bottom line. You paid for these cards with your money, paid for the table to be at this show and possibly the shipping of these cards to you from etopps. What is the lowest you will sell each card? If you can't answer this question before showtime, you may want to do some math beforehand.
There's nothing wrong with making a deal with others dealers at the show. This would happen at the end of a show, when customers have left and the dealers are left to pack up everything. You can still make a handsome sum by offering multi-card deals. Though I wouldn't recommend this if you plan to return to the same show the next time it is offered. Because you may have created competition for yourself.

One last thing: be most flexible with your autographed or graded cards. You'll have plenty of people asking how much you're charging for a Justin Upton autographed card but only few of them will reach for their wallets especially at an autograph show where they came to get the autograph in person rather than from a dealer.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Marketwatch - June 6

As of today, June 6 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 246
Sell-Through: 38.21
Average starting price: $7.06
Average final price: $12.64

Highest Single Card Sale: 2007 Joba Chamberlain $50.77
Highest Mult-Card Sale: 13 card in-hand baseball classic lot, $45
Highest Graded Sale: 2004 David Beckham BGS 10, $26.99
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2007 Tim Lincecum, $149.99
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None

Other best sellers:

  • 2007 Adrian Peterson
  • Allen & Ginter Bill Clinton
  • 2007 Dustin Pedroia
  • 2007-08 Greg Oden

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2000 Randy Moss, 10 bids.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Autograph Offering: Ryan Howard #3

The following review was provided by etopps member bstee.

This week’s autograph offering may be a pass except for true Ryan Howard fans. There seems to be little chance for success with this third autograph of the Phillies slugger. This week eTopps is offering the third shot at Howard with an autograph of his 2007 eTopps card (PR = 999), after quickly selling out previous offerings of his 2005 and 2006 cards for the same $99 price.

While Howard’s previous autographed cards are fairly rarely seen or offered on ebay this is most likely due to the very low total number signed. Between 2005 and 2006 there are only 50 autographed Ryan Howard eTopps in existence.

However, with this week’s offering this number quickly balloons by doubling this number with another 50 autographs. Many people who shelled out the $99 in January 2007 likely thought they were doing so because those would be Howard’s only eTopps autos. Also, at that time he was both slugging home runs (as he is now) but he was hitting well above his current .209 BA.

Unlike some of the recent offerings like Lincecomb and Chamberlain the 2007 card is relatively cheap, so the entire cost is in the autograph. The other two would set you back $55 - $70 for the card before even considering the auto’s cost.

So, if a third card/fourth year autograph of the second best-slugger on a pretty good team appeals to you and if you are not interested in any of the many cheaper eBay options, then go for it; just know you won’t make money on this one.

If you think that he’s going to start lighting it up again soon, then long before going for this one, consider his best rookie auto option which is far cheaper now than it was a couple of years ago – that being his 2003 Bowman’s Best.

Now that Ryan signed an exclusive Topps agreement last year, you can bet this won’t be your only chance to pay $99 for his autograph.

If you would like to contribute to this blog, please email me:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Preparing For A Card Show: Consider A Partner

If you have experience as a dealer at a card show and etopps cards is just something to include in your overall inventory, this posting may not apply to you.

If you do not have experience selling as a dealer, I recommend selling with another etopper.


You save money on the table fee. If you can get a table for a show under $50, you may be able to fly solo. Otherwise, especially the shows that have autograph signings, tables can set you back quite a bit. The more inventory you have, the more appealing likely you will need more than one table.

I have sold my cards with two other etoppers and we would split the hefty table fees three ways so we could be dealers at the bigger shows such as the Football Spectacular in New Jersey.

We would also split the responsibilities. For instance, one of us would handle the money during the show, one of us would take care of re-stocking while the other would give the sales pitch about etopps to customers.

One of the challenges of having more than one seller doing a card show is figuring out what to do when more than one person wants to sell the same card. Like at the National when 10 different sellers has a rookie LeBron James card, it's a game of round robin.

For each card that has more than one seller, just decide who sells their card first and have an order (if more than two people) for who sells that card next. Before the show starts, whoever is first in order of selling a card takes that card out of their inventory and gets placed on the table.

Just keep a log that covers the quantity of each card and the pecking order of who sells each card next.

In fact, put everything in writing: which card from whose inventory sold and for how much. Don't procrastinate writing it down. Don't depend on your memory when you have multiple sales. It can get messy so having that extra person to make the next sale while you write down the last sale and see who will sell those cards next will prevent a lot of awkwardness if you cannot reconcile the money you have in your hand vs. what you should have on paper.

Besides, it's fun to get to know your fellow seller who you may only know by username with posts on the message board. You get peace of mind that someone is watching the table while you're in the john and it's faster to set-up at the beginning and break-down at the end of the show.

The fun is when you're packing up with another seller. It's time to sort out who owns which cards that are currently on display on the table. Rather than guessing or going by the inventory log, we used post-its of different colors. We each chose a color and stuck a post-it or a piece of a post-it of your color when any of our cards were next to be sold. So by the end of the show, "Agent Orange" had his stack, "Mellow Yellow" had his pile and "Gang Green" had the rest.

Overall, having a fellow etopper sell with you has a lot of advantages and you can help each other when negotiating with hagglers at shows. Even though you sort of split the profits, the rewards of selling together can be sweeter.