Monday, December 29, 2008

My Other Project

Between these blog posts, selling on ebay, my full-time job and my family, I've been pretty busy these last six months transitioning from my current ecommerce website ( to a new one with a specific niche.

I've learned the hard way that opening a website store as an extension to ebay doesn't work. Nor does selling items on a website without a theme or niche (as you can get away with on ebay) work.

So if you're thinking of starting your own ecommerce website to include etopps cards, don't be like me. Instead, swim with the current and sell other sports-related items:
  • Other sports cards
  • Hobby boxes, cases
  • Sports memorabilia by team and by sport
  • Card stand for etopps cards
  • Sports items that are hard to find online (and not on ebay)
You can even start a blog and let it be the horse to pull the cart of your store. Sell things that you can blog about so you'll have more credibility when selling. Make videos to demonstrate what you're selling. For example if you're selling display cases for sports memorabilia, make a video for how to hang the display case on the wall.

* * *

At the expense of this post sounding like a promotional plug, I just updated the Connections section on the right side area, adding my latest project - Simply Superheroes. It's not live yet but should be up by tomorrow evening.

This website store will offer superhero merchandise for kids: Spider-man, Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Captain America and Wonder Woman. I will be selling products such as t-shirts, pajamas, backpacks, posters, party supplies and books.

If you are interested or if you know someone who would be interested in shopping here, I'm offering a discount code for the first order and a free gift to go with the order. Enter FIRSTORDER at checkout to get 10% off.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Marketwatch - December 26

As of today, December 26 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 516
Sell-Through: 20.54%
Average starting price: $1.56
Average final price: $9.73

Highest Single Card Sale: 2008 Allen and Ginter Barack Obama, $95.00
Highest Mult-Card Sale: 2008 Allen and Ginter Yankee Stadium Tribute Set, $115
Highest Graded Sale: 2002 Emmitt Smith Event PSA 10, $17.67
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2007 Adrian Peterson, $165
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None

Other best sellers:

* 2001 Albert Pujols
* 2007 Joba Chamberlain
* 2004 Alex Rodriguez
* 2003 Classic Baseball Roberto Clemente

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2004 Alex Rodriguez: 9 bids

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Results From The Autograph Poll

By a landslide, John Beck gets the award for the worst autograph offering. It's possible etopps had Beck sign his etopps card prior to Chad Pennington getting signed. It wasn't a bad idea at the time to get his signature. Pennington has been known for his injuries that stymie him but this season has become an exception.

For a good part of the week whenever I checked the poll results I was expecting Brady Quinn to earn the Best Auto but Montana pulled through, getting 10 votes while Quinn came in third place behind Favre. My personal best was Favre. No one was expecting this offering since Favre hadn't shown up on the radar since the autograph program started. Perhaps it would have won the Biggest Surprise Auto if I had included this in the polls.

Bo Jackson looked like the easy winner for Best Valued auto but votes for Brandon Jacobs picked up and came close to a tie.

As a seller, the most disappointing autos were the Allen and Ginter Super Bowl Champions. While the hobby has loved every regular A & G baseball set since it started recently, etopps never caught on as the only A&G football cards out there and having a few of these autographed did not change interest in this set.

Many thanks to all who voted.

Season's Greetings.

Monday, December 22, 2008

5 Predictions For Etopps In-Hands In 2009

Don't forget to vote on the right which was the best, worst and best valued autos during this football season (so far). Voting ends tomorrow night (12/23).

Here is what I think will happen next year:

1. Fewer etopps cards will be graded. It's just not worth the time and money to grade a card better than what it's being offered. With the costs that are adding up on ebay, having an etopps card graded doesn't give a better return than if you list the card quicker than those who wait for their cards to be graded. Only exception may be graded autographs.

2. More etopps cards are going to end on ebay without any bids that start under a dollar ($.99). The in-hand market on ebay is turning into a dumping ground for in-hands. With more supply, there is less demand.

3. More etopps in-hand cards will appear on other online ecommerce sites such as wigix, ioffer, wigix, and bonanzle due to the higher costs in selling etopps cards on ebay and the surge in alternatives to ebay online already.

4. For The Autograph Program, etopps will start to include a photo of player signing an etopps card when the card is being offered...why not?

5. If there is an etopps booth at the 2009 National in Cleveland, sales will be the lowest of any National done before due to the declining economy and etopps' saturation of the Cleveland National market (if you're not keeping score, this would be their third time selling there).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Marketwatch - December 21

As of today, December 19 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 464
Sell-Through: 51.72%
Average starting price: $2.27
Average final price: $7.97

Highest Single Card Sale: 2008 Allen and Ginter Barack Obama, $75.00
Highest Mult-Card Sale: 2008 Allen and Ginter Yankee Stadium Tribute Set, $140
Highest Graded Sale: 2001 Albert Pujols BGS 9.5 $99.99
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: Willie Mays Classic Baseball, $250
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None

Other best sellers:

* 2001 Albert Pujols
* 2003 Tom Brady
* 2008 Allen & Ginter Yankee Tribute - Mickey Mantle
* 2008 Allen & Ginter Yankee Tribute - Lou Gehrig

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2008 All & Ginter Barack Obama: 12 bids

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Poll: FB Autographs (So Far)

Etopps has been quiet recently in the autograph offerings department. Two weeks have passed since the Terry Bradshaw offering.

Methinks they won't start up again until next year during the playoffs.

In the meantime, here's a list of what they offered so far:

Allen and Ginter Joe Namath
Anthony Gonzalez
Marion Barber
Brett Favre
Brandon Jacobs
Calvin Johnson
Greg Olsen
Joe Montana
Brady Quinn
John Beck
Bo Jackson
Allen and Ginter Terry Bradshaw

So with this line-up, I'll open up a few polls until next week:

Which was the best autograph offering?

Which was the worst autograph offering?

Which was the best valued?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Make Google Your Friend

If you don't use Google by now beyond their search engine, you may be a little behind in what they can provide:

Google Base Store Connector: Synchronize your ebay store listings with Google Base (think craig's list) and get your ebay listings in their search more prominently.

Picasa: Google's free picture software program. It's so easy to use from uploading to cropping to organizing all of your photos (and videos) on your computer. They have this great button to help improve any photo you upload from your digital camera: "I'm Feeling Lucky."

Gmail: I've been using it for a few years. This helps you organize your emails in your inbox related to ebay for transactions by creating labels. I use terms such as payment pending, payment mailed, paid, priority mail, international, and (sparingly) refund. You can put these labels in different colors and different shading behind the font to make them stand out. Gmail just added tasks to their email so you can create an easy to-do list for your etopps auctions. Very easy to use and freakin' free.

iGoogle: with you Gmail account, you get to have a dashboard similar to My Yahoo in which you control which content appears on this page. You can include blog feeds (like this one ; ), the weather forecast, bookmarks and thousands of other widgets in the iGoogle Add Stuff link. Hopefully some day you'll be able to read Mark Sapir's etopps blog on iGoogle without having to look at the etopps website.

Alerts: Get emailed by Google whenever a search term you select appears in the news, in blogs, videos, or anywhere on the web. I use this, for example, to track the word etopps on the web.

Google Calendar: Keep up with what you have to do with this tool and customize your calendar for your favorite team's game schedule. A cool feature is setting up reminders on the calendar to your Gmail account. At 2pm every day, I remind myself to go to the post office if I need to ship a package.

Google Documents: If you want to keep track of your transactions, Google Documents is great for setting up Excel-like documents. If you are using an Excel spreadsheet, it's easy to upload it to this program and you can share your documents via email. When setting up the sell sheets and inventory for the last card show I did, I had set it up with Google Documents and sent it to the other sellers via email for them to review.

So what are you waiting for? Set up a google account and get these free tools to make your etopps in-hand business easier to manage.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Marketwatch - December 12

As of today, December 12 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 482
Sell-Through: 44.19%
Average starting price: $2.07
Average final price: $5.88

Highest Single Card Sale: 2008 Allen and Ginter Barack Obama, $70.00
Highest Mult-Card Sale: 2008 Allen and Ginter Yankee Stadium Tribute Set, $110
Highest Graded Sale: 2007 Adrian Peterson, PSA 10, $63
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: Tony Dorsett Classic Football, $89.99
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None

Other best sellers:

* 2003 LeBron James
* 2008 Tim Lincecum
* 2008 Allen & Ginter Superbowl Champs - Joe Montana
* 2008 Manny Ramirez

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2008 Cole Hamels: 11 bids

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No Etopps Autograph This Week

With the unsuccess of Terry Bradshaw, is this it for autographs for football this season?

We may know next week but I doubt it.

Possibly it is the end of autographs for this business quarter and will resume in the new year.

If etopps is done w/ football autographs I'll set up a poll to get an idea about which ones were liked and disliked the most.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shipping Strategies

It looks like etopps will start offering autographs on Tuesdays now rather than Mondays and they will be offered on Fridays rather than Thursdays.

As predicted, the Bradshaw auto has turned out to be a tough sell for etopps based on the secondary market performance of the two Joes that were auto'ed out of this set, the quality of Bradshaw's signature, the ailing economy and the holiday buying season.

It's been awhile since I posted about the process of selling etopps cards on ebay. One area I did not include is third-party vendors to make the proces of sending out etopps cards to happy customers easier.

To me, the process of shipping out an etopps card from my home is one of the more tedious tasks as an ebay seller. The process of hand-writing the buyer's address on a shipping envelope, guestimating the postage and over-stamping the package drove me nuts at first. But over time, I've found ways to make it easier.

First off, if you haven't already you should find a reliable source for bubble-lined mailers for etopps cards, size #000. Because of my location, is a great vendor. They are loaded with everything imaginable for shipping and give you cool stuff if you order a lot at one time. U-Line comes in handy when you realize (all of a sudden) that you're low on mailers and you need them soon. When I order form this company, I usually get my order delivered UPS within two business days.

But if you can anticipate you'll need shipping supplies like mailers in the next week or so, I would recommend another company. is a company I first encountered at ebay live this year. They were giving out cool t-shirts and told me about their services. They said they can beat U-Line on price if you can wait a little longer than it takes from U-Line. And they're right. They offer free shipping, good selection and send via UPS from California which is why they take a little longer.

Another way to curb the tediousness of shipping is to process the shipping costs through paypal. On the payment email from paypal for an etopps card, click on the link to show you the details of the transaction online. On this landing page, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link that reads Print Shipping Label. You will go to a page that makes it so easy: a pull down menu for the type of shipping you'll use (most likely first class), the weight of the package and the date you'll be shipping the package.

An etopps card in a bubble-lined mailer is three ounces. You pay a few nickels more to cover the delivery confirmation expense which is well-worth the price in the long-run if you get someone saying they haven't received their package from you yet. When you plug in this information, you click a confirm button to get to the payment page and it tells you how much will be deducted from your paypal account for the shipping label.

When you click the Pay button, another window pops open to print the label. After clicking print, you have yourself a shipping page that can be cut out with scissors and taped to the package. I highly recommend purchasing shipping label pages that has one label you can peel out per page rather than two labels per page because the print out also provides a receipt of the transaction including the delivery confirmation number which is good to have for your records.

I use to provide me with these labels and you can buy them in quanitity of 100. Trust me: after using scissors and shipping tape to cut out and stick on these shipping labels a few dozen times, having the luxury of peeling off freshly-printed labels that saves you time is well worth the price of those labels.

When applying the label whether they are from shipping label pages or from plain paper, I recommend applying the label on top of where the mailer flap is sealed. It's an extra level of protection and let's the buyer know whether or not the shipment has been tampered with.

If you get a multiple-card order and the shipment weighs more than 13 ounces, you have to bring the shipment into a post office to mail it. You cannot just stick it in a mailbox. I made the mistake of waiting in line just to hand over shipments that I had paid the night before via paypal. Don't be like me: walk past the long holiday lines and tell the post office clerk what you have in your hands has been paid for already and they'll tell you where to place the packages.

So this is another advantage: by paying for the packages at home you don't have to wait in line at the post office.

In sum, shipping is the least exciting aspect of being an ebay seller but by following a few professional steps and saving time by printing out shipping labels via paypal, it's not such a bad thing and your buyers will notice this.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Marketwatch - December 5

As of today, December 5 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:

Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 433
Sell-Through: 37.41%
Average starting price: $3.42
Average final price: $10.49

Highest Single Card Sale: 2008 Allen and Ginter Barack Obama, $99.00
Highest Mult-Card Sale: Mickey Mantle Collection, $340
Highest Graded Sale: 2003 LeBron James, PSA 10, $49.99
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2001 Albert Pujols, $699
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None

Other best sellers:

* 2002 Babe Ruth Classic Baseball
* 2001 Reggie Wayne
* 2008 Allen & Ginter Superbowl Champs - Terry Bradshaw
* 2008 Manny Ramirez

In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2008 Barack Obama: 15 bids

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Seth Godin's Blog: High Cost of Now

Here's a great blog post from Seth Godin about immediate gratification. Think etopps when you read it.

I recommend subscribing to his blog. It's one of the best on marketing.

Auto Offering: A&G Terry Bradshaw

Finally Terry Bradshaw is being offered. It was listed as a prize (or two) in the pigskin challenge earlier this football season and the wait has been long, after two other Allen and Ginter Superbowl Champion autographs (the two Joes).

We are now halfway through the Superbowl Champions set for autographs. It looks like etopps is keeping its word after the voting took place at this summer's econ in favor of these cards getting signed.

Methinks the last one or two of these will be offered deep in the playoffs and possibly the last one days before the Super Bowl.

As mentioned already, this is being offered later than expected. And it is also being offered later than expected for some reason. At first auto offerings occurred at noon EST until there was a glitch in the auto pilot programming at etopps for one particular auto that got pushed back three hours and has stayed that way ever since. And now this auto has been pushed forward a day and so has the homepage announcement. So will this be a new trend: homepage announcement on Tuesdays and the offering on Fridays? I think we'll see next week.

I think Friday would be a better choice. Fridays are usually paydays for people and having money in their pockets may encourage people to buy the autos. From my experience I have more sales on Fridays than other days of the work week. Sometimes I don't get paid until Friday if someone has purchased or won an auction from me on ebay on a Sunday and other times I have had people tell me they will pay me on Friday...after they get their paycheck.

So at $149.99 a pop (total 50) is this auto worth it from an ebay seller's pov? Two things don't look so good for this. The price and the quality of the signature. It looks scrunched and the pen too thick. Terry Bradshaw isn't a short name, 13 characters if you don't include a space (which he didn't).

We've seen between a FB Classic and the AG, the FB Classic sold out for Joe Montana and the secondary market has not been kind so far for autos from this set.

When you do a completed listing search on ebay for his name and the word auto, there's not much action going on. Signed jerseys and footballs are the high-end offerings that mostly do not sell.

The best listing that's equivalent to the auto offering on Friday is this link. It's a pretty good sale and the signature is on the card. What's nice is the numbering of the card is written: 08/50.

If you consider selling this card, I would hold off selling this as a pre-sell in hopes of getting a better signature than what etopps is showing on their website. If you use the available picture for a pre-sell, good luck.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Instead Of An Autograph Offering

Two things have occurred with etopps autograph offerings as of late that has my head scratching. They never showed what the autographs for the Bo Jacksons would look like -- a first in a while --which is a snub to the pre-sellers. And secondly, they didn't offer an autograph this week as if they got the weeks mixed up between last week's Thanksgiving and this week. Hmm.

So what to write about in its place. I opted not to write anything but with a Killian's Red next to me and the tunes from coming out of my laptop in my basement while I write this, I thought I should give a little something about myself for filler.

In early April of 2002 I was watching spring training Mets on tv in my Brooklyn apartment. I was tempted to flip through channels when the commercials came on between innings when I saw something that caught my eye.

The recession hadn't hit full-force yet and the dotcom bubble was only beginning to have its full effect as well. I had missed all of the dotcom stock market get-rich opportunities, looking in from the outside with a certain amount of envy.

And a commercial, of all things, stirred the entrepreneur in me that afternoon in my Brooklyn apartment. Of all things (again), slick flashes of online baseball cards mixed with high profit percentages had me logging onto the internet with my dial-up connection to see more of what I saw. I could say the rest is history at any point and end this post. But I won't.

Etopps wasn't easy to swallow at first. I had sworn off baseball cards nearly ten years before and revisiting anything related to it felt like I was going against my nature to return to something I associated with who I was years ago rather than my present self. I wanted to turn the page from those days of squeezing out a little money from dealers when I had to liquidate a good part of my collection after college and the bad trades I made and the cards I misplaced and haven't found yet (1969 Nolan Ryan).

I was in search of the next big thing but I didn't believe it would be in sports cards no matter how big of a spike I was walking into.

But I had registered with etopps at the height of the Baseball Spike of 2002 and saw the profits in the graphs that people were making. (Suddenly) I found it quite easy to reconcile myself with my collecting days and shook my head over how easy it was to make at least a little profit.

I ordered Toby Hall as one of the first in-port cards. It was the second week of IPOs for the baseball season and was already kicking myself for not seeing the promo commercial a week earlier so I could be making money from the 2002 Barry Bonds that had been allocated already and was climbing higher and higher each day.

During that first IPO season I was horrible at picking out IPO winners. I remember ordering the event card for Shawn Green when he hit 4 homers in one game. It did pretty good after IPO, holding the IPO price and a little more. My most strategic move that IPO season was selling this card right after Mark Cameron hit 4 dingers in a game as well. I predicted right that etopps would issue an event card for him too so I flipped the Green event as fast as I could. Since I had been allocated two, I remember selling each one for close to $20. Somehow the gods were in my favor.

I was hooked and where I worked people knew I had some kind of an online problem...and now the rest is history.