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How to Prepare to Attend Your First Card Show

Sports card shows can be a little daunting looking from the outside in. With hundreds of tables, often thousands of strangers, and deals being made all around it can feel more like Wall Street than a place to buy cardboard. Often, fears of not being ready or prepared can flood the mind of an attendee. Did you bring enough money, did you bring cards for trade, and did you remember to wear deodorant can all be questions we ask ourselves the moment we walk through the doors. In this article we will discuss how you can prepare yourself for your first card show and watch the anxieties melt away.

Key Takeaways

  1. Before you get to the card show
    • Know how to look up comps (previously sold prices on cards)
    • Install and setup apps like CashApp, Venmo, Paypal
  2. Bring:
    • Cards you want to sell or trade,
    • Something to hold your card purchases, like a box of cards or a backpack including extra penny sleeves and top loaders,
    • Cell phone portable charging bank
    • Bottled water and a snack
    • Cash in addition to wallet apps like CashApp, Venmo, Paypal
  3. At the card show:
    • Take a lap around the venue and check out all the tables
    • Try to work out a deal with one of the vendors
    • Work on forming connections

Before You Leave Home

Before you even head off to the show there are a few things you should consider. For starters, you should know how to look up comps or previously sold prices on cards. For most vendors/ sellers they will use eBay for previous sale prices or 130 point for best offers that were accepted (which eBay won’t show you). In the case you may not know how to use the eBay app to look up previous sales it’s very simple. Download the app and type the card into the search bar you’re looking for, next tap on the filter and scroll all the way down to sold items (you may have to tap on show more), and lastly select show results. This will show you what the card generally sells for and also ensures you are not getting ripped off.

Looking at sold card auctions on eBay can give you a sense of the value of cards.

What to Bring to a Card Show

Next, you’ll need to bring something to hold all your purchases. As we all know, the condition of our cards determine their value. The last thing we want to do is shove them into our pockets or into a plastic sack where they bounce around and damage each other. Instead, bring a two-row box or backpack and make sure the cards you’re buying are in sleeves and top loaders. If they are not, bring extras of those as well to protect your cards.

Bring cards you may want to sell or trade out of. Often, a dealer will buy at sixty to seventy percent of a card’s value and trade at eighty to ninety percent of a card’s value to ensure they turn a profit. Don’t be afraid to pass on an offer if you feel it isn’t fair or you change your mind, the best vendors will work with you.

With so many tools being on your phone, I would also suggest being a portable charging bank, because the last thing you want is to call off a deal due to a dead phone. Also, bring a bottle of water and a snack, if you’re determined to find the deals of the show you don’t want to step away or leave just to grab a bite, just make sure your hands are clean when you get back to handling cards. 

Lastly, you obviously don’t want to forget your cash or let alone your wallet but I would also suggest downloading apps such as Venmo, Cashapp, and Paypal. In the world we live in today, a good vendor is versatile and takes several forms of payment. While cash is the easiest way, a vendor may not always have perfect change. These will also work well if you bump into someone else at the show who is there to buy or sell, but isn’t a vendor. 

At the Card Show

Everyone who goes to a card show has a goal in mind, typically they are either looking for a good flip or looking for the next card to add to their collection. Either way, there are a few things you should do right when you walk in.

Take a lap around the venue and look at all the tables. Take note of where cards are that you are interested in (you can use the notes app on your phone to do this) and come back after you’ve been able to compare prices. By doing this you’ll save money and you’ll be able to get more cards or memorabilia. 

Try to work out a deal with one of the tables. Demeanor that individual shows will tell you a lot about how the deal may go. If they don’t have prices on cards or are firm on prices you know are too high, thank them for their time and move on. Vendors that have fair prices, work on trades, are friendly, give bulk offers, and let you confirm card conditions are all great signs that this person is much easier to work with. 

Work on forming some connections. Whether it be with someone you just met or someone you’ve worked with in the past, networking and getting their information can be huge. Often when this happens you find someone with the same passion as yourself and you find that this can be a huge positive. Perhaps you overlooked something and they saw it, they will let you know. Or maybe they have a friend that is getting rid of their collection and they mention you as a potential buyer. Connecting with hobbyists can be a huge asset in your journey of buying, selling, trading, and collecting when you look out for others and they look out for you.

After the Show

Once your show is over and you are home there are very few housekeeping items to do. To start you can look and see how well you did at the show. Did you get everything you wanted or perhaps you were on the bad side of a deal? Look back and see what you did and remember down the road so that you can fix errors you may have made. Also, look into your budget and see how you did there. If you walked away with a ton of cards you liked but not a lot left in your budget, that’s not a bad thing. You’ll have time to work and grow that bankroll for the next show. If you only walk away with a few cards and most of your bankroll do not despair. You bought what you wanted and you can always bring that money next time. There’s also always options such as eBay or COMC where you can go to get prices that may be more friendly for you as a buyer.

At the End of the Day

In the end, being prepared for a card show can be a huge advantage, whether it is your first show or not. Taking a lap around and practicing patience can turn your show from a good one to a great one. Don’t be afraid to go through dollar boxes and find hidden gems or haggle with people over their prices. Learn and grow with each experience as your card collecting journey moves into the future and don’t get down on mistakes and bad buys. We all do it and no one is perfect, the most important thing is that you enjoy the atmosphere and have a great time. Sports cards are not about becoming rich, but rather about what we collect along the way.

Ibreak Cards

Sports card YouTuber! Chiefs, Cardinals, Royals, Galaxy, and USA soccer fan! setting up at a card show near you! Check out my YouTube channel.

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