Selling US Sports Cards in the UK

OK – for starters I’m no retailer! Wouldn’t have a clue how to start setting up a small business or what the whole thing entails… VAT, tax returns, etc, etc… Makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever!!

For anyone who’s not aware my background is in IT, on the software/database side rather than the coding/developing!

Need a database building and configuring? – I’m your man!

Need some software installing with some networking thrown in? – Step aside kids, Big Daddy coming through!!

But retail?? Wouldn’t know where to start!

However this hasn’t deterred me from wanting to start selling sports cards to the UK and the rest of Europe. I’m not talking about a major career change or anything like that, just selling on a small scale to give collectors over here the chance to get hold of boxes and packs at a reasonable price, rather than having to worry about importing stuff from overseas with higher shipping costs and the risk of excessive import charges. I wouldn’t even be interested in making vast amounts of profit, just enough to keep ticking over and to keep the product coming in!

But sadly this may never happen for a variety of different reasons.

I recently contacted Topps via Twitter to see if there had ever been any consideration about selling US sports cards from an overseas base, and here’s what I got back –

Twitter

My thanks to Topps for responding to this but they didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t guessed already!

Basically, we don’t have a big enough market over here to sustain a sports card business!

I imagine that if you took all of the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL Hobby fans across the UK and Europe (you could probably throw in the rest of the world as well), you still probably wouldn’t come close to scratching the surface of the number of collectors in the US and Canada!

I’ve also pointed out in previous posts that the collectors market over here is waaaayyyy too fragmented, in tastes as well as geography. Trying to gauge collecting habits is a near impossibility as collectors have really eclectic tastes. For instance it’s incredibly difficult to pin down a specific number of set collectors,  team collectors or player collectors. I know of a couple of Mets fans; a Red Sox fan; a Cubs fan — snigger –; a Rays fan; a Prospects collector; a Vintage collector… the list goes on.

With a larger market like the US it’s pretty much inevitable you’ll be able to cover all collecting demographics, but over here… no chance!

So Case Breaks will be out of the question for a start!

I’ve sold packs of regular Topps on eBay and these have been really popular. I’ve also sold packs of Heritage and they were more difficult to shift until I lowered the price to a level where I just broke even on the box. It’s difficult to tell which products are likely to sell without taking a potential hit to your wallet, so there’s always a degree of risk involved as well. You’d also have to stick to low to mid-level products as high-end would be out of most peoples budgets and you’d be guaranteed to take a loss on something like Tier 1 or Triple Threads.

So selling Baseball cards on their own won’t work!

There is a possibility of opening up things a bit by selling cards from other US sports but on a personal level I don’t know a great deal about those other sports, so understanding the target audience there will be more difficult. Despite this I imagine that their collecting habits will be just as diverse as those of Baseball card collectors in this smaller market.

There is one retailer based in Germany – The All American Sports Store – which sells a whole host of US sports stuff, of which cards are just a small part of their business. So with extra items such as clothing (jerseys, caps, and so on), sports figures, sports DVDs/Blu-Rays, Posters, Non-Sports cards, and a load of other stuff, having extra revenue streams to fall back on can offset any losses made through selling sports cards so there’s less of a risk with this larger type of business.

*

So where does that leave us?

Unfortunately I can’t see a fledgling sports card business ever catching hold in the UK, certainly not on a small scale as I originally envisioned. A too small and diverse marketplace means that such a venture could never properly take off, at least not without a hugely significant risk for the seller.

Starting small and building up could work, particularly around boxes and packs, but might take forever to properly get going and will always be limited to the different types of card product that collectors would be willing to buy.

Diversifying the product base would be a better course of action, but this would involve a bigger financial outlay in the early stages and would transform a venture that what was initially envisaged as a ‘small-scale’ operation into something akin to a full-time occupation!

I’ve been selling various types of Baseball cards on eBay for a few years now to UK buyers so I know that there’s a market out there. Unfortunately it’s knowing who those people are and guaranteeing that they’ll offer up repeat business to keep things going – that’s one of the hardest parts. Even with the packs that I’ve been selling, very rarely are the same people coming back to buy more. Maybe they will with different products on offer but it’s too big a risk from a financial point of view.

Sadly it looks as if my ‘dream’ of selling Baseball cards on a part-time basis won’t ever work in the way I’d like it to. Bringing product over from the US has been made more difficult due to the recent USPS price hikes, which means that those rises will end being passed on directly to the collectors.

I’ll keep on plugging away just to see how it goes. I’ll be doing my level best to reach out to a few traders in the US in the near future, in an effort to secure the best price possible in an effort to keep prices low at my end.

But I guess we’ll still have to keep on using the usual channels such as eBay and COMC to get hold of our cards for the foreseeable future.

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4 thoughts on “Selling US Sports Cards in the UK

  1. That would be nice- a UK based seller of US product, but unfortunaltely a pipe dream. The Topps twitter was right, not enough demand. They tried in 1988, 1989 to make a baseball (and football) product for the UK market (it was actually printed in Ireland) but it didn’t sell very well.
    I tried contacting Panini with a similar suggestion, who told me that Panini Europe and Panini US are two different entities altogether. I even suggested just adding some boxes of US sports related product with the orders in Panini Europe just to see if it would float and even offered my services to sell the stuff (although I’m not sure how I could bring myself to sell baseball packs) but was told they already have distributors in the UK (how would you become one of these ???) but not for US only products like Triple Play, Cooperstown, etc
    So although I would support a UK based seller, it didn’t always work out as less expensive alternative. Until the recent US postage changes that is.
    But your right the UK baseball card collecting fan base has very different tastes.

  2. I am not into collecting cards but for several part of the globe I believe there are baseball fanatics willing to buy your stuff for their passions sake and the love for the sport but for now UK is not the place but as you said everyone has their own taste regarding this and you should decide what’s good for you.

  3. Topps’ Match Attax cards (UK Premiership soccer) are huge in UK and Ireland in the same way Baseball cards are in US. Also non-sports cards are very popular. Topps are now adding a digital overlay to their Marvel Hero Attax cards in Europe, but this is geolocated to be blocked in the US.

  4. Hi!

    My name is Joana and I am writing you to know, in general, what is the value for which can sell these cards! I do not know how many there are, but they are thousands of cards, of baseball, hockey and some of basketball, from 80′ and 90′. I have some autographed too. Selling the whole lot, as could be worth? Can you help me? Send me your e-mail to I show you the cards with a video. Thanks a lot!

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