How I Built My Sports Card Business

The following post gives a first-hand account of how Kevin Burge was able to turn a childhood hobby into a thriving business and built a loyal community of customers along the way.

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My interest in sports cards and memorabilia started when I was just a young kid. Fast-forward to the present and I am an accomplished collector, trader, and businessperson in this field who’s been able to turn something I love into revenue.

So how did I make a flourishing career out of a fun pastime? And what does it take to make it in this industry? 

Here’s a look at my journey into the sports card business below.

Discovering Sports Cards

When I was just eight years old, I made my first foray into the wide world of sports cards and memorabilia. As a child growing up in Winston-Salem, Cooks Flea Market was a frequent destination, which was the most popular flea market in the area. It was there that I first started buying, collecting, and trading sports cards.  

I continued to do this for several years and eventually even set up my own stalls to sell trading cards. In this way, I got a head start learning about this business, and these experiences essentially laid the groundwork for my future career. 

My First Job in the Industry

Buying and selling sports trading cards at Cooks and other flea markets in Winston-Salem wasn’t my only occupation in the industry as a kid. When I was 10, I started doing some rather basic work at Field of Dreams in my hometown and put together boxes that held sports cards.

While the work wasn’t as exciting as buying, selling, and trading, every job in the sports cards industry had something to teach me. I was simply happy to be in the field as it were, doing anything related to my newfound passion. I continued with Field of Dreams, learning all I could glean about the business, in addition to working flea markets until I was 18 years old.

The National Sports Collectors Convention

When I was 18 years old, I was first introduced to the National Sports Collectors Convention. Every year this organization holds a card show and sports memorabilia exhibition in a different city somewhere in the United States. The first one I attended was in Anaheim, California, in 1999. I’ve attended every convention since then for the past 22 years.

At most of these conventions, I set up booths and engage in buying and selling sports cards with other attendees. It’s much like what I’ve been doing at flea markets since I was younger, but on a grander scale. I’ve made a lot of connections in the industry through these conventions and gained plenty of insights from others working in this space.

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Buying, Selling, and Trading

The many years I’ve spent buying, selling, and trading sports cards at conventions, flea markets, and other gatherings have given me the bulk of my knowledge about this vast industry. There’s truly no better way to understand the value of collector’s items like these and learn how to navigate the market than by getting direct experience setting up booths and trying to get the best possible deals for trading cards.

Thanks to the time spent engaged in these markets I now have an intimate understanding of how this industry works and an edge over less-experienced competition when it comes to business savvy and valuations. 

Sports Memorabilia

After becoming an aficionado in the sports card industry, I naturally decided to try my hand at dealing and collecting sports memorabilia, as the two pastimes have a natural link. However, I quickly found many aspects of the sports memorabilia world unsavory. Namely, there were a lot of problems with forgery and fraud that put a damper on my enthusiasm for entering this niche of collectibles. 

It didn’t take long to walk away from that and remain focused on sports cards, which are after all my true calling.

Consulting

When you’ve spent as many years in the business as I have, you become an expert at valuation, rarity, pricing, and other important aspects of the trade. So, naturally, others who are interested in investing in sports cards have come to me for advice from time to time. It’s always an honor to be able to share my knowledge and expertise with someone who’s still learning the business and help them make them some money in the process by encouraging smart purchases.  

What I’ve Learned from the Industry

My experiences buying and selling sports cards have taught me the many nuances of the trade, from how to spot a fake to knowing the best time to make a deal. As a bonafide expert in the industry, my skills and insider knowledge have been immensely helpful in keeping my company running through all the economic cycles of the last couple of decades. 

Conclusion

That’s how I went from a kid with a fun hobby to a successful proprietor of a sports card business. I’m extremely grateful for everything that I’ve learned from this industry and the experiences I’ve had along the way, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am eager to pass on my passion for this business to my two children who now travel with me to card events, as well as to anybody that has a similar zeal for collecting cards.

What do you love to do? I hope you can find a way to turn that pastime into a thriving enterprise as well!

Kevin Burge
Kevin Burge writes about local sports.