Scavenger Life Episode 506: We Don’t Have The Luxury Of Being Mediocre

https://archive.org/download/scavengerlife_podcast_episode506/scavengerlife_podcast_episode506.mp3

3/14/21 – 3/20/21

Total items in store: 2295

Items sold: 84

Gross sales: $3178.98 (up 200.3% from this week last year)

Net sales: $2153.19 (up 226.4% from this week last year)

Highest price sold: $187.74 — an autograph rookie refractor (refractor = shiny) of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager graded 9 mint

Lowest price sold: $11.97 — a plain, unadorned rookie draft card of Australian basketball player Joe Ingles, who was not drafted and only has a few rookie cards

Last week, my sales were slightly higher because I had about 10 sales of $75-$100 and 10 sales of $100 or more. This week was much more typical (at least for crazy stimulus sports card bubble times): 8 from $75-$100 and 4 over $100.

Even when I sell 84 items, I never have 84 packages to send out because I always have a few buyers who purchase multiple items. This week, I had one sale of 12 items to one buyer for $170 less Canada shipping and fees.

All 12 items were different hockey players printing plates. Printing plates are the various colors (black/yellow/cyan/magenta) used in stamping ink on the cards. Most manufacturers insert printing plates plates as a “hit card” every x number of packs or boxes, often with an accompanying autograph from the player, or a piece of their jersey. A few manufacturers use the plates to create a new product, like the Panini Plates & Patches set. You receive at least one printing plate and patch card in every Plates & Patches box, but the name is mostly branding. There are lots of regular cards beyond the plates and patches cards, though “regular cards” in most sets in 2021 often have an autograph, a piece of jersey and/or some kind of foil/colorful design and serial number.

Have I mentioned how high the cost of buying a box of trading cards is in 2021? Each five card box of 2020 Plates & Patches football cards will set you back at least $375. That’s over $60 for each card, and Plates & Patches is not even a premium expensive brand! It’s pretty run of the mill average in terms of pricing. The most high-end boxes run $1000 or more for a box of 5-10 cards, so you can do the math at how absurdly expensive a 12-box case gets. Most collectors don’t get their cards through buying boxes anymore. They either buy or trade for individual cards or purchase “their” team (or player) in “box breaks” or “case breaks.” Here is a very well-written article on case breaks that explains the process better than I can.

https://www.si.com/mlb/2020/05/04/breaking-the-fall-sports-cards-and-the-pandemic

I know what breaks are, but I’ve never participated in one since it’s basically all luck. No need to take a shortcut and gamble when I already have a system where I can make money as long as I put in the work. I originally purchased the plates I sold this week through various eBay auctions last month, all from the same seller. This is very common with trading cards, most sellers use auctions, but it’s an inefficient way to sell and prices vary a lot. I suspect many eBay trading card sellers need to sell this week to pay for their purchases next week. In fact, I was like that for a few years. It’s only this past year where I’ve truly broken out of it, somewhat from the increased demand (more people buying cards) but mostly from smarter buying habits.

Like these plates. The 12 plates I sold this week cost me just over $5 each, and even after shipping to Canada and fees, I made a tidy $90 profit. I had each plate listed at $20 and I had already sold some other plates at that price. But I had the flexibility to go down to $15 or even $10 and still make a profit, and whenever I get a buyer who sends me a bunch of offers at the same time, I’m always inclined to take it.

I have a new lot purchase of over 100 plates in the mail which I’m looking forward to. Sadly, this will probably be my last cache of plates until next year’s sets come out. But at least I went out with a bang. I got very lucky with my winning bid and only paid about $3.50 for each plate. Most will get listed at $20 with a few at higher prices if the players are collectible or popular. A handful will sell within twenty-four hours of listing, as collectors often focus on a certain player and set up saved searches (e.g. ‘Mario Lemieux plate’) to alert them to new listings so they don’t miss their players’ cards (especially the rare ones) before another collector snaps them up. They have to be quick, especially with the most desirable cards. I’ll make back my initial ~$400 investment with the first 25 or so that sell, and then the rest is all profit.

I loved this week’s podcast so much. Inspiring and grounded at the same time. It’s so important to find something that’s worth putting in the extra time and effort on, like the thoughtful things you include for guests who stay at your Air BnB’s.

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