These days, there are plenty of places to get your sports card and trading card fix. From online auction sites like eBay to big box retail stores like Target and Walmart, your local card shop differs from your local card shop near you. In this article, I will share how to find your local sports card shop and my experience with sports card shops near me.
A True local card shop lets you peruse vintage cards for sale, discover boxes and packs of new offerings, and even find related collectibles or memorabilia you might be interested in. Sharing your collecting experience and developing a relationship with other collectors and card dealers is a great experience.
What Will I Find at My Local Trading Card Shop?
Your local card shop usually has many things for purchase, such as sports trading cards and other trading cards, vintage items, collectible figurines and posters, comic books and graphic novels, games, and many other unique articles. Because of how many different things they sell, you can expect it to feel disorganized and overwhelming. Some items are more efficiently organized, like sports or collectible card packs, retail boxes, vintage, and other unique cards in plastic sheets. Other collectibles like jerseys, helmets, or figurines don’t usually lend themselves to organization. The more you are prepared with an idea of what you are looking for, the easier the owner or employees can help you find it.
How to Find What You Need at Your LCS:
Local card shops are different, typically small shops in a strip mall. Even though they differ in size and concerning what they carry, there are usually some consistent features you’ll see:
- Glass Display Case / Counter: Sometimes, there are more than one of these. In the counter/case, you’ll find unique or vintage cards with a higher price tag. These are fun to look through, but if you know what you are looking for, it’s best to ask for help.
- Retail Card Displays: I’ve seen these on tables, on counters, or for some types of cards behind the counters. Many people buy whole retail boxes, so there are several with the top one of each kind open so you can purchase by the pack.
- Card or Comic Book Display: Normally, these are long organized rows on top of tables. Comics will have labels for what they are, allowing you to flip through them quickly. Cards in these displays are usually cheaper and sometimes will be what we consider “dime boxes.”
- Jerseys/Clothing: Jerseys and other clothing items will be either in racks on the wall or, if there is enough floor space, like a department store in the middle of the floor. You can usually find some movies, anime, or other themed clothing.
- Autographed Memorabilia: Pictures or framed jerseys could be on the wall; if not prepared, the pictures could be displayed so you can flip through them. Other items like helmets could be on shelves. The key to these items’ price is whether they are authenticated <>.
- Collectibles: Starting Lineup figures, gnomes, or bobbleheads would be found on shelves or other displays throughout the store.
- Books, Magazines, and Price Guides: Sometimes, you can find a shelf or display of magazines, price guides, and some books about the hobby.
- Card Organization: Usually you can find some binder, plastic sheets and things like that. Sometimes the choice isn’t great as the store will focus on the better products – cards!
Sports Card Shops Near Me – How To Choose:
The only way you can decide which trading card store is best for you, if you are lucky enough to have a choice, is to go there yourself. The benefit of going to a bricks-and-mortar local collectible card shop is to see the items in person and enjoy some time with other collectors. Seeing the card you are buying is critical. Even though you can see a picture of a card online, you always need to find out if you will get something different. In a card shop, if you want THAT card, you get THAT card.
The most important thing when I visit a sports card shop near me is that the staff or owner is friendly and helpful. You want to feel like they value your business. You don’t want to feel like they are taking you for a ride if you try to buy something. If you are uncomfortable, don’t buy it and go somewhere else. Also, they should know their products and their store. As I said earlier, many stores need to look more organized, but a good card dealer or staff member will know what they have and where.
Beyond that, I would focus on the selection of sports cards. Maybe they need to focus more on trading cards and memorabilia. They may be more focused on comics. Either way, you need to find a collectible card store that gets you what you want. Card and hobby shops are less prevalent these days, so many times, they have a variety to meet the needs of many different interests.
If you are interested in autographed items, ensure there is a certificate of authenticity from a place like PSA or others. If not, make sure it’s not being billed as authentic and not being priced as accurate. It all goes back to how much you trust the local card shop.
Can I Find Sports Cards at Other Collectible Shops Near Me?
Sports Cards and other Trading Cards are available in other stores, but you must be willing to look. The most apparent type of store to try is a comic book or collectibles store. The selection and number of cards could be better, but if you are desperate enough to be looking in other areas, this might be enough. Often, the selection tends to be older (not vintage, but not recent) in these stores because the product stays on the shelf like in sports card shops.
If you are willing to be even less “traditional” about where you look, you’ll have the chance to find some of the standard offerings. You probably won’t find the high-end packs, but I’ve seen some exciting options this way:
Other Places You May Find Cards Locally-
- Small Variety Stores: I compare these to the old 5-and-Dime stores. The key is giving the whole store a good look, as the cards are only sometimes in a prominent place. Also, only some versions of that store carry the same product. Try sites like Five Below, The Dollar Store, Dollar General, and the like.
- Collectibles Stores: Places like a Hallmark store can display a small card choice display. They usually aren’t fabulous, but I’ve found something interesting in these stores over the years.
- Mid-Sized Retail Pharmacies: This is a little less likely, but CVS and Rite Aid will carry cards from time to time. They usually place them on an end cap towards the middle of the store. Usually, the packs are hanging up and not in boxes.
Big Box Retailers – Trading Card Stores for the Masses:
The best option when you don’t have a local card shop might be a large retailer such as Target or Walmart. In the last few years, and with things blowing up with the card industry, these stores have taken a turn for the worse for us collectors. Long lines, people waiting to deplete product as soon as it hits shelves, vultures who don’t even let the product get that far, and hassle distributors have made things turn for the worse. Most of these aisles will only have Pokemon and game cards these days. But you can find products there if you hit it at the right time.
- Target: Target was my favorite non-card shop source for cards. No matter what sport you want, they have a good selection of standard and mid-range brands and releases. Baseball and football cards were the best choices, but I usually find only some leftover hockey these days. The main products you see when you can find them are blaster boxes, hanger packs, and individual retail packs, but I’ve also found sets more recently. Sometimes, you can discover repack options as well. The specific caveat for Target is that they’ve started to limit how much you can purchase in one visit. The sign in my Target says a limit of five (of any card product together) in one purchase. I can’t find much I want there today, so that’s a manageable limit.
- Walmart: Walmart is more hit-and-miss for me. There must be a consistent cards aisle in their stores, and each store puts it in entirely different sports. The part I hate is that usually that spot is by a register, and then you have to fight people at the records. I have yet to see limits at Walmart like Target, but it is much the same for most of the time, not much being available.
- Other Options: I’ve found cards at stores like Walgreens/Rite Aid and Barnes & Noble. The only caveat is that they must consistently have them across all their stores.
Retail isn’t worth opening for some folks, primarily hardcore collectors. But for others, it’s the most accessible thing they have (or had based on if stores have the product). I say buy what you want and don’t let others tell you something is wrong with you if it’s not what they open.
If my Local Trading Card Store Doesn’t Have It…
First, check for a flea market in your area. Flea markets usually have a local trading card dealer who brings some product and displays it on a folding table. You can generally find some good deals this way.
My favorite dealers have one of two things: cheap boxes to flip through or packaged products. I love flipping through a dime box and looking for what I need to complete a set or looking for my favorite team. But I also like when they package a selection of cards together with a theme. It could be a selection of a group or a player. Sometimes, other sellers will have cards, but they are usually the most unrealistic about pricing. Always be willing to walk away.
Second, look for yard sales. This can be a crap shoot, but yard sales are usually advertised in the paper and will list some things they have. Ideally, you can find a multi-home deal, making cards more possible.
Buying Cards Online:
Amazon is a great place to purchase cards online. Usually, you can find many cards that will be a good variety. These are great for kids to start up a collection. Some of those products will have duplicates; you never know what you will get, but I’ve had some fun with those over the years.
eBay can also be fun, but I find it stresses me out. You are still determining exactly what you will get, and depending on what you are looking for, it could get pricy.
Can I Sell My Cards at a Local Collectible Card Shop?
Normally yes. However, it does depend on the dealer. It also depends on what you are selling and how much of it. Certain cards are not worth the dealer’s time to buy. Card manufacturers over-saturated the market in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and if you are trying to get rid of those cards, they probably have plenty of them. You have to remember that they will need to sell it themselves.
I do best when trying to sell individual cards I am not interested in. Sometimes, this means something other than dealing directly with the sports card shop near you, but with another customer you met. Again, one of the benefits of finding the shops is to find a community.
Will a Sports Card Store Near Me Have Organizers and Binders?
They should. If they focus on Sports Cards, they will likely have some. The selection could be better, but they have some basics, like binders and plastic pages that hold cards. If they don’t, I would ask them their opinion on what they recommend and where to get it from, even if it’s online. Stores that focus on many other things, like comic books, usually will not have these items.
How Else Can I Find Out About Sports Card Shops Near Me?
The next best place to find out about dealers and trading card shops near me is to go to a card show. Where I live, this is usually a group of dealers and collectors that get together in a small hotel’s meeting room. But a few tables together and open up the doors. Ask them if they are coming from a store or where they would suggest going. Building these relationships can help you find what you need.
Go ahead and use Google or Yelp. Some excellent search terms are Sports Card Shops Near Me, Baseball Card Shops Near Me, Sports Memorabilia Near Me, or Trading Card Shops Near Me.
Can I get Discounts or Coupons for Sports Cards?
Sports Card Shops are usually different from the place to find discounts. The big box retailers are your best bet for that. There are three ways that you can find deals. First, in recent years, Topps has included discount stickers outside their packages. These will usually offer a free pack when you buy a blaster box. Second, Topps sometimes includes coupon booklets in their blaster boxes. You can find $1 off coupons or a free back of one product when you buy another. These first two are usually found at Target. Walmart and Walmart typically offer discounts on older blaster boxes. Last year’s blasters have to go somehow, and knocking $5 off the price helps.
The History of Sports Card Shops:
Sports card shops first opened in the 1970s as the collecting of cards started growing from a hobby for kids to a business for adults. Some dealers worked independently by appointment, and others went all the way and opened a trading card shop. As baseball cards became more and more valuable, the validity of the stores only grew.
In the late ’70s through the mid to late ’80s, three things changed the hobby: Beckett’s price guide, Topps losing its monopoly, and the flooding of the market.
1979, Dr. James Beckett and Dennis Eckes published The Sports Americana Guide to Baseball Cards. This publication gave baseball card collectors information about how much their baseball cards were worth. If your Mom still needed to throw out their cards, those who collected as kids were inspired to find those old cards and return to the hobby. Old cards were reintroduced to the market.
Demand for cards only increased, and the manufacturers were happy to oblige. Topps lost its monopoly, and Donruss and Fleer entered the market in the early 80’s, giving more choices. Speculators would grab rookie cards, as many as they could take. Some would pan out, others not so much. Errors were like gold. By the end of the 80’s, the market was flooded with what we now refer to as junk wax.
1989 brought in Upper Deck, a high-quality and limited production set with a higher price. Collectors were paying more than a dollar per pack. There was a great reaction by collectors, and the other manufacturers started moving in that direction. Prices soared, and the hobby lost the younger collector who couldn’t keep up with the adults who could afford the top-end cards, hoping they had magic in a pack.
The baseball strike in 1994 was a damper on a lot of collectors. Then, the rise of the internet and eBay gave collectors access to much more than before. Sports card shops would be on the decline quickly. Sports card shops are difficult to find these days. When you find a local card shop, you’ve got nostalgia gold.
Read also: Cherokee Trading Post.