Just to give a quick background on me, I worked at Beckett Media (nee Beckett Publications) for nearly two decades and also wrote a very popular column for Sports Collectors Daily called Rich Klein’s Ramblings. for about five years.. While I was at Beckett, I edited the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards and Collectibles which, by the time I left Beckett, had a data base of over 25,000 sets to keep track of. I had to know about cards from 1869 to the present day and knowing baseball history was always a big help in cataloguing and pricing those sets in the data base
Due to personal family reasons — my continuing to run card shows in the DFW area and some issues with my wife’s health — I have taken an hiatus from writing. In addition, frankly I was pretty burned out feeling the need to keep adding content every few days. The good news is going forward I may contribute some content as I feel like it for this fine blog but not feel I have to create an article on a daily or weekly basis.
What you are about to see is an adaption of notes from comments I made on the Blowout Card message board in relation to someone wishing to run their own show. These notes are what I felt interesting in commenting on when people set up their shows. This is based not only on my nearly three years of running shows but nearly 40 years of attending shows.
Promote, Promote, Promote — anything less than your full effort leads to disappointment. If there are any stores near you see if you can co-opt them for help. One great step is to see if they will let you put out flyers. Many card stores today know their customers are tuned into the hobby and realize EBay is a bigger competitor than any shows. We received free cards to give away to kids at the last 3 shows of the year that way. All it cost them was dead inventory and a few business cards. And who can complain if potential customers are coming in the door.
MONEY: Stay within your budget. Don’t shoot for the moon — take the single and be happy before going for the gusto. We all want the show where hundreds of people walk through the door but I will tell you we average between 76-100 people each month at the Comfort Inn show I run. Our low is 45 and our high is 154 paid.
Admission charges: I charge $1 as much for head count purposes as to make any money on the customers. Since I keep track of attendees, believe it or not our lowest head count with the one exception of the 45 people (because there was a big competing show that weekend) has been our December shows where we have FREE admission. Yep, less people
Door Prizes — DO SOMETHING. One of the major frustrations I have as an attendee is there is a local promoter who runs “bigger” shows twice a year with a $5 admission charge. If you are gong to charge that much money, give away something, even if it is 1988 Topps or Donruss packs.
Signs: Make sure you are legally able to put out promotional signs. If you are, then it helps for you or someone you delegate to put out those signs where people can see them. One local DFW promoter has a big sign he puts on his truck on a heavily traveled street and that does at times bring in new customers.
Food at the shows: That depends on your location — at the Comfort Inn we are not allowed to have anyone sell food and the hotel does not offer. However, I can bring in Bagels for breakfast or Pizza for Lunch for the dealers and that is perfectly fine. Check with your venue on this one.
At Adat Chaverim — because of religious dietary laws, we do provide food but we also let vendors bring in food as long as there is no pork or shellfish products.
Tables with cloths: Cloths can be cheap — don’t be afraid to go to Party City if your venue does not have cloths.
Showcase rentals — Only at a huge show. There is no reason for the promoter to be in charge of this unless they wish. If there is a vendor who has extra showcases, then that is who should run this part of the show for you. And yes, that is their business, not the promoter’s business.
Customer and Dealer comfort:. Well yes, this is a bigger issue. I think a better way to say this is to ensure there is enough space for customers to walk around. This is a very delicate balance as you do not want so much room that the room appears empty You also do not want so little room that dealers have to crawl under their tables to walk around or for customers to literally have to “bump” each other to walk around. A great way to ensure your venue works is to have them do a mock set up for you. That way you are not surprised come show day. I always ask for a mock set up so I can see how the room works. We have now three options at the Comfort Inn and they are now familiar with our various options as they took photos of each option so the room can be set up accurately each month.
Tax id # verifications. Make sure YOU as the promoter have one. It’s up to your dealers to have this for themselves but if tax people show up — the dealers must comply or leave the show. Since that is all part of being a dealer, in case that occurs, it’s up to you as to refunding the money for their tables. That is, if they refuse to sign up for the tax ID.
Clean up after the show (people will leave trash on the floor) — Yes and make sure you have garbage pails in the room. See if you have to do that or if your place has help on this front. Most places have some staff to handle this but yes it is worth checking out. If a hotel, then they will have staff to handle this. I have actually been to shows with no garbage pails in the room. If there is no wax dealer this is not usually that bad but then you have to guarantee you have a garbage bag to clean up if people eat lunch in the room.
Light outlets, charge stations — Depends on the room. You have no control over certain parts of the room. It’s nice to have this but you have no control over what the venue already has extant.
Fliers to promote your next show. YES something tangible is always good. Heck, if you are wiling to spend the money each month one of the very best promotional tools is to send out a postcard each month to everyone’s home address.
Hand stamp for reentry, and Name Tags for dealers: At my Comfort Inn show I don’t usually need these but at the Adat Chaverim show because of the set-up I make sure all the dealers have name tags.
Staff to take admission; Believe it or not, I can handle this. I do lose a few cards this way but nothing tragic. And if you have a pretty young lady to take admission, that is an extra win for all concerned. There is a promoter in St. Louis who actually used a Playboy Playmate from the 1990’s to be the admission taker and to sign autographs herself. At the Adat Chaverim show, because of everything we do — there is a dedicated person at the front to take admission and sell our goodie bags.
Have a Beckett, supply and wax dealer: even if you have to do it yourself. In my case, there is a store within 3 minutes of the show and his prices on supplies are very fair. It’s easier for me to send people to his store for supplies and wax. And if they live slightly west, we send them to Nick’s which is about 15 minutes southwest of the show.. I can usually tell how good or average the show was, but seeing how many magazines I sold. it’s remarkably consistent. And if a local player is on the cover of the magazines, order more and sell those back issues. At my last show I sold more Beckett FB magazines with Dak Prescott on the cover than I did of the current magazine. And yes, the prices of the 2 magazines were the same. Plus, they have a full return policy which you can follow so there is little risk on this
Promote on all the websites you can: blowout, net54, psa boards, Beckett’s calendar, Facebook groups (social media), and local papers/message boards. Start your own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, youtube, yelp, live blog, etc. Especially when you begin, the promotion is super important. I have a good friend who tried to run a show about 18 months ago. When we discussed the show, I informed him that to begin a show he had to spend most of the next two months focusing on promoting, promoting, promoting. Despite having Beckett raw card review available and a very nice autograph guest, he has run exactly one show and shows no inclination of going for a second show.
Be nice to everyone – this can be difficult! For the life of me I can not understand the attitudes of people at shows. Make sure to greet as many customers as possible. Its better for them to have a positive experience with the show’s promoter to offset any other issues they may have. That is one reason I like to greet the people at the door and even check when possible on the way out to see if they purchased anything. Now there are a few customers who occasionally come looking for things they likely won’t find (a Mark Teixeira master collector, a 19th century collector) but it never hurts to see what they want.
The other thing is NOT to be a pushover, if you are charging admission — honor that. There are reasonable exceptions. Kids and significant others I usually let in for free. Kids because it’s fun and the significant others are not usually there to purchase cards. But you never know when they come back to buy gifts. I sold a card a few months ago at a local show to a spouse who saw her husband going through my cards and she mentally noted which ones he wanted. But as a promoter do not be a pushover at the door. If you think someone is trying to take advantage of your admission, then feel free to charge them. I had a situation where in our previous location, someone waltzed in, and when I checked for admission he said I can buy everything cheaper on line and left. His wife was very willing to pay the $1 admission for each of them. Really sad in that case.
Get as many dealers as you can but remember everyone. Give priority to dealers that customers like, sell hard to find cards, are nice people, or those that bring in customers. Believe it or not, one thing I do with my dealers — and it’s a reasonably small room is first come, first severed (FOR THE MOST PART). I have a few dealers I like to have as anchors but move others around so the room looks different each time. If you end up with a core of dealers, most of that will take care of itself.We’ll also eventually revisit some ideas for customers and dealers at shows as well.
Rich Klein has been an active hobbyist since his first show as a dealer in 1979