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  • Writer's pictureDan Keane


My experience at a few card shows has given me a few ideas on what you need to consider when setting up a table.

Pre Show Planning

The importance of booking your vendor tickets and arranging transportation and accommodations goes without saying, so we'll skip over them.

Prior to the show, plan what you want to sell. In my experience, having a bit of everything works well. To attract buyers, add rookies, autos, patches, mixed sports, and a few oddball items to your showcase. The old saying goes, eye level is buy level, so also think where you want to place your cards in the showcase. If someone is walking past your case at a glance, make sure the interesting cards are available to see. You might have something people are looking for at the show if you keep an eye on social media.


For me, pricing and labelling your cards are very important at larger shows. You should sleeve your slabs and then apply labels. The pricing sticker can, in my experience, leave a sticky residue on the slab if you apply it directly. It's possible to not price all cards at a smaller show in order to open up a conversation, but at a larger show, people won't give you the time of day and may be frustrated.

COMP YOUR CARDS. Don't price cards on what you think they're worth but what they are actually worth! This is so important! You shouldn't sell a card unless you are happy and prepared to sell it at market price. If you're way off on comps at shows, you'll get a bad reputation, and buyers won't even look at any other cards in your display.

You should never feel pressured into making a decision. Be patient. You don't have to sell your cards if someone wants too much discount or wants to pay 70% of comps. Do not rush into a decision when someone shows you comps, take time to think about it or even explain to the buyer that you will think about it and come back to them later. You will be more successful in the long run if you take your time and remain polite.

Make it easy for people to understand the cost of each card if you have "dollar bins." Is it £1 a card, £2 a card etc. You might even want to add a label that says 5 for £4, to encourage buyers to buy more cards.

Don't be surprised if people ask for a discount or your best price. Making buyers feel better about a deal is easier when you have some wiggle room on your cards. Instead of stiffing a buyer who might feel hard done by, I'd rather break even on a card and create a good relationship for the future. A good reputation and good relationships will help you succeed in the sports cards industry.

Don't forget to bring cash, especially change! Nothing is more frustrating than having to round down a price because you don't have the fiver or tenner change! I've made this mistake, it's a schoolboy error! It's even more important if you have the "dollar bins".

Displaying your cards

When it comes to displaying your cards on your table, one question to ask yourself is: how do I display them?

You will usually only be offered a table at most shows. Personally, I use two card display cases. Having your cards protected prevents attendees from picking up your cards and walking away with them accidentally or deliberately. I purchased my case from Amazon and have linked a similar one to this post. A tablecloth is another option. In the event that you choose to print your logo on it, it is a good way to increase brand awareness.


You should also let people know you will be there and what you will be selling so they know what to expect. To get more people to visit your stand, you need to stir up a little interest. You may even close deals before the show begins! If you don't already have a brand, it's important you develop one, social media helps! Your audience will grow after the show if you have some business cards printed before the event.

Set Goals

Last but not least, set some goals before the event. Is it your intention to sell the majority of your cards without making any trades? Do you accept trades, and if so, what cards? What is your card wiggle room? Is there a cash target you are aiming for? There can be one large goal or several smaller ones, they are all personal. Set a few modest goals if this is your first show. You shouldn't set monetary goals for your first card show because you'll likely be disappointed if you don't meet them and monetary goals aren't always within your control. My goals might be, for instance, if it was my first card show:

  1. Get to know 5 attendees, follow them on social media, and discover what they're buying

  2. Convert a card into something more liquid

  3. Give away 20 business cards - you may want to direct them to your website or YouTube video

  4. Meet the show's creator and establish a relationship with him or her

  5. Buy two cards that you believe you can profit from at the next show

Get to know your next door neighbours!

Since I typically set up at card shows by myself, this is especially important for me! When you take a break, it is essential to get to know the vendors next to you in case you need them to watch your table. As a result, you will both have time to walk the floor, take toilet breaks, and have lunch. In order to network effectively, it is also important to get to know your neighbour vendor. During the most recent London Card Show, my neighbour had mostly NFL cards, while I had none. I was able to direct attendees towards my neighbour when they asked if I had any American Football. Additionally, they were able to direct traffic towards me for things like pre-modern football. Both of us came out winning as a result!

Don't be afraid of people wanting to sell their cards to you.

Is it your intention to sell items as a dealer or as a collector? My first show, I refused to look at other people's collections quickly and explained I was only interested in selling. That's fine if that's what you want, however, you'll miss out on the chance to buy a great card. It does help if someone covers your table while you look through a person's cards. In the event that you don't have this opportunity, as I rarely do, politely ask the buyer to return when your table is less crowded. It's not good when attendees slam their cases down on your card cases, damaging them and blocking the view of other potential buyers. That's why it's important to take a look at their case on your side of the table, or to ask them to return later. You can always explain that you will be open to negotiation if there is a trade night if you are both planning to attend.

Have fun!

Card shows are great fun to set up and sell at! My recommendation is not to set monetary goals because of this reason. Consider your attendance as a great day out that offers both buying and selling opportunities.

As you gain experience, you'll become a better dealer. It may be that the right buyer wasn't there today, so don't get discouraged if you don't sell as many cards as you expected. It's inevitable you'll have a show where you don't hit all your goals, so focus on the small wins.

Engage the younger generation of card collectors. There are some generous vendors who offer special deals or packs of cards for children. This might be something you want to consider.

Enjoy yourself, and your customers will as well!

Written By:

Dan Keane

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