For most American boys — and many girls — part of their childhood and adolescence included the traditional hobby of collecting sports cards.
When those boys grew into men the days of opening a fresh pack of cards, trading with friends, and organizing the keepers was something they look back on with fond memories. Sadly, most men will admit, all of those cards they spent years collecting are either long-gone or packed away in the back of their closet — victims of changing priorities and dreams.
But for California State University, Stanislaus 2007 graduate Colin Tedards and his twin brother Ryan Tedards, 30, the joy of collecting sports cards has never faded. The twin brothers operate a nationally renowned sports card collecting website and host an accompanying podcast. The site, www.sportscardradio.com receives about 4,000 visitors a day and since they began the site more than four years ago it has received 1.5 million unique visitors and 4.5 million page views.
Colin and Ryan said they can remember collecting sports cards as young as six years old. Through high school and college Colin worked at a card shop, and in 2006 the brothers opened a sports card shop in Turlock named NorCal Sports. The store was forced to fold in 2008, and the brothers decided to concentrate their efforts on their web site and radio show.
“When we opened it was a great time because people had extra money to spend on cards but as the economy got worse people just weren’t buying cards. With such a thin (profit versus cost) margin we just had to close,” said Colin.
From the development of the site the brothers have maintained a strict commitment to keep their content purely informational and unbiased to particular card companies for their visitors. The podcasts, which are broadcasted nearly every day, consist of advice and information for card collectors, as well as the occasional opinion on cards and related products.
“Our site is kind of like Wikipedia for sports cards. We collect information and post it for collectors,” said Ryan.
One of the site’s most popular aspects is card checklists. In the “old” days of card collecting card companies would print cards with checklists of every card in a set. For example, a 1998 Topps baseball card set would include 500 cards and collectors would try to collect all 500, even common players — with the hope the common players would one day become popular.
The current trend for card companies is to have less “common” cards and more specialized cards. Today’s cards can often include player signatures or pieces of jersey in the card stock itself. These features make cards more valuable — depending on the player — and card companies will release a collection of just 200 cards, often without checklists.
Colin and Ryan will search the web to find every card in the set so collectors can determine exactly what the company released.
The site does not sell any products directly, however, Colin and Ryan said they sell enough advertising on their site to earn a living.
As for their personal collection they said they have had as many as 60,000 cards when their card shop was open to about 20,000 cards now.
Sports cards, as with many things in modern society, have moved online. While the brothers “own” some 20,000 cards, the majority are held with a sports card company that stores them but keeps the cards’ profiles in an online database. When Ryan and Colin wish to make a sale they find the card and post it on e-commerce sites like eBay.
The online marketplace essentially determines the value of cards, something Colin and Ryan keep close tabs on.
“There are magazines that value cards but the true value is determined online,” said Ryan. “A card can book value at $40 but can be trading online at $20. It is what people are paying for the player.”
A player’s popularity and performance can directly affect the value of their card in the online market place. One extreme example Colin pointed out is current New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin. In early January his cards were selling online for about $20 to $30. By this week his cards have sold for prices like $800, $2,000 and one sale for $21,580 (with 36 bids).
“We had Jeremy Lin cards but we let them get away before he blew up,” said Ryan. “That is just the way it goes in collecting.”
For Colin he saw this fluctuation and capitalized on it. We had a Topps basketball set from Kobe Bryant’s rookie year that we bought for $20 and the night he dropped 81 points (Jan. 22, 2006) we sold it for $190,” he explained.
Both Colin and Ryan admit they love the thrill of buying and selling cards and that thrill is what keeps them in the game. Both have collectibles they will keep forever. For Ryan it is two signed cards of Los Angeles Lakers great James Worthy and Colin’s is a signed Tiger Woods ticket.