Hobby Musings: Chad Weldon, Creating a Welcoming Space at Sports Card JunctionHobby Musings: Chad Weldon, Creating a Welcoming Space at Sports Card JunctionChuck Weldon opened Sports Card Junction in 1995. In the nearly 30 years they’ve been opened, he and his son, Chad, have helped residents in the Pittsburgh area fulfill all their hobby needs. In that time, they’ve seen just about everything you can in the hobby. A few years ago, they decided to move their shop space about 50 feet into an adjoining store. I had the chance to catch up with CEO Chad Weldon to find out more about their new location and his general thoughts on the state of the hobby.

KS: Chad, you’ve been in the new location now for a couple of years. Overall, how do you think it’s gone moving into the new space?
CW: The new space has done a lot of good for us. It’s a lot more space for us to run events for our customers. It’s a lot brighter and more laid out. The old store was very dark and dingy and felt like a basement more than an actual retail store you’d want to go to. This one is a lot more inviting for people to come to, sort through stuff, look at products and display cases in the store, and hang out.

The old store had less of a vibe where you could actually hang out there for a long period of time, which isn’t want we wanted. It will be even better once we get the new bar built. It’ll be a custom bar where seven or eight collectors can sit around, talk the hobby, watch a game, rip their boxes and just be in a comfortable space where they can enjoy the hobby.

KS: It seems like a lot of shop owners who have been doing this a while have been converting to bigger, more inviting spaces. From the other dealers and shop owners you’ve talked to, how much of a norm do you think it’s been for them to transform their stores over the past five years?
CW: The ones that want to promote the hobby in a good, healthy way are improving their stores. The ones that just want to make money and pad their bank accounts are keeping the store the same way, because they’re just getting the person to come in and buy stuff and then leave. People who care about the hobby seem to be transitioning their stores to more of a hangout area where you can also purchase cards vs. a place where you just come to buy cards and then go home. It’s good for the hobby to be able to have a safe space where people can come collect and trade with others without feeling the pressure to buy something.

KS: As we sit today, what do you think is the state of the hobby?
CW: I think it’s incredibly strong. There are so many new faces coming in. Over the past few weeks, there have been a lot of new people that we didn’t see even six months ago. To me, that means there’s new collectors who are either just now finding us or just now becoming invested in the hobby.

We still obviously have some issues on price points with some products that we’d like to have cheaper options of for kids. Overall though, I would say the state of the hobby is very good. While we’ve seen the big dip in some more common, overpopulated cards, that doesn’t mean the whole hobby is going down. I would say that there are still people who are highly passionate about growing the hobby.

KS: One of the concerns about the hobby is that we don’t have enough kids or female collectors involved. What kind of trends have you seen in the past five years around kid and female collectors?
CW: We see more kids than ever now. We have way more fathers and sons coming in. Moms and their kids coming in. Over the last five years, I would say it’s up 10X to what it was. Like I said, the only thing that is hindering it a little bit is the price points of some of the items.

As far as women in the hobby, we still are seeing more. We definitely see a much higher percentage in the Pokémon side than the sports side. The sports section still has a lot of room to grow in that aspect. I don’t know what the secret formula is for that, but we try to do our best to promote a safe space where anyone can come and learn about the hobby and not be pressured into making purchases just because they don’t have the information they need, or stuff along those lines.

KS: Overall, sport or non-sport since you sell everything here, what would you say is your strongest seller right now in terms of category?
CW: As far as volume, it’s still baseball. As far as dollar amount, it’s probably football because the box price points are higher. Those two are our top sellers. Pokémon is also up there. Hockey during the season is very hot, but whenever it’s the offseason, it has a slower sell-through rate. Pittsburgh isn’t really a huge basketball town, so it’s always been more of a tertiary category for us. While we stock every product, it doesn’t sell through at the same rate. Soccer is picking up a lot, but we still are at the very beginning stages of the soccer collecting.

KS: We’re about three quarters of the way through 2022. What is your big hobby prediction for the rest of the year?
CW: I think it’s going to be a massive last quarter of the year. We’re going to be getting some products in that have been delayed for months that will be popular with collectors. We’re going to have our first big post-COVID shutdown Christmas, so we’ll see how that plays into holiday sales. I think it comes down to the companies getting products out on time. Overall, I think it’ll be a big final quarter heading into first quarter of 2023.

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Sports Card Junction

Hobby Musings: Chad Weldon, Creating a Welcoming Space at Sports Card Junction

Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
Kelsey Schroyer

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