Hobby Musings: Joe Davis Still Living His Dream in the Hobby – Being someone who has collected now for over 20 years, I always enjoy it when I meet or interact with other people who have been it for as long or longer than I have. This is especially true of shop owners who have not only operated, but thrived for such a long time. One such person is Joe Davis of J&J’s Sports/gotbaseballcards.com. The Georgia-based store got its start in 1991 and has since turned into a well-known shop and online site. To find out more about his history in the business and his thoughts and feelings on the hobby today, Mr. Davis was kind enough to speak with me via email.
KS: Joe, you’ve been in the game a long time. How did you get started and what made you decided to open a card store?
JD: I started collecting in 1976, trading with my neighborhood friends for the next few years. In 1987 when I started college, I got far more serious, and by 1988 I was both setting up at shows and promoting them as well. The week I was about to graduate from college in 1991, I had the opportunity to purchase an existing (500 square foot) card store with a friend from college, whom I then bought out four years later. This had been my dream throughout college to own my own card store, and I’m still “living the dream” today.
KS: You recently moved into a larger location. What prompted that decision?
JD: We had needed more room for many years. From 2016-2018, we were working out of three side-by-side suites in a shopping center, which was a very challenging way to do business. In February of 2018, we found a 10,300 foot stand alone three-story building that we wanted to purchase, and after many months of both prayer and negotiation, we finally were able to purchase the property last September and opened there a few weeks later. We operate our retail and shipping out of the main floor, our online singles operation out of the bottom floor, and collection processing on the top floor.
It is such a blessing to finally have enough room and I highly recommend to other business owners to understand that we are destination businesses, and that customers will come to you if you take care of them. We have learned that we do not have to be in a high traffic shopping center to generate high traffic for our store. We are a business that needs a lot of space to maximize our efforts. With our new space, we’ve had over 75 customers in our store at one time, and we could never do that in the past.
KS: For fans and customers who may not know, what does your store specialize in?
JD: We try to “cover all the bases” when it comes to servicing sports cards collectors. We stock over 10 million singles dating back 70 years. We carry a large selection of graded singles from BGS and PSA, and also provide prescreening services for our customers who wish to submit their cards for grading through us. We also stock a huge selection of raw vintage singles for set collectors, all organized by year and card number. We stock hundreds of new boxes from all leading manufacturers. We carry an extensive line of trading card supplies, as well as hundreds of autographed balls, bats, jerseys, etc. We also launched a new break division a year ago, and now have a worldwide customer base for our breaks that we offer through the gotbaseballcards YouTube channel, as well as on facebook.com/gotbaseballcards.
KS: From the time you started working in the card industry to now, what do you think has been the biggest change?
JD: When we started in the industry, there was no eBay, no Beckett.com, no Amazon, no means to easily work with customers across the globe. The internet changed all of that. Far and away, that has been the biggest and most important change to the business since we opened in 1991. Secondly, I would say that third party grading and authentication has been incredibly important to the growth of the hobby. The record prices that some graded cards and authenticated autographs have sold for lately are a testimony to the fact that people believe in the importance of third party grading and authentication. No, it is not a perfect system, but it is far better than the world of the late 80s and early 90s when counterfeit cards and autographs were sold in abundance and there was no one looking out to protect collectors.
KS: What are the biggest challenges in running a shop nowadays?
JD: Right now our biggest challenge is sourcing enough hobby products from distributors, as the market is so strong that allocations are very tight. Prioritization of labor is also a day-to- day challenge, as we are blessed with so many different opportunities, and trying to determine what is the best use of each employee’s time is something we evaluate regularly to maximize the return on our efforts. I encourage smaller retailers to find your niche and do it well. There are so many avenues to pursue in our industry right now that you can easily stretch yourself too thin if you try to be all things to all people without enough help to do it well.
Hobby Musings: Joe Davis Still Living His Dream in the Hobby
KS: On the flip side, what do you enjoy most about running your shop?
JD: The bottom line is I truly love sports cards. Sports card collecting is, has been, and I believe will always be the greatest hobby on the face of the earth. I still remember when I opened my first packs of 1976 Topps baseball at the age of 7, and I still take boxes home to open just for fun, even after being around them all day, and even processing collections has never felt like “work” to me. I still enjoy the “hunt” of chasing down collections, and I also enjoy helping individuals who need assistance in maximizing the return on their own collections. Over time, consulting has become a bigger part of my role as many come to us seeking help in liquidating their collections when the time is right.
As I recently told someone, I am so blessed to work 80 hours a week selling sports cards so that I do not have to work 40 hours a week for someone else in another industry. I am still a collector at heart, and I am more passionate about this industry than I ever have been. I get to work with a phenomenal team of co-workers who are my friends first, and employees second, and I get to help people each week in various ways with their collections.
KS: What would you say is the coolest item you’ve ever had for sale?
JD: We recently purchased a gorgeous Babe Ruth autograph baseball from the granddaughter of the original owner who obtained it directly from Ruth. It will be a featured item in Goldin’s National Convention Auction this year. Many customers came and took pictures with it while we had it at the shop before sending it off for consignment. Over the years, we also bought two large T206 collections, one of which included some of the rare short prints (No Wagner though). It’s always a thrill to get to handle cardboard treasures like those.
KS: What is the best card a customer has pulled in your shop?
JD: That’s a tough one, as we’ve seen so many great pulls over the years. One that stands out because it was such a big deal at the time was in 1994 was when a customer pulled the dual Mickey Mantle / Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck Autograph. That was and is still today a huge card. What’s most exciting for me is when a young kid pulls something huge of a player he/she collects. Knowing that it will stay in their collection, regardless of the value, is a great thing to experience.
KS: If you could change one thing in the hobby today, what would it be?
JD: Seeing a coalition of dealers, manufacturers, and distributors work together to more effectively promote our hobby to a worldwide audience. Many in our industry are too focused on competing with their peers instead of joining hands with them to accomplish more together. I work with a large network of hobby dealers across the country and we look out for each other and try to assist each other with retailing ideas, promotional ideas, etc.
KS: Looking forward a little bit, do you have any special events coming up in your shop?
JD: Saturday, August 10th, we will be celebrating National Baseball Card Day in our store and expect several hundred to attend as this is always our biggest event of the year, and we offer many special treats to customers that day. We hold special events in our store about six times per year with free food, prizes, etc, and it’s always fun to reward our great customers. We always heavily promote these through Facebook and other social media channels to keep our customers informed.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: Joe Davis Still Living His Dream in the Hobby
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