Hobby Musings: Veres, Burbank Sportscards Help to Fill Collecting Needs – Not many people can say they have been selling cards as long as Burbank Sportscards’ Rob Veres has. Celebrating his 40th year in the business, Veres’ store had made a name for itself with its extensive, to put it mildly, inventory of single cards available for sale. To find out more about his origins in the hobby and why his store does what it does, I had the chance to catch up with Mr. Veres.
KS: How did you get your start in the hobby?
RV: That’s a great question. I started in 1979 working in a store for Donald Osborne. I was really into coins and stamps at the time, but I also was into cards. A couple of years into working for him, I realized there there was a market in trading cards, so he allowed me to create a section in his store strictly for them. I realized it was what I wanted to do with my life, so I dropped out of college and went into it full time. I bought the business from him in 1989. It’s all I’ve done my whole life.
KS: This really is a family affair for you. Can you elaborate on that?
RV. When I first bought the business at age 22, my mother worked with me. Her role was more or less to keep an eye on things and do the bookkeeping; basically, have an adult in the room. She worked with me for 17 years before she passed away. My dad worked with me for 23 years before retiring in 2017.
My son Ryan worked on and off as a teenager, but we brought him on full time about 4-5 years ago. He kind of runs the business day to day now as I’ve taken more of a back seat. He and a few of my other long-time employees handle the majority of operations. Having Ryan on adds another 30 years of longevity to our company. I’m confident he’ll be the best in this business soon enough.
KS: One thing Burbank Sportscards is well known for is its exhaustive supply of singles. Why did you decide to make that such a big part of your inventory and identity?
RV: Because it’s difficult. Anybody with $1,000 can call themselves a dealer and jump into this business. The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from my mentor Jim Beckett. He always told me, “Rob do what’s difficult and do it better than anybody else“. Do that and you’ll always have a place in the hobby.
Nobody else does what we do. You can’t go anywhere else with a list of cards for a given player you collect and be able to get most of the cards you’re looking for in one spot from one dealer. Nobody else is built for that as most people stopped doing it around 2000.
There are days we ship out 6,000 cards. The key to everything is organization, and everything in the warehouse is unbelievably organized so that it’s very easy to find. We pride ourselves on being able to find any card in our inventory within 30 seconds. If you’re not organized with something like this, it’ll cost you more in labor costs to have an employee track it down.
KS: How many singles do you currently have?
RV: We have 43.2 million cards in our building. We dwarf everything. We have 2.6 million unique items on eBay. Nobody else has that in any category. Our feedback is 100%, which means we take care of our customers. We’ve also got an Amazon fulfillment center in the store.
KS: Which sport and years move the best?
RV: Everything sells to be honest. If I had to pick something, I would say 2017-2019 baseball moves the most volume because those products have rookies and prospects who are being speculated more than anything else right now. Whatever I have in stock though, somebody will wipe out.
KS: Overall, what would you say is the state of the singles market right now?
RV: It’s never been stronger. Simply put, we have a lot of lapsed collectors coming back who last got cards in the 1970s and 1980s. They’re used to building sets with singles, and now they’re reliving their youth and buying the cards they couldn’t get when they were younger.
Not everybody has $300 to blow on an expensive box. Most people are going through boxes at card shows and dropping around $20 or so. Not many people cater to that market of people who will come back over and over again to build a player collection or continually get lower-cost items. Don’t get me wrong though, our inventory of high-end singles is staggering as well.
Overall, you’re dealing with this massive amount of possibilities in the hobby, and you want to be able to meet that demand all around. There are 13 million different cards in Beckett’s database, all in different conditions. No two collectors are the same, and we want to be able to accommodate all of their collecting needs.
Say you come in and you want to build a 1975 Topps Red Sox set. I may not have those cards on hand right away per se, but I do have a computer terminal ready for you to browse and find the cards you’re looking for. Once you find them, we’ll then pull them for you while you wait. If that’s not customer service, I don’t know what is. No card show in the country can do that.
To me, it’s not the customer’s job to do the dealer’s work. Our industry is so lazy sometimes, but I try to look at it from the customer’s point of view. I’m not going to want to spend hours looking through boxes to potentially find a card I need. I’d rather have an inventory ready to go that I can search easily and find what I want. Everyone is so focused on the new product and case breaking, but not the hard part of this hobby. We have 16 people who work here to make this a reality.
KS: What is overall state of the hobby?
RV: Never been stronger, ever. People point to the glory days of late 80s and early 90s. To be honest, there’s really no glory in that period of the hobby. There was no Internet, and everything had to be done manually. Boxes were $10 typically and singles were a nickel. You’d have to manually price everything, then change the price when the price guide updated. You were only selling to people in a 20-30 mile radius of your store.
Today is the glory days. Kids are coming back to the hobby. We were afraid of hobby extinction 6-8 years ago, because we were concerned and wondering if we could get the young collectors interested in it. It was hard when you had to compete for their attention with everything on the Internet. Now though, they’re seeing the possibilities with cards and the financial rewards that can come with being savvy about them. We’re seeing more collectors around eight years old coming in and being interested in trading cards.
Information is also more transparent today. Nearly everybody who walks into a store today has a lot more information at their disposal. They often know as much, if not more, about cards than we do.
The foreign market is incredible, and it’s exciting to see. This industry has never been stronger, and a lot of it has to do with people in their 20s and 30s getting into the business full time. That didn’t happen five years ago. There’s more money in the business than ever before. Major companies are coming in wanting a piece. Whether it’s sustainable, nobody knows, but it’s sure as hell is exciting.
Follow Burbank Sportscards on Twitter @BurbankCards.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: Veres, Burbank Sportscards Help to Fill Collecting Needs
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