Klein’s Korner: Buying Low and Selling High in the Hobby – Sometimes there are figures in this hobby (and in life) which are so well known that we continue to discuss them after they have passed. One such man is Al Rosen, the legendary sports card and memorabilia dealer. Al, like so many of us, was a complicated man and how he is remembered is based on one’s dealings with him. There are a camp of people who never had any issues with him and thank him for bringing attention to the hobby. There are other people whom Al may have been mean, said coarse epithets or even did not offer what they thought was a fair amount. As with so many aspects of our life, there is no right or wrong answer, instead the memory is up to you. What brings on this column is an email I received from Bruce Abraham which read:
“I was given Alan’s name by someone in our industry in the late 80’s, it resonated with me as I thought it was a player from the Yankees. Never found out if it was the same Al Rosen. I had been given a large cache of autographs from the early 1900’s including Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Pie Traynor, Jim Thorpe, Lajoie, Gomez and many others. Rosen told me to send them to him which I did. Wasn’t comfortable at that point. I contacted Al to see if he was interested and he was. After authenticating them he offered me 10-15 cents on the dollar for what they were really worth or he had no interest. I told him I had other offers and he got offended and said to get them returned at my expense. I sold them for 10-15 times the amount he offered. This is a tricky and risky business where fair play does not exist! He taught me a lot!”
As for me, we got along reasonably well and I actually sat next to him on a plane returning from both the 1986 and 1987 NSCC shows. In person and in private he could be soft spoken and be the exact opposite of his public persona. He also gave me exactly ONE piece of advice in this business which was: “When you sell stuff, it’s not what you sold it for, rather it’s what’s you bought it for.” Meaning the lower you can buy an item the more room there was to sell said item either wholesale, retail or some mix thereof.
Boy, doesn’t that still ring true to this very day. If you own a store, and one of your regular customers needs to sell items, how do you treat him or her? I would wager 99 percent of the hobby business people who are successful ensure their regulars have a soft landing if they need to either leave the hobby or raise some capital for other purposes. Of course, we as dealers do have to be careful because while we want to be fair, if what we get offered are cards of people such as Ray Rice when his name became synonymous with spousal abuse or Gary Sanchez hitting way under .200 for the season, then we are buying items guaranteed to sit on our shelves for a long time. So, we have to consider each purchase separately and hope we do the right thing for all concerned. To all of us, that is one of the great challenges of this business. There is a local dealer who I sell some material to, and while I know I might get more from another person, he tells you exactly what he is going to pay for said material and he honors his word. I know what I give him or his partner is going to an aspect and we’re both happy. This photo is the famed Mike Fruitman of Stadium Sportscards after one of my myriad puchases.
So, how you treat your buying opportunities is up to you. We all want that shoebox full of 1950’s-60’s cards which we buy for pennies on the dollar but hopefully we all know to do our best to at least help the seller get a fair price. Not retail, but fair buy price. Love to hear your thoughts on this subject and my email address is at the bottom of this column.
Klein’s Korner: Buying Low and Selling High in the Hobby
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