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It's all in the cards for local sports card dealer
GRAPEVINE - He started 25 years ago, operating a small sports card and memorabilia shop out of the back of a gas station in Southlake.
Today, Scott Pierce of SMP Sports Cards at 1671 Northwest Highway in Grapevine is one of only a handful of sports card and memorabilia shops in the Metroplex.
"I think the key to our success is that we started slow and just gradually built our business and our customer base," Pierce said. "My son and I started going to shows and selling cards there and, gradually, we started getting the idea to open our own shop. This was back in the late 1980s and the sports card business was really starting to take off. We had a friend who built a really nice card shop over on Camp Bowie in Fort Worth and my son was like, 'Dad why can't we have something that nice?' And I told him to just be patient and that we would build the business gradually."
Less than two years later, the bright, shiny baseball card shop on Camp Bowie was out of business and Pierce was still selling cards out of the back of a gas station in Southlake at FM 114 and Shady Lane.
"We did that for several years, gradually adding new things and making money with it slowly but steadily," he said. "I had a construction business that was going pretty well so the shop was sort of a way of making some extra income for a while. But then, when the gas station closed, we decided to open our own shop down the road here in Grapevine and it's been one of the best decisions we ever made. We don't get rich but I'm making enough money to make it my full-time business. Most importantly, it's been a lot of fun and we've met a lot of great people."
While he's had a lot of great moments at the card shop, the few months between December and February of 2006-2007 were the most magical, Pierce said.
"When you own and operate a card shop, every day is fun because every day something new and interesting happens," he said. "But back in December of 2006, the NBA had a contest where they would give a $50,000 makeover to the card shop that collected the most wrappers from packs of basketball cards and we collected about 61,000 and won the contest. It was a great achievement for the store and all of our customers. I couldn't have done it without them. We'd have pizza parties and open case after case of basketball cards. My family and friends and a lot of our customers were in here all the time, during regular hours and after hours, just opening pack after pack."
He also had some older cases that he and his friends broke open as well.
"The contest didn't say it had to be new stuff," Pierce said. "It could be any year of card, as long as it was basketball and I had a lot of older cases in the back and we broke into those. And my customers kept bringing me wrappers. They were having as much fun with it as I was. I've had a lot of fun in this business over the years but that was definitely the highlight."
Piece said he has seen a lot of changes in the sports card industry since he first started more than 25 years ago.
"In the mid- to late-1980s, sports card shops were exploding," he said. "You would see card shops everywhere. Now, it's very rare to see one, especially one that deals in sports cards and sports memorabilia."
Part of his success, Piece said, is keeping up with the ever-changing sports card market and the modern day technology.
"I do about 300 auctions a week on EBay and that definitely helps," he said. "I'm on Twitter and all the new technologies and try to keep up with all the trends in the card business. We film people who are opening packs of cards and then put it on YouTube and that's a lot of fun. We had a guy that pulled a Babe Ruth cut signature out of a pack and we put that on YouTube and the customers always like things like that."
Pierce added that he also wants to make coming into his shop a fun experience for kids and adults alike.
"I've been in a lot of card shops where it's almost like going into a museum," Pierce said. "The owners aren't very friendly and they don't like for kids to touch anything. But, here in my shop, we love kids. We want every kid who comes in here to have a great experience."
As of one of the few card shops in the Metroplex, Pierce said he gets a lot of calls from people who are trying to sell their cards.
"About 90 out of every 100 calls that I get are from people who are trying to sell me cards from the late 1980s and early 1990s," he said. "Sure, those cards are 20 years old, but they really aren't worth anything because they were so overproduced. People have a hard time understanding that."
That said, however, no one ever leaves SMP Sports Cards empty handed, Pierce said.
"Kids are so hilarious," he said. "They'll come in here with all these cards from the late 1980s or 90s and think they're worth a fortune when they really aren't worth anything. But, instead of telling them that and sending them on their way, I'll tell them that they have some pretty interesting cards and send them to the back of the shop to pick out something so they can make a trade for a card that they might want. That way, they leave the shop happy and that gives them a good collecting experience."
Those types of memories are important to kids, Pierce said, because they often remember things that adults forget.
"My son was really the one that got me into this business," he said. "One day, he came home from school with a Wade Boggs Rookie Card and I asked him where he got it. He said he traded it for two cartons of milk. And I said, 'Son, that's pretty good. Here's some money for two more cartons of milk. See what you can bring home tomorrow.' Soon, we were going to card shows and, from there, we started our business at that gas station and it just grew from there. Twenty-five years later, we're still doing and it's been one of the best decisions that I have ever made."