Local Card Shop of the Week: Indy Card Exchange
Growing up in Indiana, Andy Albert was naturally drawn to basketball cards. As kids, many of us dream of being in the sports industry in some way; whether that be as an actual athlete or some other job that is tied to the athletes. After 25 years of collecting sports cards, Andy made that dream a reality when he purchased a card shop. As owner of Indy Card Exchange in Indianapolis, he is now living the life that many of us collectors only fantasized about as 12-year-old’s addicted to cardboard. I caught up with Andy recently to find out a little more about life as a card shop owner in the Hoosier State.
JS – Could you tell us about how and when you became the owner of Indy Card Exchange?
AA – I acquired this card shop in May 2012. It has been in existence since 1992 and I acquired it from the original owner. I was a customer of his for over 10 years, and when he hinted at the potential of retirement, I struck up a conversation with him that led to the acquisition of his shop. I have collected cards, mainly basketball, for nearly 30 years, and I had always wanted a card shop. I truly feel as though I am living out my professional dream right now.
JS – I believe you are living out many of our dreams as collectors! Tell us a little about Indy Card Exchange.
AA – We employ 2 full time people and 3 part timers. My General Manager (Jake Patrick) and I have worked together for nearly 3 years now, and he is an awesome guy to have as a part of our team. I constantly tell people that he is the brains behind our business, and he just lets me do what I do best, which is developing relationships with our extremely valued customers.
We offer singles, wax boxes, complete sets, and supplies for every sport and kind of product offered in the sports collectibles world. About 95% of our store consists of sports cards and card-related products. The other 5% includes some autographed sports memorabilia, and entertainment products such as Pokemon, Star Wars, Walking Dead, WWE, etc. We don’t carry comics in the store, but we work with a comic book expert if the situation arises to acquire a collection. We are also a certified submission center for both PSA/DNA and Beckett Grading Services. We average nearly 1,000 cards a month being submitted to these two grading service companies. The store shelves are constantly stocked with the most current and popular unopened packs/boxes of every sports product released.
JS – Indiana has basketball, Peyton Manning and even one of the most famous race tracks in the world. What sport is most sought after in your store?
AA – That’s a tough question because we are definitely a basketball-first state. With that being said, we still probably sell baseball cards the most, but basketball is a very close second. Based on the current environment, the main chase that our customers are looking for is the prospect baseball cards. We sell a ton of the Bowman-related products. The Pacers and Colts sales are currently in a funk, so we have become more focused on having a solid supply of the national superstars in all sports such as Trout, Harper, Bryant (Kris), Lebron, Curry, Durant, Westbrook, Aaron Rodgers, Brady and Beckham.
JS – What is the hottest product in the store right now?
AA – Hottest product in the shop is 2017-18 Panini Contenders Draft Basketball. Collectors have been waiting for this new rookie class to have cards for over 3 months. We have also been selling a lot of 2017 Certified Football, and we completely sold out of 2017 Topps Chrome Baseball.
JS – What product do you look forward to the most each year? What do the customers like to see the most?
AA – My own personal favorite is Panini National Treasures basketball. That has been one of my favorites for a long time now. Being a high-end basketball collector myself, I get super excited about pulling one of the big Rookie Patch Autograph cards that come from NT. I would say that the favorite product every year in the shop is Bowman Baseball. Every year it releases, we usually have a box opening party throughout the whole day that consists of raffle prizes, food, and drinks in the shop.
JS – Let’s talk about hits! What are some of the more memorable hits you’ve seen pulled at Indy Card Exchange?
AA – We have had a lot of monsters pulled in the shop over the last 5 years since I acquired it. The biggest one of note was in 2015/16 Panini Immaculate Basketball where one of our good customers pulled the dual NBA Logoman Autograph 1/1 rookie card of Karl Anthony-Towns and DeAngelo Russell. The card is estimated to be valued around $20,000! We’ve also had some incredibly nice high end autograph rookie cards of current players such as Aaron Judge in baseball, Ezekiel Elliott in football, and Connor McDavid in hockey.
JS – Looking more toward the card industry as a whole, what is something you would like to see card companies do to improve the products or offerings?
AA – I would love to see companies take a better interest in the condition of cards when they have players autograph them. There seems to be a major quality control issue for products that come directly out of the packs. As we all know, condition drives the value of everything, and a lot of people who get an autographed card of their favorite player, or a big name in general, end up being disappointed because the value of the card has been diminished to a fraction of the value due to damage that is completely out of their control. We all understand how cards can be off-centered or have printing errors, but when a card has a damaged corner, a crease or badly chipped edges when pulled directly from the pack, that responsibility falls back on the manufacturer.
JS – You mentioned you’ve been collecting for 30 years. What is something you see in products today that you never thought we would see 15-20 years ago?
AA – Boxes that retail for over $1000/box. I remember when 2003/04 Exquisite Basketball was first released. I had the opportunity to get 3 cases of it from my local hobby shop here in Indianapolis (which just so happens to be the one that I own today). I ended up taking a gamble and opening one box for $600. I was absolutely scared to death opening a product that expensive. Little did I know, Exquisite Basketball would have a major effect on the entire high-end collectible market.
JS – What is your favorite part of being a shop owner? What is the most challenging?
AA – My absolute favorite part of being a shop owner is the relationships I have developed and the people I’ve met along the way. Nothing compares to the friendships I’ve established and the quality of people that I’ve encountered. It’s what gets me excited about coming into the shop every morning. The most challenging aspect of the business is time management. I love this hobby more than anyone can imagine, and I constantly want to sink my heart and soul into it. But, as I continue to remind myself every day, my faith and family will always come first, and the challenge of balancing my time here at the shop with my time at home will always be one of my biggest struggles. People deserve a local card shop that they can come and enjoy, regardless of their socio-economic status. Our goal at Indy Card Exchange is to provide that memorable experience for every person that walks in our door, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, financial status, etc.
JS – Along those lines, what are some of the ways you try and set your store apart from other stores and the online market place?
AA – I wouldn’t necessarily say that we try and set our store apart from other stores. I truly feel that the local hobby shops throughout the country need to rely on each other to grow and stay unique in their own way. I enjoy seeing what other shops are doing in order to improve the hobby and gain new customers. Loyalty and integrity are two of the most important qualities to have for a local card shop, and when I see that in other shops I try to find new avenues that they are taking that we may not be doing ourselves. I hope they are doing the same thing when researching our shop.
The online marketplace is a whole different beast. It’s a very small margin, competitive business out there. And I wish the online retailers would be a little more forgiving to local card shops, because we just don’t have the flexibility to price items the way they can. I still give them credit though, because if it weren’t for them, a lot of people wouldn’t even be in the hobby at all. We gain a lot of new customers that find their local card shop because they either watched an online break or they bought a box from Blowout, Dave&Adam, etc. Once that piques their interest, they then find their local card shop in order to get a face to face relationship with someone they can trust, buy, trade, sell with, and get the proper advice from someone who cares.
JS – You obviously have a lot of passion for the industry and collectors. In closing, what do you think of the current state and future of the hobby?
AA – I honestly feel like the hobby is currently very strong. There are a lot of new collectors that are spending their money in a hobby they once loved back in the 80s and 90s, but they/we all kind of got screwed by the over-production of cards that currently have zero value. Collectors in their 30s and 40s are enjoying the sports hobby with their children and they see value in what is being manufactured, as opposed to their childhood years.
For the future of the hobby to remain strong, we obviously have to rely on a strong overall economy, first and foremost. If the economy declines; so will the sports collectibles market. But, the manufacturers who have the exclusive licensing are doing a great job of providing free giveaways for hobby shops to share with kids, while their marketing departments are doing an excellent job of promoting the sports card hobby as well. The future is bright and collecting always rides on the success/failures of each year’s rookie classes. If the rookie classes are strong, as evidenced by 2017 baseball and 17/18 basketball, the success of the hobby will follow suit.
Indy Card Exchange
8519 Westfield Blvd.
Indianapolis, IN 46240
Monday through Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
FaceBook – Indy Card Exchange
Twitter – @ballcardxchange
Instagram – @ballcardxchange
Email – IndyCardExchange@gmail.com
Online Breaks: breakers.tv/ExchangerBreaks or www.ExchangerCardBreaks.com