Local Card Shop of the Week: S&S Sports Cards
Steve Burris opened his card shop in Broken Arrow, OK in 1998. He quickly added Adam “Tattoo” Thomas to the staff to manage the store and now, 20 years later, they are still going strong. I was able to speak with Adam recently about their success and what they are doing to keep the hobby strong in Oklahoma.
Local Card Shop of the Week is brought to you by Southern Hobby, who has been serving the collecting community for nearly 30 years.
JS – Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Steve/Adam. You opened your store back in 1998. What led you to make that decision back then?
AT – The previous owner of the store had passed away. Steve and I were both customers of the store at the time. Steve purchased the store from the previous owner’s wife. He had another business and wanted to know if I had any interest in running the store while I was attending college. Shortly after I started running the store, we became business partners.
JS – You both have been collecting for around 30 years so you have seen a lot of innovation in the hobby over the years. What are some of the major differences about your store when it opened in 1998 vs your store today?
AT – The most obvious difference is the influence of the internet. We both were selling on eBay before we took over the store. We just merged our ideas and online practices together to sell under one account. We have always embraced buying and selling on the internet and it’s a big reason we’re still open after 20 years.
JS – Adam, the S & S website lists you as the primary buyer for the shop? Can you tell us about any interesting purchases you’ve made since you’ve been at the shop? Have there been any collections that have wowed you?
AT – Buying singles, memorabilia and collections is a huge part of our success in business, so we’ve seen about everything. Two of the most memorable purchases we’ve made were (1) an Upper Deck Authenticated collection that contained over 1,400 signed UDA pieces, including over 50 Michael Jordan pieces and over 50 Mickey Mantle items; and (2) brought in by a young lady, she had two 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards in vg-ex condition. She wanted to keep the nicer one for her son and sold us the other one. The interesting part was that she had inherited the cards from her grandfather and the box she brought the cards in. Her grandfather mailed the cards from his house in New York to his new house in Oklahoma. His parents said they didn’t have room to bring his cards on the trip, so he mailed them to himself.
JS – The state of Oklahoma has the Oklahoma City Thunder as a professional sports team. However, I know the state is very passionate about their college sports as well. What are some of the major players or teams that your client base focuses on?
AT– Our entire state is very passionate about football: both college and professional. For us, the most popular team is the Oklahoma Sooners. They are followed by the Dallas Cowboys, Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Any Sooners are very widely collected. But like anywhere in the country there’s lots of interest in the hobby’s elite players such as Aaron Judge, Derek Jeter, Lebron James, Carson Wentz, and any other big time star.
JS – What one particular player, past or present, would you say is the most beloved in Oklahoma and can be found in a majority of local collections?
AT – Pretty much every collection in our state has some type of Mickey Mantle card. He was born and raised in the state, and everyone is interested in Mantle items. When Kevin Durant played for the Thunder, he gave Mantle a good run for the most popular player in the state. This Christmas, the number one most asked for player was Baker Mayfield. So, we’re patiently waiting for 2018 football products to come out, due to the interest in Mayfield.
JS – What have been some of the hottest products in your store in the last 12 months and why do you think collectors have been drawn to those?
AT – In baseball any Bowman release is extremely popular. The first autographs with collectors have really moved into a category by themselves in regards to highly desirable cards in the hobby. With Panini having exclusive contracts to produce football and basketball cards, the more popular products are one’s that resemble Topps Chrome. The variation colors in Prizm and Optic both sell very well in basketball and football. Also, the early 2017 releases of the higher end college football products sold very well due to having 3 Oklahoma Sooners in the products.
JS – What have been some of the biggest hits pulled at S & S? I am sure there are some beauties over the last 20 years!
AT – We’ve seen some monster pulls over the years; Michael Jordan 2003/04 Exquisite Noble Nameplate auto patch #/25, Honus Wagner cut auto 1/1, Babe Ruth cut auto 1/1 and George Washington Allen & Ginter DNA hair are just a few. One of the biggest pulls happened two days ago. I brought back a 2018 UDA Monumental box from the Upper Deck CDD conference and we hit a pair of Tiger Woods UDA Autographed Tournament Worn Golf Spikes numbered 1/1. Very cool item!
JS – Your Facebook page also mentions the “S&S Sports Cards Private Selling Page”. Can you tell us a little more about that?
AT – We are always purchasing cards and collections. Whether it walks in the door, or at shows or online, we buy cards every single day. We wanted to find ways to reach every type of collector in our local area so we set up a couple of separate Facebook pages aside from our main store Facebook page. We have a couple of employees in the store who post cards for sale all day on this page and a few others. We posts cards, memorabilia or other sports collectibles on these pages at all different prices. We’ll post cards for sale from $1 to $1,000+. We have some random days where every card posted will be $1 no matter the card. We realize that not every collector has the ability to spend large amounts of money on cards and this page gives us a place to post hundreds of cards everyday in various prices to cater to all collectors.
JS – It appears that you are offering your customers both the in-store experience of a card shop and also a full online experience as well. Your page advertises a Live In-Store Auction, Group Breaks, Autograph Signings and more. How important have you found the social media and online component to be to your success?
AT – Social media in our industry is a huge part of our success. We post on 4 or 5 different social media platforms every day and recently found areas in which we can do more. Every business must have some level of social media presence and must utilize it every day. You have to go where the customers are and you must grab their attention. Many stores fail to embrace social media, because it’s too complicated or time consuming. Businesses using social media is becoming the norm in our industry and if you fail to embrace it you’ll be left behind.
JS – Let’s talk a little about your personal collection. You started collecting about 30 years ago so you have been a part of several ups and downs. What is your primary focus now on a personal level? Are you more into vintage/junk wax/modern? What are some of the highlights?
AT – Steve and I decided to stop collecting on a personal level once we partnered up. Neither of us has added anything to our collections in 20 years. Before that he was into vintage baseball and football and I was into to harder-to-find basketball cards.
JS – Aside from your personal collection, you have also seen a lot of product changes over the years. What changes have been most surprising to you in the industry? What products have changed the hobby for you?
AT – The biggest changes for the industry has been the decision by the professional sports to go to exclusive contracts from the manufacturers. I’m a huge believer that competition is good for every industry. It makes companies stay sharp and innovative. I completely understand the reason for the exclusive contracts, but I don’t believe it’s been good for our industry. Allowing the manufacturers to operate without competition has already created issues and several of the contracts still have 8 or 9 years remaining.
JS – In conjunction with the changes you’ve seen, what would you like to see from card companies in the future to help the hobby continue to grow and keep it strong?
AT – It’s very obvious that the manufacturers are slowing trying to squeeze out traditional brick and mortar stores. I understand most local card stores are fading away across the country and our influence to these manufacturers is diminishing. Of course, the freebies and promotional items they send us are great and are great incentives for us to give to our customers. They have all embraced social media at a very high level and use it religiously regarding their company. I would really like to see the card companies use their social media platforms to help get people into hobby stores. Most store owners I’ve met don’t order very many products directly from the manufacturers. Usually, due to case quantity or price, but we still carry those products in our store. They could have lists and advertising of stores that carry their product and support their brands. Also, the card companies’ customer service departments are severely lacking. I hear a complaint every day about someone not being able to get in touch with a company’s customer service. If we had a way to contact the companies on behalf of our customer’s, it would be a helpful service we could provide our customers. Lastly, they need to get creative in their advertising. We’re seeing a large amount of men and women in their 30’s and 40’s coming back to the hobby. They collected as kids and want to get back to the hobby they enjoyed in their youth. I would like to see more of a concentration in ways to advertise the hobby.
JS – If you could give a future shop owner one piece of advice, what would that be?
AT – Stay hungry, realize that no matter how long you’ve been in this industry, that you can always learn more and improve your business. Don’t fall for the mindset, “I don’t carry that or know about it, because I don’t like it.” Be open-minded about everything in our industry. We have never carried gaming in the store, because it didn’t work for us. I still learn about it and keep my eyes open to it, because some day we may carry it. We have customers that collect sports cards and game as well. Never trash something you don’t carry, because you never know what other hobbies your customers have. In your local community you are the expert in your field, act like it. Constantly learn, read and seek other ways to make this industry and your store better.
JS – What else does S & S Cards offer that helps bring in new collectors and keeps them coming back? Do you have any in-store events or promotions you can share? Anything coming up?
AT – We are always looking at running events in-store and finding ways to help build up our local collecting community. Through our social media platforms, we stay in touch with our local customers every day. As far as events go, we post daily on our S&S Sports Cards Private Selling page on Facebook. We have a weekly auction page on Facebook under S& S Sports Cards Private Auction Page. We run breaks almost every day on S&S Sports Cards Box and Case Break page on Facebook. Our next live in store auction will be Saturday February 3. We have several different Super Bowl Squares contests on Super Bowl Sunday, February 4. Prizes include sealed boxes, memorabilia and store credit. We are having JSA in-store to authentic autographs on Friday, February 23. We have a PSA and BGS grading submission group that we send off once a month. We are currently working on having an Oklahoma City Thunder player coming in and doing a signing soon. That’s not official yet, but working on it. We’ll also have a big event on the night of the first round of the NFL draft in which we give away a ton of prizes and have box breaks all night. That’s some of the events we’ll have the first quarter of this year.
S&S Sports Cards
Adam “Tattoo” Thomas
2012 W Washington St
Broken Arrow, OK
Facebook – S&S Sports Cards
Twitter – @SandScards
Hours of Operation
Sunday – CLOSED
Monday – Friday – 10am:5:30pm
Saturday – 10am:4pm