Hey, you! Yeah, you, the guy panicking because his 2019 Select Ja Morant rookie card is down a couple bucks this month. Joe Davis, owner of Loganville, Georgia’s J&J Sports Superstore, has a few words that should help bring you off your eBay ledge.
“If you look at where [the card industry] is now versus a year ago, we’re still way up,” says Davis, who’s been a voice of reason in the sports card world since starting his business back in the early 1990s. “So, no, it’s not where it was in February  or, maybe, December , but in general we’re still way up. I believe we are seeing a temporary market correction on certain key cards, especially modern basketball. It saw such a crazy spike, it was unsustainable. We’re seeing a pullback right now, but I still think, big picture for our industry, we are in a phenomenal place.”
Davis adds that, lately, he’s actually getting more buyers at his retail shop and online marketplace, GotBaseballCards.com. “I’m seeing 100s of new customers since we reopened our store about a month ago,” says Davis. “I would say 75% of customers are people I’ve never seen before. So, that shows me that there are 1000s of new collectors who are just getting into the industry.”
Of course, Davis has no idea what the next year will hold for the market. No one does. As for the next month, though, Davis will be in Chicago for the National Sports Collectors Convention. In the following interview with Sports Card Investor, Davis reveals how he’s much more worried about packing all of his stuff for the drive up to Illinois than he is of any industry ills.
When did you fall in love with sports cards?
That’s an easy one. I was eight years old. My mom would stop at the little, small grocer on the way home from school and I started buying packs of cards. It didn’t really matter what sport. And then she would incentivize me to get good grades. She would buy packs and hide them in her dresser and then, when I would get straight A’s, I’d get packs of cards. So, I became a straight A student and continued to love card collecting.
I started in 1976. That was the first year I bought. I’ve bought every year since. I was a very avid collector up until high school. And even in high school, I would buy boxes, but I was just putting them up. But then in my last year of high school, the hobby was really booming. That was in ’87. I started getting more serious. By my freshman year of college, I was attending shows and then started setting up with them and even promoting them in college. And then I opened my full-time business the week I graduated in 1991. It’s the same business I’ve had since then. We’ve relocated and grown. Been blessed to grow. But [it’s the] same company and we’ve celebrated our 30th year in business this year.
What are a couple things you can point to for being able to sustain yourself for 30 years?
I think, for us, it is focusing on serving rather than selling. We’ve seen that if we effectively serve our customers, then we don’t have to always try to be the cheapest on everything. We offer a lot of services, like eBay consignment. We offer to help customers get their cards graded. Of course, we partner with Geoff [Wilson, SCI’s founder] on some of that, because he advertises that for us. We have seen that’s been a huge thing. We see ourselves as a service provider to the industry in the sense that we offer things to help collectors and dealers, mainly collectors, that they can’t do for themselves, whether it’s selling something on eBay or getting their cards graded or providing evaluations for collections and stuff like that.
So, there are always those kinds of needs out there. That’s been really huge. That is one of the reasons that people come back to us. I had a guy come in the other day who had been dealing with us online. I had never met him. Had never talked to him. Never emailed with him. But he just said, “Man, y’all are the nicest people in the industry. I love dealing with y’all.” And that was my team; it wasn’t me. I hadn’t even talked to him before. So, we just try to go out of our way to help collectors.
And that’s what separates you from the card-selling pack?
Right. Because you look at other industries and you think of, like here in the South, like Chick-fil-A, you know? They have good food, but they go above and beyond in serving people. We kind of looked at their model. If you out-serve the competition, then they will keep coming back. And we want to be known for that—outstanding service. Yes, we are competitive on our prices, but we try to provide outstanding service.
How have your customers changed since you first opened your shop?
First of all, they’re a lot younger. My average customer age used to always be like the same age as me or older. I’ll be 53 this year, and it used to always be my generation and older. Now, we’re seeing a lot of kids coming back. We’re seeing 20 somethings getting into it.
And they’re far more savvy than they used to be. Back when I first opened my store, there was no internet. We were providing all kinds of education. Now, a lot of times, I’m learning from my customers because they’ll come in and tell me, “Oh, did you hear about this card?” and I’m like “No, talk to me.” We have to keep our ears open to learn from them.
Are you attending the National?
We set up every year. We have a 450-square-foot booth, which will be about 50 some odd feet of tables.
Tell me about the prep that goes into setting up for the show.
Yeah, to do it right, it’s months of preparation. We spend the whole year basically focused as an online retailer who also sells from our retail store, but when we get to the National, we are focused almost solely on how we can market items face-to-face. We create different kinds of boxes, different kinds of signage. We put in new organizational methods that normally only apply for that one week. But it’s great. For me, it’s kind of a throwback to doing shows back in the ‘80s. That was how I got into the hobby as a dealer was just setting up at shows. It’s great now to not only have a fair amount of space and also have plenty of help. I used to do it all by myself. I was loading up showcases on a Saturday morning and driving to wherever and watching the whole booth by myself and struggling. There were times I’d pay $200 to set up at a show and do $250 in sales. I haven’t forgotten those days. And I’ve also been on the other side of the table and I know what it’s like as a collector. You’ve got to be flexible if you want to cut those deals with people and build the relationship. It’s like another vacation for me every year because I get to see a lot of my best friends in the industry. But it’s the most work that I’ve ever done on a vacation every year, too.
Everyone knows about Prizm and Select. What are some underrated products out there?
I think the Chronicles brand that Panini does. They’re typically very affordable, relative to your Prizm, Optic and Select, and they usually have a pretty small checklist. So, you get a good number of key rookies. You take 19-20 Chronicles basketball, typically you get several Jas and several Zions per box because they’re over a dozen different brands. I don’t remember how many it is exactly, but it’s a lot of different brands per box. I think that one is very underrated. And it does have some chrome content in it — not a lot — but you can get like the Flux card and the Hometown Heroes [inserts]. Those are all on chrome stock. [Chronicles] is one that’s caught on well in football. It sells well in basketball, but it’s not nearly as pricey as your all-chrome brands.
For baseball, the Bowman stuff is typically lights-out when it starts out. I particularly like Topps Chrome. It’s not typically as pricey as the Bowman Chrome or Bowman Draft. I like it because it has true MLB rookie cards in it. The Topps Chrome update seems to catch on every year because it’s a Target exclusive, usually. But I like Topps Chrome as a brand. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a small set, usually. Beautiful cards. I think that’s one that is sometimes undervalued.
Were you ever concerned with the NFT/Top Shot explosion that came out?
No. They’re alternative investments but they’re still related to collectibles. So, I see it as a way to hook other people into collecting. They may very well become our customers in the future. I can’t worry about every competing product. If we do a good job with our customers with the products they are interested in, that will take care of itself.
J&J Sports Superstore, 2970 Rosebud Rd SW, Loganville, GA 30052, (770) 736-9998, www.GotBaseballCards.com