I made my first $1000 in eighth grade selling baseball cards.
I seventh grade I decided I was going to start a business selling baseball cards. The problem was, I didn’t yet know anything about baseball. So I started learning everything I could. Luckily, it is a sport with a lot of statistics and perfect for a math geek like me.
In shop class I made a rubber stamp to stamp out my business cards (I used to cut up small index cards). It said:
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
So I set about buying low and selling high. At the time (1987), baseball cards were an extremely inefficient market and there was a bit of a bubble going on.
I used to buy an eight foot table at the local baseball card show. Prices were initially $150 for the table. I split the table with my friend Alex — each taking 4 feet for $75. And sold a lot of baseball cards.
But I quickly realized that the organizer of the baseball card show was giving all the favorable floor spots to his buddies and we were stuck in the bleachers (sometimes literally — as these shows were often done on a Saturday in a high school gym). So while I might make $200, after paying for the table, price tags, card holders, and the cards themselves, I wasn’t making much money. Especially not when considering my time (though my alternative at the time was making $3.75/hour minimum wage job).
So instead of selling baseball cards, I tried to entertain people.
First, I noticed a lot of cards were mis-priced. If you got a 1984 Topps Don Mattingly Rookie card, it might list for $32 but it rarely sold for $20. and you could buy a near-mint condition card for $10. and dealers were stuck with thousands of these cards that hard a hard time selling for their full “value.” (of course, today prices have fallen by more than a third)
So I acquired a ton of these cards and created a grab bag. For the first show I created 150 grab bags with cards in them where the person who picks the bags could win the cool cards. Each grab bag (actually an envelop stuffed with cards) cost a dollar. I sold out in 45 minutes. The next show I had 300. sold out. I soon was selling over 400 a show.
Then I had copycats at the shows … so I added fortunes and other fun stuff in the grab bags. Everyone had to buy at least one.
And then I created a dice game. Cost $0.50 to roll dice and depending on what you rolled, you won something. If you rolled doubles you had the option of taking your card or rolling again. It was fun. And you never could sell out. After about a dozen shows I finally made $1000 in a show. I felt really rich. But more importantly … I felt empowered. The average age of the sellers at the show was about 40. I was 14. and they were coming to me asking for advice.
I’m a big believer that more kids should try to be entrepreneurs. It is really empowering. For me personally, I went from being a relatively shy kid to one with extreme confidence (maybe too much confidence).
for other bloggers out there (like Chris Yeh, Mark Pincus, Hunter Walk, Andy Choy, Ben Casnocha, Noah Kagan, Christine Herron, Pete Caputa, Dave McClure, Fabrice Grinda, Keith Teare, Chris Alden, Jeremy Dann, Bambi Francisco, Barney Pell, Andrew Boer, Aydin Senkut, James Hong, Jeff Clavier, Niall Kennedy, Zaw Thet, Pascal Levensohn, Angie Schiavoni, Sonia Arrison, etc.), I’d be interested in hearing your stories of how you made your first $1000.