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Hosting a Trade Night

“When’s the next one?”

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting two trade nights for my local card community, and this is hands down the question I get the most during the actual event.  Not “where can I set up?” “did you bring any cards for trade?” or even “where’s the bathroom?”  (When it’s time to trade, there’s no time for going to the bathroom!)

The first trade night I held was in an unconventional space, at least for The Hobby.  It was held on a Saturday, September 16, 2023 to be exact, in an industrial chic ultra modern (anything in the current Panini era, I kid) event space that is usually reserved for baby showers, retirement parties, engagement parties and even wedding receptions.  I don’t know the square footage, but for our trade night, it was set up for about ten tables with eight chairs at each 8 ft by 4 ft wooden table.  

The event space was free, because it was a week night where there was no scheduled event and the owner is a stalwart of the local community and our kids play soccer together.  That always helps.  But when I announced on Instagram that I was going to host this event, two hobby companies reached out to see if there was anything they could do to help from a sponsorship standpoint, and I told them that the event space was free, but that the owner did have a nonprofit, and maybe they could help by making a donation to the non profit as a thank you for the space for our local card community and in exchange they could have some publicity for their brands in any promotions I did, which was solely through my own Instagram account.

Others reached out to help either financially (which I respectfully declined) or to help get the word out (which I gladly accepted), and some even traveled intrastate to check out the trade night.  In hindsight, I could have asked the sponsors to help pay for the pizza and drinks, but this was my first time doing this, and as a self professed jack of all trades, master of none, I didn’t know what I was doing, and heck, I still don’t.

So I made the decision to charge a couple of bucks for pizza slices, get some beer from a local brewery, in order to raise additional funds for the nonprofit.  The biggest stress I had was not knowing how much pizza and beer to order, because as we very well know in our Hobby, our kind does not do RSVPs.  So I had to just take a guess, and I ordered six pies and a pony keg (Domino’s and witbier from Port City Brewing Company for those curious) , which turned out to be a good amount for a great turnout of about 50 adults and children.  (We had a separate section for a Kid’s Zone with old school arcades, but everyone wanted to stay in the main area.)

I had brought some cards with me to trade, but I was busy playing host to make any deals as well as bartender slinging drinks, checking IDs, selling pizza.  When I wasn’t doing those duties, I was walking around, making sure everyone was doing alright, fielding any questions (see above, to which I kept saying, “I have no clue.”), and taking some pictures and video for Instagram.  All in all, a great success, and it was thanks to everyone who supported.

Being a natural introvert, the event took a lot out of me.  I was amped up on adrenaline during the event, helped with clean up and I just spent the entire next day recuperating while watching some football.  My voice was hoarse, and I didn’t even touch a single piece of cardboard that day, which is a rarity for me on a Sunday if I’m home.  But, it was so much fun, I couldn’t help thinking about when the next one would be.

The Chantilly Card Show was from October 20-22, 2023, and I thought surely there would be some trade night associated with the show, and so I planned to just attend, but once the event happened, there was only a Kid’s Trade Night in the early evening during show hours, and so I wandered over and saw that they could use some help, and so I pitched in where I could with the host On Campus Sports Cards.  There was no organized trade night for adults, but one popped up at the nearby Holiday Inn, where some of the signing athletes were staying (I traded for a Dennis Rodman sneaker patch auto as he was walking by in the lobby, another story for another day perhaps).

The beauty of trade nights is that everyone is equal since there is no table fee and thus no table equity.  I love the egalitarian nature of trade night, and so the first time was so much fun, that I decided to do another one, but this time, I wanted to try a more conventional one, one that you may be familiar with if you’ve been in The Hobby.  

I partnered with my local card shop (Collector’s World in Annandale, VA) to host a trade night.  They offered up their back room space, usually where they do Pokemon tournaments and rip parties and other trade nights.  They also offered to take care of the food (again, pizza, just can’t go wrong, Domino’s if anyone’s curious).  What I offered in exchange was to publicize the event, make free mystery packs for kids, play MC for a little bit (announce wax specials), but this time I didn’t have to bartend (and I did get to make some small trades).

I faced the same conundrum as before, which is, I have no clue how many kids would be coming and how many of these packs to make.  Another concern I had was that the event would be held on December 16, 2023 which was a Saturday during a busy holiday season.  The LCS owner suggested making 25 based on past events, and well, they were free and they went like hot cakes.  To add an element of surprise, I post five post it notes randomly into the 25 packs where if a kid pulled a post it note, they could be entered into a slab hit draft (#1 picks first, #2 picks second, etc.).  I tried thinking of what players kids nowadays wanted, and so I loaded these packs and the hit draft up with ultra modern basketball and football, think: Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Herbert, etc. (I wasn’t sure if Ja Morant would be good, and so I left him out.)

More than 50 people showed up, and to my surprise, the holiday timing worked out for some, as family members of locals came in from out of town, and happened to travel with their cases, cardboard boxes, and sneaker boxes of cards.  All in all, it was another fantastic time, and so the main reason I bring up these two trade nights is to say - if you are an adult in The Hobby reading this (and if you got this far, thank you, truly), heck even if you’re still a kid in The Hobby - you can do this if you want to!  Creating spaces for your local card community, even if you’re “just a collector,” to talk with your LCS to see if there’s something you can do to help your community.  I promise this was not meant to be like a Hobby Resolution article, but if you have any small desire to make a difference in your community in 2024, I don’t see what would be better than seeing if you would either host or help set up a trade night in your local card community.

When I was a kid in The Hobby in the 90’s, I acted like a kid in The Hobby and things just happened around me and I was at the will of the adults, but now as an adult, I get to help shape what my local card community can feel like for everyone, and so again, I encourage you to consider getting out of your comfort zone, because after all, that is how we grow. You don't need sponsors you don't need an LCS you don't need free food. You just need to want to do it

So to wrap up, my answer to the above question is:  I don’t know, but I can’t wait!


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