Many people follow sports, and a lot of fans enjoy connecting to their favorite teams and fans through memorabilia. Whether a card, game-used item, or other piece of ephemera, sports memorabilia provides a tangible connection to both the past and present. Sports memorabilia businesses deal in buying and selling sports collectibles.
The sports memorabilia industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past 30 years or so. There are more than 200 million collectors worldwide today, and a third of them have owned or currently own at least one piece of sports memorabilia. Selling this memorabilia has become a billion-dollar industry.
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Learn how to start your own Sport Memorabilia Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a sport memorabilia business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Sport Memorabilia Business
- Form your Sport Memorabilia Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Sport Memorabilia Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Sport Memorabilia Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Sport Memorabilia Business
- Get Sport Memorabilia Business Insurance
- Define your Sport Memorabilia Business Brand
- Create your Sport Memorabilia Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your sport memorabilia business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a sport memorabilia business?
The startup costs associated with opening a sports memorabilia business are manageable. In total, business owners should be prepared to spend between $2,000 and $10,000.
If a business is opening a physical storefront, some of the startup funds will go toward leasing and building out a space. Otherwise, most of the money is invested in memorabilia to sell. There are several places to find items:
- Estate sales
For business owners who have limited funds, estate sales sometimes hold especially good bargains.
Whatever business owners purchase, any game-used or signed item must be authentic. Selling a single non-genuine item can severely tarnish a business’ reputation, possibly even permanently devastating a young business.
What are the ongoing expenses for a sport memorabilia business?
The ongoing expenses for a sports memorabilia business are manageable. They include the cost of acquiring new items, as well as any lease payments or listing fees.
Who is the target market?
The target market for a sports memorabilia business mostly consists of sports fans who have discretionary income. Sometimes, businesses will also sell to investors who are looking for alternative investments.
How does a sport memorabilia business make money?
A sports memorabilia business makes money by buying memorabilia and selling it at a higher price. Unlike an investor who hopes that items will appreciate in value over time, this type of business operates like a dealer and generates revenue by buying and selling.
How much can you charge customers?
The value of sports memorabilia varies significantly. Many items may sell for just a few dollars, but rare pieces can fetch four-, five- and six-figure sums. For instance, a famed pair of Michael Jordan’s shoes sold for $104,765 at auction a few years ago. The jersey from his final regular season game with the Chicago Bulls commanded $173,000.
How much profit can a sport memorabilia business make?
With such a variance in item values, how much sports memorabilia businesses make likewise varies significantly. Some businesses bring in a modest living while others are highly profitable ventures.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A sports memorabilia business can increase revenue by selling items in addition to true memorabilia. Display cases and new sports apparel are two natural types of products to add to a business’ inventory.
Business owners who become experts in their field can also become authenticators, which may lead to a side income verifying signatures.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Sport Memorabilia Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your sport memorabilia business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a Sports Memorabilia business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits. In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A Sport Memorabilia business is generally run out of a small storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a Sports Memorabilia business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a sport memorabilia business
While many sports memorabilia businesses still have storefronts and run local advertisements, most business is moving online. Businesses list memorabilia on Craigslist, Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and more. Those businesses that do sell in-store can attract potential customers by hosting signings with area athletes, game-watching parties, and other events.
Some businesses that primarily sell online set up temporary shops at flea markets, mall kiosks, or other low-rent locations during the holiday shopping and sports seasons.
How to keep customers coming back
Specializing in a specific sport or team can help set a sports memorabilia business apart from others. It also gives new business owners an opportunity to focus on one specific part of the market as they learn.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Sport Memorabilia Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
Many sports memorabilia business owners are themselves collectors and sports fans. Most have stories of collecting cards or autographs as children and turned their passion into a business during adulthood.
In addition to loving sports, business owners should also enjoy talking with people. The more a business owner converses with their customer, the better they’ll be able to recommend something that the collector will love.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a sport memorabilia business?
Business owners spend a lot of time searching for sports memorabilia to purchase and talking with customers about the items they carry. Business owners who sell online spend time creating listings and answering specific questions about their listings. Those who sell in person often spend time manning their storefront, talking both about their merchandise and last night’s game.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sport memorabilia business?
Making a profit reselling sports memorabilia requires an in-depth knowledge of the marketplace. Business owners spend hours combing through listings, sales, and collectors guides so they can learn how much different pieces sell for and how quickly those pieces should sell. Based on this knowledge, business owners are able to determine what’s worth buying and how much they can expect to pay for these items.
There are several specialized price guides on Amazon, such as Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs and Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide. The recently sold listings on Ebay (found via Advanced Search) and current listings on other sites can also be helpful.
What is the growth potential for a sport memorabilia business?
A sports memorabilia business may be a small business that’s run from home or a small storefront, or it can grow to be a major national company. Fanatics Authentic is a large website that sells items related to many sports. Many small businesses sell through their store and other platforms like Ebay, rather than maintain their own websites.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a sport memorabilia business?
Business owners who don’t have the funds needed to deal in high-profile signed items can still get signed memorabilia to sell. Attending events where players are signing items is an inexpensive way to get potentially valuable items.
When attending signings, business owners should try to take a selfie with the athlete(s) present. Even if the athletes are in the background, a picture can help authenticate the signature.
Should business owners go to multiple signing events that feature the same player, they can diversify their product offerings by asking for a slightly different note each time. For example, a business owner may get a signature with the player’s main number, one with the date they entered the major leagues, and one with the player’s minor league number. Such a strategy helps create a unique and varied inventory.
How and when to build a team
Many sports memorabilia businesses remain small and don’t hire employees starting out. Businesses that grow or that do open storefronts can hire employees as their revenue allows.