By Ross Forman
Pierre Turgeon was the first overall pick in the 1987 NHL Draft, grabbed by the Buffalo Sabres, where he played for parts of his first five seasons.
He was a left-handed center who was a five-time All-Star and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner in 1993. Turgeon also spent time playing for the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche before retiring after the 2006-07 season with Avs.
Turgeon played 1,294 regular season games in the NHL, another 109 in the playoffs. He scored 1,329 career goals and notched 874 assists.
His impact on the sports collectible industry goes well beyond the stat sheet, or any slapshot he sniped in his illustrious career.
Turgeon just happened to be drafted into the perfect place. Right place, right time, that is.
Buffalo, of course, loves its Sabres, an organization that has skated in the NHL since the 1970-71 season, when it joined the hockey league along with the Vancouver Canucks.
In early 1988, a Buffalo-based business (then known as Dave & Adam’s Hockey World) started running classified advertisements in SCD seeking Turgeon rookie cards, such as his 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee (No. 194).
“The phone was ringing off the hook,” said Adam Martin, the co-founder of that up-and-coming, Buffalo-based business.
Adam is, of course, is the “Adam” in Dave & Adam’s Card World, as they became known in 1989 – and the company has skyrocketed in the collectibles industry over the past 25-plus years. Dave Silver is the other co-founder. They met on the local card show circuit in 1987, when they were the youngest dealers in the area.
“Obviously, most people know us first and foremost as an Internet retailer, which specializes in unopened boxes,” Martin said. “But it all really started with the ads for the Turgeon cards.”
In addition to Turgeon, and also through SCD ads, they sought Dave Andreychuk rookie cards, along with other Sabres. And by 1989, they went after the Bills, such as Jim Kelly, James Lofton, Thurman Thomas and others.
“Things really started taking off in 1996 – through game-used jersey cards,” Martin said.
Upper Deck game-worn jersey cards were a specialty of Dave & Adam’s for years.
Dave and Adam’s Card World opened a small card store in Buffalo in 1991, and has just continued to grow. Now based in Tonawanda, N.Y., Dave and Adam’s has more than 70 employees – with a prominent presence online at dacardworld.com, and also through its retail stores. Yes, stores, as in multiple.
“We started (2015) with four (stores), but made a decision when a very large retail space became available to consolidate the four down to two,” Martin said. “Now we’re going to open what we think will be the largest store of its kind in the world. In addition to trading cards, it will have apparel, collectibles, comic books, board games, arcade games (on free play for kids) and gaming cards, including a space for 450-people to participate and play tournaments, such as for Magic.
“It’s not like any store anyone has ever been in. It’s going to be completely crazy fun,” Martin said.
The new superstore, set to open in early June, is bit more than 46,000 square feet.
“Who could have envisioned this? I know I couldn’t have,” Martin said. “My entire business life, I’ve looked at (the thinking of), what bad things could happen from this (decision)? When I make a decision, any decision, I focus on the downside, not the upside.
“I never, ever thought we’d get to the size that we are.”
Dave & Adam’s carries sports cards, gaming cards, non-sport cards, supplies, sports memorabilia, sports collectibles and more. It is diverse, certainly with a Buffalo flavor, with products from all major manufacturers.
Their goal is simple: “To provide collector’s around the world with outstanding service and quality products at fair prices. Whether it’s the thrill of opening a box of cards, playing collectible card games with your friends or finding that last card for your player collection, we know what collecting is all about.”
And they still have, as of this interview in April, four Turgeon rookie cards in stock, among about 250,000 other cards. The Turgeon cards sell for $5.10 each.
Aloha, from Dave & Adam
As early as they could afford it, which was in about 1993, they attended the annual Kit Young Trade Conference, held in Honolulu. “That allowed us unique access to the manufacturers and the distributors – and through building relationships with those companies, and becoming known to them, we began buying unopened product, closeouts and discounts.
“That really changed the business. We went from being able to function out of the back of a large store to needing a small warehouse to eventually needing a large warehouse, and now we have two big warehouses.”
To this day, Dave & Adam’s buys excess goods in volume, closeouts, including apparel, collectibles and more.
“Before the Internet, life was a lot simpler,” Martin said. “You could put something out (for sale) for whatever you thought the market in your area would bear.
“But with the Internet, the world is a lot smaller.”
Take, for instance, the Turgeon rookie card. If Martin thought $10 was a fair price for the card in his area, he now must align his prices with what a local collector can buy that same card for online, on eBay, for instance.
“Stores needed to find a way to adapt to the changing times,” he said. “Those (stores) that have succeeded, either broadened their horizons as far as what products they carry, or bought a lot of merchandise from consumers in the area, which they then re-marketed on the Internet or in their stores.
“Those that did not embrace the Internet … many of them have gone away. The Internet dramatically changed business, including ours. I think that’s the main way things have changed over the years.”
Martin, who started with a small 500 square-foot store, said the only recommendation he gives to people in this industry is, “it’s all about buying and selling. Make sure your inventory keeps turning over, and if you make a mistake, get out of your mistake. Put your money into something that is going to be profitable.”
Dave & Adam’s is also a staunch supporter of area charities, donating to hundreds of causes. One of their most prominent associations is with Camp Good Days & Special Times, which aids kids impacted by cancer. They also support such worthwhile causes as the Juvenile Diabetes Association, Center for Autism and others.
The new Card World castle
Martin admits he never envisioned opening such a large store, but, when the space became available in January, he was all for it.
They have teased their new home online with multiple videos.
So how big is the place, truly?
Think of walking into a Dick’s Sporting Goods of collectibles.
Their new 46,000 square-feet store will be five-times bigger than one of their current stores. In fact, the store will be nearly 230 percent larger than the three stores combined the retailer is consolidating into the new site.
“It’s tough to conceive of,” Martin said, referring to how big the store is. “I’ve never seen a fan store like this.”
A store, for instance, where visitors can have an Upper Deck card produced of them on-site.
There also will be a Batman statue, ideal for photos.
“We want the store to be close to a fanfest event,” Martin said. “We want it to be interactive and fun, while at the same time, it’s a place where you can buy all kinds of items at reasonable prices.”
Martin predicted that only 10 percent of the new store will feature trading cards, from a square-footage standpoint, but cards will make up about 50 percent of the value of the inventory.
The store will have authentically-signed sports memorabilia for sale, particularly of players associated with the Sabres and Bills, past and present. But there also will be high-end autographed goodies, such as items signed by Mickey Mantle, LeBron James, Derek Jeter and countless others. Naturally, there will be in-store athlete appearances, too.
“We’re really excited for this; it’s a huge undertaking; it’s something we’ve never attempted to do, but it’s been a worthwhile (venture),” Martin said.
For more information about Dave & Adam’s Card World, call (888) 440-9787 or visit dacardworld.com.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.