Q: I'd like to know how to start a sports card store.
A: Like most business ventures, starting a sports card store takes a lot of time and effort, especially when the product you're selling is as rare as a Mickey Mantle rookie card. Where should you begin? David Kohler, owner of Sports Cards Plus in Laguna Niguel, California, suggests getting a feel for the business by visiting sports card shows and conventions.
"You need to really know the business and what inventory to carry," says Kohler, who estimates start-up costs at about $100,000. "A lot of stores have opened and closed over the last five years. A lot of them are just trying to sell new cards, and there are only so many sales in that market."
Kohler purchases cards by running ads in industry magazines and corresponding with other dealers. He also buys from the public and at shows he attends. The Sports Collectors Digest (http://www.krause.com), a weekly publication from Krause Publications, includes a listing of shows, price guides and a marketplace for buying and selling cards and other memorabilia.
Beckett Publications offers a wealth of information; they produce seven monthly magazines, including Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, Beckett Basketball Card Monthly, Beckett Football Card Monthly and Beckett Hockey Card Monthly. These magazines keep you updated on current trends and industry information as well as the latest prices. Beckett's show calendar keeps you posted on sports card shows around the country. For subscription information, visit http://www.beckett.com or call (800) 840-3137.
SportsFest, sponsored by Krause Publications, features sports card dealers, manufacturers and collectors nationwide. Two shows are scheduled for this year: Philadelphia, June 17-20, and Chicago, August 19-22. For details, call (715) 445-4612 or fax (715) 445-4087.
Q: How do I find out if the company name I want to use is already being used? I don't want to submit paperwork to the state and then find out I need to resubmit using another business name.
A: The best move is to conduct a trademark search. You want to make sure the name you want isn't being used by anyone else and also isn't registered as a trademark.
The Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDL) nationwide have directories of federally registered trademarks and an online database of registered marks and pending registration applications. You can also use product guides and other materials available in these libraries to search for conflicting marks that haven't yet been registered. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (PTO) Web site (http://www.uspto.gov) lists PTDLs in your state.
The site also has a free database of pending and registered trademarks; these are usually entered in the PTO database one to two months after filing. You can also contact the PTO's Trademark Assistance Center at (703) 308-9000 for general information about trademark registration or to ask about the status of specific trademark applications and registrations.
It's also a good idea to search the Web and see if anyone is using the name without having registered it. Do this with more than one search engine for the most thorough results.
If you'd rather spend money than time, you can hire a professional trademark consultant or service for help; look for them in the Yellow Pages or in legal journals and magazines.
If the name you want is in use, try these books to help you come up with another one. Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business and Product Name by Kate McGrath, Stephen Elias and Sarah Shena (Nolo Press, $29.95, 800-992-6656) shows you how to choose a name or logo, conduct a trademark search, register the trademark, protect and maintain your trademark, and handle disputes out of court. Names That Sell: How to Create Great Names for Your Company, Product or Service by Fred Barrett (Alder Press, $14.95, 503-246-7983) offers useful tips on creating the perfect name for your business.
Sports Cards Plus, (800) 350-2273, firstname.lastname@example.org