George: Well, the funny thing is
we had a meeting last week and the three youngest members of the
club were there and the youngest one is 35. They're 35, 36 and 38.
Digger: Young men!
George: That 35 year old started
when he was thirteen, but no. There aren't any younger than that and
there aren't new ones coming through and we're losing several a year
through 'natural wastage'.
Digger: As a consequence you're
moving it out into other areas?
George: I am moving it out because,
having decided to quit accountancy, I decided to get commercial on
this and I've proceeded to buy commercial material and to market it
and it really is The Internet that has caused that.
Digger: It's amazing isn't it?
George: It is amazing. Because I
discovered eBay in 2004 and I bought some things off it and I
thought "There's a whole world out there with people buying cards."
So what I've done is actually put cards on for card collectors, but
when you bear in mind that most people who are going to pay
£200-£300 for a set of cards are older than me and probably
frightened of computers. They're not going to go on the website and
buy them. So I started selling cards thematically. I sold football
cards to football team followers so a West Bromwich Albion fan will buy Baggies
Digger: Somebody who's got no
particular interest in cards?
George: Yes, no interest in cards
but a particular interest in West Brom and cards featuring their
players or a print of the West Brom football team from when their
granddad was in it. And there's a lot of that going on and that's
where the business is really building.
Digger: That's good, isn't it?
Digger: There's a gentleman who is
about to promote on our site and he's got a vast array of images
which are combined from the various photo and image archives
available as prints and canvases and he says the same thing. He's
picking customers up from all different keywords and there's no
specific thing at all - people buy images for all sorts of reasons
and most often it's because they like the image or it means
something to them. And that's what you're tapping into.
George: Yes it is.
Digger: That's the accountant in
you and the business mind.
George: Well, I'm an accountant
and have spent a lot of time with companies trying to help them make
money and stopping them from making financial mistakes and so on.
Digger: And if you're going to do
something you might as well do it properly.
Digger: So you're in Kent but
you're picking up business worldwide?
George: Half of my market is
outside of England - it's America and Australia.
Digger: It's weird isn't it?
Because there used to be a thing on The Internet for the first few
years I was on here - a fear from people for doing business outside
of their territory as it were.
George: I think the problem was
about payments. What has actually secured it is Paypal and as an
accountant when I had to transfer money abroad years ago it was a
nightmare. It was costly and it took time and you were never
guaranteed that it was there. With Paypal it's instant and you can
see it, they can see they've received it and that you sent it and it's
It's seamless as they say.
George: Seamless and that has been
the big thing. Because Americans particularly - they don't trust
anybody, only sixteen percent of them have passports and they think
the whole world is wild. But they realise now and you can buy or
sell on The Internet and get your money with no problems. That's
where the big culture change has been, I think.
Why do you think Retro and Nostalgia are so big
with everyone these days George?
George: I'm not sure about that
but it's certainly picking up and with the way I'm going with my
modern stuff, I'm hoping I'm going to benefit from that. Because
I've recently had a massive purchase of modern cards and
reproduction cards and I'm adding value. I'm going into putting them
onto styrene, which is like Perspex, and mounting them on there and
sending them through the post. So it's not like glass which would
break. I've got some very nice styrene mounted sets and part sets
which people in America can get and they can buy a frame locally and
put it on their wall.
Digger: You say modern and repro -
how does that work?
George: I have the largest stock
of reproduction cards in the world. I can quite clearly say that
because I bought them all this year from Murray Cards Ltd, which was
the largest dealer in the world, and they closed down last Christmas.
So I've got those and a lot of those are very mountable, they look
very good especially if you put them on the wall. There's cats and
dogs and cars and Muhammad Ali and The Beatles and all sorts of
things. As a set of cards - we've done some market research around
north Kent - I've taken on a sales manager now as well and we have
shown people the cards and they said "Oh, they're nice." And when we
asked if they'd buy them they say "Well, might do." But when you
show them the same ones mounted they say "Oh yes, I'd buy that."
Their sister or husband or whatever would be really pleased with it.
Digger: What are they going for?
George: For an 8x10 mount we're
looking at £8.95 and it's a good price. And about £15 for the bigger
Digger: I have bought sets of 8
cards mounted at an antiques place in Woburn and paid over £40 for
them. Lady film stars from the thirties and vintage cars and so on.
George: We have the mount and the
backing so you can see the fronts and the backs of the cards and
then you buy the frame to suit you, because you can never pick a
frame which is going to be universally popular. If people want
bespoke sets that will cost more but we're looking at standard
British sizes for £8.95. We have bought equipment to make these and
with a new sales manager we have this on a professional footing.
They're not available on the website yet but they will be soon.
Digger: You're going for it.
George: Yes, when you've got
literally tens of thousands of sets of cards you've got an
Digger: (Laughs) You want to be
able to see the sunshine through the windows o your room again?
Digger: What items tend to be the
most sought after apart from the Taddys themselves....
George: I sell a lot on eBay as
Taddyclown - I suppose I'm selling mainly sporting-themed cards on
there - sets and odd cards. Also cars and motorbikes, some really
Digger: Do you find, like me, that
eBay is a blessing and a curse?
George: Yes, a curse because they
got more and more expensive and Big Brotherish and a blessing
because you never know who's looking at it and I have built up a
nice regular clientele.
Digger: Do they expect things a
bit on the cheap?
George: I'm quite clear. The way I
work is that I put the price I want and that's it. If it doesn't
sell then I've got it for another day. But if I had a set for £20 and
I put it on for £0.99p and somebody snapped it up at the last minute
I'd be very annoyed so I won't do that.
What are the best and most enjoyable aspects of what you're doing
George: I just love dealing with
cards and sometimes seeing cards that I've never seen before. You
know I mentioned this collection I'd bought from Murrays? In there
were modern trade cards from the 1990s, and there are some wonderful
cards there. Mainly cricket and football and they're well produced
by small British companies - most of which are out of business now,
so obviously they didn't make it. But they actually made some very
nice material, so that's what I'll be putting onto these styrene
mounts in the next few months.
Digger: I don't suppose any of the
companies that were producing these cards going back to the old days
are still in existence in any form either?
George: Not that I know of. There
were the tobacco wars at the beginning of the 20th century where the
big companies snapped up all of the smaller companies. By the 1930s
it had gone down to Wills, Gallagher, Players and Carreras. And I
suppose they're still going but I know nothing about the modern
tobacco industry at all. I presume they've all been incorporated
into BAT. Gallagher's is still going.
So, what about the future?
George: It really is majoring on
The Internet but we're building a big local presence, now I've got
the sales manager on board - he's a non card man and his attitude is
from a pure salesman point of view. He is being objective and saying
let's build up a local presence i.e. Kent, because Kent is not
impoverished really. We have the commuter belt and we're near
Whitstable and people around here love to buy nostalgic material. So
I'm still going to sell authentic Cigarette Cards to whatever market
there is. But the future is selling nostalgic prints such as Vanity
Fare prints and I have bought all of those that were produced in the 1980s.
Digger: In a worst case you've got
the rights and the archives to a wealth of images and that's got to
be worth a lot.
George: I must admit I still think
as an accountant and if I was successful for five years and built up
a successful business then if it was saleable as a business then I
would sell it. That's not the be-all-and-end-all but that would be a
Digger: When you do truly retire
what would you do?
George: I actually don't think of
truly retiring. I actually love this so much I'm not going to end up
in the garden all of the time. I do a lot of gardening anyway
because I've got over am acre so I do my share in there but I'm very
active and while I can be like that I will.
Digger: Are you getting lots of
orders queued up from abroad when you come in each morning?
George: Yes, I look at eBay before
I leave home and get the paperwork ready and then send them out when
I get in. My office is on a very secure M.O.D. site so access is not
allowed unless I invite somebody in.
Digger: A good move.
George: Very good because we've
got 24/7 security and I've got a high value of stock here.
Digger: It's been great talking to you George and learning about
George: And you David.