Burbank Card Show Director Shares His Stories
EJ Ferrer is the dynamo behind the Burbank Card Show, one of the country’s largest minority-run card shows. Hailing from the Philippines, EJ’s journey from an immigrant to becoming a trailblazer in the trading card community is inspirational. Rooted in Southern California, his convention isn’t just about trading cards, it’s a mission to weave inclusivity into the very fabric of the Hobby. Over the past few years, EJ’s innovative approaches have helped shape the modern industry and grow the convention’s size and influence. We sit down with EJ to talk about the community he’s passionately reshaping for the latest installment of Collector Stories.
Be sure and join EJ this year’s Burbank Card Show, running August 31st through September 3rd at the Anaheim Convention Center.
How did you get into collecting?
Many people don’t know this, but I was born in the Philippines, and English is my second language. Moving to America at an early age, I was made fun of for not knowing how to read English and having an accent. To help solve my reading struggles, my aunt told me to read every word I saw. From signs, street names, and menus, even if I didn’t exactly read them correctly, repetition ultimately got me to learn how to read.
At a local Big 5 Sporting goods store, my father bought me those random repack products with base cards. I would read the back of those cards, remembering the player’s hometowns, where they went to college, their heights, and their small bio. Our local Walgreens had a copy of Beckett Magazine, which educated me on sets, values, and stories behind the cards. One particular cover of the magazine had none other than Kobe Bryant.
Growing up in Long Beach, California, I idolized Kobe. From his sneakers – yes, even the Moon shoe-looking adidas Kobe 2– to the iconic 8s. Of course, collecting his cards followed suit.
Ok, so what was the first card that got you hooked?
The 1996 Topps Chrome® Kobe Bryant #138 Rookie got me hooked – the Chrome® finish, the first year of Topps Chrome, and, of course, Kobe’s Rookie card. I didn’t get to own a copy as a kid, I got a copy 20 years later.
How did the Burbank Card Show evolve from an idea to the event it is today?
It’s crazy looking back since you really don’t have to look back that far. It’s only been a year since our first inaugural show. The idea started with my business partners, Rob Veres, aka The Cardfather, and Jay Coscolluela wanting to start a show in the Burbank area.
They both saw how our folks in SoCal would travel to card shows around the country. Even though we had plenty of card shows in our area, these shows were relatively small and were not of the same quality as notable shows around the country. Being a fellow collector/dealer myself, I traveled to these shows and developed relationships with dealers in our industry. Jay had proposed bringing me in as the third partner for the show.
Recognizing the influence of the Burbank Sportscards brand, I knew we could turn this into a much bigger thing. I made a pitch deck in my car at the local grocery store a few streets from the Burbank Sportscards store and presented my vision of a card show that provided a full, end-to-end collector experience. I wanted to create an experience where collectors would enjoy the Hobby by submitting their cards directly to the grading companies. The idea is for collectors to connect directly with auction houses and e-commerce businesses that drive our industry’s sales. I wanted to provide an experience for enthusiasts from all over the country to enjoy the Hobby without diluting the roots of card shows: buying, selling, and trading. We ended up agreeing on a budget, and within the next few days, Jay found a lead to our eventual location, and we’ve been working ever since.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced building this show?
The biggest challenge early on was definitely gaining the trust of dealers. It isn’t necessarily hard to fill table sales and get folks in the door. The challenge is earning the dealers’ trust that the show will provide an asset for their businesses, enabling us to fund the next few shows.
How has your Filipino heritage shaped the growth of the Burbank Card Show?
As a Filipino American, you tend to focus on what’s in front of you and handling your responsibilities. Here and there, more recently than not, I’ve been reflecting on all the various figures in our space that are Filipino.
Filipinos tend to be very welcoming and accommodating, and I’m sure that translates into our shows. We wanted to create an all-around, family-friendly atmosphere. There are elements to our shows that both myself and Jay have taken from previous experiences within our worlds.
How has the Burbank Card Show influenced the Hobby?
Our success has helped other shows step their game up. From our Will Call area to our badge design to our commitment to posting on socials, we put in work. Just with our presence alone and putting on our show, we have a strong influence on the Hobby’s growth.
Given the success of the Burbank Card Show, what do the next five to 10 years of the Hobby look like to you?
I do see an influx of collectors at all levels and all ages in both the Burbank Card Show and the industry as a whole. And this is an ever-growing industry that’s scratching the surface of what it can be. In just a matter of years, it can grow tremendously. As the Burbank Show’s director, the focus will be scalability. Understanding the value of growth and also knowing when to stay the course. The possibilities are endless.
For all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there, especially if you want to get into this space, I recommend the value of finding that gray area and being able to roll with the punches. There is no blueprint in life, and this includes our industry. Sometimes, you may need a little bit of this, and you may need to add a little bit of that, but stay consistent and focus on being an asset. Your time will come.