Panini America’s 2013 NFL Player of the Day Winner Becomes Card Shop Owner
Three years ago, Aaron Kellington was a collector coming back to the hobby he remembered as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s. Last year, he was the winner of the Panini America NFL Player of the Day contest — something that sparked his collecting focus even more.
This year? Well, now he’s a card shop owner because of that memorable day.
“The POD contest is truly an amazing opportunity,” said the 36-year-old whose shop, Kel’s Sports Cards, is based in Carnegie, Pa. “I love the fact when we explain to someone that they actually have the chance for a NFL player to visit them if they win they always roll their eyes.
“Then I ask them to come behind the counter, and I go to YouTube and show them the video from that day. Once they see that, that are awestruck and can’t wait to open up their silver pack. It’s one thing to explain the rules of the contest, but to have 100-percent proof that you can win and show them how terrific the experience was for my family and friends is just awesome.”
As the winner of the contest, Kellington had Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown visit his home for an afternoon where neighborhood kids and other friends met and played catch with the NFL veteran. After that, Brown signed autographs at a nearby card shop, Sportscards Etc., while Kellington went on a $250 shopping spree. The hobby shop-focused program has entertained and provided thousands of autographs to collectors for more than a decade.
“The card shop I started going to entered me into the contest,” Kellington said. “That day we probably had 75 people show up [at my house] — both of my daughters had their friends and teammates from softball come along with their siblings. Just to see how Antonio interacted with the kids and taking time to catch the football and play basketball and take pictures with the kids — he was such a class act. It’s something that the parents and kids still talk about to this day.”
Kellington’s collecting focus included a bit of everything — and his return to collecting simply started with a visit to a card shop.
“My focus was all over the board,” he said. “However, I mainly stuck to the four major sports”
His card shop does the same, stocking a little bit of everything.
“As a shop we specialize in vintage and modern baseball, football, basketball and hockey,” he says. “We also carry non-sports. We carry a full selection of hobby boxes and cases. As well as sports memorabilia and historic autographs. We want to be a one-stop shop for any sports fan or autograph collector.”
Like many card shops, Kellington’s business also includes a group-breaking element — something that also helped fuel his collection when he got back into cards.
“My wife was actually tired of all the packages coming and me taking over two rooms in our house with all the stuff I purchased,” he said. “One day a retail space opened across the street from my security business, and I decided to open up a retail store. We opened in April 2015. I would say it took me about six months to open the shop.”
Kellington calls the venture an “opportunity to follow a dream I’ve had since I was 8 years old” and noted “I always wanted to own a card store.” It’s also a venture that does have some differences — like watching his customers walk out with the big hits from wax boxes.
“That’s the biggest adjustment I had to make,” Kellington said. “Normally I’d want to open anything that was sealed. But I can truly say nothing is better than having a customer open something and hit it big.”
Chris Olds is a Dallas-based freelance writer and former Beckett Baseball editor who has covered the sports card industry for more than 15 years. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisolds2009.