Customers will spend Â£300 on a box of games cards, says boss of Doncaster store Vault 14
Trading cards have come a long way from the days of pictures of Stanley Matthews in packets of cigarettes. Â
And Doncaster businessman Shaun Ward knows that better than anyone.
In the store he opened just a few years ago with friends Jordan McGregor and Adam Brooksbank, business is thriving selling what are now known as gaming cards.
A bit like top trumps, players use the statistics on their cards to attack their opponents character in games with names such as Pokemon,Yu-gi-oh and Magic: The Gathering.
But while some trading cards in the past, and top trumps, may have been fairly cheap, enthusiasts will pay big money for some of the games cards sold at the Vault 14 store, on Waterdale.
A new batch of cards for Magic: The Gathering arrived this month, with new characters and details. They were being sold in a selection box, with the boxes costing Â£300 each. They contain a number ofÂ number of cards, including some classed asÂ hard to get.
The shop received eight boxes. Five of those were pre-ordered by customers before they even hit the shelves at Vault 14.
It is seriously playing, and gaming is one of the busy aspects of busing at Vault 14, which originally opened as a comic store, and still sells lots of Marvel and DC comics.
Shaun thinks shops like his have benefited from television shows like the Big Bang Theory, a US sitcom involving '˜geeks' who enjoy science fiction and comics, and spend much of their time in comic shops.
'I think it has helped,' he said. 'It is now accepted to be a geek. It's done for comic shops what Friends did for coffee shops.
The game cards are big business.
Shaun said: 'There are some pretty serious players of these games. But then you get people who will spend Â£1,000 on a fishing rod, because it is their hobby. These are just people spending money on their hobby.
'There are competitions with millions of pounds worth of prizes in some of these games, so it is pretty serious stuff. There are some pretty serious players out there.'
There are cheaper packs of cards, and players can play the game with just a few pounds worth of cards.
Shaun, Jordan and Adam initially met as customers at a previous comic shop they used to visit as customers, Angel Hill, which was in an upstairs room on Printing Office Street.Â
They took over the business when the owner left.
They went on to start up their own shop under the current name. After seeing the amount of stock increase, the shop moved to Scot Lane, again upstairs, but over three floors.
From there it moved to Waterdale, and is now in its third different shop unit on that precinct. It has moved five times in just a few years, but has been at the current site for just over a year.
The gaming side of things has grown and grown. As well as the cards, they also sell themed board games.
The themes are based on television shows and films, and even video games. There are Ghostbusters board games on the sleeves, and even a version of monopoly themed on the videogame Fortnite.
But it is not just a selling space. Around half the floor space at Vault 14 is covered by tables and chairs. It has had an old style coin operated video game on the premises, although it has gone back to the maker for repairs.
This is the space where Shaun is creating a community for gamers.
Sometimes it is used for players to take part in competitions. Other times it is used for product launches, or '˜sneak peak' evenings, where customers can come in and buy products before they are launched.
It also serves as a cafe, with the shop selling sandwiches, snacks, teasÂ coffees and soft drinks. The can even sit town and read comics there.
'I used to play some of the games like this nearly 20 years ago. In those days, we used to pile round to someone's house in Intake, and there would be 15 to 20 people in there.Â
'We want to create a unique experience,' said Shaun. 'The shop looks good, and the more people come into the shop, the more chance there is of them buying something. We don't charge entrance, but we do ask that people buy something , even if its just a drink or snack.
'We started out as just a comic shop, but we have added to that over time. We don't rely on any one line.
'People will come in and play games, and people will tell them better ways to play, and how they can improve. It's all about building a community.'