Donnie Binz has been collecting trading cards since he was a little kid. He started with traditional sports cards with his dad, who owned a baseball card shop. When gaming cards were introduced in the 1990s, he was instantly hooked.
Binz has been playing Magic, The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! since those games first came out in 1993 and 1996 respectively. To play, gamers collect the trading cards in order to build a powerful deck and challenge their friends. Each card has a detailed illustration of a monster, spell or weapon with a list of statistics that show how the card is played. Magic was the first game of its kind and is produced by the same company that publishes Dungeons and Dragons.
Last summer Binz opened Mr. D’s Gaming and Cards in High Ridge. He sells Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon cards in his retail space and offers a separate room for customers to play the games. In the evenings he hosts tournaments for a small entry free. Players get three packs of cards with their entry fee and have the chance to earn more cards if they win a tournament.
Binz is trained as an electrician, but he said that he was having difficulty finding work in his field. He decided to turn his hobby into a full-time business--but he’s not in it for the money.
“All my kids play and their friends play. We’re all about fun,” he said. Binz said he spent a lot of time volunteering at Feed My People and thought his card shop could be another way to serve the community, by giving young people a safe place to play games and hang out. His game room has a TV and video games, and he doesn’t charge customers to play at his store when he’s not running a tournament.
He also hosts a free tournament night each week, so those players who don’t have the $12 to $20 entry fee can still play.
“Friday is a free tourney for Magic, it’s a whole lot of fun when there’s a lot of players,” he said. His game room can comfortably seat 40 people and is often filled on popular tournament nights.
He also stocks board games for his customers to play when they’re looking for a change of pace. He said that his customers were playing Risk all day on Sunday.
Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon games attract a younger crowd, but Magic is recommended for gamers over 13 due to the more graphic nature of the cards, which feature bloodthirsty monsters and violent spells. Binz said that his customers range from 10 to 40.
He has somewhere between 250,000 to 500,000 trading cards in his inventory and doesn’t offer them for sale online. He said he’d rather meet customers face to face and build a sense of community.
“Few shops have my in-house inventory. We pride ourselves on our older cards,” he said. The cards sell from 25 cents to $30 each, depending on their value and rarity. Unlike sports cards, game cards are meant to be played with—their value is strictly based on how it can help a player win. The game’s publishers limit the print run on each card to make them more valuable and interesting to collect.
“If it’s not usable, it’s not worth anything,” Binz said. He said customers can purchase new packs of random cards from Target or Walmart, but only a shop like his can offer thousands of loose cards. This allows players to select precisely the cards they need to balance a deck.