Cassius Marsh: #AthleteAnd Trading Card Collector
The spark that turned Cassius Marsh’s obsession with trading cards into a business came when $20,000 worth of his collection was stolen from a backpack in his car.
In the hours after that fateful November 2016 night, Marsh fired off a series of tweets offering two game tickets to anyone in his then-team city of Seattle who could track down his beloved Magic: The Gathering cards. The ordeal quickly went viral, as media outlets everywhere picked up the story of a 6-foot-4, 254-pound NFL linebacker with tattoos being brokenhearted by a hobby typically tied to kids and non-athletes.
“I think a lot of the reactions were like, ‘What’s Magic: The Gathering?’ and ‘What’s this NFL guy doing playing that stuff?’” recalled Marsh, a self-proclaimed nerd. “That moment really rocketed me into the marketplace, and I ran with it because I saw an opportunity to pay for and feed this addiction that I love so much. Since then, it’s been my side hustle, building partnerships and stacking up a ton of product while working towards one of my dreams.”
That dream became reality this past February when Marsh, fresh off completing his seventh NFL season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, teamed up with his best friend and business partner Nick Nugwynne to open Cash Cards Unlimited. Based in Marsh’s hometown of Westlake Village, California, the trading card store is meant to be a safe, enjoyable experience where fans of all trading cards – from sports to Pokèmon to Yu-Gi-Oh to, of course, Magic: The Gathering – can play, connect and dive deeper into the world of collecting.
The venture is the latest successful business move for Marsh, who also has the distinction of helping launch the now-popular Cameo by recording and selling the site’s first video in 2017. And along with his day job with the NFL, Marsh feels extremely blessed to have multiple careers centered around two of his greatest passions – football and trading cards.
When did you first get into trading cards?
For me, it all started with Pokèmon. I remember going to bed watching the same Pokèmon VHS tape over and over again and loving it so much that I wanted to find more of it. And when the trading cards came out, that was it. I would take my binder wherever I went, and my brother would take me around the neighborhood to hustle and get cards.
Then, when I was 11, I found Magic: The Gathering, and I went to every FNM, or Friday Night Magic, at the local card shop. If I wasn’t playing a Friday football game, I was playing FNM, sometimes until two in the morning. I have a strong passion for trading cards, anime and that nerd culture.
How did this hobby turn into something more for you?
When I went to college, I gave away a lot of my collection because I didn’t think anybody would be playing or that it was even worth much. Of course, I was wrong, and when I saw all these people playing Magic, I was pretty bummed that I had let the cards go.
One day in college, I was walking down Melrose and made a random decision to get back into Magic and start buying the cards again. As I gained more knowledge on how to play and invest, that’s when I got really serious about collecting them and the business side of things. When I got drafted and finally got some money in my pocket, I started investing, and then the whole thing in Seattle happened. It was cool that Magic got me a care package to try and make up for it, and that led to partnerships with Card Kingdom and Ultra Pro, working with Wizards of the West Coast, and now here I am with my own shop.
What went into your vision for Cash Cards Unlimited?
I’ve been planning it for a while and I always wanted to do it because I loved the environment so much when I was little. If you’ve ever been to a traditional card shop, they are pretty small, they smell sometimes and there’s not a lot of luxury about the trading card experience in general. My vision was to build for customer experience and create a trading card shop that was unique and gave something to people that they wouldn’t forget.
The grand opening was epic. We had a huge show of people and a lot of success. The most memorable part was me and my partner Nick realized that we had done $300,000 in sales in the first month. For a trading card shop, that’s impressive and something we’re proud of with it being our first business and obviously a passion project. We’re still grinding and developing more for the shop and online, but hearing that, we were like, “Wow, imagine what we can do when we really lock in.”
I was blessed to have great veterans in the locker room when I first came in the league... They were more than just athletes, and they showed me how to set myself up for success.
What motivated you to pursue this second career while still playing in the NFL?
I was blessed to have great veterans in the locker room when I first came in the league with the Seattle Seahawks – guys like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. They would constantly push me and tell me football isn’t forever. I was fortunate to have their example because they were active during the offseason, with Cliff in real estate and broadcasting and Mike writing books. They were more than just athletes, and they showed me how to set myself up for success.
It was tough at first and I had to work through it, but if you’ve got a dream and something you want to do, use this NFL platform to rocketship your business. The NFL and NFLPA makes guys aware of all the resources and things available to build for success and give me the confidence and knowledge, so it’s just a matter of going for it. Make sure you create something to fall back on and transition to either if football doesn’t work out or when it comes to an end.