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Ten Questions with a Penn State Ticket Scalper

In the United States, ticket resale laws vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, a special brokers license is required; however, it is not uncommon for many unauthorized scalpers to carry out their own illegal transactions. At Penn State, it’s not unusual to see hundreds if not thousands of tickets trade hands between strangers on the streets outside Beaver Stadium. You may not need to scalp tickets yet as a student, but it becomes a frequent chore for alumni who don’t want to pay exuberant season ticket prices to cheer on the Nittany Lions.

The term “scalp” can be traced to the art of war. A form of punishment and robbery, warriors would lure the enemy into vulnerable territory, skinning and collecting their scalps. It is no wonder the general schema of a “ticket scalper” can be negatively associated.

This past weekend, I stepped into the world of a peculiar character who was reselling tickets outside of Beaver Stadium. With a little perseverance, I was able to pick his brain, gaining insight into the secretive-art of scalping. However, in order for me to get the real inside-scoop, I was forced to bargain with my subject. In exchange for ten completely honest answers, we never swapped names or personal information and the stranger remained totally anonymous.

Onward State: How many tickets do you typically buy and resell for an event? Do you have a main source or strategy?

Scalper: I usually buy about 20 tickets and have no problem reselling them all. My main source is the fans, but every once in awhile, I’ll get a few off Craigslist. If you want to make it in this business, you’ve got to be a smooth talker; buying low and selling high.

OS: How common are counterfeits?

S: I’ve never seen a counterfeit at Penn State. They are more common down south in places like Atlanta. As far as how scalpers go about counterfeiting, I have no idea.

OS: How much is the average inflation of price per ticket?

S: Although the standard rule is that you can’t sell more than 15 percent of a ticket’s face value  — scalpers don’t really give a shit — vendors often price them as high as they want. I usually up the price $10 a ticket, but it really depends if the team is winning or not and who they are playing. The more competitive the match-up, the greater the potential profit.

OS: What is the highest potential profit a scalper can make in one sitting?

S: After today, I’ll probably leave with roughly $300. Although, the real money is in events like the Superbowl where scalpers can deal an average of $3,000 per ticket. The most expensive ticket I ever sold was in Vegas for a fight worth $700.

OS: How would you describe Penn State fans?

S: Penn State is by far one of my favorite stomping grounds — with an atmosphere unlike any other university in America — they really support the Lions, that’s for sure. Compared to other fan bases, Penn Staters are mad cool — they’re definitely one of the most courteous. The people is what makes my job spectacular.

OS: How far do you travel for work? Do you travel alone?

S: Today, I came with three others. Every week, we pack up the van and hit the road, mapping out three or four events per week. It takes about 2.5 hours to get here from Pittsburgh, so it’s not uncommon for us to split up the heavy burden of gas. Although we travel together, business is strictly a sole proprietorship — every man for himself.

OS:  Have you ever run into trouble with the cops?

S: I was arrested once about 20 years ago for vending without a license. Since then, I haven’t had much trouble. Most of the time, I’ll just throw them a pretty penny and they’ll leave me alone for the rest of the year — a $1000 usually does the trick, not here, but other places. If a cop takes you in, they’ll most likely just issue you a fine although, citations vary from state to state.

OS: What are some of the perks of being a ticket scalper?

S: The money I make is completely tax-free. I get to travel a lot and it’s a good chance to see some nice women.

OS: Are there any negative aspects of the job?

S: The job is physically draining. Traveling can be exhausting and the weather conditions are never stable. I’m either sweating my ass off in the heat or freezing in the rain and snow. Besides that, dealing with drunk idiots can also be quite annoying.

OS: What is your background? How did you first get into ticket scalping?

S: Well I’m 51 now, but I’ve been doing this since I was a kid — maybe 12 or 13 years old. I used to get tickets for free, until one day, I got the idea to resell them. Over time, a couple of my buddies took notice and they naturally wanted in on the business. What started as a hobby, quickly became a decent standard of living.

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