Friday, February 17, 2012

The low-end collector's card show: My findings over the years

I was all set to do a post about an idea I had last night. I had the cards scanned and was ready to go.

And then Kev from "Bonus Cantos" left a comment on my last post that gave me an even better idea for tonight's post.

He's attending a card show tomorrow (good luck and let us know what you find!), and wanted to know some tips for what a low-end collector should look for at a card show without breaking the bank.

First thing, though. I'd definitely encourage finding a card show near you if you don't already attend them. Beckett actually has a great resource for finding card shows in your state here.

Even if you don't have the money right now, it's probably good to know that there is one if you ever come up with a little extra cash.

Speaking of cash, I'm sure most of us have set budgets when we go to card shows. I know I do.

I had $90 with me at Saturday's card show, but I really didn't want to spend more than sixty bucks. (I only spent about $50.)

I guess that's one of my tips: If possible, try to have a reservoir of a little bit of extra money. Don't act like you even have it, but just know it's there in case you really need it.

Just to tell a quick short story, I know the "reservoir" didn't really apply to a guy I saw at one of my first card shows. I've told this story over and over to my parents ever since it happened.

I was at one of the tables at the bi-annual card show, just after I started to get back into baseball cards. I had picked out a few cards I wanted to buy. There was another guy in front of me, picking out a couple of the "glass case cards" (as I call them) that he wanted. When he was ready to buy them, he pulled out a wad of hundred-dollar bills that I've never seen the likes of since. It was like in the movies or something.

There had to have been a couple grand in that guy's budget that day. It must be nice.

Anyways, I'm sure most of us in the blogging community don't have that kind of money to spend at card shows. (If you do, then more power to you.)

Ever since I started going to card shows about five years ago, I've never had a huge budget. I saved up my allowance for weeks, and I usually had around $100 to go wild with at each show, sometimes a bit more. (The bi-annual show here is huge.)

I've probably gone to around fifteen shows in those five or six years, and I've never run out of money at any of them.

What makes collecting so great is that we all have our different goals. Obviously, you and only you know what you're looking for once you enter those hallowed doors of your local card show.

But I've come up with a few general tips that could be applied at most of them. Hopefully, they might be of a little help to some of my readers.


Tip #1: Try at least one dime box!

Okay, you knew it was coming. 

This post won't be all about dime boxes, but I've got to give 'em some love.

If you've never looked through a dime box, I highly encourage you do so. If you're open to just finding some cool random cards, they're awesome. If you're a team collector, they can be fantastic as well.

Just look at that fantastic Joe Mauer card from Saturday's show! To think that it only cost me a dime!

They're extremely budget-friendly at just a dime a piece. (Think of it, that's ten cards for just one single, solitary dollar bill!) Plus, most of the cards that vendors put in those boxes are cards they just want out of the house, something that might help them make a few extra bucks.

As a result, they might shave a few bucks off the final price. (Even less than a dime a piece!)

At a card show I attended this past November, I found about 170 cards from one specific dime box. The dealer only charged me ten bucks for all of them, so it was like getting 70 of the cards free of charge.

I always love a good quarter or fifty-cent box at a card show, but nothing beats a dime box. Just think, for ten bucks, you can either get 40 quarter cards, or 20 fifty-cent cards.

For that same ten bucks, you can get one hundred dime cards.

One major thing I've found is that cards in quarter or fifty-cent boxes aren't that much different from a lot of dime cards you'll find. I bet that Mauer card is in a lot of dealers' dollar boxes. 

A lot of it is just chance.

Tip #2: It doesn't hurt to pick up a few "tradebait" cards.

As I've said a few times before, most dealers don't even look through the dime cards they put out before the show.

As a result, you may be able to find a few cards of value in there.

I previously mentioned a $25 David Ortiz rookie that I got for a dime. Although I already had a copy, I picked up this Prince Fielder rookie for a possible trade in the future. Why not?

This part isn't limited to just dime boxes, either. If you see a valuable trade chip at a reasonable price at one of the tables, go ahead and pull the trigger.

It could net you a lot more in the future.

Tip #3: Cards you're not sure if you already have or not...

This one is kind of subjective.

As far as dime boxes go, I'll buy any card I think I need. If I'm 90 percent sure I already have a specific dime card, I'll still buy it.

If I do indeed already have it, it'll be an extra card for trade, which couldn't hurt. (Which was the case with the above cards.) And it only cost me a dime. 

If I don't, then I spared myself the indignity of leaving that card behind.

With quarter/fifty-cent/dollar boxes, it gets a bit fuzzier. I have to be pretty certain that I need a quarter card to buy it. If you buy too many of these cards that you already own, that's a few bucks that could've been better spent at another table.

With dime boxes, definitely pull the trigger. With others, you might have to think it over a little more.

Tip #4: Discounted vintage is a must!

I've had this blog for a couple months now. I've been reading blogs for about six or seven months.

All this time, I've never come across a blogger who doesn't like vintage. So I think this one applies to most of us.

You're not going to find an all-vintage dime box (although you might find a few individual vintage cards mixed in with the others). However, a quarter vintage box is always great. At the very least, it's just fun to go through all those forty or fifty year-old cards.

If you're not a huge stickler on condition, then I'd recommend at least browsing through a discounted vintage box.

The two cards you see above set me back just a quarter a piece. Worth it?

I think so.

Tip #5: Don't be afraid to wait sets out.

I mentioned this in my first card show post, but I'll mention it again.

When sets like A&G, Bowman, or Finest first hit the shelves, they're "hot" items. Card dealers around the country will be cracking open box upon box, case upon case of the product.

What I've found is that most of the non-"hits" eventually find their way into discount boxes after a few months, as they're just taking up space for the vendor who's waiting for the next big product.

You don't have to get that CC Sabathia insert right away. If you wait, there's a good chance you might find it for a lot cheaper later on.

I don't look through GU boxes much at card shows, but it's probably the same thing. You can get that A&G David Wright jersey or auto for a few bucks less in February than right after A&G hits the shelves in June or July.

Tip #6: They don't all have to be discount cards.

Although I heavily promote them on this blog, I'm not saying that you have to find all your cards in dime boxes.

Believe it or not, I do actually spend more than a dime or quarter on some cards. Spending a buck or two on some individual cards is always great. I just don't recommend you spend your entire budget on them.

I don't collect Dustin Ackley because he's a "hot prospect". I collect him because he's got the same last name as one of the characters from one of my favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye

The card cost me a buck, and it was worth every penny.

Tip #7: You can always go back to some tables.

This is one of the more important things I've learned.

I've mentioned it a few times before, but there was a two-dollar vintage box at the card show I attended this past November. My dad and I passed it about halfway through the show, but I didn't want to look at it then. I still had a long ways to go, and I didn't want to blow too much of my budget.

At the end of the show, I had about $25 left, waiting to be spent. That's when I went back to that table and found a bunch of great vintage, like the Eddie Mathews card you see above.

Don't be afraid to pass up a more expensive table. You can always go back if you've got extra money after all is said and done.

If you don't have any extra money at the end, then there's always the next card show. If it's a smaller show, chances are good that it's a lot of the same dealers each time. 

Tip #8: Help out your fellow bloggers!

This is my last (and newest) piece of advice.

Saturday's card show was the first I attended since starting this blog.

For the first time, I was looking for cards for other people, not just myself. I still need to repay William from "Foul Bunt" for a bunch of good stuff he's sent me lately. He collects Orioles, so I picked up a few for him.

There's some guy named "Night Owl" who collects Dodgers too, or so I'm told.

If you see something that you think a fellow blogger might like, it couldn't hurt to pick it up if you've got the available cash.

Most of the time, their reaction to the cards you find justify the price you paid.

Well, that's all I've got for now. There's probably a couple other card show tips, but I can't think of any at the moment.

Card shows are my favorite thing in the hobby, and these are just a few strategies I use to make them even more enjoyable.

If there's one thing I believe about card shows, it's this:

There's something for everyone.


Kev said...

thanks, nick! i may be a bit over my head, but now i have a plan!

Nick said...

I never really have a "plan" going into a show. It's all about finding some stuff you enjoy.

Believe me, card shows are among the most fun you'll have in the hobby!

Eric L said...

Great tips. YOu've inspired me to go to a 20-table show in the big city (Colorado Springs) tomorrow. Thanks!

Dhoff said...

Good advice. One of my favorite things to do is shopping for other bloggers.

Laurens said...

Great tips!

Spiegel83 said...

Very well thought out and all true. The tip #3 always is on my mind. My card shops dime box has gotten me cards that I may otherwise have never seen.

moremonkeys138 said...

Awesome post and awesome tips! I always kinda forget you can go back to a table and that you don't have to buy something the first time you see it. I'm actually hoping to go to a show today (if it's being held that is) and I plan on raiding all the dime boxes I can rummage through! It's really rare but I have even run across a nickel box once or twice in my show career.

William Regenthal said...

I think you nailed it! Coming from someone who sells at card shows, I think this will help people out big time.

Nick said...

Glad everyone enjoyed the post!

Ted- Best of luck at the card show if you go! I've come across a few nickel boxes, but not many. One of em had a bunch of early '80s Fleer/Donruss cards, and I bought like 100 of them for only $5. I also found a '95 UD Minors Vlad Guerrero RC in a nickel box once.

The Baseball Card Snob said...

RE: Tip#7 You can always go back to a table.

When I do a show, I walk the entire floor first before I buy anything. I make a note, either mental or on my wantlist pad of what's where. This is mostly for unopened boxes. You can find prices varying by as much as $5-7 on unopened boxes.

Not a big dime box fan, no offense. My philosophy is; most, if not all those cards in a dime box, I can TRADE for. I have too many extras laying around. I will hit the quarter and dollar boxes, especially those that discount, ie: 12 dollar cards for $10 and I always pick up trade bait. In addition to the collectors Nick mentioned, there are a group of collectors who create Topps Master sets. Those folks are always looking for certain Topps inserts.

Nick said...

I understand. My take on it is that a lot of cards you find in dime boxes are cards you'd never know you'd want until you happen to stumble upon them in one of them. From there, you might have a new player or set to trade for. Dime boxes are about finding something new that you might not have ever known about before.

The Baseball Card Snob said...

Point taken. I think the other reason I might not look is because, unlike your background image, most of the dime boxes I've seen, just have the cards thrown in there. Which can lead to damage, which is unacceptable to The Baseball Card Snob. ;)

The Baseball Card Snob said...

Rats, when I updated my profile, I put the wrong tag. This post is correct. Shouldn't try to do these things when I'm pressed for time.