Monday, July 29, 2013

Stapled to the card show door

The National is fast approaching.

In five days, I'll be wandering its vast halls. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, my dad and I will be there on Saturday. Lock, stock, and barrel.

Around now, near the peak of anticipation, I also sometimes like to brush up on one of my favorite topics to discuss around here.

Card show etiquette.

It's something I've talked about a few times before on this blog. However, what got me thinking about it again was a follow-up post by Robert over at "$30 A Week Habit", one that referenced another recent write-up over at "The Shlabotnik Report" that I'd somehow missed the first time around.

So, in so many words, you could say this post is a follow-up to a follow-up.

In the original write-up that spurred this recent chain of posts, Mr. Shlabotnik (I apologize, I don't think I've ever gotten your first name) recounted a little run-in he had with a fairly rude young cardboard enthusiast.

Go ahead and read the terrific write-up if you haven't already. But, in a nutshell, the kid kept butting into our blogger's dime box experience, pushing him out of the way and basically hogging the cards for himself. And, even worse, the kid's dad didn't say a single word.

I know my dime boxes well. I spend quite a bit of time browsing through each and every one. But, along with that, I also know the proper etiquette when it comes to my digs.

If a table is full of potential customers, that's one thing. I don't want to try and squeeze in to a mosh pit of fellow dime box scavengers. If anything else, I'll just come back to that table later.

It's a major reason I've never seriously tried to get an autograph at a baseball game. I bet quite a few elbows were thrown to get a Rey Sanchez signature there.

Even if I happen to be the only one digging through a given discount bin, though, I like to stand off to the side. And, if I see another collector eying the box, I shuffle over a little more. I don't want to hog the cardboard, by any means.

It's only proper.

The actual dig itself is the foundation for a few prime card show rules.

No, don't hog the boxes. And, maybe, even check with the other people at the table to see if they're looking for anything specific. That way, if you find something they might like, you're probably saving them quite a bit of time.

Should it ever occur, this next one is a double fail for both the customer and the vendor.

If a dealer puts the time and effort to separate his cards by sport, player, set, or whatever else, then it's the customer's job to put those cards back in the proper order.

It may seem like common sense, but I've seen such a thing on many occasions. Football, basketball, and hockey cards scattered amongst a slew of other baseball boxes. Boxes that were not originally of the multi-sport variety.

Not only does it hurt the dig for future customers, but I'm sure it eats up a great deal of the vendor's time by having to put everything back in the proper order.

I usually don't peruse the binders separated by set that a lot of dealers put on display, but I'm sure this is a big problem for those types of tables as well.

Bottom line...just put the cards back in the right order, please.

If I hadn't have seen this one for myself, you'd have a hard time making me believe it actually happens at shows.

But, alas, it does. And I've been there to witness it a couple different times.

Judging from this blog's name and all, I'm not one to browse through the high-end "glass case" cards with much enthusiasm.

This '66 Topps Jim Bunning is one of the extreme few pieces I've actually bought from a display case during my years frequenting card shows. (And it only cost me a buck, anyways.)

From what I know, though, glass cases are there for a reason. Sometimes, vendors leave the cases open for public viewing.

Most of the time, however, they're usually shut. I'm no high-end expert, but I'm guessing that means the dealer wants you to ask about a certain card before pulling it out of the case for a closer look.

Still, judging from what I've seen, that hasn't stopped a few collectors. I've seen people simply open up the lid, reach in, and pull something out without even so much as alerting the vendor.

Those kinds of people should be kicked out of card shows.

Again, you'd think it'd be common sense.

I guess it isn't for some people.

As customers, most of us abide by quite a few rules from the unofficial card show handbook.

Still, the vendors have some means of etiquette they should use as well.

I can't say I've ever set up at a card show, flea market, or anywhere else. But, should I ever do so, I've picked up quite a few of the "do's and don'ts" of being a vendor.

One of my biggest pet peeves are the dealers that don't put prices on anything.

I guess I can see why some higher-end material would be without a price tag. That frees up a bit of room for negotiation.

But, with lower-end stuff, just slap a number on it. I always hesitate when I see a box of dime box-like cards without a price. Chances are, they won't be much. But I still like to know what I'm getting into in the first place.

I once dug through a bin of unpriced cards. To test the waters, I pulled the above Don Larsen and a couple other commons. The guy wanted five bucks for 'em.

Needless to say, I sighed and put them back in the box. I eventually secured the Action Packed Larsen for a much, much more reasonable price.

So, yeah, I guess the story had a happy ending.

But it would've saved me a great deal of time had the guy just priced them out.

I'm worried I'm going to come off as sounding petty or unappreciative with this next one.

But here goes.

If I walk up to your table, chances are I'm going to buy something. I'm not one of those collectors who stops at every single possible moment to check out the surroundings.

I completely understand why other people do that, but it's not how I do things. I know what I want, and I've gotten pretty good at scoping out tables that have discount treasures over the years.

I guess what I'm saying here is...

Don't keep trying to sell me something for twenty minutes straight if I'm at your table.

For a while, I wore my treasured Roberto Clemente jersey to card shows. I don't have a vast collection of uniforms by any means, but the #21 Bucs one is easily my favorite.

After a while, though, I stopped. A couple times every show, I'd have someone try and sell me some kind of Roberto Clemente item. (I even had someone offer to buy the Clemente jersey itself once.)

Since I'm not exactly the type of person who'd say "Sir, I'm not interested in any of this", I just listened to their spiel and nodded. I understand why some vendors might do such a thing, but I'm not there to listen to sales pitches.

It's a major reason why I'll be wearing my Mike Fontenot jersey to the National this weekend. To date, no one has tried to sell me any Mike Fontenot stuff.

I hope I didn't come off as overly grumpy there.

I'm actually far from it, because...

It aggravates me to no end when vendors don't even acknowledge my presence at their table.

I'd rather have someone give me a 20-minute sales pitch than not say anything at all.

Just a quick "How's it going?" or "Can I help you with anything?" is terrific. And, as long as they're not trying to sell me anything, having conversations with affable vendors who simply want to talk baseball cards is even better.

It's one of my favorite parts about going to card shows.

Every so often, though, you'll find the vendor who just doesn't care. I've spent over an hour at some tables without the guy saying anything to me.

I've even seen dealers just up and walk away from their tables for a minute without warning. That, as you might guess, is disrespectful and also downright stupid.

One of the regular dealers at these shows (who I assume will be at the National) always has a big bin of scattered discount vintage cardboard. The dig itself is a massive amount of fun. I found my '61 "Stan the Man" there last year.

However, each and every time I've been at his table, it's taken me a painstaking amount of time to get the guy's attention when I was through. He's always been buried in some type of huge book (I'm guessing a Beckett), without much regard for the customers.

It just isn't proper etiquette. But, yes, my love for discounted vintage edges out my distaste for rude vendors.

Not by much, though.

I contend that every card show should staple a set list of guidelines outside of every card show door.

Perhaps someone should whip up an actual cardboard etiquette handbook and give those out on each occasion.

Like anywhere else, manners have their place in the card show industry.


buckstorecards said...

My theory is: If there's no price on it, you can't afford it, and asking would likely cause a mild coronary.

Robert said...

Be sure to save two days for the National. You just can't complete it in 1.

I almost didn't get through it all in 2 days last year...

night owl said...

When attending card shows, I stopped wearing clothes that signified any sort of allegiance short of Levis jeans because I was sick of certain dealers latching onto that.