Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Card show changes, Pt. 1: A dime box etiquette rant
I attended a card show at the big local convention center a few Saturdays ago.
While I still came out with my usual bag full o' finds, the show was, for quite a few reasons, a strange and disconcerting experience. I'll probably go into further details in the later posts in this series, but for now I'll just say that it pretty much embodied every reason why I'm more drawn to low-key, hotel-type card shows rather than these sometimes overwhelming convention-hall gatherings.
No single table confirmed that more than a dime box vendor I stumbled upon a couple aisles in. In terms of both quantity and quality, it was a haul for the ages, and every single card you'll see in this post came from those boxes.
But at the risk of getting on my soapbox and sounding too preachy, both the vendors and the customers who were digging alongside me at this table also embodied almost everything you should NOT do when trying to provide a comfortable card show experience.
There were so many violations of your basic dime box etiquette that I almost don't even know where to start.
1) The table was run by a father-son duo, and from the moment I arrived at the boxes to the moment I left about 45 minutes later, the son was standing literally about two feet away from me for reasons still unknown.
I'm a big believer in personal space, and it made me uncomfortable knowing the kid's eyes were on me (he was right around my age) nearly the entire time I was at the table.
2) Every time I would start to accumulate a new stack of cards I wanted to buy, the kid would step in my way and begin counting them for me.
I don't mind if vendors want to total up my purchases for me. It actually helps since my piles tend to be quite messy (ask my dad about that) and it keeps me from having to take several minutes to count everything at the end of my dig.
But what angered me about this particular experience was that the kid did, in fact, physically step in front of me to count what I had, to the point where I had to reach over him to look through a new stack of cards.
Again, you'd think something like this would be common sense...but apparently not.
3) The kid also repeatedly crouched inches away from me -- even kind of nudging me at one point and stepping on my foot -- to reach for boxes he had stored underneath the table.
Not even a single Excuse Me.
4) On a couple of occasions, the kid pushed past me to put new stacks of cards in the dime boxes.
I'd normally be excited about the prospect of more dime cards to look through, but most of the open spots the kid chose to insert said new cards were spots I'd purposefully left bare within the rows to keep my place.
Since the table consisted of about a dozen 3200-count boxes, it often wasn't easy to remember where I'd left off.
5) Perhaps it's the cynic in me, but part of me sometimes believes that people, like dogs, should be required to have some kind of basic How To Act in Public 101 training when it comes to large gatherings.
The kid took about three or four phone calls while I was at the table, and, like I said earlier, he was standing two feet away from me the whole time.
I became well-versed in his Ebay tales, how this card sold and this one didn't sell and how he was thinking about giving this one guy bad feedback and how he couldn't make it to the party later.
6) Also present was the classic vendor move: trying to sell me stuff, over and over again.
No, I don't want this 3200-count box of basketball cards for thirty bucks, and no, I don't want that Griffey jersey card because you see I just decided to buy a card of his.
7) But it wasn't just the vendors.
On a few different occasions, customers came up to the table, reached across my body, shuffled through some cards (again, causing me to lose my place), fingered through a stack inches away from me that anyone could see was quite obviously my purchase pile, and left without a word.
You don't have to be a dime box rookie to know not to do that.
8) If you see someone else digging through dime boxes when you arrive, you should, at the very least, ask them where they are and then start looking through the cards that they've already gone through.
I employed this proper dime box etiquette at a table earlier on in the day, quietly inquiring where the guy was in his dig. He pointed out the cards he'd already sifted through and vehemently thanked me for asking. He even, at one point, said to me, Seems like no one here has ever been to a card show before since I guess he'd already dealt with a few of the issues I'd come to experience a few tables later.
Not one of the customers that approached the table during this massive dig employed that same common courtesy.
9) After the dust had settled nearly 45 minutes later, I wound up with 474 dime cards and a mild headache.
About 95 percent of dime box vendors I've come across in the past will offer some kind of discount if you spend a good amount of time and money at their table, somewhere around 20-30 percent off. I don't mean to sound cheap or anything, but I thought a volume discount in this case would've been appropriate for my 474 cards...say, 40 bucks for the lot.
That's 47 dollars, said the kid. Guess not. Though I guess I did get four cards free, technically.
I worry that I sound petty or whiny when it comes to these simple rules of dime box etiquette, but that's exactly the reason why I felt the need to write an entire post about something like this.
I don't think I'm asking for much when I say that you don't have to be watching over my shoulder for 45 minutes straight or getting in my way when I'm trying to BUY YOUR CARDS or the basic fact that you should, both literally and figuratively, not step on people's toes whilst going through a dime box. I'm not asking for much here.
These rules are SIMPLE, and, for the most part, just basic common sense.
Despite all these little frustrations and head-shakers, I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that, in the end, the cards themselves are what matter most.
Yes, it would be nice if people could abide by these simple guidelines and, doggone it, just be polite.
But am I willing to brave one of these extended I'm-kind-of-losing-faith-in-humanity moments if it means adding 474 gem-filled dime box finds to my collection?
You bet I am.
Especially cards that feature a selection of tough late '90s cards from sets like Ultra and Fleer Tradition and Sports Illustrated that this father-son duo had by the bucketload in their dime boxes.
The experience was far from ideal, but I still walked away from that table feeling nothing short of triumphant.
Perhaps the best of the lot was this spectacular "Video Replay" Stadium Club insert of Kerry Wood's 20th strikeout during that fateful afternoon against the Astros in 1998.
It doesn't show in the scan, but if you tilt this card back and forth, you get to see something like a TV replay of that last breaker to Derek Bell, a pitch that still has the most action of any single pitch I've ever seen in my years of watching baseball.
It's things like this that I've hoped to convey through this blog. Digging through dime boxes does take some time and effort, and yes, you might run into some less-than-ideal experiences from time to time like this one. But I'll be darned if anything beats that feeling at the end of the haul, the feeling when you know you've just bolstered your collection by exponential leaps and bounds.
In the end, the cards rule all, and always will.