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.


Robert said...

After #2, I would have put the cards back in the box and walked away.

That's just plain rude behavior, and I wouldn't put up with it while I'm trying to enjoy myself...

Swing And A Pop-up said...

Fortunately, I've never had anything like this happen at a show, although I have walked away from a table before because of a rude vendor.

Zippy Zappy said...

I remember hearing the theory that you'll see a large variety of people at different shows, and that a lot of them need help with social skills.

Personally I've only ever gone to a local convention where it's same low end dime/quarter/nickel vendors everytime. They're usually really chill and only ask you if you need help like 3 mins after you've started digging and just take your word for however many cards you have (because they sure aren't going to count 400+ cards for the sake of a few dimes and keep other customers waiting).

Sorry for a mixed experience Nick. But I'm sure that the cards will make up for it and that, in the long run, for every bad dime box vendor, there are plenty of good ones. Especially ones who you come to know (and vice versa).

Adam Sanders said...

I've avoided tables or not bought anything completely because of rude vendors. That list you detailed would've been enough for me to say "screw it" and leave.

I had two experiences with rude vendors this weekend. One who I heard audibly grumble under his breath and slam the lid on his display case once I left his table when he quoted me $35 for four 1974 Topps Washington error commons and $20 more for an 84 Topps Don Mattingly. The second was a guy I heard coughing loudly as his table. As I glanced up to see if he was OK, he said, across the aisle mind you and in a very rude tone "yeah, I know I sound like (bleep). That's what happens when you have a chest cold *cough*". Needless to say I avoided both of those vendors the rest of the show.

JediJeff said...

"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."

This times 1000. It's the same reason when you bring your grocery cart to the register you get behind the person. I've seen plenty of nice cardboard pulled out by someone that got to the table first. Good on them - that's life. Sure, I could have gotten some of those, but I would have had to be a major dickweed to do it. And you just don't.

It seems like the ones that don't get the rule are younger than me and/or socially inept. Not all the younger people. Just that I have never run into anyone older than me that doesn't ask the simple question "where did you start".

Captain Canuck said...

first, I would likely give a kidney to attend a show with dime box vendors... what an utter joy it would be.

second, I've learned that common sense isn't so common anymore.

John Miller said...

I get it. I totally have a distaste for rude vendors as well as other customers who do not use courtesy. The few shows that I get too, I am pleased that I get to go through a box all by myself (with certain dealers) as there are many boxes for the others to dig in. I hope you have a better experience next time. As for the cards you picked up.....AS ALWAYS awesome. I really dig that Yount odd ball.

gcrl said...

i went to a show last weekend and experienced both ends of the spectrum at various boxes. some folks crowd in and randomly start digging through as if i weren't already standing there, and others did (as i did) ask which cards had already been looked through.

i was at one table when a guy approached smelling as if he had not showered in weeks, and had what appeared to be (i hope) remnants of chunky soup on the front of his sweatshirt. i quickly ended my review of the bargain box, paid the vendor, and skedaddled out of there.

Fuji said...

That Zenith Randy Johnson is a thing of beauty.

Matthew Scott said...

Back when card shows were a thing in my area in the early 2000's you would see this all the time. I guess the silver lining was the kid didn't quote you Beckett prices.

Mark Kaz said...

Nope, not whiny or preachy at all, Nick. Anyone who's ever been to a show knows exactly what you're talking about. For me, Nos. 7 and 8 resonate the most, since that is THE card-show pet peeve of mine. It's usually old codgers who commit this crime in my experiences. But, in terms of the young kid/vendor getting all up in your space and being rude, I would've had steam coming out of my ears! Though, as you perfectly sum up, if the offerings within the boxes are juicy enough, I can -- and have! -- put up with just about anything!

Ryan Meier said...

Excellent read. You hit the nail on the head. I can understand the customers being a little annoying during a dime box rummage, but the actual seller acting like that would have driven me nuts.

I wouldn't have lasted as long as you did.

You should have payed him in dimes...

Mike said...

By the way...that Ankiel is not a card...hahahaha!!!!

Anonymous said...

Amen, brother.

...And I love that Pulsipher...

P-town Tom said...

Like Robert and Adam before me, I would have left, but not without telling the younger vendor why. I guess that's the teacher in me . . . but I don't have patience for that kind of behavior anymore.

Regardless, top notch finds as always. I also like the Pulsipher.

Jeff Jones said...

I think it was all worth it if only just for that glorious Rod Beck card