I got to spend a thrilling afternoon at the DMV today -- my driver's license was up for renewal.
Anyone who's ever been to the DMV could understand why I wanted to enjoy a little me-time the second I walked out those doors. Luckily, I was only a short trip away from my favorite bookstore, which in turn is right across the street from the LCS I sometimes frequent. (Throw in a Wendy's and you'd have the greatest half-block in America.)
With a bag of books in hand, I ran across the street to the LCS, where I was surprised to see a mother and son standing at the counter talking to the owner (the place is usually empty when I go on a weekday). I listened to their conversation as I began to flip through the shop's dollar bins, and it didn't take me long to realize what was going on.
Sorry ma'am, these cards aren't worth anything...late '80s and early '90s...the binder's more valuable than the cards are...they made so much of them...
I knew this sort of thing happened all the time at card shops, but I'd never actually seen it first-hand before: a person trying to sell their (or, in this case, their son's) old card collection, figuring it'd be worth big bucks for the age of it alone.
The woman, to her credit, received the news fairly well, but she was obviously disappointed and asked several times if the LCS owner was sure of his appraisal. He was (so was I, and so were you).
She and her son walked out the doors still clutching the binder of lost fortunes.
I admit, I've long had a fantasy of owning a card shop (like many collectors, I'm sure) but fact is that such dreams often leave out the painful reality of what it would actually be like.
I can't imagine how many dreams have been crushed by LCS owners since the collapse of overproduction-era cardboard. You and I both know that 1990 Donruss is essentially worthless, but the everyday person who finds cards in their attic or had a son who collected or who heard cards were valuable now (etc.) doesn't, and it'd be tough to bring myself to tell them day in and day out.
And today I saw why, even if it were financially and commercially viable (which chances are it never will be, of course), I could probably never own a card shop.
After the mother and son left, I asked the store owner how often things like what I'd just seen happened -- he said, and I quote: All the time.
While it seemed like a lot longer, I was only in the LCS for about ten minutes. Everything you've seen in this post came from the dollar boxes. Some (like this Yaz) were cards I could probably find much cheaper but too cool to pass up in the moment, while others (like the Rickey and Rizzo Update SPs) were actually steals at a buck.
But the cards themselves were really secondary to this particular trip to the LCS. Having been in the hobby for as long as I have, it's easy to get complacent in the great little bubble that we collectors inhabit. Every once in a while, it helps to see something like I saw at the LCS today, just to remind myself that there's a whole underside of the hobby that we don't often have to deal with.
Either way, it sure beats the DMV.