Monday, January 9, 2012

Card shop withdrawal

As a kid, this was my attitude towards card shops. Happy and not a care in the world.

There were quite a few good card shops still around when I was just getting into collecting in the early-2000's, and none of them were too far from my house. I could pretty much go any time I wanted, with my parents, of course.

Almost everything was reasonably priced, and memorabilia cards hadn't exactly exploded yet from what I can recall. Any day at the card shop was a great day.

This card pretty much illustrates my feelings towards card shops now.

One reason is that there's almost none around here anymore. I have a hard time grasping the fact that there's pretty much no card shops in the Chicago-land area. (If any of you know of any, please let me know!) I've heard good things about one in Waukegan, which is a ways away from where I live. I don't really want to drive an hour to a card shop with the risk of coming back empty-handed.

There's one that's about a twenty-minute bus ride from my house that's not too bad. The only problem is that they never get any new cards in.

There's another one that I just became aware of last summer that's just a short drive away. The only problem is that almost all of their cards are stashed away in boxes behind the counter.

I don't want to sound petty, but I really hate having to keep asking the guy behind the counter if I can look at that box, and then that other box, and then that other box every five minutes. I love just going from box to box and digging through them, like at a card show. Why not just leave them out for the customers? I don't know that there's too many thugs that walk into baseball card shops looking to steal cards priced at a quarter a piece.

And it seems like everything is overpriced in card shops now. And I do mean everything.

I've mentioned my favorite card shop from when I was a kid before.

The owner was always nice and came to recognize me and my parents every time we walked in after a while. To give you another idea of how great it was, I'll share this story.

I always needed binders for my cards when I was younger. (I still do.) This particular card shop had binders for sale all the time. But these weren't your normal binders, mind you. For about $5, you got a binder filled with pages, as well as all those pages being stuffed with cards. Each binder was filled with cards from a particular team. For no specific reason, I bought a Red Sox-themed binder.

Now you're probably thinking they were mostly just junk wax. I don't remember the exact contents of the binder, but I'm sure some of it was. But a lot of it wasn't. These three BoSox cards you see above were just three of the cards in the binder. There were a lot of other '70s ones in there as well.

Seeing as it was a long time ago, I don't really remember my reaction when I opened that binder. But I'm sure my eleven year-old self was ecstatic to have a real, actual card of Carl Yastrzemski.

By the way, both the Ted Williams and Billy Martin cards I previously featured in this post were also purchased at that card shop.

After that shop unfortunately closed, I came across another card shop. It might well have had the best name of any owner who ever ran a card shop. It was called "Zeke's Baseball Cards".

They didn't really get a lot of new cards in, but the owner was always nice and accommodating so I always made it a point to try and go there at least once or twice a month.

They always had this weekly raffle where the winner got 20 bucks in store credit. To my surprise, I actually won it one week.

That's how I came to own a 1958 Topps Rocky Colavito and a 1961 Topps Robin Roberts for the price of two bucks. The Colavito was priced at $12 and the Roberts at $10, but with the raffle winnings, it came out to just two dollars. Two dollars!

"Zeke's" closed down a few years ago as well.

Around the same time I found "Zeke's", I'd seen an ad in Beckett about a small card show held in a local bowling alley near my house every couple weeks or so.

After the first time I went, I couldn't stop. It was great. Each week, there were about six or seven dealers crammed into a small room. All of them had the "good stuff", and most of them had new stuff each week.

A couple of the dealers had dime boxes, quarter boxes, and dollar boxes with a lot of the newest issues or just miscellaneous baseball cards. Having the base cards from newer issues at my disposal for a dime a piece was great for picking up all the cards I needed from new sets. It meant less packs I needed to open. (I didn't have much money in the first place.) That's where the Mike Fontenot card fits in. (I know it looks out of place with the other two.) He was just starting to become one of my favorites at the time and I was excited to find that one in one of the dollar boxes. It was my first great Mike Fontenot card.

Then there was always this one guy that sold a lot of higher-end vintage cards. He had the display case and everything. But he also had a smaller box off to the side filled with discounted lower-grade vintage. The Goudey Joe Vosmik card you see above was the first Goudey card I ever owned. (I've only been able to pick up one more since.) The guy had about four or five of those Goudeys for $5 a piece. There was only room for one of them in my modest budget. I'd never heard of any of the guys he had, so I just picked the one with the coolest picture. Turns out that Vosmik wasn't a bad player at all in his day.

The Pee Wee Reese card also cost me just five bucks. The edges are obviously sliced off and there's a few creases, but come on, it's a '55 Bowman card of a baseball legend. It remains one of my all-time favorite cards in my collection.

Unfortunately, that little show in the bowling alley met a similar fate as the other card shops I frequented. After a while, less and less dealers were showing up and I stopped going.

I took a trip there last year with my friend and my dad just to see if, by chance, there was some sort of revival and more dealers showed up. There wasn't. The show wasn't even in the same room. It was moved to the room where all the kids games were. (The thing with the crane, the free throw game, etc.) And there was just one dealer left. One.

I bought a couple cards, bowled a game with my friend, and left with a sigh.

I do indeed feel lucky that there's a gigantic convention hall about ten minutes from my house that holds a massive card show two or three times a year. It's also where the National is held when it comes to Chicago.

And there's a humungous flea market every Sunday during the spring and summer that I've already talked in great detail about in many of my posts. (I'll be talking about it more once spring and summer comes.) There's always cards to be found there.

But in the winter months, like today, there's not much going on in terms of cards. Plus, during the summer afternoons, I'd love it if there was a card shop I could go to anytime I felt like it. But there's not.

I love that stores like Target carry sports cards for me to buy if I've ever got a little extra money. And I love making trades online with other card enthusiasts. But as great as those things are, they're nothing like the feeling you get when you walk into a card shop.

That's why I'm going through "card shop withdrawal".

1 comment:

AdamE said...

I don't know any shops in Chicago but I bet Steve does...