Sunday, June 17, 2012

No price, no dice

We've all seen them before.

The unpriced cards. 

You look all around the box or binder they're in, and yet there's no markings at all. You're in the dark.

As collectors, there's a few approaches we can take.

a) Ask the vendor how much they are beforehand. That way, you won't have to put anything back if they end up being overpriced.

b) Browse through the box and pull out a few you want, if any. Then, ask the vendor how much they are. This way, you can get a feel for what kind of cards are inside and how much they are.

c) Completely ignore the unpriced cards and move on to the next table.

Which choice do you prefer?

For the most part, I've been inclined to go with "c". 

The main reason I stopped going to one of the local card shops was the fact that absolutely nothing had prices on them. And everything was either behind the counter or in a glass case, so I had to ask for a specific box every single time.

I did manage to fill a gaping hole in my collection at that card shop with the above Fidrych card from the '94 Ted Williams set. I'd opened tons of those packs during my youth, but I somehow never pulled the base card of "The Bird".

The price ended up being reasonable, but I would've been a lot more at ease if I would've known how much they were beforehand.

Last year at the flea market, I saw a box of cards that didn't have a price on them. Against my better judgment, I pulled three cards and asked the vendor how much they were. I don't remember what the third card was, but I know two of them were ordinary issues of Doug Mientkiewicz and Don Larsen. Nothing special, cards that were typical of many dime boxes I've dug through over the years.

"Five dollars", replied the vendor. 

That's one of the reasons I typically don't like to look through unpriced cards. Some people have an overinflated value of their cards, although it's little fault of their own.

I don't want to come off as petty, but I'd really prefer people put prices on their cards. I never understood why people don't. That's an underrated benefit of card shows. You almost never see those dreaded "unpriced" boxes. 

When I'm digging through a dime or quarter box, I know exactly how much the damage is at the end. I hate having to put cards back, and I almost never have to when I know exactly how much each card is.

I don't think it's much to ask.

I've been reconsidering as of late, though.

Choice "b" has worked out well for me the last couple times I've tried it. Some of my regular readers might remember the thirty-cent Rickey Henderson rookie card I nabbed from the flea market last month.

It was of the unpriced variety.

Last year, I managed to snag this awesome card of "Tony C" at the flea market, also originally unpriced. (Have I mentioned how much I love my local flea market?)

It's plain and simple. I just flat-out don't like having to ask how much this card is, or how much that card is. 

But in some cases, it doesn't hurt. Just as long as you can get the guy's attention.

Unpriced vintage especially scares me. Talk about some inflated values.

I really wanted the Conigliaro once I saw it. The dome in the background looked like a giant sunrise at first look, plus I'm a huge fan of his. However, I was afraid that it might be too rich for my blood. 

I wearily went up to the vendor and asked, "H-H-How much is this card?" 

"A buck", was the reply.

You have no idea how glad I was to hear that. An absolute steal, especially considering the nice condition it's in. (One of the better-condition vintage in my collection, needless to say.)

I handed over the dollar bill without even thinking about it. Because I knew that the prices were reasonable, I bought a few more nice vintage cards from that vendor over the summer, but the highlight was the "Tony C".

Even so, I still don't like unpriced cards a whole lot. I like to know what I'm getting into when I start digging through a box full of cardboard. But I guess I have learned a lesson recently, judging from the unpriced cards I've found.

It never hurts to ask sometimes.


AdamE said...

I ask fore a price on one card I want and see what the response is. If they get out a beckett I'm done. If they just shoot a straight price that is acceptable I start building a pile cause that means they are the type of dealer that will give you a good deal on a big stack.


I always liked this response when asking how much :
"Don't worry about the price, I'll do you right."

Robert said...

At the monthly show that used to be at my local mall, I had one vendor that I frequented, because he would total up a price..out loud and then say "all right, you have to save some money", and then he'd knock off a few bucks on the total. I miss that show...

Nick, for the most part, I have opted for option 'C' as well over the years. That option seems to give the seller the option to size up his prey to see potentially how much he can get out of them.