Yes -- I realize I'm probably the last person who should be writing a guide on how to control yourself at a card show.
Me, the man who regularly comes home with north of a thousand cards from the bigger local shows. Me, the man who often decides to start collecting things right in the middle of an aisle. Me, the man whose card show hauls often take days to sort. Dad and I attended the big tri-annual convention-hall show this past Saturday, and yes, all these things happened, of course. But I'm here, aren't I? I survived, right?
I'll be the first to tell you that, while it's thrilling on so many levels, a card show can indeed be overwhelming. You can feel like you're a pawn in a video game (or whatever Troy Beamon is playing on the fascinating dime box find shown above) at times, being pulled this way and that. I mean, where else do you ever see so many baseball cards in one place? And, more overwhelmingly, so many cards you might never see again?
It's not easy, but let me give you my own guide on how to survive a card show -- sprinkled with some of this weekend's dime box finds along the way.
I guess the first thing you should know is, well, just don't fight the overload: chances are you'll probably end up buying something you never knew you needed (which in my case is about 90 percent of the stuff I find).
I'd never seen any of these four cards before Saturday (all courtesy of the dime boxes), but if you know me at all you can probably tell why I had to have each and every one.
As far as modern cards go, I'm a bit different than the herd: I actually don't set tried and true goals for myself as far as what I buy (big surprise, I know).
That doesn't mean I don't specifically seek out certain things, though -- I always try to walk away from each show with at least a few new cards for my larger player collections, and I accomplished that with flying colors this time around.
I always target cards from newer sets at shows -- I knocked out almost all of my 2018 Archives and Heritage High Number needs on Saturday (with a few straggling 2017s thrown in for good measure).
And in bigger news, Squints, Smalls, and The Great Hambino -- at only a quarter each! -- completed my Sandlot set.
My mini-collections often seem to chase me, rather than the other way around.
I rarely buy shiny cards for the sake of buying shiny cards...but a little refractoriness (if I may coin such a word) does often push certain parallels closer to my cart.
But I do often buy odd-shaped cards for the sake of buying odd-shaped cards.
Oddballs are somewhere in the middle: I prefer them to be of guys I collect (like Goose and Oil Can), but I'll often buy ones that don't fit snugly into anything I chase (like Karros and Zeile).
And one of my personal Card Show Laws is that, if you look close enough, you'll probably find an oddball you never dreamed existed before -- like good old Youppi! there.
At the risk of sounding like a 3 AM infomercial, I must ask: why waste your money on high-priced cards when you can buy dime box minis of Keith Olbermann and Mark Twain?
The first table my dad and I always hit at this show is a big tub full of scattered stuff which basically amounts to 50 cents a card.
It's mostly vintage, but once in a while a few somewhat modern gems like these emerge from the rubble -- though I can't say I knew Orel Hershiser once helped pen a NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! before Saturday.
Often I'll find large clusters of cards in the cheapie bins.
I actually picked up that complete Conlon AL All-Stars set out of the 50-cent tub (that's the whole set for 50 cents, not each individual card), and I'll buy Cramers and Sportflics all day for dimes.
Contrary to popular belief, good rookie cards can be found in dime boxes.
Proof that minor league cards rule, then and now (plus now I can finally say I own a card of a PR Guy!).
But in the end, if I can give any single piece of card show advice, it's this: allow yourself to break some rules.
In short, allow yourself to just have fun. Even if I'm not necessarily the poster boy for minimalist collecting, it's worth it to stick to certain hopes and goals, and even better to stick to a budget. But sometimes you come to a dilemma which does its darndest to shatter your plans, like the one I encountered this past weekend: should I just spend a few minutes here and casually pick out a few dime cards or SHOULD I TRY TO FILL THE BOX?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
I think you know which route I chose.
I FILLED THE BOX, dammit.
Fiscally speaking, it was the smarter choice: I counted everything after the fact and it turns out I managed to fit 316 dime cards into the $20 box, which amounts to either paying six cents per or me getting 116 cards free (I prefer to think of it as the latter).
As is the case with any potentially time- and budget-killing endeavor, I had to cut deals with myself (self-bargaining is a common tactic at card shows).
The table just so happened to be in one of the last aisles of the show, and I still had well over an hour until closing time. Plus, I was still way under budget. And when I happened upon a stack of 2013 Topps singles near the beginning of my dig, back when I was still on the fence about whether I wanted to go for the box or not, I told myself: if the Sean Doolittle rookie is in here (a prime card I needed for my new player collection of his), you're going for the box.
Out came Doolittle, and thus the race began -- soon after came another fun little trinket with my first card of Raul Mondesi with the Angels, a brief stint (8 games) I never thought was immortalized on a baseball card.
It's hard to put into words, and maybe you'll think I'm crazy, but filling the box became something like a challenge in my head after a while -- it was like trying to score a point for us low-end dime boxers in the midst of such a hit- and money-crazed convention hall.
And despite the fact that I was playing Beat the Clock near the end of my dig (I finished about five minutes before the doors closed), not once did I pad the numbers by buying stuff I didn't actually want. Everything in there was either something I needed or something I thought someone else might need.
Stuff like this quartet of miscellany were no-brainers -- including a nice Roger Clemens (almost paradoxical) and a Khris Davis card that actually features...Carlos Gomez(?).
More player collections filled the box.
More mini-collections filled the box (plus a Justin Turner rookie card for a dime?!).
More oddballs filled the box (including Japanese cards and somersaulting catchers).
Apparently these boxes were a graveyard for someone's early-to-mid-2000s Cubs collection -- I found more failed and/or obscure and/or short-term Cubs in there than I care to discuss.
Of course, the sad reality of it all is that I collect a lot of these failed and/or obscure and/or short-term Cubs (yes, even Hee Seop Choi).
Legends for dimes -- including a couple Conlon Promos, which I didn't even know were a thing before this weekend.
Now these are just plain fantastic, and easily ranked among my most exciting dime box finds of the day.
In the end, there really isn't any place on earth like a card show...other than a card show.
It's hard for any sane-minded collector (if such a person exists) to be expected to remain calm and cool through aisles full of baseball cards. You can best survive a card show by basking as often and as much as possible in the glorious fact that you are at a card show. My hope is that maybe, just maybe, my travels and journeys in this post might help you at your next show in some small way.
Even if I'm probably not the one you should be turning to for help, because have you ever read this blog?