I had plans to go out of town with a friend this past Sunday, but when those plans fell through, I managed, at the eleventh hour, to find a card show happening that same day.
I don't get many weekend days off work, and I haven't been to a new show in longer than I can remember (it's been at least five or six years). For better or worse, I've fallen into the habit of hitting the same couple shows in the Chicago circuit over and over again. They're safe, they're fun, and they're consistent. But there's something to be said for the allure of a new show. It comes with that sense of mystery, one where you can't help but think maybe it'll be great!
I did get to see my aforementioned friend later on in the day - like my card shows, we have our usual haunts around town - and what could have turned into a rather dull day off truly became the best of both worlds since cards, like friends, are never a consolation prize.
And after all was said and done, my official report is that this card show was...okay.
It was in a village hall about a half-hour from my place, maybe 50-60 tables in all. The place was jam packed, and judging from the sweat I managed to work up, didn't seem to be air-conditioned. I can also say that, probably for the first time in my card-collecting life, the median age was probably right around my own, perhaps even a bit younger.
While I like seeing people closer to my age at shows, there's also a consequence of this - at least half of the tables were nothing but slabs and/or unopened wax. I eavesdropped on a lot of conversations during my couple hours there, and I can honestly say I didn't hear one person discuss their enjoyment or sheer love of collecting. A lot of that's worth a few hundred, easy and that'll grade a 9, but little else. I even saw a kid who couldn't have been older than 10 or 11 pull out his phone and try to comp a card after a dealer quoted him a price on something. It all kind of left me shaking my head.
I also saw a lot of unpriced cards (do I even need to go into my rant about this again???) including these two I eventually came home with for $5 a pop after the dealers seemed dissatisfied when I refused their initial $10 price tags - I suppose I can't get too mad since I did, in fact, buy them, but for god's sake PRICE YOUR CARDS, PEOPLE.
I saw exactly two dime boxes all morning, and bought a whopping 10 cards from each of them.
The first was an unspectacular blend of recent Bowman rookies of guys who probably never made it above AA, although I did find a few Cosmic Chromes speckled into the mix (I admittedly kinda like the set). The second was a mostly dull run of mid-to-late '80s singles that had me wondering how in the heck do I still need cards from '88 Fleer?!
I managed to pad my purchase from the latter with the Ripken SP at the top of this post - I normally wouldn't dream of forking over the $12 I spent on it at a regular show, but I still had a good amount of cash in my pocket and I knew that was a card I'd probably never see again.
I spent a good chunk of the morning at a table I saw minutes after jostling into the village hall (seriously, there were a lot of people).
Obviously, the lack of dime boxes at this show was a disappointment, but this guy put together a pretty darn good quarter box for me to dig through - found lots of legends and even a nifty Hideo Nomo Topps gold parallel!
Keep your slabs, I'll take the cheap shiny stuff.
The quarter-box guy even let me have a couple Cubs oddball sets banished to a corner of his table for a mere $2 each because, in his words, he "f---ing hates the Cubs."
The first was a 2009 Topps Cubs team set that actually features a few alternate-universe photos that differ from the regular Topps cards - I already had a fair amount of these, but for two bucks I'm not gonna complain.
My second purchase was far and away the best deal I got the entire day - a complete 2008 Topps Cubs Gift Set, 55 cards in all.
Best I can tell, these were issued for a handful of teams for a very short time late in 2008 and quickly vanished - the singles are darn near impossible to find, much less the entire set. It's a treasured mix of alternate-universe cards, coach cards(!), and even guys who didn't appear at all in the regular 2008 Topps set, including obscure Dime Box favorites like Scott Eyre and Daryle Ward. (One flaw, however, being that Ryan Theriot is actually pictured on poor Mike Fontenot's card.)
Hate the Cubs all you want if it means you'll give me stuff like this for two bucks.
These were among my final purchases of the day, from the dollar box of a couple kids who had to have been about half my age (I still can't get used to buying cards from collectors that young) and talked about PSA the entire time I was at their table.
I'll buy pretty much any Topps Now card for a buck, and you don't see those yellow Walgreens parallels pop up too often - much less one of Vlad Jr.!
Normally modern singles priced anywhere above a dollar are a hard NO from me at shows - it's not that I won't find stuff I want, it's just that the number of modern cards I'm willing to pay that for is just so small.
But with all the PSAs and wrestling cards I saw from my first lap around the place, I knew I wouldn't be in much of a time or money crunch here, so I spent a good 10-15 minutes at one point digging through a $2 box that resulted in exactly three cards I needed with the Clemente, Ryan, and Pence (camo parallel!).
The '94 Topps Traded Konerko rookie has been a pain in my side for a long time, and although it was priced at $4, I basically got it as a throw-in with the Ripken SP I mentioned earlier.
I don't mean to sound cheap, and maybe I'm just out of touch with how people see their cards these days, but it seemed like very little at this show was priced correctly.
For all the tables I bought stuff from - probably about a half-dozen in all - there were probably five trying to sell 2023 Topps singles for a dollar a pop. I also saw a lot of people trying to hawk "mystery bags" for $5-10 a piece that had halfway-decent card on the front, complete with what you just know is probably junk hiding behind it.
Heck, I even paid 50 cents for that Topps Total Miguel Tejada which is probably more at home in a dime box - but that's what can happen when I see a double play card I don't already have.
For the most part, I'd say the cards I wound up finding made up for any head-shaking I had to do throughout the day - I just had to dig a little harder for them.
Managed to X out a card I've needed for a while with that '75 Kessinger mini, and I think the quarter box guy missed one by tossing the Duke mini (numbered to just 50 copies) in there.
A few cheap recent needs here - I bought most of the 2022 Stadium Club Chromes I needed off Sportlots, but that excellent Kolten Wong managed to slip by me.
Those quarter boxes probably made up about half of the total cards I purchased the entire day, which makes sense considering it had stuff like zero-year Corey Klubers and even a tough GQ photo-variation with the Donaldson.
With everything I've just described, you probably wouldn't think this show had much of anything in the way of vintage - and while you'd mostly be correct, there were a few small islands of older stuff hidden within the village hall.
The distribution of modern-to-vintage was probably something like 90 percent/10 percent, but it took me a while to find out since the Fleer Jimmy Foxx (at $5) was actually the very first card I bought minutes after waking into the place.
Tough to beat anything '76 Kellogg's, much less a HOFer like Joe Morgan, and much less one that was basically free...
...since, thanks to a bit of haggling, I got it as a throw-in with that '58 Frank Robinson All-Star - the guy wanted $15 for the Robinson and $5 for Morgan, but I got both for $15 total.
There was really only one tried-and-true vintage vendor at this show, the (often) older males who have singles and binders and glass cases surrounding every corner of their table and seem like they haven't bought a pack of baseball cards since 1973. His stuff was mostly in good condition and thus north of anything I wanted to pay, and I must admit I put that '64 Aparicio back in the box the first time I saw it and moved on.
But there's something about those darn vintage high-numbers that won't leave you alone - I walked around for a few minutes before I thought better of it and went back for Luis...and I even got the vendor to knock a few bucks off the original $15 price tag (we eventually settled on $13).
That same vendor had exactly three '61 Nu-Scoops tucked into the back of one of his boxes, and I bought all three.
These aren't something I hem and haw over, because if I see one I don't have, and the price is anything near reasonable, I buy it - the Yogi was $8, and the Larsen was a mere buck but wound up being a throw-in with the biggie...
Big-name Nu-Scoops tend to be a bit pricey, but either way I can't really argue about securing a vintage Ted Williams for $15. It proved to be an unexpectedly sweet cherry on top of what was kind of a strange afternoon. Was this show an odd experience? Yes. Did it trigger my misanthropic tendencies? Oh yes. But did I have fun? Yes. And did I find stuff I needed? Also yes.
For, in the end, card shows are that weird and rare space where all of these questions can be answered in the affirmative.