Monday, April 11, 2011

What you can find at a card show

The card show experience for me is pretty much ritual these days. For the most part, I know which dealers I'm going to see, what cards I'm going to find, what cards I'm going to buy. There are some surprises, but I like familiarity, so much of what I experience doesn't change.

This show was ideal for me because of that. The dealers I liked were there and in places where I could find them. The cards I liked were there. Also, there was no autograph guest, which cut down on the celebrity-seeker element that sometimes pops up when the guest is a big deal. The dealers I talked to were in a good mood and seemed happy with business. It was all very pleasant if not exciting.

So, I figured that without anything to detail besides the cards, I would run down a list of what you can find at your average card show. Or at least the average card show that I've attended for the last six or seven years. As usual, your joy may vary.

What you can find at the average card show:

1. Vintage: There is an understanding between vintage and the card show. For every card show, 75-80 percent of the cards up for sale must be vintage. I have no problems with this. Vintage rules. It's more interesting to me than any kind of modern innovation. Throw all the chrome, printing plates and autographs in a big pot, mix them all together into a super high end stew and it won't come close to a single 1956 Walker Cooper card.

2. Autos and game-used: I rarely look for autographed cards or game-used cards for myself at a card show. There are two reasons for that. The first is I end up picking up most of my AU/GU cards online. There's just much more variety there. The second reason is I have a hell of a time finding AU/GU cards of Dodgers at card shows. I do find one or two about every other show, but this time I found none. NONE. Meanwhile I could wallpaper a room with all the Oakland A's relics I found.

But that was a tangent. You can find autos and game-used cards at half the tables. They're not exactly rare.

3. Current cards: I go to one table every time because I know I can knock off whatever current set I am trying to finish. It doesn't seem like a lot of dealers feature current base sets at the shows, but there are usually a handful every time, and I'm very grateful. Going to Target is so defeatist.

4. Super, shiny, mojo, patch, sick! Sick! cards: There are lots of tables with these cards. Around here, those tables feature many, many Yankees. And Richie Sexson. Or somebody irrelevant. So I stay far away. When I'm feeling especially daring, I'll stop at one of these tables and hope I can find something specific to my collection. About half the time I get hit up to check out some crazy card that I can't afford and don't want at all. I thank the mojo dealers who keep the hard sell in check.

I suppose I'd find a Dodger AU/GU for sure if I stopped here, but sometimes it just isn't worth it.

5. Supplies: I really meant to buy some supplies this time. But I didn't. The tables are always there. Waiting. Sorry dudes.

6. Dollar/50-cent boxes: I abandoned my strategy of hitting nothing but the boxes at this card show. That's because I have sets to complete, man! But they were there, and that's where I found the 1962 Al Kaline card for 2 dollars. When I finish off my 1971 set, then you'll see me hit the boxes with a vengeance.

7. Items of no interest to me: This includes football cards, basketball cards, hockey cards (although I pick up one once in awhile), auto racing items (I never look closely enough to see what's there), old movie star pictures, blah, blah, blah

Now, what you CAN'T find at my average card show:

1. Cards from the 1990s: Unless they are the chrome variety from the late '90s or random inserts that you'll find in dollar boxes, '90s cards are not available unless you want to buy a box of '92 Donruss. Have you ever seen a binder of 1996 Collectors Choice? Neither have I.

2. Cards from the 1980s: Again, unless it's a Mark McGwire/Roger Clemens/Ryne Sandberg rookie or available in a box, usually with the words "1989 Topps Baseball" on the front, I'm not going to find it. Sometimes, I get lucky and stumble across a binder with cards from the very early '80s, but not very often.

3. Oddballs: Most of the oddballs I see are Jello cards from the early '60s that I can't afford. But a little searching usually turns up oddballs that are "approachable." I can go entire card shows without finding oddballs, or I can find several.

4. Minis: Who is hiding the minis????? I demand answers!!!!! I looked for A&G minis at this card show. Couldn't find a single one. Same deal last time. They're sneaky little suckers.

5. Certain, select high-priced cards: I'm thinking mostly of tobacco-era cards, which I assume only appear at the National. But there aren't exactly Hank Aaron rookies or other cards on a similar level floating around my card show.

OK, so that's the breakdown. How does that compare to your shows?

Onto the cards I nabbed. I'll break it up into the above categories:


The reason why I go to these things:

These cards, along with the Don Shaw up top, are all high-numbers for my '71 Topps completion quest. I am quite close to finishing this thing, and I know what you're thinking:

How about landing some of those superstars from the set instead of saving them all for last?

Well, you cynical, judgmental people, have I got a post for you! But because you doubted me, I'm going to make you wait a few days.

There is nothing like picking up a couple of early '60s Topps cards that you swear you have already only to realize you were mixing them up with 2009 Heritage. There is a reason why certain older collectors stick to vintage. We confuse easily!

I spent more on this card than any other one I bought at the show. I don't know why. I knew it was a high number and that 1963 high numbers play nasty. But the dealer came down on the price and for some reason I just couldn't let it go.

Yeah, I know, what's a '75 card doing here? Didn't I complete this set years ago? I did, but the thing about having a blog focused on one set is that you become painfully aware of how off-center some of your cards are. So I updated a handful. If you need an off-center Beckert, Don Stanhouse, Pat Bourque, Pete LaCock, Steve Braun or Denny Doyle, I'm your guy.

Leafing through a binder of 1956s is as close to heaven as you will come in baseball card world. There are so many of them that I wanted to buy but couldn't. I actually had an Early Wynn card in my hand and put it back. I also passed up on a Jim Greengrass. How could I say no to a guy named Greengrass? What's wrong with me?

At least I left with some Brooklyn boys.


None for myself. The only Dodgers I came across were either way too expensive or looked fake (a very suspicious-looking Andre Ethier auto). But I did  pick up some goodies for a handful of trade partners. So, unnamed people, look for those.


All of these came from two different dealers:

I stupidly ignored the 2010 Bowman Chrome cards that I saw even though I need Dodgers from that set, but at least I finished off this Bowman Throwback insert set.

Final two non-short-print Dodgers from Heritage.

My first green-bordered Dodger Heritage card. Very snazzy, although I can't get used to how the color stops at the name. I suppose this could give the impression of spray-painting a tree, but it looks unfinished to me.

A bunch of current/retro Robinsons. The Turkey Red Robinson on the top right is my 100th Jackie Robinson card, which shows you how much Topps is churning out the Jackie Robinson cards. If you had said you had 100 Robinson cards in 1994, that meant you had about 40 dupes of his 1956 card.

At one point I started leafing through a binder of Pro Debut before I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I managed to snare 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Jerry Sands before moving on to the big leaguers again.

I was lucky enough to find both Dodgers from the Topps Black Diamond wrapper redemption series. Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier. The guy at the table said those cards were quite popular and had been looked at a number of times. Fortunately, his previous customers weren't Dodger fans. You can have all the Posey, Pujols and Heyward cards you want, fellas.

When I pointed to this card originally, I thought it was your average 1962 Frank Howard card. Then I saw the buy-back emblem on the front that everyone seems to love. The dealer alerted me to it as I was making the discovery myself. He was very disgusted that Topps puts the buy-back stamp on the cards pulled out of Heritage. For a minute there, I thought he was going to try to scrape the thing off for me.

Anyway, I grabbed it because it was cheap and I can't resist a Frank Howard card.


Like I said, things were very relaxed at this card show. I was so not in the mood for these people, so I just kept on walkin'


Actually thought about it. Then didn't.


Well, since that's all that I'm supposedly supposed to find at my card shows, then that's it, right? No other cards to see.

Wrong. Card show rules are made to be broken.


Just one card from the '90s. Pinnacle put out about 47 sets in 1997, so I don't know what this is. I can't find it in my big book of cards for idiots either. I know it is some sort of five-card Brooklyn Dodgers tribute put out by Pinnacle in 1997 in conjunction with the All-Star Game that year. I also know its mahogany shininess makes me happy.


Pretty clueless on these two Koufax cards. I think the top one is from Renata Galasso from the mid-80s. The bottom one I should know because I've seen these before and thought they were cool, but there is zero info on the back and I don't have a spare two hours to look through my giant SCD book.

But here are cards that I know plenty about:

Kellogg's!!!! Weeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

I made sure to remember to ask for the Kellogg's binder from one dealer, since I had seen it at the last card show. The selection was OK, although there were a bunch missing from the years that I need from the early '70s. I was glad to grab '83 Kellogg's 3-Ds. For some reason, I never see those.

So, that was the show.

No tobacco cards, no sick mojo hits, no supplies, no Aaron rookies, no people standing in line for an autograph from Scott Brosius. But just about everything else.

I'm happy.


  1. I was surprised - I saw a bunch of tobacco cards at the White Plains, NY card show I went to. It seems like there is more in the NY area than what I was used to in ohio.

  2. Very nice show loot! I love the older cards too but they're usually out of my price range.

  3. Man, you go to a better show than I have access to. The show here in OKC has very little vintage. There are only two vendors that have more than a smattering of vintage. One has mostly low to mid grade quality cards and the other guy (Roger Neufeldt) generally only brings the high end, high dollar stuff unless you make arrangements with him in advance. I might actually have to trek 3 hours down the road to the Big D to find a decent selection of vintage cards.

    Oh, love the Hooton. He is the new pitching coach of the Oklahoma City Redhawks now that the Astros took over.

  4. I haven't made it to a card show in AZ yet. I'm still getting used to having multiple card shops within 10 miles of my house.

    Nice haul though. Love the Kellogg's cards. I am dangerously close to having all the Kellogg's Red Sox; except the 2D ones, still need a bunch of those but they are not REAL Kellogg's cards anyway.

  5. Your red/white/blue Koufax is from the 1982 Superstar set, a follow-up to their 1980 debut.

    1980 Superstar #5, Gehrig / DiMaggio

    Not sure about the other one--TCMA, maybe? Does it have a company listed on the back?

  6. At his current pace, Jerry Sands might win the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year award. He's tearing up AAA right now hitting over .400 with 3 HR and 9 RBI's.

    Given the Dodgers obvious lack of power, there's no reason not to give him the starting LF job after his two year arbitration window passes.

  7. Thanks, Matthew.

    The other Koufax has "RGI" on the back, which I interpret as Renata-Galasso, which made a bunch of sets in the '70s and '80s.

  8. Great show summary - glad you had a good time and found some stuff for the NO collection. Looking forward to a New show coming to the Philadelphia area this wkend.