When you get to a card show twice a year there is a certain amount of pressure when the next one comes around.
I feel the need to find something memorable at the show, because who knows when I'll get that opportunity again? Here it is the beginnings of spring and, chances are, summer will be dying or dead the next time I'm show-bound.
So I was in that frame of mind this past weekend when I walked into the building and handed over my admission fee.
For starters, I wasn't all that excited by what was on the want list I brought. If I look a little deeper into that, it's probably not a good sign, but on the surface, I knew some of the stuff I really wanted -- 1960s Dodgers high-numbers, 1970s Kellogg's/Hostess cards -- probably wouldn't be at the show.
But I could hear those non-deep-thinkers shouting in my ear: YOU'RE AT A SHOW! YOU LIKE CARDS! FIND SOMETHING AND BUY IT!
Suitably kicked in the pants, I got down to work.
The show is at the state fairgrounds outside of Syracuse. It used to take place in the agricultural building. Great big hall. Lots of space. I liked it. It was familiar. Lately, though, the show has been in the science and industry building. It's also big, but more cramped than the other hall, and I heard dealers complain it is more difficult getting their stuff in and out.
In fact, some of the tables are immediately THERE as you walk in. Five steps and you're at the table. And one of them was this older gentleman with lots of discount boxes. These weren't the mythical dime boxes. The best we can do is quarter boxes here, but good enough.
The cards were strewn all over and the dealer said some kids came through and wrecked the boxes all with their dad watching them. "I'd like to see your bedroom," he told the kids. That caused me to size up some of the shabbily groomed adult clientele ambling the aisles and think, "I don't want to see anyone here's bedroom."
I spent a good 20 minutes at those boxes. It was mostly cards from the past 15 years. Dodgers were in short supply, but I managed to find a few that I needed.
There was a lot of Panini in those boxes. I mean A LOT. Nothing can touch the amount of Bowman that is in discount boxes, but Panini is making a run for the title.
Yet Panini does hold one honor in my collection.
That Panini Classics card you see there is the 500th different Clayton Kershaw card in my collection. How's that for honesty? I didn't even fudge the numbers so No. 500 was a real card.
I grabbed a small smidgen of discount cards for some fellow collectors and then got down to the only thing I really wanted to do at this show: complete the 1972 Topps set.
I went right for the guy with all of the vintage. I wonder how many cards I've bought from Gary at this point? I wonder if it's close to a 1,000? One thousand vintage cards. I need a loyalty discount.
I wasted no time and demanded ... er, requested -- his finest '72 Pete Rose card. That's right, I said "finest." I don't want some dented Pete that I'm going to look at for years into the future, saying, "I really need to replace that."
And I got one:
That's damn nice. You could eat off that.
With Charley Hustle nabbed, I requested the Tim Foli In Action card, now the last card I need to finish the set. I knew this might be tricky. And sure enough, after finding the '72 binder, the cards skipped from Nos. 706 to 712. Foli In Action is No. 708.
I felt deflated.
That was my best chance of finding the Foli In Action at that show. Now what was I going to do?
This dealer features plenty of cards I wish I had in my collection so I started going through the various binders. I started with the 1956 Topps set and pulled out two cards.
But it was only two. I just wasn't into the '56s (this has happened before and I think there's a reason for it. But I don't want bring everyone down with that post right now).
The Foli In Action news was hitting hard. I instinctively reached for the 1973 Topps binder and pulled out only the cards that spoke to me.
At this point a man and who I believe was with his elderly mother requested the '72 Topps binder. The dealer knew the man and they started to talking about counterfeit cards and memorabilia (the number of times this topic comes up at shows lately is pretty concerning). He told one story about a famous dealer and authenticator.
Apparently some collector came up to this dealer with a signed Christy Mathewson item (I don't remember what it was, I was in a state with my Tim Foli card). He showed it to the dealer and asked, "what do you think?" The dealer looked at the item and said, "I don't like it." The collector said, "well you sold it to me for $1,200 ten years ago." The dealer responded by asking the collector to come back the next day. When he did, the dealer handed him a check for $1,200.
That story was a lot better than the one I previously heard, about how he had to tell a young collector that he had spent $650 on a fake O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card.
Returning to my card quest, I realized I didn't have much interest in making a big dent in my '73 Topps bid, so I grabbed the 1974 Topps binder next to it. My want list always includes upgrade needs for my complete '74 and '75 sets. I often ignore the '74 upgrades, so I figured while no cards were speaking to me, why not do something productive?
Yay for upgrades. Looking forward to placing these in my binder later tonight.
Next, I pulled over one of the oddball binders. This is usually where the Kellogg's cards are hiding. I had looked earlier and didn't find any, but a couple other things caught my eye.
Two early '70s Fleer Laughlin World Series stickers that I needed for the Dodgers collection. I absolutely love these and there were so many in that binder and I should have just spent the whole show buying those. Someday.
A few more turns of the pages and I spotted some 1977 Topps cloth stickers. Another favorite. They didn't speak to me enough to buy any but I did see something I had never seen before.
Say it with me now '70s fans: Concepcion, Cedeno, Cash, Luzinski, Randy Jones, Morgan, Rose, RON CEY!
The Penguin! In an old-timey cap from 1976! Isn't that the greatest thing you've ever seen? (The answer is "yes"). Wow, this was totally new to me and I had to have it.
It turns out it's part of a puzzle that features a checklist on the reverse side (I'm not sure what the other puzzle "pieces" show on the back).
This wasn't quite enough to pull me out of my Foli funk, but I did consider it a find and it definitely checked a show to-do box.
At that point I left and tried to keep my eye out for any '72 binders. While I did, I stopped by the usual table to get some necessary Dodgers from the past year or so. This hasn't reached the "eat your vegetables" point but I do feel like I'm going through the motions a bit.
First things first: get the one Series 1 Dodger I needed:
Just some dumb inserts to go.
This is all I could find for 2017 Heritage Dodgers. The short-prints had been picked over pretty good.
I found one insert from 2015 that I hadn't turned up yet (Kershaw card No. 501!). But there was almost nothing else that I wanted. And that's when I reached for the 2016 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects binder. Ugh. I was hating myself as I was reaching for it.
Dudes I know only peripherally photoshopped into Dodger uniforms who probably won't amount to much in a Dodger uniform.
I didn't have a want list up for this because -- who cares -- the only thing I want to discuss is how people call this "Bowman Draft". That sounds like a beer to me. Is that to convince more people to buy it? If these cards came with beer, then, yes, maybe I would buy some packs.
I left that table before I did anything else stupid. I tried finding a Foli In Action in a '72 binder I spotted at an adjacent table, but the cards only went up to 560. Disappointing.
On my search I picked up discounted cards here and there. Some of them:
But Foli hadn't left my mind.
I stopped at another table because I saw a bunch of 1977 Topps football just sitting out in the open. This was actually an item on the want list in my pocket. But the guy wanted 40 cents per card. I thought of asking him how much he'd take for the whole box, but I just wasn't feeling it.
I WANTED FOLI!
I walked and walked and scanned and scanned every table (some of the tables are so far out of the way I wonder if they don't want people to go up to them).
On my second tour around the place I spotted a guy with lots of vintage and binders in the corner. There were several early '70s binders and I spotted a '72 binder.
The only trouble was there was this couple, maybe in their 50s, who was going through the 1971 binder. It was quite the system. She had a list with red marks through them and was calling out numbers and he was scanning and turning the pages. It was kind of sweet, but I was also annoyed because they had all of their system right on top of the '72 binder.
I thought of interrupting them -- they were very deep into this -- to ask for the binder. But I got distracted. In one of those large display cases OF CARDS YOU CAN'T AFFORD was sitting a 1963 Fleer Maury Wills card.
It was prominently displayed and looked very nice. I've always loved that card and thought it was somewhat unattainable.
I looked at the couple and decided to go visit some other tables, maybe they'd be gone when I came back.
About 10 or 15 minutes later, I came back and they were still there. I wondered if the fire alarm went off if they would even notice.
"Dammit," I thought. "Screw Foli." I took a look at how much cash I had. Then I looked at the Wills card. I asked the dealer if he would come down from the price on the card. He said he could. He named the price. It probably could have been anything and I would have agreed.
"Done," I responded.
It takes only one card to make a show a success.
I can't explain it. Sure, the fact that I was at a card show is a success in itself. All of those cards above, individually or collectively, would make someone think this show was a success. But, for me, I didn't think it was really worth attending until the moment I slipped that Wills card into my brown paper bag and the dealer said "enjoy."
It will likely be six more months until I find myself at another card show. But at least the pressure's off. The April 2017 card show will forever be known as the show in which I obtained the '63 Fleer Maury Wills card.
(P.S.: Foli In Action: you will be MIIINE!)