Back before a virus turned the world and the hobby upside down, I used to attend card shows at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse with my friend Angus of Dawg Day Cards.
Even before that, the shows at the fairgrounds would be held at the Horticultural Building, which is a fairly large facility that I had gotten used to as The Place for my card shows as it's where I went when I first got back into collecting all the way into a few years into writing Night Owl Cards.
But then the show was downsized into the Science and Industry Building, which is smaller (but still impressive, I'm sure, to those who only know hotel and mall shows). I muttered about it on this blog, but at least I still had a show to go to. Heck, Angus couldn't even get across the border.
It had been almost four years since Angus and I went to a show together -- April of 2019. But on Sunday, he was back in town and the show was back in the Horticultural Building, too!
This show was billed as a "Mega Show," which is why they needed the bigger building. The card/collectibles show was combined with the toy show and all the mega displays that come along with that, meaning the Ectomobile from "Ghostbusters," the Doctor Who Tardis phone booth and R2D2 rolling down the aisles the entire show.
Yeah, and toys and comic books everywhere. Other stuff I don't pay attention to as well, such as a grading station and yet another former Syracuse player signing (Lawrence Moten).
It's obvious this show is trying to appeal to all peoples, but I just care about the cards (except when I see a '70s yearbook), so it was a lot of wading through dolls and Star Wars everything -- the show was a lot more colorful than it usually is, that's for sure.
So Angus made it safely into the States and we set forth. Once inside we took a right and I was immediately bombarded with Barbies. Pressing forward, we found what appeared to be a mom and dad selling their grown son's collection from the junk wax era. It wasn't just cards, this kid collected a lot back in the day. About the only thing I was interested in was a box of 1992 Topps baseball, a set I want to finish and the price was right.
But -- I forgot to mention this -- I didn't bring much money. It's Christmas time you know.
So I set aside the box with the thought I might come back to it. But I didn't.
It took until we turned the corner before I found anything that was my style, but when I found it, I stayed there awhile.
A pleasant, elderly dealer named Bud had rows and rows of dime and nickel cards and they were filled with -- no, not Bowman (although there was some there) but ODDBALLS!
I could have stayed there for a lot longer than I did, and bought much more than I did, but the thought "there's so much to see and so little time" is always in my head. I get the feeling that's not an issue for Angus as he lingers over tables much longer than I do (and always seems to find something at every table).
Angus found a couple of cards for me, including the Kiner and Hershiser above. I puzzled over not seeing that Hershiser before, but I discovered later I did have it. Buying cards I had before was a little bit of a problem at this table, but, heck nothing was more than 10 cents, so who cares?!?
Every Swell card here was 5 cents, except the Ruth and Cobb, which were a dime. I super-love this set and how Swell considers guys like Lary Sorensen as "baseball greats." I did quite well not picking up duplicates here, too, which is tough, almost no idea what I have.
More Swell cards combined with a similar set from that time, Pacific Legends. All five cents.
I gravitate toward oddball sets from the 1980s, but as the '80s move into later in the decade and then into the '90s, not all oddballs appeal to me. This Fleer set from 1990 is an exception. Love it.
Yes, there were shiny Dodgers to be had for 5 cents. In fact I had to keep asking to see if they actually were. Show me somewhere else that has Albert Pujols cards for 5 cents that isn't Triple Play.
With all of that, why did Angus and I leave this table? I'm still asking that question. Over to the left, we saw a teenage girl, maybe 14 years old, looking through the discounted hockey cards at the table. She sheepishly handed over 5 cards or so for purchase. It was the best moment I saw at the show all day. Later I saw her standing at another hockey discount box.
There were quite a few kids at this show -- probably all the toys -- but it was still fun to see.
This was the most expensive card I bought at the table. It was a buck. Angus found it for me and I knew immediately that it was an early '90s Sportflics card that I always have trouble unearthing.
But as good as Angus was finding cards for my collection, I knew I had to set out my own course to find some vintage before all my cash was gone. So I zipped all the way over to the other side of the building and found a vintage guy whose table I've stopped at before.
I found a few vintage needs for set completion quests, mostly off-condition but perfectly acceptable for my set tastes. The 1970 Ted Williams was one of two sub-No. 400 cards I needed from that set, now it's only the Nolan Ryan NLCS card.
As I turned away from the table, I saw Gary, the regular vintage dealer I visit every show. He was at a much smaller station than previously, I almost missed him, and I couldn't even look to see what I need there (I always need something there) as my cash was drying up!
I did a quick tour of the 200 tables in the place and then tracked down Angus again. He pointed me in the direction of another table behind us where I found just a few needs still in my budget.
These are both high-number needs. Less than 5 bucks together.
I debated over these for a good long time. I knew the cards would be off-condition, but how much? I also knew I needed the Oliva card (but didn't need the Marichal).
On the reverse, I knew I didn't need the Aaron but did need the Allison! Which to pick? I didn't have cash for both.
But then a miracle -- I dug into my pocket and found an extra $10! That never happens!
I quickly purchased both. Here is how I made out:
The 1970 was pretty damn good. Not only was there a Bob Allison I needed but another one! The Jim Perry was a need, too. There are also some fine stars in decent shape that can either be upgrades or trade bait.
Didn't fare as well with the 1969s. The Oliva I needed has a good-sized crease through it. I need the McLain, too, but that's in even worse shape. The Cepeda is also a need but pretty rough. The rest are solid dupes.
That was about it for the show for me. I hung around with Angus as he went through a table with a ton of football cards. He unearthed Browns and Packers galore. Then we traveled to one of those tables that you wish you saw at the start, all kinds of good stuff, nothing I could afford anymore.
I didn't do as well as I usually do at those shows but it didn't matter much because Angus had been stockpiling goodies for me while he was trapped in Canada all those years.
He had told me he had found this 1984 Star Steve Garvey set quite some time ago. Naturally, I needed it. Star goes a little wild on the Padres Garveys, there are twice as many of those as there are Dodgers (not a surprise as he was a brand new Padre at the time). But the cards amuse me as even the Padres cards celebrate his Dodgers feats.
When do relics still impress me? When they're of one of my favorite players of all-time and they are shiny!
Relics of Dodgers baseball players with snowmen catch my attention, too, if a little odd.
A selection of random Dodger needs, lots of parallel action here.
Of course, Angus would have a Browns card I need, this is one of the key rookie cards in the 1979 Topps football set. I admittedly haven't done much with this set all year, but I'll get back to it.
Another set I haven't done squat with but most-definitely needs. The 1993 Ted Williams Company Memories inserts are toughies and I want them all, even if I never rooted for the Big Red Machine.
Angus has no problem finding hockey cards where he is. These are from the 76-77 Topps glossy inserts.
Some early '90s Kellogg's cards when Kellogg's churned out 'greats" sets. This is where the cards start to take a Canadian turn as the Seaver is from the 1992 Kellogg's Canadian set.
That's a whole 1992 Diet Pepsi set, which is a Canadian set and one where only the Brett Butler was familiar to me.
OK, we are back to Topps but just for a minute. This is my favorite segment of what Angus bestowed. Wax box panels! The 1986 Topps set was the first time panels were available on box bottoms and they really made them stand out with the red borders. I wished they had done something like that with the panels that followed.
Now, hold on to your top loaders, O-Pee-Chee panels!!!! Wow. I super-love these. Check out how much the Mets orange clashes with the red border on the Gooden card. Fantastic.
That's the entire 1986 OPC wax bottom set in individual cards!!! Greatness and great cutting skills by whomever, too.
One of my favorite parts of our conversations when we have these card get-togethers is the different perspective we have, as an American and Canadian, to OPC and Topps cards, Angus growing up with OPC and finding Topps "superior" and me growing up with Topps and finding OPC fascinating.
Two OPC superstars from 1989 with Nolan Ryan displaying the iconic "Now With" label.
Four key OPC cards from my formative collecting years. I was stunned when I saw the Carlton Fisk card. Just the day before I saw that card for THE FIRST TIME on Twitter, a Fisk fan had displayed it and I immediately thought "well, I want that but it's probably going to cost me." And magically -- this hobby is magical, I'm telling ya -- it shows up in my possession the NEXT DAY.
A bunch of mostly '70s OPC Dodgers! I especially appreciate the 1972 Buckner and the '76 cards, for which I still need a lot.
Some other random items, and I still didn't show everything, but I'm sure nobody has gotten to this point anyway. Angus also brought a few empty binders for me and a selection off 4-, 3- and 2-pocket pages.
Angus is one of those guys who loves finding cards for other people. I've gotten better at that but I'll never be on that level (I found a small smattering for Angus -- fortunately he didn't have most of them).
We drove back and then stopped at Wild Wings like we usually do and checked out the football games on tap (the Dolphins, Jets and Chiefs all lost! Weee!). Those drives always whip by because of the conversation and since we hadn't been on an outing in almost four years there was a lot to talk about.
In terms of show buys, it wasn't my best show at all. But I probably was the happiest I've been in a long time just because things were finally back to the normal that I knew.