Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Went to a Card Show Last Weekend

I'm a lucky collector in that I have two card shows a month within a twenty-minute drive from my house. Before last weekend, though, I had only gone to one of those shows. Wanting a little different experience and hoping for a few different vendors, I decided to go to the other one.  It's the further away of the two, but I mean, really -- it was a twenty-minute drive instead of a fifteen-minute drive.

This show had some ups and downs for me. Let's start with the bad stuff first.

I was excited when I saw one table with nearly every card from 1952 through 1976 in his boxes for sale, but I soon found out why all of those cards were still in those boxes: the seller relied solely on book value to price his cards. I was in the middle of pulling basically a complete Milwaukee Braves team set from the 1954 Bowman set out when a guy next to me pulled out a 1958 Topps Ernie Banks that was missing about 5% of the card because the corner was ripped off. It looked like someone hated Ernie Banks and used the card for BB-gun target practice.

So, the guy next to me asked about the price of the card.  The dealer laughed when he saw it. Then, he pulled out his Beckett Magazine.  If you're at a card show and you meet a dealer that relies on Beckett, it is a sure sign that the dealer either (a) is greedy, (b) is out of touch with card collecting, or (c) is so worried about missing out on a quarter in a sale that he or she will be impossible to bargain with.  

I know this now.

I learned this when the dealer laughed again and said, "usually, I never price a card at 5% of book value, but that's a 5% card.  So that card is $5."  If I had had a drink in my mouth, I would have sprayed it all over the cards and the guy behind the table.  Sure, it's a $100 card in mint condition -- and one graded 7 sold on eBay for $135 but, then again, one graded 7 sold on eBay for $34 (including shipping). But we're talking about a card missing a corner

So, when I heard that price and his justification for that price on that card, I knew I was in trouble with my 1954 Bowman team set. It took him a while to add it all up because he checked his handy-dandy Beckett magazine with its ridiculous pricing.  He told me "for these, $180."  I immediately put nearly everything back into his boxes, and I should have put all of them back on the sheer principle of the matter.  He tried to justify that cost by saying, "well, you have Bruton in there, and he's the last card in the set, so that's a $40 card right there and you have most of these cards in top condition, so that's what the price is."  Or he said something to that effect. By the time he was saying that, I was putting cards back.  

In the end and from that vendor, I bought only two cards:

And I should have put all of them back. I know I overpaid for these two cards, and I should have never bought any cards from a person who thinks book value is real. Never again.

To be fair, though, that was the real spoiler to an otherwise enjoyable show. When I first arrived, I stopped by the table of the guy who promotes these shows, Frank.  As I was sitting there, a guy came in and mentioned he was in town from Texas for a boys' baseball tournament and wanted to get a card of his coach -- Bump Wills.  Bump didn't make an appearance at the show, but I did find a couple of his cards for the guy. The kids looked at the cards as if in disbelief that Coach Bump really played professional baseball.

It made me smile to see that.

From Frank, I bought a few reprint Braves:

So, yeah, that's pretty much the entire Milwaukee Braves team 1953 Topps Reprint set from 1983, along with Warren Spahn (more from him in a moment) and a "rookie card that wasn't" of Hank Aaron.

And, there were two other reprint sets that Frank had that I grabbed from:

First, it's a reprint from 1983 of the 1953 Bowman Color set of Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn. I have tried to find out who reprinted these without much luck.  But man, the color on these cards is just incredible.

These cards were from the "Baseball Favorites" 1953 Bowman Black & White extension set from 1979. They were a part of a sixteen-card set that a company put out to add some star power to the 1953 Bowman B&W set. 

The great thing about the reprints is that you can find them reasonably priced and can have them in your collection while you look for the real McCoy. And, for an obsessive completist like myself, I feel like I need to have both the originals and the reprints in my collection. They are different cards, after all.

After I left Frank's table, the next table I stopped at was another of my usual stops at my other show. I know -- I come to this show for new vendors and end up spending my time digging through cards that I probably could have picked through any other time. But, I enjoyed going through his books and pulling out a bunch of great old Braves and finding a couple of cards on his table well worth my time:


Talk about filling in some needs!

But, those weren't the only cards that I was able to find at this table that I needed.  Indeed, I found a bunch of cards for my player collections too, such as Joe Adcock:

And Lew Burdette (since I have this one in my Spahn collection already:

Speaking of Spahnie:

Yes! The reprint and the original in the same day. Unlike my book-value-wanting friend, who probably would have looked at his book, saw that the EX-MT price is around $135 and wanted $15 for this card, I paid $2. Now that's what I call fair.

And, Harvey Kuenn appeared as well:

Finally, from this table, I was finally able to finish off my 1981 Topps Brewers Team set by picking up the 1980 Home Runs leader card with Ben Oglivie (and two other players who may be better known than Benji) on it:

Whatever happened to that Jackson guy?

My next stop at the show brought me to a table manned by a gentleman who had decided to come to the show to sell 1990s inserts for a quarter a piece.  I grabbed up every Brewer in sight, including a few fun cards to add to some PCs.  The highlights only, please:

To be fair, not all of the inserts were horizontal, but this gives you a feel for what I found. All the Dufex you could want (and I do like how those cards look!), a bunch of the Topps Gold (and not the Gold Winners from the same year), some Electric Diamond Boogaloo, a Fleer All-Star of Molitor, a bunch of Stadium Club Golden Rainbow Parallels, and that Molitor SP hologram. Just 25 cents each. Also, if anyone has a few thousand dollars to spend on cards, this gentleman is selling off a bunch of old sets from 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and into the early 2000s. I thought about it...for a little while...but thought I'd rather have my mortgage paid instead.

Stupid need to have a roof over my head.

At the next table I stopped at, I found just one card I needed at the cost of $1.  It's pretty off center and all, but it completed my 1975 Topps Team set:

While most people look at that and say it is a Keith Hernandez rookie card, all I see is Bob Sheldon crossed off my list.  

Finally, I stopped at a table and chatted for a long time with a guy who specializes in top-condition cards and graded cards from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  When I say his cards were in fantastic shape, I may be understating it. Things like a 1971 Topps Thurman Munson graded at a 7 -- and I cannot understand how it wasn't higher. I don't deal in graded cards, but he had a few "raw" cards that really caught my eye.  First, a 1964 Topps Felipe Alou:

I am not kidding when I say that this card feels and looks like it just came out of a pack.It's that sharp. The scan has a line in the middle of the card, but it doesn't appear on the card itself. 

To be fair, though, this is the least impressive of the three cards I bought from this gentleman.  

Second most impressive? 1954 Topps Harvey Kuenn Rookie Card:

Yes, those corners are sharp -- on a 61-year-old card. I'm telling you that this guy really had awesome cards.  

Finally, the card that I spent the most on was well worth the $40 I paid.  A Hall of Famer oddball from the 1950s?

Yes sir! A 1954 Johnston's Cookies Warren Spahn!

The discoloration on the scan isn't on the card -- I don't know why it looks yellowish in the scan because it's pure white in my hand.  With sharp corners.  Just blew me away, and when I saw it I had to have it.

Thankfully, with the good deals from most of the sellers at this show, it was well within my budget. If I were inclined to get it graded, and say it graded at a 7, well, one just sold on eBay for $96.  

How's that look for book value?


  1. Wow that Mother's Cookies Spahn is beautiful! Love those reprints as well, make for great placeholders til you can get the real deal but look great either way.

    I ran into the "book guy" at the flea market today, he had a beat up 50's Mathews with ink stains all over the back and writing on the front and he pulled out his trusty dusty book and told me $15 for it... I laughed, grabbed a couple of his 3/$1 vintage cards and walked away.

    I will definitely have to contact you to find these shows when I head up, Summer looks out of the picture but i'm gonna try really hard to make it up before the season ends.

  2. Great vintage pickups. It's always entertaining to listen in on guys who think they'll find someone who's going to pay book value for cards. Sometimes I'll hang out at their table just to hear what they have to say.

  3. nice! Love that vintage flavor!

  4. That's more vintage than I can shake a stick at!

  5. Nice to see a fellow collector in Milwaukee. I'm moving to town from Chicago at the end of July, so I'll need a Milwaukee LCS primer. (I believe I tracked these two shows you've mentioned via Beckett's website, so gotta hit those up once we're settled, too.)

    1. I am a Milwaukee refugee, actually -- I've lived in Georgia for nearly 20 years now. For a Milwaukee collector, you need to check out the "Thorzul Will Rule" blog, because he is a Milwaukeean and still lives there.

  6. Great pickups- both real and reprints. If you ever get tired of looking at that '54 Johnston's Spahn, I'd be happy to give him a new home!

  7. BVGs (Book Value Guys) are the worst, but I'm glad to see he didn't ruin your entire card show experience.

  8. As soon as that Beckett comes out you know you are in trouble. I don't think any good can come from that magazine anymore. Sometimes it is hard for people to realize that eBay is best price guide we have.

    Glad you were able to salvage the show afterwards. .25c inserts is a good deal. Plus they are super fun to look at.

  9. Good stuff Tony. The Spahn Johnston is well worth the money