My card show adventures have come and gone, and I've been returned to my cornfield prison in Ohio. Maybe my collecting habits, interests, and frame of reference have changed a lot over the past year (they have), and perhaps the array of dealers shifted a bit. But this year's show was a bit of a disappointment.
The show is always vintage heavy, but this year there was a major dropoff in the amount of modern stuff available, and nearly a complete lack of any $.25/$.50 boxes loaded with inserts and numbered cards as I have come to expect. So when in Rome...
I spent most of my time focusing on filling in my vintage needs. It may not be as thrilling to me as finding some modern cards, but the relatively small size of my needs list from those years (as opposed to the thousands of cards I don't have from a single mid 00's year alone) and the variety of dealers gave me a wide range of prices and conditions to pick from.
I'll get into the specific pickups in a few days once I have time to sort and scan everything. But I thought it might be interesting to go through my thought process when vintage shopping.
Now I realize the very idea of vintage "shopping" may be a luxury to many. Not many shows offer the sheer number of vintage dealers from across the country that the Robert Morris show offers. And honestly, at most shows the idea of finding even a couple vintage cards I need, regardless of condition, would have me immediately grabbing for my wallet. So having so many decisions to make certainly complicates an otherwise easy process.
Many of the dealers vintage dealers are regulars from year to year, and can be found in the same spot each year. It makes it easy to know who has the best discount boxes, and which dealers tend to steer towards higher condition or lower condition copies.
After a quick scan of the entire show floor (not an easy task, given the sheer number of tables), I like to start checking discount vintage boxes. My breakdown in terms of price/condition follows a fairly simply rule of thumb:
1950-55: any card without significant paper loss, major creases, tape, or writing on the front. Corner wear doesn't bother me much. I'm typically looking to pay around $2/card.
Late 1950's-1964 I become a little more selective with condition. Soft, but not quite rounded corners are ideal. Again, no major surface defects. I'm usually aiming to pay around $1 for these cards, though sometimes less in the case of mid 60's commons.
1965-1972 Again I'm becoming a little more selective with condition, looking for slightly sharper corners, and beginning to worry about centering. I can usually find crisp copies in the $.50-$1 range.
Post 1972 - By these years, I'm bargain hunting. Most of these team sets are completed, but any remaining needs can usually be found in dime boxes, usually paying between $.25-.33 for decent looking copies of the high number cards.
Of course exceptions exist in the obvious cases of star cards (Clemente and Stargell) and high number short prints, where my price and condition preferences go out the window.
Collecting on a budget, I'm often looking for quantity before quality. If I can pick up a decent looking copy of a 54 Topps card for a dollar or two, I would rather get that card now and have the funds to pick up a few more cards from the set than spend $5-10 on a higher grade copy and still leave so many holes. Should my tastes and/or budget change in the future, I doubt I'd have little trouble in moving these cards and recouping all or most of my cost, and maybe even have a little left over to put towards upgrades
While I certainly didn't walk away with anything jaw dropping, I made a nice dent in my vintage checklist. Check that. I basically just dropped a two ton bomb on my vintage needs - high numbers, low numbers, league leaders, stars, commons. They all felt the wrath of my discount box campaign.
I'm looking forward to reviewing the damage and showcasing some of these fun (and well loved) additions in the coming posts. Though the weekend wasn't spent the way I had anticipated heading into the show, it was a ton of fun.