Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Card Show Pet Peeves

I'll be breaking out of my winter funk and hitting a much needed card show this weekend.   Shows in the Pittsburgh area have become few and far between, and good shows even less common.  Which makes it even more frustrating when you run into dealers who seem to be on another planet when it comes to their cards.  I know this hobby isn't exactly known for having well-mannered, socially adept individuals.  But sometimes things just go above and beyond unreasonable.  So here are my top show pet peeves.  Feel free to jump in on the comments with your own.

1) Nothing is priced - This is unquestionably the cardinal sin of setting up at a show in my book.  I can't tell you how many times I have walked away from a table because cards were just sitting in boxes.  I'll usually ask about prices - if things are broken down in any kind of reasonable fashion, I'm likely to stick around.  But if you give me some line like, "Just pull out what you're interested in and I'll give you a price," it's safe to expect my cash to move on real fast.

2) The same old same old - I think this particularly applies to mall shows, which seem to be a festering ground for those guys who owned a card show back in the early 90's that went out of business, but still want to say they sell cards.  Every area seems to have that guy who puts out the exact same inventory every. single. show.  They never seem to sell a damn thing, yet next show there they are yet again asking $10 for that Tom Gorzelanny auto you just bought for $.85 on COMC.

3) Beckett Bible - This hasn't been as much of an issue for me over the last year or two, but I've still had some dealer quote Beckett prices to me.  These are usually the "pull out what you want and I'll give you a price" crowd.  I had a guy tell me he wanted $35 on a Nate McLouth base chrome auto because it "booked at $100" right around when McLouth was hitting about .170 in Atlanta.  The card was going for about $3-4 shipped on ebay.

4) The stand off - I don't consider myself an overly sociable person.  Heck, I might be a bit of an introvert.  But there I absolutely can't stand being at a table - the only one standing there looking through a table of cards - and the dealer is sitting stoic and silent behind the table.  A simple "Hi, how are you?" or "Is there anything you're looking for?" goes miles.  Idle small talk?  We've struck gold.  I'm not ashamed to admit I've bought and in a couple cases even overpaid from a dealer simply because I felt bad walking away empty handed after a great conversation.

5) The absentee parent -  No, this one isn't kid related.  I actually love seeing young kids at a show.  Instead I'm referring to being at a table, and the owner of said cards is nowhere to be found.  Sure, everybody needs to grab a bite to eat or hit a bathroom break.  But when I'm standing there, money in hand, and you're on the other side of the room buying from another patience only goes so far.  And typically when it does, so does the cash.

6) The grab bag guy - This might be one pet peeve that I'm alone in.  Maybe it's a local quirk.  Maybe I just get irrationally angry at harmless card show folk just trying to make a buck.  But there's a guy who is sets up at mall shows in the area selling nothing but grab bag lots.  They aren't even really grab bags.  They're small Priority Mail boxes with "$100 book value" of a team, or star player, or Hall of Famers.  And he's a very nice older man.  And I know these were all the rage at shows in 1989.  But I always walk by scratching my head if he does any business, aside from perhaps the occasional unsuspecting mall patron who also thinks cards are valued at 1989 prices.  Of this list, he is by far the most harmless.

With all the resources to buy cards available to collectors, there's still nothing that beats getting in the car and driving to a show.  Maybe for the high end thrill seeker, ebay is the way to go.  Or twitter, or instagram, or whatever it is that is the most popular thing in the card world today.  You're going to be hard pressed to find that Peyton Manning auto/patch /10 that you want at your local mall show, and if you do I would bet my bank account it won't be lower than ebay prices.  But I don't care about that.  There are few things I would trade for the chance to spend a Saturday afternoon digging through dime or quarter boxes.  Over the years I have added thousands of cards to my collection, most of which I wouldn't have bought any other way and many of which I may have never know existed.  The interactions and relationships with other collectors that are forged while flipping through boxes for 20 or 30 minutes are part of what keeps this hobby exciting for me.  But boy does this hobby have some real interesting folks.

Anything, big or small, that drives you nuts at a show that I didn't list?


  1. I think you nailed it. Good luck at the show!

  2. Numbers 1, 3, and 4 are big pet peeves of mine. Number 4 is probably my biggest one. What really ticks me off is when I'm ready to pay for the cards and I can't get the guy's attention, which happens way more often than it should. If you run a table at a card show, you should at least say "Hi" to your customers. I don't think that's too much to ask.

    1. I tend to do the "pull out the wallet as slowly as possible" to try to get somebody's attention. The National was the absolute worst. Dealers were sitting 5 feet back from the booth on their laptops or phones, not paying any attention to customers.

  3. The monthly card show in my immediate area shut down at the end of 2013, so I only got to go to one last year. And I find that I don't really miss it all that much. It's often easier to find what I'm looking for online, and I'm less likely to make impulse purchases.

    But I do miss the grab bag guy.He was a casebreaker, and he'd dump whatever he couldn't sell into 400-count box for $5, with a guarantee of a relic or serial-numbered card. Granted, you never got anything super-special, but you got a lot more bang for your buck than buying a $5 foil pack.

  4. I think you nailed it. Good luck at the show!