Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The National, Part 1

So things have been a little quiet on the blog.  It's been a busy summer and my stacks of cards from the big Pittsburgh show in May are still waiting to be dealt with.  But with the National only a little more than a 2 hour drive away in Cleveland, there was no way I was going to miss it.

This was my second National experience, the first coming in 2014 the last time it was in Cleveland.  It was an amazing experience, and I came away with an absolutely loaded haul.  I went in with high expectations.  And honestly, this show fell a little short.  Overall it was a great experience, and I came away with plenty of new cards.  But on the whole the show fell a little flat for me.

For those who have never been, imagine the biggest card show you've seen and multiply by three.  Cleveland's I-X Center is a huge venue, which from what I heard allowed for more space in the isles and between booths than in Chicago or Atlantic City.  It's a massive space, and navigating is an adventure at best.
My show plans ended up being pretty fluid.  Originally Kate and I had planned to go out together Saturday and Sunday, her exploring Cleveland while I hit the show.  But she recently took a (great) new job working the national news desk for Hearst Media (and getting out of newspapers, yaaaay!) that has a Tuesday-Saturday schedule.  So there went that.  Ultimately I decided to drive out Thursday and again on Saturday.  Yeah, it was extra driving and gas, but I wanted to get a jump on Pirate cards before they were all picked over and had plans to meet up with a bunch of my Team Collector pals on Saturday.

There are a lot of positives.  The show is literally a pop up museum inside a card show.  There were numerous dealers with lit standing glass cases just like you'd see at a museum filled with jerseys of Hall of Famers and other high end memorabilia that probably sell for as much as my house. 
The photo at the top of this post is my two day haul.  Overall, I definitely found plenty of new cards for my collections.  And in terms of overall scope, I was able to find something for all of my team and set collections, something I haven't been able to say about any prior show, even the 2014 National.

The boxes in the back are all from my Team Collector buddies.  As I've mentioned before, I'm part of a group of team collectors that has been together for over a decade now.  The concept is pretty straightforward: I send cards of the respective teams out to those collectors, and they ship Pirates to me.  We also do group breaks every couple months at cost.
After so many years we're friends first and card collectors second.  We typically have an annual in person meetup, since we're scattered across the country where we get together, hang out, and have a big box break.  This year we decided to get together in Cleveland for the National. 

We met up at the National Saturday afternoon for our break.  I lost track of how many boxes we had, but it was easily over 20.  It was great getting to spend some in person time with folks you usually only talk to online or via Google Hangouts.  And even though the Bucs didn't do great in the break, we pulled some real beauties.

Getting to spend some time at the show with some friends, some of whom I've met in person numerous times and others who were newer to the group and meeting for the first time, was by far the highlight of the week for me.  Plus I was about to clear out a couple thousand cards, bringing boxes for all eight of our group that was in attendance.  I came home with fewer cards than I left the house with, so that along was a huge win.  And cheap plug: if anyone is interested we currently have openings for the Braves, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Marlins, O's, Phillies, and Rays.  If you're interested, drop me a line or you can reach us on twitter @team_collectors.
As for the show itself?  I found myself a little disappointed.  When I've hit major shows in the past, there have almost always been a couple dealers who had boxes upon boxes of low end auto/gu blowout boxes in the $1-2 range.  The selection was always great, and I would find myself adding new Pirates and some other autos to my collection.  This time?  Maybe a stray box here or there.  But most of the "junk" autos were priced in the $3-5 range. 

I realize they're on the low, low end of the spectrum.  But you'd figure there are plenty of case breakers and resellers who are overrunning with less desired gu/autos from the last two decades.  I did find a few gems.  The Felipe Rivero/Vasquez auto was a steal at $1, and Glasnow was $2.
And my favorite pickup of the show was this Rice/Parker dual.  I love the 2005 Ultimate Collection autos, and this card has long been among my most wanted.  It was $3, presumably due to a crease in the card right near the "e" in Dave.  But it's barely noticeable, and I was more than happy to add this for that price.

The low end product on the whole was lacking.  Last time I hit the NSCC, I came across absolutely loaded quarter and fifty cent boxes.  There were dealers with tables of nothing but blowout low end product, and the boxes were loaded with serial numbered cards from the last 15 years or so.

This year basically every $.25 box I came across had nearly identical inventory of unnumbered Bowman/Bowman Chrome inserts from the past 2-3 years.  I needed basically any Pirates from those sets, since I rarely seek out Bowman cards.  But after one table, I was set. 

Finding cards that weren't vintage or older than 2015 or so was a legitimate struggle.
I was able to find a nice run of recent unnumbered refractors and some of those pesky Topps foil parallels from recent years.  But on the whole I wasn't able to find nearly as much as I had hoped.  Though I was able to find a dealer with a stack of 2000 Chrome Refractors for my set at dirt cheap prices, so that was fantastic.  I can't recall ever finding a card from my set at a show until the National.
The other thing that jumped out at me was just how disinterested the dealers seemed.  Even four years ago, I had some nice conversations with dealers during the show.  I usually wear a rotating cast of jerseys, including Mariners, Marlins, a 1999 All-Star game jersey, and of course Pirates jerseys.  So even a "are you looking for Mariners cards" comment can easily lead to conversation about how, no, I just have way too many jerseys.  I mentioned in my Robert Morris recap how chatting with dealers led to some of my best finds at that show when they pulled out cards not on display.

But the National?  I had to repeated scream "excuse me" to get dealers to look up from their phones so I could pay for my cards.  Maybe one or two dealers engaged me in conversation, and of the few I tried to engage most made it pretty clear they weren't the talkative types.

Personally I can't imagine standing around at a show in near silence for the better part of a week.  But at the very least, general sales techniques say to engage your customer.  A simple "hi" or "anything specific you're looking for?" goes a long way with me.  There was a general attitude of "just find what you want and give me money" that I found very off-putting.
I've mentioned it before, but there's just this sort of growing feeling that what the hobby is currently is no longer in line with who I am as a collector.  I get it.  Chrome is King.  Dealers are far more interested in someone who is looking to drop $800 on their graded rookie auto than the guy digging $20 in cards out of their quarter box. 

Everywhere I looked, tables were overflowing with Bowman.  A product I have zero interest in.  Nowhere did I see a Starling Marte or Jamison Taillon auto, even an overpriced one.  At one table, I was buying $2 in quarter cards while a kid who couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 was trying to haggle with the dealer to sell some cards.  He had a small box, quoting off chapter and verse the ebay prices on cards, all of which were $100, $200, or more.  When I was 11 I was happy to hit a Cliff Floyd jersey card out of a box.
Speculation has always been a part of collecting.  But it seems like that's the primary focus of the hobby now.  Or at least the one that draws the show crowds.  And that was sort of the lingering emotion of the weekend as I made the drive home on Saturday.  While there are still products like Big League or Stadium Club that get me excited, I feel like an old highway after the national interstate system was built.  Sure, cars still drive on the road.  But all the traffic is going a different direction now.

But there was a silver lining: I came home well under my budget for the show.  I don't know if that has ever happened at any show, ever.  COMC was running some sales to coincide with the National, and I spent some time Sunday morning doing some COMC shopping.  I hate to say it, but COMC had the cards and prices that I expected to find at the National.  Cool autos of uncool players for under $2, some gorgeous gold refractors for $2 or so, and filling in some parallels from the 2001 Donruss and 2000 Ultimate Victory sets I'm working on.

And that's the thing that keeps me collecting.  Even if I'm losing interest in the current product, there are still literally tens of thousands of cards for me to keep chasing out there.

Did anyone else make it out to the National?  How was your experience?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Regional Flavor

One of my side hobbies over the last few months has been working on improving my talents in the kitchen.  I've always enjoyed cooking, and have always been able to put together a pretty decent meal.  But recently I've been trying to reconnect with my Italian roots a little better through my stomach.

Both my dad's parents were Italian immigrants, but growing up in my house my mom's cooking was more likely to be burgers, meat loaf, or tuna noodle casserole than hand rolled pastas.  For me cooking has been a way to reconnect with grandparents who died when I was young, and a cultural history that got quickly forgotten in the push to "Americanize."  But the thing I really love about Italian food?  How different each region's cuisine is, and how the foods they cook tell the story of the people, resources, and location.

And in some weird ways, I see card collecting to be very similar.  If you've been fortunate enough to attend card shows in different parts of the county, you quickly realized that collectors in different areas collect very differently.
Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, shows were always a fairly consistent recipe.  Some dime boxes, where it always felt like I was the only buyer, dollar boxes of toploadered star cards, a showcase of higher end stuff - usually Pittsburgh autographs with the occasional national star, and memorabilia.  Autographed helmets, programs, photos, bobbleheads, VHS tapes, McFarlane figures.  You name it, and it would probably pop up at a show in the area.
It's the old nature/nurture debate.  I have to think that my collecting interests are a product of my environment.  See, as a teen when I started going to shows, jumping into the otherwise unoccupied dime boxes was the easiest entry point.  I didn't have to jockey for position with grown men like I would have needed to in the higher end boxes, and at that age it fit my budget perfectly.  And while much of the memorabilia was out of my price range, McFarlane figures were the natural evolution to the SLU figures I loved as a kid.  And from 2003-2006 I built up a sizable collection that covered the shelves in my bedroom.  Vintage was almost never seen, and never at prices below near full book.

But I was the exception, not the rule.  Memorabilia is huge in this area.  At the Pittsburgh show, there were lots of people who only came for the autograph guests, never even bothering to leave the autograph room to look at the hundreds of dealer tables.  They would just sit on the floor (often right in the middle of the floor...) waiting for the next autograph line they needed.  And showcase cards seem to sell well, as long as it's a Steeler, Penguin, or well...that's about it now.  For a while McCutchen was in that category as well.  The big show seems to bring out the vintage set guys, but they're rarely seen at any other shows throughout the year. There's a decided flavor to collectors here, but I always just figured it wasn't all that different from the rest of the collecting communities across the country.

I grew up in the area, moved to the city for college, and down to West Virginia for grad school.  So my collecting world never really went beyond the Pittsburgh metro area.  Sure, ebay and COMC came into my life.  As I aged I had more money in my pockets.
But it wasn't until we moved to western Ohio, a few months before I started this blog, that I found that the collecting wasn't nearly as homogenous as I thought.  The Ohio card scene was completely different than my experiences in Pittsburgh.  Dime and nickel (!) boxes were packed with collectors, to the point it was tough to even get a spot.  Where I think I was literally the only Pirates collector going to shows in Pittsburgh, there were suddenly team collectors for Reds, Indians, and Tigers digging through boxes alongside me.  Often we'd agree to pull all the cards of the other team we found in boxes for each other to save time.  And vintage!  Oh the vintage!
Ohio was my first introduction to the glory of discount vintage bins.  You mean...I can add 1954 Topps cards for $1?  Fifty cents for '75 Mini's? 

I never quite put my finger on why, but the collecting communities in these areas, only a few hours apart, had developed quite differently.  And as I started blogging and seeing the hauls other bloggers would bring back from their shows, I started to get a sense of their collecting worlds as well.

After the show, I had some nice exchanges on twitter with other collectors about how different regions collect.  And it really isn't something you'd ever notice unless you are a dealer or have lived in different areas.  Some are hit-centric, and dime boxes would sit untouched for a full weekend.  Other areas go wild for the low end stuff but showcase cards rarely get an eyeball on them.  I'm sure local teams, the economy, and any other number of factors influence how collectors collect.

But it's just one more thing that makes the hobby that much more interesting.  For me?  I'm happy where I'm at and how I collect.  Everything in this post except the Clemente (which only ran me $3) came from dime boxes.  Most of them were found on the second day of the show.  In other markets, those cards would have been long gone.  And in some markets they would have been in those boxes the whole weekend, unsold.  Luckily for me they were there for me to add to my pile, part of a great weekend of finds for my collection.

So what's the collecting community like in your area?  Has anyone found completely different collecting habits in the places they've lived?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Card Show Recap

You never know exactly what you're going to find when you walk into a card show.  Sure, if it's a show that happens pretty regularly you can probably expect to see the same dealers.  But over the years I've found many of my best show purchases have come from the stranger who pops up once and is never seen again.  Maybe it's a collector selling off a chunk of their collection or a dealer who wants to give a new show a try.  But at least around here the same old dealers usually mean the same old inventory.  So fresh faces are always welcome.

Our big annual show has become increasingly vintage heavy, as I wrote in my show preview.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  The show draws dealers from across the country, and brining in some of the bigger inventory sellers who do the National and other major shows usually means better selection and lower prices.  Vintage commons that I routinely see at $2-3 at local show are suddenly in $.50 or 3/$1 piles.  Where even low grade Stargell and Clementes would be listed at close to full book, suddenly there are well loved copies available for less than a cup of coffee.

My problem is that once I have a card, I have it.  Mission accomplished and on to the next one.  And as the vintage tables grew and grew, my needs shrunk and shrunk.  Last year there was only one dealer who had any 2018 cards, and those were just some Topps and Bowman commons.

This year was much, much better.  The balance was restored to the force, and I'd say it was close to a 50/50 split. 

My vintage buying scaled back a lot this year, partially out of time and spending constraints.  With multiple dealers with tables full of dime and quarter boxes, I didn't have the time to spend digging through vintage dealers.  And at the same time, it was becoming a losing proposition.  When my needs are down to a couple key cards - Clemente, Stargell, Maz, or high numbers - for most sets, it wasn't worth spending 20 or 30 minutes rummaging through discount bins with the hopes of maybe finding one card I needed.  At the same time, I'm still not ready to bite the bullet and pay for convenience.  There are vintage dealers who have cards in numeric order, or have crisp copies neatly in binders.  But the prices there match the card quality.  Which is to say way more than I want to spend.
Still, I was able to add a handful of vintage to the collection, including a small stack of Post cards for fifty cents to a dollar each.  My big pickup was this 1965 Stargell for $2.  It's seen better days, but give me a nice placeholder if/when I should ever want to upgrade.

My autograph luck also continued.  I saw a dealer with a lot of autographs, including a two row box full of Pittsburgh stuff.  But every time I walked by the table, someone was in the box.  At one point I camped out looking through their other boxes, waiting for a guy to finish looking through.  It was a two row with all the cards in toploaders - not something that should take all that long to go through.  I looked through the other 8-10 boxes the dealer had out, and this guy - maybe in his late 50's and didn't look all that familiar with cards - was still slowly thumbing through the pile, stopping for 5-10 seconds to stare at each card.  He was still in the first row.  I probably spent half an hour at the table, patiently waiting.  The guy finished the box and had a small stack of 5 or so cards pulled out.  ...and then he went back and started going through the box all over again.

Exasperated, I walked away to find another table to go through.  Whatever treasure that box held wasn't worth losing any more valuable time at the show.  A little later I saw the box open and swooped in.  I mentioned to the dealer that I had been waiting for a couple hours to look through the box, but a guy had been going through the cards at glacial speed.  The dealer said yeah, the guy put most of what he pulled back and bought one card for a couple bucks.  He was looking in the box nearly an hour.  Yikes.

But it was indeed worth the wait.  The dealer was a fellow TTM collectors from Cleveland, and it was nice chatting about autographs.  I ultimately was able to snag two signatures I needed at a great price.  Cal Abrams died in 1997 and Bob Miller was a member of the '71 Pirates and died in a car crash in 1993.  I paid $13 for the pair.  The weekend additions puts me over 60% completion on autographs of Pirates who played from 1950-the present.  Of course that includes most of the easy TTM signers and guys with certified autos, so it only gets tougher from here.  Still, I was somewhat surprised to find I've made that much progress on the 1,000+ guys who have suited up for the team over that time.

 But after a couple years of nearly being shut out on modern cards, the newer stuff was where most of my money went.  And I was lucky to find deals a-plenty.

 This Andrew McCutchen Heritage rookie is the only card missing from my team set, and was an absolute steal at $1.
A couple less stellar seasons may not have been great for Cutch, but it's been a boost to my collection.  Even commons had been hard to come across the last few years.  But this year, Cutch was out in full force.  I was able to snag a nice stack of Donruss Optic refractors of various colors from one dealer all for $.25-.50.  And I've always had a sweet spot for All-Star game giveaway cards.  For $1 I was thrilled to knock one off my want list that I had been after for some time.

 I usually stick to non-hits at shows.  Unless it's a $1 or $2 box, buying autos and game used cards at shows is usually a losing proposition in this area.  You're usually paying a local markup that is at least 25% above ebay.  But with some non-local dealers in town it opened up some opportunities.  While I already have a couple Frank Thomas autographs in my collection, I loved Upper Deck's late 90's autograph sets.  And Kevin Newman is likely going to be the Pirates starting SS sometime between now and next season, so for $3 a rookie auto /25 seemed like a worthwhile pickup.

And one of my favorite pickups of the weekend was this triple jersey card.  I know jersey cards are far out of favor these days, but I guess there's a little bit of making up for lost time here.  When jersey cards were at their peak in the early 00's, the Pirates were nowhere to be found.  So many beautiful multi-players cards were released, and every time I would check the checklist hoping for a Pirate card.  And they almost never existed.  So for $3, this was a nice trip back to my mid 2000's collecting heyday. 

It was a great two days for me and my collection.  I added a lot of new cards, but also had the most fun at a show that I've had in a long time.  I'll probably be laying pretty low when it comes to card buying until the National this summer.  But the sorting and organizing on all the cards I picked up over the last few days should keep me occupied until then anyway.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Weekend at the Card Show: It's All About Relationships

I just had the best two days of card show buying that I've had in a long, long time.  As I mentioned in my last post, the annual big Pittsburgh show had become increasingly vintage heavy over the last couple years.  Well, fortunately that trend headed in the other direction this year. 

While it was still lacking in some areas when it came to hot recent releases like Bowman, there was a wide selection of dime boxes and mid-end cards that were right up my alley.  I'll have a couple more broad recap posts coming up over the next few days.

But today I wanted to drill down a little further on why I love going to card shows to much: the people.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm well aware this hobby has more than its fair share of scammers, obnoxious 12 year olds bragging about how much their collection is "worth," used car salesmen, and grumpy old men insistent that a card is worth its sale price circa 1992.  But there are also a lot of friendly, genuine people who share common interests in sports, cards, and who knows what else.

My favorite purchases of the weekend came directly from striking up conversations with dealers. 

I'm a naturally chatty person.  If I'm going to spend 30 minutes to an hour standing at a table, neck hunched down killing my neck and back while going through box after box of dime cards, you can sure as hell bet I'm not doing it in silence.

I know many collectors have the approach that dealers are just there to total you up and take your cash at the end of the transaction.  But I like to strike up a conversation, and most dealers seem to be the same way.  After all, if you're spending the weekend standing around the same table all weekend, leaving only to occasionally run to the bathroom, a little friendly conversation is probably welcomed.

With the venue change from a university out by the airport to a convention center on the complete other end of town, I was genuinely interested in how traffic was for the dealers compared to years past.

I stopped by the table of one dealers who I have known from shows going back over a decade.  In the mid 2000's he always the best selection of Pirates inserts and autos, and would always have some Jack Wilson cards I needed.  He opened a shop a few years back, the local shows fell apart, and I haven't bought from him much since just out of circumstance rather than anything intentional.  He had some stuff out of current Pirates, but nothing that caught my eye.  I asked if he had anything else with him that wasn't out.

After rifling around in some boxes, he pulled out a couple small stacks and some random binder pages, saying there probably wasn't anything great there but I was welcome to take a look.
He was wrong.  I asked for a price on this Giles auto.  He said $3.  Even with the lazy initials autograph (remember when Donruss would have the players write nicknames or random stuff on stickers and then use those for the low numbered cards?  Yeah, this is what you get.  BG.  Very creative, Brian.)  The Bay black frame at the top of the post /25?  $1.

I also did find one card from his boxes that were out.  Everything was half book, so a little on the high side.  This Andy LaRoche auto is one I haven't seen before, so at $4 it was the same price as two much better cards of much better players.  But late 00's Upper Deck had some wonky print runs that were rarely announced.  And if I haven't seen the card before, odds are it's pretty uncommon. 

I was thrilled with the prices, and very happy to add the cards to my collection.  But having dealers who know you, remember what you collect, and will give you a good price to move things they know you want, but you also may be the only buyer for?  You can't get that on ebay or COMC.  It was nice to chat about the local card scene, the lack of shows, and pick up three cards that may have been my favorite pickups of the show.

May have been.

Because I also bought these.

I was looking over a dealer's table.  He had some nice vintage out of my price range, and a small binder of 70's and 80's autographs for $1-2.  As I flipped through, he asked if I was looking for anything particular.  I said I was looking for Pirates, but it looked like most of what he had had already been sold.  I had picked out a Glenn Wilson auto for $1, and explained to him that I'm working on getting autographs of every Pirate who played for the Bucs from the end of WWII to the present.
Wilson has a few Pirate cards, but they seem to be tough to find signed.  We chatted for a few minutes about autographs.  He's from Toledo, about an hour north of where I had lived in Lima.  Apparently years before we moved out there he did shows in Lima that were among the best in the area, but the card scene was dead when I lived there.

In the middle of our conversation, he said "Hold on." and turned around to grab a box.  It was a 800 count box of autographs.  He said he hadn't priced them out yet, but I seemed like an actual collector so pull out anything I needed and he'd give me a good price.


I found four autographs I needed.  All of these guys are Latin American players who are very tough signatures to get.  One of the big draws of the show for me had been that Mario Mendoza was signing.  He's been an autograph I have wanted to add for quite a while, but his signing prices are a little higher than I wanted to pay for mail-in signings.  But since he was at the show I was going to bite the bullet and pay $15 for an auto. 

I asked what the prices were for the 4 cards.  He said $15.  The dealer knew what he had, knew Mendoza was signing at the show for $15 for one signature.  But instead I was able to add 4 tough autos, including Mendoza, for that price.  And I don't think any of that could or would have happened if I had just stood there silently looking through cards, handed the guy a dollar for the Wilson, and walked off.

It was a great show, and I added a couple hundred new Pirate cards.  But I had so many great conversations with dealers.  I talked with two guys from Delaware and Philly about shows out there and the crazy prices for Eagles players autos post-Super Bowl.  I talked with a lady who grew up right down the road from my house, and who apparently used to cut out of school to smoke not far from my back yard.  For all the frustrations in this hobby, for the greed and the dollar-chasing, there are some really interesting people.  It was fun spending two days going through boxes and adding some wonderful cards to my collection.  But I really loved discussing collecting with others who have the same interests.  Next time you're at a show or flea market, chat up the dealer.  You never know what gems they might have sitting behind the table.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Calm Before the Show

This weekend is the big annual Pittsburgh card show.  The hobby pulse has been stagnating in this area for quite some time, so having one good sized show a year is about all we have going.  But this year the show is moving from its usual location at one of the local universities to a mid-sized convention center on the other side of Pittsburgh.  Some of the hub-bub I've heard from dealers is they aren't sure if there will be as many dealers this year, or how the turnout will be.

I guess time will tell.  I spent some time this week running through my vintage needs.  One of the great things about my recent conversion to Trading Card Database is that I'll be able to easily and conveniently snag my needs lists on my phone.  In past years I have tried using my Excel list in Google Sheets or pulling up my collection website to check needs, but TCDB should be significantly easier to navigate and read through to spot what cards I'm missing.

But there is one little problem.  Over the last few years the show has become increasingly vintage heavy.  Like to the point that only a handful of dealers have any modern at all.  We're talking about a show that has a couple hundred tables, not your local mall show with 30 tables.  And of that handful, about half are guys with high end stuff.  Graded cards, Steeler autos, etc.  Nice cards.  Not my speed.

It's still a good show, and I've found some great additions to my collection.  But my haul gets smaller and smaller every year. 

I really enjoy vintage cards.  But my issue is that I just need one.  One copy.  I don't really care about condition, or centering.  I just want a copy that will fill the page in my binder.  If I can find an upgrade down the road, great.  But I'm not someone that will spend hours scouring 6 different dealers looking for a PSA 6 copy of some 1964 common.  I'll grab my copy for $.50 with slightly soft corners or a little paper loss on the back and call it mission complete.

The show has been great for building my vintage team sets.  I remember a time when my Pirates vintage collection consisted of 5 or 6 cards.  I'm now close to complete team sets from 1953 on up, only missing some high dollar Clemente and Stargells and some of the dreaded high numbers.

My formula is pretty simple.  My first priority is nice, strong colors.  If a card has good color and no issues with the print job, that trumps any other glaring issues.  I also try to avoid noticeable creases.  Soft corners really don't bother me.  The sharper the better, obviously.  But if a card has great colors and rough corners, it's still a winner in my book.  It's not foolproof, but I've been able to build pretty nice looking vintage team sets without paying more than $3/card for anyone but Clemente.  Most of the 60's commons have been bought for $.50 or lower, and around $1/card for the 50's cards.

I love collecting on a budget, and seeing what the nicest copy I can get for my money will be.  But after years of chasing my team sets, it's losing its appeal.  After all, my team sets are nearly complete.  Years past, I could spend half an hour digging through a dealer's discount vintage box and find some real gems for my collection.  But now there may only be one or two cards I need in that box.  Is it still worth the half hour?  I'm sure there are collectors who come back year after year to the same vintage dealers, upgrading this card or that or starting a new set.  But for me?  My vintage race is just about run.  So let's hope the rest of the show carries its weight.

Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing what I can come up with for myself and hopefully grab some goodies for my trading pals.  After all, the show only comes once a year.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Catching Up On Mail: An Unexpected Prize from the Astrodome

It's been a lot of fun being back to blogging, actively talking about collecting on Twitter, and exchanging packages with my Team Collector pals.  But it also threw me back into the one part of collecting I had repressed: mail avalanches.

There has been a steady stream of packages coming in.  And I haven't had time to properly thank the senders, let alone get through the cataloging and sorting that needs to happen.

And my process has become a little more complicated recently.  Following some twitter exchanges, I followed some good collecting advice and checked out Trading Card Database.  I remember taking a look at both TCDB and Zistle years ago, probably around 2013 when I first started blogging.

The checklists were still very much a work in progress.  But at the time I loved Zistle's clean layout, collector community, and ease of uploading cards to their database.  I dabbled with it, adding a few thousand cards, but never jumping in the deep end.

And I assume you know where things went from there.  Beckett has ruined many a good thing in this hobby.  But taking a second look at TCDB, I found the checklists were a lot more developed than my last visit.  Duh, five years will do that.  And the checkbox feature to add cards is incredibly easy.  While it's not the prettiest site in the world, I've been adding cards.  I'm around 8,000 of my 18,000 Pirates.  And while I still have some reservations about the site - tracking cards I don't count like Hawaii Trade Show and Chicago Sun Times that were just re-stamped base cards, and the always looming threat of legal action -I love the idea of being to easily build and manage a needs list.
But I'm still maintaining my Excel database of my collection.  I have a program that exports my Excel collection into webpages for my collection website.  So it's almost unavoidable that I'll need to double enter new additions.  Not a problem, unless the new additions back up as they have now.

I got a surprise package from Bru from Remember the Astrodome.  I had won a little contest a couple months back, and was blown away when he sent some great oversized cards that were completely unknown to me.  Well little did I know apparently that was just part 1.  I got another, unexpected, package in the mail a couple weeks later filled with standard sized cards for part two of the prize.  But the contents were far from standard.

Bru sent a loaded package with some great cards.  My favorites by far were the Mazeroski Post and Topps Embossed he sent.  I'm a little jealous of other bloggers when I see their show or flea market hauls.  They almost always seem to include vintage Topps oddball sets, Post cards, or Kellogg's 3D sets.  I'm not sure if it had to do with regional distribution or just plain old bad luck, but those sets seem nearly impossible to come across in this area. 
I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've seen Kellogg's cards at shows in this area over the past 15 years.  When some of the bigger national vintage dealers roll through town I do occasionally come across Post cards.  But they aren't that common around here, and seem to be a distant afterthought behind Topps cards for many collectors.

More than anything, that circulation of cardboard is what I enjoy about being reconnected with my collecting network.  There are so many great cards out there, but it's all about being in the right place at the right time.  When I lived in Ohio there was a dealer who would regularly have entire boxes of Topps red and blue parallels.  I had no trouble building my 2013 team set and grabbing lots of extras for other collectors.  The guy had the damn things out for a dime a piece.  How could I not?

But since then?  I never see them.  Dealers don't bust large quantities of retail in this area, so this Charlie Morton may be my first from the 2014 set.
 Bru sent a great stack of game used and auto cards.  I loved Upper Deck's sets circa 2006-2008.  While it wasn't the most inspired work ever, they had huge auto checklists of basically every rookie imaginable.  Sure, some of the autos were total duds.  But it was nice to see every team have 3-5 players signing throughout the year.  It's something that I've appreciated more with time as Topps continues to churn out the same limited auto subjects set after set.  The Pirates are rarely even represented on auto checklists, and if they are it's the same handful of guys who have been popping up for the past 5 years.
 So a big thanks to Bru for the great prize packages.  If you'll excuse me I need to spend some time this evening digging out from cardboard mountain.