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.


  1. Good luck! I keep telling myself I'll tackle vintage more when I finish getting organized. Years later...still sparse. Making progress though.

    1. I've been pretty lucky. Most of my vintage has come from this show. There are a lot of bigger national dealers, so I've been able to avoid paying local markups.

  2. Best of luck! I've got a card show coming up this weekend too.

  3. It's always good to go into a show with a plan. 9 out of 10 times... I do. Sadly I rarely ever actually stick to that plan. Best of luck at the show!

  4. Your near-complete Pirates run is very impressive! I think I have the same priorities as you when it comes to vintage: corner wear is okay, centering doesn't have to be perfect..but creases and marks/major print spots are turn-offs for me.

  5. I'm jealous! I would love to be at that show!