The dealer in the booth next to me at the Fan Fanatics show held March 18-20 in Rosemont, Illinois, accumulated quite a bit of gas in his alimentary canal and was far too generous with sharing his unpleasant bounty. The initial release occurred on Friday while I was sitting in front of my partner Dave's table looking at my emails on my phone. I was absolutely blasted. So much so that I had to get up and move to avoid the cloud.
Now, I understand that everybody has to fart sometime but when you are trying to sell something in a retail setting, wouldn't it be better to release your excess gas in, say, the washroom, instead of right on top of your product? One of the dealers next to me, who I believe was the culprit, just had that look of a guy who spends most of his time sitting on a couch, eating Big Macs, watching TV, and blasting farts. Needless the say, the air around my booth was tainted terribly all weekend. The farting guy was really bad on Friday and Saturday. He had better control on Sunday but was still releasing the sporadic ball of doom. Me and Dave walked around our booth all weekend with the same sort of frown as Eli Manning, pictured above. It was nasty. I honestly think we lost some customers due to that foul scent permeating our row thanks to the fat farting guy.
Figuring out how to lay out my space was a little difficult this time around because usual tablemate Bob had to work and did not set up with Dave and I. Me, Bob and Dave have been setting up together at the Fanatics/Sun-Times show past 15 years or so. When the three of us are together, we get three tables which usually includes another 10-feet or so behind the tables and our layout is pretty routine. Without Bob, we had just two tables and less space. Dave is a stickler, he must have his table in the aisle so it really limits our creativity and ability to maximize the space. I felt the only option was to run some tables on the left side of the booth going back about 10 feet or so then run some more tables along the back, blocking potential encroachments from the dealers to our rear, heading toward Fart Boy's booth and behind Dave's tables. I then had room to build a Donald Trump-like wall of tables from the back of the booth to contain Fart Boy and stopped a few feet behind Dave's tables. I ended up with quite a bit of space and was able to put out all of my binders and five display cases. The only issue was trying to get customers to leave the aisle and walk into my little shop area. It seemed like most people just walked by. Maybe they did not want to stop because of the constant farts from my neighbor or they just did not want to leave the aisle. I actually really liked my set up. The only drawback I thought was that I could not stand behind any of my tables and was stuck most of the show behind Dave's tables, which left me uncomfortably close to Fart Boy.
Once the tables were set up, I went through the lengthy process of laying out all my binders and tying them down with string. During the show, a few guys complained that the binders were tied down. They prefer to grab whichever binder they need and pull it to the front. There is one customer who I remember from the Orland show who really laid into me for having the binders tied down arguing that he found it difficult to lean over a table to look at one of the binders in the back. I tried to explain that I had a binder stolen a few years ago and MUST tie them down to prevent theft. He did not want to hear it. I suppose I should have offered to flip through the binder for him so he would not have to actually make some sort of physical effort to obtain a card.
I do understand that there is a degree of difficulty to get at some of my binders but, no pun intended, I'm in a bind! I do not want to have another binder stolen, therefore, I must tie them down. There was a rumor on Sunday that a dealer had a binder containing a 1953 Topps baseball complete set, about $8,000 worth of cards, stolen from his table. I feel terrible for the dealer but also a little vindication for my sporadic arguments with a few customers about tying down my binders. There are thieves at the Fan Fanatics show and dealers, such as myself, must take certain precautions to prevent theft. I think the few customers that complain need to be a little more cognizant of the environment at a big show in Rosemont and understand that I am not trying to be difficult, merely protecting my investment.
I spent about two hours Thursday laying out the tables and tying down my binders. Sometimes I make some sales to other dealers on Thursday night. No sales this time around. I also noticed that there was a lot less people walking around on Thursday which I found odd because the show contained more dealer tables than I've seen in years at this show. After set up, I went home for some last minute pricing of cards for my display cases. I also worked a little eBay.
Later that night, I was awoken by my son who had a toothache and I did not get much sleep. I made it to the show around noon on Friday when I had planned to be there closer to 10 a.m. I spent an hour or so filling my display cases with cards. I had some nice stuff in there, including a complete set of 1962 Salada Coins. In fact, I had the only set of Saladas in the room. I only observed one other dealer with any Saladas at all. Right off the bat, a bunch of dealers lowballed me on the set. I turned them away.
Dave rewarded me with some corned beef sandwiches. I also had quite a few cups of coffee from Starbucks, which is located on the ground floor of the Stephens Center. I observed that a "Tattoo Show" was running in the room across from Starbucks which made sense since most people in line at Starbucks were caked in tattoos. One guy had a weird looking tattoo on his neck depicting Abraham Lincoln. I wanted to check out the tattoo show but thought better of it once I learned the cost of admission was $20. I don't have any tattoos and don't have enough interest in them to justify twenty bucks on admission. I think many folks from the Tattoo Show came into the sports show. I saw more people than usual at the show covered in tattoos. I wondered out loud to Dave why no one has ever gotten a tattoo of a baseball card. I see lots of tattoos of team logos but never a tattoo of a player or a card. I think it would be pretty cool if someone got a tattoo of a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth.
My sales started off pretty good on Friday with the sale of a 1962 Jello Mickey Mantle to a dealer. Matt purchased some Diamond Stars. Quite a few guys found cards in my binders. My tablemate Dave was a superstar, as usual. I enjoyed chatting with Sandy, one of Dave's regular customers and a professor at the John Marshall Law School where I obtained my law degree in 2005.
Pictured below is one of Fart Boy's display cases, the gold one of the left, my Starbucks coffee and one of Dave's display cases on the right. As you can see, the booth across the way had all sorts of Blackhawks stuff.
As much fun it is to buy and sell cards at this show, I also like the social aspect and running into all sorts of friends like Mark Smith and his crew including Craig from Ohio and Hockey Greg from the Detroit area. I ran into quite a few folks from Wisconsin, including Al, Gary, and both Jasons. One Jason I have not seen in a long time along with his two boys. Jason's son Barty is now in college. I remember when he was just a kid tagging along with his dad to the Gonzaga show.
A few dealers approached me with questions about the Gonzaga show. I fully understand the difficulty in obtaining table space at Gonzaga. I went through it about 10 years ago when I first started visiting Gonzaga. There are not enough tables to go around at Gonzaga and dealers who want to get in there need to be patient. Keith, who runs the show, is a superstar. He will get you tables when vacancies appear; and NO, I will not sell you one of my tables. I need them for myself (otherwise I would not purchase them in the first place!). Again, dealers need to be patient and wait their turn. A table will open up eventually. I started out the same way, waited it out, now I have regular tables. Like I said, Keith is the best, and he will get you a table when one is available. Waiting your turn to get a regular table at the Gonzaga show is right of passage.
I saw quite a few people from the Orland show which I no longer attend. It was nice to see Rich Little, Steve, Paul, Harry, and Junior among assorted Orland regulars. Curiously missing was Larry from Berwyn, who I always see at the Rosemont shows. I hope Larry is okay!! I am still trying to find a venue to run my own show in the south suburbs. I'm thinking of launching a show in the fall.
I saw my old buddy Ross Foreman who writes for SCD. He took a photo of my Salada set for his article on the show. Ross and I have been friends since we were 12. I remember working on the 1980 Topps set with Ross when we were in our early teens.
I ran into so many people I knew at this show. My apologies for forgetting to mention anyone. I was pretty tired most of the weekend and quite forgetful.
On the buying front on Friday, I picked up some goodies including 1958 and 1969 Topps Mickey Mantles. I also took some time to walk around the room and observed some pretty fair prices for vintage cards. If I had more money, I could have easily found some cards to buy. I needed to save some cash to pay Dave for the table so my purchases were limited. I was happy with my Mantle purchases.
Fridays at the Sun-Times/Fanatics show is always grueling. The show closes at 9 p.m. and I am always dragging. Once home, I ate a ton of food and found I was sort of charged up from the show. I started watching Marco Polo on Netflix, which is an awesome show. Unfortunately, I was up most of the night watching Marco Polo and had a tough time waking up and getting going on Saturday morning.
Once awake and functioning, I considered grabbing some posters and framed publications to bring to the show to sell. On the non-Farting Guy side of my booth were two guys selling autographed jerseys and the like. They surrounded their booth with a fence-like structure. I figured I could lean some posters and publications up against the fence. Now just a little bit about the autographed jersey guys... they had the fences covered in framed jerseys and autos on Friday. By Sunday, the fences were nearly bare, they had sold just about everything. I was very impressed. Pictured below is are autographed Kris Bryant and Joe Montana jerseys for sale at my neighbor's booth. Both jerseys sold before the weekend was out.
I saw Willie in the walkway from the parking lot to the Stephens Center. Once at my booth, I noticed that Fart Boy encroached on a little more space with one of his display cases which now hovered over one of my display cases! I opened my case to see if Fart Boy's would hinder my ability to open the case. I was able to open my case just fine so I did not say anything to Fart Boy, who kindly greeted the morning with more gas. Dave made the Eli Manning face as soon as he arrived.
Another nice crowd on Saturday. I saw quite a few folks I know from the Fred Copp shows in the Chicago area like Randy, Dan, Corky and Gary. There is a newer customer at Fred's shows who spent quite a bit of time at my table.
Sales were frequent on Saturday but the amounts were small resulting in a drop in money from Friday. I did not sell much out of my display cases. I had some cool framed stuff like a 1969 Topps Chicago Cubs poster, an old Saturday Evening Post and a 1958 World Series Program that did not attract any interest. I did sell some hockey cards which I have been reloading regularly for the past few months in anticipation of this show. I also sold some basketball cards, including my newly reloaded 1976-77 Tall boys. For baseball, my sales seemed to center on the 1970s. I did not get much interest in my 1950s and 1960s binders.
On the buying front, I picked up a 1961 Topps Roger Maris. After the show, I debated on seeking out Mark, Craig and Greg for dinner but I was so tired that I went home and passed out. Pictured below is a random photo from the front of the show on Saturday.
I did sell quite a few cards out of my cheapy boxes. Quite a few sales went to the OBC crew. Thanks guys! I brought out more cheapy boxes than usual.
Overall, my sales were about the same as the November show, which was slow as well. I decided to make something happen and unloaded some stuff to a dealer from Pennsylvania. I probably could have gotten more money but I really wanted to go home with some cash in my pocket. Sometimes you just have to be a little more proactive to make some sales. By and large, the dealers at the Fanatics show have money to spend and if you sell your items to them at a price where they feel they can make some money, you make a little cash as well. I noticed that quite a few Milwaukee and Chicago area dealers don't set up at this show, instead, they bring boxes and boxes of stuff to sell to the hordes of East Coast dealers that set up at this show. So, there is more than one way to make a little money at a card show!
The Fanatics people have added a show in May which I will not attend. I have already committed to Gonzaga that weekend and plan on setting up in Highland on that Saturday. I do plan on setting up at the November Fanatics show. With my sales sort of flatlining at this show, I need to come up with something to lure in more customers in November. I would rather sell to regular customers as opposed to dealers. I can always blow stuff out to dealers. I did sell a few publications and will probably increase my inventory by November. The cheapy boxes worked well, so I think I may increase that stuff. I thought I had pretty good stuff in my display cases but did not get nearly the attention I thought I would. I know I will have plenty of buying opportunities between now and November. Hopefully, I can obtain some more interesting items before November. As I've learned over the years, you really need to buy well in order to sell well.
All in all, I had a pretty nice weekend. I would probably set up at this show regardless of my sales because I enjoy it. With more dealers, there was quite a buzz in the room all weekend -- which makes buying and selling cards that much more fun. I am already looking forward to the November show!
In the meantime, I am taking Easter weekend off. I know! I never take a weekend off!! I am going to put in some family time and price some cards. I will be back at it big time in April with two shows lined up in St. Louis. Ron Estes, who is a regular dealer at the Fanatics show, has a show at Machinist Hall in St. Louis. Ron says he has been getting a really good turn out at Machinist Hall where I will be setting up on April 2. Then on April 3, I'm heading over to Dave Jackson's show at Orlando's in St. Louis. Dave is bringing in Lou Brock and Red Schoendeinst to sign, so I am expecting a tremendous show. I also hope to spend some time with Tony Schaefer, who is a regular dealer at the Orlando's show. I'm hoping to lure Tony and his tremendous vintage inventory up to my show at the Clarion in Milwaukee sometime soon. Stay tuned, I will let you know when Tony's coming to Milwaukee. I'll take some photos of his stuff in St. Louis to wet your whistle.
I am still loading those binders from the 1970s, which is a painfully slow process because there are so many cards in those binders. It seems that everytime I'm loading those 1970s binders guys are asking me to hurry up and get back to the 1950s and 1960s. Though, the 1970s cards sell just as well. Like I said, I seemed to have sold mostly 1970s cards this past weekend at the Fanatics show. I am currently working on 1977 Topps baseball. Depending on how quickly I finish that binder, I may work on 1976-77 Topps hockey next because there are a tremendous amount of hockey collectors in St. Louis.
This April trip will be my first to St. Louis of the year. I have lots of friends down there and hope to see them all at either Machinist Hall or Orlando's! Have a great spring break and happy Easter!