Quite a few people over the weekend had comments for me about this blog. I really appreciate everyone following along. Many of you commented on the amount of shows I have been setting up at lately. You all seemed startled, perplexed, so I feel like I need to explain. Reason number 1 for my increased number of shows: I LOVE setting up at shows. Always have. It is a blast! This past weekend was a blast!
Moreover, seems like we are still in the midst of a hobby boom. I had my best Woodstock show to date on Saturday and the Orland show on Sunday was so crowded it was difficult to walk the aisles. Which brings me to reason number 2 as to why I set up at so many shows: we are in boom times and I want to take advantage.
The last time I witnessed this kind of buzz at card shows was in the late 1970's when there were very few shows. When the shows did occur, it was a race to hit all the tables, find the best deals and spend every penny in your pocket. I did not set up at shows in the 1970's, I was just a customer. I did set up at the Twin Drive-In Flea Market in Wheeling, Illinois, most summer weekends in the late 1970's. I was only 12 years old in 1978 and my dad would load up the station wagon, set me up, leave me at the flea market all day.
When he would come pick me up, I would brag about all the baseball cards I sold. Those days were crazy fun.
I remember that 1981 was a big transition year for the hobby because Fleer and Donruss started making cards along with Topps. There also were more card shows and card shops -- then there was a baseball strike which slowed things down. I remember being soooo disappointed during the baseball strike of 1981. I had spent my entire life up to that point either watching games on TV, going to games, or listening to them on the radio all summer long. I really didn't know what to do with myself without baseball. Man, that sucked! Now I have lost count on the number of baseball strikes and lock outs that have occurred since that one in 1981. I have nothing but four-letter expletives for the current baseball players and owners. They all suck!
Anyway, back to 1981 when Fleer, Donruss and Topps all manufactured baseball cards. I started collecting cards in 1975 and from '75 to 1980, I put together the Topps sets by purchasing packs, trading, buying some singles at card shows and card shops. With the addition of Fleer and Donruss, I decided to just purchase all three complete baseball sets from one of the advertisers in Sports Collectors Digest. I still have those sets! I purchased all three sets the same way in 1982 then lost interest in obtaining the sets in 1983. I just didn't see the point in buying all three sets every year. It was much more fun putting together the one Topps set each year. Instead of sets, I changed my focus to collecting hall-of-famers.
That 1981 baseball strike did not seem to have a big effect on the hobby, however, as I watched the hobby take off in 1980's. Card shops popped up everywhere. I got my driver's license in 1982 and was able to drive to dozens of shops in and around Chicago. Though, the more shops I went to the more disillusioned I became with them because shop prices were double or triple of the flea market or card shows. From the mid-1980's to the present time, I really only visit shops to purchase supplies.
As the hobby exploded, along with the number of card shops in the 1980's, I watched the number of card shows grow like crazy as well. In 1978, there was just three card shows in the Chicago area for the entire year. By 1988, there were six or seven different shows every Saturday and Sunday along with a smattering of weekday shows. I remember in the winter of 1988 being at one of the big shows in Chicago, either the National or Sun-Times, and it was jammed packed and a buying frenzy.
When I started to set up at shows in the 1980's, I would look at the Beckett calendar and pick the shows closest to home. There were several shows every month in my hometown of Northbrook, Illinois, usually at the VFW or the Sheraton Hotel. I also started to set up at shows in Skokie and Evanston. It was great fun. Crowds were usually excellent as well.
Seemed like everybody and their mother collected cards in the late 1980's. The card companies took advantage and printed cards in the billions. "Investors" came in and bought up wax and stored it away thinking they would get rich from it down the road. As we all know, the baseball cards from that era turned out to be worthless because of over-production. The smart buyers bought 1986 Fleer basketball, one of the few valuable sets from the 1980's. I wasn't very smart in 1986 and bought a ton of Topps baseball wax.
I always bought all four sports but would focus on the sport that had good teams from Chicago. While my beloved Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan in 1986, the team stunk, so I focused on baseball where the Cubs and White Sox were pretty good. I started buying basketball cards in the late 1980's when the Bulls became a perennial playoff team. By then, overproduction had killed the value of those late 1980's basketball cards.
I graduated college in 1990 and started setting up at shows just about every weekend as I was unemployed. We were in a recession in 1990 and I could not find a journalism job to go along with my newly minted journalism degree. I stopped setting up in 1994 when I started my own publishing company and had to work crazy hours. I was pretty much out of the hobby from 1994 through 2000 because I had to work every weekend and could not go to shows.
When my wife became pregnant with our first child, I shut down my publishing company and decided to go to law school in an effort to be a better provider for my family. I found myself with a lot of free time for the first time in eight years. Naturally, I started setting up at shows again.
The hobby was really different in 2000 than I had remembered it. There weren't nearly as many card shops and shows as before. I discovered that Beckett had an online market place and I started buying and selling cards via Beckett.com which I really enjoyed. I soon discovered eBay and have been buying and selling there for the past 22 years.
For card shows, I started setting up at all the shows put on by Chicago hobby legend Fred Copp. Fred had four different shows each week. I started setting up at three of them. Fred was just awesome and treated me really well. I got a job with a company that made educational videos for high school students, but I did not get paid very well and was struggling financially. Fred regularly gave me breaks on table fee and sold me cards dirt cheap. I can't tell you how much I appreciate Fred Copp.
It was the first time I had to use my card sales to supplement my living expenses. Then I started law school and brought my law books to the weekend shows and studied while things were slow. The shows were not very busy in 2001, 2002. It was kind of a dead time for the hobby. Those of us setting up and attending shows back then were die hards.
I started to use my law school student loans to buy cards. I bought a TON of cards. That was fun. The shows still were not very good until I discovered the Orland Park show which was sort of like old times with lots of dealers and lots of customers. I brought my law books to the Orland show as well when I first started setting up there but soon I was too busy there to study.
Those were great days. I did really well at the Orland show. Then I discovered the Gonzaga show in Milwaukee which was even more crowded than Orland. It took a few years to get a regular table at Gonzaga but once I did, Gonzaga soon became my best show.
Between Orland and Gonzaga, I took in a nice haul of cash and cards every month. I would still round out my weekends with some of Fred's shows. In the 2000's, I became strictly a vintage dealer. I really lost interest in modern cards. I find the vintage cards so much more interesting and satisfying.
So the 2000's were pretty consistent. There were almost always good crowds in Orland and Gonzaga. Not so much at Fred's shows but I was always in good company.
I started my own show in 2014 because I needed a decent Saturday show to set up at as a dealer. The days where there were a dozen or so shows to choose from every weekend were long gone.
Then this pandemic hit in March of 2020 and everything changed. Ebay picked up like never before. The shows were shut down so I was forced to set up in my law office and sold cards there at a maddening pace. Then the shows came back in 2021 and have largely been mobbed. Now we are in 2022 and the mobs are still here. This is really the best time to be in this hobby since I started out back in 1975. Shows have not been this crowded in 40 years! I gotta set up wherever I can!! I don't want to go back to 2002 where most shows were dead. I gotta set up now! I need more shows!
Now, I am finding a problem with all these dingleberry new show promoters who keep scheduling their shows on the same day as each other. Hey, the Beckett show calendar is now online, has been for decades. These new show promoters need to check the calendar for dates and find some where no other shows are scheduled. There are dealers like me, now in large numbers, looking to set up. It sucks when you see eight different nearby shows on a Saturday and NONE on a Sunday.
Another dealer at Orland on Sunday, who is a regular reader of this blog, totally disagrees with me. He thinks an increased number of shows will hurt the existing shows. I don't think so. If these new promoters would schedule them on different days, everything will be fine.
The other dealer still disagrees and thinks the market will be saturated. Again, I disagree. We are in boom times! Now is the time to saturate the market and take advantage of the popularity. If this thing dies down then many shows will fall but for now, things are the best I have ever seen them. I just want to ride this wave while I can -- more shows please!
Saturday, February 19, 2022, St. John's Church, Woodstock, IL
So 2021 was my best year ever selling cards. I just had the Midas touch. Everything I placed out on my show tables sold! I took all that money and bought a TON more stuff. My inventory is crazy right now. I don't think I ever need to buy a card again!
With the mass crowds at shows, with crazy sales at shows and online, I really never thought I would have a bad show ever again. However, I had a bad show last time out in Woodstock, I think it was the November show. I did not sell one card! That has only happened once before and it occurred years ago at Fred's old Friday night show in Elk Grove Village at the Holiday Inn.
I was really confused after that November show in Woodstock. I had no intention of giving up on the show. There are too many things to like about the Woodstock show. I love the church. Curtis the promoter is second to none. The other regular dealers are great. I just needed to lure in more vintage collectors.
This past Saturday was a success! Quite a few guys saw my post on the Fat Daddy's Facebook page and came out to support me. Thank you!!!! I had a monster show!!! Prior to the show, I decided to bring out a bunch of sets and starter sets. New customer Colin purchased my 1973 Topps baseball complete set. Colin made my day!!
A bunch of other regulars purchased cards like Larry, Ron, Jim, Angel and Kevin. Thanks guys!! It helped that I had regular dealer Gene's space in the back of the room where I had two eight-footers and space to throw down two card tables. I brought out all of my binders along with my dime box which got a great work out. It is crazy that every time I bring out a cheapy box that guys clamor to get into it. I always get worried that punches are going to be thrown. There is always quite a battle to access those boxes.
So the show had the best crowd I had seen so far. Really nice attendance from 9 a.m. to about 11:15 a.m. then it sort of died. Where did everyone go? That was kind of weird but I was good after selling that '73 set. I ended up with my best sales at Woodstock so far.
Jeff also brought me a pile of cards that I purchased. Thanks Jeff!
I don't think I am going to worry about the Woodstock show. I think that November show was an aberration. So after having such a good show, I am bummed that I have to miss the March Woodstock show because it is scheduled for the same weekend as the Sun-Times show where I'll be set up with my buddy Dave McDonald. I also have to miss the Madison show that weekend. Very disappointing.
Again, I do not have regular tables at the Woodstock show. I am on the waiting list. I'm hopeful that Curtis will get me a table or two for the April show. I'll let you know if I'm setting up in Woodstock in April.
I'm now working on my Orland show report. Should have it soon.
In the meantime, I'm setting up in Madison at the Sheraton Hotel on this Saturday, February 26, 2022. Then I have a double bill weekend with my Oak Creek show on March 5 and Schaumburg on March 6. There are no local shows on Sunday, February 27. Wish I could find one!! I also have a bunch of open weekends in April. Hoping to fill those slots and keep on rolling!