To make matters worse, I could not find a hotel. I drove all around Grand Rapids, which is a really cool-looking town, but could not find cheap lodging. I eventually found a place that put the "flea" in the "flea-bag motel." This was one of the nastiest motels I have ever stayed in. The walls were covered in filth and pocked with assorted holes. There was no chain link lock on the door. I can't even begin to discuss the crust on the TV remote. I scanned the bed for bugs but did not see any. I was afraid to use the covers so I turned the heat up real high. Whoever was in the room above me seemed to walk back and forth all night long! Needless to say, I did not sleep very well. On the bright side, I was only 20 minutes away from the show and had an easy morning drive.
Upon arrival at the school on Saturday, March 7, 2015, I was greeted by promoter Vern, the former principal at the school. Vern runs the card show once a year as a fundraiser for the school. He also recruited parents as volunteers to help out with the show. Vern placed me outside the gymnasium, the main room for the card show. I was a little concerned but thought I would wait it out to pass judgment. Once I was set up, I did not mind the location. Everyone who entered the school stopped by my table to have a look.
A lot of dealers flip out if they do not like their table location. My experience has been that location does not matter nearly as much as the product you place on the table, especially at a small one-day show where most everyone in attendance is going to visit all the tables.
To my benefit, I was located right next to the concession stand and the autograph table -- former Tiger Dan Petry was the guest. I observed some amazing looking doughnuts at the concession stand. I was not going to partake until the concession stand volunteers brought the doughnuts to each dealer table and offered some for free. When I looked into that box of doughnuts, I saw fireworks and heard orchestra music. Oh my. Those were the most amazing doughnuts I have ever seen. They were huge and in all sorts of shapes and sizes with layers of different types of frosting on each one. I then had an out of body experience. I saw my hand reach into the box and pull out a chocolatey sweet creation covered in whip cream. I'm not sure if I thanked the volunteer, I only remember chomping on doughnut and entering Nirvana. I'm pretty sure I heard the Jefferson Airplane's song "Go Ask Alice" in the background.
With my sugar up and body good and caffeinated, I was ready for business. My first customer of the day wore a John Deere hat and found a bunch of 1959 Topps baseball cards for his set. Then I was approached by Toby who saw my business card and remarked, "You're the guy who goes to shows all around the Midwest."
Yep, that's me.
Toby said he Googled the show today and my website was the first one that popped up. Cool! Toby found some cards in my newly reloaded 50-cent box and some 1951 Bowman baseball cards. The hockey autograph hound that I met in Holland, Michigan, at the December show, found some cards to send out for signatures.
I observed that all sorts of colleges and universities were represented on hats, coats and shirts worn by customers at the show. I learned last night while I was driving around looking for a hotel, that Grand Rapids is home to quite a few colleges including Aquinas College, Calvin College, Central Michigan University, Cooley Law School, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grace Bible College, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Kendall College of Art & Design, Kuyper College, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Secchia Institute for Culinary Education and Western Michigan University. So when a customer approached my table wearing jacket with a logo from Keene State College, I assumed it was one of the many local colleges. However, a quick internet search revealed that Keene State is in New Hampshire. I hope you are taking notes, because there is going to be an exam at the end of this blog.
Anyway, Mr. Keene State purchased a bunch of 1951 Bowman baseball cards. My next customer found some 1965 Topps baseball cards for his set. An older gentleman found a bunch of cards for his vintage Detroit Tigers set -- which seemed to be the theme today. A great many of the folks were wearing Tigers garb and were working on Tigers team sets. A guy wearing an Orange Tigers hat found a few 1962 Topps baseball cards for his set.
My next customer seemed to have a bottomless pocket full of change. He started to go through my 1970 Topps baseball binder and pulled a few cards then game me two quarters. He did this over and over for about 20 minutes. I soon had a pocket full of quarters. One of the many kids at the show pulled a card from my 50-cent box. I saw quite a few groups today made up of a grandfather, father and grandson. There were also several Cubs fans in Grand Rapids today. One completed his 1975 Topps Cubs set at my table today.
Pictured below is the gymnasium at the West Side Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Dan Petry showed up around noon. I can't say enough about Dan Petry. What an incredibly nice guy. He was engaging with all the customers. They talked about the Tigers past and present. He made a special point to get a conversation going with every kid that came up to his table. He also let each youngster try on his 1984 World Series Ring. I found a 1981 Fleer Petry card in one of my binders and got it signed. Petry said he currently is a high school baseball coach for a private school in the Detroit area. I was impressed watching him truly enjoy talking to fans and signing autographs. There are so many players out there from his era that seem to hate any contact with fans like Mike Schmidt and Rod Carew. I became a fan of Dan Petry after today. I pondered these thoughts and others while I dined on a hot dog from the concession stand.
Pictured below is Dan Petry signing autographs for fans. The middle photo is the line of folks waiting for an autograph. You can click on the photos for a larger view.
I didn't buy anything today. No one really brought anything to my table to sell. One of the other dealers out in the hallway near my tables brought over a smattering of low-grade baseball cards. He seemed disappointed when I told them they did not have much value. Another dealer wanted to trade me his post-War cards for my pre-War cards. I declined. I walked around the gym where there were many dealers selling vintage cards. Prices were reasonable but there was nothing there I could make any money on.
Pictured below are a couple of the dealer tables along with my Dan Petry autograph.
I've done the Madison show before but it has been about seven years or so since I was last there. The problem with the Madison show for me is that it is usually scheduled the same day as the Gonzaga show in Milwaukee. Gonzaga is my favorite show and I won't skip that one for another show.
Again, like Grand Rapids, I was placed in an oddball spot. This time I was in the back of the room behind a large pillar. I was a little worried that no one would find me back there but again, I decided to wait it out before passing judgement. Turned out to be a really good spot. I had a lot of extra space and created my own booth. Most everyone in attendance came by to check out my spread.
The first customer of the day purchased a 1962 Topps Ken Boyer All-Star. I had the card priced at the book price of $8 because the card was flawless. The customer asked why the card was priced so high and I had to explain myself. I price all my cards to condition. Every once in a while, I obtain cards that are flawless and price them at book. Most of my cards are priced at half or quarter book.
My next customer was a younger collector who found some cards in my 50-cent box. Next, I had a nice conversation with a collector who told me he got back into collecting 10 years ago when his son was young. His son gave up but he still presses on. He found some 1964 Philadelphia football cards and some 1957-58 Topps basketball cards at my table.
The room at the Crown Plaza Hotel was real small and very crowded. I tried to walk around the room a few times but was unable to pass because the aisles were filled with people. Several familiar faces were set up in that room including Jerry, George and Mike. It seemed like several of the other dealers all owned card shops in the area.
Pictured below is the main area of the Madison card show.
Kurt, who I know from the Gonzaga shows, purchased my 1934-36 Batter Up Tony Lazzeri. Then I had a customer spend half the day at my tables pulling a large pile of cards from most every binder. I love customers like this who are working on sets from most every year and most every sport. He was very pleasant to deal with. Thank you!
On the buying front, I was shut out for the second day in a row. Nothing appealed to me on the other tables in the room. One of the card shop owners came by with a stack of 1970-71 Topps basketball cards that he wanted to trade for baseball cards. I politely declined. I offered to purchase the basketball cards but he offered me the cards at retail value. I can't buy cards at the same price I would sell them at. You would think a card shop owner would be aware of that. On top of it, this guy was relentless and kept coming over with different stacks of basketball cards wanting to trade them for baseball cards. I told him no every time. It was kind of weird. Jerry offered to sell me a stack of 1956 and 1957 Topps football cards. Jerry is wise enough to offer them to me for less than their retail value but still his price was too high for much of a profit for me.
After the show, I decided to get a bite to eat. Just about every chain restaurant in America is located on the same block as the Crown Plaza Hotel. I ended up at the Homestyle Buffet and was disappointed. I thought the price of $14 was a bit high. Then when I sat down, I was greeted by the smell of butt. I wanted to vomit. The food was okay but there were not a whole lot of choices for a buffet. I cannot recommend the Homestyle Butt Fay.
Next week, I'm setting up at the Highland, Indiana, show on Saturday. Like the Madison show, I think it has been seven years or so since I was last in Highland. Mark Smith is also setting up in Highland. Together we will have a tremendous selection of vintage cards. I'm working on reloading 1975 Topps football and 1952 Topps baseball for the Highland show. On Sunday, both Mark and I will be at the Gonzaga show in Milwaukee. The baseball card train rolls on! I had a great time in Grand Rapids and Madison this past weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing lots of old friends this weekend in Highland and Milwaukee. Thanks for your continued support!!