The most fun I ever had in the hobby was when I first started collecting cards in 1975. For about $2 I could fill up a brown paper bag with packs of cards from the pharmacy down the street from my house in suburban Chicago.
I would carry the bag home, sit on the curb in front of my house, open packs, stuff sticks of gum in my mouth and marvel at images of Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew and the like. I sorted the cards by team and kept them on a desk in my bedroom. I checked off the cards on the team checklist with a large green marker. I placed my doubles in a shoebox.
I still have my childhood desk and it is still covered in baseball cards. My wife won't let me keep that worn old desk in our bedroom so it is relegated to the basement, along with my cards. If it was up to me, my entire house would be covered in sports cards. Unfortunately, my wife and kids don't receive the same joy from cards as I do. So, me and my cards hide away in the basement.
I come out of my shelter every weekend and meet up with like-minded fanatics in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. We're all really kind of nuts and I think we all know it. But man are we having some fun! I haven't had this much fun in the hobby since I was a skinny little kid in 1975. Who knew that I'd be fat bald man in 2022 and still collecting cards?
This past Madison show was so much fun! I brought out the binders this time and somehow had better sales with common cards than I had last month with the star cards. I sold piles and piles of cards! What a blast!
Promoter Beau Spencer Thompson does a tremendous job with this show. I used to set up at Darren's shows in Madison and never had these kinds of sales. This is awesome! Like the last Orland show, I had guys on both sides of the tables going through cards.
My binders took a beating! I sold mostly baseball cards which is weird because at Darren's shows I always sold more football cards than the other sports. I did not have enough space this month to place out my hockey cards. I only sold a smattering of basketball and an underwhelming number of football cards.
But my baseball cards, my oh my! Guys came back two or three times and purchased stacks each time. I don't know too many customers by name in Madison other than Noah, a young guy working on the 1955 Topps baseball set. Noah purchased a TON of cards. Thanks Noah!!
Another customer sat at my table for an hour or so and pulled stacks of cards, mostly 1959 Topps along with a pretty nice pile of 1972s. There was one guy, who sort of looked like John Candy with a mustache, who pulled out stacks of '72's and '73's.
Guys were just battling for those baseball binders. I watched one customer patiently go through my 1969 binder and when he was a little more than halfway through the binder, another customer invaded his personal space and sort of shouted in his ear, "Are you done with that binder?!" The guy was startled and turned over the binder even though he was obviously not through with it. He did come back a few hours later to finish going through the binder.
Rude guy wanted to trade me cards. I told him no. He purchased a few cards and I was happy to see him go.
Another customer sort of ticked me off. He went through my oddball binder and pulled a nice pile of 1960 Leaf, which was great, but while he was going through the Leafs, another customer had pulled out a stack of cards from my 1962 binder and paid me for the cards. Leaf guy turned to the 1962 collector and offered to sell him some cards he had in his backpack. I then watched Leaf guy go into his backpack, pull out a box, place it on MY table and then '62 guy flipped through the cards at MY table, blocking access to other customers who wanted access to my binders.
Now, I've talked about this before... it is extremely rude and bad form to approach people at a dealer's table to sell your cards. If you want to sell cards, reserve a table yourself, set up and sell all you want. I paid $100 for the right to sell cards at those tables. Leaf guy took advantage of me and my good nature.
I was kind of fuming when Leaf guy placed his box of cards on my table. I was going to tell Leaf guy to get the #@$% away from my table but I was able to control my temper as my blood boiled. Ended up '62 guy didn't buy any cards and Leaf guy put his cards away. I'm keeping an eye on Leaf guy for now on and will tell him to get the #$@% away from my tables if he ever pulls that crap again in the future.
Beau did a really nice job expanding the show this month and added more tables to the hallway and opened a second room so there was plenty of space for Leaf guy to pay for a table and sell cards, don't freeload off me!
Early in the morning, the dealer behind me complained about that second room. He said it was going to take customers away from us. This was the guy who pinched much of the space between our tables last month. He pinched even more space this month! I couldn't keep quiet this time around. After I complained, he moved his tables further out in the aisles. Also, he wasn't on his feet as much as last month and did not block the area behind my tables like he did last month -- thankfully!
We argued a bit about the second room. As I stated in my last Rockford blog, I think the expansion helps us far more than it could possibly hurt us. More dealers make the show more enticing for customers and ends up bringing in more customers.
The dealer behind me stopped complaining early on as we were both absolutely mobbed with customers. When he sells a card he tells the buyer, "Give it a good home." I can't tell you how many times he said that during the show. He had a monster show! I should have asked him at the end of the day if he was still bothered by the second room. He still had customers at his table when I packed up and left around 3:30 p.m.
I had a chance to check out the second room early in the morning, there were both quite a few dealers and customers in there. Later, one dealer reported great sales. He said other dealers in the room complained that their sales were poor and not enough customers came down from the main room. He told me that he wanted to tell those dealers that their sales were poor because they had over-priced crap on their tables, not because there were not enough customers.
I can't stress enough the importance for dealers to have quality merchandise on their tables at reasonable prices. Stop complaining about your location in the building. Stop complaining about the number of dealers at the show. Start obtaining good stuff and don't mark it way up!
I had my best show ever in Madison and I mostly sold cards at a dollar or two... piles and piles of cards. It was awesome!
I was so busy at one point I was sweating from hustling and dealing with all of the customers. From around 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. I was working hard. I was finally able to sit down at 1:30 p.m. or so and sort of crashed in a heap.
Even with Leaf guy, rude guy, complaining dealers, I had a ball. Most everyone was really great. It was fun talking cards and helping a large number of set builders. I was in a great mood when I went home and sort of floated all the way there.
On the buying front, I picked up a few things. A dealer brought over a little stack of cards while I was setting up, including a 1964 and a 1967 Topps Hank Aaron. There was also a bunch of Luis Aparicio cards in there. No negotiation. His price was great. A few other guys offered cards for sale during the show. One guy had a box of really great stuff but he wanted to trade. I told him I would buy the box from him. He said he'd rather trade. He wants 1974 and 1975 Topps complete sets. I am going to bring them to the April show and see if we can work something out. He had some really nice stuff.
Another guy and his young son came by with a little box half filled with vintage and half modern. When I told the guy that I generally pay 25% of book, depending on condition, he did not want to sell me any cards. We were able to work out a deal for a 1953 Bowman Minnie Minoso for $15.
Then a guy came around with stack of vintage cards from the 1960's in poor condition. He wanted $10 for the stack. I explained to him that I would sell most of those cards for a quarter a piece because of the condition. We made a deal for $5.
Quite a few guys asked if I buy cards. Every dealer buys cards! All these guys inquiring whether I buy cards promised to bring me cards in April when I'll next be set up at the Madison show. I have to miss the March show as I'll be set up in Rosemont, Illinois, at the Sun-Times show.
I've got to say that my three tables covered in vintage binders looks really cool! See photos. I think others agree. A few dealers had some comments. The dealer across from me asked if I just sell vintage. Well, I pointed out to him that I only had vintage cards on my tables. He said he would love to be a vintage dealer but he can't because he travels too much. I just sort of nodded but wondered how traveling would preclude him from obtaining and selling vintage cards?
Another dealer expressed awe in my set up and said I have the set-up he is striving for. He asked how I do it, where do I get my cards? People ask me that all the time and can't seem to comprehend that I get just about all of my cards at card shows. I have been setting up at shows just about every weekend for more than 20 years and purchase cards at just about every show.
I probably spend several thousand dollars every month purchasing cards. Some months I spend more, sometimes less, but I am always buying cards. Being a sports card dealer, whether vintage or modern, is all about buying cards. As the old saying goes, you've got to spend money to make money.
I did not see that dealer buy any cards. He will never have my kind of set up if he does not buy any cards. When I first started setting up at the Rockford show last year, I met a young guy with a great passion for vintage cards. I watched him buy cards each month then he started to set up. His table looks better and better at each show. It really is all about buying cards.
Anyone can be a dealer. There is no training manual, you learn by trial and error. My best advice to burgeoning dealers is to buy, buy, buy. Once you start, the floodgates will open, especially if you set up at shows every weekend.
I don't think I gave the dealer the answer he was looking for which occurs regularly when I am asked where I obtain my inventory. I think guys have some preconceived notion as to where my cards come from. I'm not sure exactly what that notion entails but when I tell them the truth, they look at me like a deer in the headlights. I think I need to start asking them where do they think I obtain my inventory?
Maybe folks think I buy all of my cards online. It would, indeed, be possible to obtain such an inventory online but in my case, it would be far too time consuming. I don't have the time to sit on eBay and buy cards. I barely have the time to post cards on eBay for sale. I prefer to buy collections or large lots which you can't really find on eBay. The sellers I want are at card shows, i.e., the dealers that flip collections or collectors looking to sell out for whatever reason.
Then there are the numerous private auction houses. These auction houses have great stuff. I love flipping through their catalogs. The problem is that everybody knows they have great stuff, and these cards sell for a pretty penny, there is no room for profit, especially when you factor in buyer's fees from anywhere to 15% to 25%, a dealer just can't make any profit that way. I am able to obtain cards at much better prices at card shows than online.
I explained to the dealer that I have developed a great many contacts over the years and sellers know to bring me cards at each and every show. I don't really know how else to explain my inventory. I actually have no need to buy any more cards. I have enough stashed away, actually stacked away, to keep my binders filled for years down the road. When a customer goes through, say my 1972 Topps binder, and says you're out of high numbers. My response, "No I'm not. There is a lot more at home waiting to be priced and placed into the binder."
I think if this guy continues to set up, he'll figure it out. It is not rocket science.
I am so bummed I have to miss the March Madison show because I'm setting up at the Sun-Times show that weekend. Now I am a little worried that I am making a mistake by setting up in Rosemont over Madison. I hope I have a good Rosemont show. Then I'm going to Ohio the following weekend and have to skip the Orland show. Am I making another mistake? Madison and Orland have been so great, I hate to miss those shows!
The hobby is hopping! This is really one of the best times ever. I am amazed at the crowds and my sales at almost every show. I was so disappointed I had nowhere to set up on Sunday. Though, it was nice to get some work in on reloading my binders that were absolutely massacred at the Madison show.
So I am in kind of a dilemma for next weekend where I have my Oak Creek show on Saturday and Schaumburg on Sunday. I am only about half-way through reloading my 1974 baseball binder. I don't want to bring the binders out next weekend without at least one newly reloaded binder. I also don't want to bring out the display cases because I am saving those cards for Rosemont and Strongsville. What do I bring out next weekend?
Thankfully, I have much more than just the binders and star cards. I think I am going to bring out the cheapy boxes, sets, lots, publications, and more oddball stuff. I should have an interesting set up next weekend. If you want to see anything particular next weekend, let me know beforehand because I am leaving my regular inventory at home!
So next Saturday, March 5, is my show at the Salvation Army Community Center, 8853 S. Howell, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. This will be my largest show to date with 108 tables and 68 dealers. I limit dealers at my show to just two tables each so I have more dealers than any other show around. I have a bunch of new ones lined up for Saturday as well.
The Sal has an event in the Chapel on Saturday so parking will be tough. I recommend parking across the street at Target. Please do not double park! Also, the front door will be used for the other event, not the card show. Entry for the card show on Saturday will be through the gym door.
The Sal is also taking away my space in the front hallway so I won't have any dealers there. We're moving access to the concession stand from the gym to Fellowship Hall. I am going to place dealer tables in front of the concession stand in the gym. We're also going to have dealers on the stage in the game room. Make sure you visit the gym, Fellowship Hall and the Game Room. All three rooms will be packed with dealers! I am probably going to set up in that little hallway between Fellowship Hall and the Game Room. Once again, Rachel will be watching my tables from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please be kind, she is such a great helper!
Dealers, if you could pay me in the morning, I would really appreciate it because Rachel has to leave at 1 p.m. to go to her real job so I will be hustling to collect table fee from everybody before she goes.
My waiting list is growing at a maddening pace. I am sorry that I cannot get more dealers into the show. Please be patient with me. The folks on the waiting list do not need to call and text me every month. I will contact you when space becomes available. If I contact you and you are unable to set up, I am taking you off the list. I just have too many people on the wait list and need to thin it out.
More about the waiting list. There are about 60 guys on there now. Some guys are accusing me of trying to keep them out of the show. Why would I do that? The problem is that everyone and their mother wants to set up at the Oak Creek show and I have limited space available. I am not trying to keep anyone out of the show. What I am trying to do is bring in new dealers in the fairest and most equitable manner. It now takes me months to get someone into the show after they join my waiting list. You guys need to be patient. I will get you in and I will contact you when space is available.
I had one guy text me recently and brag how great he is, how many Instagram followers he has, and that he is a national dealer because he just set up in Atlanta and I am making a huge mistake by not letting him into the show.
First off, I am not impressed. There are actually dealers who do, indeed, impress me and they all have to wait like the rest of the group on the waiting list for their turn to get space at the show. I really don't care who you are, you all have to wait your turn.
Second thing is that I don't need any more dealers. I am doing all these guys a favor by placing them on the waiting list and eventually getting them space in the show. It is far more trouble than it is worth. You would not believe how some of these guys are badgering me. Back off! I might just start removing some of these guys from the waiting list because they are more trouble than they are worth.
Which brings me to another thought -- if these guys are trouble while they are on the waiting list, what are they going to be like at the show? Are they going to be a problem once I find space for them at the show? I have a preference for dealers who are not a problem and easy to get along with. Some of these guys need to get a life.
Anyone remember when I started this show at the Clarion Hotel and I just had 10 to 12 dealers and 20 tables? I long for those days sometimes. I much more prefer to set up as a dealer than being a show promoter. Being a show promoter is a huge headache these days because of the popularity of the hobby. We are in crazy boom times. I wish I could get every dealer into the show that wants to set up but I don't have the space for everyone. The number of dealers contacting me for tables is just overwhelming. I don't think there is an hour of any day where I don't get a request for tables. It is crazy!
It is only going to get crazier as I've got some great things planned for future shows like some really great autograph guests. More info soon!
Enough ranting. See you Saturday!