Prior to starting up the Clarion show, I had never run a card show, although I have been setting up at shows for decades. I have learned that there is much more to running a show than I ever imagined. Just dealing with the venue, the Clarion in my case, is a full time job. The hotel never gets the number of tables and chairs correct. I spend the morning prior to every show hunting down extra tables and chairs. Also, this year was a real hassle negotiating the 2018 contract. The Clarion wanted more money from me and they no longer will allow me to bring in food. Instead, they require I purchase the food from them which would quadruple my costs. Thus, I will no longer be able to provide food at the show.
So this may be a moot point, but I'd like to talk a little about the food. I find it frustrating that a couple of guys take more than their fair share. Come on now! Just because I provide free food, doesn't mean that just a handful of guys can come in and eat most of it. I bought about 100 sandwiches for the December show and I'm pretty sure two, maybe three guys ate most of them. These are the same guys that stole my Halloween-themed napkins in October. Really?
I think one way I can provide food again and avoid the guys who exhibit bad behavior is to charge an admission fee. In general, I hate admission fees because I think they detour some customers from attending the show. Admission fees, in my opinion, are only valid if the customer receives something in return or if the money is going to charity. So I'll gauge interest in the coming year of an admission fee in exchange for food.
Another option, while I'm thinking aloud about this, is to just charge for the food. Maybe, I can order some sandwiches from the hotel and charge a reasonable fee for the sandwiches. I think the best shows have food. It can be a long day at a card show. I always get hungry. There is a restaurant on the other side of the hotel but, as a dealer, leaving my table for an extended period of time to walk down to the restaurant, order food, go back into the show, go back to the restaurant to pick up the food, just seems like a waste of time and keeps me out of the show for too long. I really like the idea of having a little food booth in the show where folks can buy something to eat.
My feedback on the free food this year has been great. Both dealers and customers have enjoyed the stuff I brought out from doughnuts, to pizza, to cupcakes, and to sandwiches. I really hate to lose that element of the show.
Let me know your thoughts on the food. Would you be willing to pay an admission fee in exchange for food? Or would you like me to provide food for purchase?
Now back to the business of sports cards. The December 2nd show at the Clarion was one of the best vintage shows to date. I am not opposed to the shiny stuff but I prefer vintage. Oh my, there was an amazing vintage inventory in the room at this show. My usual guys Mike Mahan, Larry Larsen, Jerry Kvasnica, PJ, and Gary George were loaded with raw and graded vintage. I had my recently reloaded 1972 Topps baseball binder out. Alex and Dave had some vintage. Semi-regular dealers Mike Johnson, Scott Ziegert, and Pat and Barbara Lawrence were on hand with amazing selections of vintage. Then I had the return of Rick McQuillan, who drove in three hours from the western part of the state, with all sorts of vintage goodies like pre-War cards and team-issue photos from the 1940s. Bill S. showed me a Philadelphia Athletics photo pack that he purchased from Rick that had Nellie Fox in it. Photos of Fox in an Athletics uniform are rare. I purchased a 1943 Cubs photo pack from Rick. Hopefully, Rick comes back soon! Anyway, I think the December show had the largest vintage inventory I've ever seen at any Milwaukee show (three dealers with T206s!).
Conventional wisdom might be that with all this vintage in the room my sales would have been slow. However, there is a reason I never make such assumptions because my sales were strong. Jerome purchased quite a few 1972s. Eric and Josh picked up my PSA 4 1954 Bowman Pee-Wee Reese. Dave picked up my 1953 Topps Allie Reynolds. Barry found some cards in my binders. A regular customer pulled out quite a few 1967 Topps baseball from my binder. Bill took all of my 1963 Peel Offs. Rich picked up a bunch of 1970s basketball. Quite a few other guys found cards in my binders. I was really pleased with my sales.
On the buying front, I purchased 15 vintage baseball gloves, including two Harvey Kuenn models and a Bob Feller model. I am not an expert on gloves but I am pretty sure that one glove is from the 1910s and others are from the 1930s.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent show. We had a really nice turn out early on. By noon, it seemed to clear out. By 1 p.m., many of the dealers had packed up. A few of the late-arriving customers were miffed at the empty tables. I encourage dealers to stick around. I was able to make some nice sales from the late arrivals.
Dealer dash aside, I am hopeful that 2018 at the Clarion is as successful as 2017. I am still going to give out free wax. I have some other ideas for new promotions in the hopper. I think I've achieved what I set out to do back in 2014 which was to create a unique show. I want customers and dealers to feel like they're hanging out in their own living rooms without noisy distractions It seems to me that everyone who comes to the show feels like they are at home. At my show, folks can relax, leisurely peruse a terrific selection of cards, talk with friends, laugh at Larry's jokes, and enjoy some free stuff.
Next Clarion Show is slated from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, January 20, 2018, at the hotel located at 5311 S. Howell, in Milwaukee. The Clarion is located across from Mitchell airport and near I94 (take the airport exit). Starting on February 3, 2018, the show will be held on the first Saturday of the month for the rest of the year. Other dates include March 3, April 7, May 5, June 2, July 7, August 4, September 1, October 6, November 3, and December 1.
In the meantime, I am setting up Sunday, December 10, 2017, at Gonzaga Hall in Milwaukee; Sunday, December 17, 2017, at the Orland Park Civic Center. I am a maybe for the December 31st show at Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale, Illinois. I post down the road if I am able to make the Indian Lakes show.
Once again, thanks everybody for making such a terrific year at the Clarion! I hope everyone has a great holiday season. See you soon! -- Tony Gordon