The morning was a little rough (more on that later) but the day was largely smooth sailing. I had a packed house of dealers and once again had nice attendance, though it may have been down from November.
In addition to being the promoter of this show, I have a table to sell cards. Sales started out fast and furious. I brought out the binders this month after just doing showcases last month. It was great to see my regular customer Scott, who has been MIA for several months. Scott found some 1972 high numbers. Robert purchased his usual pile of cards. I've got a regular customer who likes the old football cards and I brought out my 1950's and 1960's football binders with him in mind. He along with a buddy purchased a bunch of cards.
Joe made the trek from the Chicago area and pulled a nice pile of 1978 Topps baseball. A few other guys hit that '78 book as well. I had a nice crowd at my table from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. when my superstar helpers Rachel and Jason arrived to allow me to leave and make my rounds.
It probably would be smart to have all of the dealers pre-pay but I do enjoy walking the rooms and talking to each dealer. One dealer, maybe it was Eric, told me that I scheduled my January 15th show on the same day as the Oconomowoc show. I had no idea and would not have done so intentionally. Scheduling the show on the same date as another nearby show does not help my show in any way.
Normally, I schedule the show on the first Saturday of the month. However, the first Saturday in January 2022 is New Year's Day and the venue is closed, plus I don't want to do a show on New Year's Day. I asked for January 8 but the venue had already booked another event. The next available date was January 15 which not only is the date of the Oconomowoc show, but the Woodstock show as well. Sorry Lorena and Curtis, I really don't want to run my show the same day as your shows but I don't have much of a choice in January. I'll be back on the first Saturday starting in February and through December.
I haven't been to the Oconomowoc show but folks rave about it. I also like to set up at the Woodstock show and am sorry to miss it. I encourage all to visit all three shows on January 15. The Oconomowoc show runs later than my show so there should be plenty of time to hit multiple shows.
Anyway, back to my December show. I had a bunch of new dealers which is always great. I know customers always like to see new blood at the show and we had some great new guys.
The concession stand opened at 10 a.m. and my friend Doreen grabbed me a Sloppy Joe hot off the griddle. Thanks Doreen! Oh, that Sloppy was good! I was too busy the rest of the day to get another one. They ran out of Sloppy Joe around 1 p.m. I was starving by the end of the show.
On the buying front, a phenomenal day. I picked up a near set of 1971 Topps baseball, missing six or seven cards. I need Banks, Mays, Aaron, Yaz and Dusty Baker, among others, if anybody has them. I also picked up partials of 1970 and 1972 Topps baseball. I just may be cornering the market on 1970 through 1972 because I have tens of thousands of these cards at the moment.
I also picked up complete sets of 1973 and 1974 Topps baseball. I need to upgrade some of the 1973s and I'm going to eventually sell that one complete. The 1974 set is phugly except for a handful. I think I'm just going to throw that one up on ebay and list it as phugly. Also, included in the deal was a shoe box of vintage hockey. I love the vintage hockey.
In another deal, I bought a box containing commons of 1955 Topps baseball that are kind of rough but then there are some minty 1960 and 1964 Topps along with some 1960 Leaf and a few Parkhurst hockey from the early 1950's.
Another great haul!
Now for my regular issues with my show and my complaints about operating the show....
You may want to skip this part if you are tired of reading about the trial and tribulations of operating my sports card show. Many folks say they find this part of the blog interesting. So here ya go:
The hardest part of running my card show is dealing with the mountain of calls, texts, and Facebook messages. The number of people trying to get a hold of me during the week before the show is mind numbing.
As you know, I was vacationing with my family in California during Thanksgiving week. The calls about the show started when I was at Disneyland. Sorry folks, I just can't respond to your calls while I'm trekking through the Haunted Mansion.
Then once I was home, I had to play catch up at work and was slammed in the weeds. Again, I could not respond to everybody. As a result, I have a million or so folks that I owe a return call, text or message. Now that the show is over, I'll have some time to respond. As I have stated in the past, I just cannot respond to everybody. I try my best.
The best time to talk to me is when I am set up at any other show but my Oak Creek show. I'm running around at the Oak Creek show like a chicken with its head cut off. I don't mean to brush anyone one off but I've got work to do at the show and little time to chat. Sorry!
The show has just grown by leaps and bounds and has become a difficult one-man operation. Sometimes I long for the days back in 2014 when there was just 12 dealers and 20 tables. I never expected to grow to 65 dealers and 100 tables. I could probably add another 60 or 70 tables and fill 'em with dealers but I would have to give up setting up at the show myself which would defeat my original purpose of creating this show which was to just to provide another quality show in Milwaukee where I could set up and one that is scheduled on a Saturday. Back in 2014, there were no Saturday shows in Milwaukee. Now there are several and new ones popping up regularly. I'm a trendsetter.
If the venue ever obtains more tables, I will expand the show into the Chapel. I currently have dealers in the Game Room who bring their own tables and it has caused many problems. I just can't do another room where dealers bring their own tables.
Anyway, Bob Long canceled on the Monday before the show. He was concerned about the Omicron variant and I can't blame him. I had one dealer miss the November show with COVID and two dealers miss this past show with COVID. Hopefully, we can get Bob Long to sign at the show if this COVID thing ever dies down.
I had to really hustle during the week before the show. It takes a lot of time to figure out and confirm with dealers and to contact dealers off the waiting list. Then the day of the show there is always that wrinkle with last-minute cancellations and the dealers that don't bother to show up, don't bother to let me know and don't bother to pay me for the tables. My banned list of dealers is growing.
I had the two dealers with COVID cancel at the last minute. I can't fault them, but it places me in a bind with open tables on the day of the show. Seeing a pattern, I have started to overbook the dealers which enabled me to fill the COVID guys' tables at this past show.
Here is my morning routine on the day of the show: I wake up at 4 a.m. and give myself an hour to get ready and out the door by 5 a.m. so I can be at the Salvation Army by 6 a.m. I arrived at 6:15 a.m. on this fine day. My good man Mark, who is in charge of events at the Sal, admonished me for being late. I feel so bad that Mark has to get there at 6 a.m. to let me in. He is such a good guy and does not complain. Thanks Mark!
First things first, I run around like a madman placing name tags on all the tables. This process takes a good hour and a half because I have to rearrange the tables a bit to conform with my list of dealers along with the number of tables each one has reserved plus all the special requests for table placement. One thing I won't do is switch out the 6-foot tables for 8-foot tables. The kind volunteers at the Salvation Army place out the tables and mix up the sizes randomly the night before the show. I don't think it is fair for me to intentionally give one dealer an 8-footer and another a 6-footer. The fairest method is to just let the chips fall as they may. Yet, dealers ask for the 8-footers at every show. Please stop!
Another regular issue is dealer placement in the building. I seem to talk about this issue in every blog about my Oak Creek show. Most of the dealers prefer being located in the gym which is the largest of the four rooms at the show. I can fit about 50 tables in the gym... which leaves 50 more tables split between Fellowship Hall and the Game Room.
Every show I have dealers angry with me because at one show I may have them in the gym and at the next show I have them in Fellowship Hall. Of course, they want to be in the gym. I find that the fairest way to place the dealers is through seniority. The dealers that have been with me the longest get the gym.
Many dealers do not realize that I have been running this show for more than seven years and I've got guys that have been with me since the start. These guys are champs and have stuck with me through thick and thin and I've got to give them props. They are in my Hall of Fame and include Roger Baehr, Dennis Barrett, Mike Johnson, Nelson Rodrigues, Scotty P., Scott and Danielle Ziegert, Gary George. Bill Nest, Davie Kania and Alex Rauter. There have been many others who first started out with me at the old location but these guys I just named have been there since the very first days and I am forever indebted.
As much as I used to think so, customers don't want to just see me. They want a variety of dealers and I had a great start with these guys and have done nothing but build momentum ever since. Love my Hall of Famers but also appreciate each and every regular dealer -- you guys and gals rule!
Since there would be no Oak Creek show without these folks showing up month after month and being excellent sports card dealers, I give the folks who have been with me the longest, first shot in the gym.
The problem arises when the regular gym dealers skip a show. Some shows I may have three or four regular gym dealers out so then I put the Fellowship Hall dealers in those vacated gym spots. Well, when the regular gym dealers come back, I have to move the Fellowship Hall guys back to Fellowship Hall.
Guys get hot when they find themselves in Fellowship Hall a month after being in the gym. There is just nothing I can do about it. Again, I find this process fair. Slowly, some regular gym dealers drop out for good and I am able to move up the Fellowship Hall dealers to a regular spot in the gym. But until that occurs there will be a lot of back and forth and I would ask that dealers be a little patient. They will eventually get a permanent spot in the gym.
Did I mention that I don't even place myself in the gym and it is my own show? I could put myself anywhere, but I choose to place myself in the spot furthest from the front door just to prove a point -- it does not $%#&#@+ matter where you are placed in the building. What matters, Mr. Dealer, is the inventory on your table, your prices and your personality. If your table is covered in 1988 Topps baseball, you are going to be lucky to sell a single card at the show. In addition, if your table is covered with Mickey Mantles or the latest short printed modern autograph card but you are priced crazy high, again, you will be lucky to sell a single card at the show. Lastly, if you are a dick and have a lousy attitude, nobody is going to want to buy any cards from you. In general, setting up at a card show is fun. Have some freakin' fun!
It just does not matter where you are placed in the building. Did you see that nice crowd at my tables in Fellowship Hall? Hell, I could set up in the parking lot and still have a crowd at my tables because I maintain an excellent inventory, I price my cards reasonably, and people can tell that I really enjoy setting up at the show and that I am having fun.
One of my dealers that has been with me since I had the show at the Four Points Sheridan, keeps complaining that the show has gotten too large, there is too much competition and that customers regularly tell him they ran out of money and can't buy anything from him.
I've also said this before, when a customer tells you they are out of money, it is code that you are priced too high. They will magically come up with money when you lower your prices. As far as competition goes, there really is no such thing! Dealers worried about "competition" just don't get it. Again, it is all about your inventory, pricing and personality. Case in point, this past summer I was set up at the National in Rosemont with just a measly seven display cases in an almost hidden corner of the show. There is something like 700 tables at the National. I guess I should have been worried about the "competition," yet, I had one of my best shows ever! Hmmm, somehow people found my little corner and many came to me day after day and repeatedly purchased cards.
Again, there is no such thing as competition. This type of worry is a mental block and a deterrent to success. I recommend that dealers stop worrying about the other guy. Control your own set up by having stellar inventory, competitive pricing, provide a little friendly customer service and try to have some freakin' fun!
Getting back to the gym, I probably could have squeezed in two or three more tables into the gym this show but it would have taken some time to move all 50 tables around then grab the tables from one of the other rooms and bring them into the gym. I just don't have the time in the morning to perform a major overhaul... especially when dealers start arriving early. I had one dealer show up at 6:45 a.m. when the show is scheduled to be open to dealers at 8 a.m. I had to ask that one early arrival to leave and come back because I did not have the tables and name plates organized yet. Work with me people!
I've got a lot of work to do in the morning before all these dealers arrive and need them to honor my 8 a.m. set up time. Also, early arriving customer just get in the way. I need customers to honor my show opening time of 9 a.m.
As I just stated, early arriving dealers are a problem, but so are late arriving dealers. I had three dealers show up after 9 a.m. which created all sorts of craziness. I want to be behind my tables at 9 a.m. selling cards but because of these late arrivals, I had to run around and fill those tables.
One of the late arrivals was supposed to set up in the Game Room but I observed that the other dealers in his row did not leave the late arrival much space to set up his tables. Dealers in the Game Room bring their own tables which is kind of a cluster$%#& because I have difficulty controlling where they place those tables. The venue does not have enough tables to cover the Game Room. Along those lines, I always get a new Game Room dealer that asks for a table discount because he has to bring his own. The problem is that I still have to pay full price to rent the room and I have a huge waiting list of guys that are willing pay double for the space and not ask for a discount. Honestly, I hate the guys who ask for a discount. I challenge them to find another show that charges a measly 25 bucks for dealer space, like I do, and gets the same size crowd. If you can't pay $25 for dealer space at a large card show with excellent attendance then it is time for you to take up a new hobby, like knitting, for example, and set up at the PTA craft show at the Oglesby Junior High. When I get these requests for discounted tables, I want to do a Freddy Krueger and sock them through the phone.
But I digress. So, I couldn't be behind my tables selling cards in the morning because I had all sorts of dealer issues to figure out due to the late arrivals. I realized that I could not put the late-arriving Game Room guys in their planned spot. I figured since we were not using the Hallway during this show, I could close the doors leading to the Hallway and place the late guys there.
That plan soon failed when I observed that another dealer had not arrived yet in Fellowship Hall around 9:15 a.m. I gave the open Fellowship Hall tables to the late arriving Game Room guys. Shortly thereafter, wouldn't you know it, the guy showed up for his Fellowship Hall tables. At that point, I had gone back to my tables as a crowd had formed there.
From my tables I observed Game Room guys bringing in their stuff to the Fellowship Hall tables. I literally ran over there and told Game Room guys to move to the far side of Fellowship Hall where the last late arriving dealer had not showed.
In between this mayhem, other dealers were eyeing these empty tables and I had to hold them back from converting the empty tables to their own use. Then, the last late arriving dealer showed up. Luckily, I had one of my COVID guy's table still open in the gym. I was able to place the last late arriving dealer in the gym but lost a ton of time at my own tables, and lost sales dealing with these late arrivals.
Regardless, I was thankful that all the tables were covered with cards and had dealers behind them by 10 a.m. Then some random guy showed up and asked for a table. At first I was kind of pissed off and wondered why he did not try to reserve a table prior to the show and get on the waiting list. Maybe he did try and I just did not call him back.
But the more I thought about it I was glad to have someone ask for a table that morning because normally I have open tables thanks to no shows and late cancelations. For once, I had all the tables covered and developed quite a sweat running around. I recommend potential dealers to just show up around 9:30 a.m. to see if I have any no shows. The guys that constantly call in the days leading up to the show to see if there are any cancelations are just wasting time because when there is a cancelation, I pluck someone off the waiting list, if I can.
I also don't appreciate when dealers on the waiting list complain to me during the show that there are empty tables. I can guarantee that each and every table was reserved prior to the show. If there is an empty table, it is because someone canceled last minute or did not bother to show up. If you would have brought your stuff with you, I'd let you set up on the empty table! I am not conspiring against you! I'm just trying to operate a card show which should be very easy but is, oh, so, complicated.
Thanks for drudging through my rant. It is nice to vent. Overall, once the whole table thing was resolved around 10 a.m., the rest of the show went smoothly. No reports of theft. No one accusing me of this or that. It was nice. I was sorry to see it end but was real hungry and needed food.
I went home and took the wife and kids out for Chinese food. Once back home for good, I snoozed.
My Oak Creek show was the first of a double bill weekend. I was also a dealer at the Schaumburg show on Sunday, December 5, 2021. My Schaumburg show report is coming soon.
A huge thank you to everyone who came out to the Oak Creek show this past Saturday and thank you to the majority of the dealers who are professional and a great asset to the show. Mark your calendars for January 15, I have a feeling that one is going to be a monster show! What obstacles will that one bring?
Below are some photos from the December 4th Oak Creek show.
So pictured above are the three main rooms at the show. Our fourth room which is technically a hallway was closed off because there was another event in the Chapel. We should have the hallway open for the January 15th show,