My wife and daughter joined 300 other girl scouts for a ski trip to Lake Geneva, Wisc., on Sunday. So I took my 6 year-old son Kolby along with me to the card show. Kolby has walked around with me at shows in the past but he has never gone to a show with me while I was set up as a dealer. I was a little concerned that I would be spending the day chasing him around the room or he would need me to take him to the restroom when I was at my busiest. Luckily, he was absolutely terrific today and we both had a great time. I think he is ready to regularly accompany me to shows.
We were on the road at 7:15 a.m. I had the mini-van loaded to the hilt which reminded Kolby of when we moved from our house in Chicago to a house in the suburbs about three years ago. We arrived at Gonzaga at 8:24 a.m. I had Kolby sit by our tables while I loaded in the cards. He chose to sit under a table while I brought the stuff in. While I set up, Kolby played Angry Birds on my iPhone. I was slow setting up on this day. Seemed like it took forever to fill up my cases.
Rant time -- I want to talk about the live auction. While I did not like the auction when I first started attending the Gonzaga shows, I tolerate it now because have found it is something that makes this show unique and adds a little flavor. The auction usually goes from 10 a.m. till noon and features all sorts of sports memorabilia, including cards, autographs, books, programs, posters, and jerseys.
Before and during the auction, the auctioneers warn that everything is sold "as is" and they essentially make no warranties as to the authenticity of any of the items, especially autographs. A few years ago I bid and won a Sid Luckman autograph, fully aware that it might not be real. Shortly after the show, I found out the autograph was not real. It left a bitter taste in my mouth and the auction lost its credibility in my mind. I won't bid on anything in that auction and I regularly warn others not to bid on autographs.
Before the auction started at this past Sunday's show, one of the auctioneers went over the rules in depth because someone complained after purchasing a fake autograph at the December show. The auctioneer explained that they make no guarantees that the autographs are legit. He even went so far as to say that buyers should not take these autographs to an authenticator. Now, I understand this show is put on by a club, everybody knows each other, and it is real low key. But to flat out tell people to avoid getting the autographs, that you are selling, authenticated is dishonest in my opinion. Having said that, I know these are honest people. The problem is that they mistakenly believe that if they tell buyers up front that items are sold "as is," like it is a piece of real estate, they are acting honestly.
Let me premise this next bit with the fact I am an attorney. In my professional opinion, the "as is" disclaimer does not absolve the actioneers of liability for knowingly selling fake autographs. I conducted some cursory research into Wisconsin's consumer fraud statutes. Wisconsin allows the "as is" disclaimer in real estate sales but no such language is found in the state's personal property, i.e., consumer protection statutes. I learned that in order to prosecute someone for a criminal act involving fraudulent conduct, the prosecution must prove the seller intended to induce or trick the buyer into purchasing the item. Now I would need further research to learn how the Wisconsin courts define "intent." In Illinois, where I practice law, intent may be proven with evidence the seller had knowledge the item, such as an autograph, was fake and failed to inform the buyer that the item was fake. Here, a prosecutor could easily present evidence that the auctioneers have knowledge they are selling fake autographs.
The proper legal and ethical road to take here is to discontinue selling fake autographs. I think this could be accomplished without reducing the number of items in the auction and in the end it will improve the quality and credibility of the auction by bringing honesty and integrity into the event. My proposal is to simply place the onus on the consignor by requiring the consignor to provide contact information to each buyer that purchases a non-authenticated autograph. Along with the contact information, the consignor must provide a period of say 30 to 60 days in which the buyer may return the autograph and receive a full refund. Consignors who refuse to comply with these simple rules would be banned from participating in future auctions.
Now I hate to complain about this show in any way because I truly love this show. The folks that run the show are good people and they put a lot of time and effort into making this the best show around. Also, my customers here are second to none. They flock to my table, spend a great deal of money with me and I enjoy conversing with each and every one of them. I look forward to the show every month. Today was another excellent show! I have no more complaints!!
I saw Mark early on but I did not have anything new for him. Mark likes oddball and insert vintage baseball and football along with non-sports cards. Jim, who also collects non-sports cards and tin soldiers, along with vintage baseball and football cards, arrived shortly after Mark. Jim and I had been emailing back and forth all week long concerning 1951 Bowman football cards. I had seven or eight cards Jim needed in my back stock. I have a large inventory of cards that I don't bring out to shows because I just don't have the time to get everything priced and sorted. So I bring new cards out in increments. I usually bring 500 to 700 new cards out to every show. This week it was '73 Topps baseball. I stuffed 600-plus cards into a binder. I think I was missing just 10 cards for a complete set. The '73 binder got a nice workout today.
Tim from Madison made the trip to Milwaukee today. I met Tim a few years ago on the Net54 website. He is a super nice guy who is working on a myriad of vintage baseball and football sets. Seems like he bought quite a few '72 Topps baseball today. He also picked up a really cool 1934-35 Diamond Stars Charley Gehringer. Jim Goodfriend made the trip up to Milwaukee from the north suburbs of Chicago. Jim was a regular dealer at the Gonzaga show for years until he took ill a year or so ago. He says he feels pretty good but can't drive yet. Jim's friend Paul has been taking him to shows each weekend. Jim's a tough sell and I actually got him to purchase some cards. He picked up my '53 Topps Campanella and a '54 Red Heart Bob Lemon. I enjoyed talking with Jim's friend Paul. He sells Chicago Cubs memorabilia including postcards and pins. He had a great day in sales at the recent Cubs Convention.
I have a semi-regular who purchases Brewers cards from the late '70s and is also one of the few guys who will buy cards from the early 1980s. He was able to find quite a few cards today. My autograph hound found many cards today to send out for signatures. Larry picked up some '56 Topps baseball team cards. Another semi-regular, who travels the country picking up autographs at all the baseball team sponsored conventions, was in town today and found quite a few cards to bring out to future conventions. He told me he was real disappointed the Kansas City Royals cancelled their convention this year. He said the reason they gave was that they are hosting the All-Star Game in Kansas City this summer and feel they don't need to have a winter fan convention as well. He said the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals convention was awesome. The Cards had 30-plus old-timers signing autographs, including Wally Moon and Mike Shannon. As a public service announcement, BrewersFest is next weekend and quite a few of the Gonzaga dealers will be there selling Brewers cards, autographs and memorabilia.
Today was one of those perfect days where I had a steady stream of set builders at my tables throughout the day. My whole set up caters to these guys, so I like seeing lists out and set builders pulling cards from my binders. Early on, I had a new customer purchase my 1959 Roy Campanella. Turns out it was the last card he needed to complete his set. I have a superstar regular at this show who is working on a great many sets. He always buys a large pile of commons from me. On this day, he did not disappoint and pulled quite a few '73s and '61s. I also have two regulars named Jason and both guys bought quite a few cards today. One Jason picked up some '73 baseball and some '74 football. The other Jason bought some '59s. I have another regular who likes the off-grade. He found quite a few cards in my binders today. I have a newer customer who is working on Braves cards from the 1950s and he found quite a few cards for his collection. I had a few guys buy some vintage basketball today. Some guys dinked through my football binders. No hockey sales today. My dime box got a good workout for a change.
I'm pausing this blog in an attempt to figure out if my daughter has gone to bed and maybe I can switch from Nicktoons to Sports Center. I think the coast is clear and Nick is going down. I can't stand these kid shows on Nick and Disney Channel. Why can't they put on Hong Kong Phooey or something? Remember when Muhammad Ali had a cartoon?
Back to the blog. I had a nice day on the buying front. Tim brought me a nice grouping of '62 football, '67 football and '55 Bowman baseball. Tom D. brought me a nice grouping of cards including a Fatima Philadelphia Phillies and a '62 Salada Aaron. Jim brought me a pair of '55 Banks cards but we didn't complete the deal. Hopefully, we can get that one done at the next Gonzaga show. My pal Mike brought me some '69 baseball and '70 football. I also picked up a '65 White Sox schedule booklet. Another guy brought me some Gale Sayers photos but I took a pass. Even though I bought the Sox sked, I prefer to stick with cards. Like I told the guy, I can't buy everything. I also turned down some cards from the guy who hits up my customers. He needs to get his own table and shouldn't be trying to sell cards to customers at my table... unless he wants to start paying a portion of my table fee.
I want to thank everyone for being so kind to Kolby. One customer even bought the Kolb some food. In all, Kolby ate two hot dogs, chips and a piece of cake. He also drank a couple cans of Coke. He found some Hot Wheels at a table for a buck a piece. He ended up with four Hot Wheels before the day was done. I think the highlight for Kolby was the kids auction. I have never seen the kids auction before because it is held in a back room and I can't leave my table. I had some regular customers who I trust watch my tables while I walked Kolby back to the auction. About 20 or so kids were seated in a hallway. The guy conducting the auction, I think his name is Bob, walks around the room and asks each kid to pick a number between one and 15 or something similar. When a kid hits the number, they pay Bob a quarter and get to go into an adjacent room and pick a pile of items displayed on a table. Kolby came out of there with several packs of cards, a Brewers sticker and another toy car, all for a quarter. I left him in there for a while so I could work my table. Kolby did real well and thanks goes out to Tom who looked out for Kolby and it seemed like Tom's son Nolan and Kolby became fast friends. I also have to say that the kids auction is a real special event and amazingly cool. I regularly hear people complain that there are not many kids involved in the hobby any more. Well I just witnessed 20 kids having a great time buying baseball cards in this unique kids event. Kudos to Bob for making it happen.
Another great day at Gonzaga, despite the sketchy auction. Next week, I'm back at Orland. I plan on bringing out a nice pile of stars, high grade and high numbers and I'm working on '56 Topps football. I hope to complete '74 baseball as well. My biggest concern for the Orland show is whether the hot dog lady will be there. I just may have to pack a lunch. I hope to see a large crowd at Orland!!
Below are some photos from today's Gonzaga show: