In many ways the Nutter Center sportscard show in Dayton, Ohio, reminds me of my old loft office. The show is held in a huge gymnasium divided by canvas curtains. Today, one end of the gym had some sort of baseball game or practice going on. Baseballs made a loud thwap sound up against the canvas throughout the show. On the other end of the gym there was some sort of cheerleading practice. It was interesting selling cards with shouts of "defense, defense" in the background. I have to give those cheerleaders credit, they practiced for a long time and it sounded grueling. I had no idea cheerleaders worked so hard.
My drive from Chicago to Dayton was uneventful. I worked my real job on Friday then hit the road around 7 p.m. I drove about four hours and landed in Greenfield, Indiana, where I stayed at the Dollar Inn. My room cost 38 bucks and was falling apart, had a great many cigarette burns, and some friendly spiders. I made it to the Nutter Center around 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The show starts at 10 a.m. Most of the other dealers were already set up and conducting business when I arrived. Dan, the promoter of the show, is an extremely nice guy. He gave out free sodas to all the dealers, worked the crowd with a megaphone announcing giveaways, and was like an octopus around the room, checking in with all the dealers and customers. He told me he first collected baseball cards as a kid in the mid to late 1960s. He saved them all and never knew they had any value until a friend took him to a card shop around 1990. He said he learned about card shows from the card shop owner. The card business was booming in the early 1990s but Dayton didn't have a Saturday show. In 1992, he decided to use his marketing background to promote Saturday shows in Dayton. The Nutter Center had just opened up on the campus of Wright State University, his alma mater, and the university was looking to host events. My earlier description of the Nutter Center doesn't really do it any justice. It is a massive modern sports center. There was an ice show in the main stadium going at the same time as the card show. The Nutter Center is a really cool place.
Dan said those early shows were a madhouse with 700 or so people regularly in attendance. Today, about 140 went through the door. Dan announced the attendance at the end of the show. He also holds a drawing at the end of the show for a free dealer table at a future show. Though, to be in the drawing, dealers have to stick around until the end of the show at 3 p.m. More than half of the dealers stuck around for the drawing. The coolest thing about Dan is that you can tell that he loves running the show. Twenty years at the helm hasn't dampened his enthusiasm. It is really cool to see and there was a great vibe in the room because of him.
In addition to Dan, the customers at the show are extremely kind and welcoming. I was a little astounded at the amount of people who thanked me for setting up at the show. I talked to a lot of people. I enjoyed hearing about some incredible collections. There was also a tremendous collection of inventory in the room today. Quite a bit of vintage. A lot of dealers had both vintage and modern cards on their tables, something I don't normally see. Three dealers, including myself, were completely vintage. One dealer in attendance, I didn't get his name, has the best selection of vintage football cards around. I've seen him before at the Sun-Times Show. He's from West Virginia and has a massive inventory of vintage football cards. A lot of guys had binders filled with Cincinnati Reds cards on their tables. Cincinnati is located just south of Dayton, so folks at this show are big Reds fans. I sold a lot of Reds cards and one customer even had a large REDS logo tattoo on his left bicep. Another customer wins the show tattoo award, though. This guy was caked with tattoos. His neck was entirely covered all the way around with bright greens, yellows and reds. Which got me thinking that maybe I should get some tattoos depicting vintage baseball cards. I think a tattoo of a '54 Topps Hank Aaron rookie would look cool on my forearm.
Along with oddball tattoos, I saw some oddball items for sale on the some of the dealer tables. One guy had a table full of autographed country music CDs. Another guy had an old record player and hundreds of unsleeved 45s on his table. That was a serious flashback. When I was a kid in the '70s, I regularly bought 45s for a buck at Sounds Good Records near my house. The record guy was one of the first dealers to leave today. I don't think he sold much. Another dealer left early after the dealer set up next to me bought him out. This was a modern card transaction, which is out of my realm. Though Dave, a vintage dealer from Akron, was telling me that last weekend at a show in Columbus, he watched a guy spend over $8,000 on modern cards. Obviously there must be some sort of money or value in modern cards but I'm just not interested. Sure, it would be great to get an $8,000 sale, but I sell vintage cards because I LOVE them. If I make money, all the better, but money is not the bottom line for me. I'd rather have a vintage Mantle than a new Pujols any time. I love holding a T206 from 1909, any T206, while jersey cards from 2011 do absolutely nothing for me. In fact, I think it's a crime that the card companies chop up jerseys and bats to place snippets in cards. These things should be preserved whole. I just can't comprehend modern cards.
Back at the show today, Jeff was one of my first customers. Even though he forgot to bring his list, he found quite a few cards at my table including a really nice '71 Topps Tony Perez, a '72 Topps Joe Morgan Traded, and a beauty '73 Willie Mays. Another customer bought quite a few '60 Topps. My '72 book also got a workout today. I sold a few '53 Topps. A father and son team pulled quite a few cards from my quarter binder. I think I sold all of my Frank Robinson cards from '57 through '65 when he was on the Reds. There were quite a few oohs and aahs at my '57 Ted Kluzewski. Quite a few guys dinked through my books pulling out Reds. I had an autograph hound at my table today who told me that he started sending out cards for signatures in the early 1970s. He also regularly attended Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown and nabbed many hall of famers back then. In addition to a discussion on autographs, we had a terrific conversation about Chicago gangsters. I have a cousin who was pals with Baby Face Nelson and went to prison for hiding John Dillinger in 1934. So I read a lot of books about gangsters looking for my cousin's name. He's in quite a few books.
I had a steady group of people at my table most of the day. Ed was my last customer of the day and he purchased some high grade '54 Bowmans.
I made one purchase today, a real nice '63 Topps Mays. Most of the dealers at this show had their vintage cards priced much higher than I'm used to seeing at Orland Park and Gonzaga. It didn't seem like anybody was really willing to deal either. Many of the customers at my table complained about the high prices at the other tables.
I hit the road at 4 p.m. and made it home around 9:30 p.m. I really enjoyed myself at the show in Dayton today and am planning on going back soon. Next up is Orland Park. I just finished updating my '65 binder and am going to work on '66s along with some '54 Bowman football for Sunday. I'll also have a large stack of star cards priced and ready to go. As much as I enjoyed Dayton today, I'm looking forward to the relatively short drive to Orland Park next week. It's now midnight and I'm wired from the drive and the four Mountain Dews I sucked down along the way. Maybe I'll go sort some cards...