I hit the road for Jackson on Friday afternoon. I was amazed at the heavy traffic on the highway during the entire drive. I know this was spring break weekend for many, but I thought I would be the only goofball driving from Chicago toward Detroit. Who goes to Detroit for spring break? Apparently, thousands were heading to the site of "Hardcore Pawn."
Once in Jackson, I had my usual routine of looking for a hotel. I drove all over town. Jackson looks like an old Victorian town. The Downtown is kind of a weird spread-out set up with railroad tracks cutting the area in two. Jackson is located near Ann Arbor and Lansing. It is about 70 miles west of Detroit. The population is about 30,000. I was a little concerned about attendance at the show. Though, I think collectors came in from all over Michigan because the attendance was excellent.
Just a little bit more about Jackson -- according to Wiki, this town is the birthplace of the Republican Party. The Republican Party formed in Jackson in 1854 as the result of an anti-slavery convention. On the economic front, auto parts were manufactured in Jackson as early as 1910. Later automobiles were manufactured in town.
I spent the night in the inexpensive America's Best Hotel. Across the street, I saw a restaurant called Coney Island Dogs. I figured it was a knock off of Nathan's hot dogs in New York. However, according to Wiki, the Coney Island is a native hot dog to Jackson going back to 1914.
Prior to the show, my pal Mark Smith told me that Jackson is known for a very large prison. According to Wiki, Michigan's first prison was constructed in Jackson in 1839. On my way out of town after the show, I drove by a large prison complex. Once on the highway, I saw a hitchhiker and assumed he was an escaped killer and quickly drove by him.
Notables from Jackson include former NFL football player and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who must still reside in town because I saw his mug on a large billboard advertising some sort of youth-religious event; Paula Faris, who used to be a sportscaster in Chicago and is now national; and former MLB pitcher Rick Wise.
Once in my hotel, I watched the television show "Forensic Files" which just happened to feature a murder in Jackson, Michigan. A clerk at a gas station was shot in the head by a robber. Police went through several forensic procedures on some poor video tape of the robbery-shooting to figure out the identity of the killer. The show kind of spooked me and I could not sleep. So I was out the door very early and decided to stop at neighboring Bob Evans for breakfast. I am a big fan of the Bob Evans. My eggs, bacon and hashbrowns were delicious. I downed a pot of coffee and drove five minutes or so to the show.
VFW halls and American Legion Posts all seem to look the same. They are all a little run-down, have a large ballroom, bar, meeting rooms and the like. I think it is this aged atmosphere with American Flag decor that make these places the perfect structures to house a baseball card show. I was amazed at the large number of dealer tables at this show. There was probably 50 or so tables which is pretty large for a one-day show.
For my set up, I decided to go with just two display cases and fill the rest of my two tables with binders. I also brought out my newly reloaded 50-cent box. My first sale of the day was to a dealer set up in the row behind me who was working on a 1978 Topps set. He found two of the four cards he needed to complete the set at my table. I pulled out the Nolan Ryan that he needed. The card books at $40. I offered it to him at $10 and he declined. I was kind of amazed he passed on the card. It is in pretty nice shape and is just one of two cards he needs to complete his set. He also had a weird set up with all 1980s cards on his table. When I see a guy with that kind of set up, I automatically think that they have not been to a card show in 30 years because it is very difficult to sell cards from the 1980s and if you do sell them, they do not sell for much money.
At this point, it was still pretty early and many dealers will still setting up. I decided to walk around the room. I met Ron who grew up in the Lake View neighborhood in Chicago. He looks awfully familiar and I think I may know him from somewhere but I cannot place him. I knew he was from Chicago when I observed that half of his table was covered in Cubs cards. He had a nice 1975 Topps Robin Yount rookie. I offered $15 but he wanted $30.
Unable to cut any deals, we still had some nice conversation. Ron told me that his first job was as a pin setter at Southport Lanes. I have been to Southport Lanes many times. It is an incredibly cool place that is pleasantly stuck in a time warp. Located on the North Side of Chicago, Southport Lanes is an old bowling alley/tavern that has been open since the 1930s. It has just six or eight bowling lanes that look and operate much as they did in 1934. An actual person sets up the pins, not a machine. Ron's first job gives him lots of street cred in my book.
As I walked around the room, I saw that most tables consisted of singles of either modern or vintage or a combo of both spread out on the tables -- no display cases, no boxes of cards, binders, or anything else. I made some offers on some cards and learned that none of these dealers wanted to cut a deal on any cards. Eventually, the dealer behind me accepted my offer on a 1971 Topps Bart Starr. I was kind of amazed that most dealers seemed set on selling their cards at their sticker price. The cards were not over-priced but as a dealer, I can't pay the sticker price when I am buying for resale. I figured some of the guys would appreciate some early sales, but no takers.
My next customer told me he started collecting baseball cards in 1959. He said he works part-time and lives off Social Security and can't buy a whole lot, almost apologetically. While I certainly appreciate customers who throw down serious coin, I also very much appreciate every single sale whether it is for $10 or $200. It all adds up in the end. He ended up buying some 1959 and 1963 Topps baseball cards and put me awfully close to making my table fee. My initial goal at every show is to make table fee. It is always a big relief once that goal is accomplished.
Next up was a young couple that purchased some hockey cards. A customer wearing a hat that had a Marines logo purchased some 1952 and 1953 Detroit Tigers. An older customer purchased a 1973 Topps Clay Carroll. Another older customer found some cards in my 50-cent box. My next customer told me that former major league player and manager Ben Chapman was his great uncle. The customer was a little embarrassed to admit Chapman was a relation because Chapman was portrayed as a racist in the Jackie Robinson movie. Ben Chapman's grandnephew purchased some Cincinnati Reds. He is working on Reds team sets.
Things quieted down at my tables and I walked around again. There was a big sign for Denny McClain, who was signing autographs in a back room. I stopped off at the concession stand and ordered a hamburger from the sweetest little girl. I was impressed with size of the freshly cooked burger. By 11 a.m., the room was jamming.
I sold some 1971 Topps football cards to a customer who was pretty close to finishing the set. Another customer purchased my 1969-70 Topps Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito cards. A customer purchased a 1974 Topps Jim Palmer. A young customer purchased a 1970-71 Topps Jerry West All Star card. My sales sadly ended when a customer purchased some cards out of my 50-cent box. There were still plenty of people in the room. In fact, there was a nice crowd in the room past 2 p.m. when most shows are over. I, unfortunately, had difficulty making sales at this show. It seemed like the guys who had random cards spread out on their tables were making the most sales. Which got me to thinking that next time I set up at a Michigan show, I just may put out random low grade vintage stars on my tables without anything else. It does not seem like Michigan is a place for set builders. I also took note that most of the dealers in the room had modern cards and I think this may have been more of a modern card crowd than a vintage crowd.
While sales were lousy, I would give this show another try because it was really well attended. I think I just need to adjust my set up to spur more sales. Having a bad show is like having a bad game. You just have to shake it off, forget about it, and get ready for the next one. I was staring at a four-hour drive to my next show in Canton, Ohio.
With a set up of mostly binders, it is really easy to pack up and load out. I was on the road by 3 p.m. I drove east toward Detroit then made a turn south toward Toledo. I like the Michigan countryeside. It is hilly and goes from forests to farms to golf courses. Michigan is one of the more pleasant states to drive through.
I stopped in Toledo to purchase gas and also worked my iPhone to reserve my room at the Motel 6 in Canton. I stopped on the Ohio Turnpike and ate a chicken salad sandwich and Einstein Bros. Bagels. The drive to Canton was pretty smooth. Traffic was not nearly as bad as Friday.
Once settled in Canton, I found a cheap Chinese restaurant and dined on sweet and sour chicken, egg roll and rice. I made the mistake of watching the Arizona-Wisconsin Elite 8 game where my Wildcats were destroyed by the Badgers for the second year in a row. I cable-rocked until I fell asleep. I was up early again but not early enough to hit a restaurant. I stopped at Mickey D's for a quick meal and coffee. The Motel 6 is just down the street from the Canton card show at the Marriott Belden Village.
I went with the same set up as yesterday. Like last month, there was a ton of vintage in the room. Though, I noticed one new modern card dealer who was absolutely mobbed the whole show. It did not seem like any of the vintage dealers were making a whole lot of sales. Though there was a nice crowd early on and all day long.
Then former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar walked into the room. Man, he is a tall dude. Everyone clapped for him. He made a remark about the weather then walked out into the lobby to sign autographs. At $30 a pop, I took a pass. I would not mind having a Bernie Kosar autograph but would not pay more than $10.
At each show, customers come by and ask if I have this or that. Rarely do they ask if I have any cards from the 1980s. However, today, I had two different customers come by looking for 1987 and 1988 Topps baseball cards. I don't carry them because they sell for very little money. Speaking of cheap stuff, my 50-cent box got a nice work out today.
A father, son, and granddaughter team purchased some 1962 Topps baseball cards and 1964 Philadelphia football cards. A customer I remember from last month, made my day. He spent a few hours at my tables, going through most every binder and all the cards in my display cases. He made some nice purchases. I also spent a lot of time talking with a gentleman who is from Cleveland and has never been to Chicago but is a fan of the Chicago Cubs. He said it is his dream to go to Wrigley Field some day. I tried to tell him that it would be pretty easy to drive from Cleveland to Chicago and take in a Cubs game. I got the feeling that he is someone who rarely travels a few miles from home.
Thanks to that one customer who purchased a ton of stuff, I had a better day than yesterday. Though, I expected to do a whole lot better with Bernie Kosar signing autographs. Again, I was disappointed. This Canton show gets a really nice crowd but is a tough place to sell cards. Also the promoter Jane is absolutely terrific. I won a Cleveland Browns T-shirt in her dealer gift drawing. Like the Terminator, I will be back.
It is a long drive home from Canton. I am so happy to be home! Thankfully, next weekend I only have to travel 45 minutes to the Smith & Gordon Show in Milwaukee. We are in the Mitchell Room again and have a bunch of new dealers this time around. I have lots of new stuff for this show. This week I reloaded 1953 Bowman baseball and football along with some 1970 Kellogg's Baseball. I am also working on 1979 Topps baseball and should have it read to go by Saturday. In a perfect world, I would get to 1954 Bowman football but I think it will be tough to get it done before the show.
We ran an ad again the the Milwaukee Journal on Tuesday and am looking for another large crowd. I hope to see you all Saturday in Milwaukee!!
Pictured below are more photos from the Canton show.