I was on a high after Saturday's Woodstock show. It amazes me how I can go from my worst to best show so quickly.
My last show in Orland was an absolute monster. I had brought out display cases and sold a TON of cards. Probably one of my top five shows ever at Orland. I brought out binders this time around. I also brought the sets and lots again. I like to supplement the binder set up with something interesting.
I made it to Orland around 8 a.m. and the parking lot was already full. Weird. The lot is never full at 8 a.m. When I started to bring my stuff in the building, I did not see that big of a crowd. I am not sure why there were so many cars.
One theory on the mass cars was they all belonged to the folks set up at the first table. For years that first table was the home of Big Brad who I have not seen in the longest time. Word is that he had COVID pretty bad and doesn't want to come out anymore. So there has been a different person or group at those first tables every show. This was the first time I had seen this current group.
It looked like they cleaned out their basement and brought all of their sports related junk to the show. Seemed like there were six or seven of them, maybe more. I think they had Steve Zinn's tables as well. Steve normally has the tables next to Brad around the corner.
When Brad is at the show, he normally sets up really early then sits at the table across and goes through boxes buying cards. The aisle space there is really thin, and I normally have a problem getting my cart full of bins past Brad. While Brad has been gone, others have blocked the space. Seems the aisle is blocked during load in at every show.
At the past show, this large group that I think took up all the parking, took up the aisle as I tried to load in. I could not get past them. They were all standing in front of their tables admiring their junk.
I said "excuse me" a few times while I sat at the door with my cart unable to get into the room and past this new group. The dealer set up across from them tried to get their attention as well. Nothing. They did not notice either of us and continued to admire their junk and block the aisle.
When I was a teenager, I worked at a restaurant and was trained to shout at coworkers if I was ever behind them carrying food from the kitchen and needed to get by. Well, I didn't have any food but I had a lot of sports cards. So in a much louder voice than my earlier "excuse me," I stated in my restaurant voice: "coming behind you." Still no movement. Still admiring their junk. Then I flat out shouted "COMING THROUGH!" They finally moved out of the way.
Which brings me to an ongoing problem concerning the table layout of this show. The tables are laid out in two rectangles. One against the walls, the second is an inner rectangle. The problem is with the inner rectangle being too large and killing the aisle space. There is plenty of space to shrink that inner rectangle and increase aisle space.
The lack of aisle space was a huge problem at this past show. Not just with the junk dealers plucking the space in front of their tables but attendance was massive. One of the largest crowds ever. Folks just could not walk the room because the aisles were jammed up with people. Shrinking that inner rectangle would go a long way to improve traffic flow.
Though, it is hard to find fault with anything about this show. The promoter Rich Troy is a prince among men. He is awesome. After suffering under the reign of the original promoter John Leary for years, Rich is a breath of fresh air.
I had some fun with him at this past show. The speaker system is being rewired and he needed to plug in a microphone into a speaker outlet behind my tables and conduct his hourly giveaways from behind my tables. It was a lot of fun having him there and calling out numbers and watching the winners come over to get their prizes.
Will and I wanted to use the microphone for karaoke. We both thought that we should sing "My Way." I started to sing at one point and received a lot of ugly glares from the crowd then stopped. My voice isn't that bad! Come on now!
Once I completed set up and had all the binders out, loaded the sets into a display case, the customers arrived early and often. The sets and lots were a big hit. Andy purchased my 1970-71 Topps basketball lot and my 1972 baseball lot. Thanks Andy! Rick purchased my 1974-75 Topps basketball complete set along with a pile of 1959 Topps baseball from my newly reloaded binder. Then a new customer purchased my lots of 1970 and 1971 Topps baseball. I was good to go from the sets and lots alone.
Then quite a few guys hit my binders. I was so busy that I had guys going through binders on both sides of the tables! Michael purchased a pile of 1976 Topps football along with a bunch of other stuff. Thanks Michael. Gil found some 1962 Topps baseball. A new customer purchased a pile of 1955 Topps baseball.
Like in Woodstock, the dime box got quite a work out. Again, guys flocked to it early on and I was surprised they didn't bop each other on the head. I'm pretty sure one guy stole some cards. He purchased about 40 cards and I gave him a bag to hold the cards. I then watched him pull a stack of cards out of his coat pocket and place them in the bag. Those cards from his coat looked awfully similar to the cards in my dime box. I am also pretty sure I was the only dealer at the show with a vintage dime box. I can't see where else those cards came from. So I only lost $4 or $5 but still, really?
Jim, another dealer, told me before the show that he has been having a big problem with theft at the show. So at this past show, he placed a camera on his table. He told me that several regular customers avoided his table. Was it the camera that kept them away? Interesting.
Theft is an ongoing problem at shows. Thankfully, there are many more good guys around than shady guys. One great guy is Will, who bought a ton of stuff from me at the show including a 1957 Topps Roberto Clemente. Thanks Will!
Now I want to talk about my strategy for purchasing cards at shows. Yesterday, blog reader Rich Saylor asked that I talk more about my negotiations when purchasing cards. I have a very simple philosophy when it comes to buying cards. I just need buy the cards at a price where I can make a few bucks reselling the cards. I don't have to get rich from the resale, I just have to sell the cards for more than I paid.
I always like to start my negotiations with the seller giving me a price. Most of the time, the seller tells me he doesn't have a price and wants me to make an offer. This scenario is always a problem. For one, I have learned long ago that all sellers have a price, they just want me to make the first move. I hate making the first move because I am always going to offer a lot less than the seller wants as I am buying them for resale and I need to profit from the purchase.
So I had a guy approach me at this past Orland show and ask if I buy cards. I am up front with everyone. I told him that I do, indeed, buy cards but I don't pay a whole lot for them because I buy them for resale. He nods then goes off and comes back an hour later with a handful of cards. He had about 10 cards. Three 1962 Topps low number commons then eight or so 1958 Topps, mostly commons and in horrible shape. Creased, cut up, writing. The biggest name was Robin Roberts and his name was colored in with pen.
I asked the seller what he wanted for the cards. He said he did not know and asked me to make an offer. Well, I really didn't want the cards because I don't need any more creased, cut up, and cards covered in writing. To be nice, I offered five bucks. He grabbed the cards from my hand and walked away -- this is usually the scenario when I make an offer. I never receive a counteroffer. The seller just walks away in a huff.
Now I wasn't trying to rip this guy off. His cards were shite and not worth much money. I probably would have placed the 1958's in my quarter box, they were that bad. I wonder what he thought those shite cards were worth?
I bought a couple of graded cards from another customer at the show including a 1974 Topps Mike Schmidt BVG 7 and a 1953 Topps Dixie Walker SGC 2.5. I asked the seller what he needed for the cards. He said 40 bucks. I whipped out two twenty-dollar bills and purchased the cards. I figured I could sell the Schmidt for $40 and get my money back. In checking recent eBay sales, there are a few PSA 7's that went for $80. There is no data on a Dixie Walker 2.5 but I figure I can get $10 to $20 for it. I spent $40 and should profit $40 or $60. I was happy with that buy.
Most of my purchases do not involve much negotiation. If the seller's price is close, then I'll counter with a slightly lower price so I can make my profit down the road. Most cards I purchase come from guys I know really well, and they know me really well. They know what I want and what I will pay. I usually just pay their price with no negotiation because the price usually leaves me room to profit.
I don't always win out with my purchases and regularly make mistakes. I made a mistake at this past Orland show. I bought a 1959 Topps Frank Robinson for $20, figuring I could sell it for $40. When I got home and really looked at the card, I observed a latent crease and realized I lost money on that one. I'll be lucky if I can sell it for $10.
One of the problems I have when buying cards at a show as busy as Orland, is that I am probably helping two or three customers while trying to negotiate a deal with a seller. If I have been having a good day and my pockets are filled with cash, I am much more inclined to offer more money than I should. That '59 Robinson came around when I was very busy and had a ton of dough in my pockets. I just glanced at the card and threw out the twenty the seller has asked for. I had a ton of cash at that point and the card looked good. In the future, I really need to slow down and take the card out of the top loader to check for creases and trimming.
A few more cards came around during the show, but I turned them down because they were priced way too high. Again, if I don't think I can profit from the purchase, I won't buy the card.
Then there is the issue of fakes. There are a ton of counterfeit vintage cards out there. Anyone buying vintage cards has to make a determination whether the cards are real or fake. Keven Farrell sent a couple of guys my way to help them determine if their cards were legit. They had a 1968 Mantle, a 1965 Mantle, and a 1948 Leaf Babe Ruth. The young guy told me he picked them up in a collection he purchased and wanted to know if they were real. The Mantles were flawless, so that raised a flag before I even pulled them out of the top loaders. I pulled out the '68 Mantle and it felt much thicker than a normal '68 and also had a deep smooth finish, when it should not be slippery but a much more of a rough feel. I pulled out a '68 common and just by holding both cards together, I could determine the Mantle was fake. I gave the Mantle and the common to the young guy and told him to feel both cards and he could learn for himself why the Mantle was fake.
Now the Leaf I figured was fake because it was perfectly centered. There was no quality control at Leaf in 1948 and few cards are perfectly centered. I also observed that the back of the card was bright white while all of the real '48 Leafs I have ever handled have a gray, not white, back color. So I was pretty sure the Ruth was fake as well.
Buying vintage cards these days is much more complicated than ever before because of the rising number of fakes out there. Also, you are not safe from fake or doctored cards by purchasing them slabbed (graded). It has been well documented that the grading companies regularly make mistakes and slab fake or doctored cards. You really need to look the card over yourself and not trust the grading companies. They certainly don't have your best interest at hand.
It was a joy teaching these young guys about fake vintage cards. It was a joy being at the Orland show! It was great to see old buddy Tony Schaefer, who just has a tremendous selection of vintage cards for sale. It is always fun to look through his cards. I'm hoping Tony comes up to Orland regularly. He makes it a better show with his stuff alone!
Next Orland show is March 13. I'm not sure what I am going to bring out to that one. I've got two big three-day shows at the end of March, so I am restocking my display case stuff for those shows and probably won't bring out display cases to the one-day shows until April. I am feverishly trying to reload the binders. I am working on reloading my 1974 Topps baseball binder and hope to have it done by the Madison show on Saturday, February 26.
It will probably be binders again for my Oak Creek show on March 5 and the Schaumburg show on March 6. I gotta get those things reloaded! Busy, busy, busy. Love these boom times!!
Below are some photos from this past Orland show.
What a fun day in Orland! What a fun weekend! Let's do it again this Saturday in Madison!!