Tuesday, December 7, 2021

That Old Sinking Feeling, Brought on by . . . Card Shows?

The pandemic had a negative impact on my collecting. I know people in the hobby have talked about this ad nauseam, but something happened while everyone was shut in at home last year. At first it was exciting. More people were joining the fold! But soon it wasn't as fun as inventory began to sell out and prices began to skyrocket. For a low-budget collector like myself, that budget squeezed tighter and tighter. Eventually, my card budget started shrinking because I wasn't finding cards to buy, anyway. Stores shelves were barren. I went from May 2020 to around August 2021 without seeing a single pack or blaster of baseball or football cards in my regular retail stores.

It was becoming clear that the hobby wasn't gaining a ton of new collectors, either. Sure, there were some whose time at home rekindled an old passion (obsession? addiction?) and they found that card collecting was a great way to fill the time. Some new blogs were even born! But for many folks, it was just a side hustle. The booming market opened a big opportunity to buy and sell for profit. Now, I'm not against selling cards and business transactions. I've sold on eBay. I've set up tables to sell at card shows. I like to feel like when I buy, I'm getting some monetary value as well as sentimental value in the transaction. But prices kept soaring and every card person that I interacted with outside of the blogs was obsessed with all the high-end stuff that I would most likely never touch.

Regardless, I still love the hobby and my collection. There are a lot of people with a lot of cool, highly valuable cards that I appreciate. But I'm not sure I would trade my collection for those. If I did, I might sell off those valuable cards for the money to buy a lot of the smaller dollar cards that I want. After all, I've spent years refining my interests and curating my collection.

I've created projects for myself that I find fulfilling. Like my refractor, Frankenset for example. I don't know anybody else who has done a multi-sport refractor Frankenset. But I love refractors and it makes sense to me. I think everybody reading this understands where I coming from here.

So when things started opening up again and a card show was announced, I jumped on it. And it was fun. It was crowded and stuffy, but there were some great tables and I got to talk to some people I hadn't seen for a while. I already posted about that show; it happened back in March of this year. Then I found out that shows were planned for every 3 months. I was ecstatic. I'd never seen card shows happen so regularly!


The next show rolled around in June.  I bought a table of my own for this one and tried to sell. I thought I had a niche--I had dime boxes. There are never any dime boxes at card shows I attend. The only one I've ever seen is mine. I figured with all of the cards marked in triple and quadruple digits, some dime box gems might help people out.


But the atmosphere had changed completely for this one. Pokemon tables outnumbered the sports tables. At one point, I had a buddy watch my table and I made the rounds as a customer. As I wandered, I picked up that Pokemon was where the money was, which explained the proliferation of tables. I don't know how many conversations I overheard about $1000 eBay sales. Forget dime boxes; I couldn't find cards for less than $1. All of the cards you have seen so far have come from the June show. Most came from my one friend who sold them to me for a quarter apiece. Meanwhile, I had exactly one person stop at my table and leaf through the boxes. I made zero sales.

It turned out to be a less than satisfactory experience, but not completely fruitless. Unless you count my -$50 net profit on my table. I was able to find some good cards for my collection.

This $2 numbered auto of an All-Decade performer was probably my favorite find of the show. But in all, the experience disappointed me so much that I put off writing about the June card show until December.


Then, the September show rolled around. This one I attended as a consumer only. And it was more of the same. No cheap cards in boxes to dig through. Everything was in one-touch cases. Everybody was scrolling through eBay to price their $500 cards and bragging to each other about how much they sold a card for the other day. I found only one table that had something for me.

You'll notice the pictures above are of cards in pages. See, that's what I bought. Pages. One seller had a binder with 54 good Ultra Pro pages in it. It was marked for $20. Moreover, every page contained nine cards. I flipped through the binder and found nothing spectacular, but a lot that could bring me some enjoyment in sorting and quite a few collection fits. These nifty early Fleer team stickers. Some had puzzles on the back, others had these Laughlin World Series reprints on the back. They're fun, but any of the above stickers are available for trade.


I asked if he would take $15 if I left the binder, as I was more interested in the pages. It turns out, he would. We struck a deal, and I walked away with 54 pages at 28 cents a pop. Or, if you rather, 486 cards at 3 cents apiece. Either way, I got a steal.

So I walked away happy with my purchase, but once again unhappy with the overall feel of the show. I really can't complain about these cool 1978 Dover Reprints, though. Perforation marks on the edges and all, these are just neat little cards.

The rest of the post will get picture-heavy as I show what else was hiding in those Ultra Pro pages. Then I'll return to my card show thoughts.

I needed these Cubs, including the two Mark Grace rookies and the two Gracie oddballs.

Speaking of oddballs, they were the best thing about this purchase. I'd never heard of this 1989 Pacific Crossed Bats set before, but it was fun to find half of the set in the pages.

There were a lot of oddballs. These are for my collection, but I did pick up some more of the Baseball's Best (bottom photo) that I have for trade. If you're looking for Mattingly, Boggs, or Greenwell, let's trade!

The early to mid '80s were well-represented with some fun cards.

Boxed sets and stickers are fun.

The first half of the '90s was fun, too. It wasn't quite as well-represented, though.

Some fun rookies. I'm only planning on keeping Sutcliffe from this group, though. Maybe Larkin. The others are available.

As we round the corner into this century, there are sets that I had never seen or had very little in my collection. These were good grabs.


These are a sample of the newest cards in the binder, aside from 2017 Topps and Bowman that mostly went into the trader box.

So while I will continually be disappointed by the absence of cool dime or even quarter boxes that I see you find at your local shows, I was able to find one table that brought be a ton of fun for a great value. But in large part, I had a sense of, "these aren't my people and this isn't my scene," at the September show.

Now fast forward to December. This past weekend, the Utah County Card Show came around once again. Let me show off everything I bought there:

There you have it. I made two rounds around the room. I glanced at a few tables and flipped through a couple of shoeboxes. Literally no card was less than a buck or two. No base to be found anywhere. I found a few that I may have considered, but then recalled my recent COMC purchase and thought why settle for cards that are here when I can hand-pick cards for similar prices? I thought about the mess in my card room and decided that I didn't need to buy anything right now; I'll be better off getting myself organized first. So I left. And after listening once again to late-teen, early 20-somethings congratulate themselves on their insanely priced sales and flips while seeing three tables devoted to $55 blaster boxes (That's where they all went!) discouraged me to the point that I plan on skipping the next show. It just wasn't fun. I'll choose the cards I really want from online sources to complete my projects. And I'll hang out on the blogs with people who think a little more like me. Like collectors.


  1. I also pretty much stopped collecting once the pandemic hit-- even gone as far as to start getting rid of ALL of my football and basketball. Those two sports have become to most greedy and way over priced.

    It stinks the show didn't work out for you. Not sure I could stomach hearing "PSA 10, bro?" for hours upon hours.

    No thanks.

  2. We haven't had a show or shop here in over 30 years so I am not sure how that would feel here. But, I do know for sure there were no collectors here in the last 30 years so seeing retail product sell out off the shelves tells the story of the new age hobby.

    As for the hobby in general, there is quite a difference between hobby blogs and hobby social media. Us here are good collecting types. Social media is where the greed is for the hobby.

  3. The hobby is moving away from folks like us, unfortunately. Once the fad dies down though, that will hopefully change. When I worked in NYC I used to frequent a street vendor who sold cards - he sold a lot more Pokemon than sports (and more basketball than baseball, and this was before COVID).

  4. Wow, tons of great cards there! I especially like the Adams Forged by Fire card. I definitely see a lot of the issues you are seeing at my local card shows, but not nearly as bad as you are describing. Hopefully things get better.

  5. Sometimes blogs seem like the last vestige for folks who actually "collect" cards. Your shows sound like what I always see on the Twitter, which I probably why I don't spend much time on there. And even if that one show was populated mostly by the flipper/investor crowd, I still have a hard time believing that your dime boxes would have gone over that poorly.

  6. It may be the type of show that you attended. Usually if a show is charging $25-50 for a table, the show in my experience generally will be the newer collector who think he is an "investor" and has sunk money into graded cards and think that are going to make millions without understanding the business or knowing any of the players. Or the flipper with the table of blaster for 10x the retail price, even though you can turn around and get the same box on-line at Target for $20 and free shipping. The larger show (the ones that charge a few hundred a table) are really for both collectors and these investors. Those show seem to bring out the dealers that have been in the business forever, have great selection of vintage, have dollar boxes and great conversations. Just my experience.

    The one thing about the past year or so, since everyone think their card is worth hundreds, more harder to find cards seem to have popped up for sale. It may lead to spending more for a card then you want, but it was available. Unless you can wait them out, which I try to do.

    Check out my blog. I am a collector, not a seller or investor: https://caliscards.wordpress.com/