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Old 02-26-2023, 07:41 PM
JollyElm's Avatar
JollyElm JollyElm is offline
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Default Observations from the Card Show Front Lines - UPDATED!!!


There was a show out here yesterday, which was a first in a very long time for this collector, so I headed to it quicker than a fat guy to the Golden Corral buffet table (or a skinny guy to a yoga class, if you prefer), and this is what I walked away with...

1. Backpack Mania
You know how when you see a black and white picture from an old baseball game and everyone in the stands is wearing a top hat or a bowler or whatever? Those hats have now been replaced by backpacks. Every single person walking around was strapped into a backpack, so whenever a person turned to look at a table, the space they took up was now doubled. Walking the aisles of the show was like pulling a Catherine Zeta-Jones, contorting your body into a million different, strange positions to avoid hitting the security lasers.

And you know the lone guy in the ancient ballpark photo that you spot NOT wearing a hat? That was backpack-less me.

2. Parallel Generation
As is often repeated time and time again, the show was comprised of close to, if not surpassing, 90% modern stuff. Cruising past these tables, you saw a hundred different people with cameras attached to their heads or chests, all talking about how many views their latest 'reveal' video got. And basically each conversation among these 'kids' went something like this: "Flecky-Jump-Jump739 told me he pulled a (here is where a thousand adjectives describing the colors/rarity/pseudo-scientific descriptors of a specific card went) of (here is where the name of some apparently popular player from who knows what sport went)!!!!!"

I guess this is how my parents felt like when my older sister wanted to listen to the Beatles and not that old Perry Como guy.

3. Phoning It In
Like ancient warriors and their spears and lances, everyone at the show attacked the tables with their phones leading the way. Most of the conversations you could hear were potential buyers scrolling around like mad as they told and showed the sellers exactly what past sales of the same cards went for.

The best overheard response by a seller with a 'high' price: "Sure, my friend, you can show me a great pillow on your phone...or you can actually lay down on an extremely comfy one right here, right now."

4. Old Schooling Around
On the subject of phones, there were two basic types of sellers. First, the ones who have evolved and use past sales data sites to 'justify' their pricing to any inquiring collector. These guys are the 'good' sellers who know the business well and look you straight in the eye when you ask about a price. They want to make big profits, obviously, but won't try to deceive you on their way down that road. Since their pricing was eBay-sold normal to begin with, you were already in a good neighborhood, meaning if you were able to get the price even lower, you made a nice score. Those are the guys I gravitated to and was really happy with my purchases. They were very personable and did a brisk business (or more specifically, had plenty of people looking at and buying their stuff and were always engaging in warm-hearted conversations with potential customers).

Funny thing is, as I negotiated to get cards lower than eBay sold prices, not once did a seller simply reply with, "Yeah, but that quoted price also had shipping fees and tax charged, neither of which is reflected in the final amount, so the true price was much higher." If I sold at these shows, that would be the first arrow out of my quiver. Don't tell anyone.

Which leads to the 'bad' sellers still apparently living in a forgotten time. The ones who have no prices on anything, and seemingly never make a sale. As a test, I looked up past sales for a PSA 6 1964 Topps Willie Mays a guy had for sale. Generally, they go for around $220 and up a bit (not scientifically scrutinized, just a quick look-see), so I went and asked the gentleman what his price on the card was. He replied (with a toothy salesman's grin), "Let me see," as he pulled out his phone and scrolled around. Arriving at a price in his head, his body language was what we've all seen a million times - the discomfort of a slight shrug as his lips moved as he debated with himself, and then in an act of pretend surrender, he placed the card close to me (salesmanship 101) and said, "I'm going to take a bath on this, but I'll let it go for $450." As I said thank you and started to walk away, he called out, "Wait, what were you looking to spend?" Holding up my phone (on the exact same site he was undoubtedly just looking at), I replied, "Well the last eBay sales were about $200 to $222, so I'm out. Thanks anyway."

His final words to me? "Oh, thanks. I'll keep that in mind." No, he won't.

5. Weirdness
Jose Canseco was signing autographs somewhere. A day later, and I still have no idea where he actually was. There was that thread here awhile back where guys asked their wives to quickly name any baseball players they could, and Canseco was probably DING!! DING!! DING!! the winner. Well, holy heck, while chatting with a random guy in his #33 jersey, I was told that his wife's one 'hall pass' was Jose Canseco. Not only was he completely happy with that, he said (unsolicited, mind you) it would be great if Jose banged his wife (who was two feet away), because that would say a lot about himself and his choice of a hot wife. Anyone witnessing my reaction would say, "That guy in the Bills hat just made an over-the-top dumbfounded face that no one on Earth has ever seen before!!"

What I should have said was, "Dude, be real. Any guy will basically stick his 'bat' in any woman. There's nothing more to it," but that would've broken his A's-green heart.

6. Eplasticity
Lastly, when it comes to TPGs, not only did I see an astounding number of SGC slabs ("They sell for a little less, but they're sent back to me in days, NOT years"), but a huge amount of the numbers on the holders being bought were 3s and 4s (I grabbed a PSA 3 1954 Topps #1 Ted Williams). That is quite a change for the Topps-era cards I seek. It used to be really only sixes or sevens and above (again, not scientific, just anecdotal) made an appearance. The term I came up for for the newfound 'acceptance' of lower grade cards is "Slack Jacket," meaning being inside of a plastic tomb basically hides any creases, wrinkles or other non-blatantly obvious problems. (Pseudo-psychology attempt warning) A lot of slack is given in one's head. A flat slab is not creased, so in your mind the card it holds is no longer creased.

Not only were those cards flying off of the tables, it seemed the vast majority of cards on display were in that general neighborhood. It's either due to the TPGs being harsher graders these days or to the fact that people are sending in more lower grade cards than ever before. Probably a combo of those two things.

But it was fun as hell to be in that environment again!! Woo Hoo!!
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Last edited by JollyElm; 10-30-2023 at 07:05 PM.
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