Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Card Shows: A Response

Ahh the card show, a place where every card collector can go to be with their brethren. According to Mario, they are dying because sports card sales are declining, but I don’t think that could be farther from the truth. I think the real reason has to do with a number of things that are mostly stemming from the rise of eBay's prowess in the hobby, as well as a decline in the number of people who could benefit from going. I want to go into this a little further because I think it’s a topic that many of us think about every time we walk into that stale air filled ballroom.

Card Show Pros: Why Its Still Good To Go To Or Sell At Shows

1. It’s a place with a lot of collectors, its something to do

Lets face it, we have all become accustomed to faceless dealings on message boards devoted to gathering like minded people. Instead of actual interaction with actual people, we have all decided to go anonymous and spend hours fighting over who is the gayest in an argument. At a show, you get to be around collectors and actually watch the hobby in action. Its fun to have people to discuss things with, and though I think this is an overrated plus to the overwhelming amount of minuses, its still something that would draw me to a show.

2. People Who Arent Looking For Expensive Cards

Im not talking about people who want to buy a few 10 dollar singles, im talking about the people who will spend the time to go through bin after bin of 4 for a quarter cards to complete their set, or people who are looking to spend very little and get a lot. The shows are filled with tables who use this as a way to pay for their spot, which means there are tons of places for you to scavenge.

3. Sellers Who Do It As A Hobby Rather Than A Source Of Income

A lot of sellers still think there is lots of money to be made at shows. There probably is some, but only in VERY specific situations. Those are the people who will populate my list of why not to go to shows. Every once in a while you find a guy who sets up at a show to make connections, or find new customers to his shop. This is the guy who goes to shows as a hobby rather than a career. The shop is the career, not the show. This is the guy who will chat you up, give you what you need, be a nice person. He isnt there to make money, and will more than likely have all the things mentioned in number 2. Because there are a captive audience of people, it’s a good place to advertise your shop for those of us without a regular money pit. However, this could be dangerous if you are already in the red for your business.

4. People Who Want To Trade And Not Buy

When I say trade, I mean trade with other people there, and not with the dealers. There is no reason to go and trade at shows unless you are okay with taking a bath on the cards you are giving away. However, if you deal in inexpensive cards, it may be worth your while to trade with the dealers to get the stuff for the people in number 1. For the rest of us, there are a lot of people there who will be available to trade, and those are the best people to make friends with. Its basically message board trading without the mail, which is a great situation.

5. To Watch or Window Shop

It is great place to go just to see what's out there. Until I went to a show in Minnesota, I had never seen an Exquisite card in real life, it was always on a site or youtube. There are going to be a lot of amazing pieces at these shows, though at highway robbery prices, but its still worth seeing what they are like in real life. Think the Triple Threads XXIV Relic cards look amazing online (shame on you!)? Try seeing them in person, it’s a true eye sore. Also, if you like watching case and box breaks on the tube, this is your chance to see them in person. If you do breaks on message boards, you can avoid the douches who post pack by pack and scream like 12 year olds whenever they pull a jersey card. OMG! BARRY-JO!!!! Fuck you.

6. You Get To See What You Buy Before You Buy

But you will pay through the nose to do so. Yes this is a good thing, but with high quality scanners today, its becoming less of an issue.

7. No fees, no chargebacks, no scams

We all know what feebay is capable of, and we definitely know what the sellers and buyers are capable of. At a show, what you see is what you get. That means, if you want the card on the table, it will be the card on the table and not a similar card or a completely unrelated item. All of those have happened to me online.

Card Show Cons: Why The Above Stuff Means Absolutely Nothing

1. You Have To Pay To Get In

See, everyone is out to make a buck, including the people who run the show. Want to do any of the things I just talked about? You will be forced to pay to get in, most of the time. Guess what? Ebay is free, and has four thousand times the number of cards you will see at the show. It also has a money back guarantee on paypal, which can USUALLY work to your advantage, and you don’t have to drive anywhere. I cant tell you how liberating it is to buy cards in your draws.

2. You Have To Live In Beckett's World

Yup, just about every single dealer will still be living in 1992. They will pull out a Beckett every time you want to trade, and they will pull out a Beckett every time you want to buy. You will be forced to buy on percentages of BV, and we all know what a fucking joke that is. The best thing? You have to lie through your teeth to support them or they may not give you as good of a price. Oh yeah, I love Beckett and think the book is the bible of cards. Right.

3. You Have To Pay More Than A Card Is Worth

This will kind of feed into just about every other thing on the cons list, but basically you will have to be prepared to pay more than you should for a card, mainly because of number 2, but also because you are a captive customer. On eBay, you have the choice of what price to pay, and you can avoid the whole book value thing unless the guy is a clueless tool. See, on eBay, most of the cards are posted thousands of times, and you will only pay exactly what the card is worth, as long as you can use auction format. Even with BINs, most of the time you will be able to negotiate TO market value, unless, again, the guy is a clueless tool.

4. You Have To Associate With People Whose Only Goal Is To Make Money

You may say that ebay is the same thing, but it is and it isnt. People's goal on eBay is to make money, but most of the time its very hard to make more than you should. At a show, you live in a Beckett world, so the dealers have the ability to charge more. Its kind of like a shop. Never buy singles from either because prices are always adjusted for the fact that the storefront is not free. At a show you also will get nothing in terms of trade, because they will need money on their side to make it worth it. Even if the market value is exactly the same, they will not accept the trade because it doesn’t make them any money. Ebay provides all of the ways to buy cards at or below market value, and message boards usually provide a good way to do trades without having to put up with the 66% rule of how much ill give you for your card. That is, unless you are dealing with a clueless tool who has no idea that Beckett Value is about as relevant to the hobby as a Model T is to cars.

5. You May Get To See The Cards, But Do You?

Yes, you can see the cards in person, but the presentation is controlled by the seller. That means they decide what cases they use, how you see it, and what you can do with the card. Want to take it out of the holder? Its up to them. With eBay, you get the same kind of presentation, but you usually have quite a few cards to choose from. Plus, most people place hi-res photos on their auctions which are almost as good as picking it up. Don’t think they are representing the card correctly? You are the sought after customer, so most of the time they will give you what you want. At a show, you are there for them, not the other way around. On eBay sellers usually want to sell at the best price, so they are there for you. Most of the time.

6. Personalities Are Always On Display

This can be a good thing and a bad thing. At a show, its usually the latter. Again, number 4, so they are usually scrot-astic douches who think you are just another sheep in the herd. Because most of the dealers at a show know when they have something they want, you have to gravel to them, where on eBay, its different. 90% of the sales I have done have been 100% communicationless, and yet I am still satisfied because I got what I want. Whether you are talking to them or just handing them your hard earned money, you will get a good idea who they are, and them you. Its usually quite off putting to give a douchebag your money regardless of what you get. Although douches are all over eBay, most of the time you don’t have to deal with them face to face.

7. On Ebay People Are Specifically Looking For The Stuff You Are Selling

Which means that you don’t have to cater your presentation to anyone other than the people you want to sell to. At a show, its every type of person and then some. On eBay its one card at a time if that’s the way you want it. That means your steelers auction can be filled with steelers shit rather than just putting it on display for everyone, including the cowboys fans. You may have to pay the fees on eBay, but there is a bigger guarantee that your stuff will sell if it’s a desirable piece. Even if its not, it will probably still sell, and it wont have to take up space on your table. At a show, you have to sell only your a-list stuff if you want to make any sales. Go up with a bunch of 1990 Hoops Basketball cards and people will pass you by. Not usually so on eBay if catered correctly.

When it comes down to it, would I care THAT much if shows or shops went the way of the dodo? Not really, as long as the internet was still running strong with sales. I also know for sure that it is all the reasons above as to why shows are going bye-bye rather than a nebulous decline in sales. If anything, its not the sales themselves that have gone down, but rather the ways the sales are completed.

In the end, its going to be eBay or the highway, and really, im okay with that.


  1. GREAT post - I think you really hit the nail on the head talking about the positives and negatives about card shows.

  2. excellent job on the pros and cons of card shows. I totally agree on the one plus with being able to buy 3 or 4 cards for a buck. Had a show here a few weeks ago....best way to get value for your dollar...

  3. One positive that you missed, its a good way to blow a couple hours on a rainy day :)

  4. It amazes me to see the same dealers at the same show selling the same cards at the same ridiculous prices. If not for supplies, they wouldn't even make enough to pay for the table fee.

    Then eventually they will go on ebay and sell their cards and pay all the fees.

    I wouldn't even mind paying a small premium to support the locals and to see a card before buying, but that small fee will not equal $40 over ebay auctions.

    I have actually thought of getting a table with a buddy and actually pricing at ebay auction price and see what would happen.

  5. There are some deals to be had every now and then. Seven years ago I got a 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan rookie for $120. The only problem was that it was off-centered left-to-right. Other than that, it was in awesome shape!

    Beelzebub69 -

  6. Fuck Fode. It wuh' Nikkun an' his bunch fucked da whole t'ing up in da foiss place.

  7. Voluntarheel - if you decide to go that route let me know, i want in on it hehe

  8. 1997 Score Artists Proofs. It's a football set I've been working extremely hard to complete for ten years now. Card shows used to be the best location to find these tough inserts - especially in the dollar bins. However, because this set is so old, rarely have I been able to find such cards at a show. That's another negative I find about shows - the dealers usually don't bother to bring older inserts because they're dated. The would rather fill their bins with the newer cards.

    Additionally, I have indeed found Beckettland to be a painful reality of card shows. I found a 1997 Score Artists Proof of Shannon Sharpe. The jackass I bought the card from actually whipped out a Beckett to find the price. It's a friggin Shannon Sharpe card from a mid-90's parallel set and the jerk wants to use a Beckett? Yeah. Right.

  9. "It's a friggin Shannon Sharpe card from a mid-90's parallel set and the jerk wants to use a Beckett"


  10. gellman,
    if I can plug my blog here. http://fatcat4262.blogspot.com I've only written a few articles due to the lack of time at work. However, the first blog I wrote I went into detail about this. Yes, the infamous beckett does exist and it really pisses me off. I did and have been doing for about a year now what voluntarheel has said about pricing cards at ebay prices. I did this at the two biggest local shows in Chicago and guess what? still didn't or barely made table money. This IS for the hobby, but you should be able to make at least the $40 for a table.

  11. For all those complaining about dealers who use Beckett, the simple solution is not to buy from them. I've walked away from a dealer table many times when they quote a price that I think is too high, and more than a few of them have chased me down with a reduced price.

    It's called negotiating....

  12. mfw13,
    I agree. Negotiating was implied though. I was speaking more to the dealers that the term negotiating means they come down a tad from he Beckett high column.

    I never have a beef with those who price their cards high. I try to stay consistent on that. I simply mock their logic.

  13. fatcat4262,

    Kudos to you if that is how you ran your tables. I can tell you that in NC, NOBODY does this. I have never been to the Chicago show, thus have no idea what the patrons there want, or what there intentions are. It sounds though as if there is a window-shopping mentality there and not a buying one. Or maybe its a wax-breaking one.

    I don't know, but I would buy something out of principle if I saw someone do that locally.