Today, Jon an I are off to the first card show we’ve been to in something like 15 years. We’re heading to the Louis Joliet Mall to check out what’s supposed to be a 50 table show. I have very fond memories of going to shows as a kid. From 1989-1993, I spent one Sunday afternoon a month in the smoke-filled conference room of Rockford, IL’s finest hospitality establishment (a dilapidated Howard Johnson hotel), flipping through rows and rows of singles and ogling packs of Comic Ball and Triple Play (you don’t want a link to that one… trust me). I remember those shows being so crowded I could hardly move. I’d spend an entire afternoon walking around before I made the decision of how to spend my $10 or however much lawn mowing money I had in my pocket. There was a ritual to it and I looked forward to those afternoons all month. I usually walked out with a couple of cards for whatever sets I was working on (I remember paying $1.25- full book value!- for a 1992 Stadium Club Robin Ventura for my set), a couple of packs and maybe an older card that caught my eye. I’m not sure what I’ll walk out with today- maybe a couple of vintage cards, maybe some Cubs stuff from the quarter bins- but I’m very much looking forward to see what the past decade and a half has done to the card show market.
I didn’t do very much research before those shows- I just showed up and enjoyed looking around. Besides, all the prices were competitive, so I knew I wasn’t going to get ripped off too bad (everyone was selling that Robin Ventura for $1.25). But now I find myself feeling pressured to look up some prices before I go. With the internet serving as the 24 hour card show, prices aren’t set by the room… they’re set by the world. That means every pack I look at today will beg the question “How much are these on Dave & Adams or Blowout?” And every single will have me wanting to take out my fancy cell phone and check eBay for recent sales.
As Jon and I prepare to re-enter the world of the card show, I find myself actively trying to turn off those instincts. I want to recapture the spirit of those early wanderings. I suppose it can’t possibly be the same, but I’m anxious to see how it’s changed, but I’m also worried about what the changes have done to that scene. What are your takes on shows these days? Anyone stick with them through the internet era that can speak to the changes?