A Really Big, Though Not National, Show

I went to the East Coast National in White Plains on Saturday. Why is it the East Coast National? By definition, it’s not “national” if it’s “East Coast,” but, you know, there’s this:

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All card shows start the same for me. I have an optimistic plan of everything I’m going to find, but then I hit the room and am immediately disappointed. Not so this time.

I’m uber focused and organized, but the ideal me is more spontaneous. I watch with awe the collectors who simply buy stiff they find looks cool, or is a bargain in a discount box. That’s not me. However, I printed up a 1955 Bowman Football checklists, marked the 10 I had, and hoped I’d find a box or stack of low price cards in nice shape to jump start the set. I’ve always loved this set, and I’ve seen tons of them in bargain bins.

It didn’t take long. I found a guy with stacks of cards, each at great prices, and I went nuts, losing all sense of time and place (to the point of missing a meet up. Sorry Matt!).

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A couple of dealers later I was now working on a set. My friend Greg scouted out some cards and helped chose the best cards for the price. When I used to go to shows, I’d see tandems working on sets together. I always wanted to do that, and last weekend I did. Greg and I share a lot of common interests and, when it comes to cards, he immediately knew what I was looking for. It was great fun having him choose while I checked off the list.  I came home with 45 cards for $85. I even have my first completed page!

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That first dealer also had a stack of 1952 Bowman Television and Radio Stars of NBC. I knocked off a set of 1953 vertical backs last year, and was wavering on whether to go for the 36 card horizontal back set. You know where that wavering led; I’m totally working on the set. I came to the show 7 cards in, and picked up another 11, including two sports guys, Bill Stern and Bob Considine. With two more on the way I’m already close to the end. A bit lesser condition than my verticals, but they are definitely harder to find. (These were 50% off the listed price, don’t worry.)

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Alright, alright, now on to the baseball cards.

I put a big dent into the last of my 1961 Post set, a full half of my want list at prices I’m not finding online. I’ve been hard pressed finding cards at prices I find reasonable (I wrote about that last month), but I knocked off these at exact the dollar amount I was looking for. Flood and Antonelli were a buck each and I’m thrilled to have gotten the Mathews for $15. I’m in the home stretch now – 11 to go!

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If you’re a consistent reader of my posts, and, really, why wouldn’t you be?, you’ll know I’m committed to the 1960 Leaf second series. I’ve been pretty successful getting nice ones – EX or better – for less than $10 per common. It’s not super easy, though not super difficult. The opportunities come and go quickly. I pored through a pile of them and tried to talk the guy down from $15 to $10. He landed at $12, which was fine. It was good to knock 6 more off the list. I’ve got 27 of 72 and my average per card cost is still $7.93.

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Early in the recent history of this blog, I wrote about how online buying knocked shows out of my system and, I thought, good riddance. Of course I was kind of wrong (kind of right too) because in the last two years I’ve been to great shows and made purchases at a level that can only occur at big events. I find myself already anticipating the next one!

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

19 thoughts on “A Really Big, Though Not National, Show”

  1. White Plains is a gas. I’ve got to start planning August around it. (And November around the GBSCC.) Anyway, great post, and who wouldn’t want that beautiful Steve Bilko card?!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yeah, you should, JK! It’s on the scale of White Plains and features the sellers who do the big shows. But it’s brighter, more open, and the offerings seem a little different from White Plains. I would be interested in reading how you think WP and GBSCC compare, and what you snagged there, in a future column.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Those ’55 Bowman football cards are pretty cool looking. Even though I don’t collect football cards, I hope someday to find my early ’50s Crazy Legs Hirsch card (can’t remember the set). I just know it’s somewhere in my attic.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There’s a 300-table card/toy show in Charlotte that is in town 3-4 times a year. Last one was about 2 weeks ago. The deals you can get are just incredible if people are really wanting to move stuff. The downside is the search costs are higher than searching online because you can’t zero in on exactly what you want unless it’s a dealer who is super organized (usually vintage dealers because it’s easier to organize vintage in a way that will satisfy almost all of the customers).

    Got 15 binders in really good shape, all but one with pages, all but 2-3 with pages and cards, for $50. The binders alone were worth $50 (I had been contemplating buying a box of binders), and while I discarded some pages because they were the old PVC pages, there was probably at least $50 in good pages. One book had 550+ Jeff Kent cards, another had 250+ Darrell Evans cards (and . Now a lot of it was late 80s and early 90s “missed prospect cards” (lots of Sandy Alomar, Tom Gordon, Gregg Jefferies, Steve Karsay, Todd Van Poppel, and Brien Taylor stuff) but it was kind of fun to look at a book and realize that’s exactly what I would have done in the late 80s and early 90s if I was putting together a book. Probably my biggest disappointment was that when I flipped through one player book that was in alphabetical order it went from Pedro Guerrero to Orel Hershiser – no Keith Hernandez! But one book had 1993 SP commons and I got the four Mets I needed to finish off that set. Unfortunately any Jeter rookies had been removed.

    Then I bought two tubs of stuff (literally – plastic tubs) from someone for $40. One tub wasn’t all that exciting – not really cards, though there was a 1981 Topps Sticker set hidden in there (minus one Tom Seaver sticker) and four 1983 Donruss Action All-Star sets. The other tub though had all sorts of oversized cards and I easily pulled $40 worth of stuff out of the one tub. There’s a stack of 1998 Pinnacle Snapshot “cards” that would likely cost $1 each to buy individually. Plus there were some non-sports postcards and I think one of them was actually mailed in 1912. The handwritten date only has two digits (12 – I don’t recall the day and month) but the stamp on it is a 1-cent stamp, consistent with the rate of mailing a postcard in 1912. I don’t have much use for that but it’s still cool to find something that may be from 1912 in a tub.

    While I do go into shows with a list, it’s these big bulk purchases that I like making. At a prior show a dealer was doing $30 box lots – meaning you could fill up a 3200 or 5000 count box with whatever you wanted from that area of the table for $30. I made it a point to pull every Bonds card I could from those boxes and wound up with over 1200 Bonds cards – and that wasn’t a full box. I think they stopped doing the $30 box sale when I commented to another buyer that I was pretty sure I had over 1000 Bonds cards in one box.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The 1955 Bowman football set was the very first sports card set I attempted to complete as a seven-year-old in the fall of ’55 (I’d gotten some 1955 Topps and Bowman baseball cards that year, but not until toward the end of summer). Don’t remember if I succeeded in my quest, but I have the complete set now and it remains one my favorites.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow! Jeff’s post really does make me nostalgic for the salad days of the hobby, when it was truly a national experience and the organizers of the National hadn’t settled into their cozy little Chicago-Cleveland-Atlantic City triangle.

    I fondly remember the days when Southern California would feature four or five major conventions a year, huge hotel or convention center sites filled with dealers with deep inventories of all conditions, when it wasn’t primarily about slabbing cards or paying through the teeth for an autograph of athletes from whom you never really had any great desire of owning an autograph. The National hasn’t found its way to Los Angeles since 2006, which was also the last year the convention was west of Chicago or south of Baltimore.

    So I envy those of you on the East Coast or the Midwest, where the experience of a major show still exists, and you can lose yourself for an hour sorting through an off-condition bin of 50- or 60-year old card sets. Sounds like heaven . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I need the Bilko for my PC. I’m jealous of the many shows that take place in the East and Midwest. One or two sizable shows in Seattle area per year. Driving distance is too vast for some other shows in the region.

    Liked by 1 person

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