A Sufficient Recap of Nonsense at the Annual Pittsburgh Card Show
This year’s show included a heavy dose of complaining, nonsense, and impressively, pre-war cards
This year’s annual Pittsburgh Card Show is being held this weekend. And with the event a mere ten minutes from my house, I really had no choice but to attend.
I did so skeptically, mind you. While I had fun last year, I didn’t see a ton of pre-war stuff. This year, though, was quite the opposite. So what happened?
12:14 p.m. We’re already off to a sufficiently better start than last year. Having a better idea of what part of the convention center the show was in, I actually parked in the appropriate location.
12:19 p.m. After a short walk, I’m in along with my wife, who has decided to tolerate this garbage for another year. Barely, I might add. She had been complaining until I promised a trip to Lowe’s where she could pick up more gardening soil. Seems like a fair trade to me.
12:20 p.m. The first table I see has, what, pre-war? I almost fell over in surprise. It was boxing stuff, which I could have been interested in. But with nothing priced, I wasn’t in any mood to find out selling prices. PRICE. YOUR. CARDS. PEOPLE.
12:21 p.m. Spot a guy in a ‘Free Pete’ shirt, which doesn’t make sense to me until I remember that Pete Rose, like he is almost every day, is signing today. I am nearly in tears. Coincidentally, I don’t see nearly the amount of people with Pittsburgh garb on that I have in the past. Many of them, I suppose, were in the back room with the autograph sessions. Still, not nearly as much Stillers, Pens, and Bucs stuff that I’m accustomed to seeing. And that’s not exactly a bad thing since it’s all kind of overdone around these parts.
12:22 p.m. I spot a huge tub of Starting Lineup figures. I kind of chuckle to myself and post a dumb joke on Twitter. But, oh yeah, I was totally interested. Let’s table this discussion for later.
12:27 p.m. Sidebar here. My back hurts already. This is not an uncommon routine for me but my back issues have gotten increasingly worse in recent weeks. I’ve deduced that the large amount of yard work I did a few weekends back was the culprit and I’m still paying for it.
I’ve been at the show for approximately ten minutes and am in extreme discomfort. I realize that there’s no way I’m packing it in yet but, well, I’m kind of thinking about it. Fortunately, I get a brief respite with a short rest in a chair at a dealer’s table.
12:28 p.m. I find a relatively popular pre-war dealer, whose name escapes me. But in addition to post-war vintage, he always has some pre-war stuff. Last year, I bought a bunch of 1939-46 Salutation Exhibits for my set from him. This year, his stack was noticeably smaller but I did find this Carl Hubbell.
I don’t know what it is but every dealer that has some of these always has a bunch more of the later 1947-66 Exhibits mixed in with them. It’s kind of annoying for a few reasons. First, I’m generally quite sure that many of them don’t know the difference. Second, there’s always more of the later ones than the earlier ones I need. And third, I’m always super tempted to buy some of the later ones. Today, there was a Jackie Robinson one that I would have probably bought if the price was a wee bit lower. And, really, I don’t need to go back down the post-war rabbit hole.
I also met up with tweeter @mebu22 who introduced himself and was chatting with the dealer. He was doing nothing special except walking around with an incredibly nice Cleveland Alexander autographed ball. nbd.
12:43 p.m. Stop at another table a few dealers down with more pre-war. Super friendly chap that I remember from a past show. He’s got a killer collection of PSA-graded R&S die-cut cards, IIRC.
He’s got some strip cards, some miscellaneous tobacco stuff, and some candy stuff. Not much but a decent amount. I find a small stack of T218 Champions cards and I’m drawn like a fat mosquito to a flame. Keep in mind, I’ve got a complete set of these suckers already and there’s really no reason for me to keep buying them. But he’s got a bunch of the rarer athletes like the billiards players and bowlers, so I’m sucked in.
I end up buying one of the billiards cards – George Sutton’s portrait because it’s a significant upgrade over the one I’ve got and was an entirely reasonable $5. How much of an upgrade? Here’s a picture of my previously terrible one (left) and less terrible one (right). At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about things with two relatively quick buys.
12:49 p.m. At the recommendation of this guy, I check the dealer’s table next to his. This guy has almost all pre-war. But alas, the prices are too high for my tastes. That was a somewhat popular theme but one guy in particular was kind of ridiculous …
12:57 p.m. At this point, I’m starting to regret my decision not to eat by now. I rarely eat breakfast, so that’s nothing new. But I’m also not used to doing this much walking already. My handy Apple Watch tells me I’m already over 2,000 steps for the day, which for me, is usually like my daily total. I’m legit hungry and am clearly over my head.
12:58 p.m. In the same row, I find another dealer with a large selection of pre-war. At the time, I don’t remember him but after seeing his stuff and his pricing method, I suddenly remember him from a previous one.
He has a nice graded lower-end (2.5) Walter Johnson strip card. It wasn’t a card I was actively looking for but one of those things you might buy if the mood hits you and the price is low enough. If memory serves me, it was one of his W516s and that would put it somewhere around $200-$300. When I inquired for a price, I was told he had about $600 into it and was looking for $500. He either paid far too much or was completely trying to get over. I ultimately remembered him from a past year as his stuff was equally overpriced then, too.
That was a somewhat common theme throughout the day with several guys asking too much for their stuff. But that was probably the most egregious example of overpricing and most dealers weren’t outlandish at least.
1:06 p.m. I reach the end of that row and SGC is conveniently lined up against the wall there. I drop five cards off, including a Ruth Churchman, Jesse Owens 1937 Churchman, a rebacked Billy Sunday N172 Old Judge, T51 Murad Williams Basketball, and a 1910 Tip Top beater of Lefty Leifield. The Leifield and Sunday cards will be authentic and, really, I just wanted to get them slabbed. Ruth should be about a 2.5 or 3. But the Owens should do quite well and I have high hopes for the T51 Murad card, which is often viewed as the first basketball card.
In talking with them, I’m told that one of their autograph guys had since moved on to PSA and another guy had gone to Beckett. That wasn’t too surprising as SGC decided to stop authenticating autographs recently.
Also met another Twitter follower in double8888, who was there as well and recognized me from my description of ‘overweight black guy with a hat and an attractive wife’ that I threw out on Twitter beforehand.
But the important takeaway here is that I again got to sit for a while and rest my back, which had been doing better by this point.
1:23 p.m. I make my way over to a familiar face in dealer Ed Hans. Hans, you might recall, was the one that discovered the Jeff Pfeffer T206 print error card where the ‘Chicago’ on his card reads more like ‘Chicaco.’ It’s a card that has done quite well, with at least one example selling for around $1,500.
Had a few notable things come out of this visit. First, I made a nice purchase of an E91 American Caramel card of Hall of Famer Eddie Collins. $65 was paid for this card, which is in the ballpark of the going rate for an E91 Hall of Famer in this condition, these days. That gets me up to 54 of 99 for the set.
But Ed also showed me a couple of unique cards in addition to the purchase.
He recently picked up this pair of 1930s strip cards. The cards are uncatalogued but Beckett, which has often does this, graded them. They were the first (and I believe are still the only ones) to grade the Pfeffer card with the Chicaco classification.
At any rate, Ed got these cards as part of a collection and little is known about them. Had I known my picture was going to come out so rough, I would have taken another. But the cards feature Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett and Stan Hack.
The exact date is not known but the cards are believed to be from the 1930s. I plan to do some digging to see if others exist but, so far, Ed has only heard of one other one, and it’s another Hartnett.
The cards, as you can hopefully see, are black and white and have the player’s name written in cursive with thick white borders. Always nice to see this sort of stuff.
1:45 p.m. At this point, my wife is getting kind of cranky, so I’m determined to wrap it up in a few minutes. That, of course, doesn’t happen. I make several more stops, though, don’t find anything I need. I get to the last row of the show and find Scott Russell of Birmingham Auctions. I’ve chatted with him via email before but this was the first time I’d met him in person.
Scott was the one who auctioned off that find of a few hundred pre-war cards in a Pennsylvania house a guy had recently purchased last year. We talked about his auctions (he runs both online ones and live ones out in Hershey) and his business, which is doing well this year.
1:58 p.m. I’m at the end of the show part and decide to swing down the rows again in case I missed anything. I get back to Ed’s table on a planned stop since he had several binders of non-sport and multi-sport stuff that I didn’t get to see the first time around as another couple was looking through them. And, ultimately, I’m glad I did.
I’m typically a buyer of T218 cards at $1. Even though I’ve already got them, if I find them that low, that’s just too good to pass up. Typically, even low-grade ones are in the $2-$4 range.
Ed had a bunch for $1 each but I actually passed on those because he had all of these for $.50 each. I scooped them all up and kind of wish I had picked up the ones for $1, too. Most were in lower-grade condition, as you can see. But some weren’t bad and at $.50, I’ll buy these even with holes in them. The Hillman (top right) was $2 but I bought it as an upgrade.
That wasn’t all, though. I found this boxing card from the R94 Movie Stars and Scenes set. The set is mostly known for the Babe Ruth cards in it but this boxing card was only $4 and Ed even knocked a couple of bucks off for a grand total of $10 for everything.
2:10 p.m. I’m on my way out when I stop at a guy in the next row, who has a bunch of pre-war. My wife is (justifiably, I add) losing it at this point.
This happens to be a table for a dealer named Charlie that I’ve seen there the past few years. For some reason, I missed him the first time around. I remember seeing his stuff but didn’t bother to see who was selling them. We talk T207 and while I don’t buy anything this time, we’re chatting about that set and many others. He always has a lot of nice stuff but I didn’t see anything I really needed.
2:24 p.m. I’m back near the front of the show now and all indications tell me this thing is over. But I walk past the Starting Lineups and see a bag full of Mets in there.
The Mets were my childhood favorite and, even though I don’t follow them much these days, the 1988 Starting Lineups of them are sentimental for me because I remember getting most of the team when I was a kid. I find several and my wife, while quite annoyed by this point, asks the guy if he can do six for $15. Truth be told, she’s a better negotiator than I am and she lands the deal (asking price was three for $10).
I come away with these guys from a variety of years, including the 1988 Dykstra, which I needed for my 1988 set.
Dreams really do come true, you guys.