Recapping a Visit to the Annual Monroeville Card Show

This weekend included a trip to the annual card show in Monroeville

Time flies, right? Only about a week ago, I realized the annual card show in Monroeville (just outside of Pittsburgh) was here already.

While I don’t get to many shows, the proximity of this one for me makes it a must-do sort of thing every year. It’s good exercise and nice to see some folks. Oh, yeah, and cards. Let’s get to that.

So, if you’ve never been to this one, the overwhelming feeling you get is that it’s very much an autograph show. Yes, there are a lot of cards. But it’s really one of those shows where autographs seem like the main attraction. It’s run by Main Line Autographs and there are roughly 40 signers or so. Many folks, even, are there almost exclusively for the autographs, it seems.

But there are cards — even a decent selection of vintage. Pre-war stuff has been fairly healthy and there were, I don’t know, 15 dealers or so with a nice selection of pre-war, including several others with a smaller amount. Some, I skipped over pretty quickly but most, I at least peeked my head in and looked through cases for stuff of interest. One that got my attention was a guy that had a Pre-War bargain bin, of sorts. You see those sorts of things with post-war vintage quite frequently but hardly ever with pre-war. The prices weren’t fantastic there but it was a nice novelty of being able to flip through toploaders instead of just looking through cases, which you are mostly resigned to. And just in focusing on pre-war, you can easily get through the whole setup in an afternoon so that you don’t need to come back every day to the three-day show.

I don’t really clean up at shows, so to speak. Most of the stuff I buy is online where prices are friendlier and you get the more obscure stuff that I enjoy. But honestly, this time around I was able to find a big selection of other stuff. The $400 was easily the most I’d spent at this particular show before. I usually just don’t find all that much here.

I didn’t have any buys that I would call critical ones. But I did manage to snag my tenth E92 Dockman baseball card in Larry Doyle’s throwing variation card. The Dockman cards are the easiest of the four 1909 E92 issues (the others are Croft Candy, Croft Cocoa, and Nadja Caramels) since they are the most common ones and also have the fewest number in the checklist (40).

This is one of those sets that I never intended to begin working on and was only spurred on by a large caramel card pickup a year or so ago. Several E92s were included in that group so I tentatively began trying to piece one together, fully realizing that, like most of my caramel card sets, it’s going to be a longer-term project. I also grabbed this Charley O’Leary T206, my only T206 pickup at the show, because it has a Polar Bear back and was reasonably priced.

Sticking with baseball, I also had several other pickups. The most unique one was this miniature booklet.

This one is titled, “How to Pitch by Dazzy Vance,” and it was something I’d never come across before. There are numerous types of instructional booklets and series’, of course, but this particular one was not one that I’d seen in the past.

It’s roughly 2 3/4″ by 2 3/4″ all around and includes a nice green-tint image of the Hall of Fame pitcher. It’s got one staple and mentions that it was sold by Sears Roebuck. Inside are 12 pages of advice from Vance and a couple of additional pages are dedicated to an advertisement for a Dazzy Vance ‘Strikeout King’ baseball.

It’s a cool item and while I certainly overpaid for it, part of it was wanting to pick up a unique item at the show.

I don’t mind overpaying a little on some items at shows. Don’t get me wrong. I love nice, cheap finds and want to pay as little as possible. But at the same time, I also know that it’s important for dealers to have good shows so that they return in the future. They’ve got the cost to set up, the cost of lodging, gas money, and other expenses. And if dealers don’t return, you obviously don’t have a show. Personally, I’d rather have a show, even with higher-priced items, than no show at all. Too many attendees go to a show hoping to find great deals or prices lower than the internet. And the reality is, that’s extremely rare — particularly, if you’ve got a limited collecting focus.

Okay, rant over. So what else did I buy? How about a little more baseball?

Here’s a real mix of stuff. These, again, were not necessarily great buys. But they were reasonably-priced cards I wanted and picked up for various reasons.

The W516 strip card (the smallest one) of Arty Fletcher was cheap. The Larry Doyle card is a 1914 Polo Grounds game card and I had only one of those.

The two pickups I was very happy to find were the others. First, there are a couple of 1940 Play Ball high number cards that I needed as I continue to build that set. I’m roughly 3/5 complete on that one. The other group is a trio of 1943 M.P. Co. cards. I’ve sort of avoided working on this set in the past for various reasons but I got these three at, frankly, good prices, and there are only 24 in the set. There are some pricier cards, including Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, among others. But it’s still a buildable set and a new one that I’ll be starting.

Of course I bought more than baseball. You knew I would, right? The highlight there was finally wrapping up the 1911 T77 Light House Series.

This was one of the many American Tobacco Company non-sports that I began last year. There are numerous sets created by that famous company and I took a deep dive into those last year. Some have been easy while others (like the T68 Men/Heroes of History set) have been more challenging.

One that I figured would be incredibly easy was this series of 50 cards featuring lighthouses. But while the majority of it wasn’t too bad, there were several cards that I had trouble tracking down at the prices I wanted to pay. It’s not a particularly intriguing set. The key is the Statue of Liberty card and even that one isn’t very expensive. But I picked up a bunch of them in rough shape at low prices so lumped it in with the others I wanted to build, expecting it wouldn’t take me long to finish. Wrong.

The set had dragged on long enough that, frankly, I’d decided if I found them at the show, I’d buy them at practically any price below $10 each just to finish it off. And while I needed my wife to dig into my checklist at home and remind me of the ones needed, I was really glad to find all of these at the show to complete that set. Of the ATC sets I started last year, I’ve completed all of those with the exception of missing only a handful of T68s.

One of those other sets, by the way, is the 1910 T53 Cowboy Series cards.

This is another one of those sets where you can often find cards at fairly low prices. And at 50 cards, it’s not really that difficult to complete, either.

Some of the cards aren’t so interesting. But there are a few really nice ones and it was worth it to me to try to build this one. This one came much easier and I finished it fairly quickly. But I’ve got several duplicates and have been piecing together a second set. I found ten at the show and these will either be upgrades or fill holes in the second set.

Along the lines of the T53 set, I also took a shot on some T51 1909-10 Murad College Sports cards.

These, of course, are mostly sports cards. And it’s also a set I completed some time back. With 150 cards in it, it’s a bit challenging. But it’s not too bad because you can honestly find these in bunches on occasion. The biggest card in it is the Williams basketball card in the first series that I’ve written about before, since it’s often regarded as the first true basketball card (even if earlier issues exist) because it’s a true card that depicts an actual team that existed.

I scored a bunch of these either because they were too inexpensive or because they will be upgrades for my set. The key one here, I suppose, was the golf card for South Carolina. But with my recent collecting of early lacrosse cards, I was glad to pick up another copy of the Stevens lacrosse card, too.

Yet another set I was prompted to start is the 1910 T107 Helmar Seals set.

Now, I found a bunch of these at very low prices and, while I didn’t know a ton about this series, I was at least familiar with it. I anticipated there’d be 100 cards but there are actually 150. It includes both the seals of the states in the U.S. as well as the Coat of Arms for countries around the world.

The cards have a red and white theme with red backgrounds and thin white borders. They’re the same 2 1/16″ x 2 3/16″ size as the T51 Murads and have the same gold foil around the borders. These are very similar in appearance to those and many also have the famous ‘Packer No.’ stamps on the back to denote who presumably placed them into the cigarette packages.

Shown here is the lot that I bought along with one of the backs, which are generally the same on all of them. So this is another new set now underway.

Lastly, there was a real hodgepodge of stuff I picked up throughout the day. The majority of this stuff (and a decent bit of the other stuff featured above) came from dealer Ed Hans, who I always hit up for quite a bit of stuff since he always has several binders of pre-war non-sports stuff.

I’m not going to hit on everything here but there’s all sorts of stuff, including some 19th century tobacco cards, to more great American Tobacco cards in or around 1910, to some real oddities.

All in all, I had a fantastic time, I’d say. Finished a set, started several others, grabbed some nice baseball cards, and picked up a lot of affordable stuff.

Tough to complain, right?

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