Growing up, collecting my yearly set of hockey cards, I never went to any card shows. One reason could be that there were just no card shows to go to. Another would be that I had no real purpose to go to one. I got all of my collecting fixes from simple treks to the 7-11 and after school trading sessions by the bike racks.
When I did go to my first card show, I was in awe at the collections some people had. Little did I realize that some of these people actually sold cards for a business - CRAZY! I didn't take much money with me, but the window shopping was more than enough for me. I loved looking at all the different cards out there, flipping through stacks of commons - not needing or wanting any - just because they were there.
When I got back into card collecting in the mid-90's, there was a card show every 2 weeks during the hockey season. Best part, it was only a 5 minute drive. I was a staple at that show. The tables were packed and the displays were full. I felt like Charlie entering the Chocolate Factory. I guess that's what happens when business is good.
As my collection moved towards player as opposed to sets, I found that the local card show didn't quite feed the fix. It only took a few trips to buy out all the Linden cards anyone had. Where to next?
There were other stores around town and the odd show here and there, but no real progress on my collection. Until one day, I discovered ebay. In one day, I went from finding one or two cards a month, to dozens each day - and rare ones at that.
I immediately fell in love with ebay. My wantlist was dwindling faster than it ever had before. It got to the point where I was buying cards from sets that hadn't even been released yet and going to the shows saying "Oh, I've already got that one".
It was around that time that I realized I wasn't having as much fun at the shows. I looked around and noticed they had drastically changed right in front of my eyes. There were fewers tables set up, an emphasis on "the big ticket cards" and definitely a more "business-like" atmosphere. Even the kids coming in were quoting the price guide like little stock brokers.
I've noticed a change in the local card shows over the years, and I've now changed the way I approach them. I see them like endangered animals - precious, a treat to see and thankful they are still around. I have gone back to enjoying the window shopping aspect of the shows. Lord knows there's enough product out there to look at (but that's for another day). I fear that in the not too distant future, the local card show will be a thing of past. Ebay, online sales and trading boards will eliminate the local card show. And when that day comes - it will be a shame.
Sure there are the big sponsored shows that come around once or twice a year. I enjoy those (or at least some aspects of them), but they are different than the local, weekly shows. The local show seems more like visiting old friends where the bigger shows seem like a "one day sale" where you're in and you're out before you know what's happened. Everything is bigger - everything is more. Especially the entry fees.
Now I know that $15 isn't what it used to be. 30 years ago, $15 was a box of cards. Now, it won't get you a pack of cards from half of the sets released. But to ask a person to dish out $15 to go to a card show for a weekend just doesn't make sense. I'm finding it tougher and tougher to go to these big shows because I'm just not getting my money's worth. One year, I blew $100 at the end of the show just because I felt like I needed to walk out of there with something. I might go to the one here in town this year, but it won't be the no brainer it one was.
However, the (now monthly) card show - it'll get my roster call every time. Who knows how soon before they just stop having it.
Support your local card shows. It can be (if you choose) a fun filled afternoon that won't cost you a cent.
Just my opinion.
4 hours ago