“Major” Card Show Goodies, Notes

gallardoNote: I originally started writing this in early May, two days after the Tri-Star show at the Cow Palace. I’ve decided to publish it in it’s original form because it has some genuine feelings I had at the time.

I’ve not spent a lot of time blogging lately, but this weekend I attended the Tri-Star Productions annual card show at the Cow Palace in Daily City, Calif. (near San Francisco) and it inspired me to write something. Why? Because this show always reminds me of how things have changed.

By this point, most long-time collectors know that this hobby has gone through a world of change over the last decade and a half. It seems like ever since game-used and autographed cards really started to become prevalent that the hobby has kind of hit the skids. And card shows have become a perfect barometer of that as there are tons of display cases featuring nothing but low-numbered, sweet looking patch cards and a boatload of cut signatures. The basic cards on which this hobby was built have been shunned, and sometimes, just flat out thrown in the trash.

But this weekend I also saw something that kind of intrigued me – collectors were not flocking to these tables with gaudy cards. Instead the collectors seemed to be digging through bargain bins. Naturally, I was among them.

This show is a three-day event that draws about 100 tables, thousands of fans and about a dozen top-quality autograph guests. This show was highlighted by Willie Mays and Bob Gibson. Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown was supposed to be there, but he backed out a few days before the event.

Because of the way Tri-Star does these things – -they keep all signers behind a drape to discourage rogue photography and such — I was not able to see anyone without paying for it. And being the type of collector that I am, I was not going top fork over a minimum $300 to see Mays for about 5 seconds.

I digress. My sole purpose in being at the show was really for the cards. Because this show usually happens only once a year – sometimes Tri-Star comes back in September, but I didn’t see it on the schedule this year – I try to get out there just to feel like I am human (read: a true collector) again.

Because I am the only one among my group of friends who still collects cards, I never really get out to these shows. And while my local shops are decent, they certainly do not offer up any great deals . If anything, it’s good that I don’t go to my shops as often as I once did because there is no need to buy sealed boxes of packs when you’re simply looking to sooth a cardboard itch.

When I was younger, a trip to the card show usually meant I got to take a crisp $20 bill from my mother and find creative ways to stretch that baby into as much as possible. I’d buy whatever Roger Clemens cards I didn’t have, usually pick up a few “grab bags,” and some top loaders and penny sleeves.

Now as an adult, I can’t go to a show with any less than $50. But because of the way I buy my cards – primarily at discounted levels through eBay – I really have no focus when I go to a show. I typically take a list of set needs, but more times than not I tend to just spend time looking for some awesome deal.

In 2007 –- the first Tri-Star show I went to in nearly a decade –- I wandered aimlessly with my wife for three hours. And what did I buy? A stinkin’ pack of 2006 Bowman Originals. My autographs at the time were disgraceful – 2002 Bowman Chrome Brandon Philips and a 2005 Bowman Fausto Carmona – but the base cards were intriguing. I actually snagged a sweet blue parallel of Evan Longoria (#’d 249), currently valued at $50 in Beckett Baseball; actual value, probably about $15 cash.

In 2008, I went with a friend –- a big Colts fan -– and we spent about two hours digging through bargain bins. He bought a few dozen Peyton Manning cards; I bought some low-end inserts for almost nothing.

And this year was almost a repeat of 2008, only I went alone. I spent about 90 minutes going through four or five separate bargain bins and came away with the following for a mere $26.

2001 Bowman Chrome Ryan Ludwick rookie ($10)

2006 Bowman Draft Relics Yovani Gallardo ($5)
2006 Allen & Ginter Mickey Mantle ($1)

2007 Topps Chrome Mickey Mantle Story Blue Refractor /100 ($1)

A dozen mixed vintage Red Sox cards ($4)


Ten Topps Heritage SPs(mixed years, needed for sets) ($5)


In the end, the haul feels like a decent bargain, especially since I was able to fulfil so many shortprint needs. But there was one aspect that still irks me to no end — because of admission prices and parking fees, I was out $18 before I even stepped in the door. This fact alone makes working on a budget of $50 tough, and damn near impossible if you’re a kid. Then again, most kids aren’t going to be forced into paying for parking.

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