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Mike Schopp's Blog

SCHOPP: The hobby still healthy

So yesterday in Toronto my friend Bob walks over with a report on his friend Larry. Word is that Larry made a pretty nice sale on an old card here Friday in Day 1 of the semi-annual Sports Card Expo. How good, I asked Bob.

The reply: "Fifty thousand".

I'd say that's alright.

I spent a good part of Saturday at this show, considered by many the premier regular sports card show in Canada. I saw a lot of everything, from high-grade vintage cards like the one Larry sold to pedestrian base cards from the many current issues, and a lot in between.

Here are some highlights. (I wish I had pictures for you but the few that I took didn't turn out. Sorry about that.)

Early Wynn's lifetime entry pass into the Hall of Fame. My question was, if I were to buy this thing for the several hundred dollars being asked would it allow me the same access to Cooperstown? I figured not. I was amused by the idea of it as a collector's piece -- "Hey buddy, want to see Early Wynn's lifetime pass to the Hall?", I'd be asking everyone I knew -- but not at that price. No sale here.

John F. Kennedy/Jacqueline Kennedy duel cut signature "Frozen Fabrics" 1/1 card. There it was, staring up at me, an autograph from the great JFK. I didn't know the card but I read the description and asked to make sure, "Is his wife's signature on the other side?"

"You mean his ex-wife?", the dealer replied.


Well it was on the back. Knowing it was miles out of my budget I asked anyway: "How much?" "Five thousand," the dealer said. Quickly his assistant chimed in from the back: "It's a great price actually." Oh I'm sure.

I handed the card back to the dealer, who then said to another, "I guess Jackie's not his ex-wife, is she." Good catch.

Roberto Clemente 1955 Topps rookie card. Turns out I spent more than $500 at this show in Toronto on a dealer from Grand Island. Go figure. It doesn't come as a shock to me as Gary Nuchereno is just about my favorite person in the hobby. He's knowledgable, he's fair, and above all else he's really, really nice.

I walked around Saturday for hours and noticed that the dealer's demeanor made all the difference in whether I stopped and looked or walked by. Look happy and welcoming and I'll stop for sure. Look surly or bored or worst of all tired and I'll see you next time.

This Clemente that Gary had was roughed up, but I've been thinking a lot about it lately. I'm reading David Maraniss' book "Clemente" and finally filling in on a true sports hero. I didn't see myself grabbing a Clemente rookie yesterday but the price was right so I grabbed it with nice copies of the '62 and '63 Clementes and also a PSA 8 Steve Yzerman O-Pee-Chee rookie. Drove home happy.

Some wrestler guy. There was some wrestler guy there. He seemed nice.

Wayne Gretzky-signed unfolded cereal box of "Shreddies". I'm pretty sure that at least once in his life Wayne Gretzky has signed everything.

Complete PSA-graded set of 1937 O-Pee-Chee cards. The guy selling these really impressed me. He had a great attitude about selling and was very fair. I couldn't afford this great old set but I respected it. He also had a set of 1951 Topps Red Backs and a 1969 Topps Baseball set. He sold the '69s. I was rooting for this guy.

Jerk guy that gives the hobby a bad name. Yeah, he was there too. I don't know what card they were discussing but a dealer and a potential customer were discussing something. The collector asked for a price. "Four hundred," the dealer responded. The collector smiled and started to walk away.

The dealer then asked the guy to name his price in a bullying fashion. "Hey, you're not even going to negotiate with me?" Eventually and meekly the collector said he wanted to spend between $150 and $200 on the card. Before he could even finish saying it the dealer said, "Oh you're crazy" and started putting the guy down. To his credit as he walked away for good the collector said, "This is why I didn't want to tell you my price."

1951 Toronto Maple Leafs baseball program, unscored, for game vs. Buffalo Bisons. My great uncle Cliff Fannin pitched for Toronto in the International League after hurting his arm while with the AL's St. Louis Browns. Uncle Cliff is pictured in this program, and once I saw that I snatched it. I didn't know until yesterday that Uncle Cliff wore #20 for Toronto. I think he may have thrown a no-hitter there. Time to do some more digging. $35.

Lots of people enjoying themselves. Collecting isn't what it used to be -- just ask anyone. For me in many ways this is a good thing. The web allows for the average collector to be much more knowledgable about real sale prices and not be as easily duped by dealers. Set building is more easily possible now as so many thousands of cards sit online all the time. This takes the buzz out of shows a little bit, but to be able to browse a show like this and see so many different things, not to mention the many sports stars on hand (Hasek, Perreault, Lafontaine, Hodgson, Tiant, Rice, Raines, Jenkins, Wrestler Guy), is quite fun.

The hobby may have changed a lot but don't let anyone tell you that it's dead, or even dying. If you don't believe me, ask Bob's friend Larry. See what he says.

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