I always find ideas for this column when I’m at a show and the one we ran the day after Christmas was no exception. Despite slightly lower foot traffic and lighter sales of dealer tables, those who did set up at our Dallas area show reported they did anywhere from “very well” to “the best show I’ve ever had.” Yes, while we all want shows in which the attendance is through the roof and everyone spends a lot of money, the reality for any dealer is that if you draw only 30 people into the show but they are the right 30 people, then everyone will go home happy.”
I remember way back at an Anaheim National when I was still at Beckett, when I asked the dealers how they were doing, almost every one said, “Well, the show has been slow but I’ve had one big customer that made my show.”
Business aside, one of my regular customers did ask me a question about the junk wax era, but phrased in an interesting way. The question was, “Do you think Lud Denny was good for the sports collecting hobby?”
While the specific question and answer I gave was about Lud, the founder and face behind Pro Set back in the late 1980s and early 90s, I think many of the comments can be used to describe the pros and cons of that time.
The major pro, of course, was that their cards were affordable then, and are still mostly affordable today. Yes there are some off-beat Pro Set cards which are really difficult to find and still have a very high value. I think a while back one of our readers mentioned he was looking for the Anne Smith card from the 1991 Pro Set Pro Files set. Those cards were issued in conjunction with a local television series Pro Set produced. We did see a few cards at shows way back in 1991 and later but I don’t think I’ve seen one of those cards since I started setting up and then running shows. In addition, you do not see very many of those 1990 Vince Lombardi trophy hologram cards. There are probably others which are difficult but I would say approximately 99.5 percent of Pro Set cards are still very affordable to this day.
And the benefit of those prices, and this also rings true tor just about any card from the era, is if you are a certain age and began collecting when those cards were on the marketplace, then the buying back of your youth is very easy indeed. While few got rich buying and selling cards back then, many of the collectors from that time are returning and happy to find those cards at prices which are actually cheaper than they paid originally. Regardless of what’s happened to the ‘value’ of cards that were hot back then, if you were in the hobby for the right reasons, many of the memories involve a time that was really fun for many different reasons.
When we read about Dave Henderson’s sudden passing over the weekend, I recalled seeing him always smiling in the photos on his cards back in the day. And if you want to remember a nice player who hit a very important homer in baseball history, you can own a nice collection of the cards from his playing days for no more than an $20 bill. And since he only has two autographed cards and one memorabilia card, you might be able, even with the modern “hit” world thrown in, to buy one of each of his cards produced by the major manufacturers for less than $50. If were an Oakland A’s fan during their great run or a Red Sox fan, the type of affordable collecting is very important.
The down side, for many people who held their cards and then tried to sell later, is that they are sorely disappointed when they try to sell those same cards. New sports cards were bigger than the dentifrice industry back in Hendu’s era and folks who try to sell card collections from that era are sorely disappointed. We are still in ways suffering the after effects 25 years later.
But here’s the thing: vendors who set up at local shows with reasonably priced junk wax often sell out of what they have. And I think that is the final positive for those cards. When you do not have to spend more than $5-10 for a box that will entertain you for an hour or so, you get the joys of reliving your youth, the hope for a miracle hit in some cases and at the very least, some fun remembering names from the past.
I was opening up some 1993 Leaf Update boxes recently and while nothing really good is in those packs, my wife once again put things into the proper perspective. I was opening some packs as we waited for the tornado warnings you may have read about to expire when she came into my office, opened a few packs and asked “Who would name their kid Blas?” Well that triggered memories of Blas Minor, a long forgotten player from the past. It took a baseball card to trigger that memory. I don’t think I’d have thought about him—or some other players of that time—without stumbling upon his card. And by the way, I think it would be fun to do a type collection based on different first names, especially if you went multi-sport.
It all serves as a reminder of all the fun you can have at very little cost through cards most dismiss as “junk.” For all of his known flaws, Lud Denny did provide an interesting chapter in hobby history and at least on some level, what he and others of the era created are providing even cheaper entertainment even today.