The annual Pittsburgh Card Show was held this weekend and I managed to attend on Saturday. What I found was the usual solid mix of dealers with another good selection of vintage cards at Main Line Autographs’ latest showcase.
In all, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80 dealers from all over the country. That is nothing new for the popular show, which has gained quite a following over the years. It is held in the eastern suburb of Monroeville where promoter Jim DiCandilo told me it will remain after being held for so many years in Moon Township.
Many of the collectors, of course, were drawn to items of athletes from the local Pittsburgh teams. But that was only a small part of what was available.
In short, there was a ton of vintage to be had. More dealers than not had a quality selection of 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s cards. And, in particular, I was pleased to find a large selection of what I would consider to be a lot of pre-war.
Pre-War Selection a Plentiful One
I had some concerns about that based on discussions I had with dealers last year. One that I spoke with in 2018 that dealt almost exclusively in pre-war had a poor show last year. The outcome was so bad that he stated that he would not return. As promised, I did not see him there this year. But I found plenty of dealers that had lots to offer.
Immediately upon stepping through the door, I was greeted by a table that had numerous older boxing cards. There, I saw tobacco, candy, and strip cards featuring pre-war greats such as John Sullivan, Jack Dempsey, and Jack Johnson. Making my way through the show, I quickly saw pre-war stuff was popular.
I certainly found much more to look at this year than in years past at the show. Many dealers had a standard selection of the more popular tobacco cards, such as T205 and T206. That stuff is seemingly everywhere. But I also found other lesser known issues, including T201 Double Folders, T202 Triple Folders, T207s, T210 Old Mill, and T212 Obaks, among others.
While tobacco cards are often popular, I saw a decent amount of early caramel issues, too. Among the more popular ones were candy cards from the E90-1 American Caramel and Cracker Jack sets. There were also plenty of strip cards and Goudey gum issues as well. Pre-war non-sports cards were also somewhat plentiful among a few dealers. Really, there was a nice mix for just about everybody collecting older material.
Some rarer stuff was seen, too. I found one dealer with a N48 Virginia Brights women’s baseball card with an advertising back — something rarely seen. While the blank-backed ones aren’t quite as tough, the ones with ad backs are excruciatingly difficult to find. Numerous other quality stuff was encountered, such as a fair amount of 19th century issues. A few dealers had Old Judge cards and other 19th century issues, including the Allen & Ginter cards. And while not plentiful, some pre-war autographs were also spotted.
In addition, I saw some truly unique items along the way. Dealer Ed Hans shared two 1930s strip cards that he recently had graded by Beckett featuring Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett and Stan Hack.
Hans, a longtime dealer at the show, said these were the only cards known in the checklist of the unique set. To date, he knows of only one other Hartnett card for a grand total of three in the population. Not much is known about the set but it has been dated to the 1930s, which would make it one of the later known strip issues.
While baseball was the focal point, pre-war football cards included a nice ‘holy grail’ 1935 National Chicle of Bronko Nagurski up for sale, as well as cards of Red Grange and other early gridiron stars. Cards from ‘lesser’ sports were featured, too. In particular, I found several dealers with T218 Champions cards, a popular multi-sport set that I didn’t expect would pop up nearly as much as it did.
While I was glad to see a good amount of pre-war cards, better still was that dealers with pre-war were doing quite well. None that I spoke with were having what would be called a bad show and a few even reported some bigger sales. At every table I stopped, there were other collectors browsing the earlier stuff, too. That will bode well for the pre-war selection at future Main Line Pittsburgh shows.
With so much there, I couldn’t resist making a few additions to my collection. Personally, I was pleased to make a few pickups, adding an E91 American Caramel card of Hall of Famer Eddie Collins and a 1939-46 Salutations Exhibit of Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell.
More Than Cards
Cards weren’t the only highlight, of course. As usual, there was a large crowd on hand for a list of nearly 40 autograph guests who appeared between Friday and Sunday. And while the crowd was a good one on Saturday, dealers generally expected a larger crowd on Sunday with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger signing. “It’s going to be bonkers in here, with Roethlisberger coming in,” one said. Others scheduled to sign over the weekend included Bob Gibson, Frank Thomas, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Andre Dawson and dozens of other Hall of Famers and stars.
— The Final Word (@WPXIFinalWord) May 19, 2019
And while some fans will be coming in preparing to have autographs signed, that’s also a good thing for the card dealers, obviously. Many collectors will come early and browse the cards and then stay for a bit after receiving their signatures.
Finally, other attractions were available, too. Many auction companies, including Heritage, Collect, Birmingham, and others were on hand taking consignments. SGC was also there, accepting submissions for graded cards and noted that they had been busy all day.
I dropped some cards off to SGC and chatted with a few of the auction companies. But for me, the highlight, as it always is, was the cards. As a pre-war collector, finding those kinds of items at shows isn’t always a given. In the past couple of years, I’ve been to some shows locally, for example, and found pre-war items pretty scarce. But the Pittsburgh show this year certainly didn’t fit that description.