by Rich Klein
When I started getting involved in the hobby such concepts as monthly or yearly price guide magazines were still a few years in the future. Dr. Jim Beckett was just doing a yearly survey and beginning to lay the foundation for what would become the primary hobby pricing source and most hobby publications were coming and going with rapidity, The only two that were around in the 1970s and lasted more than a decade were The Trader Speaks which lasted nearly 16 years and Sports Collectors Digest which has existed for nearly four decades now. Needless to say, the world was very different and even shows and stores were in their infancy.
As the sports collecting world, as well as the distribution of sports news was different, there was also more emphasis on your local heroes. Cable would still be mainly in the future (I do remember one relative in New York City who had cable very early) and the influence of the Internet would be more than two decades away.
So, what does this all mean for card collectors? In simplest terms, the answer was because of the more limited information available, the players we knew best were our local heroes. Let’s face it, if you lived in the Dallas area (where I live now) the NBC Game of the Week was the only time you might get to see National League teams. A player who was excellent but played a second division team such as Dave Winfield might be seen once at the All-Star game and maybe once on a network game. The only way you knew anything about those guys was what you read in the newspaper or The Sporting News. Maybe Sports Illustrated if it happened to do a feature story. Today, with the expansion of cable and/or the Internet no player might fly under the radar like that again.
And since we knew our local heroes best, any collector in the area was going to seek out cards of their favorite players who they knew, meaning that there was a premium for players from your home area. Thus, the term, ‘regional premiums’ came into effect as a pricing tool. If a common was a nickel, the home town player was guaranteed to be at least a dime, even for the most obscure player (think of Warren Brusstar of the Philadelphia Phillies, who seemed to be in every 1979 pack I opened). That concept did continue for many years but, with rare exception, may have now totally gone away. In addition, the best way for local hero cards to come to your area was in trades with fellow dealer/collectors. There was nothing like the excitement of getting a box from one of your traders with new stuff added to your inventory or collection. Trading in that fashion could be like the holiday season any day. Today, with places such as eBay or COMC.com, one can find cards of their local heroes any day at any hour.
When I first came to Beckett in 1990, one of my co-workers was Theo Chen who had all the travel tricks down pat. Being young and single, he just loved to go to sports towns to watch various events and do that all over the course of a weekend and then return home to be back on work on Monday. One time he was heading to Milwaukee and he always brought cards to trade with him to the various shows he attended. He asked what to bring, and I mentioned you should bring Jim Gantner rookie cards as he had been there for more than a decade and was undervalued nationally compared to established superstars (and both later Hall of Famers) Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Theo picked up a few Gantner rookies from the tons of local stores we had in the Dallas area at the time and headed for Milwaukee. When he came back, he mentioned that the first cards any dealer wanted from his trade stack were the Gantner rookies and he received a very nice premium for them.
That was 1990, and regional premiums were still in full effect. In 2013, regional premiums have now changed and may be rare if not non-existent at least in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Each month I have done show reviews of the local card show at Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas. This time, instead of a review, a discussion I had with one of the promoters inspired this edition of Ramblings.
During the show the dealer/promoter showed me a stack of Yu Darvish cards and I noticed his prices on those cards were lower than mine. I asked him how he has done with Darvish cards and he said he thought he had never sold a Darvish card at any price. The owner of my local card store told me that although he sells some cards of Dallas area stars, the volume of sales was nowhere near what you would expect in a local store.
Even when the Dallas Mavericks won their NBA title, there was no great bump in sales of Maverick cards. Yesterday while behind a dealer table at that McKinney show, I had people looking for Jackie Bradley Jr. cards. With the great start that Chris Davis has had, as an ex-Ranger I pulled a bunch of his early Rangers cards and displayed them prominently and only one person even looked at that stack.
So I cannot say for sure about the rest of the country, but I doubt there should be any regional premium for cards of Dallas area athletes as the method of distribution has changed and everyone now has the same ability to finding cards they need from throughout the country instead of waiting for a dealer. Does this mean the hobby is better now than it used to be? I cannot honestly answer that question except to say this is just another hobby evolution.
Some quick notes on yesterday’s show. First, in volume of sales I had one of my best shows there despite literally selling nothing between 11:30 and 2:30. The show had a great rush from 10 to noon and then a nice rush from 2 to 3:30 with a dead time in between.
I have talked about the lack of food at the show. The promoters posted on Facebook about needing a food service and someone drove up with a food truck. Also, one of the table holders also likes to BBQ and he had a menu of food for sale at very reasonable prices. Now that’s dealer versatility! As one of the promoters said “We’ve now gone from no choices to more than enough”.
And as for the show, there continues to be a nice rotation of dealers. I received a letter last month asking how the show can grow if all the tables are sold out and the same dealers show up. The real answer is that many dealers are not there every month (just like I will miss the August show to be at the National) and with that there is a natural turnover of tables. Plus many dealers bring in new merchandise every month. I actually will hand collectors boxes and say this is what I’ve priced since the last show. That way, they know that I’m still changing my inventory. It’s fun to see the show continue to prosper.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected].