Monday, August 16, 2010

Remembering Card Shows of the 1980s

Last week, I showed a couple of photos taken at cards shows back in the 1980s. There was this newspaper photo and caption:

This appeared in the August 21, 1989 edition of the Watertown (NY) Daily Times. As a color photo, it should have been on the front page (I believe this is the paper that employs fellow blogger Night Owl, perhaps there's a way he can find out). The photo was taken at a show held each summer at Watertown's State Office Building. I was in attendance at the show; in fact, that's me on the left in my 80s threads.

The other photo I posted was taken on December 2, 1989. It was a cold Saturday morning, as well as my 17th birthday. It was also the date of the very first card show ever held in my little hometown of Carthage, New York. The show was held in the basement of the local Catholic school and I was behind one of the tables:

This picture would also appear in a newspaper article. That was written by Ray Hansen (who also took the photo) and showed up in the December 13th issue of the Carthage Republican-Tribune, a weekly local paper. While pulling out these photos to scan, I found a couple more to share.

This picture was taken at the same show as the one above but not used in the article. I ended up with both photos one day when I stopped in to thank Mr. Hansen for running the article (I did mention that Carthage was a small town, right?). Here's another angle of me being helpful:

While it looks like there's a tear in my customer's jacket, there's actually some missing paper from the photo.

Two things jump out at me in these photo (well, besides the fact that I no longer have a full head of hair and those six-pack abs are long gone). First, there's a pad of paper and a pen, where I kept track of every transaction. The table had cost $35 and my mother had paid it. Once I made that money back, I was allowed to keep whatever else I made. Since I was also buying from customers and other sellers, I dutifully kept track of what moved. The second thing I notice is something I mentioned in my last post: all the cards have prices on them. I spent about three hours before the show with my latest price guide and made sure I had everything priced fairly. It was something I did before every weekend show I ever did. I wish more sellers could do the preparation even a 17 year-old high school senior thought necessary.

The last photo is one that is very special to me:

This picture was taken in July 1989 at the annual collectibles show in Clayton, New York. It was a show that featured a wide range of items for sale. Along with cards, you could find stamps, coins, books, military and other items. I went to the show every year as a kid and this was the very first table I sought once I entered. The seller is Vin Minner, who lived in New Jersey and still advertises in The Wrapper, a non-sports publication. I mentioned Mr Minner, the Clayton show and my small hometown in a blog post a few months ago. In that post, I mentioned that I bought my very first 1952 Topps cards at this table:

$2 for the pair of semi-hi numbers. Even at 15, I wasn't that concerned about condition when I saw a great deal. Those cards started my '52 journey, which is still in progress. I now have about half the set.

Mr. Minner was one of the first sellers who encouraged my collecting. While he seemed impressed at my understanding of cards as a young teen (gained mainly through books to that point), he would talk with me about his own days as a young collector. At a time where some sellers were annoyed at the kid who asked a lot of questions, Mr. Minner would patiently answer those questions. As a result, I made sure to visit him at the show every year until I moved away. A lot of the collecting spirit that shows in this blog was instilled by Mr. Minner. I'm in the photo as well, standing at the left with my mother, another large influence on my collecting habits.

That was a great time to be in the hobby. It seemed there was a card show nearly every weekend within driving distance, the shows were well-attended and even small-time sellers like me could sell off his duplicates and take home a little spending cash. More importantly, I learned about business, dealing and customer service and had such a blast that here I am 21 years later recounting the time. What's funny about that is the fact that I may not be able to tell you what I ate for breakfast yesterday without thinking, but the memories of those card shows are still fresh in my mind.


  1. That photo in the WDT likely appeared on the "back page" not the front page, as the WDT had an odd arrangement at the time in which its biggest local news (and any color photos) would appear on the back cover. Fortunately, that arrangement no longer exists.

    I know the photographer who took the photo. He works elsewhere now. I've mentioned before those shows at the state office building no longer exist. Wish they still did. In fact, except for the Clayton show, there are no more card shows in Jefferson/Lewis county.

  2. Now that you say that, I vaguely remember that back-page layout. But then again, it always seemed to be backwards in its own quirky way.

    For instance, it was an evening edition so it showed up after school let out (is it still that way today?). Since 1990, I have lived in about 8 different places and none had an evening paper. They were all available first thing in the morning.

    Lastly, it's sad to hear the shows have died. From 1988-'92 it seemed that there were shows virtually every weekend during the baseball season somewhere between Syracuse and Massena.

  3. Another inspiring story i have read on the blog of sports card. And you are so passionate about it, that was admirable. Hope you could teach also those young that are interested in the same field like Mr. Minner did. So that there will be someone in the future who's passion is so true. Continue inspiring people.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. Nice little slice of life from back then. Reminds me of my own time collecting at right about the same time.

  5. The WDT became a morning paper in 2002. But there are still a surprising number of evening papers in the country. Mostly small papers, obviously.

    I think I went to the last state office building card show. I can't remember the exact year. It had to be around the late '90s.