So a grandmother walks into a card show at the Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Ind., with a shoebox (really) under one arm and a couple of grandchildren in tow.
I have no idea why she came to my table first, but she did. She told me she wanted to sell the cards and had consulted the price guides about values. She had the nicest 1960 and 1961 Topps cards you could hope for, virtually all near-mint or better, at least as I remember it. And she told me she wanted to get about 75 percent of the price-guide value.
That kind of floored me, since just the first examination suggested to me that “high book” might be over $4,000, meaning she was hoping for $3,000 or so. I had thought I could offer $1,800, but I didn’t do so because I didn’t want to offend her. This was my first mistake.
Instead, I picked out about a dozen or so 1960s and offered a couple of hundred dollars, but she wisely didn’t want to sell pieces. I then let her get away so she could make her pitch around the show floor. This was my second mistake.
I watched helplessly as she ambled around the room, picking out dealers here and there and making her pitch. I sorta hoped that she would get a better idea about what dealers could offer for material and maybe return to my table after making the tour. Mistake No. 3.
She made her tour in about an hour and a half, ultimately returning not to my table but to the dealer next to me. And I watched in horror as she tried to snag $1,100 for the whole pile.
Seems she had been schooled a bit, and had gotten offers ranging from $500 up to about $1,200, she said. Now she was wrangling to get $1,100, and eventually settled on $1,050. I wanted to politely interrupt before the exchange of dough for cards and point out that I was willing to pay several hundred more than that, but that would have been indecorous to say the least. I might have been drummed out of the fraternity or had my thumbs broken.
I had to suffer through a good deal of indigestion that Saturday, and again Sunday morning when the adjacent dealer walked in and said he’d booked out the cards at $4,500-plus.
So there you have it. The nicest cards I ever had a shot at (at most of the big East Coast shows I did, Mr. Mint or any of the other hobby icons would gobble up the best stuff before I could ever get a crack at it) had gotten away. The worst part wasn’t even the potential profits lost, since I would have likely taken the very best specimens of the 1960s and upgraded my own set.
See, I told you I was a lousy card dealer!