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On Your Side: Disneyland of Card Shows

In a regular column in SCD, T.J. Schwartz talks about events in the hobby, eBay trials and tribulations and things that happen Behind the Counter. In this edition, T.J. talks the National Convention, reveals an eBay horror story and shares some vacation tidbits.

Another year, another “Disneyland of Card Shows” – as I dubbed it more than 20 years ago on these pages – has passed. In the past, I would write about the show, telling you all about the autograph guests and goings on. However, that has been done in this fine mag already, so I wanted instead to view the National as the ultimate gauge of the pulse of the hobby.

The highly-publicized “Black Swamp Find” was on display at the PSA booth at the National, taking up a few display cases and drawing crowds and camera crews. A few select items were offered by Heritage Auctions during its live event, totaling more than $500,000.

The highly-publicized “Black Swamp Find” was on display at the PSA booth at the National, taking up a few display cases and drawing crowds and camera crews. A few select items were offered by Heritage Auctions during its live event, totaling more than $500,000.

First off, if you were a collector and needed that card, autograph, et al, to finish up that set and you didn’t find it there, chances are it doesn’t exist. Everything, new and vintage that mattered was represented. It truly is a candy store full of 40-year-old (and older) kids!
Last year was not a very good show from the buy/sell perspective. I’ve set up at more than 15 Nationals, but I decided to become a “vest pocket dealer” many years ago instead. This is an old phrase that, loosely translated, means, “I have no table, but I am hauling my table with me.”

I have an airline-type bag on wheels and a duffle bag on top. You see more dealers doing this through the years, as it is way more cost-effective. The downside is that I rarely get to sell to collectors, although I have made many “aisle sales” and “meet you in the hotel lobby or elevator sales.” The upside is that the real buyers in the room are the auction houses. They come to get consignments, and many of them buy in a very big way. I may not get the max, but I sell more, and the checks always clear.

As I mentioned, last year the auction houses were either not buying or were only looking for deals, cheap deals. I remember that I became a buyer myself and eventually made my yearly goal by bringing home the great steals I found and selling them to my regulars at my store. So in my opinion, the pulse was beating very nicely. I got there on Wednesday during setup, which is always the best day, as dealers have their bankrolls intact. Within a few hours, I had made several four-digit sales, all to auction houses. Never believe dealers who say the National was bad. If you brought cases of 1990 Donruss Baseball and Mark McGwire rookie cards, of course it was a bad show … for you. If you brought PSA-graded vintage cards and certified vintage autographs, you found many willing buyers on both sides of the aisles.

A few diddies from the show
Mike Trout was clearly the hot rookie card, with BGS 9.5s and PSA 10s of his Bowman Chrome autographed rookie bringing $300-$500. I ought to know, as I bought eight of them. I may be a vintage dealer, but so many of my customers’ kids were asking for them, I had to do it. They are flying here in SoCal.

The E98 “Swamp Find” was on display at the PSA booth, and the first lots were

The National Convention took a lot out of me, so I headed to Hawaii on vacation with my wife after the show’s run. Among the highlights: Charter fishing and this Spearfish.

The National Convention took a lot out of me, so I headed to Hawaii on vacation with my wife after the show’s run. Among the highlights: Charter fishing and this Spearfish.

auctioned off by Heritage Auctions at their live auction event during the convention.
The PSA 10 Honus Wagner sold for $239,000 (with buyer’s premium), the nine-card Color Variations sold for $40,331 and the No. 1 PSA Registry set, 27/30 cards, sold for $286,800! Heritage Auctions’ Derek Grady, vice president of Sports said, “We’re happy, and the family is happy with the results.” He also said that many more will be available in future auctions, and private sales will also be conducted. So start saving up, readers, and one of those PSA 9 Ty Cobbs could be yours.

The busiest booths were, as usual, PSA and JSA. There was a morning conga line just to get to a chair at the PSA booth and then you had to wait for a representative. JSA had a similar situation, although their setup was smaller, so the crowds were even bigger. This is not the place to sell uncertified autographs. You’d think that went for cards as well, but there are still a surprisingly large faction of collectors and dealers who prefer raw cards, which I will always find amazing. If it’s nice, grade it!

Every auction house was represented, providing consignors with a plethora of choices. They were all fighting for consignments, and good deals were being offered if you had the right stuff.

Not all of Hawaii is breathtaking, courtesy of a volcano.

Not all of Hawaii is breathtaking, courtesy of a volcano.

The crowds were best Thursday and Friday. Saturday was average. This has become an alarming trend the past several Nationals. It seems as if the real buyers show up early and the tire kickers show up on Saturday. Sunday, which used to be my favorite day to buy, has become a lost day lately as many dealers start packing early to hit the road, while many buyers, me included, leave.

The show was run well as usual by my old friends Mike Berkus and John Brogie. There were no snafus as far as I saw.

Baltimore, Round 2 was great, but alas, it appears as if we will not be coming back to Crab Country for a long time or at all. I was told that the convention center had become difficult with future dates and the NSCC committee plans these things many years in advance. So it’s Chicago next year followed by Cleveland (again … heavy sigh) and so on. See you in Chicago!

EBay strikes again
Yes, I know I’ve beaten this dead horse before and try to leave it alone, but I just received a letter so alarming that I had to talk about it. The writer has allowed me to use his name.

Charles Reisch of Arizona sent me the following e-mail. You might want to sit down and hold on to something when you read it.

Mr. Schwartz,
I have enjoyed your column in SCD and Tuff Stuff. I have been selling on eBay on and off for almost seven years.

I recently had several lots of cards up for auction, nothing special – blocks of 35, 50, up to 85 cards, Ripkens and Griffeys and the like. A buyer won 19 auctions from me over the course of almost two weeks. I was very patient and waited to provide the best, most cost-saving shipping for him. He paid and I shipped them the next day by priority mail, about 500 cards all in top loaders. He received them and wrote how much he liked all the cards and wanted me to leave him positive feedback and he would do the same for me.

I have never been a fan of eBay’s feedback system, so if someone chose to leave me feedback, I would usually do the same for them. If they e-mailed asking for feedback, I would usually ignore them. I guess that was a bad, bad choice.

Well, eight days later my card buying friend left me 19 negative feedbacks, basically saying he asked for positive feedback and loved the cards but not the communication. [TJ note: What?] So I called eBay’s customer service, and the person I talked agreed that this was an abuse of the feedback option and filed a claim to be reviewed by someone else and that the negatives should be removed within 72 hours. I was also told that my friend had done this to other sellers before.

Of course, they were not removed and four days later, eBay’s trust and safety department put a restriction on my account.

Landing the big one.

Landing the big one.

I have made two other calls to eBay. The last time I talked to the policy department, and they also agreed that this was an abuse by the buyer of the feedback option. I was told that the negatives would stay on my account but would not count against feedback percentage after Sept. 20. I asked why they couldn’t be removed if they weren’t going to count and was told so other members could see what this “crazy” guy (their word, not mine) was doing, which makes no sense to me.

Then I asked about removing the restrictions on my account and was told I would have to reply to the e-mail from the Trust and Safety Department, and after two e-mails to them, I am still on restriction and they will review my status in 30 days. As I told them, this has just ruined me as far as selling on eBay. I try to do low price, usually 99 cents to $5 per auction and hope for high volume sales. My disgust and frustration are beyond words. Anyway, thanks for your time.

I live in Arizona. Sure you can use my name. Just for reference, this is the exact feedback comment: “Did not leave me positive feedback first [time] I asked. Happy with cards not comm. [communication] !!!!!!”

All for $38.37.
Wow! You think eBay needs to review their entire feedback system? When injustices like this can happen and not be fixed immediately, you betcha! He loved the cards but left negatives because he didn’t receive positive feedback? Are you kidding? You received all you bought in the exact condition you expected and in a timely fashion, right? What the heck could be negative? The feedback system is to rate the seller’s performance, and he performed perfectly! That buyer should be kicked off eBay.

I did get one more e-mail before deadline from Charles: “Just to update you, today all 19 negatives were removed and my feedback rating has been restored to 100 percent, but my account is still restricted.”

All this nonsense over $39 worth of cards. FYI, while I leave feedback immediately upon receipt of PayPal payment, many sellers feel that the buyer should leave feedback first. This way the seller’s backside is covered should the seller be one of these guys. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Get it together, eBay!

It's called Loco Moco, or as aI say, Heart Attack on a Plate.

It's called Loco Moco, or as aI say, Heart Attack on a Plate.

Behind the Counter
I haven’t been behind the counter for 17 days, as I took a vacation to Hawaii after the National. My wife and I went to the Big Island for a week.
I’d like to thank United Airlines for making us wait eight hours in LAX before we took off, ruining one of those seven days! Mahalo! I’d also like to thank the famous local Hawaiian breakfast, the Loco Moco for destroying my diet. This morning pigout starts with three scoops of steamed or fried rice, topped by a hamburger patty, grilled Spam and a chicken cutlet, two sunny-side-up eggs and smothered in brown gravy!
It’s a blankin’ heart attack on a plate, and we had to drive 28 miles to get one. Good thing I only made that drive four times! Please don’t tell my doctor.

We did go on a fishing trip. Kona is one of the best places in the world for Billfish. Many

Helicopter view.

Helicopter view.

long term readers would know that back in the Tuff Stuff days of the Hawaii Conference [now watered down and in Las Vegas], I would take an athlete deep sea fishing and do an interview as well. So I took my wife instead. After a few hours of trolling, she looked kind of off and BANG!, over the side she, shall we say, made an offering to the fishing Gods. She made a total of 16 such offerings that IO counted, but did manage to take some pics. The pic you see is my Spearfish, which is one of the rarest Billfish in the world. It was my lucky day to add that to my collection. To top it off, I ATE fresh sashimi right there on the boat! Check one off my Bucket List! Sorry Honey!

My wife got me on a helicopter for the first time in 30 years. Insane, but awesome. I got a tan, gained weight, made my wife happy and … geez … I haven’t got the bill yet. Gotta sell some ’graphs!

BTC will return next column.

Until next month, I remain . . . On Your Side.

Have a problem and want T.J.’s help? Call (818) 884-2273, e-mail or visit