The Tristar Show Is In The Books

By the time it was over I was pretty tired. It takes a lot of energy to look through thousands of cards over the course of three days. I’m looking for cards for myself and for my baseball card trading friends, but I’m also a collector committed to completing a variety of insert and team sets, so patience and a narrow focus are needed in abundance. You never know when and where you’re going to find a card you’re looking for, so you need to have your want list with you at all times. But my persistence and dedication paid off as I made progress on a variety of fronts.

Friday: I entered the hall at 3:30 pm and stayed for two and a half hours. I went straight to Craig’s table, a Bay-Area dealer I know well, where I spent the lion’s share of my time. I see a bunch of cards in the 3 for $5 box that are calling my name. Mets. Giants. Red Sox. Royals. Twins. Athletics. Then I spy the dollar boxes and have a field day. Atta boy, Craig! I lighten my wallet by about $60 and head on my way.

My next stop is Roland’s table. Roland knows who I collect and always puts autographed cards aside just for me. But something is wrong. I can’t find him. He’s in the same spot every year, second row, at the end. Only no Roland this year. I hope he’s okay.

I spend some time scouting the hall to see which tables I will visit on Saturday and head home.

Saturday: I head directly to Junior’s table. Junior is a collector’s dream, a nice gentleman who laughs a lot and charges 10 cents a card. That’s right. Every card is priced at 10  cents. I was there a long time and spent well over $25 at his table, picking up cards that some guys charge a dollar for. I don’t know how Junior does it, but he’s at this show every year. I find a few Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner cards mixed in with cards of less popular players and mention it. No problem, just put them in your stack. There are Greg Bird and Michael Conforto rookie cards and I scoop them up.  Mixed in are cards from insert sets that I’m trying to complete. Every once in a while I find cards for my 60 Years of Topps, Cards You Mom Threw Out and Chasing History sets. It feels great to make some progress on completing these sets.

Many collectors put some of their personality into their collecting and I’m no exception. I’ve always loved slapstick and physical comedy. I still roll every time I see the Blazing Saddles baked bean scene, for example. Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that I have named one of the groupings I work on periodically My Stupid Cards. I have been looking for the 1972 Topps Billy Cowen card for a long time, and am hoping I can find it at this show. It’s a card that is tailor made for this group. I walk the floor until I find a table with cards divided by year, and ask the dealer if he has a 1972 Topps #19. He does! I’ve found another stupid card! I gladly hand over my dollar bill and reach for my latest treasure. Life is good, especially when it doesn’t take much to make you happy!

I find the food court and sadly realize there are still the same, lame choices as last year. It’s a good thing I stopped at the Safeway on the way to the show and stocked up on protein bars. I buy a Dr. Pepper and grab a seat. If you’re a regular reader you know I’ve got a network of baseball card trading pals scattered across the United States. These are some of the nicest people I’ve met in the hobby. With most traders I weight the cards in each trade with great care. Not so with this group. I just send the best cards I can find for each trader with no thought of what comes back. Yet cool cards always come back. I review my purchases and in addition to some treats for myself I’ve got a lot of Red Sox cards for Mike and Chip, Royals cards for Clint, Yankees cards for Harold, Roberto Clemente insert cards for Tim, an Allen & Ginter’s “Big Bang” card from their science series for Eric and plenty of Giants cards for our Bryan Stow Fundraiser.

I’ve been walking the show and stopping here and there when near the back end of the hall I find Roland. What’s he doing way back here? I was all set to offer my remarks about the location of his table when Roland made a few choice comments of his own. Way to go, Roland! Excellent rant! After catching his breath he reaches for a mighty stack and I quickly realize I’m going to buy at least half of the cards in it. I see he’s added a section where star players are sorted alphabetically so it’s much easier to find the players whose cards you want to collect. I leave Roland’s table about $95 lighter, less than I spent with him in 2015 and 2016. Maybe it’s the location.

Four hours have gone by and it’s time to leave the hall, so I step outside and grab the next #43 bus, which goes right to my neighborhood.

Sunday: This is the last day of the show and it’s my last chance to see what’s out there, so I’m out to give every table at least a quick glance. I see the expensive stuff including several Babe Ruth cards, each in the $15,000 range. Many of his cards go for a lot more. A nice 1952 Topps Willie Mays is available for $5,000. There are plenty of 1934-1936 Diamond Stars cards for sale including Mel Ott ($2,000) and Bill Terry ($4,000). I see a 1963 Topps Mickey Mantle for $600, which seems positively affordable by comparison. 

I’ve arranged before hand to meet my friend Bob and his son Bobby at the show. They could only stay for an hour and a half because Bobby had an afternoon basketball game. They arrived around 11:30 am and I immediately took them to Marc’s table. Bob collects Cleveland Indians spanning the years 1956 to 1963, and I know this is a good place for him to start. Bobby collects contemporary basketball cards and had no trouble finding his treasure. Bob stayed the entire time at Marc’s table, and by the time Bob left Marc’s table they were both happy.

Back on my own I continued my walkabout and happened upon a card dealer who had some cards I’ve never seen before. I took a few photos to show you, but between my old camera and the poor lighting in the hall the quality isn’t quite up to par, so I apologize for that. You can still see, however, how amazing these patch cards are. I’ve never seen patch cards that display so much “patch” as these. Each of these beauties was numbered 1 of 1, so they’re scarce. The dealer wanted $650 for each of these three-card, framed sets: 

The same card dealer had the below Tom Seaver for a mere $1200 dollars. There were only ten of these cards issued. I imagine the card dealer will get his money from a collector one day, but this card is clearly out of my price range. That’s all right. I’m just happy that I got a chance to see it.

After almost five hours on Sunday my annual Tristar experience came to a close. I had a great time, talked to a lot of collectors, saw card dealer friends, bought hundred of cards and saw thousands. These big Tristar shows are hard work, so I’m glad it’s just one weekend a year. However, I always find lots of cool stuff at them. I had a happy bus ride home.


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