The Unspoken Rules Of Card Shows

I was at a show going through a dime box when a father & son walked up and started going through the dealer’s other dime box. It was nice to see them bonding over the cards, and the boy’s enthusiasm was refreshing…


They had finished the box they were looking at, and were starting to dig into the box I was working. Not a problem at first, but then The Boy was going through cards faster than I was, and he started to move towards me. With each row he finished, he started getting more and more into my space, until he was pressed right up against me.

At this point I should emphasize that The Boy was not a small child, I’d guess at 13-14 years old. There were only the three of us at this table and there was no need to get cozy with me; I was already allowing him access to the box, but he apparently felt the need to get territorial and slowly shove me out of the way, the same way one of my cats will shove the other cat away from a food bowl.

The Boy was starting to make my blood pressure rise, so I moved to another box. This box had cheap football inserts arranged by team and conference. I was just about to pull a handful of Steelers out of the box when I heard The Boy say “You take the NFC and I’ll take the AFC” and the next thing I know The Boy comes over to the box I’m about to look at and starts inserting himself into a chair pushed under the table; at this point, he’s physically wedging himself between me and the box and using the chair to push me away.

I know it would’ve been good if I could’ve politely pointed out to the father how disagreeable The Boy’s behavior was, but I was so pissed off that I just walked away before I “accidentally” gave the kid an elbow to the head or told the father to reign in his ****ing little ****.

…but it’s probably just a matter of time before someone less introverted than I am will act out on their frustrations.

So please, parents… Try to take just a little bit of time from being friends with your child, and be a parent. Do your kids a favor and teach them the unspoken rules of card shows.

Here are a couple off the top of my head:

If you want to go through a box of cards, don’t dive into a row of cards that someone else is working; if you do it inadvertently, apologize and back off as soon as you realize your mistake.

Respect the personal space of others. It may not matter to you, but it often matters to them.

Don’t lay your wantlist or other objects on top of a box of cards unless you’re certain that nobody else is inconvenienced by this. If you’ve got a checklist covering a box and someone comes over, please move it out of the way. I know some people will look at this as “Well, if they want me to move my stuff, they can just ask”, but some people might just move on rather than engage you socially, and that’s not fair to the dealer.

What other unspoken rules would you like to see obeyed more often?  Which Rules do you pass down to your kids, or wish others told their kids?

Update:  Here’s one I thought of after posting — If you’re sorting through cards that the dealer has sorted by number or by teams, take a second to make sure you’re not messing up his order.  He took a lot of time to organize them to make searching easier for you, it’s only fair that you don’t mess that up on him.

11 thoughts on “The Unspoken Rules Of Card Shows

  1. I can’t say I’ve had this happen to me but I understand where you’re coming from. I always try to be courteous to others while digging thru boxes.
    I don’t know if it’s really a rule but I always try to haggle with the person running the table to try and get a better deal. It usually works!

    • You know, I never think to haggle with the dealers, even though I know it often works… Just something about the way my brain is wired, it just doesn’t always occur to me to offer the guy something less than what he’s asking. When I do keep it in mind to do that, I’m often surprised by it… “Oh, hey, he took my offer, how cool is that?”

  2. 1) Ask. Ask the person who is browsing that box if you can browse – most people will say “yes”.

    2) Follow up that ask with “where did you already look?” (if they don’t offer that up). Etiquette is that the person who starting searching first gets to go through all the cards in their order and has first choice. If you are allowed to search the same box, you start on the cards the person has already viewed,.

  3. This post should be printed at the door of every card show across the country. I’ve been in this situation many, many times… including several times at the most recent show.

    As for other rules… one that sticks out for me is being respectful while handling other people’s property. Specifically… wash your hands if they’re sticky with ice cream. My buddy usually brings out Beanie Babies to card shows and the last time he did, a little girl with sticky fingers damaged several of his BB. He only sells them for a buck each… but that’s besides the point.

    I also think it’s rude when collectors don’t put things back where they belong. I wouldn’t expect customers to keep things in perfect order, but sometimes people just throw cards in any box that’s convenient… instead of the box where they found them.

    And last but not least… customers should ask for permission before opening dealer’s display cases. I saw a dealer and a customer get into a heated argument at the flea market a few weeks ago, because the customer opened the guy’s display case while his back was turned. The customer got very defensive, which made the dealer more upset. But it’s common sense… don’t open things up if they don’t belong to you without asking.

    Great post… looking forward to reading what everyone else has to say on this subject. I’m sure I can learn a thing or two myself.

    • Wow, thanks for the great feedback! There seem to be a not-insignificant number of people who generally don’t respect the property of others, and it’s really a shame. They don’t seem to understand (or care) that after a while it becomes more trouble than it’s worth to the dealer, and if you lose enough dealers you lose shows, and then you end up like me having to drive 2 hours to get to the nearest card show.

      …Not that I’m bitter or anything.

  4. First, I’d like to say, “SEE? There are young people at card shows.” I see them all the time, and get tired of people saying “Kids don’t collect anymore.” They do collect, there’s just less of them. But if you have to deal with kids, especially teenagers, you’re going to get some rude ones periodically.

    “Getting crowded out” drives me crazy, but not at card shows, mostly in the checkout line. I can’t stand it when people behind me are hovering, or put their stuff on the checkout counter immediately after yours. Respect others’ space! And I don’t want to hear about your unfortunate life either!

    Back to card shows, I don’t encounter a lot of rude people at shows, at least not on my side of the counter. They’re pretty respectful. My only thing would be, don’t hog a discount box forever. But if you’re going to be there awhile, allow some space for someone else to take a row or two, and then switch.

  5. I’ve had this happen to me a few times before, but never with a kid. While I love seeing that young people are still a consistent part of the hobby, that still upsets me. At that age, the kid should know better.

    I go through a LOT of discount bins during my card show travels, but I try to always make sure to stand near the side of the box every time, not directly in front of it. I place the cards I’m planning on purchasing outside of the box.

    Another big rule I see has to do with dealers. Dealers should acknowledge their customers. I’m not saying you have to engage in big, long conversations with them, but at least say “Hi” or something. I can’t tell you how often I get to tables where the dealers don’t pay attention. Then, when I’m ready to buy something, it takes forever to get them to notice. I’ve had a few even leave the table altogether without telling me, which is both discourteous and dumb.

    Great post! I may have to do something like this on my own blog soon, if you wouldn’t mind.

  6. Not a rule, per se, but things always seem to go more smoothly when I and whoever is digging next to me chat it up a little bit, figure out what we’re each looking for, and pull for the other person as well. speeds things up considerably. so the rule is, i guess, BE HELPFUL! WE’RE A COMMUNITY, DAGBLASTIT!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.