Last month, I went to a card show and learned a lesson–a $20 lesson, to be specific. One of the first tables I perused at the show had some 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee cards for sale.
There is something alluring–almost seductive—about the ’72-73 OPC set. It features cards of players from the World Hockey Association. It uses many different photos than its Topps counterparts. Plus those bright background colors…the bad 1970s haircuts….
And at 340 cards–many in the $10-and-up range–it’s going to be quite the challenge to complete.
So, whenever I see cards from this set, I almost always stop in my tracks to take a closer look. That was my first mistake, because I try to check out all of the tables at a show before I spend any money.
After sifting through a short stack of the OPCs, I held up cards of Stan Mikita and Phil Esposito, and asked the dealer how much?
“Let me check,” he answered, as he procured an issue of Beckett Hockey.
Whenever a dealer whips out the Beckett, I know I am not going to get a good deal. I should have said “no thanks” and just left, but I did not. That was my second mistake.
But it was too late, as I was seduced by the siren song of the ’72 set.
After looking up the prices, he told me that I could have the Mikita for $10 and the Esposito for $8. Now, this one is my fault. When inquiring about cards, you should know what they are “worth,” or what you are willing to pay for them. I did not. That was my third mistake.
But here’s the kicker. I held up a 1990s “junk wax era” insert card and again asked how much.
“That…uh, you can have it for five dollars,” the dealer said.
At that point, I should have turned around and ran–as fast as I could–to the next table. A red flag should have gone up; a siren should have gone off. Something to indicate that this was not the deal of a lifetime. If this guy wants $5 for a junky insert–I don’t care if it is Mario Lemieux!!!–then I should have known that I was not getting a good deal on the two ’72-73 OPC cards.
“I don’t think that card is worth more than a buck,” I stated. So, the dealer agreed to give me all three cards for $20, which I accepted.
Later on, I checked the price guide to find out that the 2 OPC cards have a combined “high value” of $18–which is exactly what I paid for them. Add $2 for the insert and thus we have the $20 lesson. Don’t ask “how much” unless you know what you want to pay.