Sunday, October 4, 2009

Unannounced Card Shop Visits: AU Sports Memorabilia

Yesterday, Tracey and I did something that has been on our list of day trips for a few months. We went to Skokie, Illinois and toured the Holocaust Museum.

We started off by having a late morning breakfast at Annie's Pancake House. It was crowded, which is always a good sign. The food was great and the price was decent.

We headed off to the Holocaust Museum. It was very moving and we had our learning experience enhanced by being taken on a private tour of the second floor art exhibits by an employee named Joyce. We bounced interpretations of each piece off of each other and came away with an enriched experience that Tracey and I would have missed out on otherwise.

I knew of a card shop in the area, so that was the last stop of the trip. AU Sports Memorabilia.

Doing a quick search online, I came up with an address. I mapped out our route and then double checked to make sure everything was correct. I will not have a repeat of our Springfield disaster, where we ended up driving through an hour of cornfields and completely circling everything we stopped to see.

A problem arose. I found a second address. Hmmm. That can't be good. I did more extensive checking and figured out that the second address was the correct one, but I wrote out directions for both, just in case.

The second address, on Touhy, was the correct one. Even with a correct address, it was still difficult to locate. A hint for anyone on a pilgrimage to AU Sports Memorabilia... it's in the strip mall with the Jewel grocery store.

I entered the store and was immediately impressed by the large stack of old wax packs, in cardboard boxes, on shelves, in the middle of the store. It looked like an island of lost wax! I decided that would be the last thing I checked out. First, I had to study the perimeter.

I walked around peering into the glass cases. I noticed a few boxes of 2009 product and a few boxes of 2008 product under the glass. The rest of the case was taken up by single cards on display and single sleeve boxes, each marked with a different name.

Once I made my way around the island and past the employee, I was asked if I could be helped. I said that I was just browsing. The employee went back to reading a magazine and listening to the NFL Network. I witnessed a large section of autographed balls on one side of the island. I perused them and ended up back to where I started... at the old packs.

I searched carefully, with no sense of rushing. Tracey and I were the only customers in the store, so I didn't have to fight to search any of the boxes. What I found was a bunch of junk wax for fifty cents. Perfect! Most of the card shops close to my home don't offer cheap junk wax.

My enthusiasm quickly diminished. Any pack that looked appealing to me was opened. This wasn't just in a "it's old and the wax came unstuck naturally" way. Some were visibly ripped open. These were the foil packs, mostly. It left me a bit underwhelmed, but I searched and came out with two packs that I could live with, that didn't appear to be tampered with.

I chose a pack of 1993 Leaf Update. I think it was the soothing picture of Frank Thomas on the back of the pack that made me pick it up. I would have been satisfied with the contents back in 1993. Among the highlights were Tim Salmon, Fernando Valenzuela and Bret Boone.

I also picked up a pack of Skybox Garfield cards. The best that I can figure is that the set came out in 1992. This was actually fun! I've been a huge Garfield fan since shortly after the comic strip's debut on June 19, 1978. I wasn't quite two years old when the strip debuted, but I am told that I responded very favorably when I saw any pictures drawn by Jim Davis. I've been following that fat cat ever since. I think my initial reaction may have been because Garfield reminded me of my favorite childhood era pet, which was a huge cat named Charlie.

After I rummaged through the cheap bad wax, I walked over to the employee and asked about recent wax packs. He said that "Steve" doesn't like to keep that stuff out. I figured he was going to get something from the back or maybe along the wall behind the counter, but instead he led me back to the lonely glass case where I started exploring the store.

I do have to give the employee props. He explained each product to me and told me that the retro sets sold very well. The newest product open for individual pack selling in the case was 2009 Allen & Ginter. That came out in July. It is now October. There was a box of 2009 Topps Sterling, but I'm not in the market for high price boxes.

I asked about Obak and I got a blank stare. I explained what Obak was and he pointed me to the open boxes of Allen & Ginter, Goudey and Topps Heritage. I remarked that the retro stuff was very popular, like Goodwin. I got another blank stare. After an uncomfortable silence, I told the employee that I would take a pack of Allen & Ginter. "Just one"? Yeah, just one. He then picked a pack at random and handed it to me.

He told me that my total was six dollars. I gave him a twenty, which I was originally planning to spend solely in the shop. He gave me fourteen in change, I thanked him and told him to have a good day. As Tracey and I were walking out of the shop, he returned to the NFL Network and we went into other shops, after I dropped my three packs off at the car.

The kicker? We went into Dick's Sporting Goods, a few stores down and found a better selection of 2009 product than in AU Sports Memorabilia. As for the Allen & Ginter that I bought, I was quite pleased. That pack produced a Jermaine Dye base card, a sheep shearing champion base card, a Pedroia code card and a Jacobs black bordered mini. It was well worth the five dollars spent for the pack.

I was hoping to include this shop on my list of WSC approved shops. I cannot in good faith do that. I'm sure that if I were to come in with a list of older cards, they would be able to fill the majority of that order. In today's world, that can be (unfortunately) done all online. I would go there to buy autographed memorabilia. The prices seemed to be reasonable and they appear to have a great selection. I would go there to rummage through bad early nineties wax.

AU Sports Memorabilia would have been approved if they had one baseball pack under ten dollars that was released in the past month and if the Topps 1953 Archives packs I discovered in the boxes of fifty cent wax weren't opened. Can this be fixed? Sure. Maybe on my next unscheduled visit, I will see an improvement.


Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Yeah itsound like the moved. They used to be on the south side of the street closer to um . . a muffler shop if I remember correctly.

White Sox Cards said...

That must be the Dempster address that I keep coming up with during searches.

Anonymous said...

theres another store not too far away from aus current location
maybe a couple of miles away

big john and little debbys

last i went there a couple of months ago they had a pretty good selection of current packs

another store further into the city
elite sportscards
is having a tristar sponsored obak box battle next weekend
ive seen boxes carried there
but none for pack sale

James B. Anama said...

I haven't been to Au since they moved. The one time I did get a chance to go, they were closed for some such thing.

I use them primarily for digging through old sell sheets that they normally toss, and the ocassional Sports Collectors Digest magazine.

I think I may have bought a full box of Topps there at one time or another, only when other stores seemed to be out of product. However, they do know their stuff, and if ever I need to find singles from an older set, that would be the first place I'd look.


JayBee Anama

White Sox Cards said...

I'm a good hour away from Skokie, so I'm not up that way often. It's nice to know I have options.

I mentioned in the post that I would go there for older singles. I would definitely go there if I had a list of cards and didn't want to search online, but the location is not close enough to me to where I could jump in the car on a whim.

Hopefully, the next time I find myself in Skokie, it will be a better experience. I don't have too lofty of standards, but there are certain things I look for when rating a shop.

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