Monday, November 3, 2008

WSC Approved Card Shops

When I was just entering high school, card shops were everywhere. They were in tucked away shops around the corner. They were in the middle of the main road through town, smack dab between a knick knack shop and a barber shop. They were even in the local mall.

Card shows were plentiful. They would be nearly every week at various places around town. The K of C one week, the civic center the next, the mall the week after that.

Then, as quickly as they all appeared, they all disappeared. Prices were going up. Kids were growing up. Then the strike happened that cancelled the World Series. Fans were allowed to persue other interests.

All of these things and more factored in my decision to stop collecting in 1994. I didn't return full time until 2007. Then, of course, I started this blog after months of collecting full time. After seeing blogs like The Baseball Card Blog, Stale Gum, Cardboard Junkie and Canseco Completist (which morphed into Wax Heaven), I figured I could do that too.

I searched online for a White Sox baseball card site and came up with nothing. So, I decided to start this blog. Since making that monumental decision, I've come in contact with a bunch of great collectors and traders within the blogging community.

One thing was missing though. The great card shops of my youth. The few card shops that I've actually run across, I've found two great ones, one with bad attitude and one that never seems to be open. At least, I've never seen it open during the posted business hours.

With that spirit in mind, I've decided to start listing information on the card shops that I've had good experiences at. The criteria is pretty simple. The employees have to be friendly. They must allow browsing. They must acknowledge the presence of each customer at least once per visit. Price gouging is not an option. It should be an inviting place that you would feel comfortable spending a few hours in.

You'd think that every card shop in North America would be able to follow those rules. Right? Wrong! I've experienced employees that would rather go through a root canal than have me in the store. I've heard stories of employees throwing kids out of the the store because they were looking at the cards in the cases with awe and amazement. They just didn't have the money to purchase these cards.

I have found three card shops within ten miles of my house. Only one meets my approval. It happens to be the one closest to my house, which has no effect on my rating, but still is a convenience for me. I have found one shop near my fiancee's house, which I have had good experiences with. So, that makes the list too.

I don't want to be bombarded by requests to put certain shops on the list. The shop in Crestwood, IL. is not on the list because of rude employees, throwing children out of the shop and price gouging, to name a few reasons. A card shop in Oak Forest, IL. does not make the list, because it's never open when I arrive during the posted business hours.

I'm hoping this will help fellow collectors find the best card shops, give them the business that they deserve for being a great card shop, so they can continue to be a great card shop. I have no affiliation with any of these shops, but my continued experiences at these shops are a testament to what they offer.

If I'm on vacation, and have a great experience at a card shop, I'll put that shop on the list. I'm not concerned about location. I'm concerned about the experience that I have had and what the shop can offer the first time customer and the long time customer.

A little about the two shops that have made the list.

RBI Sports Cards - Burbank, IL.
An owner that loves to talk sports and is extremely helpful. Tony will bend over backwards to make the customer happy. He even lets the customer choose their pack straight from the box. Tony was instrumental in keeping me in the hobby when I started back in 2007.

Matt's Sports Cards - Joliet, IL.
Every time I have gone in to the shop, I have been greeted by friendly employees who allow me to browse. When I have asked to look through singles from a recent release, without a list, an 800 count box was placed before me, so I could search through and look at each card myself. I was also directed towards their Beckett store and told that if I ordered, to include a note that I was going to pick up the order at the store, so my shipping could be refunded.

I hope to include others on this list, in the future. The list is located on the right, underneath the Follow tool. Hopefully, this will weed out the bad card shops and reward the good ones.


Joe Martelli Jr. said...

Wow, I think I stared at the picture at the top for 10 minutes. I echo your sentiments about shops disappearing. Here in Massachusetts around me there used to be about 10. Now I can think of 2. I think the whole e-bay online shopping thing is killing them. Think about it, me a shmuck who sells cards out of his home office, is competing with a guy who has to support a brick building. He has to pay a lease or motgage, and pay electricity, water etc. Unless he lives in his shop he's paying double rent/electricity/water/cable. That's why, if I like a shop, I'll pay 5 or ten bucks extra for a box of cards. I can't imagine a world without card shops.

capewood said...

eBay and area of the country have something to do with it as well. When I lived in the Philadelphia area in the early 1990s, I had easy access to 5-6 card shops and there was a free card show somewhere within easy drive of my house 3-4 weekends a month. When I moved to the Houston area, there were 3 card shops near me and only one of them was any good. They were all gone within 5 years. An forget about card shows, virtually none, and none of them free. I really don't know if things have changed in the Philly area. No doubt they have.

Steve Gierman said...

I've lived in the same area for over 30 years. I've seen the flux in person.

Online card shopping is awesome, but it will never replace the experience of going into a card shop, looking around and talking sports with the employees and customers.

There is definitely a difference between looking at an image (sometimes not even an image) online and being able to study that same card in person before purchase.

These experiences shouldn't be taken away. It should be there for every kid who decides to spend their allowance or paper route money or snow shoveling money on sports cards.

Johngy said...

AU Sportds in Skokie is an awesome place, especially for cards pre-1995 or so. One entire wall, floor to ceiling, is lined with boxes of singles. The regulars are allowed to card search on their own. As a regular (and an emergency employee), I have spent hours finding many cards for my autograph collection.

Steve Gierman said...

If I ever find myself around the Skokie area, I will definitely have to check AU Sports out!

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