While I was typing up my box review of Topps Series 2 yesterday, I started to think about where I was actually going to be able to redeem those Prime 9 cards. I live in Richmond, Virginia and there are a few "hobby shops" around, but none that I visit with any regularity.
The nearest hobby shop to me really only sells supplies. There are no open boxes of wax packs for sale, no 25, 10, or 5 cent bargain bins, and 1 small showcase of singles for sale. One time knelt down to look at the bottom of the case and nearly crapped myself. Sitting in the case pointed right at me was a Smith and Wesson revolver. It wasn't holstered or pointed at the floor or anything, just sitting there pointed at me. It just freaked me out.
There is one notable box of cards for sale though. There is a box of 1993 Topps series 1 that has been in the shop for years (I can tell because it actually has collected dust) that has the bargain basement price of 48 dollars on it! The shopkeeper/owner is very standoffish and won't even acknowledge you or even talk baseball with you. All he does is continues to watch soap operas, Ellen DeGeneres, or Oprah while you peruse the shop.
I did ask him one time if he had any new boxes or packs for sale hoping that they were hidden from view. He says that he can order any box I want and he can have it for me the next day. Well, I'm not going to waste 2 trips to the store and suffer from his mark up prices. Luckily, I live close enough to Blowout Card's distribution center that anything I order from them, arrives the next day as long as I place the order before 3 pm.
I believe the only way this place stays open is on the sales of the diecast Nascar toys. I only visit this shop when absolutely necessary because the prices on even the supplies is really expensive. One dollar for a 800 ct shoebox, no thanks.
The next closest place that sells cards is a place that scares the living crap out of me. I visited one time last summer on a whim and was hopeful that this could become my new hobby shop. I knew they sold comic books as well as cards so I went in with an open mind. Well, when I walked in the door, I was horrified. I have never seen such a muddle of cardboard and storage boxes in all my life. Believe me, I work in a manufacturing and Packaging facility but at least we're organized! As soon as I walked in the front door, there are boxes to my left stacked to the ceiling (10 feet!) and in the middle of the store there is a mountain of boxes stacked also to the ceiling behind 1 glass showcase with baseball cards. The person behind the register never spoke or acknowledged me. NO singles, NO 25, 10, or 5 cent boxes, NO supplies. There are wax packs for sale but I don't want any 2000 Topps for 6.50 a pack! As I left the cashier snottily says "Thanks for coming in, See you next time!"
I will never return there because of the fear of a comic book avalanche or the firetrap that it is. I'm really surprised the fire marshall hasn't been notified or even shut the place down because the boxes surely were blocking the sprinkler system (the OSHA requirement is 2 feet away, I think). The store is a disaster, prices are extremely high, and the A-hole behind the counter's snarky comment. I would expect better from an establishment that has it's commercials all over the local TV stations.
Next, there is a store about 45 minutes from my house. I saw it while running an errand to that side of town. The sign said "Cards, Comics, and Collectables". Apparently this place is pretty new since it was a banner and not a neon sign. I walked in and I must have had spiders crawling out of my ears because everybody turns and looks at me like "WHO the hell are you, with your Orioles hat on?" There were a bunch of Emo freaks sitting at a "nice" mildewed plastic, Wal-Mart lawn set that they stole from their grandparents backyard playing Magic the Gathering, or Pokemon or whatever card game crap takes up most of the trading card space at Target. Every single one of them dressed in black head to toe, peircings all in their face (like the got into a fight with a fishing tackle box) and the greasiest looking hair I have ever seen (I noticed way too many details about these kids). Either I had just walked into a Hawthorne Heights concert or Addams Family convention but one thing's for certain, these kids really hated sunlight. A quick scan of the shop and I saw no sports cards.
"Can I HELP you!?!" the cashier said loudly (Emo kids chuckled in the background).
I said, "No Sports cards, huh?"
"Nope we don't have that crap in here, Maybe you should leave!" (Emo kids laughed again.)
What a waste of time! At least I got a good story out of it!
The last place available in the Richmond Metro area that I know of is close to the "EMO Shop of Horrors." It is quite a haul for me about 45-50 minutes away depending on traffic its hard to call it a "Local Card Shop" and I have to pay tolls to get there ($1.50 each way, Damn I hate toll roads).This place is a little better in terms of selection. As a card shop they do have singles. Many are on the walls for easy viewing. They are priced by Beckett and you never get a discount for buying multiple cards so I can't say that I've ever bought any singles from the cases! There are bargain binders for 25 cents but there is mostly just newer stuff in them and no real bargains to be had. They do have fair prices on their supplies which is nice but it's hard to justify a drive like that to just by cardboard boxes. (I usually stock up on supplies at the few shows I go to a year). The price on wax and packs is a little high but at least they have something for sale. I try to buy one or two packs whenever I got just to give them some business. The lady that runs the shop with her husband is pretty nice and at least she says hi when you walk in the door. I have been in the store about 5 times since returning to the hobby in December 09 and have not seen the man yet. Maybe it's just a coincidence.
So as you can see my options are nearly limited to retail only. I live at the end of a dead end road in a quiet little neighborhood back away from the lower income area that I have to drive to go to work everyday. There is a Target in this brand new shopping center that is right on my way home fro work so I can stop in and get my fix pretty easily. I'm not trying to sound racist here but facts are facts and basketball and football are the sports of choice as opposed to baseball. Most of the people are living from paycheck to paycheck or from government aid. They don't have a lot of disposable income so I usually have the pick of what I want when it comes to the card aisle. I can tell you as of yesterday, there are 2 retail boxes of packs, blaster boxes, and value packs of Gypsy Queen there. Also there is a bunch of Bowman and even near full retail boxes of last year's Allen & Ginter and National Chicle. I pretty much have the pick of the litter when I go there. Heck I even straighten up the baseball products to see if anybody even disturbs them. Most of the time, the product never gets messed with between my visits every 7 to 10 days.
So, I don't wonder why I get bitten by the retail bug so much anymore. Target is really the only reliable place I can go to buy cards. I don't have to deal with bad customer service, and I usually get what I want when I go there. Plus Target is convenient to my workplace and home (I don't have to make a pilgrimage to buy cards).
I apologize for the long read but I felt I had to write my frustrations down. If anybody has visited Richmond, or lives here knows of a better place, I would love to hear it.