Inside the Pack: Card Show Survival Kit

With large-scale card shows back in full swing and new shows popping up all over the country, more and more people find themselves going to all-day and multi-day card shows. Folks who have been to a card show before may think that they know exactly what to expect. But a 30 table show in a small hotel conference room is much different than a two-day 80 table show in a large room, which is extremely different than a two- or three-day show with 200 tables at a convention center or fairground. Over the years I have found that having certain things with me makes larger shows much more enjoyable, much less stressful, and a much better experience for me. I like to pack what I call a card show survival kit, and in this post I’ll share the contents of that kit with you.

The first step is determining a bag to put everything in. I like a simple drawstring bag I can wear on my back. Not only are they cheap (or, if you’re like me, you’ve accumulated tons of them from various conventions, shows, festivals, and so on), but they’re also very lightweight. Some people bring full-size backpacks to a show, and it’s true that if you are buying larger memorabilia items, sealed product, or lots of bulk, a backpack may be useful. But a backpack is hefty even if nothing is in it, whereas you’ll forget a drawstring bag is even on your body within minutes. If I think there’s a chance I may purchase something larger, I will sometimes put a folded reusable “green” grocery bag in my drawstring bag, just in case. At the end of the day, though, the bag is your choice.

The next thing I make sure to bring is some supplies. It’s not always a guarantee that cards will be protected, especially when you dig through quarter boxes like I do. I generally bring a 400-count cardboard box, as it’s small enough to not be cumbersome, but large enough to even hold cards in toploaders if I lay them down sideways. I also bring a small brown paper lunch bag with a few empty toploaders, penny sleeves, and team bags, just in case. I can put toploaded cards in the brown paper bag if I run out of room in the cardboard box. Lastly, I bring several plastic grocery bags. While these can double as extra bags for me to carry my haul in, their primary use is to stuff the cardboard box with in case I only get a few cards at the beginning of the show and don’t want them bouncing around inside the box.

I also bring a personal care bag with me. This is a Ziploc bag with two main items in it: a pocket-sized hand sanitizer, and a small travel case with Tylenol. I brought the hand sanitizer along for the ride well before the pandemic. A lot of people’s cards are gross — old, beat-up cardboard with stains, yellowed toploaders that stink like stale cigarette smoke — and unfortunately, that’s usually the type of stuff I find myself attracted to at a show. Hand sanitizer is an absolute must. The Tylenol has come in handy more times than I can count. The last thing I want to have to do is leave a card show because of a headache. But it’s also useful at big shows because after looking at dozens of tables my neck, back, and/or feet are bound to hurt.

This may sound like an awful lot of stuff to take to a card show, but the whole bag weighs maybe a pound and a half, and you barely notice it on your back. It saves a lot of trouble, like the pre-survival kit time I was carrying a large stack of cards around a show with me and left them at someone’s table, never to find them again. The kit also prevents unnecessary damage, like the time I was carrying a plastic grocery bag a dealer gave me and the bag ripped, spilling all of my cards onto the floor so that even the ones in the toploaders slid out and got dinged up. Best of all, the bag is quick to make and in between card shows you can just store it in your closet, ready to go to the next one. Trust me when I say you’ll appreciate bringing a card show survival kit with you to your next show. I don’t leave home (for a card show) without it.