Thursday, June 23, 2016

Card show changes, Pt. 3: Graduation

I was starting to think that I'd never adjust to the changes to my treasured local card show, that I'd just be bitter the entire afternoon.

As I was walking through one of the final aisles, however, I remembered something I felt bad about forgetting in the first place. I remembered how lucky it is that I even have a surviving local card show in the first place.

It's hard to ask for much more: a place I can go a few times a year to be in a room with people who share and genuinely enjoy the hobby I love, a hobby which, admittedly, isn't exactly a mainstream one these days. Forget about rude card show vendors. Forget about cramped tables.

Forget about all the negatives and remember that a card show, any card show, should be -- and is -- fun.

One particularly fun development involved the resurgence of the vendor with the epic 11/$1 boxes I mentioned in my last card show series.

I'm not sure if he remembered me, but I know I was sure glad to see him again. His 11/$1 selection was once again fantastic -- the top three cards on this page came from those -- and he even had a brand-new 5/$1 box packed to the gills with recent inserts and parallels. 

I certainly got my fill of 2016s from those boxes, I'll tell you.

Another new development at his table was the mini binder.

He had a thick binder filled with nothing but minis (mostly GQ) at just a quarter a pop. Like the guy with the 2014 Topps parallels I mentioned in the last post, this could've gotten out of hand real fast. Thankfully, my self-control took over once again and I settled on about a handful of about dozen minis that stood out above the rest.

If the mini binder is on display at the next card show I attend, though, it might get messy.

Also making a comeback was the guy's selection of complete insert sets at very affordable prices.

For just two bucks, I was able to snag the complete 10-card "Glove Stories" insert set from 2016 GQ (not pictured: Freddy Galvis), which was especially nice since I have an entire mini-collection based around at-the-wall grabs and robbed home runs.

Another two bucks got me the 10-card "Walk-Off Winners" set, also from 2016 Gypsy Queen (not pictured: Starling Marte).

I still don't much like the grammatically incorrect "walk-off" phrase, but the English major in me is willing to swallow that if it results in a fun and all-around well made insert set like this one.

I didn't land as many GQ base cards as I would've hoped at this show (because God knows I'm not buying any more packs of it), but I did get my first look at 2016 Diamond Kings via this guy's 11/$1 box.

I still don't have much of an opinion one way or another on these. I see why people enjoy the brand, but I just can't bring myself to get too rah-rah over it. I've said this before, but I was really never that big on the original Donruss Diamond Kings from the '80s.

However, I do like that the 2016 edition worked backgrounds into the design rather than the single-colored backdrops we saw last year.

The 5/$1 box provided a healthy supply of DK inserts as well.

Again, not much to say about these, but I do like how colorful those Expressionists inserts are, and the Sano centerpiece features a fun pose.

And, if nothing else, points to Panini for including old-timers like Nap Lajoie and Joe Jackson in a 2016 product.

One vendor early on in the show had a couple giant tubs of scattered 50-cent cards.

A lot of it was no-name vintage or overproduction-era stars, and, despite about fifteen minutes' worth of digging, I only came out with about a half-dozen cards.

Can't complain with these two nifty Clementes, though.

The 50-cent table was run by a husband and wife, and I heard the wife scold the husband by saying You put KELLOGG'S in the 50-cent tubs?!?! when I went to total up my purchases.

Whether it was by the husband's error or not, I wasn't about to let these Kellogg's singles slip by me at a couple quarters each.

The Yount is a miscut (sorry, Jeff, I'm keeping it) and it made me think: you don't see many quality-control errors with Kellogg's cards, do you?

Adding a Ryne Sandberg rookie card to my collection has been a (failed) priority for me at the last couple shows I've attended.

His '83 Topps rookie is so famous that I honestly kind of forgot that he had Donruss- and Fleer-issued cards that year. I didn't score that iconic Topps single, but I did secure Ryno's '83 Donruss rookie for just a buck at one of the final tables of the day at this show. There's a small crease near the top, which probably explains the bargain-basement price.

I'm still keeping a sharp eye out for that treasured '83 Topps Sandberg, but I can sleep a little easier at night knowing I have a Ryno rookie in my binders now.

After going through the entire show, I found that I had come in well under budget.

With some extra money left in my pocket, I decided to take a trip back to the guy with the 11/$1 boxes and dig through some of his higher-priced short-prints.

I don't usually drop more than a buck on anything modern, but I decided this spiffy Craig Kimbrel handshake/night-card photo variation SP was worth the two-dollar price tag.

The Heyward SP was another two-dollar card, and the purply Cespedes was a buck.

The fact that this vendor had so many short-prints up for grabs probably confirms my original suspicion that he's a case buster of some sort.

If you read this blog at all, you probably know how insane I go for pitchers at the plate.

That insanity convinced me to drop three bucks on this Heritage action SP of Noah Syndergaard at the dish, which is actually quite a fair price considering how big of a splash Thor has made in the card market.

Also, Rookie Cup alert!

You can probably count the times I've spent five bucks on a non-vintage card on one hand.

But, although I initially balked at the five-dollar price tag on this Johnny Cueto photo SP, I eventually relented and dropped a whole Lincoln on it.

A large part of me does with that Topps would just go ahead and use quirky shots like these on the standard Flagship cards, but I guess a small part of me does get swept up in the chase and allure of photo SPs.

No matter how ashamed I am to admit it.

You may have noticed by now that, aside from the aforementioned Kellogg's cards, there hasn't been much of a whiff of vintage in these posts.

That's because there wasn't a whole lot of affordable vintage up for grabs at this show. Most of what I saw was too rich for my blood and/or overpriced, which was definitely disappointing. I did, however, find one vendor with some modestly priced vintage about halfway through the show.

I spent a total of fifteen dollars on three cards at his table, and these two basically ended up being free because the other card I bought was priced at $15.

This was that other card.

I don't even know where to start. First off, I mean...this is a '57 Topps rookie card of Rocky (or Rocco) Colavito, a rookie of one of my all-time favorite players on one of my all-time favorite Topps designs. That would easily be enough to warrant the $15 price right there.

But, backstory, finding Rocky here finally ends a bit of self-loathing I've carried with me for quite a while now. I had a chance to buy this card for an affordable price (I think around $20-$25) at the local flea market about five or six years ago, but passed. I kicked myself all the way home that day, and, even six years later, that kicking had never stopped.

When I saw a copy in that vendors discount bin for $15, I pounced, and the decision took about two seconds to make.

I thought Rocky was going to put a cap on the day until my dad handed me this after we left the convention hall.

I recently completed my college undergrad, and, unbeknownst to me, my dad wandered off to grab a couple graduation gifts for me at one point during the show. I didn't know what he'd found until I started to open the card, but I knew it'd almost certainly beat the tar out of cash or anything he'd find at a Target or somewhere like that.

Knowing my dad's penchant for picking jaw-dropping gifts, I could feel the anticipation building...

...and, as expected, my dad hit the jackpot once again.

Again, where do I start? First off, both Eddie Collins and Hughie "Ee-yah!" Jennings are favorites of both my dad and I in terms of turn-of-the-century baseball. Jennings in particular served as one of my earliest baseball history lessons because of his flamboyant antics as a manager with the Tigers in the late 1900s and early teens.

And the cards. They're about as oddball as oddballs get. They're so oddball that very little is actually known about them. I did some research and it turns out that grocery stores would sometimes issue strips of baseball player photos that customers would cut into individual "cards" in the early '20s. These are both "strip" cards, though tracking a specific manufacturer or grocery store location to them is pretty much impossible.

Not a lot of baseball cards were issued during the post-T206/pre-Goudey era, which makes these two especially fantastic. I'm glad my dad chose these as a gift, because, as opposed to mass-produced Topps and Bowman vintage, chances are neither of us would've ever seen these strip cards again for the rest of our lives had he passed on them at this show. They're just not something you find every day.

It was quite a rollercoaster ride at times, but, all in all, I did have a whole lot of unabridged fun at my local card show.

You can't ask for much else.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Card show changes, Pt. 2: A routine break

If I'm anything, I'm a man of routine.

I take the same bus to work every day, for example. I sit in the same seat on that bus (if it's open), and I wait for the corresponding train in about the exact same spot on the platform each afternoon.

I suppose this need for routine has found its way over to my card collection as well. Actually, who am I kidding? My collecting habits are all about routine.

There's a reason I've organized my cardboard by the same system since I was about ten years old. There's a reason I still mostly collect the same guys I did during my pre-high school days. There's a reason my collection still follows a set hierarchy, a hierarchy that allows guys I have mixed feelings about (like A-Rod) into my binders if they adhere to certain guidelines (like featuring a sacred throwback/double dip combo mini-collection hit).

Both in cards and in life, I need routine.

And if I need routine out of any one thing in my collecting life, it's a card show.

This was, as I briefly mentioned in the first installment of this series, why last month's big tri-annual show was so jarring. Everything broke from the natural routine I've come to expect from this thing. The universe was on its side for a couple different reasons.

Firstly, this show is usually held in a grayish, spacious hall located on the top floor of the convention center. This time, it was located in a pearl-white room located on the bottom floor, a room that was half the size (at most) of that top-floor hall.

The attendance looked to be about the same though, which, as you might guess, made things feel quite claustrophobic.

One thing I always liked about the bigger, top-floor room was the fact that it always felt like it housed two separate shows.

One half of the hall for autograph signings, the other for the actual card show itself. Since I have little to no interest in obtaining autographs, I liked it that way. I could hunt for my cards while others waited for autographs. All good.

The smaller room this time, however, made everything seem much more intertwined. People who obviously had very little interest in the cards themselves were hovering in the aisles and absentmindedly wandering past tables as they waited for whatever autograph signing they were waiting for to get underway.

It was like two different worlds colliding.

As I worried about with my dime box rant in the first part of this series, maybe this all sounds childish.

But I really do crave routine, and I feel uneasy when it isn't there. Thankfully, and most importantly, the routine of finding flat-out great cards didn't break. Despite the fickleness of the surroundings, the cards stayed great, which was why last month still turned out to be a first-rate card show experience.

As the batch of mini-collection hits I've shown in the first few scans here might indicate, my dime box digs were just as plentiful as always.

Here's a couple discount cards of arguably the two greatest men to ever don the Yankee pinstripes.

The Ruth actually came from a 15/$1 box which, unfortunately, wound up featuring almost all football and basketball and almost no other baseball cards. But, I mean, still...the Bambino for mere pennies is a deal no matter what.

Leapin' Lou Gehrig takes care of one of my most pressing remaining needs from 2015, and, interestingly, the uncropped version of that photo reveals a certain Yankee Clipper in the periphery.

Unlike the rude vendor I discussed in the first post of this series, the first dime box guy I stumbled upon knew how to run things.

He welcomed me with a simple Hi, didn't impede upon my personal space, and gave me a nice volume discount after I got done digging through his inventory. I wound up with 150 or so dime cards from the guy's table after all was said and done, and he charged me just twelve bucks for the lot.

Not bad for a floating head Yaz and a numbered Tony Gwynn (now that I think of it, not many of his cards feature him fielding, do they?).

As if the Gwynn wasn't enough, I also managed to secure a numbered Ty Cobb during that first dime box dig as well.

Aside from being a "tip of the cap" mini-collection hit, the Carlton features a rare shot of Lefty as a Giant, which is among my personal favorite short term stops. Carlton pitched in just six unspectacular games for the '86 Giants, but, miraculously, he collected his landmark 4,000th career strikeout in one of those paltry six contests.

One of those what-are-the-odds pieces of baseball minutiae.

One guy near the end of the show had a big bin of mostly non-sport and/or overproduction-era packs for 5/$1.

Along with an unspectacular pack of 1992 Donruss Triple Play, I snatched up all four of the Pro Set MusicCards packs I found. Only through this set could I say I own cards of Blues Traveler and Gwar and Steve Miller.

Oh, yeah...

...there was this little nugget, too.

I'll just leave this here.

But back to baseball and, specifically, back to Bowman.

Bowman is now and probably forever will be one of those meh brands for me, but they sure can make a shiny baseball card.

The three sparkling parallels at the bottom of this page all came from various dime boxes throughout the show, and the Colon served as a nice reminder that the big man once pitched for the Yankees.

The red/blue 2014 Topps parallels came from a single vendor who might've wound up with a lot more of my money had I not exhibited oddly strong self-control. An entire row of his 5/$1 box was comprised of those '14 Topps Target/Wal-Mart parallels, and, given my recent love affair with parallels of all hues and colors, I could've easily gone overboard.

Luckily, I had the state of mind to do what any budget-minded collector should do: I set a limit. I said I'm only going to buy 50 of these, NO EXCEPTIONS. And, hey, I actually stuck to it.

Ten bucks, fifty parallels, everyone walks away happy.

These actually came from the father/son duo I discussed in the first part of this mini-series.

The Smoltz had been a Dime Box Dozen suspect for nearly a year, and I think you can see why. I always thought I'd just have to break down and buy it online somewhere until, against all odds, it fell out of a dime box here in suburban Chicago.

The Cecil Fielder is an odd one that I discovered on Robert's blog a long time ago now. Fielder broke in with the Blue Jays in the mid '80s, but, before that blog post, I didn't know he tried (and failed) to make a comeback with his original club in 1999. That card (from Pacific Paramount, of all brands) is the only one I know of which documents that semi-zero-year tenure.

Speaking of zero-years...

...I had no idea former White Sox outfielder Chris Singleton was ever part of the Giants organization, much less had any cards depicting him with the team.

There was a time when I used to buy Beckett month in and month out, and that time pretty much paralleled the peak of Grady Sizemore's career. I distinctly remember his 2000 Bowman rookie -- a longtime need of mine since he never actually played for the Expos -- always hovering near the top of the "Hot List" Beckett published in each issue.

Flash forward to 2016: Grady Sizemore is out of baseball, and that one-time "Hot List" chart-topper is mine for a dime.

I don't read Beckett these days, but I have to believe that Trevor Story has topped some of their recent "Hot Lists" (if they even still have "Hot Lists" in Beckett, anyways).

The Story-mania has cooled down a bit recently, but I was still shocked to see this Heritage Minor League single of his fall out of the very last dime box of the day. It's my first card of Colorado's ROY candidate, and can we appease the twelve-year-old in me and take a moment to appreciate how great it is that the word NUTS is front-and-center on a baseball card?

In terms of purely setting and atmosphere, I may well crave routine from card shows. But I want anything but when it comes to dime boxes. I don't want to know what to expect. I want to believe I can find my first Trevor Story card or a new "pitcher at the plate" hit or maybe even that John Smoltz I've wanted for years in any dime box on any given day.

It's why being a dime box maniac is so much fun.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The dime box frankenset, Page 17: Numbers 145-153

Let's see how last week's voting played out.

Win -- 1991 Stadium Club #138 Eric Show (10 votes)

Place -- 1994 UD All-Time Heroes #137 Rennie Stennett (8 votes)

Show -- 2014 Topps Update #US-140 Nick Hundley (5 votes)

This is the first time in a while that I've agreed with the victor. Eric Show collected ten of the 29 total tallies to take the crown last week -- including mine -- narrowly edging out a two-vote win over the black-and-white Stennett double dip.

It seems like a lot of card collectors are avid music fans, so Show's victory shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Nine new nominees await this week.

Let's meet them.

2001 Bowman Heritage #145 Jose Lima

Lima Time hits TV. 

1991 Upper Deck #146 Ozzie Canseco

The brothers Canseco. 

 1997 SP #147 Andy Benes

Pitcher at the plate!

1981 Fleer #148 Ellis Valentine

Proof that zooming out actually enhances the quality of our baseball cards. 

2001 Ultra #149 Todd Stottlemyre

Solid bunting form for a pitcher.

1993 Upper Deck #150 Orlando Merced

Leaping ballplayers, smiling women, fetal-positioned fans, and one seemingly unaffected kid make up this museum piece of a baseball card from '93 UD. 

1990 Upper Deck #151 Rick Honeycutt

The below-sea-level perspective of an autograph signing. 

1996 SP #152 Alan & Andy Benes 

Andy Benes makes his second appearance on this page, this time with brother Alan.

2014 Topps Update #US-153 Kurt Suzuki AS

This adorable card closes out an oddly family-themed frankenset page.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, June 13, 2016

The dime box frankenset, Page 16: Numbers 136-144

It wasn't much of a contest last week.

Win -- 1973 Topps #133 Dave Roberts (17 votes)

Place -- 1993 Ted Williams #135 Jim Gilliam BB (5 votes)

Show -- 1994 Topps #132 Bret Barberie (4 votes)

Once again, the power of vintage could not be stopped. The mustard-yellow Dave Roberts crushed the competition, taking 17 of the 31 total votes last week. I myself was actually one of the five to vote for Mr. Gilliam, as the botched suicide-squeeze action shots makes for one of my personal favorite cards in this frankenset.

Roberts is, for good reason, the ninth frankenset champion to come from '73 Topps, which is far and away the most to come from a single set.

We're back with nine new frankenset hopefuls this week.

Let's meet them.

2012 Topps #136 Casey McGehee

One of those perfectly-timed cardboard moments. 

1994 UD All-Time Heroes #137 Rennie Stennett

Either a double dip or a ferocious karate kick to the head of that poor Braves baserunner.

1991 Stadium Club #138 Eric Show

Eric Show did always strike me as a guy who knew his way around a guitar. 

1993 Topps #139 Gary Gaetti

One of the immaculate trio from '93 Topps. 

2014 Topps Update #US-140 Nick Hundley

A postgame pie in Baltimore, no doubt delivered by Adam Jones. 

1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection #141 Jose Vizcaino

The parallel is only here because I don't yet own the base card, but I'm completely fine with that for now because these are some of the best parallels in the world. 

1997 Collector's Choice #142 Ismael Valdes

Pitcher at the plate! 

1994 Sportflics Rookie/Traded #143 Stan Javier

Throwing it back in 3-D.

2006 Upper Deck #144 David Riske

We close with some family time at the ball yard.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!