Wednesday, July 19, 2017
So where was I?
Oh, right. I left you with this cliffhanger from yesterday's post. So...to finish the story, one of the very last tables in the entire flea market was loaded with boxes and boxes of loose singles. But again, remember: I was fresh out of money at this point and didn't want to run to the ATM unless it was an absolute emergency.
When I arrived, the vendor was talking to a guy who had a large stack of cards in his purchase pile, and it seemed like the two were friends. Both of them greeted me warmly when I walked up to the table. I casually poked around the boxes and saw quite a few things I needed. Only problem was I didn't see a price on any of it.
Naturally, I asked: How much are these?
It was actually the customer who answered me first -- he said, and I quote: Can you believe it? ONLY A PENNY EACH (emphasis mine).
It took all the willpower in the world for me to calmly reply: I'll be right back.
And I just about ran to the ATM and withdrew a $20 bill, my head spinning the entire way.
The words rang through my head: A PENNY EACH. A PENNY EACH! A PENNY EACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've seen penny cards maybe three times in the nearly two decades I've been collecting, and almost all of those were late '80s/early '90s cardboard.
These boxes, on the other hand, were...well let me just put it this way: if I could custom-build a giant assortment of cards to sift through, it'd probably look a lot like the ones I found on Sunday.
I'm talking stacks and stacks of late '90s singles that I almost never see anywhere else, including -- again -- Pacific!
As I mentioned yesterday with the Pacific Online box I'd found at an earlier table, Pacific was famous for their exceptionally large checklists, and you know what that means: get the obscure players and/or unfamiliar uniforms ready! In addition to the short-term sight of the Big Unit as an Astro seen above, this scan features another legendary hit with Ozzie Guillen as a Brave.
And, as a longtime fan of journeyman relievers, I was psyched to find my very first cards of Miguel Batista as a Marlin and Jose Mesa as a Giant: all for a penny each!
But perhaps none of the short-term penny-box sights were better than this one of John Kruk as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
This was a doubly exciting find because I'd actually purchased this same card (for 50 cents) as part of a Just Commons order a while ago, but it went missing from the package and never did arrive.
It took a bit of patience, but I ended up finding a copy for one-fiftieth of the original price.
It's impossible to convey the sheer rapture I felt while digging through all those boxes...I mean, I would've paid a dime or quarter for most of these in a heartbeat, and here they were FOR A PENNY.
At such a bargain price (and I don't know that the word bargain is strong enough here), I threw anything and everything that caught my eye into my purchase pile: online cards, steel cards, cards with a lot of balls (sorry), cards with cornea-scratching amounts of teal.
Few '90s sets give me the warm fuzzies as much as '97 Ultra does.
I'm not exactly sure why -- I didn't own a lot of these at the time -- but something about the ribboned font and fresh photography takes me right back to my youth.
Shiny baseball cards were still a new fad in the mid '90s, and here's a couple earlier examples.
(RIP, Doug Million.)
Almost as fulfilling as the cards themselves were the conversations I had with the vendor and other customer during the hour-plus it took to sift through all those penny boxes.
The two obviously knew their baseball, and the customer was picking out cards of obscure '90s Cubs -- think Manny Alexander, Tyler Houston, etc. -- and sharing stories of his trips to Wrigley and Sox Park, like the time he got hit with an Ozzie Guillen foul ball and the night he almost got into a fight with one of Cliff Floyd's relatives.
When you put all of it together, you get what is definitely in the running as my all-time best Discount Box Experience.
Penny cards and great conversation? And did I mention penny cards? I mean: penny cards. PENNY CARDS. And GOOD penny cards. Penny cards of minor leaguers like Terry Mulholland (who was perpetually 40 years old, from the looks of it) and Dave Roberts during his brief stay in the Tigers' organization.
I can say it over and over again -- PENNY CARDS, PENNY CARDS, PENNY CARDS -- but it's been three days since this happened, and I still don't quite believe it.
Penny box oddballs: yup, that's a thing (apparently).
One of my favorite sets of the '90s is 1999 Fleer Tradition, and this guy had scores of these rare red-foiled Warning Track parallels in his penny boxes.
What's more, the Hollandsworth and Beltran are both mini-collection hits for me, which reminds me...
...holy hell did my themes take a pounding at this table.
The mid-to-late '90s is the unquestioned king of mini-collection production: I'd say nearly half of my themed cards in total come from the era, if I had to guess.
And yet, all told, I still scored probably around 100 new ones from these penny boxes, only a tiny fraction of which are seen in this nine-pocket page here.
Many of my favorite guys played during the late '90s, which means that collecting them is both a blessing and a curse.
A blessing because they have a lot of cards to chase, and a curse because OH MY GOD do they have a lot of cards to chase. As is the dilemma of a late '90s player collector, I'll tell you.
That's why these boxes were such a gift from the heavens: I could've easily gone the rest of my collecting life without finding cards like that Pacific Mark Grace or the Darryl Kile silver signature parallel, yet here they were for a penny.
Even with the aforementioned frustrations of late '90s player collecting -- and apparently because I'm crazy -- I recently decided to add a couple more guys from the era into my binders with Lima Time and Shooter here.
Seriously, does it get any better than a Rod Beck card for a copper Lincoln?
Believe me, I could go on for hours and hours and hours about how much I loved digging through all those penny cards, but then this blog post would just about turn into a personal memoir.
So many sets I rarely see, so many players I rarely see, so much joy I rarely experience: and yet here all of it was at one of the very last tables at my local flea market...for a gosh darn penny a piece.
Seriously: here's what my purchase pile (if you can call it that) looked like after all was said and done.
That's a grand total of 540 cards right there, and they all became mine for five bucks. I'm no math major, but that's less than a penny per card! Anything and everything made it in there: cards for my binders, frankenset hits, and yes, quite a few goodies to send out to fellow bloggers.
Funny thing is, even an hour and over half-a-thousand cards later, I still didn't get through everything the guy had on display. That's how much he had. He told me he'd be back at the flea market a few more times throughout the rest of the summer and, needless to say, here's hoping I can catch him another Sunday in the near future.
When you're done reading this post, do me a favor and wake me up from this dream I'm apparently living.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Don't spread this around, but I wasn't really sick when I called off work this past Sunday.
For lack of a better term, I simply needed A Day: A Day to relax, A Day for my sanity, A Day for myself -- anyone who's ever worked a menial job knows what I'm talking about. Naturally, I chose to spend the afternoon of my Day at the local flea market, despite -- as I recently discussed -- the apparent demise of its once-great glory days.
For the first hour I was there, I felt the same disappointment all over again. A couple of my usual card guys weren't there, another had nothing of interest in his small quarter boxes, and my favorite regular vendor didn't have any cards at all this week. Like the last time, he told me: Man, you should've been here last week, I had a whole bunch of vintage! (WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME, DUDE?!)
But after all hope seemed lost, a small glimmer of hope presented itself at an unlikely table: I found an older woman with a large shoebox full of '80s cards, priced at 12/$1 and rubberbanded in stacks according to team.
The vast majority of cards in those boxes were your typical early/mid '80s commons, nothing I haven't seen dozens of times before.
But I'll say one thing: digging through all that old, dusty cardboard was pretty darned therapeutic. In an instant, that lone box made my Day worth taking, made the trip to the local flea market a success. I would've loved it even if I wouldn't have found a single card of note in that box just for the pure visceral experience of it all.
But there were quite a few keepers: in fact, I found well north of 100 cards for the bargain price of $9, including this early Iron Man I needed for my growing collection of his.
I've collected for long enough now to where I think I'm pretty much set on your run-of-the-mill '80s commons.
But then a box like this comes around and shows that a few select cards have indeed slipped through the cracks all these years, as these four somehow did.
I tend to write off '82 Topps as my least favorite Flagship set of the '80s, but these are doing their best to convince me that there's greatness to be found in the otherwise nondescript checklist.
Hard to beat oddballs at 12/$1, especially a Boggs box bottom beauty.
These two rookies were probably the biggest of the shoebox finds.
I've actually owned copies of the Strawberry at different points during my collecting lifetime, but this one's staying with me since I've recently decided to induct him into my player collection ranks.
And while I'll never collect Roger Clemens -- he's right up there with Barry Bonds on my Baseball Hate List -- I couldn't pass up a chance to own his (fairly iconic) '85 Topps rookie for eight cents, because how often does that happen?
And so the my Day at the flea market was saved...but there were still a few aisles left to go.
A little later, I stumbled upon a guy with a few newer cards in a glass case, including this neat melting insert of Miguel Sano which I decided was worth the dollar price tag.
The vendor also had a small snap case filled with random cards that were priced at fifty cents a pop.
Among the gets were that shiny Diamond Kings Heyward (numbered to 99 copies) and a rookie refractor of Nolan Arenado, quite a steal for two quarters when you consider he's one of the top stars in the game today.
From there, I moved over to a small pile of unopened wax the guy had off to the side. At first, nothing jumped out at me. A box of 1989 Topps, another of 1991 Upper Deck, another of 1992 Fleer. Pass, pass, pass.
But then I saw something that just about made my heart skip.
AN UNOPENED BOX OF PACIFIC ONLINE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
FOR SIX DOLLARS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!
Sure, there are many reasons not to like this set.
1) The design won't win any awards.
2) The concept is sorely outdated: the whole Internet thing was still a fad when these were released in 1998.
3) The individual player websites don't even exist anymore -- and neither does Pacific, for that matter.
But even with all that, I still love, love, love this set, and I couldn't believe my eyes that I had an opportunity to bust a whole box of the stuff -- considering that the singles alone are painfully tough to come by.
The box added a whole bunch of hits to my various player collections that I likely would've never seen had this box not fell into my lap.
Bonus: many of them feature said players in unfamiliar uniforms, such as Shawon Dunston as an Indian and Dennis Martinez as a Brave.
And because Pacific was so generous with its checklists -- Pacific Online is a 750-card set -- we get, yes, MIDDLE RELIEVERS!
The likes of Paul Quantrill and Steve Kline make up some of my more obscure player collections, and I don't often get a chance to add new cards of theirs to my binders since middle relief is the most ignored profession in the hobby. For that, I thank Pacific Online with all my heart, and that's why opening this box was such a thrill for me.
For (I repeat) six dollars, I got to bust 24 nine-card packs that brought me right back to my childhood of slow modems and screeching dial-up connections.
Apparently, all the card vendors chose to hide in the last few aisles, because I found a guy with even more cardboard as the day was winding to a close.
His main cards of interest were priced at $1 each or 2/$1, and while a lot of it was nothing more than dime box fodder, I did manage to salvage a few gems I felt were well worth the two-quarter price tag.
I think we'd all agree that any Mini Willie (get your mind out of the gutter) is a steal at fifty cents, especially one that features his brief stay with the Mets.
A couple modern oddball-ish finds from the fifty-cent box, including a transparent Gracie and a Jeets CD (how '90s!) with a bonus double dip.
Pre-fame minor leaguers and OPCs for loose change? Sure!
This was the lone card I found from the guy's two-dollar vintage box.
Most of it was, again, comprised of cards I could probably find for dimes and quarters elsewhere. But I jumped at the chance to own this Jerry Koosman because it's one I've been wanting for a while with that glorious Rookie Cup and all.
This brought my total purchases up to twelve dollars, slightly less than the $15 I had remaining in my wallet.
That's when my eyes fell to one of the guy's glass case cards: a 1983 Fleer Tony Gwynn rookie.
It was priced at $5, but since I only had three dollars of wiggle room in my budget, I asked the vendor if he'd take $15 for everything I'd previously picked out and the Gwynn. And he did! Now only '83 Donruss separates me from owning all of Mr. Padre's major-brand rookie cards.
So that was it. My self-professed Day had been well spent, but I had to face the facts: I was fresh out of money. Sure, there's an ATM on the flea market grounds, but that's only for use in case of emergency, like glass on a fire extinguisher.
Since there were only a few tables to go, I figured I'd at least wander by to make sure I wasn't missing anything...
...and then I found this.
I normally hate cliffhangers, but consider this a cliffhanger.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Page #8 (Numbers 64-72):
Completion Status: 9/9
Numbers Needed: None.
2015 Stadium Club #64 Brett Gardner
I think the reason(s) I love these "at the wall" shots so much are the fans' faces.
1994 Leaf #65 Jose Lind
Talk about a perfectly timed photo: look at the laces on that baseball.
1993 SP #66 John Jaha
John Jaha, seen here sitting on the quad during his days as a college hipster.
2013 Topps Opening Day #67 Marco Scutaro
Double dipping with funny cars in the background.
1995 Stadium Club Virtual Reality #68 Wilson Alvarez
Wilson Alvarez pictured in (what I assume is) his native Venezuela.
1999 Just #69 Chin-Feng Chen
A rare crossover mini-collection hit, with both my "anthemic" and "cards with kids" themes represented.
1993 Stadium Club #70 Casey Candaele
Taking flight while turning two.
1995 Upper Deck Minors #71 Ryan McGuire
There's something highly postmodern about photographs of people taking photographs.
1973 Topps #72 Ron Reed
Crooked photo, wicked follow-through: the off-kilter nature of this shot is so quintessentially '73 Topps.
Cards By Decade:
1970's -- 1 (Running total: 7)
1990's -- 6 (Running total: 40)
2010's -- 2 (Running total: 15)
Double Dips -- 3 (Running total: 14)
At the Wall -- 1 (Running total: 6)
Cards with Kids -- 1 (Running total: 4)
Anthemic -- 1 (Running total: 1)
Behind the Camera -- 1 (Running total: 1)
I'll go with the young fan taking the field for the San Bernadino Stampede(?) here.
This Magic Moment
Marco Scutaro wasn't yet a Giant during the team's lone regular-season homestand against the Reds in 2012, so it seems likely that this double dip comes from that year's Giants-Reds NLDS.
Specifically, I'm almost confident in pinpointing this moment to Game 2 of the 2012 NLDS -- played on October 7, 2012 -- when Joey Votto's 5th-inning single was negated by a ground-ball double play by the next batter, Ryan Ludwick.
Though the Reds pounded the Giants that night, 9-0, San Francisco would get the last laugh, winning the NLDS in five games on their way to their second World Series crown in three years.
Kick Out the Jams
I'd say about 95 percent of my Spanish vocabulary is made up of the lyrics to "La Bamba" (the other five percent are mostly curse words).
Lessons in Card Backs
Once again, '73 Topps proves educational: longtime pitcher Ron Reed did indeed play two seasons with the NBA's Detroit Pistons, averaging eight points a game as a power forward before committing to baseball full-time in 1968.
Best of the Rest
2015 Topps Update #US-72 Brett Gardner AS
A terrific post-ASG high-five shot (despite the ugly-as-sin pillbox caps), and a fitting one considering this year's Midsummer Classic took place earlier this week.
1984 Fleer #67 Rudy Law
While the Scutaro is a fantastic postseason double dip, Rudy Law maintains his stranglehold on the #67 slot in my inaugural frankenset...in no small part because I'm scared Law might personally come to my house and strangle me if I replaced him.
1998 Collector's Choice #72 Eduardo Perez
The Perez has a lot going for it: it's a terrific multiple-exposure shot from the nostalgia-inducing days of Collector's Choice.
But I sometimes wonder if '73 Topps is like that freakishly tall and/or strong kid most of us played against in Little League, the kid who'd have to hold something back in order to not completely destroy us mortals. Am I easing back on the '73 Topps -- a set that could almost be a frankenset unto itself -- in order to give other cards a fair shot?
Perhaps so, perhaps not, but Eduardo Perez gets the #72 slot in my inaugural frankenset.
For now, Ron Reed will have to live with being my favorite from this week's Frankenset Redux group of nine, the second straight week in which the lone '70s card of the page has earned the crown.
That's another frankenset page in the books.
Thanks for reading!
(P.S. -- In honor of National Give Something Away Day, the first person to leave a comment on this post (US only, sorry) with their favorite card from this week's page will receive a little something special from me.)