Thursday, March 22, 2018

The death of the low-end collector (card show vintage!)

Despite what the title of this blog might suggest, I've been thinking a lot lately about whether I can even still call myself a low-end collector.

There's no doubting I'll always be a low-end guy at heart. Dime boxes and beat-up vintage are my anthems. And I definitely don't aspire to be a high-end guy: I don't have anything near the budget for that kind of thing, and besides, I find "hits" and big-dollar sets boring.

But the fact of the matter is that I definitely spend a lot more on cards these days than I once did (mostly because I didn't have a job when I started this blog...), and I'm not opposed to making big purchases if I feel like they're warranted (as this post will later indicate).

Last weekend's card show perhaps represented the pinnacle of my low-end self-doubt: take this Jimmy Piersall, for instance, which set me back a whole $10 and was the very first thing I bought on Saturday.

And before you go thinking that I've finally lost it by spending $10 on a '62 Topps common, let me just show you the back -- which, as you'll see, shows that this is actually a '62 Topps Venezuelan card, the first of its kind in my collection.

Topps Venezuelans are insanely rare (I'd seen maybe a dozen in-person over my many years of attending shows) and thus quite expensive, which means I'd long written off any possibility of ever owning one.

So when I saw Jimmy Piersall lumped in with a bunch of other obscure commons (one of the reasons I enjoy collecting him: he's a name whose cards often carry no-name prices), I bit -- despite the fact that most low-end collections don't have Topps Venezuelans in them.

From that same box came another foreign-language oddball with this '62 Post Canadian Billy Martin, another first for my collection and a card I couldn't pass up at three bucks.

These and the TCMA Fidrych I showed at the end of yesterday's post set me back $15 all together from the initial table of the day -- and while I was no doubt excited by the purchases, the feeling of spending $15 on just three cards isn't something I'm quite used to yet.

The second table of the day had more vintage, and these were more closely aligned with my low-end methods: a whole binder of 50-cent '75 minis!

I'm fairly certain I need all these, but a couple could well be dupes: '75 minis throw me for a bit of a loop sometimes because I'm not sure if what I'm remembering from my own collection is the regular '75 or the mini '75 of certain cards.

I've said before that one of two things usually happen at this show: I usually find a lot of Hostess or a lot of Kellogg's, never a lot of both.

Well, I'll have to eat my words there, because in addition to these gloriously greasy Hostesses...

...came an equal amount of awesome Kellogg's.

I remain fascinated with the wildly different prices Kellogg's cards can command -- the ones in this scan cost everything from a dime (Otis) to five dollars (Brooks), with the Yaz and Sutton in between (a buck each).

I've fallen hopelessly in love with these Fleer World Series cartoons, so you can imagine how excited I was to find everything in this page for 50 cents a pop.

Same goes for these Nu-Scoops: it's gotten to the point where I specifically try to scope these out at card shows, which has me thinking that a subconscious part of me is trying to build the whole set (even though I'm not a set builder).

These ran a bit more than the World Series cartoons -- the Spahn and Wynn were two bucks apiece, while the Cobb and "DiMag" were $5 per -- but they're prices I'm happy to pay because WOW are these cards nice.

A slew of various vintage oddballs which contented my low-end collector self since this whole scan cost me less than a pack of Gypsy Queen.

Let me give you a visual of one of my consistently favorite sights at this card show: behold what is known to my dad and I simply as...The Tub.

The Tub was back after an unexplained absence at the last convention hall show, and it was as glorious as ever. There's no rhyme or reason to what you'll find in this thing (the cards I sifted through spanned each of the last six or seven decades), and the cards are priced at 3/$2, 20/$10, or 50/$20 (and of course I managed to find 50).

And yes, you're seeing things right: if you look a little to the left of center of this photo... might notice a '52 Topps mixed into all that chaos.

Sure, the borders are cut off, and no, I have no idea who Frank Baumholtz is, but of course I bought it -- it's a '52 Topps card for 40 cents! 

Saturday must've unofficially been Bob Gibson Fire Sale Day, because I paid a grand total of 73 cents for these two (the World Series card from a 3/$1 box, the Gibson Story for 40 cents from The Tub).

It didn't take long to realize that the Dollar Vintage Gods were with me on Saturday.

The Podres has been a thorn in my side for a while now, and the Groat is actually card #1 from the 1961 Topps checklist, which made both of those especially sweet dollar buys.

One of the last tables of the day had a couple large piles of dollar vintage on display, but it was late in the show and I was running on fumes.

So I grabbed a stack somewhat absentmindedly, flipped through it, shook my head, and said to myself...wait, did I just see what I thought I saw? Indeed I had: there, for a dollar, was a '57 Topps Gil Hodges.

But as this scan might tell you, Gil was really only the beginning to all the low-grade big names those stacks held.

As hard as it might be to believe, these also came from those dollar stacks, and better yet, the dealer even let me pick out a couple of freebies -- which I promptly turned into the '55 Joe Black and Dick Groat you see above ('55s for FREE!).

And yes, that's a '55 Topps (Ed) Mathews with what certainly looks like a burnt-off corner -- I initially had second thoughts about buying it, but with a little goading from my dad, I realized I'd be crazy to pass it up.

And here's yet another gift from the Dollar Box Vintage Gods: a '51 Bowman Eddie Waitkus.

Not too long ago, I realized that I had exactly zero cards of Waitkus in my collection. I needed to change that, because he's a fairly significant name in baseball history: he was shot by a deranged fan in 1949, an event which was later dramatized via Roy Hobbs inThe Natural.

Waitkus doesn't have a ton of stuff out there (which is both good and bad for a player collector), and this stellar dollar-box buy is my first real vintage card of his.

A couple from my Keep Dreaming list with the '68 Denny McLain (actually found and purchased by my dad) for four bucks, and the '76 Rose for $3.

Though it's your basic low-end common (#40 in the '68 Topps set), the McLain proved oddly elusive: I asked two different vendors with huge amounts of vintage inventory without any luck before my dad found a third who had exactly one copy left (thanks again, Dad!).

And now we've come to the '58s, a set which I may have underrated in the past for the sherr unfortunate fact that it happens to be sandwiched between two of my all-time favorite Topps designs.

This colorful quartet cost about half a blaster all together, the Spahn on the high end at $5 and the Hodges on the low end at a buck (with Klu and Billy Martin -- the latter of which was another Dad Find -- in between at a couple dollars each).

But as it happens, '58 Topps was also the set that caused me to question my true status as a low-end collector on Saturday...why?

Well, here's one reason.

I threw a '58 Topps Roger Maris rookie onto my Keep Dreaming list as a bit of a joke -- hey there, anyone got an extra '58 Maris (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)? So you can imagine my surprise when I actually saw one that was kinda in my price range: this weathered copy had a $43 price tag on it, which is less than a quarter of the price of all the other Maris rookies I saw on Saturday.

Only problem was that I didn't have enough cash on me to buy it at the time. No worries, because I quickly did something else that might cause me to relinquish my low-end status: I bought a card with a credit card. At a card show. The vendor had one of those swipe thingies attached to her phone, and a few seconds later I had the Maris rookie without any cash having changed hands, with a receipt to prove it (a receipt for a card show purchase!).

And as for why I was forced to buy the Maris with plastic instead of cold, hard cash... can blame Teddy Ballgame for that.

One of my other wink-wink, nudge-nudge goals for Saturday was to find a real Topps Ted Williams. Though he retired after the 1960 season, this is Ted's last Topps card -- he signed a Fleer-exclusive contract in 1959 and thus didn't appear in any Topps set from 1959-61. And after seeing the prices on some of his other cards on Saturday, it quickly became apparent that it'd have to be '58 or bust.

This was really the only affordable Splendid Splinter I came across, and I was shocked at how (relatively) cheap it was: even though it's not in terrible shape, the vendor had a rock-bottom $40 price tag on it (the next cheapest copy I saw was $80, and that one was in worse shape).

And so I blew the rest of my remaining cash on a card I never thought I'd own: a real Topps Ted Williams. Plus, if that wasn't glorious enough, the vendor knocked an extra ten percent off the price, which meant I ended up getting it for all of $36.

With Topps Venezuelans, Roger Maris rookies, and vintage Teddy Ballgames now in my collection after Saturday's show, I honestly don't know if I can still call myself a low-end collector -- that's okay, though, because I'd rather have the cards anyways.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Dime box overtime (a card show report)

I worked overtime at my job last week, which means lately I've been stressed, frustrated, exhausted, and virtually every other work-related adjective out there.

But I did my best to take it all in stride, because there was one major factor getting me through all the minor annoyances: my extra pay would basically fund the big tri-annual card show waiting for me at the end of the overtime week. My customer-service mantra through it all was basically Card show, card show, card show...until finally, last Saturday, that glorious Card Show Day finally arrived after what sure seemed like a couple lifetimes.

At the very least, the extra money covered my dime box digging -- and while there's always a ton of dime gems to be had at this show, my main goal was to get my hands on some cheap 2018 Heritage because I'm damn sick of buying horridly-collated packs of the stuff.

Initially, however, it looked like the card show might lead to even more unwanted stress: one walk around the giant convention hall resulted in absolutely no Heritage commons for sale.

My first reaction was one of rage: you're telling me NOBODY here has ANY Heritage?! 

This thought remained until I stumbled across a vendor I recognized from some of the local shows who had some higher-priced Heritage inserts/parallels for sale. When I asked him if he had any commons, he nodded, pointed to a box stashed under his table, and told me everything in there was ten cents. With a few other Heritage inserts/parallels/SPs I found, my Heritage spree set me back a little less than the cost of a blaster.

And thus the card show was saved!

With Heritage taken care of, I was able to resume my regularly scheduled programming and let the dime boxes work their usual magic.

We might as well start with these beauties from the Ted Williams brand (including a Ted Williams Ted Williams!), which were staggering dime box finds since I have a tough time digging up inserts from this set.

Horizontal greatness comes in many forms.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'll never tire of finding high-end brands in dime boxes.

Dime box minis, including Tulo, Reggie, and Immanuel Kant(!) for all you philosophers out there.

There's been a Blog Bat Around topic making the rounds lately regarding the in-progress projects of those around the blogosphere.

I don't know that I could ever write a post like that because a) it'd turn into a novel with all the different things I collect, and b) I don't really think of my collection in terms of specific projects -- it's more of a Let's see how many of these I can accumulate kind of situation.

My mini-collections would probably be the closest I can come to anything resembling a sane project, and all of these were treasured adds to the various archives (including the interview Ripken, a now-former Dime Box Dozen need).

I don't specifically hunt for shiny cards during my dime box digs, but they sure are fun to find (and scan!).

Same goes for dime box short-prints: not really a conscious quest on my part, but an unexpected treat when they show up (especially ones of Jim Abbott and The Freak).

My main men.

I suppose I'm mostly a player collector at heart, and dime boxes have contributed to the vast majority of those over the many years I've been in this hobby.

Last Saturday was no exception: my player collections -- both new and old -- grew by leaps and bounds thanks to the loaded dime boxes vendors had on display.

I also found a complete 15-card Cubs World Series hanger pack set in a 3/$5 box near the end of the show, which, unbeknownst to me, is actually different than the Cubs box set I purchased around this time last year.

I think these retailed for $9.99 at the time, which makes the $1.66 I paid for it on Saturday look pretty good right about now.

It didn't take long for the day's vendors to pull out the big guns, one of which included a run of old Goudey/Bowman reprints that occupied an entire row of one guy's dime box.

I have a handful of these in my collection, but they've mostly been added one here and one there -- needless to say, I'd never seen anything like the 75-ish Goudeys/Bowmans I'd added to my collection in one fell swoop after the dust had settled at that guy's table.

More random dime box fun, including the Phillie Phanatic in a poncho and the closest thing I've ever seen to a Brawl Card from Topps.

In continuing with the trend from the last time I attended this show, here's some cards I really shouldn't be finding in dime boxes.

Any Campy buyback is a bargain for a dime, much less one from 1966(!). The Bump Wills error is one of those classic cards I'd somehow never added to my collection, though I'd be lying if I said I thought I'd ever find one for anything near ten cents.

And people wonder why I keep going back to the dime boxes.

I found exactly one nickel box on Saturday, and let me tell you I could've spent a lot more time at that Nickel Box Table than I actually did.

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you the guy had at least a dozen huge nickel boxes at his table, and that I could've spent virtually the entire show ransacking those alone. I decided to go through only one of them, since my time and energy were waning at that point.

But even that lone box resulted in 100 new cards for the binders (five dollars!), the stars of which included Vin and another former Dime Box Dozen need with the Mattingly.

While I sometimes do end up finding longtime needs in dime boxes, they're much better at showing me cards I didn't even know I needed in the first place.

But in the end, I think I have to give the Dime Box MVP Award to all the magnificent oddballs I discovered on Saturday.

Seriously, this show alone is basically responsible for creating my current fascination with oddballs and, as this page might indicate, still packs quite a wallop with its selection of oddities.

A couple more brilliant oddities, including a major HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS EXISTED?! moment with that Hall of Shame card.

I read the Baseball Hall of Shame books over and over again as a kid (they're still on my bookshelf to this day), and I had absolutely no idea they printed a cardboard complement to the series.

Here's a new one: a lottery ticket!

(And you better believe I'm counting it as a baseball card.)

The same guy with all the aforementioned Goudey/Bowman reprints also had a whole run of TCMA oddballs in his dime boxes.

I repeat: a whole run of TCMA oddballs! Do I even need to explain how great that is? Ty Cobb and Ray Schalk and even my very first card from the 1979 TCMA Japanese Pro Baseball set (featuring gaijin Dave Hilton of the Yakult Swallows)?!?!?!?!

All for a dime!

But even with all that, I have to say this was the best TCMA find of the show, and perhaps my greatest discount bin score overall.

I forked over $3 for this Mark Fidrych minor league oddball at the very first table of the day, but that's a small price to pay for a card I knew I'd probably never see again considering how annoyingly rare '80s minor league cards can be. I don't often get to add new Birds to my collection these days, much less ones anything near as cool as this.

So, yeah: in the future, if I ever get to thinking about how frustrating working on an off day was, I'll just go back, reread this post, and remind myself that, holy cow, it was totally worth it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bye bye, Beckett

I've been making a (somewhat halfhearted) effort to clear out some excess space in my room, mainly because I live every day in fear of becoming a hoarder.

Among the items I deemed worthy of a purge were my stack of old Becketts, which date from as far back to 2001 (I was nine years old) to around 2011 or so. I've long since stopped buying the magazine -- I honestly don't even know if they still print it anymore -- and my distaste for the Book Value phenomenon Beckett helped popularize has been well-documented on this blog.

But although my Beckett fandom remains a thing of the past, I still felt a pang of something when I moved those old magazines into the trash pile.

I couldn't help but flip through a couple of my treasured old Becketts this afternoon.

There was a time when I intently reviewed every page of every magazine, reading that tiny text, looking for those up and down arrows to see what was hot and cold. Not because I had any of the hot cards themselves, of course -- it was mainly for pleasure more than anything.

At the very least, flipping through old Becketts is often good for a laugh -- Chris Coghlan's Bowman Chrome rookie autograph was on the rise as of this issue...from June 2009.

When I was a kid, "big" cards like these seemed to exist in a different universe, and seeing them all in one place made reading through Beckett's Hot List a monthly pleasure.

These days, I own exactly one of the Hot List cards from June 2009 -- Johan Santana's Fleer Tradition rookie at #20, which I found in a dime box a couple years ago -- but again, it's fun now to relive the absurdity of some of the names here (Jake Fox? Fernando Martinez?).

While my fascination with Book Value died somewhere around 2010 or so, there was a brief period of time in which I still bought Beckett for the articles alone.

Most issues were good for at least a couple fun reads, like this one, which documents the luck of a collector in Kentucky who, thanks to a massive printing error at Topps, pulled dozens and dozens of extremely scarce SPs from a 2009 Heritage blaster. They're valued here at more than $20,000 all together.

While this was almost ten years ago now, I have to say I'm still a bit jealous.

Even though the magazines are gone, remnants of Beckett will always exist in my card collection.

This Jim Beckett came special with one of my Becketts long ago, and you can attribute the giant crease running down the middle of it to my futile efforts to pry this card from that icky booger-like material magazines often use to affix free items (note to Beckett: not a great idea for usage with baseball cards).

I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that a few of my first Becketts came with sample cards like these.

In hindsight, I'm surprised Beckett didn't include cards with more of their publications, because what better way to get someone to buy a baseball card magazine than with FREE BASEBALL CARDS?

This is a reprint of Beckett's first-ever (mimeographed!) publication back in 1984 -- it came special with a 15th anniversary issue in 2001, and yes, I'm keeping this.

I've flipped through this historic reprint many times just to see the inflation of vintage card prices over the years.

Oh, and if anyone has a '52 Mantle they'd be willing to let go for the '84 Beckett value of $1,400, please hang tight while I secure a personal loan.

And while I'm finally due for an update and/or replacement by now, I'll also be keeping my Beckett pride and joy: the volume I refer to as only The Big Book, which contains listings for every known card set as of its 2008 publication.

As you can see by the sorry shape of the tome itself, I've consulted this thing endlessly throughout my collecting career. Not so much for the values, but for the reference: finding SPs, hunting for oddball sets, discerning checklist sizes, etc., etc. And while I may not like what Beckett has done to the hobby in terms of perceived "value," I do thank them with all my heart for this catalog, as it's made my collecting life immensely easier on so many occasions.

But for now, I must part with the Beckett magazines of my youth, a seemingly innocent purge which produced more nostalgia than I ever thought possible.