Friday, May 10, 2024

The elephant in the room on COMC

I think it's time I addressed the somewhat uncomfortable elephant in the room with COMC: their shipping times have gotten a bit ridiculous.

I placed the order I'm about to showcase here back in January - it finally wound up on my doorstep a few weeks ago. This after the shipping date was pushed back three different times in the process. And the only apology from COMC was a $5 shipping voucher to be used towards my next order.

I don't mean to sound selfish or impatient here - my cards will come when they come, it's really not that important in the grand scheme of things. And I'm not saying we should boycott COMC (I've since placed another order that, with any luck, will arrive sometime this summer). But taking three months to fill an order is a bit much. All I know is that if it routinely took that long to fill an order at my job, we wouldn't get much business.

I get that things are pretty hectic in the card-buying world right now. It makes sense that shipping would take longer. But in that case, one should, I don't know, hire more people. Maybe COMC is already doing this. But either way you shouldn't sell the cards if you can't keep up with the demand.

It doesn't seem like too much to ask.

But that's enough whining from this dime box collector, because the good news is that I did eventually receive this order, and it packed the usual fun odds and ends!

In addition to the hallowed Trevor Hoffman card at the top of this post - which hits a recent obsession of seeing big names at wrong positions - came a healthy slew of other minor league dudes I collect (long live Boof Bonser!).

You really can't go wrong with minis because there's so many different incarnations of 'em out there.

In this scan alone, you've got stadium giveaways, stained Hostess, National Chicle "cards that never were" (that unnamed Pirate is Waite Hoyt), and cards like that Shakey's George Sisler that were given out at pizza joints!

I've come to enjoy grabbing these recent T206 singles on the cheap because a lot of them feature guys you don't see in many modern sets, and/or a lot of legends in rarely-seen uniforms.

(Give me all the Randy Johnson Expos cards!)

A few more contemporary COMC pickups here - I needed to own that Betts the minute after I saw it on Night Owl's blog a while back.

It also saddens me that Jose Quintana's only Cardinals card came in the online-only Topps Living Set, but the good news here is that someone took pity on me and listed a cheap copy right before I placed this order.

As usual, a few new scores for the bigger player collections - I played Backyard Baseball to death as a kid, so that particularly cool Tony Gwynn earns bonus nostalgia points.

I'll never turn down new cards of the Ted Williamses and Cal Ripken Jrs. of the cardboard world, but if I'm being honest I get way more excitement out of landing new Luis Tiants and Joe Pepitones for my binders.

Neat bonus here is that Colorado Silver Bullets Phil Niekro - a lesser-known fact about "Knucksie" is that he was the manager of the first professional all-female professional baseball team.

Horizontal heroes!

I seem to say it in every COMC post, but it always floors me how cheap Topps Now cards can get (I paid a hair under $3 for that excellent Elly De La Cruz).

A couple stars from across the Pacific.

I went on a box-bottom binge on COMC one afternoon, and my collection is the better for it because these will always rule.

Maybe one day I'll be able to point to a specific reason why I especially love cards that were cut from other objects so much - because right now I really can't give you a straight answer.

Sometimes I'll be assembling a post like this for the blog and a scan will leave me confused as to exactly how I found such a random mix of cards buried deep within the COMC archives.

I have absolutely no idea, for example, what led me to discover that Terrence Long card, but I'm sure glad I did since that's a particularly shiny mid '90s insert set I'd never seen before.

Whether consciously or not, it does seem like legends always make up the bulk of my COMC orders.

Cards from the early Topps "legend variation" days can get insanely pricey (2009 was the first year they appeared), so nabbing that neat Tris Speaker for $5 was a steal.

More legends!

I've been after that TCMA Dizzy Dean for a while - Ol' Diz has painfully few Cub cards - and I believe that Nolan Ryan is the last '80s Kellogg's card I needed (the groovy Astros unis go well with the '81 Kellogg's design).

I did manage to scoop up a few vintage goodies this time around, including a very well-loved Jim Perry from the tough '61 Topps high-number series.

I'm also not sure how that '66 Bob Gibson has eluded me all these years - but alas, like my last COMC order, a vintage Gibson has to play second fiddle.

That's because the Hammer himself made an appearance this time around!

I don't know if Hank Aaron has any cards that could be described as "easy," but this is one of the more attainable ones out there (not a high-number, and not a particularly early card). I'd simply never found a copy that fit within the range of what I wanted to pay until now. It's a mighty piece of cardboard I'm thrilled to finally own.

Of course, I'd prefer not to wait months and months for my COMC orders to show up on my doorstep, but all things considered there's not really anything else like it on the internet - where else am I gonna find a '67 Hank Aaron and a bowling Mookie Betts in the same stack of cards?

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Not so common after all

Here's a card I finally welcomed into my collection after damn near (I kid you not) a decade of searching.

One has big ideas for cards they've been wanting for a healthy portion of their adult lives. But this isn't a Roberto Clemente rookie. It's not a '53 Satchel Paige. It's a...1995 Upper Deck Willie McGee? Look it up in your Beckett (if you must) and you'll find it books for a whopping $1.50. I secured my copy on Sportlots for a quarter - I just happened to log on one day and notice that oh my god someone listed one!

It's been a chase card for me because it's one of the extreme few to feature McGee's brief stint with the Red Sox (the only other I know of is from '96 Donruss). This was part of a mail-in exchange program from '95 UD that redeemed a special "Update" set that year. The '90s were filled with such redemption offers, and I own a healthy amount of trade-in cards from other similar sets. So why was this one so impossible?

I don't have an answer for you - all I can say it's a fascinating card that really clouds our notions of "rarity" and "worth."

I think it's an interesting phenomenon that's worth delving into a bit further - though I should warn you, I have few answers for the questions I'm about to ask.

Example: I have yet to hear a good explanation as to why '66 and '67 Topps high-numbers cost an arm and a leg, but '68 and '69 high-numbers, for instance, are pretty easily attainable. There's an aura around a few of those extra-tough high series ('67 especially) that elicits a visible wince from most vintage collectors. I regularly see even no-name '67 high-numbers in the $30-40 range at shows (when vendors have any at all, that is).

Like the Willie McGee, vintage high-numbers at the time were never meant to be "rare" - but thanks to some unexpected glitch over the years, that's exactly what they've become.

In an attempt to mimic this high-number madness, Topps Heritage regularly sprinkles short-prints into their checklist, much to the bane of our communal existences.

I've been able to find a good amount of the Heritage SPs I need over the last 5-10 years without too much of a hassle. But it seems like all the short-prints from before then simply dropped off the face of the earth at some point. Maybe there's a recency bias here - I bet a lot of older Heritage SPs are currently abandoned in garages all over the country - but earlier Heritage short-prints are a real pain.

Paying a whole $2 for this Tony Batista SP from 2005 Heritage - my first card of him on the Nationals - felt like a steal because that's a fraction of what most other short-prints from the era seem to go for.

Call this one the Mike Trout Effect, but I rarely see anything from 2011 Topps Update in the wild.

I bought a good amount of these at the time and luckily had most of what I needed from this set before the Trout-mania started (I even owned a Trout liquorfractor way back when!), but at some point people seemed to squirrel away the rest of their Update in search of the almighty dollar, and specifically the rookies.

It took a long time after I started collecting local hero Jason Kipnis to land his 2011 Update rookie, purely because he had the misfortune to have his first Topps land in the same checklist as the Godly Mike Trout.

Comb through a Hostess checklist and you'll find some SPs - I remember reading that were offered on the backs of less-popular Hostess products (a quick search shows treats such as Big Wheels and Pudding Pies that don't sound too appetizing to this '90s kid).

But even some of the non-SP Hostess have been surprisingly hard to track down for me over the years. I specifically remember searching for this '78 Hostess Len Randle at card show after card show, and no one seemed to have one. It drove me up the wall.

Maybe I was just looking in the wrong places - I eventually bought a copy for something like $1.50 - but the experience left me convinced that some Hostess cards aren't as common as we'd like to think.

I don't have any official data, but I think this '93 Pacific Dale Murphy earns the dubious crown of the card that sat the longest on my "Dime Box Dozen" list, clocking in at about two years!

'93 Pacific as a whole seems to be a tough go - I don't know that the set was widely purchased at the time and I almost never see them now.

I think the ultimate in this why are these so rare? discussion is probably the SP portion of 2002 Topps Traded.

Some genius at Topps decided to short-print the first 100 cards of that '02 Traded, and if I didn't know any better I'd say these were SP'ed to a number you can count on one hand because wow these things are maddening.

This Nomo is actually the only one I own - I stumbled into a copy in a dime box years ago, well before I knew how tough these monstrosities were. The cheapest copies of any 2002 Traded SPs I can find anywhere online are $4-5 each, mostly of guys I've barely heard of. Thankfully, for the sake of all our sanities, it was the first and last time Topps decided to SP a whole chunk of an Flagship checklist.

It's stuff like this that makes me glad I'm not much of a set-builder, because sometimes even the stuff we're told is common turns out to be not so common after all.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

I'll help you downsize

I used to wonder why in heavens anyone would ever downsize their collection.

As I've grown older, and started to realize the very real concerns of finding space for all these pieces of cardboard, I get it. I'm not really in a place now where I could imagine downsizing my own collection, but every once in a while I'll look around my room and go where did all this stuff come from? And I never have a great answer.

A lot of you probably know by now that our longtime friend Kenny (aka "Zippy Zappy") of "Torren' Up Cards" drastically slashed the scope of his collection recently, and he's bombarded a lucky few of us with the remnants of his task.

Unannounced packages & PWEs from Kenny have been regularly showing up in my mailbox for the last few months, so this post will be a catch-all for those generous mailings. The first package I received had a particularly thrilling item inside - an unopened pack of Sega Card-Gen! 

Kenny asks: Do you open this or leave this sealed? You probably know what my answer was...OF COURSE I'M OPENING IT!

And somehow, I managed to pull this Jason Giambi - one of the extreme few Sega Card-Gens I already had.

Even weirder is the fact that our resident Night Owl pulled the very same card from his Card-Gen pack from Kenny - is this a Deep State conspiracy to flood the American market with Jason Giambi cards?

I have Kenny to thank for the overwhelming majority of Japanese cards in my collection, and selfishly I'm glad he's downsizing because that means I get more!

I don't know if I'd even be aware of Sega Card-Gens without him, but I'm sure glad I do because they're wonderful cards - also always happy to welcome "gaijins" like Ryan Glynn into my collection.

Kenny also provided a rare first for Dime Boxedonia - my first superfractor!

Superfractors have never been anywhere near a top priority, but I've often entertained the idea of owning one. And while I've never heard of Austin Kubitza (he never made it above Double-A) I'm glad I can check this off my collecting to-do list.

Couple that with a rare Topps Now position-player-pitching card of Luis Torrens - the legend himself! - and you already have a wow-worthy assortment of cards here.

But Kenny couldn't stop there - he sent me yet another unopened pack of Japanese cards(!), this time from the 2023 Bowman NPB set that I must admit I had no idea existed in the first place.

I was fully ready to pull a mix of cool cards of guys I'd sadly never heard of here in America...and then our old friend Masahiro Tanaka appeared!

Tanaka kinda fell off my radar a few years ago, and I was wondering what'd happened to him - I once again show my lack of non-MLB knowledge here by admitting I didn't even know he went back to play in Japan.

One of the packages Kenny sent had a bit of weight to it, which confused me until a couple books fell out.

I take it as a point of pride to be the unofficial "book guy" here on the blogs - I've often said that reading and baseball are my two passions in life. Sadly, the bookstore I currently work at doesn't have a huge sports section (though I've convinced my bosses to bring in a few more baseball books) so I hadn't seen this David Cone autobiography before.

I'm not a huge reader of baseball biographies/autobiographies - I tend to gravitate toward books that deal with broader subjects and time periods - but from what I know about Cone I'm sure he has quite a story to tell.

A quick flip to the title page revealed another surprise - the book was signed by Cone and co-author Jack Curry!

Here's a rare example of a book I can't read but feel proud to own - as per Kenny's note, this is Hiroki Kuroda's autobiography (in Japanese, obviously).

Coupled with the books was this massively neat cabinet card of Masanori Murakami, the man who was notably the first Japanese player to play in the MLB when he broke in with the Giants in 1964.

Believe me when I tell you the goodies just kept coming and coming out of these packages.

I've discussed my love affair with MLB Showdown cards as a kid many times on this blog, but I'd never seen a signed one before Kenny sent that Cone my way (I'm thinking Cone must be a fairly prolific signer?).

Kenny's always good for a few random Japanese cards - I love these for many reasons, perhaps the simple of which is that there's something irresistible about hoarding cards that crossed a continent to get here.

(That's former White Sox prospect Dayan Viciedo at top-left, which talk about a guy I hadn't thought about in a long time.)

MLB needs more stuffed animals.

Japanese cards really do come in all shapes and sizes - and we're really going all over the world with that Team Italia WBC card of fellow "paisan" Francisco Cervelli!

Even with all the other wonderful randomness, I admit that every time something shows up from Kenny, my first thought is Ooh, I hope there's some Sega Card-Gen in here!

Thankfully, that prayer always seems to be answered.

Kenny's Jack Chesbro collection appears to have gotten the axe in his downsizing, and I was lucky enough to collect a few of the scraps.

I actually was the one who sent Kenny that Highlanders oddball in the bottom-left - it was a small concession given that he sent me a gosh-darn T206 Hal Chase! - but the selfish collector in me is once again happy to have that card back in my binders.

And so this tour of superfractors, books, Japanese issues and other insanity somehow comes to its similarly insane end - with a Wee Willie Keeler printing plate!

You can count the number of printing plates I own on one hand, and while they're not a huge priority in my collection, a plate of a dead-ball star has to be one of the cooler examples you'll see.

I can't even begin to thank Kenny for thinking of me with all these cast-offs from his own collection - selfishly, I have to say that if this is the kind of stuff that needs a home, then by all means let me help you downsize.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Is this real? (A card show report)

Walking through a card show can often feel like something out of a dream.

Dad and I attended the big convention hall gathering in our neck of the woods last week, and walking through those aisles and aisles of cardboard gets to be downright hypnotic. It's literally wall-to-wall action of people selling, talking, and breathing the thing you love. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to believe it.

I can say that I've had actual dreams about baseball cards before, and somehow none of them measure up to the actual reality of the things I continue to find at shows over the years. Take this '84 Fleer Update Dwight Gooden that I pulled out of a 50-cent bin(!) near the end of the evening. 

This copy isn't perfect (note the crease near the bottom), but either way it's one of those cards I've always wanted yet long resigned myself to never owning because have you seen what it goes for? Yet there it was sitting there in a random stack of cards for two quarters. 

Surely this only happens in the REM stage.

My non-collector friends are always a bit shocked when I tell them I can buy baseball cards for a dime (only ten cents? that's it?) but again so much of our hobby exists in a 

I do tend to look for a lot of the same things in dime boxes - my oft-mentioned player- and mini-collection hits come to mind - but that never kills the euphoria of nabbing 'em.

(Please forgive me for showing anything of Curt Schilling, but I'm flabbergasted I'd never seen that card - or the sweet Phils throwback - before.)

I dare you to not be hypnotized by dime box shiny.

Of course, while I might fall back on the same general themes in my card show travels, the sheer unpredictability of discount boxes is what keeps me coming back to them so often.

I certainly didn't expect to find a nice little run of TCMA Japanese stuff in a dime box, and I'd never dream of unearthing a neat BBM card in a 50-cent bin.

Couple that with a nice helping of playing cards (yes, those go in the binder like everything else) and Topps Tiffanys for a dime (does anyone remember Sarge with the Mariners?), and you have the of randomness of a card show in a nutshell.

More glorious oddballs from the discount bin archives.

Lest you think the Americanization of Latin names ended with "Bob" Clemente in the '60s, meet one-time White Sox hero "Steve" (Esteban, actually) Loaiza. 

The only thing I enjoy more than oddballs are oddballs I know absolutely nothing about.

I probably overpaid a bit for this Indians stadium giveaway set at the very first table of the afternoon (a whole $20!), and I actually only needed four of the seven cards in said set.

But at the end of the day I knew this was the kind of thing I'd never see again if I didn't snatch it up right then and there - plus how often do you see new cards of Ray Chapman and Addie Joss??

I was poking around a big box of A&G minis at one table when the vendor came over and kindly informed me those are ten cents each.

Thus unleashed a minor form of madness (HAMBURGER MINI!) - but after I'd snapped out of that fugue I found that I'd amassed a hefty stack of about 50 minis that somehow only ran me five bucks.

Dollar boxes are usually a pass for me at shows, but one of the dime box vendors I encountered had a small dollar box off to the side, so I figured I'd poke through it.

Imagine my surprise when I found a nifty Ted Williams Ted Williams, and a Marlins card of Mike Piazza I needed!

A few random horizontals here - I feel like not enough people know how cool that Topps Black & White set is.

Other neat randoms that didn't fit anywhere else in this post - always satisfying to find a photo variation like that Nola in a dime box!

I found a whole run of Platinum Anniversary cards in one guy's dime box, and I think it kinda gave me a new appreciation for the set - Melvin Mora is by no means high on my collecting radar, but it's cool to see someone like him get a card in a modern checklist.

Dreams, like , go through stages, and unfortunately I have to cut this one a bit short...

...because vintage awaits!

The dime boxes and such were in fine form, but in the end I think it's obvious that vintage won the show this time around. A good example of this is the fact that in the madness of everything I picked up, I honestly kinda forgot I bought this '60 Willie Mays until I was going through my finds later that night.

I feel like this is the kind of card that sums up my collection to a T: creased, battered, and generally worn, but still a big name that knocks you sideways with an affordable price tag (only $30!) to match.

As usual, the vintage discount bins packed a whole lot of punches throughout the day - the Yost was a cool find because it's been a while since I'd added a '52 Topps to my binders.

That '57 Kubek (from the icky "scarce" series) is akin to the '84 Fleer Gooden, in that it's a card I wanted but never planned on owning - that is, until an obviously un-mint copy popped up for $10 in the very first aisle.

A lot of my vintage finds tend to be on the pricier side (or, at least whatever qualifies as "pricey" for this cheapskate), but there's still fun to be had in the loose change department here.

Nothing in this scan set me back more than 50 cents - the Morales is another notch in my quest for all the '74 Topps "Washingtons" and that Barragon is just a fun a baseball card (love all the dents in the backstop). 

I've also been making a push to add more defunct team stuff to my binders, and I honestly had no idea future Met great Jerry Grote broke in with the Colt 45s.

I don't have the slightest idea what these are - they're paper-thin and appear to be cut from a sheet of some kind - but I knew there was no way I was letting such a fun batch of Senators get by me at 50 cents a pop.

"Bill's Got It" is another excellent card I'd somehow never seen before, and '60s Fleer Greats remains a constant thrill for me because of how affordable they tend to be.

I've scooped up most of the cheaper Nu-Scoops I need at this point, leaving me with the scarier bigger names to chase - that Gehrig was a whole $15, but that's actually not bad for the top-tier greats in this set.

One of my favorite vendors at this show has a big box of "off-grade" vintage for 90 percent off their list price - talk about heaven!

I'm not usually an avid buyer of early Bowman, but at $5 a piece I'd be insane to pass on these two Dime Box Favorites.

I may love my modern minis, but they can't hold a candle to our bite-size vintage legends.

Dad actually was the one who found that '69 Deckle Edge Jim Wynn, and I think he was a bit surprised about how quickly I threw it into my purchase pile. That one was short-printed for whatever reason & has been a thorn in my side for a good long while now.

Hostess and Kellogg's have long been the hallowed kings of vintage oddballs, but I've also been on a vintage Bazooka kick lately and couldn't believe my luck at finding that cool Colavito.

Now we're getting into the real big stuff, the true pinch-me finds of the day.

Never in a million years did I think I'd be the proud owner of a real Mel Ott card, but a blemish and a couple pinholes found one plop into my lap for a cool $25. That's the kind of thing that I never even think to because it seems so far out on the cardboard stratosphere.

Also please join me in breathing a massive sigh of relief about finally owning a '79 Hostess Ozzie Smith! At a hefty $50, it wasn't exactly discount bin fodder - and about ten times more than I'd ever paid for anything Hostess. Still, it's a surprisingly tough card (there's a copy on COMC for $175) and one I don't think I'd actually seen in the wild before (the vendor I bought it from somehow had four copies!). 

And yet somehow everything I've shown so far takes a back seat to the big purchase of the day...

...because meet Mr. Mantle.

Of course I always want a new Mickey Mantle, but I never walk into a card show with the intent of buying one because the prices are always so massive. The $100 price tag on this '66 was obviously still a good chunk of change (and you can count the times I've paid three-figures for a card on one hand), but every vintage Mantle I've seen at a show is easily at least twice that. Even creased Mantles like this one are usually arm-and-a-leg territory.

I hemmed and hawed a bit, but deep down I think I knew this Mantle was coming home with me all along because I knew I'd regret leaving it behind. And I have Dad to thank for this one, since his generous donation to the Dime Box Human Fund made it all possible. After all is said and done, I'm left asking myself the question that always seems to ring in my head after every card show.

Are you sure this isn't a dream?