Friday, July 19, 2019

Right in front of my face

One of the many things I truly appreciate about this hobby is that no matter how long you've been collecting or how many cards you have, there'll always, always be something new to discover.

A fine example came from a recent trade I swung with Bo of the excellent "Baseball Cards Come to Life!" blog, a swap that saw Bo send along this '80 Topps Jim Palmer...which immediately went into my extras box because I've owned a copy of it since my youth. But just by chance, I happened to give it a second glance before sending it to the neverland of dupes. And then I noticed something: HEY, that's a microphone! Jim Palmer's being interviewed! I COLLECT GUYS BEING INTERVIEWED!

And that's how I learned something new about a card I'd owned for darn near two decades now -- a mini-collection hit I never knew I had to begin with.

I don't know what I enjoy more -- discovering new things about cards I've had for years, or discovering just plain great cards I never knew about in the first place.

Either way, it's a whole lot of fun, and if the Palmer and Guerrero are any indication (the latter of which I somehow hadn't seen before this package), maybe I'm not as familiar with 1980 Topps as I thought I was.

This trade was born out of the fact that Bo had a copy of that '95 Collector's Choice Andy Ashby, a card that'd been bugging the hell out of me since I'd had the silver signature parallel of it in my frankenset (pitcher at the plate!) without the standard base version.

Bo took care of that and added an extra cherry on top with that nifty Rolen from '98 Score -- another set I (wrongly) thought I'd long since mined all the goodies from.

As I think many of you know, the discoveries are endless when you trade with Bo.

Deciding to collect a guy relatively late in his career can be somewhat stressful since you end up missing and/or not caring about a whole lot of cards issued of said player in years past.

As was the case with this Pat Neshek from Bo -- a former Dime Box Dozen need -- that took me twelve whole years to secure since I wasn't collecting him back in 2007.

I was also lucky enough to partake in a rare in-person trade with Jeff of the dormant (but hopefully not defunct!) "2x3 Heroes" blog at a card show we both attended earlier this year.

The Hornsby is just plain spectacular (I still miss Panini Cooperstown), and the Burkett, like the aforementioned Ashby, was a card I'd had a parallel of in the frankenset WITHOUT THE GOSH DARN BASE CARD (can you tell how annoyed that makes me?).

A couple new player collection hits from Jeff, including Eck as a Cardinal which never quite looks right to me for some reason.

It floors me when a current card takes me by surprise since, between the blogs and Twitter and what have you, I'm privy to literally hundreds of people opening new product and showing that product on the net.

But despite all that -- and despite all the 2018 Archives I myself purchased -- I had yet to once see this magnificent specimen until Jeff surprised me with it. It's Ichiro, it's a mini-collection hit, and it's a riff on one of my favorite Topps subset designs ever. And even with the flurry of images in our technological age, I had no idea it existed until almost a year after the fact.

I can go hunting and digging through the most obscure dime boxes in the world, but the hard but fun truth is that I'll always be missing something great, blind to the beauty sitting right in front of my face.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 43: Numbers 379-387

Frankenset Page #18 WINNER -- 2017 Stadium Club #156 Lucas Duda (12 votes)

For better or worse, this page didn't have any of the four-way tie drama of the one that came before it.

Lucas Duda earned the crown from last week's group fairly easily, taking 12 of the 31 total votes en route to the win. No other card received more than five tallies, though all of them did earn at least one, which I always like to see.

But in the end, I think the right card won, so let's welcome Mr. Duda and the big apple into the Gallery of Frankenset Champions.

We're back with another higher-numbered group here tonight -- as per the Random Number Generator, Page 43 (#s 379-387) is up for grabs this week.

Let's meet the hopefuls.

1993 Topps #379 Mike Munoz

A pose and retro jersey worthy of vintage Topps.

1995 Bowman #380 Dean Palmer

I highly doubt this one makes the frankenset without the bright-orange outfit on that usher (or at least I hope he's an usher).

1998 Upper Deck #381 Jim Eisenreich

The one and only card I own of a dude autographing a teddy bear.

1995 Topps #382 Chris Haney

I've said it time and time again: 1995 Topps is grossly underrated.

2015 Topps Update #US383 Nelson Cruz


2016 Topps #384 Michael Morse

What was originally a ho-hum frankenset nominee became a lot more interesting when I just today learned that Mike Morse hit exactly one home run as a Pirate -- could this be a glimpse from that watershed event?

2014 Topps #385 Josh Willingham

For a reverse-angle look at this moment, check out the scoreboard on this very same card!

1973 Topps #386 Don Money

Today in the World of Garish Airbrushing.

1993 Upper Deck #387 John Valentin

We close with an excellent double dip from the frankenset-friendly '93 Upper Deck checklist.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Why I chose a hotel card show over the National

Over and over again, I've said that the true good of this hobby exists in the world of hotel card shows, but I think I've finally found an item that personifies that to you more than my words and observations ever could.

I bought this at the very first table of the hotel show Dad and I attended this past Sunday. It's not part of some kind of corporate-branded Limited Time Only frame promotion run by Topps or anything: it's simply Yusei Kikuchi's Topps rookie card, paired with the photo-variation SP, housed in a custom frame by a vendor -- a nice elderly gentleman who I see at all the local shows -- who obviously loves the hobby and just thought such a display would look nice. And I got all that for three dollars.

The cards themselves would've been a steal at that price -- I've since removed them and repurposed the frame for a different display in my room -- but it's the complete package, what it symbolizes to me, that made it such a memorable buy.

You may already know that the National is coming to my town at the end of the month, the Mecca for most collectors: but me, I chose to take my money to the hotel card show last weekend instead.

I'm not saying the National is bad or that people shouldn't go -- I'll be there if the funds shake out -- and I know that I probably could've gotten most of the cards I found on Sunday (like this smattering of pressing 2019 needs) there had I chose to wait a few weeks.

It's just that in the insanity of it, I think people forget or plain don't realize that the National has its glaring flaws -- the $20 admission fee, the cash hunger, the pricing out of the low-end collectors -- so, in the end, I've learned that my true bliss resides at the hotel card shows.

I'll just say this: that same elderly vendor who had the Kikuchi frame let me pick out a few free 2019 Topps Total from a snap case he had behind the table, which good luck finding someone willing to let you do that at the National.

I realize that I'm probably the crazy one in this situation, that weird dude who picked a hotel show over the National, and in some ways I guess I ate my own words because I did choose to snag a few cards of "big-money" rookies on Sunday.

At three bucks, the Alonso was the second-most expensive single card I bought all day, and the odd non-numbered Vlad Jr. was easily the priciest at a whopping $10 -- though I only bought it more out of serendipity since I spotted it on my way out the door with exactly ten dollars left in my wallet.

The one disappointment from Sunday's show was that I came up empty on locating any of my remaining 2019 Topps Big League base needs (I guess people have moved on to the next latest and greatest set by now), but there were more than enough other unexpected 2019 finds to balance the scales.

Snazzy adds to some of my prime player collections here.

Mini-collection hits, past and present -- the Story is actually a scarce Jackie Robinson Day SP from 2019 GQ, which, yes, I found tucked away in a dime box.

Miscellany is what keeps me coming back to these shows: you never know when you'll find a colorized Cooperstown SP for a dime, or a card of George Brett's pine-tarred bat (my nominee for the Strangest Card of 2019).

There's maybe a dozen vendors in all at this hotel show, and I'd say about eight or nine of them had a dime box -- I'm lucky if I see eight or nine dime boxes in the entirety of the National.

Most of the dime boxes I saw on Sunday were packed with 2019 singles, but a couple of them had the gloriously random selections near and dear to my heart.

It's not every day I find a new Julio Franco card, and that Bobby Thompson has actually been on my want list for years.

More randoms (how have I never seen that Enos Cabell before?!), and I can say with much certainty that I wasn't expecting to own a baseball card of Guided By Voices frontman Bob Pollard in my lifetime.

Dollar boxes have never been my speed, but I didn't hesitate at spending a whole Washington on these two -- the Scully was another long-desired card of mine, and the Ohtani is a factory-set variation.

One of the more unexpected finds in Sunday's largely modern haul was a 1974 TCMA Gas House Gang complete set for a mere five bucks.

For some reason, I initially balked at grabbing it -- I already had a couple of these, including the Dizzy Dean -- but come on: the sheer number of characters and/or fun nicknames on the '34 Cardinals should've made this an instant buy.

The possibility of landing photo variations wasn't even on my radar going into Sunday, but that changed rather quickly.

In addition to this excellent SP of a double-dipping Robin Yount...

...came a gaggle of other stunning variants at equally stunning prices.

Some of these (like Syndergaard and Greinke at the plate!) cost me all of a dollar, and none of the others set me back more than two or three bucks per -- the Brock is probably my favorite of the lot, but I'm fond of the Yaz cameo on that Pedroia as well, even if it feels it's more of a cameo on Pedroia's part.

My main goal on Sunday was to polish off my 2019 Stadium Club needs on the cheap, and just about every table helped me achieve that without much of a problem.

The quality of this year's set is so great that I probably ended up buying close to 200 singles (the set is 300 cards) that I needed for either the featured player, the excellent photo, or in many cases, both.

And, better yet, the cards in this page and the one before it were indeed just a dime a pop -- just a small fraction of all the excellence 2019 Stadium Club has to offer.

Only after arriving home later that day did I realize I'd accidentally unearthed a rare photo SP from one of those Stadium Club dime boxes with this Hoskins.

Hell if I remember who it came from, or what dime box it was, but it made for a nice cherry on top of what was already a day well spent -- it's hard to imagine a better place to pass an afternoon than within the quiet confines of a hotel card show, and yes...that includes the National.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 18: Numbers 154-162

Frankenset Page #7 WINNER --  2008 Bowman Prospects #BP58 Scott Van Slyke (6 votes + tie-breaking vote)

This is just about unheard of: last week's frankenset page ended in a FOUR-WAY TIE.

The quartet of cards seen above all ended up with six of the 35 total tallies (and Rich Chiles came one vote shy of making it a five-way tie). This is uncharted territory for me. I've never had a three-way tie for first since I started doing these pages, much less a four-way deadlock. I guess I'll treat it the same as a regular tie: I ask anyone who cares to comment on this post to leave their choice from the four cards above. The first to receive three of these tie-breaking votes (however many comments that may take) will be the new king.

I'll update this post once we have a winner.

EDIT: Van Slyke wins!

While last week's insanity gets sorted out, here's a look at our newest nominees.

The Random Number Generator spit out #18, so we'll be voting on that page of the frankenset binder (#s 154-162) this week -- let's meet the hopefuls.

1998 Ultra #154 Jaime Navarro

Still my favorite throwbacks.

2015 Topps Pro Debut #155 Jhoan Urena

Minor league fun. 

2017 Stadium Club #156 Lucas Duda

I feel like this would be a good opening frame for a horror movie. 

2016 Topps Update #US157 Jameson Taillon

A rare coach cameo on a modern baseball card. 

1991 Topps #158 Jose Uribe

Turning two at Wrigley (with a guest appearance from Ryno!). 

2015 Topps Update #US159 Darren O'Day

A fitting card considering we're hours away from this year's Midsummer Classic -- though I must confess I'm not even 100 percent sure which one of these dudes is Darren O'Day (second from right, I think?). 

1993 Upper Deck #160 John Burkett

Autographs and throwbacks, all rolled into one beautiful baseball card. 

2017 Stadium Club #161 Tyler Glasnow

White Sox throwbacks may remain my favorites, but these are high on the list too.

 2014 Topps #162 Josmil Pinto

Smiles, smiles everywhere.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar -- and don't forget to help break last week's four-way tie!

Happy voting!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Flea market stereotypes

I imagine those of you who have never seen a flea market, or know about them very vaguely, probably have some stereotypes as to what they look like.

Well, I'm here to tell you that those stereotypes are...probably right. At least partly. Yes, there are numerous vendors trying to hock used baby toys and expired food. Yes, there are shirtless men with farmer's tans everywhere. And yes, there are, of course, people who think their unspectacular junk is worth a mint. I'm sure this last phenomenon applies to other flea market minutiae, but I can say from experience that I've seen it a lot with cards. By now, I fancy myself good at being able to weed out those mistaken souls. Or so I thought.

One vendor I stumbled across this past Sunday had a small box of commons and a large box of various relics and graded cards at his table -- with an inventory like that, I thought he'd have at least a decent handle on what his stuff was worth. Nope. When I asked how much he wanted for four cards from his commons box (all '02 Stadium Club base) and a couple other inserts (quarter box material, at best), he replied Eight dollars. When I said no, he said: Tell you what, I'll give 'em to you for five bucks. Still a hard no, dude.

I will say that, whether out of exasperation or genuine kindness, he eventually let me have the four Stadium Club commons I picked out for free.

Which reminds me, the flea market is also a good breeding ground for another pet peeve of mine: unpriced stuff.

I suppose there's no one to blame but myself when I decide to dig through cards that aren't priced. But I really don't think it's asking too much for people to slap prices on their items. Takes two minutes. Perhaps one reason I endured the aforementioned eight-dollar fiasco was because I'd actually gotten a good deal on other unpriced cardboard earlier in the day.

A large man with a thick Eastern European accent said Give me two dollars when I asked him for a price on the stack of about 25-30 vintage Topps and '80s Fleer I'd picked from his table -- sold!

I saw a lot of people with cards during this past flea market trip, but only a small fraction of them had anything I actually wanted.

One vendor had a couple very intriguing tubs filled with unopened packs. They weren't quite priced to move -- I paid $9 for an assortment of six or seven of them -- but they did feature a whole mess of sets I never thought I'd find unopened packs of in a million years.

Heck, I don't think I've seen a pack of 2004 Upper Deck Vintage or 2005 Donruss since...well, 2004 or 2005.

Another affable vendor I've seen a few times in the past had a couple small snap cases of Cubs cards for a quarter a pop -- nice to score a few Cubs from both my adulthood and my youth here.

While, yes, many of those negative stereotypes are indeed true, I'm also here to report that there are few places I'd rather spend a Sunday afternoon than the flea market -- all these years later, it remains responsible for a large chunk of my collection.

My main regular vendor was in attendance again this time around, and I scored a quartet of these fun Collect-A-Books oddballs from his 4/$1 box (which, in a novel concept, he had actually priced!).

More from the 4/$1 box, including a supreme bat rack shot I somehow didn't own and a fine upgrade for the miscut '81 Kellogg's Yount that previously occupied my Brewers binder (the only miscut Kellogg's card I've ever seen, actually).

My regular vendor's cheap boxes are hallowed ground for beat-up vintage.

Though I've picked through much of his discount oldies during past trips, he always manages to sprinkle in a few new gems -- hard to beat a pair of '67 rookies (Sal Bando!) for a quarter.

With its aisles and aisles of items centered so much around the nostalgic past, the flea market seems like the one place I shouldn't be finding latest-and-greatest baseball cards.

But alas, another new vendor I found had some of the just-released Series 2 scattered around a couple boxes -- these two were (again) unpriced, but I ended up getting them as throw-ins to the large purchase I eventually unearthed at his table.

One box had a monstrous stack of intact '81 Topps Scratch-off panels -- quite a treat since I don't have a whole lot of singles from this oddball set (and I've never even seen a whole panel of 'em).

At first, I decided to pick and choose which ones I wanted, but after a while I decided to ask how much the dude wanted for the whole lot.

He replied: Ten dollars, and that's how I got all 83(!) of these panels for close to a dime a piece.

If that's not a point for the flea market, I don't know what is.

I easily had ten bucks' worth of fun (and then some) separating and tearing out the singles I needed -- I mean, here's three major ones for three top-tier player collections of mine, all on the same panel --but as the set is only 108 cards deep, I'm left with a whole lot of doubles (and triples, and quadruples, and so on) and several intact panels left over if anyone wants any.

I'm happy to spread the wealth around, if for no other reason than to convince you that the flea market can, despite its flaws and stereotypes, be a magical place.