Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dime Box Heroes: Leave no card unturned

1977 Topps #159 Bernie Carbo

When it comes to dime boxes, I can get a little crazy.

That's probably the understatement of the year.

I'm not in denial about it, though. I know how revved up I get at the simple sight of a dime box. I guess I'm a "dime box dork".

Perhaps the best example of my intensity towards dime boxes can be characterized by this Bernie Carbo card.

Last summer, one of the local flea markets was hosting former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle as an autograph guest. To promote it, a mini-card show was held in the area where Gayle would be signing later in the day. 

I made sure to go before Gayle appeared. I didn't have much interest in meeting him, plus I figured I'd have most of the show to myself before the autograph seekers showed up. 

While there was a decent chunk of football memorabilia, much of it was just your basic baseball card show. Over the years, I've found that smaller shows tend to have about the same amount of vendors with dime boxes than the bigger ones. That's possibly because of the cheaper price for tables and the fact that people usually don't show up with tons of cash for the smaller shows. (Although the larger shows do tend to have better dime boxes overall.)

One of the first tables I saw had a dime box. After grabbing a couple stacks of cards and not finding much, I decided to pass and go on to the next table.

The show ended up being unbelievably good. Almost every table had a dime box. I even plucked over 200 cards from a 12/$1 box at one of the tables. Another table had a bunch of early '80s Donruss and Fleer cards for a dime a piece. I had a field day at that one, as there's a lot of great cards from those sets that fly under the radar.

As I was walking out of the card show area, I saw that first table again. The table that I had previously passed on after coming up empty on a few stacks of cards. I still had a few bucks left, so I figured I'd give it another shot.

It turned out to be the best decision I made all day.

I must've just had bad luck on the first couple piles of cards I'd previously looked at, because I was pulling cards left and right from that dime box the second time around. There were some great recent cards inside (including a couple rookies of once-top prospect Andy LaRoche for my collection of his), but the best part about it was the vintage.


There was an entire row of mid/late '70s vintage inside the 3200-count box that I had somehow missed before. I nabbed a '77 Topps Dennis Eckersley, a '77 Bert Campaneris, and Hostess cards of greats such as Willie McCovey and Steve Garvey, all for a dime a piece.

But with names like "Eck" and "Stretch", my personal highlight from the box might come as a surprise to a lot of collectors.

A 1977 Topps Bernie Carbo.

I'd actually been looking for the card for a while. I'm a big fan of Carbo's for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, and his '77 issue was the only one of his in a Brewers uniform. 

It might have been my biggest score of the day.

I own every single Topps card of Carbo from his playing days, everything from his 1970 Topps rookie to his final card in 1979. Mark Fidrych is the only other player I can say that about, at least off the top of my head. (Greg Luzinski is close, as I'm only missing his '81 Topps Traded issue.)

So what exactly did the Carbo card characterize? 

If I see a good dime box, I have to look through every single card inside. I did it with the 12/$1 boxes I mentioned earlier (two 3200-count boxes). I did it with the box of '80s Fleer and Donruss cards. And I did it with the box that contained the Carbo as well. 

I went back to that table because the inkling that I might be leaving behind something huge kept tugging at me. It's a good thing I did, obviously.

I could've left behind the Carbo and never known.

I've spent a good hour digging through dime boxes at single tables over the years. As was the case with a table at a show this past November that had three 3200-count dime boxes, and a quarter box of the same size. And some quarter vintage to the side, to top it all off.

But I looked through all of it.

The mystery of what might be inside is what draws me to dime boxes. The thought that I might be missing a future "white whale" is something I can't bring myself to pass up.

They're probably my favorite thing about the hobby. You could sit me down in front of a dozen dime boxes, and I'd still go through them all. Finding those "gems" is the most rewarding feeling I've ever experienced in this hobby.

I never get sick of it, and I never will.


Marcus said...

For a long time, I've been a music store junkie. I'm rarely interested in the new albums, but I like looking through all the used CDs that are only a couple of bucks. I've spent hours in stores, only to leave with a few pick-ups, but they were usually hard-to-find ones that were a little less appreciated than most. After going to my first card show since I was a kid, I found myself doing the same thing, only now with cards. Glad to see that I'm not the only one...

The Pack Prodigy said...

Carbo came to my school and spoke about faith and overcoming drug addiction. Very touching, emotional, eye-opening experience!