I've mentioned "the flea market" on this blog dozens of times.
"Here's a card from the local flea market." "There's a card I got from the local flea market last summer."
I haven't had much evidence as to just how great the place is to express to my fellow bloggers.
Until now, that is.
It's held in the parking lot of the Allstate Arena every Sunday, which is where the Chicago Wolves (a local minor-league hockey team) and the Chicago Rush (an Arena football team) play their home games.
As you might guess, it's quite large.
But it's also one of the greatest ways to spend a summer afternoon, at least in my view. Even though I rarely buy anything except baseball cards, it's fun to go walk through the aisles and see all these pieces that make up American history. Pieces from before my grandparents or even great-grandparents were born.
All of it is simply amazing to me.
My mom and I went there the week it opened this year, on April 1st. However, the weather was a bit dreary and baseball cards were nowhere to be found.
Due to weather complications and busy schedules, we hadn't been able to check it out again until today.
It was well worth the wait, as you'll soon see.
Last year, there were two main card vendors, both of whom would have new stuff for me to browse through almost every week.
Sadly, it's looking like one of them has ditched his table this year, as I didn't see him. But one of the regulars was there, as well as a surprise table which you'll see later on in the post.
Prepare yourself, because there's a lot of scans in this post. There was just so much cardboard goodness that I couldn't leave out.
Let's start with the regular vendor.
The first year I started regularly attending, he'd always have a new box of quarter vintage every week. Sadly, it seems as though the vintage is mostly gone. All that's left is a box of mid '70s singles (which I already picked through last year), and a small box of assorted '60s vintage that didn't yield much.
But today's "finds" made me forget all about my longing for vintage.
The vendor usually has a great 12/$1 box each week, but I found it was mostly filled with football and basketball cards this time around.
Great for some, but not for me.
I still found a few "gems" inside, though. At twelve for a buck, I'll take all the Negro League cards I can find.
I only managed to find ten cards from the 12/$1 box.
But then I moved on to the quarter box, and my wishes for more dime cards quickly went away.
I've always noticed that the guy usually puts out about three or four quarter boxes, which hold a few hundred cards each, if I had a guess. Last year, I managed to find so much in the dime boxes each week that I had neither the time nor budget to fully indulge in the quarter boxes, in most cases.
Since there was a lack of dime cards this time around, I looked through every single quarter card for the first time in my flea market career.
It made me realize just what I was missing. I ended up purchasing 100 quarter cards (and a few other miscellaneous cards) for fifteen bucks. Since I buy from the guy fairly regularly, he always gives me a great deal.
So let's go through some quarter cards, shall we?
The awesome fold-out card at the top of this post was one of the first cards I nabbed from the box, hinting that there was more "history" to be found inside.
In fact, if I had one word to describe the above Ripken card, it would probably be "historic". I don't collect Mr. Ripken, but I couldn't pass that one up.
It's a piece of baseball history if I've ever seen one.
These are great, although I'm not altogether sure what set they're from.
I've found a few in dime/quarter boxes over the years. I don't think I've ever passed any of these up.
You've got to love that "action" shot of Warren Spahn, arguably the greatest left-hander in baseball history.
He looks like he's about to take flight.
The box had a little bit of everything.
Even some recent parallels were to be found inside. The Kendrick was a dupe, as I found out once I got home. That'll happen from time to time with discount boxes.
But the Keppinger is a prized new addition to the collection.
The Garvey was one of the few fifty-cent cards I purchased.
Since I still had the rest of the flea market to go through, I didn't look through the guy's fifty-cent or dollar boxes with much conviction. My instinct to save some cash ended up being quite beneficial, as you'll later see.
But I had no problem plopping down a couple quarters for the Garvey.
The Griffey, however, was relegated to the quarter box.
He doesn't look too happy about it.
Can you guess who this is?
If you're a basketball fan (or if you can read the facsimile signature at the bottom), you'll recognize this fellow as none other than Larry Bird, the NBA Hall-of-Famer.
According to the back of the card (which comes from the '94 Ted Williams set), this is one of two known pictures of Bird playing baseball. His career on the diamond consisted of two at-bats in college. He promptly retired after not being able to hit a curveball and getting knocked out after a collision with his catcher.
I think he made the right choice.
I can recall the first time I heard about Clayton Kershaw pretty vividly.
It came in the unlikeliest of settings. My junior year AP History class, in the spring of 2009.
The two history teachers got along pretty well, and both were apparently big baseball fans. Before one of our classes, the other teacher came in and queued up a video on the screen at the front of the room for our teacher. Everyone else in the class continued talking among themselves (the bell hadn't rung yet, after all), but I dropped what I was doing once I saw baseball on the screen.
It was a clip of some kid throwing an absolutely staggering curveball during spring training. Beyond 12-to-6. I couldn't believe it. I mean, the guy was wearing #96! I had a feeling that I might want to keep an eye out for this kid in the coming years.
That "kid" was Clayton Kershaw.
I'm sure Mr. Lasorda is a big fan of the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner as well.
Since my collection is grouped by teams, these "national" cards present a bit of a dilemma.
Bay will go in the Bucs binder, and Gonzalez with the Padres. They stick out.
But they're interesting nonetheless. Frank Catalanotto's WBC card is one of my favorites, since it's the only one I know of that showcases where my family's roots are found.
Quarter boxes: The home to minis of all shapes and sizes.
I have no better way to describe these two than "bad ass".
A couple fantastic cards of possibly the greatest pitcher in baseball history, Satchel Paige.
Sadly, we'll never know for certain.
These are among my favorite inserts of all-time.
I don't know that I can add much more to that, because they've already got great quotes on them, after all.
Donruss's first offering was a lot better than some give them credit for. I've seen far worse debuts in the card universe.
I think both of these shots were taken at Wrigley Field.
I know the Seaver is. The Bench just seems like Wrigley to me. Perhaps it's how close the fans are to the hitter.
I'm not quite sure why I bought that Pedro Martinez card.
Sometimes I buy Dodger cards of his for no particular reason, but I passed on few of those in the quarter box. I think it's because it's the earliest card I've ever seen of him.
Plus, I love the generic blue hat for some odd reason.
Five years ago, the Red Sox made a huge "splash" by winning the bid for Dice-K, and that card was going for big bucks. Now, it's in a quarter box.
How the mighty have fallen.
The Mays was another fifty-cent card.
I'm usually not a fan of plain, single-color backdrops, but it works for the "Say Hey Kid". That's why I spent a whole fifty cents on it.
The Kaline was one of my favorite buys of the day, mainly because it reminds me so much of the blogosphere. Not only is it a "Play at the Plate", but it also appears to be an "Awesome Night Card" as well.
The best of both worlds!
I've been looking for that Dwight Gooden insert for a while now, mainly because it's the only card I know of that pictures him in an Astros uniform. (He pitched in a grand total of one game for them in 2000 before being sold to the D'Rays.)
It leads me to wonder how long it's been sitting right under my nose in that quarter box.
And how cool is that card of Fred Lindstrom? How often do you find anything of him, much less one as awesome as that?
"Joltin'" Joe DiMaggio admiring his Hall of Fame plaque.
I'll let the greatness of this one speak for itself.
And now, to cap off this venture into the quarter boxes...
Mr. Cespedes himself, three years before his entry into the big leagues.
After doing a little research, I found out that this one is actually a redemption from 2009 Topps. I've never mailed in a redemption in my baseball card career, but I've got a few in my collection from discount boxes over the years.
This is easily one of the better "steals" I've ever nabbed from a quarter box. My guess is that the vendor put it in there a year or two ago, before anyone knew who Cespedes was, and forgot about it.
And then I came along.
As if it couldn't get any better, I think it's a broken bat card as well. I've always been a fan of those.
Those were just some of the cards I found this afternoon. There was a second table with baseball cards a few aisles down. Although I should probably split these into two posts, I'm on a roll.
So here comes more...
I almost didn't even look through these cards.
The first thing I saw was a box of assorted singles with no prices on it. Red flag.
After I asked the guy in charge how much they were, he said "All different prices." Another red flag.
Then, he said that he bought a collection off some guy and was just trying to make a few bucks off of them. "I don't really know a lot about cards", he said.
The biggest red flag there is.
Against my better judgment, I started looking through them. I was glad I did, because I instantly found the above 1976 SSPC Hank Aaron card inside.
Although I was wary of how much the guy was going to ask, I kept on digging.
I was pleased to find two giant stacks of 2003 Topps 205 cards after a little searching.
The best tobacco-style set ever. Far and away better than Gypsy Queen and A&G, in my opinion.
I could never seem to find them anywhere, though.
Until today. In the end, I found about 25 cards from the set, including the Louis Sockalexis.
Nobody big, just the guy who the Cleveland Indians are named after. (He was one of the first Native-American sports stars.)
I even found a gem within a gem, if that was even possible.
Not only is it from the great Topps 205 set, but it's a Hanley Ramirez rookie card!
I was a little afraid to set these aside because the dealer seemed to think all '80s cards were worth a fortune.
I've never seen a red Expos uniform before. What the heck is that?
This box ended up being the definition of "a little of everything".
I went from looking at the bad photography on 1980's Fleer to digging though cards from $200-a-pack Topps Sterling.
And then to Ichiro cards. Numbered out of 2500 copies, no less.
I was starting to get worried that the guy would want a few hundred bucks for these, but I put them aside anyways.
As if that box wasn't enough, the vendor had a big bin of assorted cards underneath the table.
I dug and dug, desperate to see what pieces of baseball history I could salvage. I bet the people that walked by thought I was crazy.
The above Lou Burdette card is a perfect definition of why you probably shouldn't randomly throw cards into bins.
Because that can happen.
And then people like me come along and take it off your hands for less than you might've been able to get for it.
But I'm not complaining.
The bin proved to be even more random than the boxes.
But I managed to "save" Red Faber and Eddie Collins from a life of being relegated to almost nothing. Life in a bin, for goodness sakes.
It got even better.
From Red Faber to...Buster Posey?
I gave up trying to explain how these cards were thrown together a long time ago.
Not just any Buster Posey card, but a mini! An "American Caramel" mini from 2010 Topps 206, at that.
But nothing could match the undisputed find of the day...
For a second, I thought I saw a card I recognized.
Some guy on the A's.
And then I couldn't find it again. The horror!
I dug and dug and dug for a few minutes, to prove to my eyes that they were playing a trick on me. But then I found it, and I apologized that I ever doubted my baseball card treasure-seeking eyes.
It was indeed...a 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card.
I don't even collect Rickey Henderson, for the most part. But it's an iconic card. And since I was tossing cards aside anyways, I might as well see how much the guy wanted for this one. After all, he said he didn't know much about the hobby.
Perhaps that might be an advantage this time.
So I asked how much he wanted for everything I had pulled, fifty-five cards in all. He threw out a number. I didn't have that much with me.
I offered him all the cash I had.
To my utter surprise, he accepted, and I walked away into the sunset, proud to be a baseball card collector.
So just how much did I pay for those fifty-five cards?
If you do your math, that amounts to about thirty cents a card. You head it correctly. I paid thirty cents for a 1976 Hank Aaron and a Rickey Henderson rookie card. It's true.
That's why I love "the flea market" so darn much, folks.