Tuesday, June 26, 2012
When high-end cards meet a low-end budget
I'm still surprised by the type of cards I find in discount bins.
Most of what I find is from your basic Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, etc. sets. Sets that you can find at your local Target or Wal-Mart stores.
If I'm lucky, though, I can snag a few cards from "high-end" sets. Vendors who open that type of product don't usually care about building the base set anyways.
So into the discount bins they go.
It works out for me, since I've never opened anything resembling "high-end", and I don't intend to at any point in the future. Even if I had the money, I'd just use it for more dime and quarter cards.
And some vintage, of course.
That's not to say that I don't like some of the high-end sets. Some of them are among the nicest cards in my collection.
Case in point, Topps Tribute.
The hobby box SRP of last year's Tribute set was a whopping five hundred bucks.
The card at the top of the post is from the inaugural Tribute release in '01. I'm not sure what the going rate on a box was then, but I have to believe that the going rate was at least in the same ballpark.
Even a low-end collection such as mine has a few shiny luxuries you might not expect to see. I'd say a good 95 percent of my single card purchases over the years have cost me a dollar or less.
Believe it or not, all the cards you're about to see in this post fit into that category.
The above Tribue Earl Averill is easily one of the nicest cards inside my Indians binders. So how much did it cost?
Zilch. Nada. Squat. Nothing.
It was free.
I had a few bucks left after going through the usual pickings at the flea market last year when I came across a guy who had a couple dollar boxes on display. Although I didn't dig into it with as much enthusiasm as a dime or quarter box, I did manage to find a couple cards I needed.
After I brought them to the vendor, he was nice enough to let me pick out another dollar card, on the house. The Averill was one of the first ones I saw, and I just had to have it. (I would've spent a buck on it had I seen it earlier.)
I don't know that free cards get much better.
Triple Threads is probably the most common high-end find in discount boxes.
I don't know that I've ever found any in a dime box, but it wouldn't shock me in the least.
I have samples of each Triple Threads release in my collection. For my money, their last release in 2010 was the best.
A box of these would easily set you back a couple hundred bucks (at the least) in their heyday. They're okay, but I'd probably put them at the lower-end of the high-end continuum. (If that makes any sense.)
I've mentioned Hank Greenberg on a few occasions on this blog. I've never actually sat down and made it, but he's easily in my "Top 10 Favorite Baseball Players" list.
One of the more oddly-priced boxes I've ever come across was a 7/$5 bin at a card show a couple years back. (About 70 cents per card.)
As was the case with the dollar box I brought up earlier, I didn't look through that one with a whole lot of enthusiasm. Most of my card show budget is for dime/quarter cards and vintage. I get afraid that I might start pulling cards left and right and then blow a big chunk of money that might be better put towards lower-priced cards.
However, this Hank Greenberg was a tremendous bargain for a 7/$5 box, in my view.
A "steal" in every sense of the word.
I own 78 cards of Walter Johnson, but I can confidently say that this is my favorite card of his, without a doubt.
I'd like to know the history of that trophy "The Big Train" is holding in that shot. They didn't have the "Cy Young Award" back then.
It's times like these where I wish I were a baseball historian.
From what I know, Ultimate Collection was one of the highest-end sets in recent memory. I seem to recall it being a couple hundred bucks a pack.
I still can't believe people drop that kind of money on a pack of baseball cards.
Even though this one is numbered to just 275 copies, I managed to snag it for a buck on a trading forum, one of the best online purchases I've ever made.
It was a lot cheaper than buying a pack of this stuff, anyways.
This is easily one of my greatest discount box finds.
Prime Cuts was the definition of "high-end" in its time. This particular card comes from the 2008 release, a set that carried a $200 SRP per five-card pack.
So how did this one end up in a 3/$1 bin?
I don't know. I prefer not to ask those types of questions. I just look at results.
Those "results" netted me a stack of $200-per-pack cards for 33 cents a piece. I found base cards of Frank Robinson, Monte Irvin, and even Mark Fidrych in that bin.
But they all pale in comparison to Jim Thorpe, the greatest athlete in history.
Thorpe doesn't have a whole lot of baseball cards. The eight different issues of his in my collection are more than I ever though I'd own.
To find anything of his would've been a huge success. Much less a card of his from a high-end set (numbered to 249 copies) for a bit of loose change in my pocket.
Not only that, but this particular copy was the last one printed, as it's numbered "249/249" on the back. Just one of those little things that I enjoy as a collector.
Now that's one heck of a find, don't you think?
I don't necessarily have anything against high-end cards or people that collect them. If someone has that kind of money and wants to spend it on a pack of Tier One or Museum Collection, I see nothing wrong with that.
But I'll stick with my discount cards. Even the "higher-end" discount cards such as these.
Believe it or not, they still fit within a low-end budget sometimes.