Today is the last day of my summer vacation.
I'll be back to the "grind" tomorrow, although I'll admit that my schedule for this coming semester is a pretty light one.
Nevertheless, I'm sure we all know how much of a sinking feeling that last day of vacation can be.
While I had a great last "night out" with my friends last night, I still felt that I needed another "pick-me-up" to effectively end my summer vacation with a bang.
As a result, my last "hurrah" of the summer was a sunny Sunday afternoon at the local flea market, digging through baseball cards for a couple precious hours.
I couldn't have asked for much more.
Although my "main guy" at the flea market wasn't there this weekend, there was still a plentiful amount cardboard goodness to keep me happy.
Last year, there used to be a little cluster of about three card vendors in one of the aisles, including my "main guy". Until today, only the "main guy" had set up shop each weekend. The other two were MIA.
As luck would have it, the other two formerly-missing vendors made an unexpected reappearance this week, much to my delight.
I got to know the first vendor a bit last summer, since I'd always buy something from him each week. Although he didn't get much new stuff in on a week-to-week basis, I made an effort to at least pick out a couple bucks' worth of cards each time last year, especially since he always cuts me a deal.
A majority of the cards he had on display this time around were indeed the same "stock" as last year's. Yet it was a sight that I was happy to see, for one simple reason.
My collection has changed since the last time I dug through those boxes, and I was interested to see what gems my pre-blogger self had formerly passed up.
As a result, a lot of the cards I bought were just ones that simply had "cool" photos on them. I didn't look for that at all last year. All I was concerned about was whether I collected the player or not. If I did, a cool shot was purely a bonus.
One of the rows of the first 3200-count box I dug through was comprised of entirely 2010 Topps base cards. I barely even touched those last year. After all, I figured I'd traded for all the "good" ones already.
Topps did an absolutely fantastic job with the "team cards" in 2010, easily the best in their long, illustrious history.
Although I'm pretty much indifferent towards the Padres, I pounced on this team celebration shot for a dime.
After all, a card like this deserves to be recognized in my collection.
You could argue that these "Franchise History" cards are even better.
Both of these are things of beauty, especially that old-time shot of Ebbets Field, the stomping grounds of the affectionately-labeled "Bums".
I'm pretty sure that I actually had both of these at one point in time, but I traded them because they just didn't "fit" in my collection.
I don't know what I was thinking.
A lot of the individual player cards in 2010 Topps are absolute gems as well.
Juan Pierre is an example of a player that I collect on one team, but not another. I collect his White Sox and current Phillies cards, but not so much his Dodgers or Marlins issues. (Don't ask why. I'm not so sure myself.)
Still, I couldn't bring myself to pass this one up, no matter what uniform he might be wearing. (It gives collectors a bonus shot of the "Kung Fu Panda" as well.)
This card has probably been in those boxes for a couple years by now.
I'm glad I was finally able to "save" it this afternoon.
Perhaps the biggest reason I was excited to see the old boxes on display is the fact that I've "inducted" a few new guys into my binder since last year.
I figured a table like this would be a terrific place to add a couple new pieces to some of those new collections on the cheap.
Correct I was.
Heath Bell was welcomed into "the binders" right around the time I started this blog. I just started collecting Stanton a couple months ago.
And now for something completely different...dime cards of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
The vendor had a small box of non-sports cards off to the side, and these were sitting in the front of the row.
I've always thought a guy like Tesla deserved a card. Turns out there was already one out there.
Although I'm not sure what exactly these are, I welcome them into my "historical" collection with open arms.
These dime boxes also yielded one of the finer "pitcher at the plate" specimens that I've seen during my time in this hobby.
First off, it's a horizontal issue, which isn't something you see a whole lot from these types of cards.
Secondly, Myers is now a member of the hometown White Sox, which is always a plus for me.
But the thing I love most about it is that Topps managed to snap a shot of the split-second before the ball met Brett Myers's bat. (Looks like Myers has his bunting form down pat.)
It pains me to think how long this amazing card has been sitting in those dime boxes, right beneath my nose.
The important thing is that it finally found a good home this afternoon.
One of the few new additions to the vendor's dime boxes this year was an entire row of 2004 Upper Deck singles.
Given from what I'd already seen from the set, I knew I was in for a treat. (The set lays claim to one of my favorite "Cardboard Masterpieces".)
I nabbed a great mixture of guys I collect and more fantastic photos. Some one, some the other, and some both.
Mike Hampton isn't exactly high on the priority list for my binders, but there was no way I was going home without this one.
You just don't see too many shots of pitchers fielding nowadays. This is the first I've seen of a pitcher covering home on either a wild pitch or a passed ball.
I'd say the runner is out on that play.
Here's a couple that belong to the "both" category.
Brad Ausmus and Mike Sweeney are both guys that I've been collecting since my early days in the hobby.
My Sweeney collection has a bit of an interesting backstory.
As I've mentioned before, I got one of my friends into collecting during eighth grade or so.
For some reason, he instantly became a huge Mike Sweeney fan, although I'm still not sure why. Up to that point, Sweeney was basically just another one of "those guys" to me.
After I found out my friend collected him, I started picking up cards of Sweeney to trade to him, mainly through deals on my trading forum. Soon enough, I found myself becoming more and more interested in Mike Sweeney cards as well.
So I decided to start my own little collection of his.
My friend lost interest in collecting after about a year. Although I've drifted in and out of different card "phases" since then, I've always collected in some way since then.
And as it stands now (including this afternoon's pickup), my Mike Sweeney collection consists of no less than 158 different issues.
I have my eighth grade friend to thank for that.
Even with all the great shots and neat additions to my new and old player collections, I'd say this was the most interesting of all my dime finds from the first vendor of the day.
Ironically, it's a card of a player who hasn't played a game in the majors yet.
Thanks to the awful usage of foil lettering on Bowman's part, it might be a little tough to tell who this card pictures. So let me clear it up for you.
This is a 2009 Bowman "prospect" card of young Reds farmhand Billy Hamilton, a name that should be familiar to a lot of baseball fans.
In a year split between Single-A and Double-A, Hamilton has stolen an amazing 143 bases in just 118 games, two shy of the professional record set by Vince Coleman in 1983.
With all the publicity Hamilton's been receiving lately, even I'm a little surprised that I found his first official card in a dime box.
If I wanted to, I could probably make some profit on this card. But it's staying with me.
Hamilton has already earned a spot in my binders.
All in all, I walked away with about 140 cards from this vendor. He gave them all to me for just twelve bucks.
As I always say, it pays to be a regular customer.
On I went to the other formerly-MIA flea market vendor.
Most of the dime cards he had available were of the football and hockey variety. Terrific for some, but unfortunately not for me.
One box did catch my eye though.
It was about half the size of a 3200-count box, with a little label saying "Baseball--10 cents each" on it. But that wasn't even the best part.
It wasn't just any ordinary dime box.
It was a dime box that had...vintage. And as a lot of you probably know, I love me some vintage. (Which begs the question: Who doesn't?)
The first stack I pulled was comprised of 1978 Topps singles. I found a few I needed, but nothing spectacular.
My eyes lit up when I saw what awaited me in the back reaches of the box. A rather large stack of 1979 Topps, free for the taking.
For whatever reason, my collection is almost devoid of anything from '79 Topps, and I've had a hard time tracking any of them down over the years.
I couldn't wait to dig through them.
One of the first cards I found was a huge "victory", as far as my collection is concerned.
I just comprised an "Into the Sunset" post about "The Mad Hungarian" himself, Al Hrabosky. In that write-up, I briefly mentioned that I'd probably rate Hrabosky's "peak year" of cardboard to be his '79 Topps issue. There was only one problem.
I didn't have it.
Sure enough, the card (and the beard) slipped out of the innocent-looking pile of cards.
I threw it into my "purchase pile" with glee.
Here's a couple more of my "'79 finds", this time showcasing a couple of my favorite Mets from the '70s.
Back when I was younger, I couldn't get enough of my "blooper tapes". I must've had a dozen or so VHS tapes, all packed with hour-long footage of nothing but baseball bloopers.
A few "classic" bloopers managed to show up on every single one of them. (The ball going off Jose Canseco's head and over the fence is my personal favorite.)
One of those was the famous clip of Lenny Randle literally blowing the ball foul during his time with the Mariners. With that play, he single-handedly changed the baseball rule book.
Oddly enough, my inspiration to collect cards of Randle goes all the way back to those silly "blooper" tapes.
My collection has hit a "mini-milestone" with that Manny Sanguillen issue.
I now own every single Topps card of Manny Sanguillen, from his 1968 rookie card to his "sunset" issue in '81.
Stuff like this matters to us low-end collectors.
It's something the high-dollar card industry wouldn't understand.
Next to the fantastic vintage dime box was another couple boxes of cards that carried the price of a quarter each, or five for a dollar.
I scooped up the Garvey as soon as I saw it, my first card from the '81 Drake's set.
For twenty cents, you can't beat that.
These Action Packed cards are among my favorite "legend" sets ever produced.
They feel different than almost every other card I own. It's hard to describe in words, but anyone who has one of these in their collection probably knows what I'm talking about.
Plus, almost all the ones I've seen feature action shots, something that isn't all that common amongst cards of 1960's or '70s stars.
These made for a few of my better buys of the day.
Here's a couple more from the five-for-a-dollar bin.
The Carter isn't an actual copy of his '76 Topps issue, although I would like to own one at some point down the road.
It's actually a reprint from the 2005 Topps Rookie Cup set, one of my favorites in recent memory.
After all, rookie cups are something that deserve to be celebrated in this hobby.
This is one of the strangest cards I've ever seen.
Naturally, I had to have it.
For one thing, the front of the card tells us that it was "limited" to just 45,000 copies. It makes me wonder what the print run was on the regular part of this set.
But that's not all...
Notice anything strange here?
Take a look at the card number at the top. Yes, the one in Roman numerals.
I don't know about you, but that's the first time I've ever seen that on a baseball card. (I don't know why I know this, but "XCIV" is 94 in regular numbers.)
I'll add this one to the "mysterious" file.
Next to the five-for-a-dollar boxes were a few stacks of Cubs and White Sox cards, all individually priced.
Normally, I don't dive into these types of cards too often. As you might think, cards of hometown guys can often be a little overpriced.
I did manage to find a few "gems", though.
This Darwin Barney rookie set me back a buck, but you'll have a hard time finding it for much cheaper than that around these parks.
This was the unquestioned "find" of the Cubs bin.
I feel that this year's '87 Topps Mini inserts are the best thing that Topps has done in a long, long time. I simply can't get enough of them.
While I knew of their existence, I'd never seen an actual '87 mini in person until today.
From what I can tell, this was a "box-topper" from the 1987 O-Pee-Chee set. You'd have to actually cut them off of the box, much like Hostess cards of the '70s.
Whoever did the trimming on this one had a couple of slip-ups, but it's still not that bad of a job overall.
As if the fact that it's an actual '87 mini wasn't enough, it features one of my favorite players of the '70s with Ron Cey.
All things considered, I'd rank this as one of my all-time favorite quarter finds.
My finds from this table should've amounted to about eight or nine bucks, but the vendor charged me just six bucks for the lot.
It just kept getting better.
As I strolled deeper into the flea market, I happened upon another vendor who had some more dime cards on display.
Unlike the first two, I'd never seen this guy before.
While it's always great to see the same vendors you know week after week at card shows, flea markets, etc., it's always exciting to come across a new guy, with a bunch of cards just waiting to be picked through.
It was just one box, but there sure had a lot of variety to it. Some newer issues, some overproduction era stuff, and even a small stack of vintage tucked into one of the corners. (Sadly, the vintage didn't yield much.)
Still, I was absolutely awestruck when I saw this Dave Roberts card.
Although I can't tell you exactly why, I'm a big Roberts fan. Early cards of him during his Indians days are pretty tough to come by, as I've found.
Much less one with such an awesome action shot.
About half of the box was grouped by teams, while the other half was pretty much all over the place.
I saw what had to have been the entire '93 Stadium Club team set under the Phillies' section, which included Mitch Williams and his mullet.
Although I collect cards of Andre Dawson during his Florida days, I just can't get used to seeing him in those teal Marlins uniforms of the '90s. It just doesn't look right.
He'll always be a Cub to me.
Neither of these guys are in my binders, but that's beside the point when dealing with such goofy "masterpieces".
Turk Wendell had a habit of brushing his teeth in between every inning he pitched. It's awesome that Upper Deck chose to use an unorthodox shot of him "in-action".
I have no idea what's going on with Doug Drabek in that photo. Maybe I don't want to know.
To Score and Upper Deck,
Thanks for keeping the hobby fun.
I managed to snag thirty-five cards from this table for a paltry three bucks.
But the deals weren't over yet.
As luck would have it, I came across yet another dime box in the next aisle.
Only this one was even better. The increasingly rare fifteen-for-a-dollar box.
Like the previous one, the intrigue of this discount box was built on pure randomness. Some new, some old. I didn't know what to expect.
But that's what made it so much fun.
All in all, I've always thought that 1998 Topps was pretty boring. Yet there was one card from the set that I always wanted, although I could never manage to track it down.
That quest ended today.
This card represents the baseball/football combo of possibly the last multi-sport player in history, Brian Jordan. (He played defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons in the '90s, if memory serves me right.)
A card I've wanted for years becomes mine for about eight cents.
It's those types of surprises that keep this hobby fun.
The Wal-Mart black-bordered cards that Topps issued a couple years ago have their ups and downs.
"Darkness" works well with some, but not others. From my experience, it doesn't fit in with most of the landscape shots.
But am I the only one who thinks this card is absolutely amazing?
I can't tell you how pleased I am that this card is now in my possession.
There's still quite a few cards that I need from Upper Deck's early years.
Luckily, the first pile of cards saw from this vendor was a big stack of 1992 Upper Deck. I guess any set from '92 has special meaning to me, since it's the year I was born and all.
Even on a day where I tried to get away from the thoughts of school, Jim Abbott had to go and remind me about it.
That card is basically one of those "Be Cool, Stay in School" ads.
I still bought it because, well...I'll buy almost anything of Jim Abbott.
Having a little knowledge about short-prints can go a long way when it comes to discount boxes.
SPs are almost always in high demand.
For example, I know that all cards with a number of 426 and above in 2011 Topps Heritage are indeed SPs. Because of that, I managed to pick up two different short-prints that were mixed in with a bunch of the base cards from the set.
Even better than a "tradebait" short-print is a "keeper" one, as is the case with the Torii Hunter.
Jeff Baker isn't in my binders, but I felt that I had to own that card since I'm a Cubs fan. (Albeit a hopeless one at this time of year.)
Although he's since been dealt to the Tigers, I'll always remember Jeff Baker as a Chicago Cub, at least as far as my cards are concerned.
The vendor also had a small pile of individually-priced cards in another box off to the side.
Most of them were a bit overpriced, but I managed to find a few to my liking.
Mark Trumbo is another one of my brand-new "binder inductees".
I paid two bucks for a copy of his Topps Chrome rookie from last year. Rarely do I ever spend more than a buck or so on a recent card, so that should tell you how big a fan of his I am.
Two bucks well spent, I think.
But the last of my "finds" for the day was most likely my best one. It's a card I've had my eye on for a long time, and I'd never seen it cheaper before today.
I couldn't resist...
It's my first actual Topps card of Nolan Ryan as a California Angel.
For whatever reason, I've noticed that a lot of Ryan's stuff tends to be overpriced. (And he never even played for a Chicago sports team. Although he did put a beating on Robin Ventura, for what it's worth.)
When I saw this one with a four-dollar price tag, I immediately jumped at the chance to add it to my collection.
Like I said, I'd never seen it cheaper.
My new oldest card of the "Ryan Express".
I'm still in awe.
I spent the last ten bucks I had in my wallet on about eighty 15/$1 cards, a couple quarter cards, and the few individually priced ones.
I'd say I got a tremendous deal, wouldn't you?
While it might seem like a bit of a paradox, a day without having to think about school was just what I needed to get myself ready for its inevitable occurrence.
In that regard, a terrific card-filled afternoon at the flea market was just what the doctor ordered.
Now, I'm finally ready to deal with the fact that I actually have to sit a desk and listen to lectures and do homework and...
...Okay, maybe I'm not quite ready yet. But I'll get there.
So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go re-examine all my cardboard finds from a spectacular summer afternoon.
That's all the "homework" I want to do right now.