Sunday afternoons are different for everyone.
For some, it's simply about kicking back and enjoying the last day of the weekend. For others, it's all about watching football.
For college students, it's the prime time to do all your homework. (In most cases, it's homework that's due the next day.)
While I can certainly relate to all of those, one thing and one thing only comes to mind whenever I think of Sunday afternoons.
The flea market.
I've been making the trek to the local flea market for the last three summers. I get some exercise, I get to bask in the glorious summer sun, and I usually get to enjoy a nice meal afterwards, since there's a mini-mall with about every food place imaginable next door. (This time, I was treated to a delicious double steakburger from Steak 'n' Shake, courtesy of my dad.)
But, most of all, I get to dig through baseball cards.
What more could I ask for?
This afternoon marked the fifth time I'd attended the flea market this summer. I got shut out the first weekend, but the last three trips proved to be more than successful. (You can read about them here, here, and here.)
This time was no different. As you'll soon see, it netted me perhaps my all-time greatest flea market find.
More on that later, though.
The first cardboard sighting of the day came from just the second aisle, in the form of a quarter box.
It was a mixed bag of sorts. The box held some vintage, some newer issues, and even had a few oddballs as well.
It's hard to provide a precise definition of what an "oddball" actually is, but I tend to classify any sticker cards in the "oddball" section of my collection.
My eyes lit up when I first saw this neat Kent Tekulve "Star Sticker" insert. He's always been one of my favorites, but it's tough to find anything of his these days.
Between his dark shades, his odd sidearm delivery, and his quirky personality, Tekulve wasn't exactly a portrait of normalcy during his career.
In a way, that's what makes this particular card so great.
It's an oddball within an "oddball".
While we're on the topic of "oddballs", here's a couple more of my quarter box finds.
Although it's a bit thick to put into my binders, the Berra will definitely make for a nice display piece in my collection.
It folds out into a little five-page book, chronicling his career.
Plus, I'm a fan of anything that shows him in a Mets uniform.
Regular readers of mine should know how big of a fan I am of Charles Conlon.
His photography comprised the basis of arguably the greatest set ever produced. To put it simply, Conlon's photos are things of beauty.
These two are no exception.
I have a hard time passing on any Honus Wagner card for a quarter, much less one with the mark of Charles Conlon.
When it comes to old-time baseball, I'm usually pretty good with faces. However, I had to flip to the back of the card on the right to find out who it was.
Turns out that the player in the pinstripes is none other than Leo Durocher, a great baseball mind who would go on to become one of the greatest managers the game has ever seen.
Because of his tremendous success as a skipper, some tend to forget that he enjoyed a 17-year big league career as a player, one during which he'd earn two All-Star appearances.
In fact, that's my first card of "Leo the Lip" that pictures him during his playing days.
A true diamond in the rough.
The quarter box seemed to get better and better as I got deeper into it.
If I ever write a sequel to my "cardogenic" post, I'll be sure to include Johnny Bench. He's never had a bad baseball card.
Awesome cards like that one are the norm for Mr. Bench.
A lot of the quarter box was comprised of Yankees cards. Although I found a few new Ron Guidrys and Bobby Murcers for my collection, I'd have to rate that Reggie (numbered out of 1,500 copies) as the greatest pinstripe find of all.
Serial-numbered cards are a tough draw when it comes to quarter boxes, especially ones of legends like "Mr. October".
I've come to appreciate 1982 Fleer more and more over the years.
As odd as it might seem, I think I might actually like Fleer's '82 offering better than Topps' "hockey stick" design from that year.
Fleer certainly outdid Topps in honoring "Fernandomania", capturing a shot of Venezuela's trademark pre-pitch peek at the sky.
If someone gave me a baseball time machine, one of my first stops would be a night at Dodger Stadium, at the height of "Fernandomania".
I can't imagine what that must've been like.
Here, we have one of my last "gets" from the quarter box.
Even though I was only six years old at the time, I do remember watching Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout performance. A few of my friends and I caught the last three or four K's on the TV at our daycare.
This card provides the answer to a good piece of baseball trivia.
Who caught Wood's 20-strikeout game?
Answer: Sandy Martinez, basically a career backup catcher who spent just two years with the Cubbies.
All in all, I nabbed a total of 26 cards from this particular quarter box.
As I've found over the last couple summers, most flea market card vendors always knock a couple bucks off the final price, as the guy only charged me five bucks for the lot.
Thank you, sir.
You gave them a good home.
As we got further into the many aisles of the flea market, my dad and I finally found the regular vendors, the ones who first opened my eyes as to how great Sunday afternoons could be.
Ever since I first started attending on a regular basis, I've made an effort to buy something from them each week.
I pretty much unearthed all the cards I needed from one of the vendors the last time I was there. Since he hadn't gotten any new cards in since then, my "finds" from his 12/$1 boxes weren't quite as plentiful this time around.
While most of my purchases from this vendor were cards for fellow bloggers, I did manage to find a few for myself.
For about eight cents, I'll take a "masterpiece" like that Martinez any day of the week.
Most of the "keepers" I purchased were simply ones I found interesting or funny, even if I didn't necessarily collect the players featured on them.
Judging from how much I love knuckleballers, I'm surprised that I haven't committed to starting a Tim Wakefield collection.
I might have to change that in the future.
His '09 Topps Update issue is a great little nugget. At 42 years of age, Wakefield became the oldest player to make his All-Star debut in baseball history.
The final total from this table: 25 cards, two bucks.
Even with all that, there was still a lot in store on this Sunday afternoon.
This time, though, I came away a little disappointed.
Usually, he has a couple big dime boxes on display. They've been my most consistent source for dime cardboard over the years, and likely played a big role in determining the name of this blog.
As soon as he saw me walk up to his table, he noted that someone came up earlier and bought every single dime card he had.
Looks like I have a little competition.
On the bright side, he informed me that he was due to get a couple new dime boxes in by next week. I'm already gearing up for my next flea market excursion as a result.
On the even brighter side, he still had his usual great quarter, fifty-cent, and dollar boxes on display.
We'll start with the quarter box.
Even though I don't collect cards of Cal Ripken, I've found myself picking up more and more of his items within the last year.
Most of his mid-'90s issues are absolute masterpieces, given that he was likely the most iconic player in all of sports at the time.
I've always been a sucker for these neat double-image photos, one of my favorite recent hobby innovations.
The fact that it's a card of the "Iron Man" himself is simply a bonus.
This has to be one of the oddest action shots on record.
There's hands and feet coming from almost every angle. It's hard to tell what's actually taking place here.
I can't even decide whether I love or hate this one.
It's one confusing piece of cardboard.
Behold, my first-ever Topps Marquee card.
I figured I'd add one to my collection sooner or later, but I though I'd have to shell out a lot more than a quarter for anything related to this set.
It's pure coincidence that George Sisler is easily one of my favorite figures from early baseball history. Plus, this is a rare shot from his brief days with the Boston Braves.
Not a bad find for some loose change.
I'm happy to report that my new Andrew McCutchen collection is progressing well.
I recently topped the twenty-card mark with a couple recent additions.
However, I think it's safe to say that this will be my favorite McCutchen card for a long, long time. I can't see what could top it.
Speaking of Pirate outfielders and Wrigley Field ivy...
...here's another one.
I have to be a little more choosy when it comes to fifty-cent boxes. I can't just pick out cards all willy-nilly, as I do with dime and occasionally quarter boxes.
However, there was no doubt in my mind that this one was worth the fifty-cent price tag.
My all-time favorite player in my all-time favorite stadium.
It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.
Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle are usually dollar box material.
Anything you can find cheaper than that is a steal, which is what we have here with these fifty-cent box gems.
Not bad for a couple quarters each, I'd say.
If I can find them cheap enough, I'll buy anything related to 1955 Bowman.
When I saw this one in the fifty-cent bin, I couldn't help myself. I had to take it home with me, even though I have no idea who John Phillips is.
I'm pretty much powerless when it comes to discounted '50s cards.
My dad remembered this card from his childhood days.
That's the makings of a great card, as far as my collection goes.
Into the purchase pile it went, another stellar fifty-cent find.
Interestingly, this turned out to be the most expensive purchase from the table, setting me back a whole dollar.
I passed on this card the last time I saw it in the guy's vintage bin. I'd been kicking myself ever since. A former Brady Bunch guest star featured on the '71 Topps design is the makings of a card I need to have.
After all was said and done, I was ready to buy a nice stack of cards, ones that should've set me back about ten bucks.
The guy only charged me half-price, enabling me to take home my "loot" for a mere five dollars.
I can't say enough for the vendors at my local flea market.
I thought those "scores" would be the highlight of the day.
A few aisles down, I came across a new card vendor, one I'd never seen before this afternoon.
When I walked up to his bin of cardboard, the prices on each toploader deterred me a bit. I kept seeing things like "$5" and "$10" marked on the back.
Thankfully, the vendor notified me that anything in the bin was just a dollar a piece.
Seeing that it was mostly vintage, I started digging.
This in-action "Yaz" got me thinking that perhaps this dollar bin would be something special.
Something that I'd remember for years to come.
My suspicions were correct.
I still can't believe what this dollar bin held.
Look! Real, actual Brooks Robinsons! Both of these have been on my "Most Wanted" list for a long time.
To have both of them fall into my hands for just a buck a piece is amazing.
To top it all off, most of them were in pretty nice shape, something I can't say about 95 percent of the other discount vintage bins I've dug through over the years.
I've wanted a copy of Carlton's 1973 Topps card for a while. I always assumed that I'd have to settle for a beat-up copy in a dollar box someday.
Well, I was half right, anyways.
Sometimes, it's good to be proven wrong.
One dollar each.
I guess dreams do come true.
Here, we have two of the fiercest competitors to ever take the field.
I very nearly put the Rose back. My conscience got the better of me this time, though.
I didn't want to relive Wes Parker all over again.
Before this afternoon, I'd never even seen a copy of Rose's '84 Donruss issue, my personal favorite release from their long history. Coupled with a terrific action shot, I made sure that the Rose came home with me.
Thankfully, it's sitting peacefully in my collection as we speak.
No regrets necessary.
As I finished digging through the bin, I was at a loss for words.
I couldn't believe what my "haul" had become. Vintage pieces of "Yaz", "The Human Vacuum Cleaner", and "Stretch" for just a buck a piece.
All told, I found eleven cards from the dollar bin. (You've just seen every single one.)
Amazingly, it got even better.
When I first walked up to his table, the vendor also let me know that anything from his other bin of cards was half-off the marked price.
Those types of deals have their ups and downs. Usually, the dealer marks it fairly high, so you think you're getting a "deal". (As was the case with almost every vinyl record my dad looked at throughout the course of the afternoon.)
I don't devote much time to these types of "discount" bins. They don't often hold nearly as many "deals" as the vendors would like you to believe.
However, this one was different. The marked prices were fairly reasonable. At half-off, I managed to fit a couple into my dwindling budget.
This well-loved card of Bob Gibson set me back two bucks. Still, the price was more than fair, since it's a high-number and all. Most of us know how aggravating those can be sometimes.
For the day, I set my spending limit at thirty bucks. I'd been saving for a few weeks, so I had a bit of leeway there.
As I was all set to take the Gibson and my other dollar bin finds home with me, something else caught my eye from the half-off box.
I saw a card I never thought I could dream of owning marked at an awfully reasonable price. I contemplated whether I wanted to blow the rest of my budget on it.
I didn't have to think for long, though.
Before this afternoon, I figured a reprint would be the closest I'd ever get to owning this piece of cardboard history.
Once again, I was wrong.
At seven bucks, it was far and away my most expensive purchase of the day.
I'd seen this card many times before at card shows, mostly carrying price tags of at least twenty bucks or so.
It's hard to put into words how excited I was to add this card to my collection for such a great price.
A player as iconic as "Yaz" on my all-time favorite Topps design?
That's the makings of one truly epic piece of cardboard, one that takes its place among the greatest acquisitions of my collecting lifetime.
Judging by this week's finds, there's absolutely no doubt about it.
A trip to the flea market is indeed the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.