Sunday, November 18, 2012
Card shows and me, Pt. 1: The dime box crusades
Yesterday was a pretty busy day for me.
I went out to breakfast, hopped on a few buses and trains, did a little homework, hung out with some friends, and got to sleep at about one in the morning.
Wait a minute.
I missed something there.
Oh, yeah. That's right.
On top of all that, I went to a card show.
Today marks the fourth different time I've been able to showcase my card show "treasures" on this blog.
You can bet it won't be the last.
As promised, I had my dad snap an "action" photo of me digging through one of the many discount boxes I saw during the course of yesterday's show. Note to any future card show vendors out there: chairs are always a huge plus for potential customers.
I sure wasn't the only person there with a Cubs jersey. However, I'd be willing to wager that mine was the only Mike Fontenot uniform in the building.
The boxes you see here were of the 12/$5 vintage variety. While I did find quite a few "gems" there, I'd like to kick off the first of my three card show posts on a different topic.
They are the inspiration for this blog. Why wouldn't we start there?
I was extremely pleased to find a couple more dime boxes at this show than I had at the last couple go-arounds.
Although the July edition held what was likely the greatest dime box ever, that was one of only two dime-or-less bins I found, the other being a 12/$1 box.
Yesterday's show held four glorious dime boxes, all spectacular in nature. They made up a good chunk of the 720 total cards I purchased. (Still less than the 773 I found last time, though.)
For today's installment of my "finds", I'd like to specifically focus on two of those dime boxes.
They were the first and last ones of the dime variety at yesterday's show. The "bookends", if you will.
I know of quite a few bloggers who have never encountered a dime box in their collecting careers. For whatever reason, the lack of dime cards seems like an east coast thing to me.
My goal here is not to invoke jealousy out of any fellow collectors.
Okay. Maybe a little of it is. Which makes it both easier and harder to say the following.
The very first table in the very first aisle at the card show had a dime box. I'd never seen anything like that before yesterday.
Usually, we have to walk through the first couple aisles before we find anything promising.
Not this time.
As soon as we made the turn into the initial aisle of the show, there it was.
Two gigantic boxes with those glorious words:
I was shocked.
Just minutes after I had first stepped foot into the convention hall, I was digging through dime cards!
Before I knew it, ten minutes had gone by. Then fifteen. Then thirty.
Almost forty-five minutes and 261 cards later, I finally left that very first table. There were about a hundred left to go, after all.
Most of the time, it takes a while for the weight of my handy "card bag" to start getting noticeable. Yet, after one table, it almost felt like a brick.
A brick of glorious cardboard.
I've kept you waiting long enough.
Let's just go ahead and see how I made out at that first table.
I think I did fairly well, but I'll let you be the judge of that.
In terms of "moments in time", I don't think any are more well-documented on cardboard than Carlton Fisk's famous homer in the 1976 World Series.
I have about six or seven different ones in my collection, including the newest addition you see above.
This was one of the first cards I found in the dime box.
Judging by how absurdly awesome it is, I guess it was a sign of things to come.
Times sure have changed in the world of baseball nicknames.
"A-Rod", "K-Rod", and "whatever else-Rod" are the dominating labels in today's game.
Unfortunately, the days of "Oil Can" and "Say Hey" are basically over.
A nickname like "Superjew" would never fly in today's politically correct world. Yet, in the 1970's, that's exactly what A's first baseman Mike Epstein was known as. (Which reminds me...my dad bought a pack of 1970's Welcome Back, Kotter cards for himself while I was at this table.)
Even though he's not in my binders, I couldn't pass this one up for a dime, another example of the odd-yet-great photography Topps used in 1973.
It's hard to beat dime box vintage.
One of the first things I noticed about this particular dime box was its endless stacks of mid-to-late '90s cardboard.
I'm not sure if it's just a regional thing, but I've had an extremely difficult time finding anything from that era over the years.
It's a shame, too, because it's the era that introduced me to the hobby. It's the era that made me fans of Bobby Abreu and Mr. Vlad.
Even though it may be one of the ugliest sets on record, I couldn't help but smile when I saw the appearance of a few 1997 Circa cards at that first table.
It just isn't something you see every day.
Here's Mark McLemore to bring you more hidden '90s greatness.
I have a hard time passing up any "plays at the plate". In terms of the sheer amount of action, this is one of the better ones I've encountered. And I'd never seen it before yesterday.
Besides, a shot with that Rangers helmet suspended in mid-air has to count for something, too.
Before yesterday's show, it seemed like my collection had been allergic to 1998 Upper Deck.
Although I'm a big, big fan of these, I just couldn't find them anywhere.
Chalk it up to the lack of mid '90s dime cards. Chalk it up to pure bad luck. Chalk it up to anything you want.
My quest for '98 UD had gone unfulfilled.
Because of that, you can imagine how surprised and excited I was to discover a couple huge stacks of them in this dime box, just waiting to be combed through.
For any other year of his career, this would easily be Ray Durham's best card. While the unfortunate cameo from Sammy Sosa does hurt it a bit, the neat action shot and throwback jerseys more than compensate for that.
Still, I think this one has it beat.
Maybe UD went a tad overboard with the whole "multiple-image" photography in their day.
Personally, I think they did. Here's the thing, though.
I don't care.
Whether it's Darin Erstad or Nolan Ryan, I'm a complete sucker for every single one of these things.
Upper Deck managed to cram four different images of Wade Boggs into that little frame.
It it too much? Perhaps.
Again, though, I could care less.
Here's a couple fun shots.
Although they were a couple of the best first baseman I've ever seen, I don't collect Jeff Bagwell or Jason Giambi.
Still, at just a dime a piece, I couldn't bring myself to pass these up.
It's the same thing with Nomo and Glavine.
For the most part, I don't collect either of them. I've found myself buying a ton of Nomos at the last few shows, but that's for the sole purpose of appeasing the many Dodger fans in the blogosphere.
This is one of the very few Nomo cards I plan on keeping.
As many of my readers know, I'm a big fan of cards that feature pitchers at the plate. Or, in the case of Tom Glavine, on the basepaths.
Finding them in a dime box makes them even sweeter.
A monumental dime box crusade wouldn't be complete without a few short-prints.
I know set builders hate them, but SPs are one of the huge payoffs of dime boxes. Even if I can't use them, I'll buy short-prints for future trade chips a lot of the time.
They certainly seem to fly off my trade list.
I've been looking for the Mientkiewicz ever since this edition of Topps Heritage came out back in 2007.
Leave it to an innocent little dime box to net me a card I've wanted for six years.
Rickey likes to steal bases.
Rickey breaks a lot of records.
Rickey likes to celebrate.
Rickey refers to himself in the third-person.
Rickey is mine for a dime.
As you'll see in my future posts, there certainly wasn't a shortage of Gary Carter cards at yesterday's show.
I've recently decided to start collecting him. It's my little way of honoring his legacy through my baseball cards.
I'd long been searching for a copy of that '93 Topps card, Carter's final Topps issue. It was a gaping hole in my "sunset" collection.
Once again, a dime box managed to knock out one of my more pressing needs.
I don't quite know what the strangest part of that "Sidelines" Kirby Puckett card is. The fact that a guy is shooting pool on a baseball card, or that sweater.
It's a toss-up.
It's hard to pick out a favorite card from this dime box adventure.
If I had to, I'd probably be inclined to go with this one.
Before yesterday, this card had been in my house, yet not a part of my collection.
How is that possible, you ask?
When I was still collecting hockey cards, I picked up a few Mark Grace cards for my mom, as Grace is her favorite player. This was one of them.
Since then, I've managed to accumulate over 200 different Grace cards for my own collection. Still, I'd never been able to find another copy of this "masterpiece" for myself.
Now, I'm happy to report that two copies of it reside in our household.
And one of them lies in my collection.
A few minutes before I came across this vendor's table, someone apparently came up and swiped a few uber-high end cards from his "glass case" while he was dealing with another customer.
A little while after that, someone from a few tables over mentioned that someone had pilfered an autographed Ted Williams baseball from a different vendor.
Ironically, almost ten thousand dollars' worth of memorabilia was stolen during my time scavenging through the dime box treasures. I didn't stick around long enough to find out whether or not they caught the culprit.
It really is a shame that our hobby succumbs to such craziness sometimes.
All I need to enjoy myself are a couple dime cards.
I have to hand it to that dime box vendor, though.
Even though he'd just gotten a few thousand dollars of cardboard stolen from him, he still regularly acknowledged my presence at his table, happily commenting on the amount of cards I'd piled up.
I vehemently thanked him after I'd purchased my 261 dime cards, for which he'd only charged me twenty-five bucks.
He told me he'd be setting up at next year's National, which is held in the very same convention hall when it comes to Chicago. He hinted at the fact that he'd have a whole lot more dime boxes on display then.
Needless to say, I'm already excited.
These dime box finds have made me a regular customer.
Let's move on to the second act.
Three hours and over 400 cards later, I found myself digging through what would turn out to be the final dime boxes of the day.
It started out innocently enough.
The first couple boxes netted me a nice stack of newer cards, including a couple dozen of these beautiful 2005 SP Legendary Cuts issues.
When I'd first sat down at the table, I saw that the vendor had quite a few more dime boxes on display. However, a fast look at the fronts of each row revealed nothing but football and basketball cards.
I figured I'd get up and pay for the couple stacks of cards I'd pulled.
Upon doing so, I took another quick peek through those other boxes. This time, though, I grabbed a few stacks from the middle of each row.
Wouldn't you know it, they were all baseball.
And I had them all to myself. Not another customer in sight.
Gleefully, I started another "dime box dig". All the while, I thought, "It sure was a good thing I decided to take another look through these."
If I hadn't, I wouldn't have found those 211 fantastic pieces of cardboard.
There sure was a lot to get excited about at this table.
Here we go again with the "multiple image" cards.
I seem to come home with a few of these Pacific Nolan Ryans at every single card show I attend. They're common suspects in the world of dime cards.
There are a lot of mysteries when it comes to dime boxes, but these aren't one of them.
I didn't collect baseball cards in 2005.
It's the lone gap of my baseball card collecting life.
Because of that, I missed out on a lot of neat cards.
Thanks to Target's box of $1.49 "power packs", I was later able to discover the underrated greatness of '05 Zenith. Between the powder-blue Expos jerseys and the terrific action shot of "The Kid", that was one of my better dime finds of the day.
After every show, I like to sit down and take a good look at everything I purchased.
The only analysis I've done so far has been deciding which cards to scan for these posts.
While doing so, that Josh Phelps card started to grow on me by the second. Originally, I just threw it on my purchase pile because I collected him. I didn't get a chance to really see how great it was.
Between the beautiful green ivy and the overall aura of a Wrigley Field night game, there's something to be cherished in such a seemingly simple shot.
"Serene" is the first word that comes to mind.
I was starting to get back onto my collecting feet near the end of 2005.
Keep in mind, I never lost an interest in baseball during my hiatus. I just didn't feel the need to collect the cards.
I jumped up and down when the hometown White Sox won it all in '05. Even though I'm a Cubs fan by nature, I'll always have a deep appreciation for the South Siders as well.
I'm one of the few Chicagoans who feels that way.
Somehow, I'd never managed to capture either of these pieces of White Sox history for my collection.
I'm fairly certain that the photo of Mr. Jenks was taken moments after the World Series-winning out was recorded in Houston.
Although he'd leave Chicago after the '05 season, I was happy to see "The Big Hurt" hoist his first (and only) championship trophy.
I was even happier to see it displayed on the front of a baseball card.
2006 Upper Deck is probably the largest set I've seen during my days as a collector.
I bought pack after pack of the stuff, trying to track down everything I needed.
With the gigantic size of UD's release that year (over a thousand cards), it was a hopeless task. I imagine it was quite the undertaking for any set builders at the time.
Luckily, I've been able to fill a decent amount of the cracks in my 2006 UD needs in recent years.
I'm proud to give a good home to these "fun" shots of Overbay and Gonzalez.
As far as 2006 Upper Deck is concerned, though, there's still a long ways to go.
A few days ago, I wrote that I should start letting more cards speak for themselves.
I think this one of Mr. Jason Kendall is applicable there.
Maybe cards from the '90s aren't all that hard to find.
Perhaps I've just been looking in the wrong places, because this dime box sure had its fair share of 1990's cardboard as well.
It's safe to say that absolutely any new cards of Craig Counsell are a huge plus in my book. Especially his earlier Marlins issues.
I currently own about 20 different cards of Calvin Pickering.
I'm pretty sure almost all of them have come from dime boxes, including that unscannable '99 Topps Chrome card of his.
To tell you the truth, I'm not quite sure why I collect him. It's probably because of his underrated "baseball name".
I know one thing, though.
He's certainly one of the more obscure players sitting in my binders right now.
For anyone who knows the endless boundaries of my collection, that's saying something.
As anyone who collects knows, overproduction-era cardboard doesn't exactly fly off the shelves.
Because of that, they're rarely found at card shows. Vendors just assume that no one wants them.
While I'm pretty much set on stuff from 1989 Bowman and 1990 Donruss, there is actually quite a bit from the era that I still need. As odd as it might seem, I'd always wished for a box of so-called "junk wax" to pop up at one of these shows.
Well, my wish came true.
This dime box vendor had a big 3200-count box of late '80s and early '90s cardboard on display.
I'd bet that about 99 out of the 100 people who walked by that table completely disregarded the box. Not me, though.
In terms of overproduction-era dime boxes, I am the one percent.
Even such an openly-disliked period of baseball cards is bound to have a few "gems". More than a few, actually.
I have absolutely no clue as to who Carlos Garcia is. Yet I couldn't bring myself to pass this one up.
Between the landscape shot, the cloud of dust, and the...um, unfortunate position of Garcia's head, this has all the makings of a true "gem".
Looks like "the band" just found a new member.
Filling in on (semi) air guitar, please welcome Mr. Chuck Finley!
Although trying to read the gold-plated names over the black background made my eyes hurt after a while, digging through two huge stacks of 1994 Upper Deck made me appreciate it a little more.
Before, I had written it off as "just another" set.
Therein lies the hidden power of dime boxes.
Here's a couple more "fun" cards from the overproduction era.
From what I've seen, both of these have been prominently showcased around the blogosphere in the past.
I'm glad they're a part of my collection now.
As I've found, no dime box is complete without a few "sunset" cards.
I don't typically associate Dave Kingman with any specific uniform, but he just never looked right in an A's jersey to me.
Still, that unfamiliarity makes any "sunset" issue even better.
As the dime cards started to pile up, I was forced to set a limit for myself.
The last "dig" of the day was a fairly pricey adventure into the vintage world (which you'll see in a later post), so I didn't want to blow too much of my remaining budget at this table.
I told myself I'd stop after I'd found 200 cards.
I was at around 190 when I noticed a stack of 2001 Upper Deck in one of the boxes. I pulled a few I needed. And then a few more.
Finally, I had hit the magic number. Two hundred cards.
I was done.
Or so I thought...
As I was getting up to pay for my finds, I couldn't help but notice a small stack of early Fleer Tradition cards that I'd missed.
Talk about hard to find. I'd barely seen these anywhere.
Almost involuntarily, my hand began to flip through them. I figured I'd pick out ten more cards and be done. Mr. Olerud was number 210.
I went to pay for my 210...
...make that, 211 cards.
I kept leafing through them after I'd hit my 210-card limit. I just couldn't leave this Ausmus behind.
Maybe I really am powerless over dime boxes. They've got a hold on me.
Funny thing was, it didn't even matter.
The vendor only charged me twenty bucks for the lot, letting me have those last eleven cards on the house.
That's a lot of dime box goodness right there.
And that wasn't even all of it. I couldn't fit it all into one post.
I wish I had some philosophical parting words for just how awesome these dime boxes were.
But I don't.
I think that came across in most of the cards I showed in this post.
One thought did keep popping into my head as I dumped out all the day's finds onto my living room table, though.
"Those dime boxes kicked some serious ass."
They sure did.