When school is in session, I have a tough time getting up in the morning.
Once my alarm starts blaring, it usually takes a few minutes for me to roll out of bed.
As I get older and take on a full-time job, I'm sure it'll be the same way.
Luckily, I'm on winter break right now. My alarm should have cobwebs on it by the time this month-long vacation is over.
However, in a rare turn of events, I found myself voluntarily waking up to the familiar tone of that alarm yesterday, nearly leaping out of my bed in the process.
Because I had a card show to attend.
I'm not sure about you, but that's enough incentive for me to get up in the morning during my vacation.
As I've mentioned a few times before, this was a "bonus" show that I'd accidentally stumbled upon a few weeks ago.
Due to the football season and the lack of baseball-related releases on the shelves, the anticipation of a show was quite welcome in my largely card-barren winter months.
So, my dad and I set out on yet another "quest", hoping to strike cardboard gold.
Because of the five-dollar admission price and reported 100-table setup, I couldn't help but get my hopes up a bit. Any show that charges admission is usually something special, and 100 tables sure is nothing to sneeze at.
Plus, the show was held at a fancy-schmancy Hilton hotel about twenty minutes away from where I live. I felt a bit more sophisticated the moment I walked into that place. (Hence the title of this post.)
It really was an elegant setting for a card show.
We paid our admission. We took those first steps into the show. Just like that, the moment my dad and I had been waiting for was here.
But something was wrong.
As we peeked our heads into the room for the first time, we only saw about three our four tables that featured any type of cardboard.
"This is it?"
Yup, that was it.
As it turned out, the five-dollar admission was basically a cover cost for the free autograph guest of the day, former NFL linebacker and "'85 Bear" Otis Wilson.
Nothing against the guy or football as a whole, but I was there for the baseball cards. And only the baseball cards.
The room certainly looked big enough to fit 100 tables. Problem was, there were only about a dozen vendors. And most of them were just selling autographed balls or pictures or whatever, something I've never really had much of an interest in acquiring.
So, slightly disappointed, my dad and I trudged on to the few cardboard-filled tables in the building.
The very first vendor we came across had a box with a familiar label on it.
Maybe there was a little light at the end of the tunnel.
Into the "dig" I went.
A quick glance showed that this particular dime bin was mixed with baseball, football, and basketball cards.
Normally, I don't care much for these types of boxes. It can be a bit of a hassle to sift through all the non-baseball issues.
But I didn't care. There wasn't much cardboard in the building, so I was going to make the most of this one.
Besides, there was more than enough baseball to go around in this dime box adventure.
The Dmitri Young you see at the top of this post pretty much summed up what I was thinking when I first walked into the show.
"FAIL" was the first word that came to mind as I saw my hopes of another "big" show get swept away.
It was also the first thing I thought of when I saw Young's inept sliding abilities.
Yet, in due time, both of those feelings would soon change.
Although I laughed at first, this particular card of "Meat Hook" will make an absolutely tremendous addition to my binders.
And the rest of the show wasn't half bad, either.
This dime box certainly had its high points.
I'm just now starting to realize how awesome these "Stadium Lights" inserts really are.
The few night games I've attended during my life as a baseball fan were something else. Day baseball certainly has its benefits, but there is nothing else like a good ol' game under the lights.
Fenway Park may be one of the most serene settings for a night game in all of baseball.
This card is so beautiful, in fact, that I chose to ignore horribly photoshopped Red Sox jersey plastered across the chest of Adrian Gonzalez.
Now that's saying something.
I know I go on about the Cubs quite a bit on this blog.
They are my favorite team, after all.
But, unlike a lot of other Cub fans, I have a special interest in the White Sox as well.
The day Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game was one of my happiest as a baseball fan. And, if the Singleton is any indication, their classic logo is easily one of the greatest in all of sports.
As a result, my appreciation for the South Siders forced me to snatch up this fantastic pair of dime box "gems".
Dime boxes never discriminate between young and old.
For a long time, I didn't even know that Vida Blue had a card in the '87 Topps set. I thought he'd retired long before that.
Thanks to this dime box, it is no longer a gaping "sunset" need.
The Vlad just adds to my ever-growing collection of his, a nice oddball from his pre-big league days. I doubt many people knew the name "Vladimir Guerrero" back in 1996.
That's what makes this particular dime box find so terrific.
I always seem to add a few new pieces to the melting pot of sets in my binders with each new dime box "quest".
To tell you the truth, I'm still not sure exactly why I collect Jeff Fassero. All I know is that I'd never seen anything from the elegant "King of the Hill" Donruss subset before yesterday.
I also managed to land my first Pro Debut base card in this dime box, one that features a newer "binder inductee" with Mr. Goldschmidt.
My previous dime box travels had enabled me to add a few of the "Hall of Fame Stars" inserts to my collection, but I'd never had much interest in acquiring much from the prospect-filled base checklist.
Until now, anyways.
All in all, it turned out to be a successful dime box "dig". I found some for myself, a few for fellow bloggers, and had a whole lot of fun in the process.
Seconds after I finished with the dime cards, I found myself perusing through another familiar sight.
A quarter box.
Like the dime box, the quarter cards were mixed between a few different sports.
However, as I was in the process of searching through the vendor's dime box, my dad went and dug through the adjacent quarter bin, placing all the baseball cards at the front of the rows for a more efficient "dig".
What a guy.
In the end, though, very little of the quarter cards were baseball-related.
My twenty-five cent finds consisted of five cards. Four of last year's Bowman Chrome refractors and an insert of Cubs prospect Josh Vitters, numbered to 999 copies.
As far as baseball cards go, "prospecting" just isn't my bag.
However, that doesn't mean that I don't like to keep up with the rising stars of my hometown teams.
Although he struggled during his time in the bigs last year, Vitters looks like he could be a very serviceable third baseman for the North Siders down the road.
Because of that, I decided to grant him his very own section in my binders.
In my eyes, that's how I determine whether or not a player has "made it".
So, congratulations, Mr. Vitters.
Even with the array of dime and quarter finds, my time at this table wasn't quite over yet.
I had a dollar box to go through.
For the most part, I usually ignore dollar cards at the larger shows. They just eat up too much of my budget.
Once I noted the lack of card vendors, however, I figured I might as well take a look this time around. My budget was more than large enough to withstand a few dollar pickups.
The Soto proved to be one of the more interesting purchases of the day.
Prices of the hometown "stars" can be fun to track at times.
Three or four years ago, you couldn't dream of finding a numbered rookie card of Geovany Soto in a dollar box. His cards were "hot", as he was coming off an NL Rookie of the Year award at the time.
Yet, after a few subpar seasons and a trade to Texas, vendors couldn't be happier to unload their Soto remnants.
And I couldn't be happier to find them. He'll always have a prominent spot in my binders, which made this dollar bin find one of yesterday's better moments.
Although he's not a so-called "hometown guy", Stephen Strasburg has suffered a similar fate.
I'm sure his Topps 206 SP could've been found in many five and ten-dollar boxes across the nation after his uber-hyped debut a couple years ago.
But, a Tommy John surgery and a shortened (but great) season later, the very same Strasburg short-print has become dollar-box fodder.
It pays to wait, I guess.
Minis have become an integral part of my card show experience.
I always come home with a few bite-sized pieces of cardboard. At this point, it almost seems involuntary.
The Banks is a beauty. Given the "hometown inflation" I've discussed before, I'm a little surprised a short-printed mini of "Mr. Cub" wasn't priced at more than a dollar.
But, hey. I'm not complaining.
At the time, I was a little hesitant to drop a whole buck on the Winfield. I wasn't sure if he was quite "dollar-worthy".
In the end, though, I'm glad I did. Although I'm not huge on the Gypsy Queen design, I can't help but enjoy the sepia-toned minis.
I didn't even discover that it was numbered to just 99 copies until I was going through my "finds" later last night.
Icing on the cake.
I can't remember the last time this happened.
As it luck would have it, I welcomed a new game-used card into my household. I haven't come home with one of these from a show in years.
But...it was Marlon Byrd. One of my main player collections. And I hadn't been able to find a jersey card of him as a Cub yet.
Plus, it just looked lonely amongst all the other boring game-used pieces.
It turned out to be the final purchase from this particular vendor.
After all was said and done, fifteen bucks landed me 83 dime cards, five quarter cards, and six dollar cards.
They'd easily comprise the bulk of my purchases for the day.
Soon after I paid for my first grouping of "finds", something caught my eye from across the aisle.
A vendor had a few vintage binders on display, grouped by set.
Just like dollar bins, I usually avoid these at the larger shows.
Although there are a ton of '60s and '70s vintage cards I still need, it just eats up too much time to go through each individual binder. These types of deals are more for set builders, anyways.
Plus, from past experience, they rarely have prices on them.
And that's almost never a good sign.
These continued with that unpriced theme.
Still, for better or worse, I decided to take a gander through a couple of the binders.
The very first card that caught my eye was this "Fork and Knuckler" issue of Roy Face and Hoyt Wilhelm.
With an emphasis on Hoyt Wilhelm.
For most of my player collections, I don't even go after these "combo" cards. They just never seem to fit in anywhere.
I make an exception when it comes to Mr. Wilhelm, though.
Which made this card a definite "need" for me.
So, I pulled the card out of the page and kindly asked the vendor how much he'd want for it.
And then I heard the five words that made me want to tear my hair out.
"Let me get my Beckett."
But it wasn't over yet. Seconds later, the vendor came back with...
"Well, it books for ten. So how does five dollars sound?"
The guy seemed nice enough.
But, dude, that's not how it works.
Nevertheless, I put it to the side. Since I still had quite a bit of cash left, I figured I might take the overpriced plunge.
In the meantime, I kept looking through the binders.
Although I'm not quite sure why.
A few turns of the binder page revealed a couple more cards I wanted for my collection.
At this point, though, I was afraid to ask.
Thankfully, these turned out to actually not be horribly overpriced. For a just buck each, I managed to add a couple great pieces from a couple of the most iconic Topps sets to my binders.
I'll take that any day of the week.
Then a quandary presented itself.
I'd long had my eye on this Orlando Cepeda card. It's been a pressing need of mine for a few years now.
There was only one problem.
It's a high-number.
And when you bring Beckett and high-numbers together, it never turns out well.
But I really wanted this card.
So I asked.
"It books for twelve dollars. I can give it to you for six."
I wanted it, but not for six bucks. With the creases and everything, I probably would've gone up to about two or three bucks on it, if that.
Seconds later, I found myself reaching to put the card back into the binder, sighing in the process.
But then my dad stepped in.
He knows about the whole Beckett charade as well as anyone else. He saw the look of disappointment on my face.
And that's when he offered to buy the cards for me, overpriced or not.
To tell the truth, I probably would've bought the Face/Wilhelm and the other two and moved on. As much as I wanted it, I just couldn't have dropped six bucks on the Cepeda.
Thanks to my dad, I came home with vintage pieces of Bonds, Concepcion, and Cepeda. Not to mention a new Hoyt card for my collection.
Again, the vendor seemed like a nice guy. I'm not trying to say otherwise.
But it aggravates me to no end when people bring Beckett into the equation. Before yesterday, I'd only heard about the "let me get my Beckett" thing.
I guess you never realize how disappointing it is until it happens to you.
All the more reason to stick to dime boxes, folks.
The third and final table of the day didn't look all that spectacular at first glance.
All I saw was about a half-filled row of a 3200-count box of baseball marked, "3/$1".
Although I wasn't expecting much, I grabbed a stack of cardboard and started to flip through it.
And I was instantly hypnotized by this card of John Olerud, a prime focus of one of my many player collections.
Beautiful. Awesome. Glorious. Fantastic.
All appropriate in describing this truly awe-inspiring baseball card.
These are some amazing cards.
If the Olerud didn't convince you, then this Ruben Sierra should.
This quickly became one of the better cards in my "unfamiliar uniform" collection, as Sierra spent a total of 25 games with the Reds in 1997.
If you want to take a brief moment to pause and stare at this one, I wouldn't blame you.
Back to the rest of my 3/$1 finds.
I very nearly had a heart attack when I first saw the Murphy. For a moment, I thought I had one of the ultra-rare "reverse negatives" in my hands.
But a closer examination revealed no "flipping" whatsoever. Still, I plopped down the thirty-three cents for the normal, old '89 UD card of "Murph".
Either way, it's an interesting card.
At 3/$1, I'm definitely in the market for some oddballs.
They make for great new additions to my player collections. Plus, I can never turn down a neat Kenny Lofton card.
Thanks, Jimmy Dean.
I've wanted both of these for a while.
Like the '87 Topps Vida Blue I showed earlier, Dave Kingman's 1987 Fleer issue was a gaping hole in my "sunset" collection.
It's a historic one, at that.
As far as I know, "Kong" still holds the record for most homers hit during the final year of a career, slamming 35 homers in '86.
Not a bad way to go out.
The Nettles is a favorite of mine for a few reasons.
1) I simply like to collect Graig Nettles.
2) It's yet another "unfamiliar uniform" piece. He spent a single year with the Braves in 1987.
3) How often do you see green-bordered cards?
I rest my case.
Although it didn't look all too promising at first, I found a dozen great cards for a grand total of four bucks at the final table of the day.
Even though it started out as a bit of a disappointment, both my dad and I were still happy to have attended this particular show.
Anytime we can find new baseball cards is a good day for us.
Truthfully, though, all it took was one card to turn this show from a "good" one into a surefire "success".
No, it wasn't a "sunset" card. It had nothing to do with anything hometown-related, either.
And, no, it wasn't even a new piece to my Hoyt Wilhelm collection.
If you guessed "vintage", though, you're on the right track.
It's the "Chairman of the Board" himself, Whitey Ford.
Arguably the greatest pitcher in the long, illustrious history of the New York Yankees. Not to mention a Hall of Famer.
And, as if that wasn't enough, it's an oddball, too!
Right off the cereal boxes of 1960's America and into my collection.
So, just where did I find this beauty?
You guessed it.
The dime box.
True, the condition isn't the greatest on it. Even so, I never thought I'd dream of finding anything like this for a dime in my life.
To top it all off, this 1962 Post card is now easily the oldest dime box treasure I've ever discovered.
Yesterday's "haul" totaled 110 cards in all.
But this was by far the best of the bunch. It is easily one of my greatest dime box finds. Ever.
Perhaps even the greatest.
It's just like I always say.
Keep digging through those dime boxes, my friends.
You just never know what you might find.