Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dime Box Heroes: Rookie confusion

1996 Bowman #334 Mike Sweeney RC

After a short hiatus, I'm glad to bring back the theme post portion of this blog.

A perfect storm of trade posts, tobacco cards, flea markets, and a slight lack of will prevented me from writing any afternoon theme posts over the last week or so. 

But they're back with a vengeance this afternoon, just about an hour before the MLB trading deadline.

Other than Opening Day and the playoffs, I have to say that July 31st is my favorite time of every baseball season. The excitement of which players will go where has never come close to wearing away.

Of course, many of the main "chips" in most blockbuster deals are prospects. I love hearing about what sort of young talent a team got back for their established star player.

Interestingly enough, it's quite the opposite when it comes to baseball cards. 

I could care less about the "prospect" cards in sets like Bowman Platinum. It just doesn't seem like a pack would be worth it if I've never heard of half the guys I pull.

Part of my distaste for the whole "prospecting" craze lately is the diminishment of the term "rookie card".

Listen, I don't like to complain a whole lot, especially when it comes to this hobby. But nowadays, I have no clue what a rookie card even is anymore.

It seems to have started with that whole "Rookie Card Logo" thing back in '06. Ever since then, I haven't been able to decipher what even makes a rookie card.

Whatever happened to the days of boring old rookies? Back when I first started collecting, I knew that "1st Bowman Card" marking in the corner meant I was holding a guy's first-ever major league card.

It was that simple.

Sure, I might enjoy "final cards" a little more, but I can't deny that there's still something special about a good ol' rookie card.

My Mike Sweeney collection has easily eclipsed the 100-card mark. His 1996 Bowman rookie, a former dime box outcast, is one of the main pieces. 

It's not some crazy prospect thingy that's not actually a rookie card, but is actually the guy's first card, something Topps thinks I should like. 

The term "rookie" is pretty simple, but you'd never know it these days. Things seemed a lot simpler in 1996. Mike Sweeney's rookie card doesn't confuse me at all.

I love it for just what it is. 

An actual rookie card. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

A stroll through the flea market

Sunday afternoon provided me with the first new finds of my post-tobacco card collecting career.

All it took was a trip to the local flea market.

It was definitely in order, as it's been over two months since the last time I attended. While I don't know that I matched the sheer greatness factor of the cards I found then, there were still a few gems that were waiting to be unearthed this time around.

The above "Baseball Immortals" set is a perfect example of that.

Occasionally, I'll come across tables that have baseball cards mixed in among numerous other miscellaneous items. Most of the time, it's basically your run-of-the-mill boxes filled with 1990 Topps or 1991 Donruss.

The majority of vendors that have cards for sale are either current collectors, or once-dedicated members of the hobby looking to make a few extra bucks to pay for the rental space. The cards are the main focus of most tables that have them for sale.

One of the few exceptions to this "rule" was the table at which I found this fascinating little 24-card set. It was the typical "flea market table", filled with just about anything you could think of. Books, clothes, glassware, you name it.

Of course, I'm not interested in any of that other stuff. The one thing that did catch my eye was that set of baseball cards. The only problem was that it didn't have a price on it. While I don't often like to ask about unpriced items, I did this time around.

It's something I'm trying to change about my purchasing process.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when the vendor said, "Three bucks." I'm always afraid they're going to say like "How does twenty bucks sound?", or something along those lines.

It worked out perfectly, because I had exactly three dollars left in my pocket at the time.

At three bucks, the 24-card set worked out to about 12 cents per card.

Judging from how nice these are, I'd say I got a heck of a deal.

I ripped them open during the car ride home, quickly finding that the photography for the entire set was taken by none other than Charles Conlon.

I'm a huge fan of his work, as many of my readers probably know.

The set features 24 players from the first-ever National League All-Star team in 1933. As a result, I find it odd that Babe Ruth is featured on the hanger advertisement. He wasn't an NL All-Star, after all.

What I love most about the set was that it features a bunch of players who don't often pop up in this hobby, like Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch. (On the left.)

Featured on the right is former Boston Brave Wally Berger, who hit 38 homers during his true rookie season in 1930. (Only Frank Robinson has ever matched that mark.)

Although he was a .300 career hitter, he's not often remembered today because the Braves were horrible during his tenure in Boston.

I'd say this was definitely one of my better buys of the day.

It was certainly the most unexpected.

Although I had gone through my twenty-dollar budget by the time we got to the final table, my mom was nice enough to loan me an extra dollar so I could take home a few cards from an 8/$1 box.

Most of the box was filled with stars like Jason Giambi and Todd Helton. Unfortunately, I don't collect most "stars" in this hobby, but I did manage to find a few great pieces for my "Cardboard Masterpieces" collection.

I'm almost certain that this shot was taken moments before Josh Beckett tagged out Jorge Posada in Game 6 of the '03 World Series, the play that clinched the championship for the Marlins.

If I'm right, that's certainly a lot of history packed into a twelve-cent card.

Ultra had a lot of vastly underrated sets in the early 2000's.

I've noticed that Fleer used a lot of unorthodox shots for their Ultra sets in that time period, such as the Brandon Inge from a recent dime box dig.

I don't know that I've ever seen such a ferocious double play attempt featured on a baseball card. Hopefully that Dodgers infielder is okay after getting toppled over by "The Kid".

My love for the "Postseason Glory" subset from '01 Fleer Platinum has already been professed on this blog, although I'd never seen that Johnson/Schilling card before yesterday.

A fitting end to one of the greatest World Series ever played.

Cards of pitchers at the plate make for automatic inductees into my "Cardboard Masterpieces" collection.

Considering I was already full-on back into the baseball card market by '08, I'm surprised that I'd never seen that card of the "Big Unit" at the plate. I've always wanted one.

For the record, he was a .125 career hitter.

The Clemens is probably the only post-DH/pre-interleague "pitcher at the plate" card I own of an AL hurler. Apparently, the Red Sox sent Clemens up as a pinch hitter during a blowout win in 1996, during which he collected his first career hit.

It's one "awesome night card" as well.

From there, we move on to the third of four tables I frequented last afternoon.

This vendor didn't have a whole lot of cards left when I found his selection. I'm guessing that someone bought out most of what he had available earlier in the day.

He had an unmarked box sitting at the far end, although there were barely any cards for me to dig through. As soon as I spotted it, the vendor told me that the remaining cards were a quarter a piece.

A couple cards in his "glass case" intrigued me, so I went over to check those out for a couple minutes. (Which we'll get to shortly.)

During that time, another potential customer walked up and started looking through the quarter box. I'd seen a few cards I wanted during my brief scan over the selection, so I was praying that this person didn't purchase any of the ones I wanted.

Luckily, all the ones I had my eye on were still there when I got back to it. This new addition to my R.A. Dickey collection was the last of thirteen cards I nabbed from the quarter box.

The other twelve turned out to be another complete set...

I had no clue what these were at the time, but I knew I had to have them.

Apparently, these are from the 1992 St. Vincent and the Grenadines Legends set. The quarter box contained all twelve "legends", giving me the complete set. The Cobb and Stengel are probably my two favorites, although it contained the likes of Ruth and Gehrig as well.

What's even more fascinating about these is that they are actual stamps, which peel off. I thought it was just for design at first. The "$4.00" in the corner of each of the cards represents their monetary value in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Should you ever find yourself in the Caribbean, these would give you four bucks worth of postage a piece.

Interestingly enough, these weren't even the best finds from the table.

A little earlier, I mentioned that a couple of the vendor's "glass case" cards pulled me away from the quarter boxes.

These are what I was talking about.

Up until a few weeks ago, I went my entire life without seeing anything from the 1969 Milton Bradley set. In a matter of weeks, I managed to add three to my collection. (The other being a generous gift from my dad.)

The guy in charge said whatever was left in the case was half-off the marked price. Although these both have little "X" markings on them, it didn't matter to me. I snatched them up within seconds.

The Jackson was priced at $5, so I got it for $2.50. The Rose was three bucks, so I snagged it for $1.50. Just $4 for the pair.

Although it's not technically a rookie card, I'll still treat the "Reggie" as such. His "official" Topps rookie is from 1969. Apparently, Beckett feels that Milton Bradley sets aren't deserving of "rookie cards".

I could care less what Beckett thinks on this topic.

Now it's time for the real reason I love the local flea market.

While other card vendors do pop up from week to week, there's always one guy there who I buy from every time. His dime boxes are always filled with new stuff each week, as are his quarter and vintage bins. It's like a mini-card show every time he's there.

Since I'm a regular customer of his, he usually cuts me a deal on my purchases. But he really went above and beyond that this time around.

We'll get to the specifics later.

Now, let's "leap" into the what the dime boxes held for me this time around.

As soon as I pay the entry fee to get into the flea market, I make a beeline for this guy's table. The first few aisles are usually pretty dry, anyways.

The dime boxes were occupied upon my arrival, but they cleared up pretty quickly. (The great selection draws a bit of a crowd to his table.)

Naturally, I spent the next twenty minutes or so looking for my personal "dime box gems".

I found one pretty quickly with this Suppan. Few cards have befuddled me more than this one. I'm still not sure what's going on here.

Is Jeff Suppan "leaping" into that big mat? Or is he sliding? If he is sliding, shouldn't there just be a base there rather than a mat?

This card raises more questions than it answers.

I saw a stack of about five or six of this card at one point in the dime box.

The refractor-like finish of one of them caught my eye, though. Although I picked up a nice stack of cards for fellow bloggers, this was the only one I bought with no specific collector in mind. I'll just throw it up on my trade list and see what happens.

I have to assume that this is a pretty good dime box find, judging by how many Chipper collectors are out there.

A few cards for my new player collections?


One of the rows in the dime box was comprised entirely of these neat 3-D cards.

I've never looked through so many 3-D cards in a row. It was an absolute blast. You should try it sometime.

I already own a good number of "pitcher at the plate" cards, but I have to believe that the Maddux is my first-ever three-dimensional add to that mini-collection.

Twice during the course of my "dime box dig", I noticed the vendor add a few new cards to the mix.

Both times, I snatched up each newly-christened dime card.

The first time, it was three Team U.S.A. cards of Jim Abbott, Tino Martinez, and Cris Carpenter. I don't collect Martinez or Carpenter, but for a dime a piece, I figured that I might as well buy them.

The Abbott, however, was one of my better finds of the day. He's always been one of my favorites, and this is the earliest picture I've seen of him from his baseball days.

Not to mention that it's another instance of a "pitcher at the plate".

It's a recurring dime box theme.

The second time around, it was a pair of minor league cards featuring Kenny Lofton and Jeff Kent. Once again, I snagged them within seconds.

An "eagle eye" never hurts when it comes to dime boxes.

Nothing like a few dime box short-prints.

At the time, I didn't know they were SPs. I'm sure there's a bunch of these Gypsy Queen short-prints sitting in dime boxes across the nation.

Unless you know the short-printed photo variations, there's absolutely no way to tell them apart from their normal base cards.

Still, I'll take them for a dime.

Even minis were no stranger to this dime box.

I still need a bunch of the '87 minis from this year's Topps set, but yesterday's finds put me a few steps closer toward my goal.

I'm really diggin' that Napoli card.

While were on the topic of 2012 Topps, let's move on to the quarter boxes.

Given my twenty-dollar budget for the day, I told myself I wouldn't pick out too many of them. I lied.

After all was said and done, I ended up with fifty quarter cards, which was about thirty more than I'd originally planned on purchasing.

I can't bring myself to pass on Gold Sparkles of guys I collect (like Vogelsong and Betemit), especially for just a quarter a piece.

"Striking gold" became a theme for this table.

I have no way to transition from 2012 Topps to cards of Dizzy Dean and Johnny Pesky.

That '03 Flair Greats issue is just my tenth card of Pesky.

For a guy who has a foul pole named after him at Fenway Park, you'd think I'd have a little more than that.

More legends of the quarter boxes.

The '82 Fleer card of Bench and Seaver might be a little awkward, but still cool nonetheless. It would be interesting to go through my collection and see how many of my cards feature microphones.

It's more than you'd think.

I'm not sure why, but I've found that I'm an avid supporter of blue-bordered cards.

Plus, you've got to love a shot of "Catfish" in action.

What made this particular quarter box especially "legendary" was the appearance of TCMA cards.

In my experience, they've been almost impossible to find. The ones I came across in this box were from the 1960's-themed TCMA set.

The player selection for these is almost second to none. The "lesser known" players actually make for a bigger portion of the checklist.

Case in point: former Giants pitcher Masanori Murakami. Also known as the first Japanese player to ever play in the majors.

Although he returned to Japan after pitching in just two seasons in the U.S., he paved the way for the current influx of Japanese imports, like Ichiro.

It's also my first card of the often-forgotten hurler.

Don Larsen isn't exactly a forgotten name, but his short-lived tenure with the Houston Colt .45s probably is. It's not often you see a shot of Larsen in anything but a Yankees uniform.

That made it one of my personal favorites of the afternoon.

Jim Bouton gave a few hilarious insights into the clubhouse demeanor of Joe Pepitone in his tell-all book.

For example, he wrote that Pepitone had a specially-crafted hairpiece for whenever he took the field. Or, as Bouton calls it, his "game piece".

Given the history behind these two guys, I guess it's appropriate that these cards came one after another in the quarter box.

Curt Flood would make a bigger name for himself after the '60s were over, but he was a pretty good outfielder during his playing days.

The fact that he played a major role in getting rid of the reserve clause often overshadows that fact, though.

Tony Conigliaro is one of my favorite players from the annals of baseball history. His tragic tale just goes to show just how quickly a once-promising career can get derailed.

Few players represent the 1960's better than "Tony C".

Although I don't look through them too thoroughly, the vendor has a few other miscellaneous boxes on display as well.

I told myself that I'd snag a copy of this Berkman if I ever found it cheap somewhere, since I absolutely love the old Colt .45s jerseys. We all know how crazy the prices of short-prints can be sometimes, though.

Luckily, this one became mine for a mere fifty cents.

While the vintage wasn't as plentiful this time around, there were still a few great pieces for sale.

Both of these were also members of the fifty-cent bin.

I'll consider that a "rookie" of Sparky Anderson, since 1970 was his first year at the helm of the soon-to-be "Big Red Machine".

That is, if managers even have "rookie cards".

As soon as I saw the name "Rusty Staub", I threw this one into the purchase pile.

Later, when I was examining all my big "finds" of the day, I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about this card. (Except for the fact that it looks to have had a scissor mishap near the left side.)

As it turns out, these came in panels of three on boxes of Bazooka gum in 1971, much like the Hostess panels of the mid-'70s.

I don't know that too many kids could've afforded an entire box of gum back then.

While the condition is a bit off, I still feel that I stole this card for a buck.

The time has come to show off the final card of my flea market finds.

I can't think of many better send-offs than a '75 mini of a Hall of Famer, which was also just a buck.

One of the first things I noticed about the blogosphere upon my entry was the popularity of these '75 Topps minis. After acquiring a few of my own, I can see what all the fuss was about.

They make for absolutely beautiful pieces of cardboard.

All told, I had about 120 dime cards, 50 quarter cards, and about four bucks' worth of miscellaneous purchases after I counted everything up. The final price should've been about 27 bucks, if my math is correct.

To my utter amazement, the vendor only charged me ten bucks for the entire lot. Ten bucks!

I guess it really pays off to be a regular customer, coming back week after week. That may well be a life lesson for me at some point down the road.

After all was said and done, I had a pretty good Sunday afternoon.

To say the least.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A special tale of cardboard

Yesterday might have very well been the best day in all my years of collecting.

Why? I'll get to that eventually. First, let me give you the backstory.

Some of you might remember the possibly real/possibly fake Johnny Evers tobacco card that fellow blogger AdamE was gracious enough to send my way a few days ago.

While I was pretty sure it was a fake, I still had a glimmer of hope that it might be the real deal. I wasn't about to send ten bucks (or however much it costs) to have Beckett tell me, so I wondered if there were any other options to know for certain whether the card was authentic or not.

Another member of the blogosphere, reader Michael, pointed me to the Net54 online forums, where this sort of thing is commonplace. So I went over there, made an account, and posted the link to my blog post that night.

Within minutes, I had a few people tell me that it was definitely a fake. The colors were off, and the Polar Bear back was never issued on an Evers tobacco card.

Oh, well. It was nice to have hoped it was real, but at least I knew for sure now. Even a reprint like this is still a neat addition for my collection. End of story.

Or so I thought.

Later that night, forum member Matt sent me a message out of the blue.

He wrote that he really enjoyed what he read on my blog, and said that it was "refreshing to see someone collecting not for value, but for the simple fun". Apparently, that spirit isn't found a lot on those forums.

What Matt said next was perhaps the best sentence I've ever read in my life.

"I'd like to donate a real T206 tobacco card to your blog/collection."

Words cannot describe the excitement that came over me at that very moment. I vehemently thanked him and sent him my address. Before I knew it, the card was on its way.

It actually arrived on Friday, but I wasn't around to sign for it at the time. So I had to agonizingly wait for a full day before I could go pick it up at the Post Office. Knowing that there was a real, actual tobacco card waiting for me just minutes away from my house made for the longest Friday I can remember.

I made that fateful drive to the Post Office the next afternoon, although I couldn't get there fast enough. After I signed for it, the postman handed me the mailer that held my first-ever tobacco card.

It held my biggest lifelong dream as a collector.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised I made it all the way home without opening the mailer in the car. Once I got home, I ripped open the package within seconds.

I took a deep breath and slowly took away the covering, which revealed my first tobacco card.

It's a beautiful sight.

I was literally rendered speechless once I held it in my hands for the first time. A real tobacco card! In my collection!

I still can't believe it.

At no point did I know exactly which tobacco card Matt was sending, but that aura of mystery made the anticipation all the more exciting.

The player featured on my very own tobacco card is pitcher/outfielder Cy Seymour. His career actually started in 1896. It's amazing to think that I have a card of a guy who played in the majors before the turn of the century.

He pitched for the first five years of his career, winning 25 games in 1898. Arm troubles forced him into becoming an outfielder, but it turns out that he was a pretty good hitter as well.

He hit .377 with the Reds in 1905, leading the league, and he'd finish with a fine .303 career average.

Here's a fun fact: Only Babe Ruth retired with more combined wins and hits than Seymour.

Thanks to my brand new tobacco card, the name "Cy Seymour" will have special significance to me.

But none of this would've been possible without the extremely generous donation by Matt. I cannot thank you enough for this. It means a lot to know that there are people in this hobby that will go to great lengths to help others.

It truly makes for one special story.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pipe dreams

The first thing that drew me to dime boxes as a kid was the price.

Baseball cards don't get much more "bargain-basement" than a meager ten cents. I've found nickel boxes on a couple rare occasions, but a dime about the cheapest you'll find, in most cases.

For now, I'm happy with my modest baseball card budget. Sure, I proceed to go wild with a couple months' savings at the two or three card shows I attend each year.

Outside of those, I don't spend much on the hobby. There's the occasional blaster or loose packs when an intriguing new set comes out. Plus, there's the cost of mailing trade packages out to fellow collectors.

That's not to say that I haven't imagined what it would be like to be a rich man in this hobby.

I'm sure we all have.

Currently, I have a ton of little "projects" that I'm chasing, whether it's cards for my "Cardboard Masterpieces" collection or some "Short Term Stops" cards.

I've often thought about what type of "project" I'd chase if money wasn't a factor. After conferring with my dad on this topic, it turns out that we both have the same answer.

A complete team set of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, with an emphasis on the infamous eight "Black Sox".

At least one other collector has had both the interest and funds to develop this very collection. (Excuse me for a moment while I wipe the drool off my chin.)

While it will most likely stay a pipe dream of mine in the future, I'll never stop hoping.

For my present dime box budget, I've set my sights on simply acquiring at least one recent issue of each of the "Eight Men Out".

The main pitcher involved in the fix was Eddie Cicotte, who won 29 games in 1919.

The above card of his is easily one of the best reprints in my collection.

The two "ringleaders" of the fix were first baseman Chick Gandil and shortstop Swede Risberg.

Pacific released an "Eight Men Out" set to correspond with the movie's release in 1988. (Just another reason to love Pacific.)

The Sandlot aside, I still rank Eight Men Out as my favorite baseball movie. While there are some factual flaws, the main story is still a fantastic re-telling of the actual events that took place between the 1919 and 1920 seasons.

The set was a great place to start in my "quest" of obtaining a card of all eight "Black Sox". While I don't own as much from the set as I'd like, there's still some great pieces in my collection.

The other set that has gone a long way in helping towards my mini-project is Conlon Collection.

As if it couldn't have gotten any better, Conlon decided to include a "Black Sox Scandal" subset in their 1994 release.

I managed to find the entire series from a guy online, who was selling them for a dime a piece. It's still one of the better buys of my collecting career.

Buck Weaver famously denied ever taking part in the fix. He was banned because he knew of the conspiracy, but failed to tell anyone about it.

Seven of the eight "Black Sox" were regular players on the team. The one who wasn't was utility infielder Fred McMullin. He overheard other teammates discussing the fix, at which point they were forced to let him in.

Although he only had two at-bats in the 1919 World Series, he played a bigger role in the games than most people might think. He scouted the opposing Cincinnati Reds before the series started, quite possibly relaying false information to his White Sox teammates that weren't involved in the scheme.

Because of the fact that he wasn't a regular player, I didn't think there'd be any tobacco-era cards of McMullin.

Best I can tell, there's only one, from the 1915 Zeenuts set.

Sure to be a challenge if my pipe dream ever comes to fruition.

I've never heard a good answer as to how "Shoeless" Joe Jackson managed to find his way into a few MLB-licensed sets.

He's even got a game-used bat card in 2001 Legendary Cuts.

While he was easily the most well-known of the "Eight Men Out", banned players aren't licensed by the MLBPA, which should mean that they wouldn't appear in any sets.

It's a mystery.

I easily own the most Jackson cards of any of the "Black Sox", a collection which currently stands at 13 different issues. (Next highest is Mr. Cicotte with four.)

The Pacific issue of Oscar "Happy" Felsch is the only card of his in my collection at the moment.

I can't help but picture Charlie Sheen whenever I think of Felsch, since Sheen played him in the movie.

The only one of the "Black Sox" who I haven't managed to get a card of is pitcher "Lefty" Williams.

I know he's got a base card in the Pacific set, but it hasn't found its way into my grasp yet.

For now, I'll have to "settle" for this awesome shot of the 1919 White Sox pitching staff, once again courtesy of Conlon Collection. (Fittingly, Bill James's nickname was "Big Bill".)

Just one more "dime box quest" for me to chase.

One of my eighth-grade history tests provided the easiest extra credit question I'll ever have to answer in my life.

It read something along the lines of, "What was the 'Black Sox' scandal?"

After providing a watered-down version of what I knew about it, I proceeded to show off a bit by listing the names of each of the eight "Black Sox" on the side of the paper.

When I got the test back a couple days later, I found that I'd gotten the full extra credit, as I had expected. Next to the listing of the eight players, my teacher inscribed, "You are a true fan!"

I guess I am.

Just like we all have our different collections, I'm sure there's varying "pipe dreams" among us as well.

The fantasy of this "true fan" is a "Black Sox" team set. It's the one thing I always wanted, even though it carries a hefty budget.

It's the best way I could ever spend my fictitious money.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Answering my own question

Over the last month or so, fellow blogger Fuji has provided some great questions pertaining to the hobby as part of his latest contest.

Judging from what I've heard, this isn't the first time he's done this type of contest. I can see why it gets the blogosphere so excited. Sure, the prizes are nice, but talking about the hobby with fellow collectors is just as good.

Fuji recently asked his readers to ask him any sports or hobby-related question. 

It didn't take me long to come up with mine. For as long as I've read posts from the blogosphere, I've been interested in how each blogger first found his or her way into this hobby. The diversity of the "entry stories" is immense. Much like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two are the same.

Specifically, my question was as follows:

"How did you first decide to collect sports cards, and when?"

As luck would have it, Fuji decided to use my question for his latest contest post. So in a Fight Club-like post, here I am providing an answer my own question.

Some people can remember the first pack they ever opened, or the first card they ever owned.

I envy them.

As much as I've tried, I can't remember anything from my earliest days in the hobby. It had to have been around 1999 or 2000, as I know I was still in my "minor league" years of Little League at the time.

There were probably a few factors as to how I first decided to collect sports cards. 

For one thing, I'm pretty sure a few of my friends were doing it at the time. It was only natural that I'd pick it up as well. My third-grade teacher was nice enough to let us bring our cards in so we could trade during recess.

I'm also betting that my dad made a big contribution into my first days as a collector. As a kid, he opened pack after pack of baseball cards in the '70s, so it's very likely that he played a major role in introducing me to the glorious world of baseball cards.

I've often said that my "collecting DNA" comes from him.

As far as exact, specific memories go, one of the earliest is tied to this 2001 Upper Deck Ichiro rookie. (Quite possibly the first of my 400-plus Ichiro cards.)

I vividly remember sitting in the backseat of my mom's car, tearing open a brand new pack. My eyes widened as I saw it. An Ichiro rookie card!

Since I've always kept up with baseball, I knew who Ichiro was at the time, even though his big-league career was probably in its newborn stages then.

I didn't care that it was a "hot" card to have when I was nine years old. It's as "well-loved" as any of my other cards that go that far back, as you might be able to tell from the scan.

In that regard, I haven't changed much.

While I never collected them as "baseball cards", the MLB Showdown card game played a major role in fully introducing me to the meaning of being a "collector".

I probably started playing MLB Showdown around the same time I pulled that Ichiro rookie in '01. Showdown's first set came in 2000 (which is when this Alan Embree card is from), although it didn't hit full stride until about two years later.

At the time, I was still buying whatever baseball cards I could get my hands on. Packs of 1990 Donruss for a quarter each, big boxes of 1989 Topps commons for a buck at garage sales, etc. Literally everything in sight.

My MLB Showdown collection was quite the opposite. I only wanted the best cards, the ones that could make the roster of my hallowed "big league" team. The one I brought with me to daycare each day to try and take down my opponents. (Otherwise known as my friends.)

In hindsight, I probably spent way more money on MLB Showdown packs than I should have. A lot of them didn't have anything new for me. But finding that one great card made it all worth it.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that I couldn't just buy all the baseball cards I saw. That's the makings of a hoarder, not a collector.

Over time, I managed to trim my collection down. If you think I collect a lot of different things today, you should've seen my collection ten years ago.

I realized that it wasn't about the quantity. It was the quality that mattered. 

Just like with my MLB Showdown cards, finding that one great card in a pack of baseball cards is really what it's all about.

When I first started collecting, I never thought it would be a permanent thing.

As is the case with almost every other kid in the history of mankind, I dabbled in a lot of different hobbies when I was younger. Beanie Babies, Hot Wheels, and Crazy Bones were just a few of the many different interests I had as a young boy.

I'm not into any of that stuff anymore, yet I've never turned my back on baseball cards.

The one thing that shaped me into a "collecting lifer" was a small little card shop a few miles from my house, an insignificant little store to almost any other passerby.

One of my first blog posts was devoted to this little shop. It was there that I was introduced to my first taste of what this hobby is really all about.

Sure, the shop had their pricier "glass case" cards, as does all others. As a kid, I couldn't dream of coughing up that kind of money.

Besides, I always thought the cheaper cards were much "cooler". They had dime boxes, discounted vintage, and pretty much anything else you'd want in a local card shop. The people that ran it were extremely nice. Because my dad and I stopped in there so often, we got to know them pretty well.

If there's one place that I can trace my love for discount bins back to, it's there. 

Sadly, the shop decided to close its doors about six years ago. One of my biggest regrets in life is related to the final trip I made there.

The shop closed smack dab in the middle of my year-long hockey card collecting phase. As a result, almost all the cards I bought during that final trip were hockey-related items. 

At the time, I had no idea that the shop was nearing its final days in business.

Had I known that, I definitely would've dug into the baseball cards a little more, for old time's sake. Even so, I still bought a few baseball cards that night.

The one I remember most is the '83 Donruss Julio Franco rookie card I nabbed from their 6/$1 bin. Not only is it a "one-year card", as I still like to call them, it was an ever-so-rare "one-year rookie card". It's still the only card I own of Franco as a Phillie. (I don't think there's any others out there.)

In a way, this blog is a bit of an homage to that great little shop. 

Had it not existed, I don't know that I'd still be in this hobby, much less had my current love for dime boxes.

There were probably a lot of factors that lured me into this hobby, but the ones I've mentioned in this post are the ones that stand out most in my memory.

It's because of those things that I am still a member of this great hobby. It's because of those things that I can still get excited over a seemingly insignificant piece of cardboard, like a new card for my Casey Kotchman collection.

It's been an interesting ride, to say the least.

Cards of all shapes and sizes

It gives me pleasure to say that we've got a brand new member in the ever-expanding blogosphere.

Reader-turned-blogger Jeremy has recently started the "Broken Lumber Blog", one that I'll definitely be reading in the future.

This is my second trade with Jeremy in a little less than a month. He's helped me clear out some space in my doubles box with these last couple trades, something for which I'm very appreciative.

In return for some base cards from the last couple years, Jeremy sent me a great array of recent inserts. He even added in an extra little surprise, which I'll get to later.

Slowly but surely, I'm starting to knock out more and more of my 2012 Topps Series 2 insert needs.

While I'm not a huge fan of the "A Cut Above" inserts, I'm still a big Halladay fan, so this one was a must-have for me.

I'm not much of a supporter for any oddly-shaped cards, I've found. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I keep all my "keeper" cards in binders.

These just don't look right in nine-pocket pages.

Minis are the lone exception to that rule.

I continually find myself drooling over any new minis, no matter what set they come from. A&G, Gypsy Queen, even Goodwin Champions.

Topps' 1987-themed minis might just be my favorite of them all.

For now, let's get back to some normal-sized cards with these National Chicle short-prints.

I still think Chicle is one of the most underrated sets in recent memory. From what I saw after its release, it wasn't nearly as well-received as I thought it should've been.

Some of the high-numbered SPs from this set were designed to picture throwback players in recent uniforms. One of my personal favorites is George Sisler in a Cardinals jersey.

There's not much to "update" in terms of Cubs and Yankees jerseys, so these cards of "Mr. Cub" and "The Mick" aren't as out-of-the-ordinary as most of the other SPs.

This is one of the best cards I've received during my time as a blogger.

I've received a ton of great new Vlad cards for my collection in the last eight months or so, but they all pale in comparison to this one, an insert from last year's Opening Day "Superstar Celebrations" insert set.

For one thing, I can't recall any other cards that feature a dogpile as the main focus of attraction.

The other great aspect of this one is that Topps managed to capture the split-second before Vlad jumped onto all of his teammates in celebration.

This is a great new candidate for my "claustrophobic collection" as well.

That extra little "surprise" that I mentioned earlier was this pack of cards, which befuddled me a bit.

I'd never seen these before, and I thought the fact that they had the words "American Baseball" on the front (as opposed to just "baseball") was peculiar.

As it turns out, these are from the 1988 Topps UK Minis set, which explains why they added the "American" in there. I'm pretty sure these are my first cards from "across the pond".

Jeremy warned me not to eat the gum in the note he sent with the cards. I took his advice, as it pretty much looked like what you'd expect out of a 24 year-old piece of gum. Not the prettiest of sights.

The cards, however, were exactly the opposite.

As I said before, I've never met any minis I didn't like.

Jeremy picked out a star-studded pack for me, as the five-card pack netted minis of George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Fernando Valenzuela, Joe Carter, and Mark Langston.

I'd be interested to know how well these did in the UK, in terms of sales. While it's not near the biggest sport across the pond, baseball is still known, at least from what I can gather.

There's something inherently cool about knowing I have baseball cards from the homeland of The Beatles and The Clash.

Much thanks goes out to Jeremy for the great cards, and be sure to check out his new blog!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blogger karma

I've seen some amazing things during my time in the hobby.

Because of the fact that trading forums are big on "box breaks", I've read through a few posts from members who netted that "big pull".

A Bryce Harper autograph. A Mickey Mantle quad "relic". A Babe Ruth jersey card. Although I've personally never been fortunate enough to land any of those huge hits in my pack-ripping career, I've witnessed more than my fair share.

But I've never been as awestruck as I was a week ago today.

It started out like any other weeknight in my post-blogging life. Watch some TV, put away some new cards, and catch up on any recent blog posts I might've missed.

Then the "amazing" happened.

I noticed a new post in my blogroll that night, one that blew everything out of the water. One of our own pulled perhaps the most pursued card out of this year's A&G. Mr. "Play at the Plate" pulled none other than the coveted Yu Darvish autograph.

From a retail pack, no less.

What made the pull especially amazing was the fact that he's a Rangers collector. The first thought I had (other than "Wow!") was,

"What are the odds of that happening? A Yu Darvish autograph is tough enough to pull, much less one by a guy who actually collects Rangers cards!"

Then it hit me.

There's definitely some sort of "blogger karma" going on here.

What other explanation is there?

My reasoning behind starting this blog was to basically be able to talk about baseball cards and the joys of collecting them. I've realized it's had other benefits in the past few months, but that was the original goal of this blog.

It's still pretty much my premise for blogging, when you get down to it.

Never did I think there were side benefits to becoming a blogger. All the fantastic trades with the great people in the blogosphere is definitely one of the better "side effects".

As I've come to realize lately, the other one is the case of "karmic justice".

After I saw the amazing Yu Darvish autograph pull, I thought back. Then, I realized that I'd been bit by the "karmic bug", although it didn't sink in until that moment.

I'd loved dime boxes for years and years before I started this blog, ever since I was a kid. Over that time span, I must've dug through at least a hundred of them throughout my life.

Then, one day, I hit upon a great notion.

Why not start a blog about it?

I went with that train of thought and started a blog. I loved it more and more each day, and I kept writing to my heart's content. You're reading it right now.

One of the "karmic gods" must've taken notice, too. Just months into my blogging career, I stumble upon the "best dime box ever", as I called it. That wasn't an exaggeration. It really was the best dime box I've ever gone through.

Although it took a little more than an hour to look through all those cards, I ended up with 500 new ones for my collection, covering all parts of baseball lore. Everything from minor league cards of Rocco Baldelli to cool inserts of Lou Brock.

Is it any coincidence that it came after I started writing for this blog, aptly titled "Dime Boxes"?

I don't think so, as I've come to realize lately.

Not if karma has anything to do with it.

Picking up the pace

After a slight drop, my trading activity has picked up as of late.

For the first time in my blogging career, I'm actually a little behind in my trade posts. I've received so much good stuff over the last week that I haven't been able to keep up.

I'm sure it's happened to most frequent traders in the blogosphere. In that regard, I'm still a "rookie".

The latest trade excursion comes via Chris, author of the great blog "Nachos Grande".

Chris recently opened an entire case of 2012 A&G. While I love ripping packs, I don't know if I'd have the patience to go through an entire case. I'd imagine the packs just blur together after a while.

Nevertheless, he graciously helped me knock out a large chunk of my A&G base needs, and even managed to hit a few inserts for me as well.

I know this is about the 108th time most of you have seen the Hank Aaron base card, but I think it deserves to be shown at least once more.

It's one of the highlights of 2012 thus far.

No doubt about it.

When I received this card in the mail, Ichiro was a Seattle Mariner.

By the time I got around to showing it on this blog, he became a New York Yankee.

While it's going to take some time to get used to seeing Ichiro in a Bronx Bombers jersey, I'm already looking forward to his first card as a Yankee, presumably towards the end of the card collecting year.

Just one of the many reasons to love Topps Update.

Last year, I managed to complete the "Minds That Made the Future" insert set from A&G.

This time around, my main goal is to get all the "Historical Turning Points" inserts. I'm still aways away as of this writing, though.

Although I love anything pertaining to American history, this might be the least exciting issue of the bunch.

But to Topps' credit, I don't know how many "fun" pictures there are of the agricultural revolution.

I'm a big fan of these "What's In A Name?" inserts from this year's A&G.

I just wish there weren't so many of them.

A 100-card insert set is way, way too much. There's a lot of base sets out there that aren't that big. I like chasing inserts I need, but a huge set like that makes the quest seem unattainable.

As a result, I'm happy with whatever I can find. Chris was nice enough to include this great card of Brooks Calbert Robinson, one of the many players I wish I could've seen play in person.

This "piece" of the trade was just as good as many of the cards I received.

I always like these little business card-like plugs that some bloggers include in trade packages. Perhaps I should try and make something like this one of these days.

Thanks for the trade, Chris!