Friday, May 3, 2013

Flea market deja vu, Pt. 1: Go all the way

I had big things planned for today.

Earlier this week, my dad and I had the big day all plotted out. We were going to hit this afternoon's Cubs-Reds contest at Wrigley.

Sadly, we didn't get to go to a Cub game last season. And, to top it off, the first 10,000 fans at today's contest received a special, Wrigley Field-exclusive Topps Archives set, one of four different series that will be given away at various times throughout the year.

Unfortunately, that pesky Chicago weather shut down our plans. Although the Cubbies are on the field as we speak (and, not surprisingly, losing), the unfortunate rain, wind, and cold combo probably wouldn't have made it a fun day at the ballpark.

Of course, I'm bummed about not being able to go to Wrigley today. It is, and forever will be, the greatest park in the big leagues.

And, yes, I would've liked to have gotten my hands on one of those promotional sets. But, as far as cards go, I guess I shouldn't be too down in the dumps.

All things considered, I've already received my fair share of cardboard these past few weeks.

My already overflowing stacks of baseball cards were supplemented by yet another trip to the flea market this past weekend, my second in as many weeks.

In a lot of ways, it felt like a case of flea market deja vu.

After a brief stop upon my entrance into the flea market (which I'll elaborate on in a later post), I made a fast track for the "card cluster" of vendors.

Two of the regular guys were MIA this week. The main vendor I've come to know over the years, however, had his usual array of cardboard on display. Except for one thing.

The dime box.

That legendary dime box was nowhere to be found. I went into a Charlie Brown-esque slouch after I noted the eerie disappearance. Still, I regained my composure enough to start digging through his quarter and miscellaneous vintage boxes.

And, while I did find some neat cardboard during those digs, I couldn't get my mind off that dime box. Or lack of, I should say.

But, just as I was finishing up my trek through his other cardboard, I noticed the vendor reach for something in his truck. Within seconds, there it was.

The dime box!

Initially, I don't think he'd planned to put it on display last weekend. But, since I've been frequenting his cardboard for a few years now, I guess he's come to know where my collecting devotions lie.

So, although I'd already spent a nice chunk of time digging through all his other items, I stayed even longer, perusing through each and every single dime card he had.

When it comes to the world of dime boxes, I have to go all the way.

I might as well just get it out of the way now. Yes, I did indeed find a few Pacific Nolan Ryan pieces during this latest dig. They've emerged as the first and foremost dime box staple over the years.

Still, as long as I keep finding little hidden "gems" like these, I'll keep buying 'em.


Where do I begin with this one?

First off, the hair style. I'm no fashion guru, so I couldn't tell you the official name of the look Juan Gonzalez is sporting there. But it looks to be some kind of demented cross between a mullet and a Jehri-curl.

Baseball fans probably know what that pinstriped individual on the left is. None other than Reggie Jackson, of course. "Mr. October" makes an interesting cameo on this Collector's Choice issue.

For whatever reason, Juan Gonzalez doesn't seem to be all that happy with "Reggie" there.

That has to be the most frightening stare I've ever seen on a baseball card.

I ask you.

Why can't all minor league cards be this awesome?

More than any other card I've seen, this Score issue shows just how gosh-darn tall Randy Johnson was.

Ballplayers (or any athletes, for that matter) are usually large, hulking figures. Catchers especially so. Yet, "The Big Unit" was still nearly a full head taller than his batterymate in Seattle.

Even just thinking about stepping into the box against Randy Johnson scares me.

While I haven't declared it as an official mini-collection quest just yet, I've found myself picking up more and more "record breaker" cards lately.

Whether I like it or not, Mark McGwire's 70-home-run season will always be a defining moment of my childhood. Although I was only six at the time, I can still recall the night he broke Roger Maris's famous record.

Knowing what we know about the "steroid era", I consider Maris to be the official holder of the hallowed record these days.

While I still have mixed feelings about the moment itself, I couldn't help but be in awe over McGwire's spectacular Fleer Tradition piece.

For a more legitimate record, though, I'd like to point you to the "Rickey" card on the left.

Most fans know that Henderson holds the all-time stolen base record. His 939th swipe broke Lou Brock's longtime mark.

However, that historic steal isn't what's pictured on the front of his 1993 SP issue. As the back notes, that "tip of the cap" shot marks Rickey's 1,066th career steal, the one that broke Japanese star Yutaka Fukumoto's all-time professional baseball mark.

Now that's one stellar piece of trivia.

From rookies to sunsets, this dime box had it all.

I should note that this wasn't simply the same assortment of dime cards from last week, with various stacks of new ones thrown in here and there.

No, this was a completely new dime box, one that was absolutely packed to the gills. All told, I ended up spending about an hour at this vendor's table.

I'm not sure where the heck he gets all these spare cards.

I'll have to ask him one of these days.

From what I can tell, this awesome vendor is still a collector.

He's not just trying to unload old product for a quick buck.

I constantly see newer releases strewn amongst his dime cards, which means that he busts a bit of new product every now and then.

As it happens, I happily found a few Gypsy Queen cards for my various player collections.

At this point, the chances I'll break any more GQ packs is doubtful, at best. At three bucks a pop, I just can't justify the purchase.

Still, at just a dime a piece, I'll take whatever the set has to offer.

Thanks to a hearty helping of dime box Heritage, I managed to whittle my remaining wants from the set to a meager five cards.

I even found a former "Dime Box Dozen" need with the Neshek, his first card as an Oakland A.

As if it couldn't get any better, I managed to score a few Heritage short-print and insert needs from this magnificent dime dig as well.

When it comes to SPs, I have a tried and true motto.

"Know the numbers."

Most of the time, there aren't any distinguishable features that separate the likes of base cards and short-prints. As a result, a lot of vendors end up tossing them into dime bins with the others.

Because I knew that this year's Heritage SPs were card numbers 426-500 in the checklist, I was able to score five different ones at just a dime each, including the above Evan Longoria.

And, while I'm about the furthest from a "car guy" that you'll ever find, I was ecstatic to add that Mustang-themed "News Flashbacks" card to my collection.

As of right now, I'm halfway through with my quest to complete the "News Flashbacks" series for the sixth straight year.

As usual, this vendor's dime box managed to provide a plethora of hits to my various mini-collections.


Throwbacks and "cards with kids".

"Pitchers at the plate" and "multiple-exposure" shots.

"Double dip" issues.

Each of my various "themes" made quite a few appearances in this dime box. Heck, I found nine different double play cards of Craig Biggio alone.

And, at just a dime each, I didn't have to think twice about buying any of 'em.

And, for the first time in a while, I managed to add a new member to the "zero-year club".

Thanks to Bowman Chrome's uninspiring scanning ability, it's hard to tell just who the new "inductee" even is. You'll have to take my word for it.

That's current Kansas City Royals reliever Tim Collins, one of the true underdogs in today's game. At just 5'7" and 165 pounds (which, I hear, is a generous estimate), he's most likely the smallest player in baseball at the moment.

Because of his size, he wasn't even drafted. The Blue Jays signed him as an amateur free agent back in '07, shipping him to the Braves in the Yunel Escobar deal during the 2010 season.

Just two weeks after that, he'd be dealt the Royals. He made his big-league debut in 2011 with Kansas City. And, although you might not hear about him all that much, he's developed into an effective reliever.

So, here's to you and your "zero-year" card, Mr. Collins.

A true success story if I've ever heard one.

Before last week, I'd never known about this "East Meets West" subset.

Given that they were included in the relatively obscure 1997 New Pinnacle release, I can certainly see why.

Nevertheless, my relationship with these masterpieces was love at first sight.

Apparently, a group of big leaguers teamed up for five-city goodwill trip through Japan in 1996, dubbed the "Super Major Series". Each of the four I found from this dime box features a moment from the tour.

The one on the left features A-Rod being interviewed by a Japanese reporter. On the right, meanwhile, we have a terrific shot of Mr. Chuck Knoblauch preparing to drink from some sort of well.

I can't say I've ever seen that on a baseball card before.

Much like my last flea market haul, it's tough to crown a single king from my dime box dig.

Still, if I absolutely had to, I'd be inclined to give this one the nod.

Ironically enough, I was first introduced to this piece fairly recently. Zach (a.k.a. "The Underdog Card Collector") featured it as part of a trade post a couple weeks ago.

Ever since then, I'd been plotting to make it a "Dime Box Dozen" need. It was the next one in line, as a matter of fact.

Lo and behold, though, it fell out of this very dime box.

Upon first glance, it seems to be one of those infamous "player swap" errors. But, if you look closely, that is indeed the great Tony Gwynn at the plate in that shot.

So, then, that begs the question.

What's the deal with the Scott Sanders jersey?

Even after quite a bit of research, I can't figure out exactly why Mr. Gwynn did such a thing. I guess he just wanted to have some fun during what might well have been a tedious spring training game.

For that, Tony Gwynn, I thank you.

After all, baseball is supposed to be fun.

To close out this post, I thought I'd boast about just how good of a deal I got from this vendor.

After I finished up my various digs, I had about 200 dime cards, 60 quarter cards, and five bucks' worth of other miscellaneous cardboard in my purchase pile.

If my math is right, that should've amounted to around a $40 price tag.

Final cost?

Twenty bucks.

So, basically, all my non-dime purchases were on the house. We'll take a look at what those finds netted me in the final installments of this mini-series.

For now, though, I can't help but gloat over how awesome this vendor's dime boxes are.

They never fail to pack a punch.


Michael Chase said...

Very nice haul! I would be happy with those picks myself. And if I were picking, my cards would probably be similar to those.

Also, I have a couple of those East Meets West, including that Rodriguez. I've never really seen anymore of them either and I don't remember them being in Beckett, back in the day. Anyways they are quite interesting. I'm prompted to look in my binders right now : )

TTG said...

I did a post at Gaslamp Ball last year about that Gwynn card. The story behind it isn't as exciting as one might hope.

Bo said...

Lol, I was going to direct you to my interview with Sanders, but TTG beat me to it! Here's the direct link.