Monday, April 28, 2014

The return of the flea market

Anyone who has been reading this blog over the past couple years should know how important the local flea market is to me.

Walking through aisles and aisles of vendors in search of buried treasure is a great way to spend an afternoon. If you have a flea market near you, I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

My local flea market season started late last month, but yesterday was the first time the trifecta of time, money, and acceptable weather seemed to combine.

The only problem was the howling wind. People's items were blowing all over the place. With all that debris flying around, I felt like a guy in one of those old Westerns. Emerging from a cloud of dust in search of dime boxes.

Unfortunately, the regular card vendors who have dominated the last couple flea market seasons weren't there. I'm hoping they're just waiting for the weather to calm down a little more. As you might guess, cards and wind don't mix.

After walking through a few aisles, I was starting to get worried that opening day at the flea market might turn out to be a disappointment. No cardboard in sight.

I finally found a guy in the last couple aisles who had some cards on display.

The only problem was that none of them were priced.

I don't usually like digging through unpriced cardboard. I like to know what I'm getting into when I start digging.

Thankfully, within seconds of me approaching his table, he said...

"Everything in this box is two-for-a-dollar, and everything in that one is four-for-a-dollar."


I started on the quarter cards. It may not have been a dime box, but I was just happy to finally be digging through cards at that point.

The guy's selection was impressive. Every possible facet of the hobby seemed to be represented.

Even presidents.

Oddballs also made a couple cameos.

At a quarter a piece, I was more than happy to give about a half-dozen of these neat MVP oddities a good home.

You want rookies?

You got it!

I know it's sacrilege to scan Dodger and Giant cards next to each other, but I couldn't help it with these two.

Finding a Matt Holliday rookie in a quarter bin was certainly a surprise.

Even so, I doubt I would've even bought it had it not had that awesome "bat barrel" shot.

One thing I liked about this guy's selection was that he had a lot of inserts from the '90s and early 2000's available. The sheer number of different series that were released in that time period is mind-boggling.

On top of that, I wouldn't exactly call a lot of them conventional.

As you might guess with that Ichiro, many have quite a trippy look to them.

Adding to the greatness of this guy's selection was the fact that he had quite a few newer cards on display as well.

I'll be the first to admit that Topps's recent advent of mini-refractors has "gimmick" written all over it. That's why it's been difficult to admit to myself that I actually kind of like them.

I've been a Sonny Gray fan ever since his performance in last year's playoffs. That, and the fact that his name sounds like something out of the 1800's, compelled me to drop a quarter on this beauty.

Darn you mini-refractors for being so cool.

Here's your dosage of shiny for the day.

Topps Chrome has basically become an afterthought for me, but I still enjoy plucking refractors, x-fractors, or any other type of fractors out of discount bins.

I still haven't bought a pack of 2014 Donruss.

I applaud Panini's effort, but this set was a bust. The inserts are okay, but they're not nearly enough to justify paying three bucks on a pack at Target.

This is probably the one area of collecting that would be the hardest to explain to a non-collector. If I dislike these cards so much, then why did I pull so many of them out of this quarter bin?

I've never had a good answer. Player collections trump bad designs, I guess.

If I see an Ichiro card I don't already have, I'm going to buy it.

The design doesn't have much of a say in the matter.

Perhaps the most surprising part of this guy's quarter bin was his selection of Vlads.

For no reason whatsoever, an entire section of his box was filled with the guy. Quarter after quarter after quarter well spent.

This was probably my strangest pickup of the afternoon. It's obviously meant to be some sort of baseball card/ticket mashup.

I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to store a card like this, but I had to have it regardless.

Vlads everywhere!

A lot of these are numbered, which is why I was so shocked to land them for just a quarter a piece.

It was a great way to cap off my quarter bin dig.

That's when I moved on to his 2/$1 box.

I didn't find much, but I was willing to drop fifty cents on Mr. Hegan here.

It's yet another step in my unofficial quest to obtain every single Pilots card ever made.

The guy also had a small box of individually-priced cardboard off to the side.

Again, I didn't come away with a whole lot, but I felt compelled to jump on this Jordan. At only a buck, it was a fair price.

I think this one was actually released as part of a basketball set, as it has the NBA logo on the back. It's a baseball card to me, though.

After all was said and done, I had 84 quarter cards, two fifty-centers, and the dollar MJ in my purchase pile. The guy cut me a bit of a deal and only charged me twenty bucks for the lot.

I thanked him and continued my hunt for buried treasure.

I ended up buying cards from two more dealers last afternoon.

I'll chronicle my finds from one of them in an upcoming post. The other, however, made for one of my better flea market finds ever.

I spotted another guy with cards just a few tables down from the aforementioned quarter boxes. He had a big bin full of random stuff. Most of it contained cards, but I actually pulled a watch out of the thing at one point.

Whether the watch was for sale or whether a fellow collector lost it during their dig wasn't clear.

Again, none of his cards had a price on them. The guy said they were "all different prices" when I asked him. That reply usually worries me. I went about my dig with caution.

About ten minutes later, however, I walked away from his table with a huge smile on my face. Though it's a beautiful card, this Powell wasn't the reason why.

In fact, it was a mere throw-in to the real prize.

Down in the bottom reaches of the bin came a baggie full of '60s Beatles cards.

Most had tape residue and were in generally grim shape. Still, if you know me at all by now, the fact that I could care less about their condition is probably no surprise to you.

There I was holding something a stack of Beatles cards. Cards of the four guys who produced some of the best music in the history of our planet.

There was only one problem.

I didn't know how much they were. I was a little afraid to ask. My mind instantly started imagining what the guy might say.

You seem like a good kid. I could let them go for, say...fifty bucks. That's a good deal, my friend.

I asked anyways.

Then came the reply...

Ten bucks.

Ten bucks for a stack of authentic Beatles cards?


And, like I said, the guy was even nice enough to throw that Boog Powell in with the lot. 

That's how I became the proud new owner of about fifteen new Beatles cards.

Stories like this are why I keep going back to the flea market year after year. The possibility of finding gems like these is simply irresistible.

Go ahead, precious flea market.

Take a bow.

You deserve it.


Anonymous said...

I did the same thing you did... I was going through a box that had 2014 Donruss, and as I was thinking "These cards really aren't all that good", I was tossing them on my stack. If nothing else, I would've bought the Ichiro for the sole reason that if you want a 2014 Ichiro, you've got to deal with whatever Panini's putting out (at least until I "publish" my custom.

Awesome Beatles cards, I would've jumped at that myself. I'm guessing someone had them taped to their wall or dresser or something.

I'm on a similar quest to acquire as many Seattle Pilots cards as I can afford, I just got one more lovely addition to that collection and - Shameless Plug Alert! - I plan on having a post about it in the next day or two.

Mike said...

Beatles cards!!....can't wait to do the flea market together this summer!

Mark Hoyle said...

I have a Flea Market near me. Hit it about 4 times a year. Who jakes those MVP cards?

Mark Hoyle said...

Who makes the MVP cards. Love the Pilots also.. I've been picking some up here and there

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Nice grabs Nick, I wish rather I should have known youd liked the Beatles cards, and I traded away about a dozen last summer and wish that I still had them.

You should move to Florida, flea markets year round 3 big ones within minutes from me, and a couple of smaller ones too. Friday through Sunday, and then one 90 minutes away on Mondays only, but is is HUGE!

Nick said...


I can't find a ton of info on the specifics of them, but it appears the set is called MVP 2 and it was released in 1992.

Fuji said...

Great job on the quarter bins! Can't believe you scored a Timmy rc for a quarter. Just a couple of years ago, my buddy (who sets up at my local flea market) would get $10 for that card. And those Beatles cards are AWESOME!