I am a full-blown bargain hunter.
I get the feeling that I'm virtually alone amongst people my age in that regard. I rarely spot college students when I hit the local flea market or nearby thrift stores.
Personally, I couldn't wait for garage sale season to start up around here. After what I found last year, I was looking forward to digging for some more gems.
Because the weather was so nice today, my dad and I hit a local garage sale that supposedly had baseball cards up for grabs. I learned long ago that garage sales are more hit-and-miss than flea markets. Just because someone advertises baseball cards doesn't mean that they're good baseball cards.
Still, it never hurts to take a look if you have a little extra time on your hands. I could tell my dad was excited when we got there because the guy had a couple unadvertised bins of records for sale. My dad is an avid vinyl collector.
I spotted a couple huge boxes of random cards in one of the corners of the guy's garage. A quick peek through the ones near the top resulted in nothing but baseball singles. As I dug deeper and deeper, though, everything I found was basketball. My hopes weren't high.
While I was pondering whether I should take a shot with the boxes, someone came up and bought the pair for $10 a piece. It wasn't a huge loss, as I didn't really want a crate full of basketball cards on my hands anyways.
A short while later, I spotted a fancy-looking box with the Stadium Club logo on it.
At the time, I wasn't exactly sure what it was.
I found a keychain and a couple concealed boxes inside, the words "Charter Member" printed across each one. At the very least, I figured it'd make for a neat oddball add to my collection.
I offered the guy three bucks for the box, which he took.
As my dad and I were waiting at the bus stop to come back, I took a peek through the box on the right. Initially, I was a little disappointed because the first cards I pulled featured Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull.
I wondered if I'd accidentally bought a hockey item.
I didn't worry for long, though.
The vast majority of the 50-card box featured ballplayers. Apparently, these were sent to Stadium Club "Charter Members" back in 1991 (whatever that meant) as a special release.
Complete with the terrific '91 Stadium Club design, each card features a milestone from the player shown on the front.
It was quite the star-studded checklist.
Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson, the Griffeys. As if that weren't enough, each one has a terrific newspaper-themed write-up on the back.
That took care of the box on the right of this "Charter Member" set.
The one on the left, though, had a little weight to it.
That's because it held the heaviest baseball card I'd ever found.
The box listed it as a "Nolan Ryan Medallion", but I had no idea it'd be anything like this.
This piece is about as thick as ten baseball cards stacked on top of one another and has to weigh at least a pound or two. And, no, I haven't a clue as to how I'm going to store it.
Still, I must say that this is one of the coolest and quirkiest oddballs I've seen in a long time. To me, it was worth the three bucks all by itself.
If this "Charter Member" set would've been my only garage sale find of the day, I would've gone home a happy man.
But my dad had more in store for me.
He'd gone to a different garage sale earlier this morning in search of records. Though he did end up finding a few, he also noticed a box of baseball cards on one of the tables.
The lady gave it to him for two bucks.
Now, there were cards inside. That's why my dad bought it, after all. If you ask me, though, the box would've been worth the two bucks alone. It's a great new piece for my collection by itself.
What we have here is actually a 500-count Topps vending box from 1988. I'd never seen one before this afternoon.
Better yet, there wasn't a hint of '88 Topps in the thing.
God knows I already have enough of those.
What I found inside was a nearly perfect assortment of chaos that only a garage sale could provide.
Even if I didn't come up with a single card I needed, the blast I had just digging through the box would've left me satisfied.
Thankfully, I needed quite a bit of what I found. In fact, I knew my dad had done well from the moment I started picking through the box.
Among the first cards I found was this terrific work of art from 1991 UD Final Edition, one that commemorates the perfect game "El Presidente" tossed against the Dodgers that year.
That was just the beginning.
Double dips were fair game as well.
Even ones that feature freakish oversized heads.
One thing I particularly enjoyed about this box was the variety of different sets included in it.
I don't see retro sets like Fleer Tradition and early Topps Heritage in dime boxes too often. They're terrific examples of retro done right, if you ask me.
For better or worse, they pretty much kicked off the retro craze we seem to be living through here in 2014.
Speaking of retro, I found a huge stack of 2004 Cracker Jack singles about halfway through the box.
This was one of the first throwback sets I can remember enjoying as a young collector. It's a shame that Topps didn't keep it around for longer. It certainly beats the tar out of something like Gypsy Queen or Archives.
Oh, and that's a Yadier Molina rookie in the center of this page, by the way.
Here's a couple other forgotten sets from the early 2000's.
Upper Deck R-Class was a flat-out dud. I used to find reams of these things in the $1.49-per-pack box at my local Target. I didn't like them much then, and I still don't now.
UD Fortyman, however, is a set I can endorse. Partially, anyways. It took after Topps Total, in that it tried to give the collector a huge checklist. The name "Fortyman" references each squad's 40-man roster.
From what I remember, though, packs of Fortyman were $2.99 each, a far cry from the affordable 99-cent price tag of Total. The two-dollar price difference kind of defeated the whole purpose.
Fortyman was nice, but I'll always be a devout Topps Total fan.
That's why I was so excited to see a few singles from the almighty Total brand fall out of this box.
You've probably heard my manifesto on these before, so I won't go into it here.
I'll just say that I was happy to add cards to my David Eckstein and Kenny Lofton player collections for now.
I'd say a good quarter of the box was filled with mid '90s Donruss singles.
These aren't the most well-designed cards in the world, but they're almost impossible to find these days. My dime box digs have pretty much turned up dry in the past, so I needed a whole lot of the ones I found in this box.
Perhaps the best of the lot was this terrific Craig Biggio "double dip" from '98 Donruss.
It's hard not to love that awesome Wrigley Field backdrop.
If I may, I hope you'll indulge me in a trip through the Donruss time machine.
We start in 1998, perhaps the best of the brand's later designs. This was the last set Donruss would release until 2001.
The best of this bunch has to be the Albert Belle "throwback" shot in the center.
Our next stop is 1997.
I think most of us can agree that this was a less-than-stellar design. Still, there are a few gems to be had in this checklist.
That's an Allen Trammell "sunset" card on the right-center portion of this page.
For our final stop, we go all the way back to 1996.
In terms of pure design, this has to be one of the lowest points in the history of baseball cards. It's hard to know what Donruss was thinking by releasing a set like this. I just can't get past that intrusive brick in the center of every single card from '96 Donruss.
Still, I did need quite a few of these for my various player collections, so I was more than pleased with the pickup.
I think it's fair to say that this box far surpassed its two-dollar price tag long ago.
What could possibly make this thing even better?
That's right. There was vintage in this box, too. And not just stacks of no-namers from late '70s Topps, either.
I'm talking flat-out awesome '72 Red Sox team cards.
Or a couple great mid '70s singles.
That's a Gene Garber rookie card on the left. This copy is in far better shape than the one sitting in my Royals binder as we speak.
The Speier features as good of an action shot as you'll find from the '70s.
I can't believe I didn't have one already.
How about a little League Leader action?
Not only does this one feature a Hall of Famer in Tom Seaver, but it's also an add to my treasured error collection. That's actually former Padre Danny Coombs in the center of this one, not NL ERA runner-up Dave Roberts.
By this point, I was absolutely blown away from what this box held.
Little did I know that the best find of them all was yet to come.
This, my friends, is as beautiful as baseball cards get.
From left to right, that's Ron Kline, Bob Friend, Vern Law, and Roy Face. All on one card.
This spectacular "Buc Hill Aces" single hails from 1959 Topps. How it wound up in a box full of mid '90s Donruss is beyond me.
I guess that's why I love going to garage sales so much.
You just never know what you're going to find.
Remember that, kids.