It's hard to capture the image of a flea market in words.
The only way to truly get the experience is to attend one in person. For those unfortunate souls who don't have one in their area, I'll do my best to recap yesterday's flea market trip as vividly as possible.
My dad and I arrived a little after eleven, barely a cloud in the sky. I think my local flea market opens up at around seven in the morning, but I've never had the slightest inkling to go that early. I'm about as far from a morning person as you'll find.
No matter how many times I step foot in the flea market, the wave of chatter and excitement that hits as I walk in will never get old. It's a hard thing for those on the outside to understand.
I'm lucky, in that my local flea market is absolutely gigantic. After all was said and done, it took my dad and I about two hours to get through it all. The bulk of that time, of course, was spent digging through baseball cards.
The three huge stacks and special tin (which I'll discuss further in a bit) you see above set me back a grand total of just eighteen bucks. At about 400 cards, that's less than a nickel per.
How could I not be in love with this place?
We started by scanning the first couple aisles.
Neither my dad nor I found a single item. Lots of knick-knacks and power tools that didn't interest me in the slightest. I have a one-track mind when it comes to flea markets.
I've attended so many times that I know exactly where my regular card guys set up each day. It's about four aisles from the beginning, right near the front. The vendors know me by now, greeting me each time I walk up to their table.
The first guy asked me where I'd been lately. This was my first trip to the flea market in nearly two months, a long dry spell for me. I told him I simply hadn't had the cash to spend, which was true. From there, I got to work digging through his dime boxes.
He doesn't get new stock in too often, but one of the first things I found was this famous 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie. I don't know whether it was new to his selection or if I'd somehow missed it in the past. I scooped it up in a heartbeat, surprised I didn't already own a copy.
Maybe I'll find the no-name variation in a dime box one day.
One thing that excited me was the fact that the guy had a box of nine-pocket pages for sale at a dime a piece.
I was planning on buying a few when my digs were done. As you might already know, keeping cards in binders requires a constant flow of pages.
Not long after I started flipping through his boxes, a little kid came up and inquired about the pages. He didn't seem to know what they were. The kid had Pokemon cards in his hand and the vendor put one of them in the page for him. He seemed intrigued and his parents bought him the entire lot.
I was disappointed, but at least happy they went to a kid. Besides, I'm not that hard-up for pages right now.
Even with the A-Rod cameo, this spectacular "double dip" shot was enough to put a smile back on my face.
I plucked a decent amount of new mini-collection hits from the guy's dime boxes.
The Belle is a sweet throwback shot, while the Roberts is an interesting take on my "at the wall" theme.
Side walls do count, in case you're wondering.
New to the guy's table were a few small quarter boxes off to the side.
Mostly stocked with newer issues, it only took me a minute or two to sift through them. The Byrd was one of those cards that I thought might be a double, but wasn't 100 percent sure. The risk was worth a quarter to me.
When I returned home yesterday, I found that I had Byrd's standard Diamond Anniversary parallel, but not the liquorfractor.
The quarter boxes closed out with this one.
A beautiful blue parallel of one of 2013's best cards.
All in all, I forked over six bucks for around 50 dime cards and a handful of quarter box singles.
As nice as this guy is, I don't usually spend a great deal of time going through his selection.
That's because I know what's waiting for me just a few tables down.
The other regular vendor at my local flea market constantly gets new stock in and always has something interesting to dig through. I'm amazed with what I manage to find at his table.
If you've read these flea market posts before, you'll know how good of a deal he cuts me. He gave me the 350 dime cards, small stack of quarter/fifty-cent/dollar singles, and the aforementioned tin I picked out for a grand total of ten bucks.
My dad was worried I'd blow my entire budget after seeing all the cards in my purchase pile. I told him not to fret, knowing how good of a deal I usually get. It's not something I take for granted, and I'm eternally grateful for the money this vendor has saved me over the years.
Some of the most elegant dime cards I've ever found came in the form of these oversized TCMA oddballs.
These original pieces of art hail from the mid '80s, and I'd never seen them before yesterday.
The guy had a whole stack of them in one of his dime boxes.
They don't fit in my nine-pocket pages, but they make for amazing display pieces in the little front pockets that a lot of my binders have.
These things pop even more in person.
These are actually from a different TCMA set, yet feature the same beautiful artwork as the others.
From what the back says, full-sized portraits of these were presented to the Yankee players themselves on Old Timers' Day in 1983.
Not bad for a dime each, I'd say.
As cool as those were, I landed a ton of regular-sized cards from this guy's dime boxes yesterday.
I developed a painful sunburn on the back of my neck with all the time I spent leaning my head down to dig through his stacks of cardboard. Remember to wear sunblock if you go to the flea market, kids.
Hey, with all the great cards I found, the sunburn was worth it.
I noticed a few trends in the guy's selection as I sifted through his trio of massive dime boxes. A lot of the same players seemed to pop up over and over again. I came away with over a couple dozen new Gary Carters for my collection, spanning basically his entire career.
I'm still floored at how often his cards come out of dime boxes.
Don't ask me why, but I've started picking up more and more Deion Sanders singles lately.
For whatever reason, the vendor had a ton of "Prime Time" ripe for the picking. The centerpiece of this page is an awesome horizontal shot that I've had my eye on for a long time.
My Sanders collection nearly doubled from this dig alone.
Wow, people sell cards for fifteen dollars?
I looked up from my dime box adventure to see a kid, probably about nine or ten, hovering near the guy's glass case. He was amazed that anyone would buy a card for that much. If only he knew.
What's the most expensive card ever?
I heard the vendor start telling him about the famous T206 Honus Wagner after the kid asked what I like to call "The Eternal Question". If he thinks fifteen bucks is a lot, then he's in for a big surprise.
I encountered a huge stack of Hideo Nomo singles as the kid walked away from the table. I wanted to say, "Hey! Look at these! They're just a dime each."
But I didn't.
I hope he'll discover the world of dime boxes on his own.
A little while later, I saw a couple walk up to the football dime box the vendor had on display.
I couldn't make out exactly what they were saying, but I thought I heard the woman say worthless as the guy started digging. He stopped looking through the cards about thirty seconds later without buying a single thing.
I guess we know who wears the pants there.
I should note that I see a lot of couples looking through boxes together at flea markets, card shows, etc. It's nice, and makes me wish to find that special someone who can appreciate my quest to hoard as many Rickey Henderson cards as possible, if that doesn't sound too corny.
As I found yesterday, though, not everyone is lucky enough to be in such a relationship.
We'll get more into my dime box finds in Part 2 of this mini-series, but I'd like to move onto another section of this guy's table for now.
He almost always has a little box of various smaller complete sets on display. Minor league sets, team sets, things like that. I don't always look through them, but something caught my eye this time.
I fished out a complete set of 1988 Star Mark Grace, eleven cards in all for just a buck. He was a fresh-eyed rookie at that point, not knowing the legendary future he'd eventually have as a Cub.
When I originally went to buy everything I picked out, he quoted me a grand total of eight dollars, far less than I'd expected.
That left a ton of wiggle room in my small budget, more than enough to take home another hot item I saw on display.
This is another oddball set that I'd never seen before yesterday.
Apparently, Pinnacle released an entire 30-card checklist in 1993 centered entirely around Joe DiMaggio. The guy originally had the tin priced at three bucks, but he gave it to me for two.
Not having prior knowledge of the set, I wasn't sure what to expect.
Knowing Pinnacle's past successes, I knew it was a good bet.
I was right.
This 30-card set consists of some of the most well-made oddballs I've ever come across.
Some single-player sets have a tendency to be a bit boring, but not this one. It features a terrific mix of photography. Color vs. black-and-white, action vs. posed, horizontal vs. vertical, young DiMaggio vs. old DiMaggio, and so on.
Every card has enough individuality to stand on its own.
Perhaps the most interesting part is that the set came with a Certificate of Authenticity, emphasizing the fact that it was one of just 209,000 made. Oh, and it also included a lenticular lens in case you needed further proof of authenticity.
At two bucks, I'd say it made for one of the better flea market steals of my life.
Though the baseball cards I find are beautiful, flea markets are works of art within themselves.
You can't get the same experience anywhere else.