October in Chicago doesn't usually bode well for the great outdoors.
Cold, blustery, grim weather replaces the summer sun in the blink of an eye. That's basically why I wrote off my previous flea market trip as the last one of the season, as it closes the last week of October.
My dad caught wind of a special record show that was being held inside the local flea market. Naturally, he had to go. My dad's obsession with vinyl is as strong (if not stronger) as my addiction to cardboard.
I watched my dad dig through records for a little while before my urges got the best of me. I cut back and started to make my way towards the cardboard aisle of heaven where my two regular vendors were waiting for me.
About an hour later, my dad came back with a big bag full of vinyl, finding me with two long boxes of baseball cards tucked under my arms. The four huge stacks you see above made for one of the best hauls in recent memory.
Needless to say, both my dad and I had pretty darn good days at the flea market.
As you might remember, one of my two regular vendors doesn't get a ton of new cards in on a week-to-week basis.
He's a really nice guy, though, so I do what I can and pick out at least a handful of cards from his dime boxes during every trip. I snagged a three-ring binder off of him for a cool 75 cents along with about 20 singles from his dime boxes.
One thing I love about the card vendors at my local flea market is that there's no need to haggle, which is nice since I'm just about the worst in the world when it comes to that sort of thing. I guess that's why a career in business never seemed to suit me.
Despite what Mr. Tosca there would have you believe, arguing over a price is unnecessary.
The binder, 20 dime cards...
...and a few miscellaneous singles from his quarter box set me back the very fair price of four dollars.
Throwbacks and liquorfractors make for a great combo, if you ask me.
Of course, the real story of each passing trip to the flea market is the other one of the regular vendors.
Again, he's an overall great guy and we seem to chat about the hobby more and more every time I hit his table. He was even nice enough to give me a couple empty boxes to store my cards in. The risk of cards blowing away in the brisk October wind is very real.
I hit his quarter, fifty-cent, and dollar boxes with a little more vigor than usual (which you'll see in Part 2), but still came away with right around 500 cards from his quartet of dime boxes after all was said and done.
If my math is right, the 500 dime singles, 50-ish quarter ones, 12 fifty-centers, and four dollar box heroes I found should've cost around well upwards of 50 bucks. (That's with the 100/$7 dime box deal he usually advertises.)
He charged a mere 25 dollars for my loot, which comes out to less than a nickel per card. I know I've gone on and on about this in the past, but it's hard to express how appreciative I am of the great deal the guy always cuts me.
I don't have a terribly huge budget for baseball cards at this point in my life, which is why the flea market is so special. I know I can quell my cardboard thirst for a good month or two for a minimal amount of cash.
Today, we'll be taking a look at the plethora of awesome cardboard that came out of the guy's dime boxes. We start with my mini-collections and, specifically, this terrific Eddie Murray "tip of the cap" shot, which was actually already in my Just Commons cart before Sunday.
A couple big names for my "anthemic" and "at the wall" themes.
As great as the leaping grab might be, I can't stop staring at the shadow on that Sheffield.
That's true cardboard art right there.
There are exactly two reasons why I'd ever spend money on cards of Roger Clemens and/or Alex Rodriguez.
a) I'm planning on sending them to other A-Rod/Clemens collectors.
b) They fit into my mini-collections.
I bought a handful of cards of these guys for the former reason, but these two are staying with me for the latter.
As much as I might despise the guys, I can't pass up good mini-collection hits.
Let's move on to some more well-liked ballplayers with Biggio and Ripken.
The "Iron Man" is a beautiful fit for my "award show" theme, while the Biggio is a quirky new "double dip". You might notice that the image of the former Astro is actually a reverse-negative.
That was intentional, as UD's Authentics release in 2002 honored the brand's debut back in 1989. The flipped Dale Murphy from their inaugural set, as you might know, is still one of the most coveted error cards around.
So, in a weird way, UD was actually paying tribute to a major screw-up.
More awesome mini-collection finds.
The Karros had been sitting in my Sportlots cart for quite a while before Sunday.
With this guy's dime boxes, who needs to bother with all this internet shopping stuff?
Finally, we have a beautiful "play at the plate" shot with the immortal Fenway Park in the backdrop.
A trip to the flea market always seems to beef up my many mini-collections.
I feel like I say this all the time, but the reason I keep coming back to this guy's selection is that I literally have no freaking idea what I'm going to find on any given Sunday.
He seems to change up about 90 percent of the cards he puts out from week to week. Almost everything is completely new to me. And, best of all, it encompasses pretty much every possible facet of the hobby.
You like big, shiny, distracting bells and whistles? This guy has you covered.
I think this may have '95 Fleer beat for the most schizophrenic design of all-time.
I'm thinking my regular vendor inherited one of his 3200-count boxes from a Matt Williams collector at some point.
This is a quartet of extremely loud and busy cards of the current Nationals manager. I'm not sure the scans do them justice.
I wouldn't say I collect Williams, per se, but you know I couldn't pass these up.
If hotshot rookies are your thing, then look no further than these dime boxes.
Larkin, Biggio, Varitek, and the resurgent Phil Hughes were just some of the notable first-years I found for loose change.
As much as I might enjoy eye-popping cards and bigtime rookies, the "little of everything" factor is what has kept me coming back all these years.
Tucked away in the back corner of one of the dime boxes was a stack of pre-WWII reprints. The trio you see here rehash the old Goudey designs of the '30s.
I think it's time we started nicknaming ballplayers Heinie again.
These, however, were the real headliners of that stack of reprints.
Because what you see here are actually Federal League reprints.
I've posted about the Feds on this blog before. They've been a consistent point of fascination for me for as long as I can remember. The league only lasted two years, but a few of its stars slipped their way into the 1914 Cracker Jack checklist.
If money wasn't a factor, I'd devote a good chunk of effort into tracking down the real versions of these beauties.
With my budget, though, I'm happy with the reprints.
A couple other random fun pieces of dime box goodness.
Between the fist pump and the flashing scoreboard, I don't know if the shot on that Lofton could've been timed any better.
If I learned one thing from this dime box dig, it's that Wade Boggs liked to have fun.
I'm guessing (or hoping?) that the card on the left is an allusion to Boggs's habit of eating chicken before every ballgame. I let out an audible chuckle when I first laid eyes upon that one.
The champagne-filled card on the right is one of the extreme few instances of alcohol on cardboard.
We need more.
The very first thing I pulled out of the dime box depths on Sunday was a fat stack of these card shop-exclusive "Logoman" inserts from 2010 Topps.
Though the huge MLB logo is a bit invasive, the varied colors on this design are still absolutely fantastic. I didn't know about them at all back in 2010, probably because there aren't many decent card shops around where I live.
The few dozen I picked up on Sunday more than made up for lost time.
Each passing trip to the flea market seems to produce another batch of oddballs.
Samples have been a constant thread throughout this summer. I guess it was pure luck that I happened to find a promo of one of my favorite cards ever with the high-flying Andruw Jones.
Playing cards, Post, and Star are all represented here. Oh, and that Jumbo Sunflower Seeds issue of Matt Williams (center-left) has to be one of the worst cards ever printed.
I had to have it.
Do you love O-Pee-Chee?
Of course you do!
One of the bigger developments of the day were the 75 different Hideo Nomos I found.
Yes, you read that right. Seventy-five different Nomos. The decision to start collecting this guy earlier in the year is really paying off.
The vast majority, as you might guess, featured Nomo as a Dodger. That's the way most fans remember him, and that's the way it should be.
I know the guy threw a no-hitter with the Red Sox and everything, but he looks downright weird in anything but the Dodger blue to me.
Just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, it did.
The last dime box I dug through contained almost exclusively 2014 base cards. Given that I haven't bought as many packs or done as much trading as I have in years past, my wants for this year are still fairly plentiful.
Once again, the flea market came to the rescue.
Sure, there were a few flashy parallels thrown in for good measure...
...but the excitement was in the base.
Okay, so maybe I don't get excited over Topps Chrome, Gypsy Queen, or Donruss, but I'll still take them for a dime.
These trio of sets must be making their flock to the dime boxes in preparation for winter. Happens every year.
Why spend three bucks on a pack when you can wait for them to hibernate in the dime bins?
The vast majority of the box was filled with A&G.
That couldn't have worked out any better for me, seeing as how I still needed north of a hundred cards from the set for my various player collections.
I probably picked out a good 50 to 60 A&G singles on Sunday, everything from Dusty Baker to Jose Fernandez. Oh, and also "Batting Stance Guy", actually named Gar Ryness.
I'm still trying to decide whether that's the best or worst name in the history of mankind.
I wasn't expecting to get my first taste of Finest so soon.
I figured I'd have to wait until the dawn of 2015 for these to start making their way into the discount bins, at the earliest. Guess not.
I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Finest thus far, and I wholeheartedly agree with the mob on this one. As beautiful as the colorful scans might look, these look ten times better in-person.
Topps even threw in a bit of bonus throwback action with the Hosmer and Upton.
Still, I don't think there's much doubting what Sunday's most interesting dime box find was.
I've seen this card on a few other blogs already, and for good reason. It's the "Penguin" in a very Penguin-esque tuxedo and top hat, UD's way of getting around the whole no-logo quandary.
I'm still torn on whether I should love this card with all my heart or hate it with all my guts.
All I know is that it needed to be in my collection one way or the other.
Once again, the dime box finds were aplenty this past Sunday. But that was only half the story, since the more high-dollar bins (I'm talking quarters, fifty-centers, dollars, the hard stuff) may have resulted in a couple of my absolute best flea market finds ever.
Deep down, though, I'll always be a dime box guy.
They make blustery October afternoons feel like the middle of July.