At the end of yesterday's post, I alluded to the fact that my trip to the flea market this past Sunday may have resulted in the best five dollars I have ever spent.
But I'll let you be the judge of that. Some of my readers from years past might remember that I used to rave about one particular card vendor at my local flea market. I'd never really thought about it until recently, but I didn't even know the guy's name.
Well, as I found out on Sunday, his name is Ron. With the years I've been attending the flea market, I kind of feel bad that I didn't know that until now. Anyways, Ron's table was the first one I hit during this weekend's trip, and he had the usual array of cardboard on display. A row of meaty dime boxes, piles of quarter cards, and stacks of other miscellany.
I spent around 45 minutes at his table, winding up with 307 dime cards (I somehow remember the number exactly), 12 quarter cards, three fifty-centers, and two dollar box pickups. Even with the 100/$5 dime box deal he advertises, my total should've been over twenty bucks.
So you can imagine how stunned I was when Ron quoted me five dollars on the lot. He said he wanted to give me a deal because it was the first time I'd been able to hit the flea market this year. I felt a bit guilty handing over a mere five-dollar bill for the brick of cardboard in my hands.
All things considered, though, I think Gary Carter makes for a good representation of the joy I felt after walking away from his table.
As a college student with a minuscule budget, I can't tell you how much I appreciated the deal I got from Ron.
It sure helped me out in a big way. Going into Sunday, I was hoping to keep my final purchases under twenty bucks. My total added up to seventeen bucks for the day ($19 if you count the two-dollar admission fee), which meant that this was one of the few times in my card-collecting life that I've actually stayed under budget.
And I didn't have to sacrifice any fun to do so. I still got to bask in the glory of my 300-plus dime box pickups.
Pickups which included rookie cards and short-prints.
I've said this before, but one thing I like about Ron's display is that there always seems to be a kid at his table.
A young whippersnapper who couldn't have been more than nine or ten years old was digging through the dime boxes right along with me on Sunday. At one point, the kid was looking through cards on my left while an older gentleman was doing the same on my right.
It was like a human bar graph, three generations of collectors at one table with me in the middle. I thought that was a nice little visual, and one that I'm not sure I've ever been a part of before.
The cards I found may have been terrific (including one-month hero Chris Shelton), but the actual experience of attending the flea market is just as important to me.
It's usually a given that I'll come away with a few mini-collection singles from Ron's dime boxes.
This Maddux takes its place as one of the few mini "pitchers at the plate" I own.
Here's a quartet of other themed hits.
Roger Clemens may arguably be my least favorite player in the history of baseball, but I'm not passing up on a new "tip of the cap" shot.
Oddballs are also pretty much a certainty when it comes to Ron's selection.
The older gentleman at the table found the Babe Ruth from this bite-sized oddball set at one point, and I was a little jealous. But I guess I couldn't be too disappointed, because I found Satchel Paige for myself a few minutes later.
It all worked out in the end.
Besides, there were more than enough oddballs to go around.
I'd actually asked for (and received) a handful of those Baseball Card Magazine singles from Tony a couple days before I hit the flea market. I scored about another dozen for my binders on Sunday, which was awesome because you know I can't turn down a good oddball.
And here I was thinking I had the only Eric Lindros baseball card ever made.
At one point, I noticed a half-filled box hovering near the back of Ron's table.
I thought I saw some light-colored card backs in there, and wondered if they were what I thought they were. I asked if the cards were for sale and he handed the box over to me. It only took one peek to know that my hunch was right.
They were O-PEE-CHEE!!!!!!!
I landed about three dozen new '79 OPCs after the dust settled, and, best of all, they ended up being dime cards.
At one point, the older gentleman next to me saw that I'd come across a Joe Nuxhall card from this Pacific Legends set and asked me if I knew what his big claim to fame was.
That's a softball question for a longtime fan like myself, but the guy seemed impressed that I knew the answer. I told him I'd always been a big fan of the older greats, and he handed me these Pacific Legends cards every time he came across a stack of them in the discount bins. I already had the Nuxhall, but I ended up needing a bunch of others.
That's the kind of dime box camaraderie I enjoy.
These two did their best to confirm my suspicion that, as a whole, catchers get the best baseball cards.
I really should build that "America We Stand" subset one day (it honors baseball's tributes after the 9/11 attacks), and I guess it's fitting that I found Mr. Piazza on Memorial Day weekend.
I can always get behind some dime box shiny.
Because we could all use a little shiny in our lives.
One of Ron's dime boxes was comprised of nothing but Chicago sports teams.
The baseball cards in there were about ninety percent White Sox and ten percent Cubs, for some reason. I'm a fan of both clubs, so I didn't really mind one way or the other.
The Cubs finds were minimal, but the Sox ones resulted in some real gems. In this scan alone, you have a Mark Buehrle oddball that had me stumped for a while, a new Wilbur Wood for my collection (which doesn't happen often), and two spectacular TCMA oddballs of guys you don't often see in Sox pinstripes.
That's my very first card of Larry Doby with the White Sox, in fact.
Here's an early shot of a man who would go on to great things on the South Side of Chicago.
It was the only Dodger card I bought of Paul Konerko on Sunday.
The other forty-four were all White Sox.
Konerko, who now has his #14 retired on the South Side, has always been one of my role models. He means even more to me now, considering that the first story I ever had published was based upon his last game as a member of the White Sox.
For some reason, though, I'd never chased his cards with much vigor. I'd pick up a few here and there, but that was pretty much it.
I decided to change that on Sunday. I'm now a full-throttle Konerko collector, and I boosted my meager collection of his with this smattering of pickups.
I was proud to clean Ron out of his spare Konerkos.
And all those were just the dime finds.
I still have a few others to recap, starting with the quarter boxes.
I've never been much of a sci-fi guy (or a Trekkie), but I do build the Heritage "News Flashbacks" insert set each passing year. Given the popularity of Star Trek, I thought this was going to be the toughest one to track down. In an odd twist of fate, it was actually the first I acquired.
Live long and let the quarter boxes prosper, I guess.
We get a front row seat at Wrigley for this "pitcher at the plate" shot.
It's probably the largest mini-collection card in my collection as we speak.
These two were definitely worth a couple quarters to me.
You get the full baserunner/fielder/ump combo on that glorious '73 Topps action shot.
The OPC madness couldn't help but spill over into the quarter bins.
You can't tell from the front, but that Morgan is indeed an O-Pee-Chee subject.
You'll have to take my word for it.
Even the fifty-cent bin proved no match for the OPCs.
For loose change, I'm not passing on a couple Hall of Famers with French on the back.
Would the dollar box be able to withstand the OPC charge?
Spending anything more than about fifty cents on a single card usually requires a bit of extra consideration on my part, but I didn't have to think twice about Reggie.
He's more than deserving of a buck, I'd say.
My second dollar pickup was actually an entire checklist of cards.
Ron had a couple of these 1988 White Sox Coke sets in his dollar box, and I couldn't resist picking one of them up. The cards themselves are actually more square than rectangular, so they're tough to fit into a nine-pocket page.
But that's really a small concern when you see how terrific these oddballs are. The highlights include a shot of the old Comiskey Park (which I never got to see for myself), the Sox's old mascots Ribbie and Roobarb, and my very first card of a stadium organist with Miss Nancy Faust.
This set packed quite a punch for a mere dollar.
Still, even with all the top-notch cardboard I've shown already, we have to go back to the dime boxes for what I think were my greatest finds of the day.
I can probably count the times I've found Kellogg's cards for a dime on one hand.
And, even in most of those rare cases, they were late '70s/early '80s issues of second-tier players. Never any huge stars from older Kellogg's sets...nothing like a 1971 Kellogg's card of a Hall of Famer like Tony Perez or anything.
This beauty was sandwiched between a bunch of more recent singles, and the sheer surprise of finding it almost made me swoon in the muggy flea market afternoon. But I kept my composure and calmly added Mr. Perez to my pile, knowing that I'd just made one of my all-time best dime box pickups.
What could possibly top that?
How about a second '71 Kellogg's Hall of Famer?
A few minutes after the Tony Perez experience (dibs on the band name), none other than Willie Stargell emerged from the dime box depths, again surrounded by a pile of more contemporary commons.
How I managed to keep my feet under me when a second Kellogg's card popped out, I'll never know. But I did.
And that's the story of how I landed two Kellogg's Hall of Famers from a flea market dime box. I'd think it was a fairy tale if I didn't see it with my own eyes.
That just about does it for this whopper of a post, and I thank everyone who's made it this far. I know that was a lengthy one, but I had to show just how substantial my finds from Ron were on Sunday. And how much I appreciated the deal he cut me, because, believe me, I don't take it for granted.
I feel honored to have such a card-tastic flea market just minutes from where I live.