Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A day off at the flea market, Pt. 1

I've basically fallen into a set schedule of working Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at my job.

The hours are long (noon to 10 PM), but I don't mind it too much. It's not back-breaking work and it's kind of nice having the whole middle of the week set aside for school and what ever relaxation I can squeeze in.

The one drawback is that most big card events seem to take place on the weekends. Card shows, garage sale, and, yes, my local flea market, which I hadn't attended since June.

But, from what it looks like, the people at my job are pretty lenient when it comes to people needing to take a day every now and then. My dad got tickets for this past Sunday's Pirates-Cubs contest at Wrigley.

Thankfully, I was able to get Sunday off (I worked Wednesday instead), which meant I got to see a 4-0 Cubs win that featured a homer and six perfect innings from Jake Arrieta.

And, as an added bonus, I finally got to spend another beautiful afternoon under the sky of the local flea market.

Like the last time I went back in June, however, my main guy, Ron, wasn't there.

The other regular vendor was, and, although he doesn't get new stock in very often, I make an effort to find at least a small stack of cards because he's a really nice guy. He kept trying to get me to buy an entire thousand(ish)-count box from his table. The price dropped from, finally, five dollars, but I still wouldn't bite.

I've picked through most of his stuff before, and I really don't need to immerse myself in even more cards I don't need (not to mention all the sorting) at this point. In the end, I found about 30 singles to my liking, including the Jordan Zimmerman insert at the top of this post (for my new player collection of his) and these two '80s Fleer oddballs.

I may have bit on that five-dollar box offer a couple years ago, but, at this point, my already-cluttered room is much happier that I settled on just the thirty cards.

A guy in one of the last aisles of the flea market had a big box of miscellaneous pop culture items on display.

Very little of what I found was sports-related, though I did dig up a diamond in the rough with this oversized '70s TCMA oddball of the Splendid Splinter for a buck.

I also bought my dad an empty box of Welcome Back, Kotter candy (with Freddy "Boom Boom" Washington on the cover) from the guy for another dollar.

There were two huge surprises at the flea market last Sunday.

We'll get to the second of the two in the final half of this mini-series, but the first came in the unlikely form of a vendor with a lot of power tools and leaf blowers scattered around her table. To my utter surprise, I found two tubs filled with baseball cards underneath all that, tubs that looked exactly like ones I'd had in my room for at least fifteen years or so. (Kind of like this.)

It wasn't clear if the cards had been previously owned by her kid(s), husband, or whoever, but I knew she didn't have crazy prices in her head when she offered me the tubs for twenty dollars each. I, again, resisted the temptation to buy the whole thing and instead decided to pick through everything one by one.

It took a good half-hour to get through it all, and the lady was absolutely flabbergasted that anyone would take the time to sift through piles and piles and piles of individual baseball cards.

I had a pretty hefty stack of singles after all was said and done, and, because I didn't really feel like counting them all, I asked the lady if she'd take ten bucks for everything I'd picked out.

She did, and celebration ensued.

I counted the cards when I got home a few hours later, and it turned out that I'd had over 150 cards in that pile, which amounts to well under a dime per.

From what I could gather, the previous owner of those tubs seemed to have collected right around the same period that I was first breaking into the hobby, only he/she had cards from sets that I never saw as a young collector.

I always complain that I never see cards from the mid-to-late '90s in dime boxes, and then here comes a whole tub of them for me to dig through.

I could tell the cards hadn't been touched for a long time, because quite a few of them were stuck together.

Peeling such cards apart results in the "snow" that you see here. It didn't affect too many of the cards I bought (and I really don't mind it all that much on the ones that were affected), and, for some reason, I liked the idea that I was probably the first person to actually touch these cards in God knows how long.

It made me feel like some kind of cardboard crusader.

I was floored by how many quality cards I found in those tubs, and how perfectly so many of them aligned to my various collecting passions.

Mark Grace has always been one of my top-tier guys, but this one takes it a step further by featuring him on one of the greatest (and most original) insert sets of the '90s.

Besides 1995 Fleer, I'm not sure any set screams NINETIES!!!! more than '96 Metal Universe.

These cards are absolutely insane, and I kind of do and kind of don't want to meet the employee at Topps who gave the green light on this idea. (The only downside is that they don't scan very well.)

Here, you have Pudge Rodriguez attached to a test tube, Edgardo Alfonso taking a ground ball next to some kind of aquatic superhero, and veterans Lee Smith and Deion Sanders having their likenesses plastered on other cartoon craziness.

These are only a small sample of the Metals I unearthed in those tubs.

Bask in the glory of an intense action shot of David Wells...tying his shoe.

And I have no idea who Katsuhiro Maeda is, but he needs a new barber.

Like so many good dime boxes I've dug through in the past, I had no idea where these tubs were going to turn with each passing stack.

One minute, I was going through a major bout of deja vu with that Benito Santiago oddball. The next, I was being blinded by Pacific Prism.

This dig certainly kept me on my toes.

There was some high-dollar potential, too.

I noticed a lot of early '90s Bowman in these piles, and, specifically, a hefty amount of '92 Bowman, a set that famously features rookie cards of both Mariano Rivera and Mike Piazza (among others). I didn't find either of those, sadly, but I was happy to take this much-needed Scott Hatteberg rookie home with me.

I did, however, find a '92 Bowman Trevor Hoffman rookie in those tubs. I decided to tell the lady that it was kind of a valuable card, and she seemed pleased that I did.

Granted, the fact that I already own a copy of it made that decision a lot easier.

I don't know if the previous owner of these cards collected Eddie Murray, but I sure did find a lot of him in there.

The two Mets cards are treasured adds (I'm especially fond of the "Time, ump" 1994 Fleer shot). I even sprinkled in a sunset card with the '98 UD issue and a new short-term stop featuring his brief stint with the Angels.

Speaking of which...

...the mid-to-late '90s, for whatever reason, seemed like a rich time for unfamiliar uniforms.

Darryl Strawberry as a Giant and Orel Hershiser as a Met are a couple of the more famous stints to come out of that era. I'd actually been searching for that Bulldog for a while now, but, because Pacific singles are so darn hard to find, I'd come up empty.

Until Sunday, of course.

The '90s are far-and-away the most plentiful decade for my mini-collections, and you better believe these tubs had a plethora of those.

I found not one...

...but two Kirby Puckett cards I'd been eyeing for a while in the lady's stacks.

The 1997 Collector's Choice is a "SPEECH!" card (which I lump in with my "interview" mini-collection), while the one you see above is a coveted throwback.

The Womack (more Pacific...hooray!) kills two birds with one stone, in that it's a throwback and a double dip hit.

I really went to town on the double plays.

I think you can see the sheer variety of sets that I found in those tubs from this page alone. Collector's Choice. Pacific. Metal. Donruss. Stadium Club...and more.

And these aren't even all the double plays I bought.

A couple for the "play at the plate" and "at the wall" archives here.

My favorite part about that Randa is seeing all those fans in the fetal position.

Here's two star-studded additions for my "behind the camera" and "tip of the cap" collections.

If there was ever a man deserving of a tip of the cap, it was Tony Gwynn.

These two "broken bat" shots actually came out of the same stack of cards.

The Franco is an obvious one, but I had to do a double-take with the Piazza to see that it was indeed a mini-collection hit.

Those broken bats can be tough to spot some of the time.

And, like a proverbial cherry on top, these tubs did the unthinkable by knocking out a "Dime Box Dozen" need.

Between this and Jamie Moyer's '91 Stadium Club issue, I'm now fairly certain that I own the only two cards ever produced of him as a Cardinal, a team he spent just eight games with in 1991.

Digging through actual boxes is fine and good, but there was something innately fun about digging through two tubs of baseball cards at the flea market on Sunday. I got on my hands and knees to uncover some of these cards, but, seeing the payoff of all this '90s goodness, I think the work was well worth it.

But the local flea market wasn't done working its magic just yet. It was only just beginning.

I'm not usually one for cliffhangers, but...more on that in my next post.


shoeboxlegends said...

Awesome cards all around Nick, love that Moyer in particular!

Zippy Zappy said...

That Maeda brings back horrible memories of Japanese fashion in the late 90's/early 2000's where men and women alike dyed their hair in pretty bad colors and their hair-dos weren't very impressive.

Tony Burbs said...

Maeda looks like one of those creepy mannequins in Old Navy...

Tim B. said...

Great finds, especially that throwback Kirby!

Bo said...

Kats Maeda was a fairly prominent Japanese free agent signing by the Yankees, more for his wild personality than his pitching skill. He never pitched in the US major leagues but he got a fair amount of press and thus a fair amount of cards. I see you work Friday-Sunday - is that still at O'Hare? I will actually be flying in an out of there later this month, but on a Tuesday thru Thursday. Was hoping maybe to find you and trade some cards!