I like to think that I have a decent grasp on the hobby's current events.
I know the ins and outs of most of the big brands these days, and I try and sample as many different products as I can. I know the general structure of today's sets, and the order in which they are released throughout the season. I may not collect everything out there, but I feel like I'm at least clued into what's going on most of the time.
That is, until I attend a card show, because card shows make painfully obvious how out of touch I actually am with the current cardboard universe. So often during the show I attended a few weeks back, I found myself saying Wow, when did they come out with THIS? or What is THAT? as my dad and I strolled through the aisles.
For example: did you know that Topps Finest has been reviving some of their most memorable '90s insert designs?
I sure didn't.
I had no idea such a thing was happening until I dug these out of a dime box about halfway through the show. I put them right up there among my best finds of the day, because Finest is a goldmine for spectacular (and impossible to find) insert sets.
I'm just now finding out that the Cano and Upton are actually from 2014 Finest, which means I've been left in the dark about these things for not one, but two years now.
I need to do a better job of keeping up with current events.
It makes sense that I wouldn't see much of a set like Museum Collection, because, well, do I seem like a guy who opens a lot of Museum Collection?
Still, I must admit that I do get a fair amount of joy out of finding high-end cards at low-end prices. (Frazier? A nickel.)
The Niekro (from this year) is yet another beautiful Finest development that I hadn't known about until now.
In a way, this is one of the things I've come to love most about card shows.
They may do a great job of showing me how out of touch I am with some aspects of today's hobby, but, at the same time, they can be educational. I learn so much about what goes on in the other half of the card world. You can't get that experience anywhere else.
I remember hearing vaguely about this year's Allen and Ginter X, a knockoff 10th anniversary issue that's basically just the same cards as A&G but with black backgrounds. I'm not a fan of watering down A&G with a pointless parallel set, but, for a quarter each, I didn't mind giving these two a new home.
If nothing else, the black backdrops do grab your attention.
Card shows, as I've found, are also a great place to go to knock out recent needs on the cheap.
For a dime a pop, I grabbed about 80 different A&G singles (the standard white-backgrounded ones, this time) I needed from one guy's table. That same eight dollars wouldn't have even gotten me three six-card retail packs of the stuff.
(And did Topps really think I wouldn't notice that they recycled 2014's Card of the Year?)
I used to feel the strange urge to track down every current issue base card I needed immediately after the sets hit the shelves.
Nowadays, I'm content to sit back and let them come to me via discount bins. I eliminated needs from quite a few different 2015 brands at this show for nickels and dimes. (Most of these were a nickel, including the GQ Olerud, which is a short-print.)
Yes, I may still need a good chunk of cards from Archives or Stadium Club or even regular old Series 2 and Update. But you know what? I don't really care. This isn't a race.
I'll get to 'em when I get to 'em.
I picked out exactly 350 nickel cards from one vendor at this show, cards that had been marked down from a dime.
That same vendor had a separate box of dime cards that had been marked down from a quarter. I nabbed another hundred dime cards from him, and I think I spent close to an hour at his table. (My dad would be the one to confirm that, though, since I have a tendency to lose track of time when I'm in the middle of a hearty dig.)
In said dime box was a whole row of minis, and, had this been two or three years ago, things could've really gotten out of hand. I could've spent at least ten or twenty bucks on minis alone, but I caught myself and only picked out the ones I really wanted, which turned out to be around thirty or forty minis in all.
Among the highlights were Lester and Paulie and a T206 Wagner reprint, but I think my favorite of the bunch was the Steve Dalkowski mini at the center of this scan.
He was said to have thrown about 110 MPH, and he was reportedly the inspiration behind the Nuke LaLoosh character in Bull Durham.
These parallels are a pair of the 350 nickel suspects I nabbed at the guy's table.
That Schoendienst has to be one of the best cards Panini ever produced.
Here's some more Panini greatness from the nickel bins.
I didn't think much of this year's Diamond Kings release when I first saw it, but those inserts are starting to convince me otherwise.
A couple Stadium Club parallels from the nickel bin depths.
Granted, the parallels aren't much different from the base cards, but I'll take any excuse I can get to show off some more Stadium Clubs on this blog.
My dad and I differ on whether or not these are actually baseball cards.
I'm of the opinion that they absolutely are. They'll go under the Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig sections of my binders. My dad looked at me like I was crazy when I told him that. All he sees are glorified advertisements for digital thingys.
I don't know what the rest of the card community thinks. Are these cards...cards? They have to be, right? I wouldn't have dropped a nickel a piece on them otherwise.
Although maybe they're another example of me being out of touch with things these days.
Almost all of these 2015 inserts came from the aforementioned dime-marked-down-from-a-quarter boxes.
Between Say Hey Willie, Anthony Rizzo, and Greg Holland in a bear suit, there's a lot of star power on this page.
But I think my personal favorite is the Jimi Hendrix at the center of this page, because a) it finished off this year's "News Flashbacks" insert set for me and b) it's friggin' Jimi Hendrix.
Every single one of these GQ inserts came from the nickel-marked-down-from-a-dime boxes.
I've said this time and time again: I may not like the base cards in Gypsy Queen, but they sure know how to make a quality insert. Throwbacks, diving catches, game-winning dingers. It's all there.
I think my favorite might be the dramatic Scott Hatteberg "Walk-Off Winners" shot (with a Ron Washington cameo), but that might just be because I rewatched Moneyball again last night.
While we're on the topic of inserts, here's another four notches in my half-assed quest to complete this year's "First Pitch" series.
Unlike with baseball cards, I don't pride myself much with keeping up with pop culture current events, which explains why I have no idea who Suzy or Jermaine Jones are. (Suzy is a Korean pop star, and Jones is a soccer player, in case you care.)
I've never been a big comic book/graphic novel guy, but I'll admit that the Stan Lee is one of the coolest cards I've seen all year.
We'll close with the most surprising finds of the day, and another demonstration of how out of touch I am with the hobby despite my inklings to think otherwise.
The other nickel box vendor at this show had a system regarding the prices of his cards. Anything unsleeved was a nickel. Anything in a sleeve was a quarter. Anything in a sleeve and toploader was fifty cents. Anything in a sleeve and toploader and with a pink sticker on the front was a dollar.
I only dug through the unsleeved cards, and came away with a bunch of my 2015 needs in the process. The bulk of my purchases was comprised of Topps Archives singles. It wasn't until I got home later that night that I realized I'd accidentally found two of the SSSSSSSSSSP'ed cards from this year's Archives checklist with Rick Ferrell and George Kell here.
I think these were seeded around 1:75 packs, or some crazy number like that. You'd probably be more likely to find them in five or ten-dollar bins if you see them at all. I scored these two treasured additions to my HOF collection for a nickel per, and I didn't even know what I had until several hours after the fact.
Now that I think of it, maybe it's a good thing that I'm kind of out of touch with the current hobby.
Being out of touch makes surprises like these so much sweeter.