Without a doubt, the best collecting day during my hiatus was the day I got to attend the local tri-annual card show back in mid-March.
The above photo -- I snapped it just as the doors opened around 10 AM, which explains the lack of attendance at the time -- doesn't begin to tell you how massive this thing is. With my patient hunt-and-peck discount box ways, it usually takes me about four hours on average to get through it all. As you might guess, I make sure I have the entire afternoon freed up on Card Show Day.
I had taken a bit of a break from my collection in the weeks preceding this gathering, but the sights, sounds, and smells (yes, card shows do have specific smells) of the show brought everything I love about this hobby back in a rush. The cards are great, yes, but the reason why I love writing these card show posts so much is to relive the visceral experience of it all -- and to somehow pass that experience along to my readers through words, which, I admit, is a tall order.
My dad was setting up at a record show on the other side of town on the same afternoon I hit this latest convention, but he managed to scamper back and met up with me around noon as I was wandering the aisles. We got to spend the latter half of the show together, which made the day even better.
As usual, the backdrop of the afternoon was already setting Card Show Day up to be a smashing success.
But, of course, there were cards, too.
If you attend a local show enough times, you'll notice some consistency with the vendors there. Case in point: the first table I always hit at this gathering is a guy who has a big tub of scattered fifty-cent cards in the first aisle. (I snapped the above card show photo just before I began my dig through his inventory.)
That you-never-know-what-you'll-find-in-there feeling is a fitting one to start every Card Show Day, because in a lot of ways, these shows are like one big scavenger hunt, one big tumble through a gigantic bin of random cards and vendors.
We'll save most of what I found from this guy for my upcoming vintage post in this mini-series, but one I'll show now is this shiny oddball of Stan the Man, which was given away to VIP members at the 2007 National.
It's rare that I pay over a quarter for anything modern in this hobby, but I think you'll agree with me that Mr. Musial was more than worth the fifty-cent price tag.
The big tub guy had a new component to his table this time around: shrink-wrapped oddball sets, $1 a pop.
I think I ended up with about $18 worth of cards from the dig through his fifty-cent randoms -- you'll have to excuse some gaps in my memory since this show was almost two months ago now -- so I picked through the sets he had on display, finding a couple to my liking to bring my purchase to an even twenty bucks.
The first one I pulled the trigger on was a 1990 Smokey the Bear Angels set, which had me sold the minute I saw Jim Abbott on the front.
The second was a complete 1988 Woolworth's boxed set.
Sure, the checklist has its stars like Mattingly and Dawson, but the real reason I picked it up was because I knew it featured a subset documenting the 1987 Twins-Cardinals World Series.
I've always been a sucker for cards that honor the Fall Classic.
While the dime boxes were somewhat fleeting at the last few of these gatherings I've attended, this show brought them back in full force.
I do often wonder how much vendors make on their dime boxes during any given day -- I can't imagine it pays for too much of their rental fee. I think it's more of a space-clearing method for most, and you know me...I'm more than happy to clear out a fellow collector's space for a handful of shiny FDRs.
Among my favorite dime box gets was this terrific -- and slightly nightmarish -- card of Youppi!, the former mascot of the now-defunct Expos.
If/when MLB revives the Expos, I hope to see Youppi! brought back to life right along with the rest of the franchise.
Oddballs are pretty much a given when it comes to the dime boxes at this show.
Among my favorites was that five-card set of Mr. Griffey that -- like so many other '90s oddballs I've seen -- looks like it could've been manufactured in someone's basement.
My mini-collections didn't stand a chance in the massive aisles of this convention hall.
Hard to go wrong with horizontals.
Here's another quartet of mini-collection hits, which -- save for the Lester (a quarter) -- fell into my hands for a dime a pop.
Dig the retro '90s headset on A-Rod there.
Al Leiter has never been among my top tier of player collections, which meant that spending anything more than a dime on one of his cards seemed like an impossibility.
That is, until I came across this beautiful insert from 2002 Upper Deck in a quarter bin, complete with Mr. Leiter sporting the NYPD caps the Mets wore following 9/11.
Twenty-five cents well spent.
They are really doing some strange things with baseball cards these days.
On a side note, I nabbed these two from a father-son dime box duo. The entire time I was at this table -- about twenty minutes -- the father was quizzing the son on the Ebay values of various "hits" he had on display. Paraphrased transcript:
Father: How about this one?
Father: No, more like $100 because the patch has THREE colors. See the yellow there?
I guess I should be happy kids are in the hobby at all these days, but...
These two minis also came from that father-son duo, and I guess I can't be too snarky towards them because they really did have a solid dime box selection.
You don't find the Mick for FDRs very often, much less a mini Mick.
More dimers from the father and son.
It doesn't really show in the scan, but that Marichal faux-patch is THICK. I almost didn't buy it because I knew it'd be too massive for a nine-pocket page, and I didn't really have anywhere else to store it.
But then my smarter senses took over and I knew that, no matter the size, I couldn't leave such an elegant card behind for a dime.
Here's a couple beauties I scored from a dime box about halfway through the show.
I can go either way with the base cards, but these Diamond Kings "Nickname" inserts of the "Georgia Peach" and "Wahoo Sam" are extraordinary.
I used to go insane for serial-numbered cards.
They're not nearly a big of a deal as they once were for me, but I'm still happy to pick them up off the scrap heap. The Garvey (numbered to 249) was a dime, and that beautiful framed GQ Abbott (/499) was a quarter.
At those prices, I'm happy to be a player in the serial-numbered market.
If I had to pick one era that shows up the least in dime boxes, I'd have to go with the mid-2000s.
It certainly seems like cards from brands like Sweet Spot and Donruss World Series just flat-out fell off the face of the Earth at some point around 2008, never to be seen again.
I noticed one vendor kind of tucked into a corner in the first couple aisles. There was almost no one at his table, and he only had a single dime box on display, but that dime box had a lot of those mid-2000s singles that you just never see.
In that moment, I remembered what a pre-knuckleball RA Dickey looked like. I remembered the waning years of Sean Casey's career. I remembered goofy glove-on-the-head shots of blast-from-the-past names like Eric Hinske.
I remembered that, despite the apparent invisibility of the era now, the mid-2000s really weren't that bad of a time to collect cards.
These two also came from that tucked-into-a-corner vendor.
It's always a thrill to find anything of Jackie Robinson in a dime box, but it might be an even greater thrill to find 15-minutes-of-fame guys like Harvey Haddix on the cheap.
Here's a couple pieces of miscellany that felt blog-worthy.
That's one of Eck's first cards as an A, right after the Cubs dealt him to Oakland for three no-namers who never played in the major leagues...ugh. I picked up the blurry Manny because I have a thing about collecting high-school cards of guys who went on to achieve massive fame in the bigs.
Also, the aluminum bats.
This seems kind of counterintuitive, but I actually paid more for the Fukudome (a quarter) than I did for the Banks (a dime).
I don't know why I still have a soft spot for cards of Kosuke Fukudome, considering how big of a bust he was for the Cubs. Even I couldn't quite believe it when I made the decision to drop a whole quarter on that blinding Red Hot Rookies insert of his.
Just one of those unexplainable cardboard mysteries.
We'll close today's post with this quarter find of Shooter here, because, well, I don't know...it somehow seems appropriate and fitting to end a post with Rod Beck, doesn't it?
I've said this before, but I feel insanely lucky to have such a huge convention hall just down the road from where I live. I really do sympathize longtime collectors who say they've never attended a card show. It hurts when people tell me that.
The cards you find are awesome, of course, but it's really just the experience itself that I wish every collector could experience at least once in their lifetime.
The sights, the sounds, and, yes, even the smells.