Turns out I did something I thought I'd never do at the big mid-March show.
I bought a card from a Card Show Bro. I've detailed this crowd many times in the past -- the loud, rambunctious, twenty-somethings that solely bust high-end product, and, as a result, rarely have any affordable cards for sale.
It's not that I have anything personal against Card Bros. It's just that, being a quiet, shy guy like myself who likes to pick cheap cards up off the scrap heap, I don't often cross paths with such collectors. That is, until I saw one that had this Matt Harvey camo parallel in a small dollar box on display. (The presence of a dollar box at all is an extreme rarity for the Bro brethren.)
I admit, I felt a little silly handing over one dollar for one card when the guy had stuff priced in the three- and four-figures behind a Windexed glass case. But I was more than willing to swallow that feeling in exchange for a camo parallel of a superstar like Mr. Harvey for a single buck. (Wouldn't you?)
It is, and forever will be, known as The Bro Card in my collection.
Harvey set the tone for what would soon turn into a parallel free-for-all.
I don't know whether it's my imagination or what, but it sure seems like I've been able to score more and more parallels at cheaper and cheaper prices with each passing show. Blue, green, sparkly, framed, it hasn't mattered. The local card shows are turning into affordable parallel universes.
This entire page cost a grand total of ninety cents combined, each at a dime a pop.
Discounted refractors have been just as common.
I've never been a huge, huge fan of sets like Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, or Finest -- and I'm certainly not going to become a Prizm supporter anytime soon -- but you can't throw cheap refractors at me for dimes and not expect me to bite.
Aside from the Bumgarner centerpiece (a quarter), these were also, surprisingly, all dime box finds.
If you attend card shows long enough, you'll start to pick up on some cornerstone vendor tactics.
One quarter box vendor stocked the fronts of each row of cards with beautiful 2015 Topps Chrome refractors in various shades and hues to draw in customers, because it's just human nature to be attracted to shiny objects. Sepia, pink, prism, he had 'em all.
It certainly worked on me, despite the fact that the remainder of his quarter boxes contained very little of note. I think about 35 of the 40 total cards I walked away with were '15 Chrome parallels.
If nothing else, I learned that I'm now hopelessly in love with those bubble-gum refractors.
Topps Mini is kind of like an entire parallel set, and one vendor had a big box of singles from the 2014 edition up for grabs at a dime each.
I bought close to 100 of them, which allowed me to relive some of my favorite moments from 2014 Topps in mini form.
Aside from being just a whole lot of fun, card shows can be just plain efficient sometimes.
I've said this many times before, but shows are where I go to pick up newly-released base cards and inserts on the cheap, often in large quantities. Both in terms of my sanity and my wallet, it beats spending dollar after dollar on packs where I might get three or four things I need, if I'm lucky.
This entire page cost less than two dollars total. For less than the price of a pack of regular ol' Flagship, I sampled cards from sets like Tek to A&G, from Stadium Club to Archives, with a bunch of nifty Topps inserts in between.
And, if that Joc Pederson is any indication, I guess I'm just going to have to get used to seeing selfies on baseball cards now.
Along those same lines, the one big goal I had in mind for this show was to knock out a bunch of my 2016 Heritage needs on the cheap.
I was less than halfway through the convention hall when I stumbled upon a vendor (the same guy who had the Topps Minis) with a big 3200-count box of Heritage singles. For less than the price of two rack packs, I eliminated about 90 percent of what I needed from the set.
(Hey, why did no one tell me Pat Venditte had a card in Heritage this year?!)
A second vendor later on in the day supplied me with my Heritage insert fix.
My favorite from this quartet has to be the Eddie Mathews, because you sure don't see cards of him as a Houston Astro very often.
In one fell swoop, that same vendor finished off my yearly tradition of completing Heritage's News Flashbacks insert set.
I'd already pulled the Elvis card from a pack a few days before, and tracking down the other nine didn't prove to be too difficult.
Hard to hate a set that features space shuttles, hippies, and Evel Knievel.
As far as new singles go, however, one vendor stood leaps and bounds above the rest.
He was, as far as I could tell, new to this show, and I might've missed him all together had my dad not said Hey, what're those boxes behind you? as I was standing with my back to the guy's table.
I turned and saw a large sign that read ALL CARDS 10 CENTS EACH OR 11/$1 above a fairly hearty box of cardboard. It didn't take long for me to think that this might be something special.
I'm still not much of a Donruss fan, but how could I pass up a numbered parallel of the Big Cat at that price?
Some dime boxes are special because of the variety they hold, while others stand out because of the terrific deals they offer.
This guy's selection had a little of both. Since last year's 1951 Topps throwback set was an online-only release, I a) didn't think I'd be able to add very many to my collection and b) certainly didn't think I'd find them for dimes, considering online sets tend to be a little pricier than most.
And yet there was a whole stack of them in this guy's 11/$1 box, stars like Big Papi and Josh Donaldson mine for cents on the dollar.
I kind of like that Donruss is playing their own Heritage game with these retro inserts.
The Votto and Keuchel (notice the orange floppy hat in the background) came from that 11/$1 box, while the Arrieta and Rickey were a quarter each, coming from a separate box of individually-priced cards this vendor had off to the side.
In addition to being a Cy Young pitcher, Jake Arrieta has apparently also mastered the art of carrying water bottles.
Both Ichiro and the San Diego Chicken were dime box suspects, while the Sano was a quarter and the Schwarber a "high-dollar" pickup at fifty cents.
What I think I liked most about this vendor was that his prices were fair. Most people would be tempted to mark up inserts of big young stars like Sano and/or Schwarber, but this guy kept it within my price range.
You have to love vendors who work with the often feeble budgets of collectors like us.
You want to talk fair, how about a complete 20-card "Superstar Celebrations" insert set from 2016 Opening Day for just three bucks?
One heckuva price, especially considering this checklist features All-Star names like Arrieta, Bryant, and Trout. Year after year, I find myself gravitating back towards this insert set because of how gosh darn fun it is.
You have Ryan Zimmerman doused in chocolate sauce. Wilmer Flores with the Mets faithful. Chris Davis at the exact pie-meets-face moment. And Kris Bryant getting a Gatorade shower from Anthony Rizzo and Grandpa Rossy. (My dad was at that game, by the way.)
Hard to imagine three Washingtons going a whole lot further than that.
Let's go back to those magnificent 11/$1 boxes for what turned out to be the biggest development from this guy's table, and perhaps the whole afternoon, for that matter.
Pretty much an entire row of this vendor's 3200-count dime box was made up of all 2016 Topps parallels, which leads me to believe he's a case buster of some sort. I've never seen as many parallels in one place before, and, considering how wild I go for these things, I had the time of my life digging through his selection.
After the dust cleared, I nabbed right around 100 of 'em (that's right, a hundred parallels) for under ten bucks. And, yes, you're seeing that right...between the foils and golds are a trio of black parallels, each numbered to just 64 copies.
That's the first time I've ever found any of those in a dime box before, which is impressive considering how long I've been at this whole discount bin business.
If there was a cherry on top of this guy's table, it was that I treated myself to this three-dollar, art exhibit-esque photo variation SP of Giancarlo Stanton.
And, if there was a cherry on top of that cherry on top, it was the fact that the guy charged me just twenty bucks for what was at least $25 worth of baseball cards from his table.
With parallels being priced the way they were at this mid-March show, it's hard to imagine myself not going nuts for them, not falling in a passionate romance with the way they look in binders, not dedicating nearly an entire post in their honor.
Whether camo, pink, black, or sepia, I don't think it's a stretch to say that parallels are quickly becoming one of my favorite aspects of the modern card show experience.