Wednesday, May 18, 2016

That card show feeling, Pt. 3: The vintage spectrum

It wasn't long ago that I would've scoffed at the idea of paying a whole six dollars for a card from 1984.

Certainly big money like that (for me, anyways) should be reserved for real, true vintage, right? No way should a card from the mid '80s be my most expensive purchase of the day!

Eh, I'm not so sure anymore. For a long time, my collection was comprised of what I always used to call "old guys" and "new guys." I realize now that a lot of stars from the late '70s and '80s kind of got kicked to the curb because I never could decide whether they were old or new.

I've been doing my best to reconcile that now by picking up cards of guys like Don Mattingly wherever and whenever I can. More than that, I've also made a push to land simply iconic pieces of cardboard that are somewhat affordable despite their fame. (Just can't swing that '52 Mantle right now.)

You could argue that this '84 Topps rookie of Donnie Baseball might be the most recognizable card of the '80s, and that's why, for six bucks, I decided it needed a home with me.

As far as '80s guys are concerned, I've probably made the strongest push with my collection of the late Tony Gywnn.

Despite the fact that I recently surpassed the 200-card mark with Mr. Padre, I've known the entire time that I was missing the key cog to any passable Gwynn collection -- his 1983 Topps rookie. I'd searched for a low-grade copy at the last few shows I attended, all to no avail.

But, once again, the cardboard gods had a plan in store for me at this mid-March gathering, as I secured exactly what I was looking for -- a partially-loved, cheaper copy of Gwynn's rookie -- for the low, low price of four dollars.

I really don't ever think any of my collections are "complete," but at least now I can sleep a little better at night knowing I own this card.

The Yaz, a now-former Dime Box Dozen suspect, fell into my lap for the odd price of 37.5 cents (half off of 75 cents).

I scored the OPC Ozzie from the massive fifty-cent bin I briefly mentioned in the first post of this mini-series.

Sorry to remind you of the Ozzie-for-Templeton trade once again, Padre fans.

George Brett and Andre Dawson are also guys who I'm ashamed to say I virtually ignored for the bulk of my collecting lifetime.

Their later cards have been surprisingly easy to find in dime boxes, and their earlier pieces of vintage haven't busted the bank, either. The '77 Brett came from that aforementioned fifty-cent tub, while the Dawson (try matching that pose nowadays, Topps) was $1.50.

Long live the Rookie Cup!

But let's not go crazy here.

Old time vintage will always be near and dear to my cardboard heart. Though I have been doing my best to recognize the Don Mattinglys and Andre Dawsons of baseball history, I'll never forget about the Elmer Valos.

Valo was a mid-range star in the '50s, but I began collecting his cards after finding out that he was one of the few big leaguers born in (what was then) Czechoslovakia.

For just $1.50, plucking this beautiful '54 Topps issue off the scrap heap was a no-brainer.

Sometimes I surprise even myself with what I buy.

I basically bought this one as filler from a small, well-loved stack of 3/$1 vintage. I had two cards in my purchase pile and figured I might as well add a third, which ended up being Mayo Smith here. 

I didn't think much of it at the time, and it was only after rehashing my finds later that I realized that this might be one of the most elegant manager cards ever made.

I'm still not a huge fan of '62 Topps, but that's never stopped me from snagging some from the discount bins.

The Looie All-Star card was $1.50, while the Al Downing rookie was a steal at two bucks.

Here's a pair of cheap Bronx Bombers.

Tony Kubek's sunset card was a mere buck, while Mr. Rizzuto's "Amazing Bunt" (sorry, Jeff, I'm keeping that one) was $1.50.

I don't own nearly enough Nu-Scoops as I probably should.

The one big disappointment from this show was the lack of '70s oddballs.

At 75 cents, Larry Bowa here was the lone Hostess single I found all day, and I came up completely empty as far as Kellogg's goes.

You win some, you lose some.

But by no means did I get shut out of the oddball game.

I see singles from the '68 Topps Game set quite frequently at card shows, so I'm surprised that there's still some I need. The Cepeda was worth every penny of the fifty cents I paid for it.

The Milt Pappas (RIP) is a game card from a late '60s regional contest, and I jumped at the chance to hand over a dollar for it.

I've been finding these early '60s Fleer Greats cards with a lot more frequency at card shows lately.

They're easy for me to love because a) they often feature guys like Burleigh Grimes and Luke Appling who aren't often remembered in today's hobby and b) they almost always fit well within my budget.

My wallet was delighted to see these fall into my purchase pile at just 75 cents a pop.

Time for some turn-of-the-century action with these two oversized oddities, secured from that fifty-cent bin I keep mentioning.

Both Delahanty and Chase led questionable lives, but, as pure subjects, they offer a couple of the most fascinating biographies baseball's canon has to offer.

Early on in the show, I passed on this Joe Pepitone poster at two bucks.

About three hours and many aisles later, I realized what a stupid decision that was and made a beeline back to the table where it resided, handing over a pair of Washingtons with glee.

It's a good thing I did, because I would've kicked myself the entire way home had I left Mr. Pepitone behind.

Now the show started to pull out its big guns.

Though not exactly in pristine condition, I thought four bucks was a fair price for what is now the oldest Brooks Robinson card in my collection.

Okay, so that '74 Nolan Ryan is missing an entire corner.

But that certainly wasn't going to stop me from paying a heavily-discounted $2.50 for it. And, hey, that '75 Topps Highlights card has all four corners, and it was still only a buck and a half!

Proof that there is affordable Nolan Ryan vintage out there.

In terms of value, the '67 Drysdale was one of my best finds of the day at just $1.50.

At four bucks, the Aaron was a surprisingly fair find from a vendor who seemed to grossly overprice all his other vintage.

It made waddling through all those ten-dollar 1978 Thurman Munsons worth it.

I still don't think '58 Topps gets enough credit.

Part of that is just bad luck, as it's sandwiched between two of my all-time favorite Topps sets. But, my God, look at the colors! Yellow and orange in the same set.

This pair cost about two bucks combined, and I'm irrationally joyful about the fact that I now own Marvelous Marv Throneberry's rookie card.


Now here's a card I've had on my radar ever since I was a young collector. It's hard to say for sure, but the tale of Curt Flood was probably one of the first I read up on when I was first getting into baseball's rich history. For that reason, I've long had a special attachment to his cards.

It always seemed like Flood's '58 Topps rookie was priced just a bit higher than I was comfortable paying. So imagine my surprise when a copy fell out of a 90% Off vintage bin early in the show for a mere three dollars.

It's hard to explain that feeling, the one you get when you finally track down a sacred card you've wanted for as long as you can remember.

We might as well close with Mr. Cub.

Another three-dollar find, this one fell out of the same 90% Off bin that produced the Flood. That price is even harder to believe when you consider that Ernie Banks cards are almost always marked up here in the greater Chicago area.

I admit, it's still a bit hard to believe that I paid twice as much for a card from 1984 as I did for this '62 Ernie Banks. Two times as much for Don Mattingly -- a man who was barely on my collecting radar this time last year -- than a hallowed Curt Flood rookie I've wanted since I was a pre-teen.

But, as collectors, we're continually changing how we do things. We can't stay in the same place on the same spectrum forever. That's part of the fun and allure of this hobby, isn't it?

And, if nothing else, those comparisons make the bargain deals I'm able to continually find on vintage at this local show even more staggering.


Mark Hoyle said...

Good deals Nick. The Pappas is from the 68 Atlantic Oil set. I remember buying packs of the set that featured the delehanty and chase.. An early Fleer release. It's a fairly small set. Maybe I should go back and comply it. Great buys

Swing And A Pop-up said...

Nice haul...especially that Mattingly at six bucks. I still don't have one myself.

Mike said...

Been waiting on the vintage post!!...those Nolan Ryans were big noise when I was a kid...iconic indeed!

Jon said...

You can't go wrong with a card from either year of the Fleer greats for 75 cents. I really wish I could find some Atlantic oil cards at the price of your Milt Pappas around here.

GCA said...

Off-condition vintage is the best thing ever! I love finding really cheap HOF'er cards and pulling them out of the sleeves and top loaders, expecting to finally see the big flaw, and finding almost nothing. A little off-center or a corner crease. SOLD!!
That's the upside of a lot of dealers who like graded stuff. The cards they put in their discount bins have only minor flaws, but to those who like grading they are major defects. HA! more star cards for me at awesome prices.

Fuji said...

Great stuff Nick! I can't believe key 80's rookie cards are so cheap these days. That Mattingly for $6 is awesome! I probably spent $30 for mine back in the day. And you know I'm drooling over that Gwynn rookie.

But my favorite card from your trip to the show is that Joe Pepitone. Love the design on this posters.

Zippy Zappy said...

"I've been doing my best to reconcile that now by picking up cards of guys like Don Mattingly wherever and whenever I can."

I read this as "please send me your Donnie Baseballs."