If I'm anything, I'm a man of routine.
I take the same bus to work every day, for example. I sit in the same seat on that bus (if it's open), and I wait for the corresponding train in about the exact same spot on the platform each afternoon.
I suppose this need for routine has found its way over to my card collection as well. Actually, who am I kidding? My collecting habits are all about routine.
There's a reason I've organized my cardboard by the same system since I was about ten years old. There's a reason I still mostly collect the same guys I did during my pre-high school days. There's a reason my collection still follows a set hierarchy, a hierarchy that allows guys I have mixed feelings about (like A-Rod) into my binders if they adhere to certain guidelines (like featuring a sacred throwback/double dip combo mini-collection hit).
Both in cards and in life, I need routine.
And if I need routine out of any one thing in my collecting life, it's a card show.
This was, as I briefly mentioned in the first installment of this series, why last month's big tri-annual show was so jarring. Everything broke from the natural routine I've come to expect from this thing. The universe was on its side for a couple different reasons.
Firstly, this show is usually held in a grayish, spacious hall located on the top floor of the convention center. This time, it was located in a pearl-white room located on the bottom floor, a room that was half the size (at most) of that top-floor hall.
The attendance looked to be about the same though, which, as you might guess, made things feel quite claustrophobic.
One thing I always liked about the bigger, top-floor room was the fact that it always felt like it housed two separate shows.
One half of the hall for autograph signings, the other for the actual card show itself. Since I have little to no interest in obtaining autographs, I liked it that way. I could hunt for my cards while others waited for autographs. All good.
The smaller room this time, however, made everything seem much more intertwined. People who obviously had very little interest in the cards themselves were hovering in the aisles and absentmindedly wandering past tables as they waited for whatever autograph signing they were waiting for to get underway.
It was like two different worlds colliding.
As I worried about with my dime box rant in the first part of this series, maybe this all sounds childish.
But I really do crave routine, and I feel uneasy when it isn't there. Thankfully, and most importantly, the routine of finding flat-out great cards didn't break. Despite the fickleness of the surroundings, the cards stayed great, which was why last month still turned out to be a first-rate card show experience.
As the batch of mini-collection hits I've shown in the first few scans here might indicate, my dime box digs were just as plentiful as always.
Here's a couple discount cards of arguably the two greatest men to ever don the Yankee pinstripes.
The Ruth actually came from a 15/$1 box which, unfortunately, wound up featuring almost all football and basketball and almost no other baseball cards. But, I mean, still...the Bambino for mere pennies is a deal no matter what.
Leapin' Lou Gehrig takes care of one of my most pressing remaining needs from 2015, and, interestingly, the uncropped version of that photo reveals a certain Yankee Clipper in the periphery.
Unlike the rude vendor I discussed in the first post of this series, the first dime box guy I stumbled upon knew how to run things.
He welcomed me with a simple Hi, didn't impede upon my personal space, and gave me a nice volume discount after I got done digging through his inventory. I wound up with 150 or so dime cards from the guy's table after all was said and done, and he charged me just twelve bucks for the lot.
Not bad for a floating head Yaz and a numbered Tony Gwynn (now that I think of it, not many of his cards feature him fielding, do they?).
As if the Gwynn wasn't enough, I also managed to secure a numbered Ty Cobb during that first dime box dig as well.
Aside from being a "tip of the cap" mini-collection hit, the Carlton features a rare shot of Lefty as a Giant, which is among my personal favorite short term stops. Carlton pitched in just six unspectacular games for the '86 Giants, but, miraculously, he collected his landmark 4,000th career strikeout in one of those paltry six contests.
One of those what-are-the-odds pieces of baseball minutiae.
One guy near the end of the show had a big bin of mostly non-sport and/or overproduction-era packs for 5/$1.
Along with an unspectacular pack of 1992 Donruss Triple Play, I snatched up all four of the Pro Set MusicCards packs I found. Only through this set could I say I own cards of Blues Traveler and Gwar and Steve Miller.
...there was this little nugget, too.
I'll just leave this here.
But back to baseball and, specifically, back to Bowman.
Bowman is now and probably forever will be one of those meh brands for me, but they sure can make a shiny baseball card.
The three sparkling parallels at the bottom of this page all came from various dime boxes throughout the show, and the Colon served as a nice reminder that the big man once pitched for the Yankees.
The red/blue 2014 Topps parallels came from a single vendor who might've wound up with a lot more of my money had I not exhibited oddly strong self-control. An entire row of his 5/$1 box was comprised of those '14 Topps Target/Wal-Mart parallels, and, given my recent love affair with parallels of all hues and colors, I could've easily gone overboard.
Luckily, I had the state of mind to do what any budget-minded collector should do: I set a limit. I said I'm only going to buy 50 of these, NO EXCEPTIONS. And, hey, I actually stuck to it.
Ten bucks, fifty parallels, everyone walks away happy.
These actually came from the father/son duo I discussed in the first part of this mini-series.
The Smoltz had been a Dime Box Dozen suspect for nearly a year, and I think you can see why. I always thought I'd just have to break down and buy it online somewhere until, against all odds, it fell out of a dime box here in suburban Chicago.
The Cecil Fielder is an odd one that I discovered on Robert's blog a long time ago now. Fielder broke in with the Blue Jays in the mid '80s, but, before that blog post, I didn't know he tried (and failed) to make a comeback with his original club in 1999. That card (from Pacific Paramount, of all brands) is the only one I know of which documents that semi-zero-year tenure.
Speaking of zero-years...
...I had no idea former White Sox outfielder Chris Singleton was ever part of the Giants organization, much less had any cards depicting him with the team.
There was a time when I used to buy Beckett month in and month out, and that time pretty much paralleled the peak of Grady Sizemore's career. I distinctly remember his 2000 Bowman rookie -- a longtime need of mine since he never actually played for the Expos -- always hovering near the top of the "Hot List" Beckett published in each issue.
Flash forward to 2016: Grady Sizemore is out of baseball, and that one-time "Hot List" chart-topper is mine for a dime.
I don't read Beckett these days, but I have to believe that Trevor Story has topped some of their recent "Hot Lists" (if they even still have "Hot Lists" in Beckett, anyways).
The Story-mania has cooled down a bit recently, but I was still shocked to see this Heritage Minor League single of his fall out of the very last dime box of the day. It's my first card of Colorado's ROY candidate, and can we appease the twelve-year-old in me and take a moment to appreciate how great it is that the word NUTS is front-and-center on a baseball card?
In terms of purely setting and atmosphere, I may well crave routine from card shows. But I want anything but when it comes to dime boxes. I don't want to know what to expect. I want to believe I can find my first Trevor Story card or a new "pitcher at the plate" hit or maybe even that John Smoltz I've wanted for years in any dime box on any given day.
It's why being a dime box maniac is so much fun.