The good news is that flea market season is once again upon us here in suburban Illinois.
The bad news is that I'm not sure how often I'll be able to go. I work most Sundays now, so in order to attend, I have to wake up painfully early in the morning -- not easy for me since I'm basically the exact opposite of a morning person -- to slot in a few solid card-digging hours before the beginning of my shift.
I decided to brave those sleepy eyes one morning a few weeks ago in order to make my first flea market run of the season on what turned out to be an oddly windy and chilly day that probably required more than the light sweater I was wearing.
The weather may not have been ideal, but, all in all, this first flea market trip definitely turned out to be a convincing performance.
Bad news: my two regular vendors weren't in attendance on this particular day, which left me worried that my lack of sleep and chattering teeth would go for naught.
Good news: a new card guy materialized in one of the first aisles.
His selection was composed of all sports, and I could tell from the scattered setup of his material that he was the kind of "little of everything" vendor I love.
Bad news: nothing at his table was priced, which, as most collectors will tell you, can be a big red flag when dealing with a new card vendor.
I was finding some good stuff during my initial run through his boxes, but that thought of maybe he'll want like 50 dollars for all this stuck in the back of my mind.
I couldn't let myself get too excited, which is pretty much the narrative when it comes to unpriced cards.
Good news: everything turned out to be extremely affordable.
I actually made two separate trips to this guy after he quoted me just four bucks on a stack of at least 50 cards during my initial dig through his material. I spent about ten dollars combined between both of my visits to his table.
That's a heck of a deal when you consider part of my finds involved inserts of Hall of Famers like Maddux and The Mick.
Most of the guy's selection consisted of late '70s and early '80s Topps commons.
I don't need a whole lot more of those these days, but I did manage to find a few that'd slipped through my fingers all these years.
I know I have that classic John Pacella somewhere -- I remember being fascinated by it as a young collector -- but, since the chances of finding it amongst the rubble of boxes in my room aren't good, I decided to just pull the trigger on a new copy.
The Schmidt is (was) a Dime Box Dozen need, which is an ultimate score when it comes to discount bin digging.
I found this in a box of miscellaneous oddball items in a faraway corner of the table, both sport and non-sport.
I'm sure Ian Desmond and Jesus Guzman are fine men, but you know Vlad was the reason I bought this Heritage box-topper.
Another fun development from this guy's selection was the stash of unopened packs he had off to the side.
Most were the most overproduced of the overproduction era -- think 1990 Donruss, 1991 Score, etc. But I did manage to unearth a couple packs of 1993 Pacific and 2002 Donruss Estrellas, two sets you don't see too often.
Bad news: I didn't pull the '93 Pacific Dale Murphy that's been sitting on my Dime Box Dozen list for what seems like an eternity now.
Good news: the pack did add a new notch to my John Olerud collection.
After the unopened packs came the boxed sets, and, specifically, this 50-card 1995 Stadium Club "Members Only" boxed set.
I like the trippy design, and I certainly got enough bang for my buck with all the star power here.
Mother's Cookies cards don't often make their way to the Midwest, which is what made this 1985 Astros set such an exciting find.
I absolutely adore these things, but I probably own less than a dozen Mother's singles combined because of how rare they are around here. This is probably one of the better sets out there because of the Technicolor Astros jerseys and the Astrodome backdrop.
Bad news: the 25-card set was missing the biggest star of them all -- Nolan Ryan -- but I couldn't much complain with the other 24 'stros I added to my collection.
My favorite batch of finds from this guy's table was probably this page of Starting Lineup oddballs.
These are also extremely difficult to track down, and they always seem to be overpriced when I do find them. Everything here, however, came out to just about a dime per, which, as you can see with the names featured here, is a surefire score.
All I can say is I hope New Card Guy is around during my future flea market runs.
Good news: I decided this Ron Santo oddball was worth the two-dollar price tag when I found it in a vendor's box of miscellany about midway through the flea market.
Bad news: I have absolutely no idea what it is, and I don't think it's likely I'll find out anytime soon.
Though my two main vendors weren't in attendance, one other semi-regular card guy was present during this recent flea market run.
I got to know him a bit during my trips last year, and he was the one responsible for one of the better card days I had last summer (or ever, for that matter). The prices of his cards vary from trip to trip, but, as I walked up to his table, he happily informed me that anything in his boxes was 10 for a buck.
You don't have to tell me twice.
I've wanted the Ichiro/Pujols card I just showed for a while, and these two definitely weren't bad for a dime each.
Hard to go wrong with a Diamond King Bench and a rookie of a 500-HR guy at that price.
Good news: I've enjoyed the blue parallels that Wal-Mart has issued in recent incarnations of Flagship.
Bad news: I'd much rather have these long-gone midnight black beauties.
The big finds from this guy's dime boxes were the oddballs.
No matter the day or the vendor, I always seem to come home with a stack of new oddities for my binders after every flea market run.
But I think this was my favorite dime box oddball on this particular Sunday.
I can't say I enjoy Bull Durham and/or Field of Dreams as much as most baseball fans seem to (and I've never seen For Love of the Game all the way through), but I get a huge kick out of knowing that I now own a Kevin Costner baseball card.
I thought that would be the cap on the day's finds...
...until I moved onto the guy's glass case and saw Roberto Clemente staring back at me.
It was priced at $15, which I thought was fair considering the immaculate shape this card is in. Still, although I really don't often like to haggle, something told me I might be able to get the price even lower.
I asked the guy if he'd take $15 for the Clemente and the stack of about 80 dime cards I had in my hand, and, wouldn't you know it...he accepted.
I'd try to continue the good news/bad news theme again here, but it really doesn't apply: adding an authentic Topps Roberto Clemente to my collection -- especially at such an affordable price -- is always, always good news.
And, just like that, flea market season is underway.