Thursday, June 30, 2016

Don't tell my boss, but I went to the flea market

If you're reading this post, do me a favor.

Don't tell my boss I wasn't actually sick last Sunday. I called off work that day and somehow ended up parading through the aisles of my local flea market during the afternoon. If anyone asks, my allergies acted up and I'm really sorry but I couldn't come in that day and I hope it wasn't a problem (that's what I said on the phone, anyways).

The reality is that I did actually have a family event to attend last Sunday, but I'd be lying if I said part of my motivation for calling off didn't involve a much-needed trip to the flea market. You can count the Sundays I've had off since I started working at the bookstore on one hand. Even someone with an admittedly easy minimum-wage job needs a day every now and then.

There hasn't been much in-between with the weather during my flea market runs so far: my first trip featured chilly 50-ish temps, while the heat index hovered around 100 for this one, which caused me to sweat right through the plain white T-shirt I was wearing at the time.

But I can take a little heat if it results in a cardboard payday.

There's a vendor in the first couple aisles who sometimes has cards and sometimes doesn't. I guess the guy's quarter box didn't make the table during my first trip of the year, but they were back for this one. Along with the "at the wall" Moises Alou at the top of the post and a few other pieces of miscellany, I grabbed this page of Iron Man oddballs for a grand total of three bucks.

Some are legitimate oddballs (Milk Bone, Star, Coca-Cola), but the majority are those Broder-like oddities that look and feel like they were created with a Xerox machine in someone's suburban basement.

Once again, my main card guy, Ron, wasn't in attendance, which I'm hoping doesn't become a permanent thing.

My other regular card vendor was present but evidently someone bought his entire baseball card stock a few weeks ago, so he didn't really have anything for me. The good news is that he told me he should have some brand-new baseball dime boxes on display in the coming weeks, so I'll look forward to that whenever I get a chance to hit the flea market again (hopefully on a day I can legitimately get off of work).

There's another card vendor who I keep calling a "semi-regular," but I think now that he's been around during my last half-dozen flea market runs, I'm finally ready to deem him a regular. (He's the one who had the '68 Clemente during my first trip of the year.)

He had his usual dime box array out last Sunday, and wouldn't you know it, I took down a coveted Dime Box Dozen suspect with this '85 Topps Fernando.

Time and time again, oddballs always seem to be the story of this guy's table.

A Topps Glossy Carter and a 3-D Mad Dog during Bill Madlock's brief stint with the Dodgers were among the day's highlights.

This marks the second straight time I've found Mother's Cookies singles at my local flea market.

Last time it was a near-complete set of '85 Astros, this time it was a couple hand-picked '85 Mariners at the Kingdome with Harold Reynolds (no comment) and the late Hendu here.

Let's hope that Mother's streak continues with my future flea market trips.

It's hard to tell from the scan, but I certainly got volume with this massively oversized Kirby Puckett for a dime.

I've never been a huge fan of oversized cards, but I buy them on the cheap when I can because they make for nice display pieces for the fronts of my binders.

Once the oddballs dried up, the dime box rookies took over.

John Kruk and Mitch Williams were both talented ballplayers who, for better or worse, are probably best known for their, let's say, blue-collar approach to the game.

It's funny, then, to see their baby-faced rookie selves on cards issued by Toys'R'Us featuring various shades of pink and light green.

I wouldn't say I furiously collect either Joe Girardi or Bernie Williams, but I've found it hard to pass up dime box rookies of well-known ballplayers lately.

Maybe sets like Bowman have watered down the concept in recent years, but I still think there's something forever sacred about a rookie card.

This vendor, as usual, also had a small box of higher-priced cards off to the side.

No Clementes this time, but I did drop a buck a piece on these two '87 rookies of Bo in the batting cage.

At three bucks each, these were the "high-dollar" pickups of the afternoon.

I've started to actively accumulate more Griffeys as of late, and, although I initially balked at the three-dollar price tag on these two rookie cards of The Kid, I had a what-the-heck moment and figured six bucks was a fair price for the pair if I wanted to take this next step in my Junior collection. Especially since he's a Hall of Famer now.

I guess my goal is to procrastinate as much as possible and secure all of Griffey's more attainable rookies before having to finally buckle down and chase the big one.

My last stop of the day was another familiar face.

The New Card Guy with all the unopened packs and miscellaneous singles from my initial flea market run of the year was back again, albeit in a different spot in one of the last aisles of the parking lot this time.

I was happy to see him back, and, though it didn't look like he had much new stock, I stuck my arm into his massive bin of unopened packs and dug out a some treasures I somehow missed the first time around.

I came out with two fresh 56-card rack packs of 1994 Topps, which set me back just a buck per.

While it's never been much more than an average Flagship set to me (#36 in my Topps countdown), '94 Topps probably does deserve a little more credit than it gets.

It's not a standout by any means, but there certainly isn't anything bad or unforgivable about this design. Turns out there's still a handful I still need from it, too, because every single card in this page was new to me.

The sheer joy I got from opening massive 56-card rack packs (take that Gypsy Queen and your nine-dollar, 21-card packs) was more than worth the two bucks to me.

I snagged another fifteen or so random singles from the guy's bins for a grand total of one dollar, which, with the rack packs, brought my total purchases from the table to a whopping three bucks.

A Pacific Aurora card (when's the last time anyone mentioned that brand?) of Orel Hershiser from his lost Giants years and an excellent National-issued oddball of Mr. Padre as a San Diego State Aztec were absolute steals at that sub-dime price point.

As was this, a stained and ragged '77 Hostess single of perhaps my favorite catcher of all-time.

Sometimes I wish I was around in the '70s to experience the feeling of physically cutting cards off of my boxes of Ho-Hos and Twinkies, but I've accumulated enough Hostess singles by now to not get too frustrated about it.

Especially when I can find them for mere pennies here in 2016.

I was a little shocked when the guy quoted me just three bucks on the lot, because I had a little vintage action going on with my purchase pile.

I found a small box of '60s singles in one corner of the table that I didn't remember perusing the last time around. Most of them were your common no-namers, but I secured a couple diamonds in the rough with these two Tigers stars here.

I now own all of Gates Brown's solo Topps cards (1966-75), and while Brown was a pinch-hitter extraordinaire during his career, I mainly collect him because of the time he slid into second base with hot dogs stuffed in his jersey.

We'll close my faux-sick day at the flea market with a classic card I couldn't believe I didn't already own.

Don Mossi is kind of a fan favorite amongst collectors, for obvious reasons. This might be his best (or worst?) cardboard appearance, and what kind of gets lost in the shuffle (also for obvious reasons) is the fact that this is actually his sunset card.

My collection somehow feels more complete now that I have it.

All in all, I managed to keep the day's finds to just about fifteen dollars total, which equals about two hours' worth of what I would've made at work that day -- after taxes, of course. Heck, I'll admit it: I have no regrets about calling in sick since I got an afternoon at the flea market out of it.

I can only hope no one from Corporate reads this blog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The blogroll cleanse crisis

I participated in my semi-yearly blogroll cleanse yesterday, and I was surprised at how often I found myself thinking Gee, whatever happened to that blog? or I remember him! during the process.

If you haven't posted in a month or two, don't worry. I kept the cleanse to blogs that haven't been active in over a year. But it did get me thinking about the main reason I was worried about temporarily closing up shop when I went on hiatus earlier this winter.

Blogging, it strikes me, is a very day-in, day-out activity. I'd posted consistently for over four years and, honestly, I was worried breaking that streak would drive away some readers. But the break was necessary. Blogging had become more of a chore than a chosen activity, which, as I've always said, is never a good sign.

I'm back now, and while I'm not posting nearly as much as I used to -- three times a week, max -- I'm glad to see that just about all the readers I had before my temporary break are back with me again.

However, I am sad to see that a few of my favorite bloggers from before my hiatus appear to have gone on a hiatus of their own as of late.

Julie of "A Cracked Bat" fame, for example, hasn't posted in two months. I know she had just moved as of her last posting, so here's hoping it's just a temporary breather, because the blogosphere is really a better place with her around. Not only is her blog top-notch, but her trade packages are second-to-none.

In addition to the beautiful '53 Bowman Color Harry Chiti at the top of this post (a man who was once dubiously traded for himself), Julie knocked out not one, not two...but four of my Dime Box Dozen needs with a single PWE she sent before my break.

The Clemente is a Topps Archives reprint of my all-time favorite baseball card, and the other three are commons that triggered respective HOW DO I NOT OWN THIS ALREADY?! reactions at various times while flipping through my binders.

That PWE followed up a bubble mailer Julie had sent just a couple weeks prior, because, like I said, Julie's just one uber-generous person.

Before my score at a recent card show, this Jon Lester mini was the first I'd seen of last year's online-only Topps '51 release.

It's hard to go wrong sending me Ichiros, especially sparkly ones.

I remember when people were saying he'd never reach 3,000 hits (at least here in the States), and here he is just 16 hits away from the magical plateau as of this writing.

Just goes to show you, never count out Ichiro.

I was quite pleased to see these two 2015 Bowman Rookie Flashback inserts fall out of Julie's mailer.

The Olerud is always welcome because he's a top-tier player collection of mine, but I'd specifically been chasing the Alou for the better part of 2015 because he played in all of two games as a Pirate. Alou went 1-for-5 in his brief cup-of-coffee debut with the Bucs in 1990 before being shipped off to Montreal.

A legendary Short Term Stop if I've ever seen one.

Speaking of Mr. Olerud, there he is again with a particularly wavy insert from Pinnacle.

He's paired here with another one of the more criminally underrated first baseman of my generation, Fred McGriff. I'm glad Julie sent that "tip of the cap" shot my way, because, honestly, where else would I find cards from something like Pros & Prospects anymore?

Some sets seemed to vanish off the face of the cardboard earth the moment they were released, and Pros & Prospects definitely belongs to that fold.

Here's a couple parallels, and a little history lesson, to boot.

I can't say I'd ever heard of Frank Grant before this mailer arrived, but apparently he was one of the pioneers of the Negro Leagues in the late 19th century. This Obak parallel (numbered to a slim 25 copies) is the first card of his I've ever seen.

Educational trade packages are the best kind of trade packages.

Julie also gifted me this complete nine-card '94 UD Ken Burns GM set, which was a supplement to the larger Ken Burns set released that same year, which itself was a supplement to the virtuosic Ken Burns' Baseball documentary that aired on PBS during the baseball strike.

My parents bought me that complete Ken Burns baseball card set for Christmas one year when I was first getting into baseball and all its rich history. I still have all the cards. Somehow, I don't think I've ever written a post about them.

I'll have to change that soon.

While we're on the topic of baseball history, I'm still a little miffed that Panini did away with their Cooperstown brand.

Where else am I going to get my Ed Walsh fix?

Julie is as big of an oddball fanatic as they come, and she certainly showed that with this trade package: brands from Kellogg's to Rite Aid to Post grace this page, and then some.

Random sidebar: I have never once stepped foot in or even seen a Rite Aid in my life -- there's a chance I never would've even heard of the place without baseball cards -- and I don't know if that's normal.

I forgot to snap a picture of it at the time, but this oddball Nolan Ryan -- courtesy of your friends at Hallmark -- came in a box with a Christmas ornament.

Now I can say I have a Hallmark card in my binders and not be lying about it.

"The text on the back of Paul and Rick Reuschel's Big League Brothers card was not the first thing I noticed about this card, but I'm sure it gratified me when I finally got around to reading it, which would have been some time after my stomach stopped hurting from laughing by myself and then with my brother at the two stunned, doughy, beady-eyed lummoxes glowing apprehensively back at us." -- Josh Wilker, Cardboard Gods

Julie had me thinking books with the next couple cards she sent.

Paul Reuschel's blue-inked autograph wasn't enough to distract my brain from immediately jumping to Josh Wilker's fantastic Cardboard Gods upon the card falling out of this trade package. I've read the memoir three times, so most of the cards Wilker mentions are instinctively paired to the book in my mind now, not just the Brothers Reuschel.

Another sidebar: I chose Cardboard Gods as one of my Staff Recommendations at my bookstore job, because, as a collector, I felt it was my duty to bring a little cardboard flair to O'Hare airport.

"Of course a ballplayer with a name like [Foster Castleman] is never going to amount to anything. If you have a name like an orthodontist you're going to play like an orthodontist." -- Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris, The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubble Gum Book

Though it may be a buyback, I feel satisfied knowing I own at least some semblance of the infamous Foster Castleman card mentioned in one of my all-time favorite books (and, for the record, Castleman did hit a very orthodontist-like .205 in five major league seasons).

I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that if you don't own either Cardboard Gods or The Great American Baseball Card Book, try and change that as soon as you can.

The last thing I'll show from Julie is just cold, hard vintage.

No autographs, no buybacks, just a well-loved, forlorn-looking Eddie Mathews with an airbrushed cap on what turned out to be the Hall of Famer's final card as a Brave.

All in all, I probably cleared about a dozen inactive blogs from my blogroll yesterday, and I'm hoping people like Julie start posting again so that number goes down this time next year. At the very least, rest assured you won't see my blog on that list. I'm not sure I'm much of a "regular" in the blogosphere ranks anymore, but I'll be around when I can.

I don't see myself becoming a Whatever happened to that guy? guy anytime soon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The dime box frankenset, Page 18: Numbers 154-162


Let's see how last week's frankenset voting turned out.

Win -- 1981 Fleer #148 Ellis Valentine (10 votes)

Place -- 1993 Upper Deck #150 Orlando Merced (6 votes)

Show -- 2014 Topps Update #US-153 Kurt Suzuki AS (5 votes)

Between the photographers' well, the multi-colored shirts in the crowd, and the post-swing action shot, Ellis Valentine's 1981 Fleer card is something of a masterpiece, and it gained my vote last week. The masses agreed with me, as Valentine collected ten of the 29 total tallies to earn the crown.

A well-deserved win.

We're back with a new page of contestants this week.

Let's meet them.

1997 Upper Deck #154 Mickey Morandini

Heading to third with a head of steam. 

1992 Bowman #155 Kevin Young

Nothing about this photo looks natural. 

1993 Upper Deck #156 Felix Jose

Leaping to grab either an incoming fly ball or the Upper Deck logo. 

2001 Ultra #157 Aaron Sele

Some family fun at the ballpark, and extra points for the tiny, adorable Mariners socks. 

1984 Fleer #158 Roy Lee Jackson

Why merely stand for the anthem when you can sing it yourself? 

1991 Donruss #159 Greg Hibbard

Sox throwbacks are the only way '91 Donruss is getting into this frankenset. 

2015 Stadium Club #160 Elvis Andrus

One of many jaw-dropping photos from last year's stellar Stadium Club checklist. 

1992 Stadium Club #161 Chris Hoiles

I hope Mr. Hoiles didn't seriously injure that baserunner. 

2014 Topps #162 Josmil Pinto

We close with some postgame fun in Minnesota.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Card show changes, Pt. 3: Graduation

I was starting to think that I'd never adjust to the changes to my treasured local card show, that I'd just be bitter the entire afternoon.

As I was walking through one of the final aisles, however, I remembered something I felt bad about forgetting in the first place. I remembered how lucky it is that I even have a surviving local card show in the first place.

It's hard to ask for much more: a place I can go a few times a year to be in a room with people who share and genuinely enjoy the hobby I love, a hobby which, admittedly, isn't exactly a mainstream one these days. Forget about rude card show vendors. Forget about cramped tables.

Forget about all the negatives and remember that a card show, any card show, should be -- and is -- fun.

One particularly fun development involved the resurgence of the vendor with the epic 11/$1 boxes I mentioned in my last card show series.

I'm not sure if he remembered me, but I know I was sure glad to see him again. His 11/$1 selection was once again fantastic -- the top three cards on this page came from those -- and he even had a brand-new 5/$1 box packed to the gills with recent inserts and parallels. 

I certainly got my fill of 2016s from those boxes, I'll tell you.

Another new development at his table was the mini binder.

He had a thick binder filled with nothing but minis (mostly GQ) at just a quarter a pop. Like the guy with the 2014 Topps parallels I mentioned in the last post, this could've gotten out of hand real fast. Thankfully, my self-control took over once again and I settled on about a handful of about dozen minis that stood out above the rest.

If the mini binder is on display at the next card show I attend, though, it might get messy.

Also making a comeback was the guy's selection of complete insert sets at very affordable prices.

For just two bucks, I was able to snag the complete 10-card "Glove Stories" insert set from 2016 GQ (not pictured: Freddy Galvis), which was especially nice since I have an entire mini-collection based around at-the-wall grabs and robbed home runs.

Another two bucks got me the 10-card "Walk-Off Winners" set, also from 2016 Gypsy Queen (not pictured: Starling Marte).

I still don't much like the grammatically incorrect "walk-off" phrase, but the English major in me is willing to swallow that if it results in a fun and all-around well made insert set like this one.

I didn't land as many GQ base cards as I would've hoped at this show (because God knows I'm not buying any more packs of it), but I did get my first look at 2016 Diamond Kings via this guy's 11/$1 box.

I still don't have much of an opinion one way or another on these. I see why people enjoy the brand, but I just can't bring myself to get too rah-rah over it. I've said this before, but I was really never that big on the original Donruss Diamond Kings from the '80s.

However, I do like that the 2016 edition worked backgrounds into the design rather than the single-colored backdrops we saw last year.

The 5/$1 box provided a healthy supply of DK inserts as well.

Again, not much to say about these, but I do like how colorful those Expressionists inserts are, and the Sano centerpiece features a fun pose.

And, if nothing else, points to Panini for including old-timers like Nap Lajoie and Joe Jackson in a 2016 product.

One vendor early on in the show had a couple giant tubs of scattered 50-cent cards.

A lot of it was no-name vintage or overproduction-era stars, and, despite about fifteen minutes' worth of digging, I only came out with about a half-dozen cards.

Can't complain with these two nifty Clementes, though.

The 50-cent table was run by a husband and wife, and I heard the wife scold the husband by saying You put KELLOGG'S in the 50-cent tubs?!?! when I went to total up my purchases.

Whether it was by the husband's error or not, I wasn't about to let these Kellogg's singles slip by me at a couple quarters each.

The Yount is a miscut (sorry, Jeff, I'm keeping it) and it made me think: you don't see many quality-control errors with Kellogg's cards, do you?

Adding a Ryne Sandberg rookie card to my collection has been a (failed) priority for me at the last couple shows I've attended.

His '83 Topps rookie is so famous that I honestly kind of forgot that he had Donruss- and Fleer-issued cards that year. I didn't score that iconic Topps single, but I did secure Ryno's '83 Donruss rookie for just a buck at one of the final tables of the day at this show. There's a small crease near the top, which probably explains the bargain-basement price.

I'm still keeping a sharp eye out for that treasured '83 Topps Sandberg, but I can sleep a little easier at night knowing I have a Ryno rookie in my binders now.

After going through the entire show, I found that I had come in well under budget.

With some extra money left in my pocket, I decided to take a trip back to the guy with the 11/$1 boxes and dig through some of his higher-priced short-prints.

I don't usually drop more than a buck on anything modern, but I decided this spiffy Craig Kimbrel handshake/night-card photo variation SP was worth the two-dollar price tag.

The Heyward SP was another two-dollar card, and the purply Cespedes was a buck.

The fact that this vendor had so many short-prints up for grabs probably confirms my original suspicion that he's a case buster of some sort.

If you read this blog at all, you probably know how insane I go for pitchers at the plate.

That insanity convinced me to drop three bucks on this Heritage action SP of Noah Syndergaard at the dish, which is actually quite a fair price considering how big of a splash Thor has made in the card market.

Also, Rookie Cup alert!

You can probably count the times I've spent five bucks on a non-vintage card on one hand.

But, although I initially balked at the five-dollar price tag on this Johnny Cueto photo SP, I eventually relented and dropped a whole Lincoln on it.

A large part of me does with that Topps would just go ahead and use quirky shots like these on the standard Flagship cards, but I guess a small part of me does get swept up in the chase and allure of photo SPs.

No matter how ashamed I am to admit it.

You may have noticed by now that, aside from the aforementioned Kellogg's cards, there hasn't been much of a whiff of vintage in these posts.

That's because there wasn't a whole lot of affordable vintage up for grabs at this show. Most of what I saw was too rich for my blood and/or overpriced, which was definitely disappointing. I did, however, find one vendor with some modestly priced vintage about halfway through the show.

I spent a total of fifteen dollars on three cards at his table, and these two basically ended up being free because the other card I bought was priced at $15.

This was that other card.

I don't even know where to start. First off, I mean...this is a '57 Topps rookie card of Rocky (or Rocco) Colavito, a rookie of one of my all-time favorite players on one of my all-time favorite Topps designs. That would easily be enough to warrant the $15 price right there.

But, backstory, finding Rocky here finally ends a bit of self-loathing I've carried with me for quite a while now. I had a chance to buy this card for an affordable price (I think around $20-$25) at the local flea market about five or six years ago, but passed. I kicked myself all the way home that day, and, even six years later, that kicking had never stopped.

When I saw a copy in that vendors discount bin for $15, I pounced, and the decision took about two seconds to make.

I thought Rocky was going to put a cap on the day until my dad handed me this after we left the convention hall.

I recently completed my college undergrad, and, unbeknownst to me, my dad wandered off to grab a couple graduation gifts for me at one point during the show. I didn't know what he'd found until I started to open the card, but I knew it'd almost certainly beat the tar out of cash or anything he'd find at a Target or somewhere like that.

Knowing my dad's penchant for picking jaw-dropping gifts, I could feel the anticipation building...

...and, as expected, my dad hit the jackpot once again.

Again, where do I start? First off, both Eddie Collins and Hughie "Ee-yah!" Jennings are favorites of both my dad and I in terms of turn-of-the-century baseball. Jennings in particular served as one of my earliest baseball history lessons because of his flamboyant antics as a manager with the Tigers in the late 1900s and early teens.

And the cards. They're about as oddball as oddballs get. They're so oddball that very little is actually known about them. I did some research and it turns out that grocery stores would sometimes issue strips of baseball player photos that customers would cut into individual "cards" in the early '20s. These are both "strip" cards, though tracking a specific manufacturer or grocery store location to them is pretty much impossible.

Not a lot of baseball cards were issued during the post-T206/pre-Goudey era, which makes these two especially fantastic. I'm glad my dad chose these as a gift, because, as opposed to mass-produced Topps and Bowman vintage, chances are neither of us would've ever seen these strip cards again for the rest of our lives had he passed on them at this show. They're just not something you find every day.

It was quite a rollercoaster ride at times, but, all in all, I did have a whole lot of unabridged fun at my local card show.

You can't ask for much else.