Thursday, September 29, 2016

A tale of two tables (More from the card show)

Two tables pretty much stole the spotlight at Sunday's card show.

Not surprisingly, both were heavy on the vintage, and both yielded some of the best discounts and deals I can ever remember finding in a single day.

The first of the two vendors had several towers of vintage scattered around his table, mostly organized by set. I picked a few stacks at random, and, lo and behold, I found a card I've wanted for a long time amongst his rubble of '72s with this Jesus Alou uber-high number (#716).

I've mentioned my fandom of the Alou Bros. many times on this blog, and I was more than happy to throw three bucks at this one since it's not every day you see '72 high numbers.

As I paid for the Alou, I noticed a few discounted boxes at the end of the guy's table, the first of which was filled with cards at a quarter a pop or 5/$1.

The first few stacks I pulled out weren't all that spectacular, and I came close to abandoning the search and continuing my trek with Jeff through the rest of the village hall. That is, until I found a '61 Topps Jim "Mudcat" Grant I needed, which pushed me to find four more I needed to get the 5/$1 deal.

It wasn't too long after that I found another card I've had on my radar for a while with that '62 Topps Herb Score, his sunset issue.

I've had the Archives reprint of it sitting all alone in my binder for years, and it's been driving me absolutely nuts.

Soon, the task of finding just five cards went out the window.

My pile kept getting larger and larger with discounted vintage. Five cards...ten...fifteen...then twenty, and counting. All of these fell out of that 5/$1 box, and it soon became apparent that this dig was going to be something special.

I've added dozens of those '60s Fleer Greats of the Game to my collection at the last few shows I've attended and, as an added bonus, I didn't even know Lloyd Waner ever played for the Reds until Sunday.

Even the Sweathogs were no strangers to the discount boxes.

I forked over a buck for the Colavito, and, amazingly, the Banks was indeed a member of that 5/$1 box.

Well-loved or not, Mr. Cub certainly made for one of the best bargains of the afternoon.

I haven't had a ton of success with vintage oddballs at the card shows I've attended this year, which made Sunday's victories in that realm especially sweet.

I must admit, '73 Kellogg's will never look quite right to me without the 3-D effect, but I still can't turn down stars like Bob Gibson (two dollars) and Willie Stargell (a dollar) at rock-bottom prices.

But seriously, I hope Kellogg's fired whoever was responsible for thinking non-3-D cards were ever a good idea...

...because when it comes to Kellogg's, it's 3-D or bust.

Surprisingly, the cheapest card of this bunch was actually the Pete Rose, which was, yes, another 5/$1 box suspect. The rest were all fifty-centers, with my personal favorite probably being the Mad Hungarian.

Although with Kellogg's, they're kinda all my favorite.

This beauty came from a $2 box, or 6/$10.

Harvey Haddix has always been one of my favorite guys to collect because a) he'll forever be enshrined in baseball lore with his 12-inning perfect game, and b) his cards cost next to nothing.

You won't find many relatively well-known names from '55 Topps at such a low price point.

The cards in the final box of this guy's table were $4 each, or 4/$10...and boy, did I make those four count.

I had to rub my eyes to make sure I had the price right on that '61 Spahn, as I've never seen his cards anywhere that cheap before. The Drysdale and Seaver had been on my watch list for ages before Sunday, and it's hard for me to pass up anything of Roger Maris at bargain rates.

Even more fascinating is the fact that Maris is actually the baserunner on that World Series highlight shot, not the man at the plate, which I didn't notice until I was digging through my finds late Sunday night.

Kellogg's, Sweathogs, high numbers: that discount vintage haul alone would've been more than enough to tide me over for the afternoon, needless to say.

But those sneaky cardboard gods had other things in mind.

Though the card show officially closed at 2 PM, the vast majority of the vendors started packing up around 1-1:30. Jeff and I made our rounds around the remaining tables as if it were last call at a bar. Among the last vendors standing were a guy-girl couple with a discount vintage box I somehow missed during my initial foray through the hall.

They were some of the nicest people I've ever dealt with at a card show, as both kindly informed Jeff and I that they'd stick around for however long it took for us to dig through their inventory. They also let us know that anything priced at a quarter in their box was now a dime, and anything at 50 cents was now a quarter.

This magnificent Bill Freehan PATP -- yet another masterpiece from '73 Topps I'd never seen before -- was one of the first dime suspects I found.

The condition on most of the cards wasn't great, but that's really second nature for me if it results in vintage high numbers like these two winding up in dime boxes.

Also, a minor victory: with that '71 Aaron (#717) -- his sunset card -- I now own every single Topps card of Tommie Aaron.

Poor condition or not, I couldn't believe these two ended up in the dime box.

Like the aforementioned Tommie Aaron, that '65 rookie completed my Topps set of Jose Cardenal. And although the Piniella isn't a true rookie (you have to go all the way back to '64 Topps for that), it's still a treasured new addition to my Pilots collection, as well as a hallowed zero-year card since Sweet Lou was traded to the Royals before ever suiting up for Seattle.

Speaking of defunct franchises...

...I couldn't resist these at a dime per.

Pilots aside, I don't usually go out of my way to chase cards of defunct teams like the Senators and Colt .45s. It's what I call a sometimes collection. But if you throw them at me at a dime a pop, I don't have much of a choice in the matter.

All mine.

The quarter cards kicked off with yet another new addition to my sometimes collection of defunct teams.

I'm glad Ted Williams got a shot at managing in the big leagues, if for no other reason than I can say I found a vintage Topps card of his for a quarter and not be lying about it.

The dime finds were certainly special, but I think the quarter cards outdid them in the WOW department.

(Sidebar: This is why well-loved vintage is sometimes the best vintage.)

Another pair of WOW finds.

Both of these guys are currently enshrined in Cooperstown, and I have to believe this is the first time I've found '60s vintage of them for as low as a quarter.

Sunday's gathering knocked out more of my specific, long-standing needs than any other single show I can remember.

Curt Flood is up there on my all-time favorite ballplayers list, and it makes sense that I'd desperately want a card of him on my all-time favorite Topps design. I love anything and everything Don Zimmer, but his '62 Topps card in particular has been a big need of mine because of his extremely short stint (14 games) with the expansion Mets that year.

I still can't quite believe these were only a quarter a piece.

More quarter cards, more oddballs, more joy.

Perhaps the biggest WOW of the quarter bin was this one, a '69 Deckle Edge of the Say Hey Kid himself, Willie Mays.

And just when I thought the oddball train had run out of steam...

...I moved on to the couple's box of higher-priced vintage.

At two bucks, I jumped at the chance to own this '70 Kellogg's Tony Oliva, a flawless card of one of the era's better hitters.

By this point, Jeff and I were among the last people in the village hall, so I figured it was high time I started to wrap things up.

The frugal side of me spent a few minutes deciding which of these Bob Ueckers I should buy while my more trigger-happy gut stepped in and shouted at me to JUST BUY BOTH, YOU MORON!

My gut won. At five bucks, the '65 was the most expensive card I purchased all day, and the '66 wasn't far behind at four dollars. I don't know what it is with this show and Uecker, seeing as how I found his '67 Topps sunset card in a nickel box the last time I attended.

With that, I paid for my cards, thanked the couple, and went on my merry way...

...until I saw a small stack of '75 Topps Minis I'd missed the first time around.

The Fisk and Munson were a buck a piece, and everything else here was a quarter. I paid for them and said goodbye again.

Okay, I told myself, you had your fun, but now it's REALLY time to go.

But I just couldn't get a card I saw in that higher-priced box out of my head.

This '67 Jim Hunter is absolutely stunning (as the autograph shows, he was already "Catfish" by then), but I initially balked at the five-dollar price tag. Still, the more I thought about it, the more I knew I couldn't leave it behind. I let my gut win out again and pulled a five-dollar bill from my wallet.

When I brought it up to the guy, he said: Just gimme two bucks. Okay! Vendor generosity, a new Catfish for the collection, and maybe the steal of the day. A perfect way to close out the show.

Now it was time to go.

I think I might have a problem.

Call it an addiction, call it dedication, call it whatever you want. No matter what I told myself, I just couldn't tear myself away from that table. And that's how I ended up making four separate purchases to close out the day, the last being this long-coveted Bruce Sutter rookie for four bucks, a card which, for whatever reason, has been shockingly hard to find at local shows.

Somehow, I did manage to eventually leave that table, and I pushed through the doors of the village hall with a huge grin on my face. I couldn't help but think of how long it'd been since I'd had a Sunday off work, and the fact that my shift would've started not too long before the time I left the card show.

Instead of wearing a work shirt and khakis and totaling up purchases on a cash register, I was in a t-shirt and jeans and cradling a bulging bag of baseball cards.

That might've been the best feeling of them all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why we love card shows

It was with a heavy heart that I attended a card show this past Sunday.

It's rare that I have a Sunday off work, and I wanted to use the day for something special. I was originally planning to hit my local flea market, only to find it cancelled for the afternoon. But the damage was done. I had the cardboard itch, and it wasn't going away.

That, coupled with the fact that I hadn't been to a card show in several months, led to the decision to make the hour-long drive to a (semi) local show downstate -- the first time I'd done so in nearly two years. The work week couldn't end fast enough, because all I could think about was the card show.

And then I woke up to the news of Jose Fernandez's untimely passing Sunday morning. Suddenly the card show didn't seem as important. I seriously considered not going at all. But it was either the show or sitting around the house all day in an emotional stupor, so into the car I went, though Fernandez was on my mind during most of the drive. I couldn't get his age out of my head: 24 -- the same age as me.

The thought haunted me as I arrived at the village hall and stepped out of the car.

I was so out of it that I nearly bumped into a man while walking up the steps leading to the village hall.

The man greeted me warmly and, seeing the bag I was carrying, asked what was inside. It was then that I remembered that I was holding a stack of White Sox (and others) for my buddy Jeff of "2x3 Heroes" fame, who I met up with later in the day. I'd forgotten about that through the haze, and remembering it caused the original excitement I'd felt for the show to seep back into my psyche once again.

Then the man asked what I collected, and I found that we both carried a mutual affection for the cheap cards, the underappreciated suspects of the cardboard universe. The man went one way and I went another as we entered the village hall, but he wished me luck as we paid our $1 admission fees. The interaction couldn't have lasted more than twenty seconds, but something about being wished good luck by a fellow collector before a card show stuck with me.

There were many great cards to be had at Sunday's gathering -- this blue sapphire Coco Crisp (numbered to 25) being among the day's more stylish buys -- but it probably won't be the cards I'll remember most from this show.

It'll be the sheer experience of attending.

The show certainly didn't make the pill of Jose Fernandez's passing any easier to swallow, but it did dull the pain a bit. There is something infinitely soothing about being in a space with a group of people who share the same hobby as you, no matter the hobby or how temporary that space is.

The morning started out a bit slow in the village hall, but that familiar chatter soon began to float above me as the day went on. The kind of chatter only a card show can produce. The dime boxes seemed to gain strength by the hour, with this page of '15 Stadium Club gold/black parallels (trust me, they are) being among my final finds of the afternoon.

I know these parallels aren't all that exciting, but I'll use any excuse I can to show more Stadium Clubs on this blog.

I didn't realize how much I enjoyed these Bowman International parallels until I found a bunch of them in one place.

One vendor had a 5/$1 box that basically amounted to a dime box with the volume discount he gave me.

Most of his selection was vintage (more on that in Part 2) though I did dig up some faux-vintage from the bins as well with these '53 Bowman B&W/Color reprints. A stunning display of cardboard artistry.

And yes, that's a new Hoyt in the top-right there.

One vendor near the end of the show informed Jeff and I that anything in his boxes was marked down to a dime because (quote) I just want to clear some space (unquote).

Those are among the seven best words you want to hear if you're a bargain hunter like myself. It usually means the cards were priced higher at one point (often meaning better quality) and also that the seller is willing to cut you a deal.

I purchased this entire page of Panini inserts for just ninety cents, because I'm always willing to help others clear space if it benefits my collection.

I miss Golden Age.

These cost a whopping 35 cents combined -- Altuve a quarter, Hernandez a dime.

I recently started a player collection of King Felix, but that one would've been a no-brainer for the cartoon alone either way.

The first vendor I stopped at on Sunday had an entire dime box filled with retired players.

I ended up pulling north of a hundred cards out of it, but my favorites might've been the small sample of 2004 UD Timeless Teams inside. This set doesn't pop up at shows very often. I love it for the sheer variety of players it features.

I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've found Ron Cey, Dusty Baker, Paul Blair, and Bake McBride together in a single dime box.

Dime box oddballs, for your viewing pleasure.

I'm calling the Neon Deion an oddball because it's technically a football card, but the Atlanta cap wins it a spot in my Braves binder.

Although my cardboard OCD is already trying to tell me I can't have a football card in my baseball binders...

The mini-collection hits were a little more sparse than usual on Sunday, but it wasn't a complete 0-fer.

(Insert snarky comment about Donruss actually producing a decent card for once.)

These two 2016 insert mini-collection hits set me back a quarter a pop.

Because quarter boxes can have their fun, too.

Here's one of the big surprises of the day.

That same vendor who had the dime box of retired players also had quite a few other large dime boxes on display, each one absolutely loaded with 2016 singles. I licked my lips and went to work.

It didn't take long for me to find this Collin McHugh, which is actually a photo variation short-print from this year's Flagship. Many of the SPs in Series 2 showed players in the special Jackie Robinson 42 tribute jerseys -- a theme I could support a lot more if they were just part of the ordinary base checklist.

But Topps will be Topps, and it's certainly a nice treat to find one of these for a dime.

I ended up doing a ton of damage at this guy's table.

One of my favorite/most convenient aspects of the card show experience these days is picking up recent singles on the cheap. Whether it's Museum Collection (people actually put Museum Collection in dime boxes?), Donruss Optic (blah), or Bowman Platinum (not bad, actually), it's an affordable way to sample many different areas of the hobby.

The 200 or so I found set me back the cost of a blaster and saved me the hassle of wondering what the heck I'm going to do with all the Rangers cards that inevitably fall out of every blaster I buy.

One guy had a 20-cent box full of recent Cubs, and I was a little shocked to find this Schwarber in there.

I want to believe this shot is from Schwarber's famous Budweiser bomb in Game 4 of last year's NLDS, but I suppose there's no way of knowing for sure.

In my heart, it is.

That same vendor filled most of my needs from this year's Wrigley Field insert series.

There's a lot to love here -- Ron Santo and his wife, images of WWII-era groundskeeping, Jon Lester at the plate -- but I'm still a little lukewarm about Topps's decision to feature non-Cubs like Hal Newhouser and Jackie Robinson in this set.

Guess I was subconsciously chasing an Ichiro rainbow on Sunday.

I wouldn't say this show is gigantic -- it advertises as 70 tables, probably about 30-40 vendors in total -- but the quality is right on par with the biggest of card shows.

I probably made purchases at about 10-15 of the tables on Sunday, and almost everyone was cordial and had fair prices. I've been to card shows where all the vendors seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning. I've been to shows where everything was woefully overpriced. Sometimes, it's both, and I can tell you, there are few more frustrating experiences in the hobby.

One vendor had a big stack of this year's National Baseball Card Day singles at his table, which leads me to believe he either owns a card shop or knows someone who owns a card shop.

Though I could've bought a lot more of these, I decided on this quartet, which set me back a buck all together.

That same vendor also had something I wasn't expecting to find at Sunday's show: 2016 Heritage High Numbers.

The set was released on Wednesday, and I didn't think that'd be enough time for dealers to do whatever they do (I don't know, I've never set up at a card show before) between a set's release and selling them at a show. Guess I underestimated things there. I'm usually not huge on Heritage parallels, but I decided to pick up these purply refractors of Zobrist (two dollars) and Steven Wright (a buck).

I'm pretty sure that's Wright's first MLB-licensed card, and I've decided to collect him because he's a knuckleballer and shares a name with one of my favorite stand-up comedians.

Parallels are fine and good, but what I was after were the base cards.

I'd bought some High Numbers earlier in the week -- I pulled a Nomar Mazara black refractor that financed a portion of Sunday's show -- but was still in need of a lot of base from the set. This vendor took care of every last one of those needs for a dime a pop.

I'm a big fan of the player selection in this year's High Numbers, as I believe these are the first cards of all of these guys in their new uniforms. That's Darwin Barney's first card since 2014, and I'd actually forgotten that Geovany Soto was still hanging around the big leagues. But there's no way that Tim Lincecum is real: I refuse to believe he ever played for the Angels.

There was one last pressing need from High Numbers...


That's right, despite the fact that he's played in all of nine games for the Cubs this year, Munenori Kawasaki received a card in this year's High Numbers checklist. It's just my second MLB card of his, the other being a masterpiece from 2014 Heritage.

Kudos, Topps.

Even if it was only for a few hours, something about the camaraderie I found in the halls of Sunday's gathering helped lift the fog of the morning's tragedy. It may not have been the easiest day to be at a card show, but I'm glad I went. And hey, there's still more to show from Sunday, since I haven't even gotten to the vintage-heavy tables yet. The cards are definitely what keep us going back, but there's so many other, more emotional reasons to love card shows.

It's hard not to be romantic about them.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Frankenset Bracket: The terrific 32 (Pt. 3)

Let's see how last week's voting played out.

#1 (Page 51) -- 1991 Topps #455 Walt Weiss (17 votes)


#8 (Page 4) -- 1973 Topps #35 Willie Davis (12 votes)

#4 (Page 34) -- 1973 Topps #302 Terry Crowley (20 votes)


#5 (Page 39) -- 1991 Ultra #351 Geno Petralli (10 votes)

#3 (Page 48) -- 1998 Fleer Tradition #424 Jermaine Allensworth (18 votes)


#6 (Page 64) -- 1991 Score #568 Bob Welch (11 votes)

#2 (Page 63) -- 1976 Topps #564 Kurt Bevacqua (19 votes)


#7 (Page 23) -- 1993 Upper Deck #204 Mike Perez (11 votes)

This region is really sticking to the script. Seeds 1-8 all won in the first round, and Seeds 1-4 all advanced here, with none of the matchups being particularly close. I personally went 4-for-for with the choices, and didn't have to think too hard about any of them.

Although I have a feeling this region's Sweet 16 voting won't be quite as easy.


It's time to take a look at this week's collection of Sweet 16 hopefuls.

Let's run down the matchups.

#1 (Page 70) -- 1973 Topps #627 Luis Alvarado


#9 (Page 42) -- 1973 Topps #376 Frank Duffy

#13 (Page 17) -- 1981 Fleer #148 Ellis Valentine


#12 (Page 73) -- 1969 Topps #653 Aurelio Rodriguez Bat-Boy UER

#3 (Page 11) -- 1995 Upper Deck Minors #191 Roger Bailey


#6 (Page 65) -- 1988 Fleer #582 Tim Flannery

#7 (Page 29) -- 1993 Stadium Club #257 Oscar Azocar


#2 (Page 53) -- 1971 Topps #476 Dal Maxvill

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!