Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cards of the year: 2016

The general narrative of the 2016 card season has been one of apathy, for the most part.

A lot of collectors, myself included, saw this year as something like treading water. It often felt like nothing interesting was hitting the shelves, and there didn't seem to be a lot of excitement around the cards being unveiled to us by Topps.

But that's one of the reasons I go back and do these end-of-year lists. Often times, it's good to gain a little distance from things to best judge them. And you know what I found? 2016 really wasn't that bad of a year for cards. (I think it just seemed a lot worse because Flagship was a yawner.)

As I've done every December since I started this blog, I've compiled a list of my ten favorite cards issued throughout the year. It was, at times, a painful task, as I ultimately had to leave off many masterpieces, like the Whitey you see above.

You know it had to be a pretty decent year for cards if a beauty like that one didn't make the cut.

#10 -- 2016 Topps Archives #267 Carlos Gonzalez

I'll be putting together my Sets of the Year countdown (hopefully) next week, and you better believe Archives will be ranking high on that list.

I could've put any number of cards from the checklist on this list, but I went with CarGo here in the end. I salivate over these types of "foul line" shots, and this is one of the finest you'll find. What a stellar angle of a full PNC Park crowd as Gonzalez crosses the plate for a Rockies run.

Kudos, Archives.

#9 -- 2016 Topps Heritage High Numbers #587 Munenori Kawasaki

To some, it might be strange to put some guy who played exactly 14 games in the 2016 season on this list, but Munenori Kawasaki isn't just some guy.

I didn't think Muni would get a card this year, but Topps, in all their glory, decided to insert him into their Heritage High Numbers checklist. Certainly beats all the multiple cards of no-name rookies you see these days.

It's only the second Topps card of Kawasaki -- the funniest man in the big leagues -- and it could well go down as the only card to document Kawasaki's brief tenure as a World Champion Cub.

#8 -- 2016 Topps National Baseball Card Day #43 Ichiro Suzuki

This on isn't on the list so much for the card itself, but rather the promotion that went along with it.

As I posted about at the time, Topps resuscitated its National Baseball Card Day extravaganza back in August, a cardboard holiday that prompted me to give my LCS a little business that afternoon on a day that I would've otherwise been sitting around like a couch potato.

Every customer who walked into the card shop that day got a free pack of exclusive NBD cards, and I was lucky enough to pull an Ichiro (my favorite current ballplayer) out of mine. It was an all-around fantastic day to be a collector.

Let's hope Topps brings National Baseball Card Day back in 2017.

#7 -- 2016 Stadium Club #294 Jackie Robinson

As it has every year since its revival, Stadium Club earned multiple spots on my Cards of the Year countdown.

Jackie Robinson has a tendency to turn any card into pure gold, but the stunning black-and-white action shot -- coupled with the multitude of outfield ads -- made this one a no-brainer for my list.

#6 -- 2016 Topps Heritage High Numbers "Now & Then" #NT-4 Bartolo Colon

In one of the truly great moments in baseball history, Bartolo Colon hit his first major league homer on May 7, 2016, at the spry age of 42.

Topps, of course, issued a Topps Now card of the watershed moment, which is still going for massive amounts of cash. I'll let you in on a little secret, though: there's a card of the same exact event that you can get for loose change. 

It didn't get a lot of pub, but this Heritage insert allowed me to collect all the joy and glory of Bart's homer without having to break the bank.

#5 -- 2016 Stadium Club #13 Sandy Koufax

Here's a card that's grown on me lately.

Sandy placed at just #6 in my 2016 Stadium Club countdown a few months back. Now it's my #5 card of the entire year. I don't know what I was missing before. Was it the neon scoreboard lights? Was it the intense Koufax peering in at his catcher? Was it the (aforementioned) glorious outfield ads?

And according to some research from fellow blogger Douglas, this shot actually comes from Koufax's third no-hitter, which he spun against the Phillies in 1964. Douglas, at the time, asked: Does that move it up the ladder?

I say: Yes. Yes it does.

#4 -- 2016 Stadium Club #126 Roberto Clemente

There may not be a player I enjoy collecting more than Roberto Clemente.

As I've mentioned in the past, he's my all-time favorite ballplayer, and it certainly doesn't hurt that his baseball cards are always pretty darn nice as well. One of my new favorites in the many, many Clemente masterpieces is his 2016 Stadium Club issue, which features him taking time out of his day to sign for some eager young fans.

In many ways, this fantastic shot captures everything I love about Roberto Clemente.

#3 -- 2016 Topps #96 Jose Bautista

I heavily debated on where to put this card on my list.

I picked it as the Card of the Year back when Flagship hit the shelves back in February, but turns out that prediction didn't last. Bautista's famous bat flip was still fresh on the minds of many when this masterpiece arrived -- I remember the card receiving some national news attention at the time -- but I wonder if it's a tad dated now that we're over a year removed from it.

The bat flip itself might be a somewhat distant memory, but there's no denying that this is a brilliant baseball card. 

It captures the pure emotion of the moment more than just about any other I can remember.

#2 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-254 David Ortiz AS

Baseball waved goodbye to one of its icons in 2016.

David Ortiz could be a polarizing figure at times, but overall I think most would agree that baseball was a better game with Big Papi between the lines. The outpouring of respect and honor he received during his 2016 farewell tour reflected that.

Topps paid a stunning tribute to Ortiz with this beautiful image of him tipping his cap to the San Diego crowd following his departure from the 10th and final All-Star game of his hallowed career. 

It's one of those cards that you think should be framed in a museum somewhere instead of a nine-pocket page.

#1 -- 2016 Topps Now #665 Chicago Cubs WS

Come on, how could it not be?

Although I was hoping to save it for the Topps Now post I've been planning (which I still hope to publish soon), there's no denying that this was the Card of the Year as soon as it arrived in my hands.

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that the Cubs' first World Series title in 108 years was the defining moment of 2016, and personally, the crowning moment of my entire baseball-watching lifetime. I won't bother trying to put it into words because it's impossible.

So, naturally, I had to own a card of it, because that's the rule when you're a collector. While I'm sure we'll see a handful of World Series highlight cards from the early 2017 sets, I couldn't wait that long and ended up plunking down the cash for this Topps Now single. I have mixed feelings about Topps Now as a whole, but this one was definitely money well spent.

Just those words -- Chicago Cubs celebrate first World Series title since 1908 -- are more than I ever dreamed I'd see on a baseball card in my life, much less as soon as here in 2016.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Christmas breakdown

I hope all of my blogging buddies had a great holiday, but I have to say, Christmas didn't much feel like Christmas to me this year.

I don't know why. A large part of me can't believe Christmas has come and gone, and next week is New Year's. While I (like many) just want 2016 to go away already, there's still that feeling of where did all the time go? for me right now, more than any year I can remember.

Luckily there's been some relief to this blindsiding holiday stress, specifically in the form of an envelope I received from Gavin of "Baseball Card Breakdown" fame last week. While I usually like to write my trade posts in the order I received them, I had to expedite Gavin's because his "holiday blasts" have been the rage of the blogosphere lately.

Gavin kicked things off with this '83 Topps Traded Julio Franco rookie, a card I've been chasing for a while and one I believe I claimed from Gavin's blog a short time ago.

But the Franco was probably the only "standard" card in the envelope.

The rest was comprised of a mix of odd, sweet cardboard goodness that only Gavin can create, beginning with this FanFest oddball of Kris Bryant during his collegiate days at the University of San Diego.

I distinctly remember watching the 2013 MLB Draft -- and nearly jumping for joy when Bryant fell to the Cubs at #2 (over Houston's Mark Appel, a pitcher who is still in Triple-A in the Phillies' organization).

If you read Gavin's blog (or the blog of anyone who's received cards from Gavin), you probably already know about his affinity for creating customs.

I saw a couple other bloggers receive these Bill Murrays before me -- done wonderfully in both the '81 Fleer and '88 Score designs -- and prayed that they'd wind up in my mailbox as well. Well, that's just what happened a couple short days later. Call it a Christmas (or Festivus) miracle.

Now I can finally say there are Bill Murray cards in my binders and not be lying about it, because no way in heck do I have the budget to snap up his card from the minor league club he briefly co-owned.

(And I definitely think Bill Murray would approve of these Bill Murray customs, Bill Murray.)

And now we've come to the star(s) of the show: Gavin's customary rip cards.

Gavin distributed 25 of the specially-made Mr. Padre rip cards to 25 different bloggers around the community, and I was lucky enough to receive a bonus 1/1 rip Garry Templeton rip card as well.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read about some people waffling over whether or not to rip these. Are you kidding? Not that I rip cards at will or anything, but...the only question for me was which one to tear open first because, knowing Gavin, there had to be something awesome inside both of them.

Let's start with the Templeton (eBay?) 1/1, shall we?

Why, it's a glorious Pat Neshek TTM!

Better yet, it's a TTM on yet another of Gavin's beautifully-made customs, a mini documenting Neshek's brief stint in San Diego. This is the fourth Neshek auto I've received via trade, but it's my far and away favorite of the quartet.

And, oh yeah, out of the second and final rip card fell...


Gavin whipped up a bunch of magnets for his blogger buddies this year, and the one he sent me is now sitting below the Cal Ripken "F--- Face" I also received from Gavin on my refrigerator.

I knew this was Hoyt right away, but the uniform he's wearing really tripped me up. As you can see, that isn't the color or logo of any big-league team that I know of. It took about ten minutes of research, but I finally found it: turns out this is a shot of Hoyt during his two-winter stint with Havana in the Cuban League from 1950-52 before he cracked the New York Giants' roster in '52.

The best part of all this is the fact that I had absolutely no idea Hoyt ever pitched in Cuba before I received this magnet. So not only are Gavin's PWEs awesome, but they can also be quite educational.

Let's hope Gavin does these "blasts" next Christmas, too, because I know I sure enjoyed this much needed holiday pick-me-up here in 2016.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lima Time (or why I love the Internet)

A couple weeks ago, I was getting ready to feature this card as part of my frankenset, which is a set reserved for anyone who isn't already a "binder guy" in my collection.

It's hard to define what exactly makes a "binder guy" to me (even I don't have a full understanding of it sometimes), but one seemingly surefire way of making it in is by playing a prime role in my baseball childhood.

Jose Lima most certainly did that. I'm a little young to remember his prime years with the Astros, but I do remember a This Week in Baseball VHS compilation I used to have (which I wore the tracking out of after many viewings) that featured an entire segment devoted to the man they called "Lima Time."

Between his fun-loving mound presence and his effervescent smile, few personalities in baseball history have matched Jose Lima's. He was just one giant ball of energy.

I became an instant fan.

And yet even after all that, and for reasons I can't quite explain, Lima still wasn't a "binder guy."

After many years of stupidity, I recently decided to change that and induct him into my hallowed binders. One upside (or downside, depending on how you look at it) is that there certainly isn't any shortage of cards to chase, since Lima played in probably most bloated era for cardboard: the mid-to-late 1990s.

Lima started off in the Tiger organization after having signed with Detroit out of the Dominican Republic in 1989. He cracked the big-league roster in 1994 and would pitch in a total of 95 games for the Tigers across the next three seasons, mainly out of the bullpen.

Lima was destined for cardboard greatness right from the start, as evidenced by this stellar multiple-exposure shot on his Pinnacle rookie card.

Lima was traded to Houston after the 1996 season, a city where he would enjoy his best years.

He'd spend five seasons as an Astro, the far and away finest being his stellar 1999 campaign. Lima went 21-10 with a 3.58 ERA and was nominated to the only All-Star team of his career during that spectacular  year.

Most fans, myself included, probably best remember Jose Lima as a Houston Astro.

Unfortunately, he could never quite regain the magic of that '99 season.

After a few down years in Houston, Lima was dealt back to his first franchise in Detroit. He struggled in parts of two seasons for the Tigers and was given his release at the end of 2002. He wasn't even in organized baseball at the start of the following year, having signed with an independent league team on the east coast.

The clock had seemed to run out on Lima Time.

But like any true baseball icon, Jose Lima wouldn't go down without a fight.

After posting solid numbers in independent ball, the Royals took a chance on Lima, bringing him back to the big leagues for the remainder of the 2003 season.

To everyone's surprise, he won eight out of the 14 starts he'd make for Kansas City...

...which earned him a free-agent contract with the Dodgers the following winter.

The 32-year-old Lima showed that his time with the Royals wasn't a fluke, going 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 2004, the third and final time he'd post a double-digit win total in his career.

Lima went back to the Royals in 2005 and would close out his career with a brief four-game stint with the 2006 Mets.

However, to my knowledge, no cards exist of his short stint with the Mets, so this 2006 Upper Deck issue will go down in history as the sunset card of a man who couldn't help but crack a smile every time he stepped onto a big league mound.

Tragically, the 37-year-old Lima died of a heart attack in 2010, just four years after pitching in his final major league game.

After all that, the question remains: how could I not collect a guy like Jose Lima?

I guess part of my reason for delaying the decision for so long is the fact that taking on a new player collection can be a daunting task. With newer rookies, it's not so bad since there aren't many existing cards of them in the first place. But with Jose Lima, I basically ignored 13 years' worth of cards to choose from. How do you make up for all that lost time?

That's where the beauty of the Internet comes in. While I probably could've slowly accumulated more Lima cards through dime boxes and trades, I decided to expedite the process. As I've done with new player collections in the past, I loaded up my Just Commons cart with virtually every Lima card they had in stock.

In a matter of days, and for under half the cost of a blaster...

...I had an instant player collection of a guy I should've started collecting a long time ago.

From his beginnings as a Detroit Tiger to his golden years as a Kansas City Royal -- and a whole lot in between -- I now own around 50 cards of Jose Lima. Just like that. Even with all the social flaws of technology, sometimes you've got to admit: the Internet can be a great place. It made me look like less of an idiot for not collecting Jose Lima all these years.

Finally, as far as my binders go, it is, and will always be, Lima Time.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Best. Early. Christmas. Ever.

Like last year, both Dad and I will unfortunately be working on Christmas this year.

Working holidays isn't exactly ideal, but it comes with the territory when you have a job like I do at a place (Chicago's O'Hare airport) that's open 365 days a year. So, instead of having a belated Christmas like we did in 2015, Dad and I decided to have an early holiday here in 2016 this afternoon.

As he's done so often in the past, Dad hinted at a couple big card-related presents he found for me this year, which had me on the edge of my seat in the days leading up to our early Christmas. But first, along with Kit-Kats and other candies, Dad tucked a few unopened retail packs into my stocking, as well as one of those 100-card Walgreen's repacks.

While there were a handful of solid pulls from the stocking stuffers -- including this 2016 Stadium Club Bryant insert -- those retail packs were small potatoes compared to the big gifts of the year.

Dad apparently found a great deal on my big present this year: such a good deal, in fact, that he was convinced it was a fake.

Dad being the person he is, he went the extra mile and took it to an LCS owner we both know, who indeed confirmed that it was, by all accounts, the real thing. We'll get to what that real thing was in due time but, in the meantime, Dad bought this nifty Topps Tribute Ichiro parallel (numbered to 199 copies) from the shop owner as a thank you for his authentication services.

It wasn't the last appearance Ichiro would make this afternoon...

...but first, allow me a brief sidebar by noting that both Dad and I recently finished a book titled You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting.

I found this volume completely by chance during a recent bookstore run (it was mistakenly placed on the Fiction shelves), and it turned out to easily be one of the best baseball books I've ever read, quite possibly up there with Ball Four and the like. 

The book deals with the history of Japanese baseball -- with a focus on Americans like Bob Horner and Reggie Smith who have gone abroad to play in Japan -- but also provides tremendous insight in terms of portraying baseball as a microcosm for the stark cultural differences between the US and Japan. I'd say it's a must-read for any baseball fan with even a slight interest in the topic.

But anyways: it's safe to say that the Japanese game was fresh on the minds of both Dad and I because of Whiting's book...

...and that certainly came across in Dad's Christmas gifts.

Again, much like last year, Dad noted that he'd basically found three big presents for me this year and, believe it or not, young Ichiro here was only the third-best out of the bunch. I don't own many Japanese baseball cards, and I always assumed I'd go the rest of my life without owning a Japanese Ichiro.

Not so fast. Thanks to Dad, I can now say I have a 1996 BBM (basically the Topps of Japan, from what I can tell) card featuring Ichiro, the then-23-year-old star of the Orix Blue Wave.

A present like that is enough to be the king of any Christmas, but Dad just couldn't stop there.

Once again, Dad went the way of the Japanese with the next gift in my stocking, selecting a card that you basically don't see anywhere ever.

The card in question, as you see above, is a 1975 Calbee Sadaharu Oh, complete with a fantastic horizontal action shot of the Japanese Home Run King. It's a bit smaller than your standard-size card, but size really doesn't matter when it comes to something as jaw-dropping as this.

The copy Dad bought is graded, and although my original instinct was to bust it out of the unsightly PSA case, I think I'll keep it slabbed and displayed (at least for now) since I don't really own enough Japanese cards to have an all-Japanese binder at the moment.

Nevertheless, here's a better look at the Japanese legend without all that PSA mumbo-jumbo.

Both as a player and manager, Oh plays prominently in the narrative of Whiting's book as one of the upholders of the old-school Japanese tradition of tough love and twelve-hour practices. Oh's 868 career homers over the span of 22 seasons are still the most of any professional baseball league in the world.

And yet even that was still only the runner-up from Dad's Christmas gifts this year.

Remember what I said earlier about my dad being wary about the authenticity of one of the cards he bought? And then said card turning out to be the real thing after all?

Well, let me ask you: wouldn't you be skeptical if you got something like, I don't know...

...a 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle for about half the price of a blaster?

I know I would. But it is, believe it or not, the real thing. I don't usually like to quiz people on the prices of the gifts they get me, but I just had to ask: turns out dad found this '69 Mick on Ebay for the mind-blowing price of $12.  While there's a white-lettered variation of this card that goes for beaucoup bucks, I'd always believed even the standard version would always be well out of my price range.

Despite the fact that Mantle was well past his prime here -- note the 1st Base position listing --  that doesn't change the fact that this is a gem I've admired from afar for a long time, given the sheer fact that it's the Mick's sunset card (with complete career stats on the back!).

And now, thanks to yet another amazing batch of Christmas gifts from Dad, more of the seemingly unattainable legends of cardboard have somehow found their way into my collection.

Whether it's early Christmas or belated Christmas, there's just no stopping Dad around the holidays, is there?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Call me a sucker

There's no real reason I should be buying one of these $20 Topps Holiday boxes from Wal-Mart, and in fact, let's list the reasons why.

1) I mean, it's Wal-Mart.
2) The closest Wal-Mart is about 15-20 minutes away from where I live and not really on the way to anywhere I usually go around my neighborhood.
3) I'm backloaded with an insane amount of cardboard that needs to be filed and stored away, which means I'm probably at least a month behind on being caught up with my sorting (at best).
4) I've spent a whole lot more on cards over the past month than I usually do, and I was hoping to reign in the budget a bit.
4a) The holidays always put a drain on my bank account, regardless.
5) I really don't need to be reminded of more snow since we've already had two bad snowstorms in the area.
6) I'm not a fan of 2016 Topps.
7) They're basically the same exact cards of the loads of meh-worthy 2016 Topps singles I already own.
8) This so-called "holiday promotion" isn't much more than a cash grab on Topps's part.
9) Buying a box of it would so obviously make me a sucker.

So yeah...turns out this sucker bought a Holiday box last night.

I actually went to a second Wal-Mart because the first one didn't have any more in stock. The fact that I actually hunted one of these things down takes my sucker-ness to a whole new level. I really can't explain why I was so eager to buy a product I should've been so apathetic about. 

I guess once cards are on the brain, it's hard to get them off -- especially in the winter when there's almost zero new releases.

You've probably already seen what these look like, and besides, there isn't much to say: this is 2016 Topps with snowflake borders instead of that smoke from the standard release.

Each box contains ten 10-card packs which, to be fair, actually isn't that bad of a deal for twenty bucks. I can at least commend Topps on not making this product a blatant ripoff.

The checklist is comprised of 200 cards culled from the Series 1, Series 2, and Update sets, which means bonus cards of rookies like Kenta Maeda and guys in their new trade-deadline uniforms like Whatever-His-Name-Is-Now Upton.

Some (but not many) of the Holiday cards do actually feature different photos than the standard Flagship issues.

Although I'm not sure why Topps changed it up for Javier Baez, because his Series 2 card was one of the best things they made all year.

Every other pack contains something called a "metallic snowflake" parallel (dibs on the band name).

As many have already pointed out, they're not metallic at all. It's tough to tell from the scan, but they're actually just cards with glitter glued on top of the snowflakes. I'm not a big glitter fan, but at least they're semi-original, since I can't say I've ever seen glitter on a Topps baseball card before.

Turns out I only needed one of the five metallic snowflakes I pulled, but one out of five ain't bad if it's Mike Trout.

Being a sucker aside and all, I have to admit: this actually isn't a terrible promotion.

For one thing, the snowflakes actually improve on that awful fire alarm smoke from the standard Flagship design. And it's not like a box of this stuff breaks the bank. A 100-card box (which amounts to about half the set) at $20 is 20 cents a card. I spent $10 on a 15-card rack pack of Topps Chrome earlier in the year, and Chrome is basically just another parallel set, too.

For set builders, it looks like a relatively easy checklist to complete. For player collectors, there's new and semi-interesting cards to chase. For all-over-the-place collectors like me, there's a whole lot of new cards to add to the binders, including more 2016 World Champion Cubs. And hey, if relics are your thing, you're guaranteed one in every Holiday box.

But relics are definitely not my thing, so nothing to see here...

...wait, WOW!

Hold on, did this just happen? Did Topps actually get me semi-exicted about a plain white swatch of fabric? I think so.

The guaranteed relic is one of the lowest selling points of this product for me, and I was fully prepared to have it be the least interesting portion of my box. But that was before Anthony Rizzo fell out, my favorite current Cub and my favorite player in all of baseball not named Ichiro.

Overall, I think I could've done far, far worse with one of these Holiday boxes. I never knew how fun snowflakes could be on cardboard.

Guess it's not so bad being a sucker every now and again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Another card show? Another card show.

After the card show I attended last month and my recent garage sale haul for the ages, it's safe to say that I'm buried in an avalanche of cardboard right now.

So, naturally, where was I a couple Sundays ago? You guessed it: another card show. I managed to get the day off work to attend a smaller hotel show in the area, the same one I attended at the dawn of the new year back in January. I figured going again here in December would make for a nice bookend to 2016.

I guess the cardboard gods wanted me to work for this one, as we got our first snowstorm of the winter on the very same afternoon as the show. Here's what it looked like as seen from the suburban Culver's where Dad and I enjoyed our tasty post-show meal.

As you might imagine, driving in such weather wasn't particularly fun, but even after a little slipping and sliding, Dad and I rolled into the hotel parking lot right on time.

Turns out I wasn't the only one unfazed by the snowflakes.

I've hit this show a handful of times now, and this latest gathering was probably the most well-attended one I've seen yet. It was rather comforting to see a roomful of devoted collectors out there like myself willing to brave a snowstorm for an afternoon of digging through cardboard.

With the room pulsing and the radiator on, I went to work. It didn't take long for the gems to start appearing, like this awesome dollar-box vinyl/cardboard mashup of the Iron Man. It's only the second card I own from this "Greatest Hits" insert set, the other being a Pedro Martinez...which I found at this very same show back in January.

Funny how that happens.

Hotel shows are always good for a nice array of dime boxes.

While not particularly exciting, baseball cards of commissioners are indeed rare, which convinced me to drop an FDR on Fan Favorite(?) Fay Vincent. I initially thought the Joyner was one of those '90s prepaid phone cards, but a closer inspection upon returning home later that afternoon actually revealed it to be a magnet.

So that begs the question: are magnets baseball cards?

I say yes.

As always, discount bin shiny is a must at any card show.

Minis of probably my two favorite Japanese imports: Nomo a dime, Ichiro a dollar.

Looks like my dream of seeing Ichiro on the '75 Topps design has finally come true.

Online-only Heritage High Numbers for a quarter a piece?

Mr. Samardzija should tell you how I feel about that.

The Henderson is a tough '90s insert from the dollar box, but the real reason I bought it was because you don't see too many cards of Rickey as an Angel.


(Most excited you'll ever see me about anything from Prizm.)

An ace pitcher and his personal catcher, forever united in baseball history and this scan.

The Lester rookie was a steal at a dollar (especially in Chicago), and the Ross -- which will likely go down as one of his sunset issues -- was a sweet dime find since I just decided to start collecting Grandpa Rossy.

The Fowler -- another (former) Cub I recently decided to collect -- was a Dime Box Dozen need since I had the gold parallel of that one without owning the base card, and you know how frustrating that is.

I usually pass on Panini from the dollar box, but I've become a sucker for anything of Mr. Rizzo, especially cards from his unfamiliar, pre-Chicago days.

I didn't find as many mini-collection hits as I'd hoped, but then again, I didn't get completely shut out.

If you want to feel old, Shawon Dunston Jr. will be entering his sixth season of minor league ball next year.

I've said before that one of my dreams is to find an entire dime box filled with Topps Retired Signature, because gosh these cards are beautiful.

That's not quite what happened at this time around, but I did manage to dig up a handful from an all-retired player dime box I stumbled upon about halfway through the show.

But I still have this strange feeling that a Retired Signature dime box is out there somewhere, waiting...

Vendors at most card shows seem to have a good amount of newer product on hand, but these smaller hotel gatherings seem to specifically revolve around the latest and greatest.

Besides, it's about that time when people are already starting to prepare for the upcoming card season, and are thus even more eager to unload their remaining stock from the year prior at quite fair prices.

This beautiful Jose Fernandez insert from 2016 Chrome (numbered to 99 copies) unintentionally serves as a touching tribute to the late hurler, and I was more than willing to fork over a buck for it.

I can't say I'm particularly excited for 2017 Heritage ('68 burlaps...ugh), so I'm soaking up leftovers from 2016 while I can.

Ramirez and the Abreu (a short-print) were a dime per, and the chrome/chrome refractor Wrights were a quarter a piece.

Between those and the purple refractor I picked up a couple months ago, I think I've somehow stumbled into building a Steven Wright Heritage rainbow.

I dug through so many 2016 singles at this show that I started to see spots when it was all over.

Of the dozen-ish vendors present, I'd say at least nine or ten of them had a fair amount of 2016 inventory on hand. I saw some of the same cards five or six different times from five or six different tables.

Not surprisingly, I managed to knock out a hefty amount of my 2016 needs throughout the course of the day, nearly all (including the nine you see above) courtesy of the dime boxes.

I also got my first look at a 2016 set I hadn't yet sampled: Topps Gold Label.

The reincarnation of this brand looks a lot like its older counterpart, though the cards aren't as glossy or as thick as the early-2000s editions. The revival also follows the same hierarchy as the past sets, in that the checklist is divided into three "classes" with players receiving three different base card variations spanning across said classes (as seen with the Class 1 & 2 Todd Fraziers here).

I don't see myself ever splurging on a pack of something like this, but finding dozens of them in the dime stacks sure is good for a cheap thrill.

But it wasn't all about the base cards.

The six inserts in this page were all a dime a piece, while the Maeda, Arrieta, and Mad-Bum parallels at the bottom set me back a buck each.

I came across this card at one of the last dime boxes of the show.

I came awfully close to passing it up without a second thought. I do, after all, already own a copy of Carlos Rodon's Series 2 base card. But then I noticed something strange: what's with that retro Topps logo in the top-left corner?

And hey, why does this card feel thicker and less glossy than all the others?

Because it's a throwback Topps parallel, limited to 99 copies!

I don't know about you, but I had no idea these even existed. Neither did this particular vendor, apparently, because I think it would've cost a bit more than a dime if he did.

And the dime box gods throw another little trinket my way.

One of the first vendors I hit had a box of cards that were either a quarter each, or 7/$1.

These Goudey reprints ended up comprising the bulk of my quarter finds from him, a bargain considering I don't own a whole lot of cards of guys like Sad Sam Jones and Fred Lindstrom in the first place.

But while I may love reprints...

...there was still some, you know, actual vintage to be had at this show, despite the flurry of the latest and greatest.

Granted, even for someone as passive about condition as I am, I had to think twice about buying Fergie here. In the end, however, I forked over 50 cents for it because you have to admire the previous owner's determination to eliminate every single scrap of evidence that Jenkins was ever a Chicago Cub. Heck, he/she even went so far as to scratch out the little logo on Fergie's hat.

At worst, it'll serve as a placeholder until I can track down a more passable copy, which might not be easy since this is a dreaded high-number (#640) from the '69 set.

Here's a pair of '77s I couldn't believe I didn't already own.

The Baylor was a buck, and at 75 cents, the Yount adds to the formidable collection of Robins I've started to accumulate over the past year or so.

A couple for the vintage oddball files.

I fell in love with the SSPC Dave Parker at first sight, a no-brainer buy at a buck. The Kellogg's Fisk came from a vendor who was mostly trying to pass dime box fodder off as "rare" five-dollar cards.

At just $1.50, though, Pudge somehow slipped through the cracks, and I was more than happy to rescue him from the rest of those overpriced atrocities.

At a buck a piece, I'm always in the market for these fantastic Nu-Scoops oddballs, even ones with surprisingly dark, career-ending headlines.

At last, we've come to the end of this snowy show with a card I've had on my radar for much of 2016.

Like Robin Yount, I've made a concerted effort to pick up more Wade Boggs cards this year. A glaring hole in that budding collection was perhaps the most famous Boggs of them all, his '83 Topps rookie. This is (was) one of those aggravating examples of a card I'd owned multiple reprints of without ever tracking down an original copy.

At $4.50 (half off the $9 price tag), I finally put an end to all that annoyance and got myself the real thing, a stellar way to cap off the last card show of 2016.

Rumor says we're supposed to be in for a particularly brutal winter this year. We had a second bad snowstorm in my neck of the woods this past weekend, and they're predicting negative temps around here later in the week.

Between two card shows and a garage sale, it sure looks like I picked a good time to bury myself in a fort of cardboard.