I turned 25 this past Sunday, and for the first time in my quarter of a century on this Earth, I attended a card show on the exact date of my birth.
This was the same village hall show I made it down to a couple weeks ago, and I finally remembered to snap a picture of it amidst the chaos. This image really doesn't do the place justice since I took it near the end of the day when the crowd was thinning out. The hall was brimming with people for most of the afternoon and much more well-attended than the gathering a couple Saturdays ago.
Over time, it's probably become my favorite local show because it's not a quick stop like some three-table mall shows I've attended in the past, but not overwhelming like the massive tri-annual, flood-lighted, convention-hall show in my area. It's the absolute perfect size for a collector -- and somewhat anxious human being -- like myself.
Better yet, not a single cent I spent over the two shows I've attended in the past couple weeks came out of my own pocket. Last Saturday's budget consisted of leftover Christmas cash, and this past Sunday was funded by additional holdover holiday money I didn't spend on Saturday, along with a generous birthday gift donation to the card coffers from Mom.
Granted, I did have one major worry going into Sunday morning: since I'd just attended this show barely a week before, would that mean I'd be seeing the same cards I saw the last time?
In one word: NO.
One of the major factors in my decision to return to this show, in fact, was the presence of a table full of nickel boxes that I didn't have time to dig through during my first trip. The thought of a half-dozen 3200-count boxes of uncombed nickel cards was just too much to bear. I just knew there were scores of gems in there, waiting to find a home with yours truly.
I made a beeline for that table as soon as I stepped into the convention hall Sunday morning. It didn't take long for the first surprise of the day to present itself in the form of the Yoenis Cespedes photo-variation SP you see above which, yes, fell out of the nickel boxes.
...bam, another short-print!
Unlike the Cespedes, I wasn't 100 percent sure this was a SP at the time. All I knew was that it didn't look familiar to me and that I remembered Topps had short-printed some photos featuring camo jerseys last year. I figured it was worth a shot. Turns out my suspicions were correct: Mr. Hamilton was, amazingly, the second SP gifted to me by the nickel box gods.
Not a bad way to get my birthday up and running.
Last Saturday's show took care of most of my 2017 base needs, but I did some more damage to my Flagship insert/parallel lists on Sunday.
Among my favorites here are the Cubs World Series gold parallel, the pair of MLB Network inserts (which bring me within two cards of completing that set), and the rainbow parallel of Josh Reddick, who celebrated a birthday along with me this past Sunday.
Parallels in general seem to be becoming a bigger and bigger part of my card show experience lately.
The Miller -- the first Toys 'R' Us parallel I've ever found at a card show -- was part of those masterful nickel boxes, while the others came to me via a 5/$1 box about midway through the show.
The purist in me shouldn't like shiny Heritage, but my goodness do they look nice in person.
Nickel box minis!
Like Saturday, my mini-collections were absolutely torn apart by vendors who were gracious enough to stock their nickel/dime boxes with many new themed hits.
This show -- like most I've attended lately -- is heavy on the Cubs stuff.
Literally every table had some sort of Cubs-centric corner to it, most of which was out of my price range. But I did find a couple young guns within my budget: the Bryant came from a 7/$5 box, while the Rizzo was two dollars.
That's more than I usually pay for anything modern, but still a bargain when you consider it's a zero-year rookie card of my favorite current Cub.
Though the South Siders are in the midst of a vast rebuild, most vendors at local shows still stock their inventory with a fair amount of White Sox.
In one of the steals of the afternoon, I scored a stack of three-dozen new Paulies (as well as about 30-40 other miscellaneous cards) from the final vendor of the day with the last three dollars I had in my wallet.
Minis, parallels, and Cubs are all to be expected at a card show, but it didn't take long for things to spiral completely out of my control.
Perhaps the single best vendor of the day presented himself about midway into the village hall. His table didn't look like anything special: a lot of old, discounted overproduction-era wax boxes and a couple small boxes of miscellany.
The vendor informed me that everything in the boxes was a dime...
...and it didn't take long for me to discover that his selection was the stuff of oddball heaven.
Among the first goods I pulled from his boxes were these superb Sotheby's singles, which I'd never seen nor heard of before Sunday. From the looks of it, they're basically ads for auction items related to the events depicted on the front.
All fantastic, but my personal favorite is easily the "Pine Tar Rhubarb" above: it's the first baseball card I've ever seen that features a shot from the infamous moment itself.
Just about all of these glorious oddities came from this vendor's oddball files.
I don't know which I like most -- Ryan for President, SI for Kids Bartolo, tobacco-style Uecker, McDonald's Medwick, etc., etc. -- so I'll just go ahead and say they're all tied for first.
Also among the dime box of oddballs were these fantastic Cubs from the team-sponsored '83 set.
A notable appearance: that's Sweet Swingin' Billy Williams at the center of the coaching staff card.
The dime box was also heavy on the minor league cards, which resulted in a Bernie Williams oddball from way back in '87 becoming mine for a single FDR.
As if the dime cards weren't enough, the vendor had a whole box full of complete minor league sets for 50 cents each. I picked up the '88 Indianapolis Indians set for the sole fact that Randy Johnson was staring back at me through the shrinkwrap.
Turns out I didn't need any of the other cards in the set, but I think we'd all agree that a minor league Big Unit is worth two quarters alone.
Another big get was this entire '91 White Sox team set for a grand total of 50 cents, topped off by an odd shot of the Big Hurt bunting.
One vendor had a big box that said EVERYTHING INSIDE: $5 EACH which I would've passed up without a second thought had I not stumbled upon this strange Black Sox oddball set, produced by a company called Little Sun.
They're not all that well-made, and I'm still not sure how great of a deal five dollars was. I do, however, pride myself on being a collector of anything and everything Black Sox, and I knew that I'd probably never see the set again if I didn't buy it right then and there.
The set is 15 cards deep and features other periphery characters in the Black Sox scandal (like Arnold Rothstein and Abe Attell) as well as the Eight Men Out and, overall, I can't much complain about it for five bucks.
One vendor had a big dime box full of oddly fantastic goodies from late '90s/early 2000s.
When I told the nice gentleman behind the table how great it was to see such a large selection of cardboard from the often-ignored era, he replied that he had a whole garage full of cards from those years. (!!!)
Here's hoping he sets up at future shows.
A couple groovy inserts I'd never seen before: and, yes, that Reggie is in fact shaped like an actual pennant.
But cardboard surprises aren't just relegated to years past.
The Trout is the first card I own from the (seemingly) MLB Showdown-esque Platinum Series card game, and I had no idea Bowman revived their classic Bowman's Best design as an insert set last year.
I don't much pay attention to current minor league sets, but turns out they do the whole oddball thing pretty well, too.
The Benintendi features an always-appreciated floating head, and the card on the left is apparently part of an entire insert set devoted to strange promo uniforms minor league franchises donned the year prior. The one I found (from the nickel box) puts the Brooklyn Cyclones' "Saved By the Bell" jerseys front and center.
All I can say is: how cool is THAT?
It still boggles my mind that I can find fairly big-name rookies for loose change.
These cards cost less than a buck all together, and I vividly remember the days when that Dice-K (which came from a 5/$1 box) was commanding near-triple-digit figures.
A beautiful quartet of legends, and it's not every day I can say I took a Burleigh Grimes home from the card show.
In honor of the recently retired Nick Swisher, I pulled the trigger on my first Heritage Venezuelan parallel from a 6/$5 box I encountered near the end of the afternoon.
These aren't numbered, but everything I've heard seems to indicate that they're quite scarce.
I initially wasn't even going to dig through that 6/$5 box, but discovering the Swisher convinced me to find five more cards to complete the deal.
Whew, am I glad I did. Among the scores were Flagship SPs of a young Ty Cobb and Adam Eaton (which features the highest five I've ever seen on a baseball card), a snow-camo parallel of last year's home run leader, and the first Diamond Anniversary insert I've ever seen/held/owned first-hand, which were only available through redeeming codes online via Topps's website.
I distinctly remember when the Diamond Giveaway promotion was going full throttle, although the influx of "virtual cards" these days makes it seem like so long ago now.
But here's the unquestioned hero of the 6/$5 box...WILBUR!
This beauty was actually still encased when I purchased it, and the first thing I did upon arriving home later that afternoon was bust it out of its unsightly plastic shelter.
It's a basic biological fact: cards, like humans, need to breathe.
The only downside of this show is that it tends to lean more towards the modern than the vintage, though I still managed to salvage a few old-time scraps from the village hall.
At three bucks, the Aparicio ended up being the most expensive card I purchased all day. Worth every penny.
The Perry came from a 7/$5 bin I encountered near the end of the show...
...though it kind of played second fiddle to the gobs of Kellogg's that fell out of that very same box.
Since my budget was dwindling at the time, I initially set a max of seven cards from this table, and I actually had things under control until this 3-D paradise happened.
Even the best-laid plans fall to Kellogg's.
But there was no plan with this one: it fell out of that wonderfully oddball-centric dime box I kept gushing about earlier on in this post.
That's right, a real-live 1970 Kellogg's Boog Powell for a single, solitary dime. I said WOW under my breath when I saw it, because wouldn't you? It so perfectly represented the gloriously odd birthday I spent at the card show.
All told, I've never been a big birthday person. I'm not that someone who goes around telling everyone in sight that it's their birthday. But, darn it, I felt downright giddy knowing that I was at a card show on my exact date of birth. I think it's a good bet that this was the best birthday celebration I've had in a long, long time, and maybe ever.
My thanks goes out to all the vendors who were nice enough to stock the village hall with such thoughtful birthday gifts.