Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What's in a card show?

Card show posts are my favorite to write for this blog, but they're also the toughest because it's difficult to sum up the full card show experience with nothing more in my arsenal than words and phrases.

I don't know if it's possible to describe what a show is like to anyone who's never attended one. There's just so much going on at any given moment during Card Show Day, and that goes doubly so for the massive tri-annual gathering in my area which my dad and I had the pleasure to attend this past Friday.

I've shown you what the inside of this behemoth looks like in the past, but here, for the first time, is a glimpse of the convention hall from the outside (yes, that's snow on the ground, all you West Coasters), which dwarfs mere mortals like myself and others walking down the street.

I guess one way I can describe a show as large as this one is this: imagine nearly any card produced in the last 50-60 years, and chances are it's probably tucked somewhere inside one of those countless aisles and tables.

My main hope for Friday was far less ambitious: all I wanted was to find the last singles I needed from 2017 Topps Heritage.

I was able to cross that goal off the list before I got through the first two aisles because, in addition to Big Sexy here...

...I found the vast majority of my remaining Heritage needs from a single vendor who had obviously purchased a couple cases of the stuff.

I overheard him mention that he'd opened so much of it that he'd paid someone $50 to organize the base cards for him, and was thus urging everyone to keep the cards in numerical order. First time I'd ever heard of anything like that before, but I suppose it makes sense for big-dollar collectors high on money and short on time.

I knocked out every single one of my Heritage base needs at a dime a pop, and also brought my Baseball Flashbacks/News Flashbacks insert sets (dig the Yellow Submarine-era Fabs in the center) to near-completion at 3/$1.

This is why I love when case breakers set up at card shows.

Now that Heritage was out of the way, I was able to focus on the little of everything that make these massive card shows so fun.

With 2017 sets hitting the shelves, it's safe to say that 2016 is the latest-and-greatest no more, which means more and more cards from the year prior are being cast away by vendors.

It's no surprise, then, that my 2016 want lists took a major pummeling on Friday with a variety of singles from the dime boxes, base and inserts alike.

It's no accident that dime box shiny winds up in almost all of my card show recaps: it's just too beautiful a thing to ignore.

Sometimes I get to wondering how many more mini-collection hits I could possibly have left to chase, and then a card show comes along and reminds me how much of a never-ending quest it is.

Here's something I haven't done in years: I actually bought a jersey card.

If there's even a pearl of enjoyment left in the memorabilia market for me, it's seeing second-tier stars get included in autograph/jersey checklists, like Sal Bando here. I've been on a Swingin' A's kick lately thanks to a new book we got at my bookstore job, which I've taken to reading during downtimes at work.

Even with the large crease running through the middle of it, I'm happy to welcome this card into my collection...

...even though it played second fiddle to a couple other pickups from that same table.

Near the end of the show, I stumbled upon a small box of miscellany that was priced at $2 each or 3/$5. Inside were a pair of Brewers team-issued sets -- one from 2009 (obviously) and the other which I believe is from 2005. I really only bought the Bando to get the 3/$5 deal.

Though they're usually tough finds, I absolutely love unearthing team sets like these because they often feature players who didn't get a lot of love from card companies such as guys like Jason Kendall and Craig Counsell, who don't have many other cards as Brewers.

It's a joy to have these team sets into my binders, and hey, I didn't even have to make the hour-and-a-half drive up to Milwaukee.

The Brewers sets capped off what had already been a long and glorious day of oddballs.

As I've mentioned in the past, my first stop at these shows is a regular vendor who always has a giant 50-cent tub filled with nearly anything and everything you can imagine. His selection, as usual, was more vintage-heavy, but there were some other gems to be had.

This 3-D Goose was tucked near the bottom of the tub and, although I love it, I'm also a little freaked out by it for reasons I can't quite explain.

More oddballs from the 50-cent tub.

I've read about those Louisville Slugger oddities around the blogs but had never actually seen (much less owned) any before Friday.

I bought this uncut Front Row panel for a quarter near the end of the show.

Is is blasphemous that I cut it up into six individual cards as soon as I got home?

It really was Oddballs Galore on Friday.

Canines, Duracell, Ultra-Pro, and what might well be my all-time favorite Fleer Star Sticker with the magnificent Ozzie in the center of this page all contributed to the oddball madness the dime boxes dumped onto me.

Heat-activated inserts? Players scraping mud off their shoes? Boxing gloves? An insert set called Boyz with the Wood?! 

Only the '90s!

Though I'm sure 99 percent of Friday's attendees walked past it without a second thought, one of my favorite tables of the evening was a guy who had a couple dime boxes full of nothing but early-to-mid '90s singles.

It's almost paradoxical to say, but cards from that era are so common that you never see them at shows. Sure, I've had a lifetime's fill of 1990 Donruss and 1992 Fleer at this point, but there's several other sets from those years -- from long-forgotten brands like UD Fun Pack and Classic -- that I need and am never able to find.

When you put all that together, you have a truly joyous dime box experience that included a minor league Jeets, a Torii Hunter rookie, and a pint-sized Griffey, among about a hundred other gems from the wonderland that is the early-to-mid '90s.

There was only one vendor that had a substantial amount of dime boxes ripe for the picking.

I'm not kidding when I tell you the guy had at least ten 3200-count boxes on display, as well as about a half-dozen more sitting in a stack underneath his table. While I didn't find them until later in the evening -- by which time I was running out of time, energy, and money -- I still made it through a fair amount of what he had up for grabs.

Much of his inventory centered around another largely forgotten era in baseball card history: the 2000s, which made the sightings of Fan Favorites, Super Teams, Fleer's dying years, and (yes!) even Topps Total all the more terrific.

But the unquestioned headline from this particular dime box vendor was the couple dozen SI Greats of the Game singles I grabbed from him.

It's not hyperbole when I say that this is one of the top ten greatest sets ever made, in my opinion. It features awesome, original images of legends and fan favorites alike. (Including the Mad Hungarian himself!)

Better yet, one of the insert sets is devoted to past Sports Illustrated magazine covers, and we all know how awesome magazine/baseball card mashups are, right?

The dime boxes closed things out by hitting a treasured Dime Box Dozen need with this '83 Topps Jim Rice, a card I'd somehow never tracked down in all my years collecting baseball cards.

I can say with absolute certainly that I focused more on the vintage at this show (which you'll see in an upcoming post), and yet...I still came away with all this more modern goodness. My gut reaction after getting home on the night of Card Show Day was that it had been kind of a down showing for the discount bins. Heh.

That, I guess, says more about this particular show better than anything else: that this -- all this -- happened without me even really trying.


Mike said...

Too bad Danny Tartabul isn't giving the finger on that card!...

Can't wait to get mentioned in PT.2!!

John Miller said...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I need that Front Row uncut panel, ahhhhhh, dying here, But I'll be okay.

P-town Tom said...

Your card show hauls are the best out there. So many cool cards to look at in one post, but my favorite by far is Rod Beck lacing up the boxing gloves. Awesome!

GCA said...

Ah man, love that SI Greats set. I came across a vendor at Chantilly that had a box with multiples of pretty much each card in the set. I only pulled my player collection guys out of it. Kicking myself for not pulling a whole other starter set. Haven't seen him ever again.

Same thing happened at the National one year with the first USFL football set.

Julie Owens said...

SI !!! i've never seen these. Not in a dime box, for a quarter...never. cruel Nick. Cruel.

Brian said...

Sweet - Sports Illustrated on cardboard is sheer brilliance.