The local outdoor flea market has been up and running for nearly two months now, and I finally got a chance to make the rounds this past Sunday.
At this point, attending the flea market is a tricky proposition since I work Sundays, but if I wake up and get into gear early enough, I'm good for at least a couple hours of roaming the aisles since my shift doesn't start until noon. Trouble there is that I'm not a morning person.
But against all odds, I did it on Sunday. I got my lazy behind out of bed and spent a wonderful morning at the flea market looking for one thing and one thing only: cards, of course! The search didn't take long, since there's a guy in the first couple aisles who usually has a small box of 7/$5 ho-hum singles on display.
I dug without much conviction until I found this GQ Roger Maris here, a card I needed and one that forced me to pick out six more cards from the stacks.
Nothing too spectacular here, just a few miscellaneous recent inserts I needed for various player collections.
It may not have been the flashiest of buys, but there was no doubt about it: the 2017 flea market season was officially underway.
Sadly, it looks as though my regular vendors from seasons past have retired from the flea market, as tables with power tools and diabetic socks lined the usual "card aisle."
There is, however, one other card guy who set up with regularity during the handful of trips I was able to make it to the flea market last year, and it looks like he's back for 2017. He remembered me from the past purchases I've made at his table, and he said something along the lines of You should've been here earlier, I had a bunch of vintage but a guy came up and cleaned me out!
Like a knife through the heart.
But it wasn't a total loss: the singles that remained in the guy's box were priced at 5/$1.
Along with the odd Ruth-Mattingly-Gehrig mashup above, I landed these two pre-fame rookies of future superstars (though I'm not sure if I can still call Matt Harvey a "superstar" at this point).
A couple 20-cent oddballs for the binders with The Bull and The Kid.
I thought I was done with the 1992 Upper Deck FanFest checklist before Sunday.
Not so fast. Turns out that specially-made sets were printed with gold foil instead of the standard silver, a variation which had flown completely under my radar until this weekend.
I scooped up each and every single one of the dozen-ish gold FanFests I found in that 5/$1 box without a second thought.
This vendor also has a glass case with a few higher-priced singles off to the side.
I didn't see anything Earth-shattering in there, but at a buck a pop, I did grab these two 1975 TCMA singles of Red Rolfe/Ruffing. It's the latest chapter in my addiction to TCMA oddballs.
These are also slightly taller than your standard baseball cards: think '89 Bowman, but, you know...a lot better.
Here's a glass-case card I've actually wanted for a while.
This is the earliest Topps photo I know of to feature a pitcher taking a cut. Pitchers are shown on the basepaths on a few select '56 Topps images, but I have yet to see a shot that features one actually at the plate.
A no-brainer buy at 50 cents.
Sometimes my baseball card memory isn't as good as I think it is.
While priced at $4, the vendor let me have this '69 Lou Brock for two bucks. It looked vaguely familiar to me, but I bought it with a fair amount of certainty that I didn't already have it. Guess what? I already had it.
If nothing else, however, the copy I purchased on Sunday (left) serves as a solid condition upgrade over the one that'd previously been sitting in my Cardinals binder (right).
The real story of the morning came from a vendor I'm pretty sure I've seen before, but one that sometimes had little baseball knick-knacks on display and nothing of supreme interest in the past.
On Sunday, however, the guy had it all. I'm talking at least a dozen large boxes of cards, most in penny sleeves and toploaders, featuring all sports from baseball to hockey to wrestling. I can't say for certain, but I'm betting he bought out a few other people's collections over the winter months.
The problem was -- and this is a common sight at the flea market -- nothing was priced. I decided to start with the twenty-or-so cards I'd picked out from the extremely small stack of non-penny-sleeved-and-toploadered cards he had on display.
He quoted me two bucks on the lot, which meant that gems like the Soriano throwback and an impossibly tough Pacific parallel for my Darryl Kile collection became mine for mere dimes.
I assumed that the singles in sleeves and holders wouldn't be quite so cheap, and I was right.
I picked out any and all cards that were halfway interesting to me during my dig and brought them up to the vendor to see what kind of price he'd give me on the lot. He returned with a quote of $70, and he told me most of them were a buck a piece, which made sense since I had about 70 cards in my stack. (Though it would've been much easier if he'd just labeled the boxes.)
From there, I whittled my stack down to a number I felt more comfortable with. It was a long and sometimes grueling process, but my wallet only allows for so many dollar cards. These aren't dime boxes we're talking about here.
In the end, I cut it down to twenty cards, though this shiny Ty Cobb insert was never in much danger of getting axed.
This guy had a lot of scarce inserts/parallels from the late '90s and early 2000s that are darn near impossible to find nowadays, among them this pair of numbered Donruss inserts of two of the greatest backstops to ever play the game.
The Schmidt is a rare Diamond Anniversary legend short-print from 2011 Topps, a card I'd coincidentally just placed in my COMC cart a week ago.
While it lists him as a Brave, Hank Aaron is clearly shown in his unfamiliar Brewers duds on that Upper Deck insert, a Short Term Stop which deemed it easily worth the dollar price tag.
A couple rare adds for my Ichiro collection, including a chrome parallel from the early years of Heritage and an All-Star insert which was apparently issued with factory sets back in 2011.
These are both fantastic buys at a buck a piece, but the card on the left -- a Topps Pristine refractor limited to just 149 copies -- was one of the steals of the day.
It's so fancy, in fact, that it came inside a sealed case...which I soon busted since that's no way for a baseball card to live.
These cards are not what they seem.
I bought the Gywnn thinking I'd gotten an unbelievable steal. A Donruss rookie of Mr. Padre for a buck? It seemed to good to be true, and sadly, it was. Turns out it's a Donruss reprint from the early 2000s, something I would've realized had I looked at the back and/or taken it out of its sleeve and toploader before purchasing it. Still a cool card, however, and well worth a buck.
The Mark Grace is a seemingly ordinary single from 1993 Fleer until you notice the branding logo in the bottom-left corner. Fruit of the Loom? Since when did underwear come with baseball cards?
The '90s were weird, man.
These two, on the other hand, are the real deal.
Hard to beat a buck a piece for vintage Yaz and Fisk.
There's Carlton Fisk again, paired with his semi-namesake in Steve Carlton.
The Fisk is a beauty from Kellogg's death rattle in 1983, and while I own a handful from the '81 series, the Carlton is my first single from the credit-card-esque 1982 Permagraphics checklist.
These, however, were the unquestioned finds of my foray through the dollar box.
George Brett seems to have some of the most desired Hostess cards around, and I couldn't believe my luck at finding them for a buck per. I'd never seen the '77 before (my big Beckett book informs me it's actually a short-print), and I was quoted a five-dollar price tag the last time I saw the '79 Brett at a card show.
And thus the dollar dig came to an end, but what a high note to end on.
That is, until I found myself with a few extra minutes and a few extra bucks remaining in my wallet later on in the day.
The remaining aisles of the flea market resulted in little excitement cardboard-wise, so I did what any sane collector would do: I returned to the dollar boxes to see if I'd left behind any scraps. And did I ever. I carefully selected four cards to close out my morning, a few of which actually set me back more than a buck since I paid $10 for the quartet.
However, this Ichiro -- a second Heritage Chrome parallel I'd somehow missed the first time around -- cost the standard buck.
Ryan Howard here was three dollars, but I initially balked at the price: Howard is more of a second-tier player collection of mine (at best) and looks to be on the outs in baseball.
Still, since I knew these would be my final purchases of the day, I decided what the heck and pulled the trigger since it's not every day you have a chance to buy an eTopps card.
Unlike the rare, scarcely-seen inserts and parallels I found on Sunday, this one has actually been on my want list for years.
That's Air Jordan himself (back when fans knew him as #45) showing off his jump shot form on this 1994 Collector's Choice rookie card, a quirky baseball-basketball crossover that left a gaping hole in my binders.
Two bucks later, MJ was mine.
The final three dollars of the day went towards securing a hallowed Don Mattingly rookie for the archives, the last of the many surprises the flea market had in store for me on Sunday.
Donnie Baseball has risen in my collecting hierarchy ever since I found his '84 Topps rookie at a card show last year. Then, against all odds, I stumble upon this '84 Fleer at the flea market. I guess I can't fight it any longer: I'm officially a full-on Don Mattingly collector now.
So that's how I spent my Sunday, walking through the aisles of the local flea market at a time which I normally would've been under the covers and drooling on my pillow, out like a light.
I'd say that was worth getting out of bed, wouldn't you?