Wednesday, August 2, 2017
The huddled masses (Discount vintage from The National)
The National is a window shopper's paradise.
I have a hard time believing any show can top the sheer magnitude of memorabilia housed at this one. The National serves as somewhat of an auction house during its five-day run, and some of the items up for bid this year included a baseball signed by both Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver, a game-worn Boston Red Sox jersey from 1911(!), and -- my personal favorite -- the bat Eddie Gaedel used for his lone big-league at-bat in 1951.
And that's not even mentioning the cards. Even with the frantic pace of the show, I found myself stopping to marvel at a number of display cases throughout my afternoon at The National. That includes the table you see above, which I somehow remembered to snap a picture of in my starry-eyed haze.
No, you're not seeing double -- that's actually three, four, five copies a piece of sacred Goudey Ruths and Gehrigs. Oh, and that card with the sign next to it near the top? That's a 1915 Sporting News Babe Ruth, commonly acknowledged as his rookie card.
Please excuse me while I wipe the drool off my face.
But let's be real here: I don't go to The National to window shop.
When it comes to actual shopping, you and I both know that I probably won't be able to afford any Lou Gehrig Goudeys or Babe Ruth rookies in this lifetime. That's why my home lies in the discount vintage bins, the huddled masses of beat-up, well-loved pieces of cardboard history.
In terms of cheap vintage, The National really isn't that different from the standard tri-annual show held in the Rosemont area every year. There's more binders for set builders, and certainly more four- and five-figure dream cards than your average show, but in terms of the random never-know-what-you'll-find piles of discounted vintage, I don't think The National strays much from the herd.
But that's most definitely not a knock against it, because the standard Rosemont shows are spectacular -- case in point: this '56 Elmer Valo was the very first card I bought on Saturday, a beauty that I found in a 90% off (yes, 90% off) vintage bin for the slim price of $1.50.
And in what would turn out to be my oldest pickup of the afternoon, this was the second card I bought shortly after the doors opened at 10:00 AM, another 90% off find of a young Joe Nuxhall for a whopping two bucks.
After that, my memory gets a bit hazy, because good luck keeping a sane and centered mind at The National.
These both came from that same 90% off vendor, though I don't remember if they were among my first or last gets of the table.
I do recall, however, the cost: 50 cents each, a small price to pay for a couple Hall of Famers.
A couple heavy-hitting Bronx Bombers from the 90% off files here.
The '57 Slaughter was a real coup at three dollars, while the Stengel -- a tough '59 Topps high-number (#552) of the Ol' Perfessor in action -- became mine for a mere two-spot.
Here's perhaps my favorite of the 90% off finds: a '59 Whitey Ford -- now my oldest card of his -- for a grand total of three bucks.
There's a significant amount of paper loss on the back of this one (so much so that it causes a slight tear in the front of the card near the middle), but it's going to take a lot more than that to get me to pass on Whitey at that price.
And so all that came from the very first table of The National, and you better believe I was already in a whirl.
Let's go to the first table of the day to the last one, and specifically the vendor I discussed at the end of yesterday's post who provided a peaceful dime box dig for my dad and I.
Adding to the little of everything he had on display was, yes, vintage, including this fun quartet of early '70s Topps that all earned a place in my frankenset without much of a fight.
Truth be told, though, I'm not sure I would've even stopped at that guy's table in the first place had he not had a whole stack of Kellogg's lying on top of his dime box.
I thought there was some sort of mistake. The box said 10 Cents Each, but those couldn't possibly be a dime. Someone was sitting at the table when my dad and I arrived, so I asked him: are these yours? He replied: No. He left shortly after, and I asked the vendor: are these a dime, too? He replied: Yes.
Whoa: DIME KELLOGG'S -- plus the cracks on these aren't nearly as bad in-person as my scanner might indicate -- and besides, you can't beat 3-D oddballs of stars like Bench or Brett or Winfield or Carew for a dime per, cracked or not.
The Kellogg's train wasn't about to leave the station just yet.
The Perry was a $2 purchase (for some reason, he never looks quite right to me in a Cleveland uniform), and the Sweet Lou (no cracks!) was an easy buy from a 3/$2 box.
And here's a couple Hostess, lest you think I ignored the other end of the '70s oddball spectrum.
I have to give my dad full credit here, as he's the one who actually dug these up from a quarter box about halfway through the show -- thanks, Dad!
Here's a couple long-standing needs I was able to cross off the list at The National.
At five bucks, the '70 Santo high-number (#670) marks the completion of yet another Topps Set, as I now have all of Ronnie's Topps cards from his '61 rookie to his '75 sunset issue.
The Schmidt was a steal at two bucks, and now only his multi-player '73 rookie separates me from completing his Topps Set -- though I'm guessing it'll be a while before I'm able to afford one of those.
Time to take a ride in the wayback machine with these four old-timers.
TCMA oddballs (a quarter each) always make me giddy, especially so with the Everett Scott -- the man who held the consecutive games played record before Lou Gehrig -- which has to be the only card to depict his brief 33-game stint with the 1925 Senators.
Ironically enough, one of the better discount vintage vendors of the day was located just a few feet away from the table with the four-figure Ruths and Gehrigs I featured at the top of this post.
If you can believe it, these four were just a dollar each, and I must admit that the Hodges is one of the most beautiful manager cards I've ever seen despite the ghastly burlap.
And keep an eye on Brooks there...
...because he's about to become a theme over the course of the next couple scans here.
Just when I thought the dollar box couldn't possibly top a '69 Topps Brooks All-Star...out falls a '68 Topps Brooks All-Star(!).
This same discount vendor also had a few small stacks of $5 vintage singles off to the side, and you better believe I could've dropped a good chunk of my day's budget on those piles alone.
In the end, I ended up snagging the two cards I thought packed the most punch for their respective five-dollar price tags. I opted for the full Brooks Robinson Experience (band name!) by picking up his '66 Topps single, and I threw in an Al Kaline from the same set for good measure.
I think I spent about $25 all together at this particular table -- or exactly 1% of what one of those Goudey Gehrigs sitting just a few feet away would've run me.
But I have to give Vintage Table of the Day honors to one of the last ones my dad and I hit, coming in the form of a huge tub of random, strewn-about oldies from a local vendor who I've purchased from many times at past Rosemont shows.
You may remember that I've composed a list of specific cards to hunt down at shows as of late -- aka the Elusive Three. I had an Elusive Three all set for the National: a '63 Topps Stan Musial, a '72 Topps Rick Monday high-number, and an '83 Topps Ryno rookie.
Turns out I set my sights a bit too high this time. I didn't see a single '72 Monday all day (and most other '72 high-numbers were out of my price range, besides) and none of the Musials I encountered were priced cheaper than $60, quite a bit more than I was willing to pay.
I was resigned to going oh-for-three on my targets at The National when -- to my complete and utter surprise -- out popped a Ryno rookie from that random bin of vintage, one of the Elusive Three captured for the sweet price of five bucks.
A couple two-dollar '67 North Siders from the random bin, including the first Topps card of Fergie as a Cub.
As far as sheer shock value goes, this may have been my Steal of the Day: a 1954 Topps Monte Irvin (my first real vintage card of his) for just $2.50!
I actually saw the vendor sticker, price, and throw Monte into his discount bin...where it lasted on the sale floor for no more than ten seconds before my eager hands snapped him up.
It was an Al Kaline kind of day at The National: in addition to the '66 Topps card I've already shown, I snagged this '70 Kellogg's gem for about the price of bus fare here in Chicago -- just $2.50.
Here's one that I'd long put in the Cards I Never Thought I'd Actually Own category.
I've had a Topps Archives reprint of this one in my Cardinals binder since my early collecting days, always reminded of the fact that the real thing had continued to elude me -- in no small part because Red Schoendienst's 1962 Topps sunset card is both a high-number (#575) and a short-print. The vintage double whammy.
But then -- a full 16 years after I opened the pack of 2001 Archives that resulted in the reprint I've owned for years -- then finally came the real one, an actual '62 Topps Schoendienst for my sunset collection for the glowing price of three dollars.
Here's yet another Card I Never Thought I'd Actually Own.
Again, here's a card I have several reprints of, and I figured the chances of one day acquiring a real copy of it were less than the Schoendienst. This is, after all, Tom Seaver's first solo Topps card, and one that features a glorious Rookie Cup, to boot.
But I guess the random vintage tub is where far-off fantasies come true: I now own a '68 Topps Tom Seaver, a card that I never dreamed would become mine for as little as the five bucks I paid for it.
In what proved to be the most expensive purchase of the day, I bought this '58 Topps Pee Wee Reese from the random bin for a whopping $8 -- pure child's play for the majority of other deep-pocketed collectors who attend The National.
Like the Schoendienst, this is one I've long wanted for my sunset collection, but could never afford. It's also the only Topps card to feature Reese as an LA Dodger (as opposed to the Brooklyn cap he'd worn since his rookie season in 1940). Pee Wee's long held a special place in my heart ever since I found a '55 Bowman of his at a show as a young lad, and now I'm proud to finally own what is my very first Topps card of his as well.
So, yes, an $8 card made for my big splash at The National, the true mark of a low-end day at a high-end show if I've ever seen one. Though it wasn't a conscious decision on my part: I simply didn't see anything splash-worthy that would've provided more joy than the cheap array of discounted vintage I managed to pick up on my limited budget.
If nothing else, I hope this post and the one from yesterday conveyed one thing: no matter what the stream of high-end hits and box breaks might suggest, believe me when I say that the low-end collector still has a place at The National, and it's a heck of a lot of fun.