After about an hour of driving yesterday morning, my dad and I pulled into the parking lot of a suburban village hall, my body nearly shaking with excitement at what I knew was waiting for me behind those doors: the best card show in all of northern Illinois.
As this anticipation grew and grew, I parked the car, killed the engine -- and, in the process, almost completely missed the early birthday present my dad was thrusting at me (a birthday which, incidentally, is today). Even through the slightest tear in the gift wrap, I could instantly see what it was: a 1963 Topps Stan Musial.
Knowing my dad's propensity for choosing gifts, I guess I shouldn't have been all that surprised. And yet I was, because this -- Musial's sunset card -- had been near the top of my want list for a couple years now, an elusive bugger I'd been chasing at every corner of the cardboard universe, to no avail.
And now, at ten in the morning inside a snowy suburban parking lot, Stan the Man was finally mine.
The Musial floored me so much that it almost made me forget that, oh yeah, something about a card show, right?
I was still in a bit of a daze when I walked into the village hall, but what awaited on the inside immediately shocked me back to reality. There, in all its glory, was a card show brimming with life: chatter, people, and scores and scores of large white boxes waiting to be pillaged (which are still clearly visible to the collector even from a great distance away).
The first card I found yesterday morning was a pretty darn good one: this blue wave refractor of King Felix (numbered to just 75 copies) from a 20-cent bin.
Honestly, though, I was a bit disappointed at first: there were two tables to my right upon entering the village hall, one with nickel boxes, and one with the aforementioned 20-cent cards.
I, of course, wanted to get at those nickel boxes, but the table was full (cue sad music). There was, however, a spot open at the 20-cent boxes -- which also offered a 200/$25 deal -- so I somewhat begrudgingly started to dig through those.
That begrudging feeling didn't last long, because as the Felix and and this quartet of shiny beauties should indicate, those 20-cent boxes were absolutely loaded.
And even better was that I had absolutely no problem finding enough cards to get the 200/$25 deal, which meant that everything I bought came out to about 12 cents per.
That included (yes!) more shiny, including a numbered refractor of The Freak and a Chrome variation of Doc's only card as an Astro.
Better yet, a familiar face approached my dad and I as we were at the 20-cent boxes: Jeff made it out to the village hall for the afternoon, and we spent much of the day combing through the discount bins together.
I did eventually get to dig through some of those nickel cards, and while I did find a few gems, it was those 20-cent boxes that really stole the show (these four legends included).
My only main goal yesterday was to knock out my remaining base needs from 2018 Topps, as well as whatever inserts I could find.
That wasn't much of a problem -- I easily secured most of the base cards I needed for dimes, as well as most of the higher-priority inserts I wanted (including an Ichiro photo SP for a five-spot) -- and it was especially sweet since a good portion of this card show was funded by selling the Judge manupatch and Trout red parallel I pulled from my initial 2018 Topps breaks.
So thanks to Messrs. Judge and Trout -- I couldn't ask for a much better birthday present.
The dawn of a new card season is a good time to pick up remaining needs from the preceding one.
All of these aside from the two Update SPs at the bottom were dime box scores, while the Bregman and Reggie were only a buck a piece.
I salvaged these from a vendor who was in the process of selling his entire inventory when I came across his table. Thankfully, both the buyer and seller let me pick out what I wanted before it all went poof.
These came out to about 50 cents per, and it feels good to know that I was able to give University Track Dude, Machinist Dude, and Chef Dude a good home in the moments before they were bought by someone else.
Bigger minis (if that makes sense) of a couple other dudes I collect.
Awesome acetates of top-tier player collection guys.
And here's a whole page of themed hits, which is comforting to see since the mini-collection well seemed to have dried up a bit at the last couple shows I've attended.
Those Heritage Collection inserts are tough finds, which made it all the more joyous to see them fall out of those aforementioned 20-cent boxes.
I always come home with a hearty selection of oddballs from this show, and yesterday stuck to the trend.
And speaking of oddballs, let's go back to those 20-cent boxes for a moment to discuss this -- a card which probably doesn't seem like anything special to most people but one that made me go WOW when I first saw it.
It's WOW-worthy because I actually collect Ben Weber. He was a middle reliever on the 2002 Angels (one of the premier teams of my youth), wore goggles, and sported a high number (#77) on the back of his jersey. Add that up and you have one of my very favorite obscure player collections.
And the Kahn's oddball you see here is something I never thought existed: a card of Weber's brief 10-game stint with the 2005 Reds.
But that was only the beginning, because just minutes later, I unearthed a whole mess of local team-set singles ranging from Cincinnati to Seattle to right here in Chicago.
In addition to the Weber, this amazing find also features two other stints I assumed were never immortalized on cardboard: R.A. Dickey as a Mariner and Tim Worrell as a Cub. That's in addition to all the other scarce player collection hits these provided.
Who knows how cards from Seattle and Cincinnati ended up in a 20-cent box in the Chicago suburbs, but I'm not asking questions with this huge smile on my face.
One of the many dime box vendors of the day also had a $2,000 Aaron Judge autograph front-and-center at his table, and he seemed shocked that I was even taking the time to dig through his dime cards.
I'll take his dime selection over that Judge any day, because he had two full rows of sets from the early 2000's I almost never see (which, the vendor told me, had been locked up in his garage for the last decade-plus). We're taking off-brand Fleer, UD 40-Man and the like.
Keep your Aaron Judges, gimme your Gookie Dawkinses.
An epic quartet of discount bin inserts.
Dime box parallels.
Dime box...whatever these are.
Believe me, I could fill up an entire series of posts about the discount bins I dug through yesterday, because they were that entertaining. What I've shown thus far has really only scratched the surface.
But I'll stop here because I know what a lot of you are probably waiting to see...
This show isn't usually as heavy on vintage (at least not cheap vintage) as the bigger convention-hall gathering in my area, but it's still good for at least a handful of stellar finds -- like this one, my first Post Clemente.
My dad came up to me early on the show to inform me that this was sitting at a nearby table for just six dollars -- at which time I immediately dropped what I was doing and rushed over there, because a Post Roberto Clemente for six dollars!
These came from one of the extreme few cheap vintage boxes at the show, mine for a buck each.
The Babe is my first from the '62 Ruth Special subset, and Jackie Jensen is one of those Vintage MVPs I love to collect so much: stars of the past that are all but forgotten in the present, which, in turn, makes their cards dirt cheap.
I nearly cleaned out one guy's oddball binder the last time I attended this show, but yesterday I pounced on a few of the scraps I'd previously left behind.
The Bench was priced at five bucks and the Monday at two, but the vendor gave me both for an even $5, and I'll interpret that as saying that I got the Monday for free.
Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about Post Clementes and Bambinos and Kellogg's and everything, but I can't hold off my impatience to show off my big find of the day any longer...
...a long-awaited '71 Topps Clemente.
This is a toughie: a high-number of a guy whose vintage already commands premium prices. It's especially become a thorn in my side because I actually had a chance to buy it at the local flea market many years ago, but, for whatever reason, passed. A card I'd already been dying to own became doubly so because of that blunder on my part.
I was determined to knock out one of my big wants yesterday (call it a birthday gift to myself), and I knew Roberto here would be the one as soon as I saw it for sale. The vendor told me to make an offer, at first refusing my $30 and $40 offers before settling on $45, a fair price for a card of this caliber, I thought. I'm not much of a stickler for condition, but it's nice to have a copy that's pretty much flawless aside from the off-centeredness.
So thanks to Mom, Dad, Jeff, Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Roberto Clemente, and everyone else -- you made this the best birthday a guy could ever ask for.