Good news: I finally found a job!
As of this week, I'm once again employed as a bookseller in the greater Chicago area. This time, it's at a Barnes & Noble near the lake. I'm not thrilled about having to be the new guy at a job again, and it's only a part-time position, but overall I'm just glad to have found another relatively low-stress gig at all, one that'll (hopefully) allow me to sock a few bucks away.
But while I'm excited to save for the long-term, I took some money out of my savings this past Sunday to treat myself to a celebratory day at the local hotel show. Earlier in the year, I was entertaining the thought of taking a vacation to Cleveland for the National. Obviously, that didn't happen, and honestly, I'm not too bummed about it.
The National is somewhat of a Mecca for all collectors, but shows like the Holiday Inn one I attended this past Sunday (which, fittingly enough, resulted in the strange Ripken you see above) are my true hobby home.
I spent about four hours and every cent I had in my wallet on Sunday, all in just a single hotel showroom that's about 1/100th the size of the National.
My only real goal was to knock out a hefty portion of my 2018 A&G base needs (and perhaps a few inserts while I was at it). Specifically, I wanted to get myself a copy of the Tommy Wiseau card. I came home with over 100 of my A&G wants (all from the dime boxes), and it took all the restraint I had not to let out a verbal yelp of joy when I finally found Tommy.
What a story.
True, I'm sure about 90 percent of what I bought on Sunday was probably somewhere within the massive doors of the National happening at that exact same moment a few states away.
But honestly, I'd rather buy them at the hotel show. I've said this time and time again, but hotel shows are quieter and less overwhelming (see: heavenly). As far as I could tell from my blog/Twitter readings, the 2018 National stuck to the trend as far as straying even farther from the grasp of the low-end collector with each passing year (let's not kid ourselves: it's for people with money). Meanwhile, nothing you see in this page cost more than a quarter, and though I don't care much about Optic and Chrome, I'll certainly buy the ones I need at 12/$1.
One guy even had a hefty stack of 2018 Big League base for a whopping nickel a pop, which good luck finding that at the National.
Prospects, past and present.
The Gregorious (two bucks!) was an especially pleasing find for my newest player collection since I recently spent an entire evening tearing up my room in search of a copy of it that I mistakenly thought I had.
One of Sunday's supreme thrills was stumbling upon an entire quarter box of minor league issues of today's stars (the box was alphabetized, too, which made it a lot easier to sift through).
I don't know why, but I get a weird joy out of finding Pro Debut and other minor-league singles of guys I collect -- the Syndergaards in particular were real coups since he's a top-tier player collection of mine, and all three of the ones I found are zero-year cards of his (non-)tenure with the Blue Jays.
Another consistent card show joy: dime box short-prints.
One vendor I encountered on Sunday obviously hadn't combed through his inventory very well: I found multiple SPs in his dime boxes, including the Car-Go (throwback Topps logo!) and Russell (photo-variation SP!).
These 2012 Archives SPs basically ended up being a dime a piece, and I was left to wonder why it took me six years to track 'em down.
I can't help but think I'm missing something by not paying more attention to the minor leagues -- I mean, I don't see any big-league teams hosting Elvis Nights or Eclipse Games.
A handful of hits for the ol' mini-collections, and I took advantage of another vendor's screw-up by nabbing that 42-themed Lindor SP from a quarter box at the first table of the day.
(And yes, cards of Ohtani hitting are eligible for my "pitcher at the plate" theme.)
Shiny will never steer you wrong.
As always, I feel an odd sense of victory finding cards from high-end sets for loose change.
Okay, to be fair, I'd never seen two-cent boxes at any card show before Sunday, not just at the National. This particular vendor was new, and I did a double take when I saw the signs plastered around his table. Wait. Was I seeing that right? Two cents?!
Like any sane human being, I immediately pulled up a chair and started digging.
In the end, the cards themselves weren't anything to write home about (mostly Flagship & Heritage base), but still: how often do you see a two-cent box?!
I managed to salvage 50 cards from the dig (one dollar!), including a numbered Panda and a handful of neat Ivan Rodriguez singles since those two-cent boxes seemed to be a graveyard for someone's Pudge collection.
Some of the day's "high-end" pickups (aka quarter- and fifty-cent box material).
I'm still not sure how to feel about those freaky negative parallels, and I'm astounded by the fact that I'd never seen that Mantle before.
One of the regular vendors at this show always has a few all-retired dime boxes on display, and as far as I could tell, he'd replenished his stock since the last time I saw him.
I ended up with over 100 cards from those boxes alone, including a new A's card of Billy Williams which I never knew existed and thus ended up being one of my single favorite finds of the day.
Make way for the big spender: I dropped a dollar on the Catfish (numbered to 25 copies) and a whole two bucks on that strange bubble-blowing Santo (which seems like a good deal since I saw the same card priced at $7 later on in the day).
And if anyone has any information on said Santo, please let me know: I couldn't find a single shred of backstory on it despite numerous treks through the internet.
To me, hotel shows are among the last shreds of the true essence of the hobby, a once-popular staple of the collecting scene that's largely faded into the bygone days of prepaid phone cards (like this Yount, which I knew I'd never see again if I didn't buy it from the dollar box).
The amount of publicity and sheer cash flow generated by the National is a great indicator that the hobby is still going strong. But I don't know that we as collectors should be fully proud about pointing to it and saying: Yup,THAT'S our hobby. It's ripe with bombast and seedy undercurrents and high-end euphoria and 12-year-old kids quoting Ebay values. Is that really what collecting is all about? Is that really sustainable?
I'm not necessarily trying to idealize hotel shows or put down the National, but if I were given the choice of where to spend what could possibly be my final full weekend of R&R for a while -- well, I'll take the hotel show every time.