For no apparent reason, I decided to take a different route home from work a few weeks ago, and on the way back I discovered a card shop.
The LCS itself wasn't a complete surprise: I'd heard a couple regular customers discussing at the flea market this past summer. But I didn't realize it was so close to where I worked -- I nearly crashed my car into a pole after seeing it sandwiched between the bland exteriors of a CVS and a hardware store.
Nor, of course, could I have known that it'd have something I've never, ever seen at a local card shop: a 15/$1 box!
Indeed, one of the first things I saw upon entering the shop was the very 15/$1 box you see at the top of this post.
Though it included a mix of all sports, the vast majority of it was baseball. A good amount of the stuff in there was your expected late '80s/early '90s fare, but it was far from the Topps and UD stuff I've seen hundreds of times. There was a fair amount of semi-major brand cardboard (Triple Play, Score, etc.) to keep things interesting, and my collection has enough gaps from that era to make those boxes a whole lot of fun.
So there I was in heaven barely thirty seconds in the place.
And did I mention the oddballs?
Amidst the small handful of Conlons in those 15/$1 box came this odd Lefty O'Doul, which has the exact same front as his '92 Conlon card but features an ad for a Frisco restaurant named in his honor on the back.
Also: box bottoms!
With a little digging, I found two uncut '87 Topps panels sitting at the bottom of the 15/$1 box (Henderson/Rice on one, Sutton/Winfield on the other) -- and I got to cut them out!
But for my money, this was the biggest of the 15/$1 surprises: a Bo Jackson rookie!
I've actually been searching for a relatively cheap copy of this very card for a while -- it's one of the last semi-big Bo cards I needed, and one that went for a pretty penny back in the day, from what I've heard.
Me, I'll take it for six cents, thank you very much.
Now, 15/$1 boxes aside, there's one small drawback to this store: basically everything for sale is behind the counter, which means I had to ask the shop owner every time I wanted to see something.
Of course, I like to have stuff out in front of me to dig through at my will. But overall the shop owner was a great guy (we discussed his massive White Sox collection) and didn't make me feel like I was inconveniencing him by asking for the many boxes I ended up looking through. And talk about inventory: they had 28 different boxes labeled MISC. ODDBALL behind the counter. Twenty-eight!
I only got through maybe a half-dozen of the oddball boxes, and the prices were quite reasonable: these four set me back all of 50 cents a piece.
By luck, one of the boxes I picked had Hostess inside, and I tracked down a longtime need of mine with that Lenny Randle (also 50 cents!).
Beckett doesn't list the Randle -- one of his few Met cards -- as a short-print or anything of that nature, but I'm a bit skeptical: I've never seen one in-hand before this LCS trip and they've rarely popped up on the internet.
By the time I'd dug through that 15/$1 box and sampled the shop's copious amount of oddballs, it was just about closing time, so I said my goodbyes...
...and went back the very next week, because can you blame me?
I didn't get a picture of the shop, but I'll just say their inventory is way larger than anything I've ever seen anywhere, card shop or otherwise. I don't think I'd be exaggerating too much by saying they have close to a million cards lining the wall from just about any set you can think of. This included three large boxes of Pacific, probably the one brand I have the most trouble finding these days. Naturally, I decided to start with Pacific and go from there.
Within minutes, I'd found the hallowed '93 Pacific Dale Murphy, the only card of him as a Rockie I still needed (as far as I know) and one that'd been sitting on my Dime Box Dozen list for over two years(!).
I'm having a difficult time describing how awesome it was digging through three long boxes of Nothing But Pacific: I mean, I get excited when I find one random Pacific card in a dime box.
While Dale Murphy as a Rockie stands above all, I scoped out a bunch of other splendid Short Term Stops I needed, like Ozzie Guillen as a Brave(?!) and Shawon Dunston as a Cardinal(?!?!?!?!?!).
It's sometimes a pain to collect dudes who played around the millennium era since many of their cards seem forever unattainable.
Thankfully, I don't have to worry about these four anymore.
Somehow, after that Pacific whirl, I still had enough energy to dig through more boxes(!), so I sampled a few boxes I spotted behind the counter labeled MISC. CUBS.
I'd like to note one thing about this LCS which isn't exactly a common feature of most LCSes: the prices are fair. I've often overpaid for cards from shops in the past, thinking: oh, those are just card shop prices. But the price tags at this place were just plain fair, LCS or otherwise.
The Pacifics averaged out to about a quarter per, and these tough Cubs oddities were mere 50-centers, which good luck finding '70s TCMA oddballs like that Lazzeri and Bresnahan at prices like that.
These oddballs of more modern-day dudes were all of a quarter a pop, and that includes my very first Topps TV single with the Zimmer there.
But as if the aforementioned Dale Murphy wasn't enough, I nabbed another white whale of mine during my return trip to the shop with this '83 Thorn Apple Valley Joe Carter.
Like the Murphy, it's another bigtime Short Term Stop: Carter played in all of 23 games with the '83 Cubs before being dealt to Cleveland. And as far as I can tell, this -- a stadium giveaway, I believe -- is the only card apart from Carter's 1984 Donruss rookie to feature him as a Cub (and not to mention this one has a far superior ivy shot!).
This isn't something you see in the wild too often -- most of the sets are hoarded by collectors since it also features a rookie card of some dude named Ryne Sandberg. But even though the five dollars I spent on the Carter skyrocketed over the price of anything else I bought from the LCS that evening, you better believe it was worth it.
To think that two longtime needs of mine were sitting at a card shop mere minutes away all this time is both glorious and painful -- although now I'm worried I might start dropping entire paychecks at this place.