I feel like there's a certain magic in card shows, in that they seem to materialize at the perfect time.
This fall/winter has probably been my least prolific in my history as a collector. I simply haven't had as much of a connection with my baseball cards lately. As much as I'd like to chalk it up to lack of time, money, or the general off-season slog (all of which do certainly exist), I think most of it has to do with a general feeling of stagnancy and lack of interest. I've been through bursts of minutes, hours, or days this fall where I'd sort and organize to my heart's content, but then my cards would sit untouched for long stretches of time. I just couldn't get the motor running.
But then the big tri-annual convention hall show came to town last weekend. I wasn't even sure I'd have the cash or time to attend until the last minute, but Dad and I managed to squeak in a Sunday trip. Sundays at this show can have a tendency to be a bit dull since it's the last day and a lot of the customers and vendors already have their minds on the next show. But not this time -- as you can see above, the place was hopping. It's like the baseball card gods wanted to remind me why I collect, and why card shows are heaven on earth.
Here's just a few reasons.
First, and perhaps foremost: OH MY GOD I FINALLY HAVE A CARD OF WARREN SPAHN ON THE GIANTS!!!!!!!!!
I've searched far and wide for anything featuring Spahn during his forgotten swan song with the Giants -- and I'd come to the conclusion that nothing was ever produced, that it'd forever remain a gap in my collection. I chalked it up as being lost to history. That is, until Topps managed to sneak this magnificent insert into their 2019 Update checklist, completely unbeknownst to me.
As a Short Term Stops fanatic, this is front-page news -- I collect for this, I live for discoveries like this.
I like these late-fall shows because they tend to do a good job of rounding up all the better parts of that particular collecting season.
While not quite as heroic as the aforementioned Spahn, I really, really love the fact that Topps also slipped a couple turn-of-the-century dudes like John Montgomery Ward and Hugh Duffy into that same Update series.
Also kudos for properly documenting Maury Wills's forgotten half-year with the expansion Expos on that excellent Archives insert -- but geez Topps, you're starting to spoil me with these scarce Short Term Stops here.
Of course, not every current card is gonna feature an unfamiliar uniform or dead-ball star, but that sure doesn't kill the joy I got out of crossing these other 2019 needs off my lists.
It's a bit jarring to see online-only singles in person at a card show -- did people actually go through the process of buying these things just to turn around and throw them in a box a few months later?
Apparently so, since I picked up these gems from this year's Black & White On-Demand set for a mere buck a pop.
Card shows may be a breeding ground for latest-and-greatest cardboard, but it's the randomness from years past that keeps me coming back.
Adding to my top-tier player collections is always a thrill, and heck, sometimes I even start new ones at the drop of a dime -- case in point: I decided to start collecting Dontrelle Willis right in the middle of one particularly plentiful dime box dig near the end of the show.
The continuing saga of Dime Boxes vs. My Mini-Collections.
I always seem to have good luck with the oddballs at this show.
I'm familiar with most of the sets in this page (BBM! TCMA! Topps Magazine!), and none of these cost more than 50 cents a pop.
Card shows are are a great defense against stagnancy, in that they're a great lesson that one can never know everything about baseball cards...nor come even close, really.
I never knew any of these oddball sets existed, and I'm especially floored to learn that Lemon Chill once produced baseball cards, as evidenced by that Ordonez (from a dime box!).
Here's the part where I blind you with some dime box shiny.
It's hard to pick a single highlight from such a grand and sweeping show, but it may well have been the return of the guy with random oddball stuff strewn around everywhere, all at 50 cents a piece.
Doesn't matter if you're buying a whole set or a single card: everything's 50 cents. Dad had a lot of fun negotiating the guy's non-sport stuff (lots of music cards and other general pop culture stuff) while I was on the hunt for baseball cards. What you see here is only a small fraction of everything I unearthed, and believe me I could've spent A LOT more time and money at this dude's table if the show ran a bit longer.
Unopened oddball sets that smelled like what I imagine the '80s smelled like, packs of 2006 Fleer that shot me right back into my early adolescence, you name it -- this table was an experience.
The cards themselves were almost secondary to the fun I had just digging through all that weird stuff -- I say almost, because as great as the experience was, the cards were damn fine as well.
One vendor had a bunch of quarter boxes filled with parallels -- these are usually a no, as parallels are almost strictly a dime box delicacy for me.
That changed when I discovered several large stacks of Triple Threads base and parallels inside, because I'm having trouble remembering the last time Topps made a card of Steve Garvey or Billy Martin.
Photo variations past and present, with prices to match: the Ichiro was a whole three bucks, while the Big Papi fell out of a 50-cent box.
I'd like to say I understand the mechanics of these shows by now, but that'd be a lie -- the Lindor (a photo variation and logo-swap SP) is probably the rarest card in this scan, but I found it in a dime box.
Everything else here was 50 cents or more, including that Puig SP ($3) which is another sad example of Topps short-printing a guy in an updated uniform...in a set called Update (though I guess the joke's on me since I, you know, bought it).
My lone complaint is that there were only a couple good dime boxes in the entire convention hall this time around -- a good portion of even the most common stuff was jacked up to a quarter and 50 cents.
Still, what few dime boxes there were proved fruitful, as this scan should suggest.
Which reminds me...
...the vintage really came out to play on Sunday.
In terms of sheer volume, this '64 Topps Giant Killebrew was easily my biggest purchase at a mere buck -- I usually shy away from oversized cards, but I couldn't pass at that price.
Tough to top 50-cent vintage (and the Melton is an OPC!).
One vendor had various Kellogg's strewn all around his table, just stacked in piles everywhere separated by year.
I gravitated towards the '71s since those are a) some of the hardest to find on the cheap, and b) perhaps my personal favorite Kellogg's design -- that Torre was the most expensive of the lot at three bucks.
I'm at somewhat of a crossroads with Hostess: I've been collecting them for so long that I now own most of the ones I need.
Searching through piles of Hostess at card shows is mostly a got it, got it, got it experience these days -- but I can take solace in knowing there's still at least a few stray ones I need, still floating out there in the void (the Reggie is a SP, which might explain what took so long).
Hostess and Kellogg's may be the kings of vintage oddballs, but don't sleep on the power of Post.
I'm thinking I should rename this blog "50-Cent Boxes" in honor of this show, because those quickly became the real stars of the day.
I've never seen Milk Duds cards so obnoxiously cheap, and while those Dell Stamps may not be all that exciting, you know I'll take 'em for a couple quarters a pop.
That '66 Dick Ellsworth might be the most massive screw-up in Topps history: that's actually a photo of Ken Hubbs, an error made doubly bad considering Hubbs died in a plane crash a couple years prior.
And the nominees for Most Well-Loved Card of the Show are...
The only thing better than '56 Topps is '56 Topps I got as a gift from my dad, which is how this magnificent quartet wound up coming home with me (and that's Bob Feller's sunset card!).
More big names at not-so-big prices: Fox and Cepeda were a mere three dollars each, while the Gibson and Spahn were steals at five bucks per.
I recently learned that one of my favorite vendors is actually a staple at card shows around the country, and many other bloggers have reaped the spoils of his inventory.
Turns out a lot of you probably know Uncle Dick, and some of you might've heard he's retiring from the hobby this year, but that didn't stop him from putting in one final appearance at the local show -- he's helped take down more of my "Keep Dreaming" cards than any other guy over the years, and the streak continued with these two from his discount vintage bins.
A couple beauties from '60 Topps here -- including another "Keep Dreaming" suspect with the Banks that was worth every penny of the $10 I plopped down for it.
I'd say my vintage haul was basically topped by two biggies this time around, starting with my very first Hires Root Bear card!
Oh man have I wanted one of these. Problem is they're insanely rare and expensive -- you can count the ones I've seen in-person on one hand, and none of those were even in the ballpark of my price range. Enter Jackie Jensen: one of the most feared sluggers of the '50s, yet all but forgotten now for some reason. He's a fun guy to collect because his cards go for almost nothing, and as it turns out, he made my dream of owning a Hires card come true.
Because I'm a cheapskate, I still had to do a bit of hemming and hawing when I saw this one in a vendor's vintage bin for $15 -- thanks to a bundle deal with a few other items I bought from the guy, I only ended up forking over $10 for it when all was said and done.
Ho-hum: another show, another vintage Clemente!
It was the end of the day, and people were already starting to file out of the convention hall. I only had a few wrinkled bills left in my pocket when I stumbled upon a guy with a small 50% off vintage bin tucked into a corner of his table. I shuffled past a few unspectacular cards: meh, meh, meh, WAIT...WAS THAT ROBERTO CLEMENTE?!?!?!
Originally priced at $25, I managed to take this beauty home with me for a scant $12.50, which is a helluva deal considering I've paid nearly that much for Clementes from the late '60s/early '70s. And that's why you scour every single aisle of the card show, kids. You never know what trinkets and treasures might pop up in the most unexpected of places.
I suppose that's a fitting metaphor for why I still collect at all, and why card shows still fill me with that pure boyish joy all these years later.