Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A day off at the flea market, Pt. 1

I've basically fallen into a set schedule of working Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at my job.

The hours are long (noon to 10 PM), but I don't mind it too much. It's not back-breaking work and it's kind of nice having the whole middle of the week set aside for school and what ever relaxation I can squeeze in.

The one drawback is that most big card events seem to take place on the weekends. Card shows, garage sale, and, yes, my local flea market, which I hadn't attended since June.

But, from what it looks like, the people at my job are pretty lenient when it comes to people needing to take a day every now and then. My dad got tickets for this past Sunday's Pirates-Cubs contest at Wrigley.

Thankfully, I was able to get Sunday off (I worked Wednesday instead), which meant I got to see a 4-0 Cubs win that featured a homer and six perfect innings from Jake Arrieta.

And, as an added bonus, I finally got to spend another beautiful afternoon under the sky of the local flea market.

Like the last time I went back in June, however, my main guy, Ron, wasn't there.

The other regular vendor was, and, although he doesn't get new stock in very often, I make an effort to find at least a small stack of cards because he's a really nice guy. He kept trying to get me to buy an entire thousand(ish)-count box from his table. The price dropped from, finally, five dollars, but I still wouldn't bite.

I've picked through most of his stuff before, and I really don't need to immerse myself in even more cards I don't need (not to mention all the sorting) at this point. In the end, I found about 30 singles to my liking, including the Jordan Zimmerman insert at the top of this post (for my new player collection of his) and these two '80s Fleer oddballs.

I may have bit on that five-dollar box offer a couple years ago, but, at this point, my already-cluttered room is much happier that I settled on just the thirty cards.

A guy in one of the last aisles of the flea market had a big box of miscellaneous pop culture items on display.

Very little of what I found was sports-related, though I did dig up a diamond in the rough with this oversized '70s TCMA oddball of the Splendid Splinter for a buck.

I also bought my dad an empty box of Welcome Back, Kotter candy (with Freddy "Boom Boom" Washington on the cover) from the guy for another dollar.

There were two huge surprises at the flea market last Sunday.

We'll get to the second of the two in the final half of this mini-series, but the first came in the unlikely form of a vendor with a lot of power tools and leaf blowers scattered around her table. To my utter surprise, I found two tubs filled with baseball cards underneath all that, tubs that looked exactly like ones I'd had in my room for at least fifteen years or so. (Kind of like this.)

It wasn't clear if the cards had been previously owned by her kid(s), husband, or whoever, but I knew she didn't have crazy prices in her head when she offered me the tubs for twenty dollars each. I, again, resisted the temptation to buy the whole thing and instead decided to pick through everything one by one.

It took a good half-hour to get through it all, and the lady was absolutely flabbergasted that anyone would take the time to sift through piles and piles and piles of individual baseball cards.

I had a pretty hefty stack of singles after all was said and done, and, because I didn't really feel like counting them all, I asked the lady if she'd take ten bucks for everything I'd picked out.

She did, and celebration ensued.

I counted the cards when I got home a few hours later, and it turned out that I'd had over 150 cards in that pile, which amounts to well under a dime per.

From what I could gather, the previous owner of those tubs seemed to have collected right around the same period that I was first breaking into the hobby, only he/she had cards from sets that I never saw as a young collector.

I always complain that I never see cards from the mid-to-late '90s in dime boxes, and then here comes a whole tub of them for me to dig through.

I could tell the cards hadn't been touched for a long time, because quite a few of them were stuck together.

Peeling such cards apart results in the "snow" that you see here. It didn't affect too many of the cards I bought (and I really don't mind it all that much on the ones that were affected), and, for some reason, I liked the idea that I was probably the first person to actually touch these cards in God knows how long.

It made me feel like some kind of cardboard crusader.

I was floored by how many quality cards I found in those tubs, and how perfectly so many of them aligned to my various collecting passions.

Mark Grace has always been one of my top-tier guys, but this one takes it a step further by featuring him on one of the greatest (and most original) insert sets of the '90s.

Besides 1995 Fleer, I'm not sure any set screams NINETIES!!!! more than '96 Metal Universe.

These cards are absolutely insane, and I kind of do and kind of don't want to meet the employee at Topps who gave the green light on this idea. (The only downside is that they don't scan very well.)

Here, you have Pudge Rodriguez attached to a test tube, Edgardo Alfonso taking a ground ball next to some kind of aquatic superhero, and veterans Lee Smith and Deion Sanders having their likenesses plastered on other cartoon craziness.

These are only a small sample of the Metals I unearthed in those tubs.

Bask in the glory of an intense action shot of David Wells...tying his shoe.

And I have no idea who Katsuhiro Maeda is, but he needs a new barber.

Like so many good dime boxes I've dug through in the past, I had no idea where these tubs were going to turn with each passing stack.

One minute, I was going through a major bout of deja vu with that Benito Santiago oddball. The next, I was being blinded by Pacific Prism.

This dig certainly kept me on my toes.

There was some high-dollar potential, too.

I noticed a lot of early '90s Bowman in these piles, and, specifically, a hefty amount of '92 Bowman, a set that famously features rookie cards of both Mariano Rivera and Mike Piazza (among others). I didn't find either of those, sadly, but I was happy to take this much-needed Scott Hatteberg rookie home with me.

I did, however, find a '92 Bowman Trevor Hoffman rookie in those tubs. I decided to tell the lady that it was kind of a valuable card, and she seemed pleased that I did.

Granted, the fact that I already own a copy of it made that decision a lot easier.

I don't know if the previous owner of these cards collected Eddie Murray, but I sure did find a lot of him in there.

The two Mets cards are treasured adds (I'm especially fond of the "Time, ump" 1994 Fleer shot). I even sprinkled in a sunset card with the '98 UD issue and a new short-term stop featuring his brief stint with the Angels.

Speaking of which...

...the mid-to-late '90s, for whatever reason, seemed like a rich time for unfamiliar uniforms.

Darryl Strawberry as a Giant and Orel Hershiser as a Met are a couple of the more famous stints to come out of that era. I'd actually been searching for that Bulldog for a while now, but, because Pacific singles are so darn hard to find, I'd come up empty.

Until Sunday, of course.

The '90s are far-and-away the most plentiful decade for my mini-collections, and you better believe these tubs had a plethora of those.

I found not one...

...but two Kirby Puckett cards I'd been eyeing for a while in the lady's stacks.

The 1997 Collector's Choice is a "SPEECH!" card (which I lump in with my "interview" mini-collection), while the one you see above is a coveted throwback.

The Womack (more Pacific...hooray!) kills two birds with one stone, in that it's a throwback and a double dip hit.

I really went to town on the double plays.

I think you can see the sheer variety of sets that I found in those tubs from this page alone. Collector's Choice. Pacific. Metal. Donruss. Stadium Club...and more.

And these aren't even all the double plays I bought.

A couple for the "play at the plate" and "at the wall" archives here.

My favorite part about that Randa is seeing all those fans in the fetal position.

Here's two star-studded additions for my "behind the camera" and "tip of the cap" collections.

If there was ever a man deserving of a tip of the cap, it was Tony Gwynn.

These two "broken bat" shots actually came out of the same stack of cards.

The Franco is an obvious one, but I had to do a double-take with the Piazza to see that it was indeed a mini-collection hit.

Those broken bats can be tough to spot some of the time.

And, like a proverbial cherry on top, these tubs did the unthinkable by knocking out a "Dime Box Dozen" need.

Between this and Jamie Moyer's '91 Stadium Club issue, I'm now fairly certain that I own the only two cards ever produced of him as a Cardinal, a team he spent just eight games with in 1991.

Digging through actual boxes is fine and good, but there was something innately fun about digging through two tubs of baseball cards at the flea market on Sunday. I got on my hands and knees to uncover some of these cards, but, seeing the payoff of all this '90s goodness, I think the work was well worth it.

But the local flea market wasn't done working its magic just yet. It was only just beginning.

I'm not usually one for cliffhangers, but...more on that in my next post.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The dime box frankenset, Page 9: Numbers 73-81

Well, it looks like we have ourselves a tie.

Both Rudy Law and Alvin Morman finished last week's frankenset closely-matched voting with six tallies a piece. So, before we take a look at this week's page, I'd like to re-announce the tie-breaker rules, since we haven't had a deadlock in a while.

I ask the first three people who care to comment on this post to leave their choice between either Law or Morman. The card that receives two of those three tie-breaking votes will be last week's king. (I voted for law, though Morman was a close runner-up for me.)

I'll update this post once we have a winner.

EDIT -- We have a winner!

Win -- 1994 Upper Deck Minors #70 Alvin Morman (6 votes + tie-breaking vote)

Place -- 1984 Fleer #67 Rudy Law (6 votes)

Show -- 1996 Bowman #68 Kevin Appier (5 votes)

For now, let's dive into this week's batch of frankenset contestants.

As usual, we have nine new hopefuls at the ready.

1997 Stadium Club #73 Brian Hunter

A beautiful shot, but the question is: Did he make the catch? 

2011 Topps Update #US-74 Henry Blanco

A picturesque over-the-top PATP from 2011 Topps. 

2004 UD Diamond Collection #75 Sidney Ponson

Throwing it back to the days of the St. Louis Browns. 

2004 Upper Deck #76 Jay Gibbons

Two Browns throwbacks from different sets in consecutive numbers...what are the odds? 

1993 Topps #77 Junior Felix

One of the Immortal Trio from '93 Topps. 

2000 Upper Deck #78 Jim Parque

A crosstown American League pitcher at the plate. 

1995 Pinnacle #79 Charlie Hayes

The Masked Man of Colorado. 

1995 Topps Cyberstats #80 Brent Gates

Double dipping with some futuristic '90s technology. 

1993 Topps #81 Lloyd McClendon

They're waving him home!

That just about does it for this week's frankenset page. The polls are now on the sidebar, and don't forget to help break last week's tie.

Happy voting!

Friday, September 25, 2015

2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers: A retail surprise

Yesterday, I took a walk to Target after school because I needed to break a $20 bill.

No, I really did need to break a twenty...but, okay, it was kind of an excuse to buy baseball cards. I haven't busted any retail in months, and I was thinking of sampling a five-dollar rack pack of Archives or Series 2.

That plan went out the window when I saw Heritage High Numbers staring back at me from the center of the shelves.

For some reason, I had it in my head that High Numbers was coming out next week, so seeing them yesterday caught me completely off-guard. In a stupor of surprise and pack-busting angst, I bought two hanger boxes and a rack pack of the stuff, and, in the end, I did get that change for the twenty.

The only difference was that I handed the cashier two twenties, rather than the one that I'd originally planned on spending.

I didn't mind spending a little extra on High Numbers because I'm just so gosh darn excited to see this brand back on retail shelves.

The original incarnation of High Numbers didn't last long. It first came into existence in 2008 and was out of business by the next year. I seemed to be in the minority, because I bought boxes of the product in both years and had a ton of fun breaking them.

As you probably know, High Numbers did come back a few years ago as an online-only product. Only a thousand of each set were produced, and for the low, low price of $100, you got the full 100-card checklist and one autograph card. At that price point, I wasn't even close to being in the market.

When I heard High Numbers was coming back as a standard, pack-based product here in 2015, I could've just about hugged Topps. Heritage always lends itself to fun pack breaks, and now we get an Update-esque second edition of the brand.

I haven't had a ton of time or energy to devote to baseball cards lately, but, true to form, Heritage snapped me out of that little funk. I did pull what you might call a "hit" with this Sandoval, but it'll be going to one of the handful of Red Sox collectors I know in due time.

The only problem is deciding which one.

Unlike Flagship, Heritage tones down the number of inserts.

I'm not sure anyone buys Heritage for the inserts, but I don't mind seeing one fall out of a pack every now and then. The "Rookie Performers" were a staple of High Numbers during its brief original run in 2008-09, and I'm glad to see them back this year.

The team combo series is new, and I don't think Topps could've made that Hosmer-Gordon shot any more awkward.

The "Then and Now" series is new-ish.

Topps appears to have done away with the multi-player format of olden days and is instead sticking with single subjects now. The Award Winners series is a new one, although largely unoriginal.

I guess my Target sells Dodger hot packs now.

I really don't have much to say about the inserts in Heritage, because my heart is with the base cards.

High Numbers is something like a second Update. While that may seem repetitive to some, I tend to be in "the more the merrier" camp. The more cards I get to see of guys in their new uniforms, the better. (Just as long as Topps doesn't recycle photos between Update and High Numbers.)

It's been a long time since anyone's been proud to show off a new Dan Uggla card, but, doggone it, I am. 

It's the guy's first as a National, and I have to give him credit for hanging around the bigs after being the butt of many, many jokes these past few years.

High Numbers (and Update, for that matter) is often a good reminder to myself that certain guys are still kicking in the major leagues in the first place.

I collect both Ike Davis and Corey Hart, but, until I saw these cards, I'd admittedly forgotten what teams each of them played for.

It's obvious that the checklist for High Numbers was drawn up somewhere in late April or May.

None of these guys currently play for the teams they're pictured with here. Kelly Johnson was traded to the Mets in July, and the other three were all released by their respective franchises at some point in 2015. It seems a little strange to say, but I'm actually glad they made it into the checklist.

I'm all about unfamiliar uniforms, and there's nothing more unfamiliar than a guy who spent less than two months with a team, like Jason Marquis did with the Reds.

I started with the rack pack in my High Numbers extravaganza last evening, and this was the very first card to greet me.

As Night Owl has already discussed, this is what I call a "zero-year" card. Trevor Cahill was released by the Dodgers before ever suiting up in a big-league game for them. (He's currently a Cub.)

You don't see zero-years too often these days, so Mr. Cahill is a welcome addition to the exclusive club.

Heritage doesn't have the ooh-aah action shots that some other brands do, but you'll find some subtle greatness lurking beneath the surface if you look closely.

Most of the time, I can't tell you exactly what defines a beautiful Heritage card, or how one goes about finding that beauty.

Some cards in Heritage, for whatever reason, just speak to these two.

The one qualm I have about buying packs of these late-season sets is the overload of rookies.

I get that High Numbers and Update are the places to go to find those coveted 2015 call-ups, but almost half the cards I pulled from yesterday's breaks had that Rookie logo. Of those, I'd only heard of about half. (Most, only vaguely so.)

I get the whole rookie craze, but that seems like too many. I'd much rather see a seasoned veteran get a card than a Quad-A guy. But, through it all, I did pull my first Steven Matz and Joey Gallo issues, and both will be going into the binders.

Most of the other rookies, however, went into my extras box.

Pat Venditte, on the other hand, will get first-class treatment in my collection.

I decided that this was the #1 card I wanted during my initial scan of the High Numbers checklist earlier this week. I guess I had the magic tough yesterday, because the switch-pitcher himself fell out of the first of the two hanger boxes.

Topps made a great card even better by getting a shot that prominently displays Venditte's quirky six-fingered glove. And I had to scan the back just to display the "Throws: Both" designation. (Hey, he's a switch-hitter, too.)

The Venditte capped off this joyful retail break, a break that reminded me why I loved this brand so much back when I was in high school. Thanks to those pesky online-only box sets, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to open a pack of High Numbers.

It beats the hell out of a five-dollar rack pack of Archives, I'll tell you that.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The mini-National

I guess a small part of me has always lived in the past.

I mean, heck, I'm still waxing nostalgic about this year's National, and that was almost two months ago now. Admittedly, some of that is due to the painfully slow pace of my trade posts lately. But I'll take any chance I can get to replay my day at the National in my mind.

As I've mentioned in past posts, I got to meet up with Brian of the fantastic new blog "Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary" at this year's convention for a while. We shared a dime box dig together, and went hunting for discount vintage after that.

Brian's a great guy, and, although the experience of meeting him first-hand would've been more than enough for me, we did swap some cards. I didn't get a chance to look through what Brian gave me until I was on the train ride home, but I can say that what I found was like a mini-card show packed into a little white box.

It was so perfectly crafted to fit my various collecting needs that I almost didn't believe it. Since this year's National was in Chicago (and given my Cubs fandom), it seemed appropriate that there were Cubs of all sorts in this box.

This fantastic Jim Edmonds oddball comes from a series of sheets that were issued with the Chicago Tribune for a few weeks in 2008.

Brian made the transition from oddballs to reprints with these two.

The Grace has long been one of my all-time favorite Cubs cards (since when did he wear #53?), but I've yet to track down a real copy of Ryno's rookie.

Then again, I haven't looked very maybe I should get on that.

My favorite current Cub was covered with this quartet of Rizzos.

I love the odd sight of him as a Padre, but I think that sparkling Team Italia beauty is my favorite of this bunch.

Brian also introduced me to the "Starting Points" insert set from this year's A&G.

As opposed to most of the huge insert series A&G has felt compelled to thrust into their checklists in past editions, I actually kind of like these. I've always enjoyed cards of big stars as baby-faced rookies, and this set presents the possibility of unfamiliar uniform sightings as well.

This batch certainly has that. Adam Jones as a Mariner, Chris Davis as a Ranger, Rizzo as a Padre (again), and, my personal favorite, Jose Bautista as an Oriole.

It's easy to forget that Joey Bats was basically a Quadruple-A guy when he came up...and that he played for four different teams in his rookie season.

Also included was a boost to my new Shooter collection, including my first card of him as a Padre.

I've since acquired a truckload of new Becks thanks to a recent Just Commons order, but that's for another post all together.

Brian jumped aboard the random train for a bit as well.

I dare you to find any type of cohesion between OPC Fernando and Deivi Cruz chillin' with the Tiger mascot.

That's why random rules.

I've always loved the sheer beauty of these A&G relic designs.

The little square swatches of fabric play second fiddle to those elegant black borders.

From there, Brian's mini-National veered into the world of mini-collections.

Here's a nice quad-paneled Jeets double dip that mimics one of the oldest double play cards I own.

Like so many other people I trade with, Brian has shown himself to be a mini-collection king.

All four of these were treasured adds to my various themes, and I especially love the rare shot of a double dip at the hot corner with that Buechele.

A couple pitcher-centric mini-collection hits here.

The Brown might be the strangest PATP I own for the obvious fact that it looks like he's giving birth to an opposing baserunner at home plate.

At this point, I'm almost out of breath writing about all the fantastic cards Brian bestowed upon me at the National.

There were that many, and we haven't even gotten to the best ones yet. The more current cardboard is great, but Brian really packed it on with the vintage. This '79 Topps Dave Parker had been sitting on my Dime Box Dozen list for a couple months at the time.

Brian made sure to put an end to that.

The Cubs-themed cards carried over to the vintage with these two.

I managed to track down a good number of those awesome '60s Greats of the Game singles at the National, but that Tinker had eluded me.

Until Brian came along, that is.

This is a sticker.

Apart from that, I have absolutely no information on this magnificent oddball. It certainly looks old. It smells old, too.

Yes, I smell my baseball cards.

This is where Brian started to bring out the big guns.

You mean to tell me that he dug up not one, but two new vintage Ron Santos for me? In one trade package?

No, not possible.

I was almost disappointed when this fell out of Brian's mini-National box.

I'd just spent my entire day trying to track down a '65 Topps Luis Tiant rookie (it was one of the Elusive Three, after all), and Brian had one waiting for me all along. Aw, shucks.

But right when I was about to chalk it up as a dupe...

...I flipped it over.

And my jaw dropped. Check out what it (partially) says in the bottom right corner. Printed in Canada.


Brian's big quest as of late has been to build the '65 OPC set (he's within two now), and, somewhere along the line, I guess he came into a spare of this Tiant. I could care less about the condition...because, heck, I never dreamed of owning a copy in the first place.

I came into the National hoping for the base Topps version of this card, and walked out with the Topps and OPC in my pocket.

You'd think that'd be the best Brian's mini-National had to offer.

I did, too, until I saw Hoyt here.

Brian did something that the National couldn't do, in that he added a new Hoyt to my collection. But it wasn't just any Hoyt. It was a vintage oddball Hoyt.

At first glance, this looks like a standard Post oddball, but what you see here is actually a 1962 Jell-O Hoyt Wilhelm. It looks a lot like its Post cousin (which I did already own), but the black font and different stat box gives it away.

The Jell-O singles are also quite a bit scarcer than the Posts, which gave me all the more reason to jump for joy and thank the baseball card gods that I know people like Brian. In my mind, I'm still at the National.

With friends like Brian, can you blame me?