Wednesday, February 28, 2018


At some point last week, I was stricken by an affliction well known by all card collectors: the pack-busting itch.

But I quickly found that this wasn't the standard itch. I didn't want anything on the shelves of my local Target. No, this was an unfamiliar strain of the disease -- I wanted something different, something from the past, something you don't see every day.

I started thinking of sets that have all but disappeared from the dime boxes of 2018, and it wasn't long before a specific brand popped into my head: Upper Deck Victory. I have an insanely difficult time finding Victory singles, and the idea of busting whole packs of the stuff just about made me swoon.

And much to my surprise, it wasn't long before I found an auction with my name on it: 35 unopened packs of '99 Victory, mine for a little more than half the price of a blaster.

Later editions of Victory included various inserts and parallel sets, but this is the one that most aligns with my collecting philosophies: a robust 470-card base checklist, simple design, no inserts, no parallels.

Though I don't remember opening much of it at the time, Victory was a brand of my youth. And as a result, a lot of the cards I received in these packs featured players I grew up admiring, guys who still conjure fond memories of childhood.

Thus, saying opening 35 packs of a set like this was a joy would be a massive understatement.

Here's just a few stars of my childhood included in the '99 Victory checklist -- and, better yet, each of these were new to me, doubly exciting considering I can't remember the last time I pulled a Mark Grace I needed from a pack of cards.

And though I can't say for sure, I'd bet that Bartolo Colon is the last active player featured in this set (was 1999 really nineteen years ago?).

Also present were a hefty amount of rookies or near-rookies of guys I'd later grow up watching (RIP, Doc).

While '99 Victory doesn't feature any inserts, there are a handful of subsets sprinkled throughout the base checklist.

My favorite of these is easily the Rookie Flashback series. which features stars of the time as they looked in their baseball youth (Randy Johnson as an Expo!).

Because this was 1999 and all, Mark McGwire is all over this set -- I mean, he had hit 70 homers the year before.

He's on the cover, he's in all the subsets, and heck, he even has an entire chunk of the checklist all to himself -- this "McGwire Magic" series, which came one per pack and thus nearly doubled my meager McGwire collection in one fell swoop.

Little did we know...

A couple of Victory's other subsets, including Mo Vaughn, who especially seems to take to that psychedelic design.


One of the many reasons I was so excited to open these packs was that it gave me the opportunity to add to a lot of more unsung player collections I don't often get to add to these days.

I'm talking guys like Tony Womack and Craig Counsell, both of whom have long had a space reserved in my binders. I even have a Womack D'backs t-shirt buried in one of my dressers somewhere, which confused a lot of my high school friends since none of them knew who Tony Womack was when I wore it to class.

It's the inclusion of the Tony Womacks and Craig Counsells of the world that makes UD Victory the kind of set I'd like to see today.

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of my motivation in buying these packs was the hope of securing one long-desired card: the very Jim Abbott you see above.

This is, as far as I know, one of only three major-brand cards in existence to feature Abbott as a Brewer, and the only one I didn't already own. As a result, it'd been sitting on my Dime Box Dozen list for the better part of six months now, and given my fandom of Jim Abbott, Short Term Stops, and sunset cards (all in one!), you can see why I was praying to the cardboard gods that the elusive Abbott would be somewhere in those 35 packs.

Thankfully, he was, and I didn't have to sweat it out all that much -- I think he fell out of the seventh or eighth pack or something. With Abbott harpooned, I was able to breathe and really enjoy the rest of the Victory experience, which I assure you was easily worth every penny of the half-blaster I paid for it.

Thus, the pack-busting itch was scratched -- only now, given the amount of fun this V-Day was, I'm left with this looming desire to explore more of the cardboard of my it goes.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why I could never own an LCS

I got to spend a thrilling afternoon at the DMV today -- my driver's license was up for renewal.

Anyone who's ever been to the DMV could understand why I wanted to enjoy a little me-time the second I walked out those doors. Luckily, I was only a short trip away from my favorite bookstore, which in turn is right across the street from the LCS I sometimes frequent. (Throw in a Wendy's and you'd have the greatest half-block in America.)

With a bag of books in hand, I ran across the street to the LCS, where I was surprised to see a mother and son standing at the counter talking to the owner (the place is usually empty when I go on a weekday). I listened to their conversation as I began to flip through the shop's dollar bins, and it didn't take me long to realize what was going on.

Sorry ma'am, these cards aren't worth anything...late '80s and early '90s...the binder's more valuable than the cards are...they made so much of them...

I knew this sort of thing happened all the time at card shops, but I'd never actually seen it first-hand before: a person trying to sell their (or, in this case, their son's) old card collection, figuring it'd be worth big bucks for the age of it alone.

The woman, to her credit, received the news fairly well, but she was obviously disappointed and asked several times if the LCS owner was sure of his appraisal. He was (so was I, and so were you). 

She and her son walked out the doors still clutching the binder of lost fortunes.

I admit, I've long had a fantasy of owning a card shop (like many collectors, I'm sure) but fact is that such dreams often leave out the painful reality of what it would actually be like.

I can't imagine how many dreams have been crushed by LCS owners since the collapse of overproduction-era cardboard. You and I both know that 1990 Donruss is essentially worthless, but the everyday person who finds cards in their attic or had a son who collected or who heard cards were valuable now (etc.) doesn't, and it'd be tough to bring myself to tell them day in and day out.

And today I saw why, even if it were financially and commercially viable (which chances are it never will be, of course), I could probably never own a card shop.

After the mother and son left, I asked the store owner how often things like what I'd just seen happened -- he said, and I quote: All the time.

While it seemed like a lot longer, I was only in the LCS for about ten minutes. Everything you've seen in this post came from the dollar boxes. Some (like this Yaz) were cards I could probably find much cheaper but too cool to pass up in the moment, while others (like the Rickey and Rizzo Update SPs) were actually steals at a buck.

But the cards themselves were really secondary to this particular trip to the LCS. Having been in the hobby for as long as I have, it's easy to get complacent in the great little bubble that we collectors inhabit. Every once in a while, it helps to see something like I saw at the LCS today, just to remind myself that there's a whole underside of the hobby that we don't often have to deal with.

Either way, it sure beats the DMV.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018



Every collection has them. No matter how long you've been collecting, or how big your collection is, chances are you have gaps: those seemingly common, easy-to-find cards that, for whatever reason, you've never been able to track down, and in some cases, didn't even know existed.

Take this card, for instance, which was recently sent to me as part of a large trade with Bo of "Baseball Cards Come to Life!" (one of my very favorite blog names). I'd long assumed Topps was the only major brand to document Baylor's half-season as a Twin. But then one night during an otherwise mundane stroll through the internet, I discovered that he'd had a Twins card in 1988 Fleer this whole time. 

Needless to say, it automatically went on my Dime Box Dozen list, where it sat until Bo knocked it off not too long after.

Overproduction-era cards like that '88 Baylor and this '85 Topps Guidry -- another former Dime Box Dozen need -- were so common that I'm sure they were used as kindling in many American homes.

I can understand if a card from some one-off set like Fleer Brilliants or something like that flies under my radar. But '85 Topps? I have hundreds of unwanted singles from sets like these scattered in boxes under my bed. How could one I actually need have passed me by this whole time?

Even worse was the fact that I'd already owned Guidry's OPC issue from 1985, which made this gap all the more gaping and thus much more satisfying when Bo sent it my way.

The Baylor and Guidry were the only specific needs I knew Bo was sending, but they weren't the only gaps he'd wind up filling.

These two? Gaps. Like '88 Fleer and '85 Topps, I have tons of extra '81 Fleer singles strewn around my room. But yet these two of Larry Bowa (a guy I collect) and Lynn McGlothlen (needed for the excellent ivy shot and ballbag cameo) were nowhere to be found in my collection. did I not already have these?!

I still need many, many cards from the last decade or so, but I don't know if I'd necessarily call them gaps just because there's so many brands around these days.

All these are player collection needs and thus much appreciated, but they weren't quite as haunting as the aforementioned Baylor and such.

In addition to him knocking out those pressing gaps in my binders, Bo's an easy guy to trade with because we collect a lot of the same things.

Among the goods I received was this page of mini-collection needs, my favorite of which is probably that fantastic '70s Braves throwback in the center.

Another quartet of terrific randoms.

I'm tempted to call that Jefferies a gap because of how much Collector's Choice I already own, but really I don't think anyone can ever discover all the beauty Collector's Choice has to offer in a single lifetime -- it's inevitable that a few would slip by.

I've often thought about starting an equipment mini-collection for cards like these.

Bo really laid it on with the oddballs, starting with these Fleer Stamps that are doubled in greatness by things like ESPN mikes and Warren Spahn cameos.

Oddballs are always welcome in this home.

Especially '90s oddballs.

Bo actually sent me a second package not too long after that filled yet more gaps in my collection.

I discovered the Madlock not too long after the Baylor, and my first reaction was WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH ALL THIS '88 FLEER I STILL APPARENTLY NEED?! That goes doubly so for the Madlock, which is also a sunset card I somehow didn't already have.

My Doc Gooden collection is still fairly new, but either way I'm shocked I didn't already own his '87 Topps single given that I probably own more '87s than any other Topps set.

Most collectors have scores of commons from sets like these around their rooms, and I bet most of them couldn't tell you exactly where they came from in the first place.

I know I couldn't say exactly why I have so much '88 Donruss or where the heck I got them, but they're just kind of...there. But not just there were any of these cards, which I very much needed.

Four more gaps filled.

Some entire sets can be gaps, in a way: I didn't appreciate how great 2009 Topps was until years later when most of them became buried in people's card rooms and garages.

Thankfully, some people like Bo still have them handy to help me appreciate all the gems I missed the first time around.

Oddballs are never gaps, which is probably part of the reason I enjoy collecting them so much.

I long ago resigned to the fact that I'd never discover all the oddball sets out there -- that, in turn, removes a lot of the pressure of tracking them down and makes them such a joy to receive.

Don't get me wrong, it's a pleasure to secure long-awaited gaps in my collection, but the reaction I have upon filling them is more muted, usually something along the lines of THANK GOD, FINALLY.

Whereas a card like this one -- a superb Squirt oddball (oh the days when cards came with your soft drinks) of Dave Winfield -- elicits more of a spontaneous WOW, COOL!!! response.

But fact is that gaps come with the territory of card collecting -- the only thing you can really do is accept that and get on with your life as best you can knowing that '85 Topps Guidrys and '88 Fleer Baylors will always be out there, laughing in your face.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Card show birthday party!

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.

Minis! DUDES!

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.