Thursday, February 27, 2020

A card show post, written by Anonymous

For the most part, I stroll through card shows anonymously.

Believe me: I'm not trying to be rude, and it's not even really a conscious decision to keep to myself at shows -- but I just find it difficult to hold conversations with strangers when I'm trying to peruse baseball cards. I basically lurk through the aisles, peeking left and right, seeing if anything catches my eye. And if something does, I always try to at least say hello to the vendor as I walk up to his table. But apart from that, I'm not much for chatter -- most (but not all) talks with vendors over the years have felt forced and I simply prefer not to do it unless initiated. (I promise I'm not a curmudgeon even though what I just wrote, now that I read it, sounds a lot like I am.)

I went to a village hall show a couple weekends ago as an early celebration for my just-passed birthday, and many times during the day I watched people strike up conversations, exchange names, trade phone numbers with ease, in preparation for future shows. I don't do this. I'll chat with my dad, of course (who sadly wasn't present at this show), and it's been fun meeting and talking with fellow local bloggers at shows (which also didn't happen at this show), but for the most part, I stay anonymous.

But the paradox of it all is that I've been going to these shows for long enough that a lot of the people there have long since started to recognize me.

Even more of a paradox is that, despite my perceived anonymity, I actually kind of like that a lot of the people there have long since started to recognize me -- it's a small badge of honor in what is often a transient hobby, with people coming and going every minute.

I was greeted with a Hey buddy, how ya doin'? as I approached a table about midway through the show, and I was surprised to see one of the vendors from the local flea market sitting there. I had no clue he set up at card shows despite my years of browsing his cards at the summer flea markets. I know him fairly well enough that the conversation seemed natural -- we chatted about Dick Allen after I found that cool oversized oddball at the top of this post in his stacks. Aside from being a double mini-collection hit of a guy I admire, it's also odd enough that I can't find a single shred of information on it (I assume it's a team issue of some sort from during or after Allen's 1972 MVP season).

This show was also proof that, on a selfish level, being recognized can have its benefits: one vendor with dime boxes I've shopped many times over the years simply gave me a stack of oversized 2020 Topps Turkey Red box-toppers near the end of the day -- so maybe I'm not as anonymous as I think I am around here.

The box-toppers were an amazing gesture, but my real goal of the day was to knock out as many of my standard 2020 Topps needs as possible.

The huge stack of inserts I bought home were easy (and cheap) enough to snap up, but I'm really starting to worry that the base cards, ironically, are getting harder and harder to find. Not out of scarcity -- god knows Topps is printing enough cards these days -- but out of perceived demand. Quite a few vendors didn't even bring the base they had because they're not huge money makers, and it took until nearly the end of the day for me to find a guy who (thankfully) had a big dime box of 'em that took care of nearly all my wants.

Please, vendors: don't let base cards go extinct!

This show leans heavily on the latest and greatest, which meant that 2019 was a distant memory and thus easy to find cheap.

I honestly didn't know Bowman's Best had even been released, and I had to shell out a fair amount of cash for that GQ Jackie Robinson SP (two whole dollars!) -- still well worth it since it's a mini-collection hit in addition to being a simply fantastic baseball card.

One vendor had something I can't say I'd ever seen before: a dime box organized by player.

I love the randomness and general insanity of standard dime boxes, of course, but I admit it was kinda nice being able to find a new stack of Vlads here, a new handful of Konerkos there, all in nice, organized swoops.

The guy at the very next table over had about a half-dozen nickel boxes, all White Sox cards.

Again, I love randomness, but to go through stacks like these was to take a joyous lesson in Sox history -- made even more fun considering those boxes had stuff from a lot of years (early/mid 2000s) and brands (Topps Total, Bowman Heritage) I rarely see.

Hits for the big-time player collections.

Another show, another round of mini-collection thrills -- I was especially happy to find that scarce Jackie Robinson Day variation of Eric Thames (one of my personal favorite dudes in the game right now) in a dime box.

I will always find fun in oddballs.

Can't let a card show post go by without showing some dime box shiny.

For whatever reason, these 2011 Topps diamond parallels were all over the place at this show -- I seriously found them scattered at three or four different tables throughout the day.

I don't have any real reason for showing these other than just wanting to see what a whole page of 'em looked like (not disappointed!).

Dime box minis of all shapes, sizes, and species.

There always seems to be at least one vendor at every show whose cards are woefully overpriced -- leading me to believe how such vendors stay in business, or even so much as make their money back for that particular afternoon.

But then again, as much as I might fancy myself a bargain hunter, I'm not averse to overpaying if it's for cards I really want. Case in point: these two SI Magazine inserts popped up in a dollar box at one point during the show. These really aren't dollar bin material: I've found them in dime boxes many times. But that's a Jimmy Wynn I need! And a card of Sparky Lyle holding a cute lil puppy!

Well, I guess I just answered my own question: these vendors stay in business because of people like me (you're welcome).

On the other end of the spectrum, every card show also seems to produce a mass of stuff I really shouldn't be finding in dime boxes.

I'm talking numbered HOFers, online exclusives, SPs, vintage oddballs...and I didn't even realize the Hunter was actually an SSPC ad-back until after I got home.

I also saw a guy buy 2,700 dime cards (not a typo) at one particular table early in the afternoon, which beats any dime box record I ever thought I held -- not surprisingly, he and the vendor were a couple of the people I saw exchanging information at this show.

Me, I was happy with my relatively paltry haul -- I came home with just under 700 cards in total -- including this mass of random dime box finds and that neat "Topps 2020" Bumgarner insert that reminds me what Topps thought its 2020 set would look like ten years ago (if only).

More random cheapies, and another brick in my odd fascination with non-baseball designs on baseball cards.

There wasn't a whole lot of vintage at this show: my modern finds outnumbered the older stuff by about 100-to-1.

But I did find a little vintage scattered among the day's dime boxes: I'll always buy Senators cards and Wrigley Field shots for a dime, and I had no idea Claude Raymond had an equally memorable pair of glasses to go along with his unzipped-fly fame.

And oh boy did the quality of the vintage I picked up far outweigh the relatively small quantity of it.

I don't try to haggle much at card shows, but I'm better about it than I once was (I've seen people try to haggle about every single card they see at a guy's table, and doing it to that extent that annoys me). And breaking out of my anonymity to haggle turned out to be a wise decision: I knocked that '59 Spahn off my Keep Dreaming list for $8 (down from a $12 list price), and even snagged a '66 Mays (card #1 in the '66 set) for $20, down from the vendor's original $25 price tag.

But believe it or not, I seriously forgot I'd even bought these two cards until I got home later that day because of what awaited me at another table near the end of the afternoon. that...A DON DRYSDALE ROOKIE CARD?!?!?!?!

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to capture this lifelong want at a village hall show way out in the 'burbs. And I certainly didn't expect it to be as affordable as it was. This was actually the second '57 Drysdale I saw that day...and somehow they came at two consecutive tables. One guy had a decent copy at $75: not a terrible price, but pass. And so, right then, my dream of owning a Drysdale rookie remained exactly that.

The guy at the very next table was actually packing up for the day when I got to him, but he said I was free to look at anything still on display. He even handed me a stack of cards he'd been just about to put away. Almost all the cards were heavy hitters (Mantle, Koufax, etc.), but two in particular nearly made me shout and break any anonymity I hoped to maintain.

The first, amazingly, was another '57 Drysdale -- the other, well...

...was perhaps the only other '57 I wanted more than the Drysdale -- CLEMENTE!

But then came the barrier that usually prevents me from owning cards anything like these: the price. Due to being off-condition, both were priced to move: the Drysdale was $35 and the Clemente was $30 (cheaper combined than the price I'd been quoted on the other Drysdale rookie just minutes before). But again: haggling. I asked if he'd take $50 for the pair, he countered at $55. And since I had a little extra birthday cash in my wallet (thanks Mom & Dad!), I agreed: $55 for both.

And just like that: DRYSDALE AND CLEMENTE WERE MINE! In that moment I could've completely lost my mind. I could've become the guy who screamed and yelled and jumped up and down at the village hall show, the crazy guy who went viral from all the pictures and videos, the guy vendors would tell stories about. Instead I turned the cards over and over again in my hands as I walked away from the table, slapped them against my palm a few times, staring hard into the eyes looking out at me on the fronts of the incredible baseball cards I'd just purchased.

It was all I could do to remain anonymous in the face of such pure joy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset Bracket: Bevacqua Region (Pt. 2)

Let's see how last week's matchups played out.

#1 (Page 51) -- 1973 Topps #456 Dick Green (25 votes)


#16 (Page 56) -- 2017 Topps #499 Danny Valencia (11 votes)

#9 (Page 34) -- 1995 Collector's Choice #299 Chuck Carr (22 votes)


#8 (Page 41) -- 1967 Topps #363 Dave Johnson (15 votes)

#12 (Page 61) -- 1983 Fleer #543 Ron Gardenhire (19 votes)


#5 (Page 69) -- 1988 Fleer #616 Sammy Stewart (18 votes)

#4 (Page 22) -- 2017 Stadium Club #197 Tyler Skaggs (21 votes)


#13 (Page 17) -- 1990 Upper Deck #151 Rick Honeycutt (16 votes)

Unlike the previous region, the #1 seed actually escaped the first round here -- though there were a couple other upsets to make up for it.

Carr over Johnson is a minor upset in seed only: I personally love that card and can't help but think "Those aren't pillows!" every time I see it. Gardenhire over Stewart was a bigger surprise (decided by the narrowest of margins), and I'm also happy to see the late Tyler Skaggs moving on to the next round.

Looks like the Bevacqua region is already shaping up to be an exciting one.


And so we move on to the second half of this bubble-blowing region -- do more upsets await?

Only one way to find out: here's a look at this week's matchups.

#6 (Page 12) -- 2017 Stadium Club #104 Ryon Healy


#11 (Page 43) -- 1973 Topps #386 Don Money

#3 (Page 19) -- 2004 Upper Deck #166 Kerry Robinson


#14 (Page 42) -- 1992 Stadium Club #376 Greg Gagne

#7 (Page 31) -- 1973 Topps #273 Chris Speier


#10 (Page 2) -- 2007 Upper Deck #16 Alvin Colina

#2 (Page 57) -- 1994 Topps #511 Devon White


#15 (Page 24) -- 1970 Topps #213 Andy Etchebarren

That's it for this week -- the polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

I am the gaijin

As I sit here typing from my room in suburban Illinois, the rest of the world can often seem so far away.

But one of the things I love about blogging and baseball cards is that sometimes they allow that distant world to come to you. I own a handful of cards exclusive to cities, states, and even countries way off the map from my Chicagoland home, and I think that's beautiful. Still, in all this time I've never quite experienced a package that supplied the basic feel of a place like the surprise box I received from Mr. Zappy of "Torren' Up Cards" a while ago (the only thing better than a box of baseball cards is a box of baseball cards I wasn't expecting). 

I'm not exaggerating when I say that this Zippy Zapping was like a trip to Japan all taped up and stuffed into a single box...

...and I had to remove a good portion of what was in there to get an image that showed even a fraction of the fun inside.

This isn't the first time a Zapping has almost given me a heart attack -- remember when he sent me a T206 Hal Chase? -- but there's no doubting this is right near the top of trade packages I've received during my blogging career. I mean, first thing I saw once I broke the seal of the box was a huge stack of programs, magazines, and other larger items that aren't your everyday trading material.

All cool stuff, but my personal favorite of the non-card lot was far and away the Yankees-centric magazine (didn't know those existed) with Ichiro on the cover, of course.

Sure, there was a fair amount of your standard MLB cards and names...

...including oddballs and mascots and mini-collection hits!

And even a hearty helping of minis!

But the majority of this Zapping -- and by far the part I found most compelling -- was the absolutely unbelievable assortment of Japanese cards in there.

Regular readers of this blog probably know of my fascination with Japanese baseball, and the cardboard that goes along with it. In spirit, this package made me imagine myself as an American abroad in Japan, a gaijin. Part of the reason I get so excited over Japanese cards is that they're pretty much all new to me, and therefore interesting, thrilling.

I have no idea who's shown on this card, or even what it is exactly, but you can't sit there and tell me it ain't cool.

Only in Japan will you find cards of dudes getting tossed into the air, or promotional cards with pictures of jerseys on them (rather than actual swatches).

I'm somewhat familiar with the general history of Japanese baseball, but I admit I don't know a lot about the specific players and teams within it -- I don't even know much about the cards themselves aside from the fact that BBM is basically like Topps over there (I think?).

Most of the names and sets in this page are mysteries to me, but part of the beauty of getting them is that it doesn't matter one bit: they're all fantastic.

Some of my favorite Japanese cards in this Zapping were the ones that featured American players -- including this strange card-game set that features very Funko Pop-like depictions of said players on the back.

Woo! Card-Gens!

This Zapping threw knockout punch after knockout punch: after the Card-Gens came an entire stack of 2002 Topps Kanebos.

These basically parallel the 2002 Topps set, only they have Japanese on the back -- which makes the cards of Japanese stars like Ichiro and Hideo Nomo doubly neat.

Japanese do shiny and First Pitch cards just as well as us.

Japanese mini-collection hits!

I'm an instant fan of all Japanese cards, but Japanese cards of guys who played/are playing in the US (gaijin opposites?) are supreme for me since I actually recognize names like Tanaka and Maeda.

And have I mentioned this Zapping included my first Japanese card of Shohei Ohtani?!

It seriously took me an entire night just to process and soak everything in from this incredible feat of blogging kindness. To call it sensory overload would be an understatement: this box, and the cards inside it, basically took me to a different side of the world. And while I've never physically been to Japan, there's a part of me that almost knows what it feels like to be a gaijin after this Zapping.

In my head, I'm already there.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset Bracket: Bevacqua Region (Pt. 1)

Let's take a look at how the latter half of the Alvarado Region played out.

#11 (Page 38) -- 1973 Topps #334 Freddie Patek (23 votes)


#6 (Page 8) -- 2016 BBM Fusion #66 Norihiro Nakamura (18 votes)

#3 (Page 13) -- 1989 Upper Deck #117 Gary Pettis (33 votes)


#14 (Page 39) -- 1997 Fleer #344 Tony Eusebio (7 votes)

#7 (Page 30) -- 1997 Topps #266 Eric Owens (21 votes)


#10 (Page 71) -- 1987 Fleer #632 Bob Horner (19 votes)

#2 (Page 45) -- 1993 Pinnacle #404 Bob Zupcic (26 votes)


#15 (Page 5) -- 1973 Topps #38 Mike Epstein (12 votes)

Not quite as upset-crazed as the first half of the matchups, but we still had a bit of a shocker (Patek over Nakamura and a battle that went all the way down to the wire (Owens over Horner).

With the #1 seed already out of the picture, I can't wait to see how the rest of this region plays out.


For now, however, we move on to the Bevacqua Region -- so named for the bubble-blowing champ of '70s lore.

Here's a look at the first round of matchups.

#1 (Page 51) -- 1973 Topps #456 Dick Green


#16 (Page 56) -- 2017 Topps #499 Danny Valencia

#8 (Page 41) -- 1967 Topps #363 Dave Johnson


#9 (Page 34) -- 1995 Collector's Choice #299 Chuck Carr

#5 (Page 69) -- 1988 Fleer #616 Sammy Stewart


#12 (Page 61) -- 1983 Fleer #543 Ron Gardenhire

#4 (Page 22) -- 2017 Stadium Club #197 Tyler Skaggs


#13 (Page 17) -- 1990 Upper Deck #151 Rick Honeycutt

That just about does it for this week -- the polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!