At this point in my life, I've long accepted that baseball cards hold a certain power over me.
I may have once made a conscious decision to start hoarding cards way back when, but by now I know that street has become two-way. I collect because I enjoy collecting, of course, but also because my collection is simply a part of my being. I literally can't imagine my life without baseball cards. I will make significant detours from my comfort zone if it might end in baseball cards. I probably put up with way more disappointment from cards than in any other area of my life - because as much as I complain about this group of bros or that uninspired design, I keep coming back, don't I?
I can't think of a place that better exemplifies this dissonance than the flea market. It combines so many things I don't particularly like - mornings, crowds, blazing heat - and somehow mashes it into the countless afternoons I've spent there over the years. How is this possible, you ask?
Cards, of course!
I like to tell myself that I'd still go to the flea market if there was no possibility of finding cards, but deep down I know that's not really true - I might otherwise go once or twice a year for the novelty of it, but cards keep me coming back week after week.
There's no way I'd brave the heat and masses and 8 AM exhaustion for anything other than my beloved cardboard. That's why I made yet another trip to the flea market a few weeks ago. And the moment I saw the grand return of a particularly choice dime box vendor I thought might never come back, it made all those other inconveniences worth it.
Still having a hard time believing I found a '77 OPC Dave Winfield for a dime (good thing I flipped it over), but that's the flea market for you.
I will brave crowds of billions if it means I can find top-tier oddballs of huge names like these for a dime.
(I actually already have the Yount, but it looked so lonely sitting there in a suburban dime box all greasy and unloved.)
Leaf cards don't excite me quite as much as OPCs, but for ten cents I'll take all the Canadian cardboard I can find.
I'll take "Cards I Can't Believe I Don't Have Already" for $200, Alex.
These dime boxes are run by a father and son who look about the same age as me and my dad - it always warms my heart to see other father-son duos in the hobby.
They had a few of these neat '94 Dodgers Police sets scattered around their table, and they basically gave me one as a throw-in after I'd paid for my dime box finds (team-issue oddballs rule!).
More stupendous oddballs - and only now am I realizing how many cool Robin Yount cards I picked up here.
Hard to beat minor league dime box fun - including a new card of Obscure Guy I Collect Todd Pratt, and just an all-around wonderful card with that Hartenstein (including a fire extinguisher cameo!).
I've said it before, but finding minor league singles of dudes I like is still one of my most supreme hobby thrills - I'll take these over regular ol' rookie cards any day of the week.
(Where have you gone, Brett Lawrie?)
Ah, who am I kidding - dime box rookies are cool, too.
A dime box with new mini-collection hits is a dime box for me.
Guys I collect, famous and not.
Bryan LaHair was DFA'ed the same year he was an All-Star (2012), which should tell you how truly inept some of those circa-2010 Cubs teams really were.
Can't decide what's more prevalent on stuff from around 2000 - legends on weird teams, or card designs with unnecessary silver/sheen finishes.
Two dime box finds I love for two very different reasons.
I suppose the one thing I judge any given dime box on is the sheer variety of cards inside - and as you can probably tell by now, these overwhelmingly made the grade.
I can only look through so much 2017 Bowman Platinum or whatever until my eyes start to glaze over - but if I'm pulling a Duke Snider oddball one minute and a 2021 Heritage insert the next (which I needed for the throwback uniform, of course!), that'll keep my attention for eternity.
Many people seem to wonder how I can stay at a single dime box for so long, how I look through all those cards, and the easy answer is just variety - the sense of not knowing what's coming next keeps me alive and alert.
That's why I made it through a good hour digging through these dime boxes under the Sunday sun at the flea market, and didn't regret a single minute or cent I spent.
Which is good, because my regular card guys didn't have a whole lot for me during this particular trip.
The 50-cent binder guy from past trips didn't have much new stuff, which meant I had to settle for stuff I'd missed and/or passed over during previous sojourns.
Another vendor had some loose '80s & '90s packs/box sets that were just a smidge overpriced - not egregiously, but not enough to get me spending wildly.
In the end, I settled for this Fleer "Heroes of Baseball" box set because it was only $4, and except for one or two cards they were all new to me.
Bought a few of his loose packs too for a buck or two a piece - I basically only grabbed these for the sheer joy of ripping packs from the mid '90s, so getting stuff I actually want (Geoff Blum!) is icing on the cake.
My main guy's dime boxes had been mostly picked through by the time I got to his table - understandably, since I spent over an hour perusing the aforementioned father-and-son dime boxes - so there wasn't a lot left for me.
I did manage to find a few vintage frankenset contenders, however, like Science Teacher Dan Coombs and a sneaky bit of Coca-Cola advertising from '75 Topps I'd somehow never seen before.
My main guy did have one biggie waiting in his glass case that ended the afternoon with a final flourish - a '68 Lou Brock for five bucks!
I'm working weekends at my new job, which, of course, is gonna put a bit of a damper on my flea market runs for the remainder of the summer. I'll still try to sneak in a pre-Sunday shift trip here and there, but for the most part I'll probably have to live with the cards and glories of past afternoons. It's a sad but expected evil of the workaday world.
Sure, that means I won't have to wake up at 8 AM or a sunburnt neck after forgetting to put on sunscreen for the umpteenth time - but the truth is I wouldn't trade any of that in, because every card I've ever bought from the flea market contains a deep and meaningful memory.