Friday, August 27, 2021

Only cards make me brave the flea market

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.


Mike said...

Glad you can still sneak in a couple hours before the new job,if the mood takes you... and,boy,those minor league cards have a charm all their own!

Jeff B - Wax Pack Wonders said...

Ah yes Bryan LaHair. Those Cubs teams were terrible weren't they?

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Some superb dime finds.

Kevin Papoy said...

Good luck at your new job !
I don't know if you know, but I've been working for 15 years in an independant book store, and I love every second of it. Not as much as digging through a dime box, but close enough !

always great to read you

Adam said...

Cool finds Nick! I’m not ready to brave the local flea market yet (mainly because I know that it’s a breeding ground for the virus since no one in my area takes it seriously) but maybe next spring…hopefully.

Fuji said...

Always enjoy your dime box finds. Great stuff. Walking around the flea market is therapy for me, but it can't be too hot. I love the prospect of adding new cards to my collection, but the past few years I enter knowing there's a 50/50 chance I walk out of there empty-handed... yet I still wake up early to get those steps in and breathe fresh air.

GTT said...

Now that's a dime box. Nice Lou Brock too.

The Shlabotnik Report said...

As always, some awesome dime box finds! I wish we had flea markets here in Shlabotsylvania. The nearest one I'm aware of is an hour drive in each direction.

Chuck Hartenstein, the Hawaii Islanders coach on that 1984 Cramer PCL card, pitched two years for that same team in 1975 and 1976 before becoming an original and short-term Blue Jay, just 13 appearances to go with his 1977 Topps card (and sunglasses).

If that Hostess Yount is looking for a loving home, I might be able to provide one... :-)

Mark Hoyle said...

Goodluck with the new job. I am in your neighborhood this weekend. Staying downtown at the Congress Hotel. I should’ve hit the flea market this morning

Bo said...

Rose game card in a dime box - wow! I just posted that Hartenstein myself, got it in a big lot of minor league cards.