Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Can't price me out of the card show

Dad and I went to the big convention-hall card show in town last week, and I don't know that I've ever been bombarded with more reminders of how much money talks in today's hobby.

Seems like about 75 percent of the attendees were carrying those black magnetic cases that are all the rage now (which I assume held cards worth more than my paycheck). And while I did eventually secure most of the 2022 Heritage I needed (more on that in a future post) I saw very little in the way of modern singles - juxtaposed with A TON of unopened wax. 

The list goes on. I had a couple different experiences of failing to get the attention of vendors who were clearly much more taken with other potential transactions that were certainly more prosperous than the $5 worth of cards I was trying to buy from them. Oh, and within about five minutes of walking into the place I saw a guy buy a $700 card that barely made a dent in the wad of cash he pulled from his pocket.

Sometimes money doesn't just talk - it shouts.

And one more thing: there were barely any dime boxes.

I saw a total of two dime boxes at this show - a far cry from past gatherings - and neither of them were anything to write home about. The real discount star of the day was a quarter-box vendor I found about halfway through the convention hall. I made two separate trips to this table, the second of which saw me pull my last eight crumpled $1 bills from my pocket to pay for a small stack of quarter cards.

My biggest complaint about quarter boxes is that they're often dime boxes in disguise, but that wasn't the case here. This guy had so much quality stuff that every stack I picked up was dangerous, and I purposefully dragged myself away the first time around in order to not blow a giant-sized hole in my budget. (I don't know about you, but I have a hard time walking away from unfinished digs.)

Eventually I settled on a fun batch that included Big Cats, "Toe" Nashes (look him up), and a Francisco Lindor variation that probably shouldn't have been a quarter.

Quarter boxes force me to be more discerning with my selections, which I suppose isn't the worst thing when juxtaposed next to the willy-nilly world of dime cards.

These were easy picks, however - how cool is that pinball-themed Chipper Jones? 

Quarter-box shiny is more of a delicacy than dime-box shiny, but every bit as irresistible.

Like I said, there were a couple dime boxes on display with a handful of gems to be had - can't say I was expecting to find an online-only Topps Total for a dime, and I was shocked to discover I didn't already have that '83 Donruss Hernandez.

And of course I had to buy a dime card of a rosin bag!

Mini-collection hunting is always a treat.

Had to spend a quarter a pop on these bigtime player collection needs, but well worth the Washingtons.

But after all is said and done, I don't really think you'll ever price the truly fun-loving collectors out of the card show - and I don't think that's summed up any better than the table Dad and I found near the end of the hall.

This guy had heaps of oddball box sets, unopened packs, scattered singles, and just general odds and ends - ALL FOR 50 CENTS EACH! I've seen this vendor at past shows, and his table is always swamped. While I'm normally not crazy about crowds, I didn't mind so much this time because while there's nothing high-dollar here it's obviously still a popular spot.

Which makes sense, because it's hard to convey into words just how fun it is to dig through all that rubble.

I bought every single one of those UD legends packs the guy had (issued by Sonic!) as well as a few random oddball and Broder-ish mystery sets I saw amidst the madness.

Lots of minor league stuff, too, which you know I'm always a sucker for.

Can't get enough Randall Simon or Rick Ankiel cards, and even the sets that didn't result in any familiar names had a surprise mascot and/or throwback jersey card thrown in for fun.

A few more names you might recognize here (hard to tell if Wally Moon's magnificent unibrow is still there) as well as the biggest Coors Light ad I've ever seen on a baseball card.

I mostly splurged on the sets at this table, but there were a select few 50-cent singles I jumped at as well - and you know they have to be cool if I'm gonna spend a whole two quarters on 'em.

Behold, the sacred haven known to me and Dad as simply THE TUB.

This table has been our initial stop of the show for as long as I can remember because it's literally one of the first things you see after walking through the doors. The cards are 3/$2 or 50/$25 (of course I found enough for the latter), and while they're a mix of all sports it's about 80 percent baseball. Boxes are cool, but there's something about rummaging through a big tub full of cards that's weirdly fun.

Dad and I spent out first glorious minutes digging through The Tub, and I even snapped a picture with an accidental cameo from his right arm.

The only way I have of showing you how incredibly random the stuff in these tubs can be is just to show you the cards I pulled this time around.

From Stouffer's to Coca-Cola to a rookie-year Kahn's Barry Larkin, oddballs are obviously the name of the game.

A lot of cards I seem to find are so odd that I know almost nothing about them aside from whatever scant information I can find on the back.

For whatever reason, The Tub seemed to be a cemetery for someone's Billy Herman collection this time around, which is fine with me since I collect him and would otherwise never have a prayer of finding these (LOVE that Dodgers one!).

A handful of '80s stars here - and while I've found lots of great cards from The Tub over the years, I can't think of many that outdo a Granny Goose Rickey!

A dime box drought is never a good thing - but if nothing else I guess it got me to earmark an even larger part of my budget for vintage this time around.

So much so that I BOUGHT A CLEMENTE I ALREADY HAD, which is something I never, ever thought I'd do. I ended up getting this '62 Post Clemente for about $15, only to find I already had a different copy (bottom) in my binders. I suppose I'm not fully to blame since vintage Post designs all look criminally similar, but still - how could I forget I had this card?

I'll probably keep the one I bought last week since it's in slightly better condition, so if anyone wants a miscut, written-on Clemente, it needs a home.

Thankfully, I scored a lot of nifty vintage at this show that wasn't undercut by my faulty memory - including, yes, another legendary Post with that Willy Mays (need it, already checked).

The bottom card is an action shot from a Topps Venezuelan set, and while it doesn't occupy any specific place in my collection I threw three bucks at it, because how often do you get to buy a cheap Topps Venezuelan?

Some vintage frankensetters here, including a couple fun '73 high-numbers and a very unathletic-looking George Alusik.

Hard to beat '56s of guys I collect for $2 a pop.

Here's one thing I've never seen at a card show... entire box of vintage OPCs!

Had to cut myself off from spending a lot more time and money at the all-OPC box than I easily could have - although think my favorite is probably the Garner because that's a '77 OPC variation I'd never seen before.

Some smaller-than-your-average-vintage here - that Dutch Leonard was a steal at $4 and a jarring reminder that it'd been way too long since I added a Play Ball card to my binders.

I don't usually go nuts for vintage Bowmans, but I couldn't let these go - Bobby Thomson is a treat to collect because he's a very well-known dude whose cards are still somehow cheap (paid a mere $4 for that one!).

I never planned on owning a '50 Bowman Gil Hodges, but I think you'll agree that I would've been insane to pass it up after I saw its obscenely low $8 price tag!

Some other vintage miscellany from the bargain bins - give me all the discounted '60s Fleer Legends.

Early '60s greatness here, all for well under the cost of a blaster combined - I'll take this every day of the week over the gobs of unopened wax I saw at so many tables.

I don't specifically set out to buy beater vintage, but fact is these creases and scuffs did allow me to get big names at terrifically low-end prices.

Brock was $10 - still a heckuva deal since it's the scary HOF/high-number/SP triumvirate - the others were right around $5, and I'm especially fond of that Gibson since vintage Fleer gets buried under Topps most of the time (I don't think I'd seen so much of a photograph of that one before last week).

These were far and away my two most expensive purchases of the show, but I didn't mind because they're two cards I'd been hopelessly chasing for a long, long time.

'67 & '72 are among the scariest of the scary vintage high-numbers, and unfortunately for me Maury Wills and the "Traded" Steve Carlton found themselves in that pocket of those years' checklists. The '67 is actually Maury Wills's first Topps card - he had a famed contract dispute with Topps for years - and at a whole $20 it was still far cheaper than any other copy I'd ever seen.

The Carlton earns Most Expensive Card of the Day honors - the $30 I paid for it was a steep price (for me, anyways) but I'm simply sick and tired of chasing it and just wanted it in my binders already, dammit!

I really only had one goal in mind when I walked into the convention hall: find a '68 Topps Ernie Banks!

It's probably the most attainable Mr. Cub I didn't already have, and honestly I'm not quite sure how I never scooped up a copy. Early returns weren't promising - the few copies I saw were in the $40-50 range, well above what I was looking to spend. A guy at one of the last tables of the day had a copy, but again, it was around $40 - too expensive, and I didn't even have that much left in my wallet at the time. I thought my journey would end unfinished.

The guy had a small discount bin of half-off vintage that I was absently flipping through when my dad flashed a card at me and said, isn't this it? IT WAS! The very '68 Banks itself! Better yet, it fell into my hands for a mere $10 (half of the original $20 price tag) thanks to some nefarious diamond-cutting. 

You couldn't have written a better ending, and try as the world might, it's proof that collectors like us aren't about to priced out of that unmatched utopia known as the card show.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Things I can't have (from COMC)

One of the many paradoxes of being a collector is that it seems like I'm constantly drawn to the cards I'm not really supposed to have.

While I like to imagine I'm above the branding of "Limited Edition" or "Regional Release" or other similar advertising claims, I'm not. I find myself wanting stuff that was issued nowhere near my home in Illinois and/or printed long before my time. Current, mainstream sets - easily the easiest cards to obtain even in today's flipper-filled era - are probably lowest on my collecting totem pole. 

This is one of a whole lot of reasons I'm both thankful and fearful of COMC - it gathers a lot of these elusive items into one virtual place, but siphons off a good chunk of my bank account in the process. Take this Roger Maris card that arrived as part of my most recent order yesterday - a rare early-days Indians card, and a National VIP-exclusive one, at that. I don't have the money/interest to do VIP stuff at card shows, and yet I've always found the giveaways incredibly enticing. 

Enticing enough, in fact, to make me pay a whole five dollars for this card, which if you know the name of this blog will tell you that's pretty much unheard of for me with anything modern.

For the most part, I've grown up long after the era when cards were packaged with food and/or given away at baseball games.

Result: I want all of those cards, of course - all the Kahn's, all the Hostess, and all the Granny Gooses (Geese?).

And who among us can resist the allure of Mother's Cookies?

(That's also the first and only card I've seen of Mike Norris's brief comeback with the A's in 1990.)

If west-coast Mother's Cookies cards often seem a world away, then I don't know how to describe my mostly futile obsession with cards made all the way in Japan.

I probably own about 1 percent of the Japanese cards I need (if that), but I treasure the few I have - and while I have no idea who Shoichi Busujima is, man is that one beautiful baseball card.

With the way my brain is wired, I often get caught up in wondering if my favorite mini-collection hits are the ones I don't already have.

And while I don't make a habit of chasing parallels off COMC, I couldn't turn down a purple-bordered Toys 'r' Us parallel of that Tim Hudson - easily one of the better "pitcher at the plate" cards of my lifetime.

Bigtime player collection hits - and I certainly would've given long odds that a Kraft Singles oddball would be my 500th different Mark Grace card.

(That '92-style Ichiro adds another notch in my somewhat-serious quest to get a card of his on every Topps design.)

Things I'm a sucker for, in no particular order: TCMA cards, SI for Kids cards, magazine-cover cards, and of course defunct-team throwback cards!

Minis of various makes and models - including a '51 Topps exclusive that to me seems a whole lot better than those (mostly ghastly) Project 70 things.

I've ignored Fleer Stickers for most of my collecting life, and I was okay with that decision until I found out there was a Royals Gaylord Perry card I didn't have floating out there in the abyss.

I don't often use COMC for recent releases - remember what I said about wanting obscure stuff I usually can't have? - but these were way too cheap to pass up.

(That Campy might be the best unlicensed insert I've ever seen.)

I'm able to block out most of the gaggle of online-only/limited/exclusive stuff Topps seems to be releasing these days, but every once in a while I'm reminded of their existence through COMC - and worse yet, see something I actually need from some of 'em.

Always love a good Indians Eck, and when's the last time Bucky Dent got a Topps card?

I've never signed up for Topps's Montgomery Club, submitted a Home Run Challenge entry, bought one of those SI cards, etc. - but I sure enjoy reaping the (cheap) benefits of people who have.

Topps Now reminding us that Lorenzo Cain is really good at robbing home runs.

I know for a fact that I will never own even a small fraction of the minor league cards I want.

My only hope is to pick up the few scraps I'm lucky enough to find along the way - including a zero-year Jose Quintana and a sweet Coco Crisp from his pre-nickname "Covelli" days.

A few horizontal greats - that's HOFer Joe Cronin making a cameo on that Yaz card(!).

I saw these Topps Screen Plays in a recent Night Owl post, and I knew I had to own at least a few - they don't scan well, but take my word for it and buy one if you can.

Whether consciously or not, oddballs have become my main source of joy on COMC, mostly because I rarely find stuff like this in my pocket of the world.

I must be quite a sucker because that Mattingly even says "Limited Edition" on the front of the card, and even that didn't turn me off from wanting it!

I'm not in the market of turning down Pepper Martin or Three-Finger Brown cards I need.

I've owned the standard Topps versions of these cards for years, and I thought that was enough for me...

...but apparently not, because I found myself adding OPC after OPC to my COMC cart one afternoon.

This was mostly a byproduct of these being obscenely cheap - don't think I paid more than 50 cents for any of 'em - and probably some exoticism of being able to own cards from Canada here in the flat US Midwest.

Always love a good modern-era food issue and such, but in the oddball world it's hard to beat the vintage stuff.

A whole lot of fun here - Burger King cards, cloth stickers, and an excellent Vida Blue (from the scarcer '75 SSPC checklist) I've been chasing for an eternity now.

I seem to be priced out of most of the vintage I need on COMC these days, but a little digging turned up a few hidden gems for this order.

Vintage All-Star cards are great for many reasons, one of which being they make big names like Eddie Mathews fall into my modest (see: cheapskate) budget.

But my biggest get (and the most expensive item) from this COMC order has to be this '57 Whitey Ford that's been creased about 835 times - which explains why it cost me all of five dollars!

I'm perfectly happy having a reprint of a T206 Wagner, because I know that's a card I'll never have. But seeing the same couple '57 Whitey reprints I've had for years has always annoyed me since that's a card I could conceivably own. And hey, now it's mine! Although now I'm thinking about the gads of other reprints sitting in my binders right now, waiting for the real one to come along...

My collecting brain is just never satisfied, is it?