Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The card show never gets old

I've written a lot of card show posts on the blog over the years, and it's gotten to the point where I'm not really sure I have anything new to say about them.

It's a pleasure to report that Dad and I were able to make it to the big convention-hall show a few weeks ago. But I'm sure most of you probably know what I'm going to talk about by now. How I dug through boxes of discount vintage while a customer handed a plump roll of $50 bills to the vendor for a vintage Mantle or something or other (which happened about 30 minutes into the show). How I was perusing a dime box as a guy in a basketball jersey at the next table was livestreaming a high-end box break & opening the packs with black latex gloves (happened about an hour later). Et cetera.

These are the kinds of general goings-on that still seem strange and worthy of reporting to this quiet collector - I can't help pointing them out every time because they keep happening every time, and the juxtaposition is too irresistible for my wandering eyes.

But despite my fear of repeating myself and simply not bringing anything new to these posts, make no mistake about it: the card show never gets old.

I might show new player collection hits all the time - including (at the top of this post) a rookie-year Vlad I needed from a dime box! - but I assure you the act of digging for them remains a thrill.

Same goes for mini-collection stuff, too!

The expected sampling of cheapie-bin shiny (am I the last Chris Davis collector on the face of the earth?).

I don't set out to pick up x amount of dime box minis at shows, but I always seem to buy enough to cobble a scan together.

That's another early Vlad I needed, and I would've been crazy to pass up a Beer Pong card!

One slight anomaly I noticed with this show was that the cheapie boxes skewed a bit heavier towards inserts & parallels, which in my experience tend to be reserved for the 50-cent/dollar boxes I rarely go through (because I am, unfortunately, on a time limit). 

These came from a vendor whose cards were 25 cents each or 100/$15 - I can't help but see it as a challenge whenever someone puts out a sign like that.

I did indeed grab 100 cards from those boxes, helped in large part by the massive stack of these retail-only Heritage shiny parallels from a few years back I found early on in the dig.

(Chroming up old Topps designs is something I probably shouldn't like as much as I do.)

Another vendor had a dollar box that'd been marked down to 4/$1 at some point during the night, and it was loaded with photo variations like these that I remain powerless to resist (the Kipnis is one of those variants with Sabermetric stats on the back).

The real surprise came when that same vendor charged me all of $4 for the 40 cards I bought, which means that his quarter box had been marked down even further to, you guessed it, a dime box!

I lamented the relative lack of dime boxes the last time I attended this show, but I'm proud to say they were back with a vengeance - there had to have been at least six or seven different ones on display here

Bonus: quite a few of them were loaded with '90s cards, which meant stuff like samples, Dodger Perdros, and even a new Wonderful Terrific Monds sighting!

While I often roll my eyes at the prospect/rookie card craze the hobby so often falls into, fact is I really enjoy finding similar stuff on the scrap heaps at card shows.

That's one of the last rookie-year Mark Graces I needed, and that minor-league Bote was an unexpected surprise from the aforementioned 100/$15 box.

In case you forgot that cards come in a lot of different shapes, sizes, and substances.

A few cool horizontals here, including a nifty "42" jersey photo-variation from that dollar-turned-quarter-turned dime box.

Although I might love looking for specific players, themes, and such. the card show remains a thrill because so much of what I find doesn't fall into any particular category.

Case in point: here's Mr. Met, an unconscious Babe Ruth being carried off the field, and a long defunct Griffey Jr. ad that I insist counts as a baseball card.

Card shows never get old, and neither do the oddballs I find at card shows.

I still feel like I'm getting away with some kind of petty crime finding cards of guys like Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson in dime boxes.

Here's the part of the post where I attempt a seamless transition into the vintage I found at the card show - and while the cheaper/modern stuff was obviously great, I think you'll soon agree that vintage eventually won the day.

One vendor had a big stack of these Exhibits cards on display for $2 a pop - even though I just can't bring myself to get too excited over oversized stuff (where do you store them?), I caved and bought a couple of the bigger names in my collection with Billy Williams & "Ritchie" (sic) Ashburn here.

A bit of a vintage smorgasbord here - I found that '54 Rowe for a quarter(!) at the first table of the day, and Cal McLish is in the running for Worst Baseball Card of All-Time.

I've also been hunting for a cheap copy of the '57 Charley Neal for my frankenset (dig the old Schaefer ad in the background!) and that mission was finally accomplished for all of $2 at this show.

Some smaller vintage for you - I'm still not sure how I feel about those old Topps Rub-Down inserts, but if I see a Jimmy Wynn card I don't have, I'm gonna buy it.

Scavenged a couple Kellogg's for $3 each at the last table of the day, and paying all of $5 for a Bowman Jimmy Piersall was a major score.

Don Sutton kinda ruins the surprise here...

...but these are all indeed our north-of-the-border OPC pals!

Finding any Alou Bros. stuff I need is a thrill, much less an OPC from way back in '68.

A handful of other cheapies I picked off the rubble - that '58 Mazeroski was all of $4 due to a little glue residue on the back, which is probably my favorite flaw if I had to pick one because the front looks impeccable.

I'm usually content to land one or two heavy hitters at a card show, maybe three on a good day.

Although I had a little more money in my pocket this time around, I didn't think I'd wreck nearly as much havoc as I eventually did with that bankroll. I thought something special might be afoot when I found a '64 Whitey Ford from my "Keep Dreaming" list for a whopping $7 in the very first aisle!

I very nearly bought a '64 Koufax (another "Keep Dreaming" suspect) for $50 in that same first aisle, but decided to take a stroll through before I dropped that kind of cash - which, in hindsight, was smart because I found a similar copy of all of $25(!) near the end of the show.

A couple of home run champs hanging out - including a third "Keep Dreaming" hit with a '65 Aaron that the vendor wanted to make sure I still wanted before I spent a whole $20 on from his glass case (upon which time I explained to him I wanted it because of the damage since it's the only way I can afford a '65 Aaron).

The Sadaharu Oh was perhaps the most unexpected find of the evening - my fondness for Japanese baseball cards is well-documented, and for $25 I was powerless to resist a playing-day card of Japan's greatest.

The sheer strength of the vintage I found was already crazy, but it soon edged into the absurd when I found two cards that I hadn't planned on owning for a long, long time (if ever) from the same vendor near the end of the show.

Finding a '53 Campy for $25 all but floored me - easily my oldest card of his - and the lesser-known '61 Yaz uses the same photo as his '60 rookie but is massively cheaper considering this copy cost me $20 (and now I somehow only need a '64 Yaz for his complete Topps run).

I did have a goal for this show - find a '57 Ted Williams - but between you and me, it was basically something I told myself with a wink, and nothing I truly thought I'd accomplish.

I's Ted Williams. I can't afford it, especially not when $25 justifies a "big" purchase on my part. I saw one in the first aisle for $100, and put it in the back of my mind as a pipe dream for later. I noticed quite a few copies spread across the show, most of which were graded and/or asking many times what I could even dream of paying - I even saw a written-on & heavily creased copy with that same $100 price tag that got me thinking maybe there was something to that first one I'd seen so many aisles ago.

I went back, and, after verifying the vendor accepted PayPal (truly a dangerous card show development in today's modern world), offered $80 for that '57 Williams I'd seen in the first aisle. After a bit of hemming and hawing, I'm proud to report that he accepted(!!!), and a few short punches on my phone later, Teddy Ballgame was mine. I'm almost positive it's the most I've ever spent on a single baseball card, but it's really a fine specimen for the money, with only a faint crease running down the middle. No matter how you slice it, I can now open up my binders, point to a pocket, and say there's my '57 Topps Ted Williams.

So at the end of the day, I ask you: how could card shows ever get old?

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The customer service card draft

Round 1...

I've been in customer service for the vast majority of my working life, but a while back I embarked upon an uncharted journey - trying to participate in Kevin's card draft over at "The Diamond King" smack dab in the middle of a weekend workday.

The premise is simple enough: a few bloggers and I submitted nine cards into a pool that we'd draft from over the course of nine rounds. It seemed like an incredibly fun way to score some new cardboard, and I was eager to get in on it - eager enough, in fact, to try and sneak a few card drafting minutes into the risky abyss of working a cash register.

Things started out well enough - one of the many things I enjoy about working at a bookstore is that it rarely gets insanely busy - and I was able to snag this Tony Oliva with my #1 pick, easily my top choice of the draft pool since you rarely see him in modern sets.

Round 2...

This is first retail job where I've a) been able to sit down, and b) had access to the internet - I've spent a lot of time standing at cash registers staring into space, and I'm incredibly thankful for both of said things.

After a few idle receipt print-outs and Have A Good Day well-wishes, I happily selected this nifty Frank Chance insert, which is further ammo for my please for Panini to make more old-guy cards since there weren't many logos in turn-of-the-century baseball that would need obscuring.

Round 3...

Somehow, I managed to get each one of my top three most-wanted cards from the draft pool - this Hiura is a nice low-numbered parallel of one of 2020 Big League's finest specimens.

Round 4...

I drafted this card even though I like almost nothing about it - I've never been big on Diamond King stuff, and the lack of logos is way too obvious.

As is our fealty to player collections.

Round 5...

I was starting to get suspicious at this point.

One of the rules of retail is to never say things like Wow, it's so slow today! or Hey, no one's called for a while! because, inevitably, you'll jinx it and six different customers will come to the register right as four phones ring. But this was a Sunday, after all, and aside from a few perfectly nice book-buying folks, the card draft was going oddly smoothly.

Surely something's gonna happen, I thought - right as I drafted this weird insert of NBA star Stan Musial (nice kneepads).

Round 6...

"Can I get this gift-wrapped?" said the customer, right before my next draft pick came up.

I jinxed it. Gift-wrapping is, I suppose, a necessary part of retail business, but I've never liked doing it. But the cardboard gods were with me on this day, because as soon as I rose from my chair, one of my fellow co-workers volunteered to do the wrapping. And they had no idea how thankful I was for them at that exact moment.

Sitting back down, I happily drafted this strange Nolan Ryan promo, because for some reason I can't get enough of these bizarro '90s oddballs.

Round 7...

At this point I was just trying to pluck anything I had even a remote use for from the draft pool.

Which is why I took this generic-looking Mike Piazza insert which, for all its accompanying dullness, was a need for my autograph mini-collection.

Round 8...

Here's a card I needed for one of the 735 different A&G mini insert sets I'll never come close to completing - Hakarl is a Scandinavian dish consisting of fermented shark.

"Culinary curiosity" indeed, and one I won't be sampling in this lifetime (cool card though!).

Round 9...

As my last draft pick got closer, I looked out over the cash register, fully expecting a parade of ten people to rush to the front of the store.

But, somehow, that didn't happen, and my end of the draft was complete when I selected this Topps Chrome Jose Abreu with my final pick. I was about 50-50 as far as whether I already had this card or not, but obviously without my cards in front of me, I had no way to check and figured I'd take a shot either way. 

After my shift ended later that night, I took one of my White Sox binders from the shelf and found...I didn't have it! Nine picks, nine needs, and the bookstore didn't burn down!

I don't know about you, but I'd call that a successful card draft.

(I'd also like to note a few separate PWEs I received from Kevin before the card draft - the first of which housed these four Donruss parallels that I continue to find irresistible despite my apathy towards most Donruss designs.)

(And another PWE saw a sacred variation SP slide into my binders with this Verlander, further fuel for my weird addiction to photo variations.)

(Thanks for the extras, Kevin, and thanks for hosting a fun card draft!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

I should tell more people I collect cards

I've spent much of my life guarding the dirty little secret that I collect baseball cards from my peers.

As I've discussed on the blog before, very few people knew about my card collection when I was growing up, and even well into my twenties. I can't really give a good reason why. It's not that I thought I'd be demeaned for collecting, but I often thought I'd get blank stares and/or boredom, which to me is just as scary. I just figured it wasn't anything other people would be interested in, and so my cards mostly stayed within the walls of my room.

In recent years, however, I've been a bit more open with my collecting habits. A few friends who don't care a lick about baseball know I collect cards, and while I can't say I've gotten anyone down to Target and start their own collection, the response has been generally positive. It's made me wonder about all the time I spent keeping my collection in the dark. It's also made me realize how nice it is to even get the smallest amount of interest in a hobby I've devoted my life to.

I think a lot of people on this earth collect something that they don't think anyone else cares about, and are thrilled to discover they're not alone in their strange compulsions.

Telling others I collect cards can also have purely selfish benefits as well.

While my last job ended up being a dumpster fire, I left on good terms with my coworkers. One of them told me someone had donated a huge box of baseball cards not long after I left (of course), and it'd been sitting around the warehouse because no one was quite sure what to do with it. My coworker never explicitly said the cards were gonna get thrown away, but that's what it felt like to me - and she said if I wanted to get them from her, I could just have 'em. When you throw the term FREE BOX OF BASEBALL CARDS at me, I'm there in a heartbeat.

As you might be able to tell from the picture at the top of this post, that box was massive. Problem was, the only think immediately visible off the top was an open box of 1989 Bowman - a putrid offering I've often called The Worst Set of All-Time.

However, I did find a Griffey rookie in there (I already have one if anyone needs this spare copy), which was a good sign to show that all the "better" cards hadn't been skimmed off the top by the previous owner.

I was also astounded to discover that there are still cards I need from '89 Bowman, and even a (dare I say?) nice card with that Lloyd McClendon.

Early returns weren't fantastic - whoever owned these cards was obviously in on the overproduction-era boom, because I found long runs of one-time hot rookies like Royce Clayton and Glenallen Hill in the first few handfuls of cards I pulled out.

And while a fair amount of these dudes went on to have decent big-league careers, no one's covering a college tuition on their rookies these days.

But then the light at the end of the tunnel started to get brighter - lots of later '90s and 2000s stuff started popping out of those boxes, mainly offshoot-brand stuff I mostly missed during my early days of collecting.

I don't know what I was expecting to find here - maybe a fun but disappointing romp through someone's collection of '87 Topps & '88 Fleer - but I sure never thought I'd see cards I needed for some of my most urgent player collections!

Also didn't think I'd be finding mini-collection stuff in someone's neglected card collection.

Whoever owned these cards was somewhat of a kindred spirit, because they obviously opened a lot of Collector's Choice in the mid '90s. 

It's still one of my favorite brands ever (not to mention one I wish would've lasted a whole lot longer), and I still think these silver signature are some of the best parallels of a decade that produced a universe of them.

(Also: John Kruk White Sox sighting!)

Working with books as I have for most of my adult life, I know there's something vaguely uneasy about stumbling into someone else's stuff - cards, like books, can be intensely personal, and part of me feels unworthy of being the random person who inherited this expansive collection.

Counterpoint to self: without me, I suppose, these cards would've just been thrown away - and nothing from '95 Score deserves a life in a landfill!

A handful of the minis I unearthed - the previous owner seemed to have a brief love affair with early A&G, as shown by the joyous number of minis in there.

Oh yes, vintage!

Found a big run of '74 Topps at one point, and while there weren't any huge names, I'm still astounded by the number of cool photos I haven't yet discovered from this set.

The '90s, perhaps more than any other decade, produced a mix of huge names I respect (like Mattingly & Molitor) alongside obscure dudes who I love for some reason (like Jason Isringhausen & Randall Simon).

Another random smattering here, including Darren Daulton in the outfield(!) and a reminder that I really should mention Tristar Obak stuff on the blog more often.

Some horizontal heroes.

Base cards are where I go for fun, but inserts are occasionally good for a smile, too!

Some collectors might ask but was anything WORTH anything in there? which I'd otherwise laugh at if I wasn't kinda wondering the same thing when I found a large stack of 2011 Topps at one point (sadly, no Trout rookies).

There's always the collector's dream of finding a Mantle in some forgotten box of cards at the bottom of a pallet in a dusty garage. That didn't quite happen here. But I didn't care in the slightest since everything I've shown so far already exceeded my expectations of these cards a thousand times over.

Still, finding Posey & Machado rookies I needed were a tasty little cherry on top.

Not to mention a Bowman rookie of a future Hall of Famer!

I don't go parading down the street with my card collection, but I think I've come a long way in being more comfortable with the idea of other people knowing about it. I've bonded with people over a common love of books, music, etc., but interests don't have to be shared to generate community with good friends. 

Plus, you just never know when one of them is gonna fall into a baseball card windfall, and I wouldn't want them wondering if only I knew someone who wanted these.