Wednesday, July 27, 2022

I find a good garage sale once every five years

Garage sales are one of those things I probably enjoy more in theory than reality - I often envision pristine antiques sitting in someone's attic for the last century, but mostly find old baby clothes and Dave Matthews Band CDs.

It's true that I've documented a couple epic garage sale experiences on here in the past, but keep in mind that's been exactly two good garage sales in the ten-plus years of this blog's life. Most garage sales that advertise cards result in factory sets of '88 Donruss. Despite the plethora of GARAGE SALE! signs I see every time I drive to work, I just don't carve out too much time anymore to amble up to a random person's house, hoping there might be something there for me. 

However, if the once-every-five-years rate is to be believed, well then I'm gonna be waiting a while for the next big garage sale, because I stumbled upon a doozy last week.

I woke up to a text from my mom about a garage sale she'd found online - the picture showing a half-dozen long white boxes of singles made me hopeful, and Dad and I made the short drive over later that afternoon (so nice to have parents that take an active interest in my weird collection!).

The proprietor was a kid probably in his late-teens/early-twenties who, in his words, "only collects new stuff," and at one point he dragged out one of those magnetic briefcases (will I ever escape these things?!) to ask if I wanted to buy any of his Vlad Jr. autos. I said no thanks, and flipped through those aforementioned boxes that had a shockingly good selection of random stuff that even the kid didn't seem to what they were, or where they came from. 

I ended up taking home a giant box of pages (more on those later), as well as a stack of about 100 singles that included a neat eTopps Felix Hernandez that I've since busted out of the ghastly case.

The singles I found were unpriced, which is usually a red flag for me - but in the end I got these 100 cards for the very fair price of $20.

I'm usually nervous about asking for prices on unmarked stuff (I've gotten the "how about $100?" reply more than enough times) but the kid seemed kinda confused about the cards I was pulling out of his boxes, and I had a feeling he wouldn't charge much.

The selection was all over the place, but the nice little trove of early 2000s stuff I found was a treat since a lot of the dudes I collect hail from that era.

A side benefit of buying early-aughts stuff is that a lot of my more obscure player collections come from those years as well - still not sure why I formed attachments to guys like Morgan Ensberg and Nick Johnson as a kid, but here I am buying their cards all this time later.

After the early 2000s stuff came...oddballs?

Not something I'd expect from the same kid who had a big box of graded cards in his briefcase, but you know I'm here for it.

Always love pre-fame cards of young stars - early Pirates-era stuff of Tim Wakefield's is especially welcome in my collection, and I'm throwing all my eggs in the Andrew Vaughn basket.

These I can explain - it was obvious the kid had opened some packs of newer stuff and tossed most of the extras into what he had for sale.

Which works for me since I'm always in the market for cheap inserts.

Horizontal heroes - been a long time since I slid a new Lloyd Waner card into my binders.

Other randomness, including one of those purple Toys 'r' Us parallels that always get me giddy (much less ones with throwback jerseys!).

As I said earlier, I also bought a huge box of pages along with the scattering of singles - which was a joy since being a "binder guy" means being in constant search of nine-pocket pages.

I usually pay $20 or so for a shipment of 100 pages - I got this giant box for $30 which was a steal since there had to have been at least 300 pages in there. I should probably also mention that THE PAGES HAD CARDS IN THEM! I would've been happy buying a box of empty pages at that price - but the added cards were a helluva nice bonus.

Even better was the fact that a lot of them offered more of the early-2000s fare I found in the boxes - including a perennial Dime Boxedonia favorites Hideo Nomo & Jose Lima in their later years wearing weird uniforms.

I've said it before, but the early-aughts produced more cards that just seemed to fall off the face of the earth after a while - I was collecting at the time and don't remember anyone buying or talking about sets like UD Pro Sigs and or Skybox Autographics.

(Side note: anyone else remember Shingo Takatsu?)

Certainly wasn't expecting to find mini- and player-collection stuff I needed in a random smattering of pages.

Obviously, I prefer to pick and choose what cards I'm gonna buy at any given time - but I have to say there's something sweet in falling into an abyss of unknown cardboard.

One minute I was finding '90s inserts, then about a dozen pages full of 2008 Stadium Club, then two random pages of nothing but Joey Votto cards.

The pages were about 80 percent baseball, though there were some football and basketball cards I had no problem tossing aside - but you're darn right I'm keeping that Will Smith!

At one point I stumbled upon a few pages that featured some blinding star power - I can't imagine there's many Judges and Trouts floating around at too many garage sales out there.

Then a few pages of legends!

(Mets Nolan Ryan cards are my favorite Nolan Ryan cards.)

Then....a '72 Topps Willie Mays?!

This was one of about four vintage cards I found in those pages, and the only notable one. The bad news here is that I already have it, but the good news is that it's one of the handful of cards in my collection that I'd actively been looking to upgrade since my copy has a giant crease right over Willie's face (a copy which I'm happy to send to anyone who wants it).

So I guess after all that, I'll be seeing you in five years when the next legendary garage sale comes to my town, because I think this one's got me covered. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

So goes the flea market

The flea market was once a cardboard haven for me, a place I could go week after week to see all my favorite vendors hock all their fantastic cards.

Sadly, I haven't felt as close to the flea market in recent years. The pandemic obviously has a lot to do with that, but even in the before times, the flea market seemed to be becoming more of a rare treat than a consistent pleasure. I don't have the time I once did. I don't have the energy I once did. I work Sundays now, and though I could conceivably get up early enough to squeeze in a couple hours at the flea market before my shift, I have a hard time sacrificing such precious hours of sleep. I've had to live with being an outsider looking into that beloved community of tables and vendors.

But I still find it just as difficult to imagine a time where the flea market is pushed out of my life all together, because when I lucked into having a Sunday off a few weeks ago, my first thought was, of course - hey, I can go to the flea market! 

Though my flea market trips have dwindled into rarities, the cards I find remain stellar, and the fun I have is still unmatched.

One vendor pretty much made my year with the stuff I found from his 50-cent binders last summer. Still, despite telling me a few times he had more supply at home, he never restocked them, and even here almost a year later, I still saw a lot of those same gaps from the cards I'd already picked through many months ago now. (You can't tempt me with the prospect of good cheap cards and not deliver!)

But there were just enough new additions slipped in to rekindle the fun I'd had last year, and anyways I can't complain much because even the "scraps" I'd previously left behind were still pretty darn good. 

Better yet, he marked everything down to 3/$1 for me - the difference between buying a card for 50 cents and 33 cents doesn't seem like much, but it sure made the decision to pull the trigger on these a whole lot easier.

These four Reggies actually completed this five-card insert set for me since, coincidentally, I already had the one that was missing from the guy's 3/$1 binders.

I found a few vendors with cards who obviously weren't collectors, and depending on your luck, this can be either a very good or a very bad thing.

Sometimes it results in people trying to sell a 1990 Topps Roger Clemens for $20, which I indeed saw during this trip. But other times you get a vendor with a whole bunch of random stuff for a quarter each who doesn't quite know what they have. One guy I stumbled upon had a couple binders of early-2000s stuff for 25 cents each, as well as a few small stacks of miscellany.

I'm sure the selections would've seemed ordinary to some people, but my eyes widened when I saw excellent Todd Pratts and minor-league Antonio Alfonsecas I needed!

I also grabbed this box-bottom for a dollar from that vendor even though I only needed the Murphy & Saberhagen - either way the weird joy I got out of cutting these up was easily worth a buck (and if anyone needs the Rose and/or Fernando, please let me know!).

One other new vendor I found was quite obviously a longtime collector, and the first thing I saw at his table was a few dime boxes(!) packed with legends.

Color Conlon inserts for a dime are a godsend (much less a Babe Ruth!), and I don't own nearly as much early Finest as I should.

A few dime-box greats from more incognito '90s releases like Select and Pacific Online.

This guy also had a couple boxes with slightly higher-priced cards that he eagerly informed me were half-off the sticker price.

I always get a kick out of pre-fame stuff of future stars, which made these easy buys for a buck each - the Sandy Alomar Jr. minor league card is especially fantastic.

A couple other dollar finds from that vendor included another majestic Babe Ruth and a numbered Dodger Paul Konerko (which will never look right to me).

Also grabbed a set of these Cubs playing cards from this vendor for $3 - still not sure whether or not I truly consider playing cards as baseball cards, but how often am I gonna find a deck of cards with Jose Cardenal in it?

The last vendor of the afternoon was a familiar face - some of you readers might remember him as the Penny Box Guy.

The good news was that the penny boxes were back (hooray!), bad news was that they were more your standard overproduction-era '88 Donruss fare (sigh). And while I usually don't love chatting with vendors during my digs, this guy's cool & we quizzed each other on baseball trivia as I scoured the penny cards for a few salvageable gems. It was a reminder of why the flea market remains such a joyous place for me.

Didn't find much in terms of quantity, but White Sox stadium giveaways for a penny are a dream - especially a John Kruk Sox card I didn't even know existed!

He also had a separate dime box of HOFers that featured a lot of nifty oddball fare - still have a hard time believing Duracell ever made baseball cards.

From there, I moved on to this vendor's vintage dollar box, which featured a raggedy '56 Gil McDougald I needed for my double dip collection & card #1 from the hallowed '72 Topps checklist.

And finally, it was time for the glass case material, where I plucked this impeccable Pie Traynor Fleer Greats for a raggedy $5 bill - mostly because I don't get the chance to buy very many Pie Traynor cards these days.

So went my day at the flea market. I often wish I could go back to years ago when I'd attend Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. But a part of me realizes that maybe the rarities of my flea market trips make them glitter now more than they ever did before - after all, I don't know how special card shows would be if I went to one every week.

Leave it to me to take such solace in a place with diabetic socks and '80s electronics in every aisle.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The year of less has been so much more

This year has been a different one for me and my relationship with baseball.

I know I've watched less baseball in 2022 than pretty much any other time of my life - I love working night shifts for a lot of reasons, but getting home around 10 at night doesn't leave much waking hours for ballgames. Still, judging from how my two hometown teams have been playing this year, I haven't been missing much, and the Cubs especially are doing their absolute best to alienate me. (Someone named Alfonso Rivas is their starting first baseman.)

While you could similarly say I haven't done as much with cards here in 2022, I think the more precise way to put it is that I've been more selective about what I'm doing with my baseball cards this year.

The great retail drought appears to be coming to an end, but truth is I haven't been in the Target card aisle much this year (you can probably count the number of times on one hand).

In a rare moment of weakness, I bought a blaster of 2022 Gypsy Queen (for $24.99!) a couple weeks ago, got almost nothing I needed, had little fun opening the packs, and rued that money that could've been better spent elsewhere. I've been spending a fair amount of pocket cash on cards in 2022, but it's been more geared towards COMC's archives or picking up current singles I need for pennies on Sportlots. And it's left me wondering why I haven't been doing this for years already.

I feel much better about shelling out for cards I know I need rather than going for the vague fun a blaster might offer.

It's also true that my trading has gone way down this year, too. 

This part I'm not as pleased with. I constantly need to remind myself to be better about sending unwanted cards to homes that will love them. But even my ineptitude in this department hasn't stopped people from sending me cards - including a few readers who recently sent me those joyous I have cards for you! emails that I never tire of seeing.

A reader named Kyle, for instance, sent me a package that knocked out a few treasured hits from my want lists, with a few fancy (former) Cubs coming along for the ride.

Kyle also sent me a new Darryl Kile, which seems fitting (along with a bunch of other top-tier player needs!).

Other dudes I like from Kyle - '90s Circa had some serious '95 Fleer vibes, and I absolutely love it.

A different reader named Randy claimed a few cards from my ten-year giveaway posts - and sent me a whopping four cards from my Dime Box Dozen list in return that were by no means necessary, but still much appreciated.

Randy was one of what seemed like 37 different people who sent me that '90 Donruss Quiz, which makes sense because shame on me for needing anything from that set by now.

I'm convinced my readers have some kind of mysterious treasure trove of Dime Box Dozen needs, because a reader named Michael recently gifted me a wrecking ball of an envelope that included one...

two, three...

four, five...

six, seven, eight, count 'em, NINE different cards from my DBD list!

A's Goose, a new Paulie, a base Topps of Obscure Guy I Collect For Some Reason John Mabry, and so much more caused my Dime Box Dozens to go under construction for a few days there.

It's been a thrill to develop relationships in this community of fellow bloggers, but I also have an admiration for those who are content to sit back and read the often nonsensical words we bloggers produce.

One reader named Wes has been sending me cards for years now, and he recently dropped another package that really had me wondering why I've been so reluctant to embrace these Fleer Stamps for so long.

On the flip side of the coin, I've long been a fan of these late '90s Sports Illustrated sets, but I feel like they still remain a well-kept secret around the card community.

Wes also sent along a few mini-collection hits, including a new OPC which never fails to brighten my day.

A few other randoms that have me wondering how dangerous supermarket food aisles would be if Jimmy Dean & Pepsi still made baseball cards (as if my diet isn't awful enough already).

I will always, always take loose minor league singles people have lying around, because whether it's outfield-wall ads or catchers hitting in shinguards(?), there's bound to be something in there that'll catch my attention.

I mean, show me a major league card that shows a TRAINER turning a double play! (And you better believe this counts for my double dip mini-collection.)

I have fond memories of summer vacations from school where I did little more than watch baseball every day while sorting my cards. Those were beautiful times in their way. But at some point I found that I probably couldn't spend three, four, five hours every day immersed in baseball. My love for the game, and its cards, had to be content to simmer in the background of adult life, rather than constantly on full boil. 

And truth be told, I don't think my relationship with baseball has ever been better.