Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Summers pass, and so does the flea market

As I get older, the months and years seem to pass faster, and I honestly can't believe we're on the cusp of entering September already because wasn't it just snowing a few days ago?

While I'm much more of a fall/winter lover myself, the sands fading from the summer hourglass is still disappointing because, along with the twilight of the baseball season, it also signals the end of one of my favorite summer places - the flea market. I'm no longer a week-in, week-out flea market attendee, but it's still comforting to know it's there if and when I need it - which mirrors baseball itself sometimes.

I guess a part of me knew this might be my last opportunity to hit the flea market this year, because although I had a few other commitments on a rare Sunday off work a couple weeks ago, I managed to get myself out of bed at 6 AM(!), which is quite an accomplishment for this perpetual afternoon riser.

Being a late sleeper as I am, I often forget there's a whole part of the human race that wakes up at sunrise - the flea market reaches its peak hours at about 7 AM when I'm still in bed.

The cards I find at the flea market are a bonus atop the simple pleasure I get from walking the aisles. My regular card guy was back this time, and he had some fun oddball stuff on display during my last trip. I know painfully little about those '50s Exhibits cards - the guy told me the Ted Williams at the top of the post was actually a reprint, and I have to believe him because why else would he let me have it for a dollar?

I hemmed and hawed for a bit before finally deciding to pull the trigger on this Fritsch Milwaukee Braves set for $10 - they're sadly a bit too big to fit in a nine-pocket page (more '56 Topps-sized), but I eventually caved because this is the exactly the type of thing I'd regret not buying and never see again.

The guy also had a small dollar box off to the side, mostly vintage with some other miscellany.

I rue the years of not knowing about that '67 Ed Charles because that is one BEAUTIFUL baseball card.

The Tito Fuentes rookie was another coup from the dollar box - everything else here came from the guy's main discount boxes, which were marked down to 5/$1 by the time I got to his table.

Living in this era of prospecting fanaticism makes it even harder to believe I found a Yadi rookie for 20 cents. 

This vendor, perhaps more than any other, has fueled my interest in oddballs over the years - Starting Lineup cards are a favorite of mine (which is nice because I have next to no interest in the figurines themselves), and I love that Nike Griffey even though I'm not quite sure what it is.

A few other gems from the 5/$1 boxes - though Jim Thorpe did play in the bigs, I collect all of his cards, baseball or not, because of my admiration for the guy.

A side benefit of attending the flea market is stumbling across tables with cards I've never seen before - most of the time it ends up being boxes of 1990 Topps, but every once in a while you'll strike a small goldmine.

One guy I found had a few 50-cent boxes full of overproduction-era stuff that also somehow had a few Hostess cards mixed in. I don't actively chase the Hostess Twinkies vs. Hostess Panels variations (the stains on these two indicate the former), but I figured it'd be worth a few quarters to see if Wynn & Blomberg ended up being needs.

This guy's dollar box resulted in the real coup from his table with that Cool Papa Bell - yet another fantastic card I know nothing about.

I had a few extra bucks in my wallet at the end of the day, so I doubled back and grabbed a few last-minute finds from a new vendor whose cards were half off the sticker price - the shiny Cruz was a dollar, and the others were a quarter each.

Edgar Renteria occupies a nominal place in my binders (at best), but he has one of the best-looking Bowman rookies I've seen in a while.

These were $2 a piece, and while that's probably not a price I'd pay at a card show or anything, I figured why not because a) phone cards are a neat '90s relic, and b) like the aforementioned Braves set, I can't imagine I'd ever see these again.

Among my final purchases of the day were a handful of unopened '90s packs from a vendor I always see but rarely buy from - I always seem to be running low on money by the time I find his table.

I love opening packs from the past and I often have to restrain myself from spending a small fortune when I see them - managed to limit myself to about $10 worth here, and even pulled a Jeets minor league insert for my troubles!

The regular vendor with the 50-cent binders in the first aisle did a small restock of his inventory this time around - nothing earth-shattering, but a few nice inserts I was more than happy to add to the archives.

(I don't know that I like living in a time where "Hot Sauce" inserts are a thing.)

A few 50-cent legends, and the Aaron short-print was probably the crown jewel of the recent restock because GQ SPs seem to get tougher and tougher as the years go by.

This guy's binders are mostly organized by player, and most of my past tours through them have seen me pluck a few favorites from each section and leave the rest for later.

This time, however, I decided screw it and just bought up every Stan Musial in there I didn't already have - I'm wondering what took me so long to do that.

A nifty mini Stan the Man made for a nice cherry on the top of yet another successful flea market run.

It felt weird leaving the flea market a little before 10 AM - that's usually about the time I'm finding a parking spot most times I go. I'm still not a fan of being awake at such an ungodly hour, and I don't plan on doing so again for as long as I can help it, but I'd say the cards I found made everything worth it.

And while I'm a bit sad that this'll probably be my last flea market trip of the year, I guess I shouldn't get too down because if the seasons keep fast-forwarding by at this rate, it'll be spring again in, oh, about three days.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


I caught most of the Cubs-Reds "Field of Dreams" game last week, and at some point I realized it was the first Cubs game I'd watched in, oh, about a month or two.

Seeing as how this is from someone who calls themselves a Cubs fan, I had to ask myself the question - am I a frontrunner? It's obviously a basic fact that a good team is more fun to watch than a bad team, but it wasn't so long ago that it hurt to miss a Cubs game because of work or other obligations. Nowadays I turn on more Sox games because they are simply a better team (albeit still disappointing this year) and give me more incentive to watch them. Still, I've felt like I'm abandoning my Cubs fandom with how little I've seen of them the last few seasons.

But being a fan is a two-way street. How can I expect to love a team like the Cubs that continues to field what is more or less a Triple-A lineup day after day? How can I root for a franchise whose owner rakes in piles and piles of money while crying poor? Aside from Willson Contreras, I can't say I have much of a connection to anyone on the Cubs roster right now.

Here in 2022, I find myself envying people like Dodger-fan extraordinaire Greg of "Night Owl Cards" who actually have a good team to root for.

I remember when the Cubs were making a mockery of the league, much like the Dodgers are doing these days - but those days are long behind us.

But whether my team sucks or not, it's always been comforting to have baseball cards to fall back on. They keep me connected to the game when my favorite teams are pushing me away. And best of all, people like Greg keep sending them to me!

In addition to the excellent mini at the top of this post - I always have a weakness for Rays McGriff cards - came these two legendary second basemen for the binders.

Greg tossed up a bunch of his Dodger extras on the blog a while ago - his doubles are probably better than my entire catalog of Dodgers - and I was lucky enough to get a few of 'em.

I'm probably one of a few thousand Nomo collectors in the hobby, but I can't imagine there's many other Todd Hollandsworth fans still out there - he's one of those guys I've always liked without quite knowing why.

A couple big player needs here - reprinting all of Ichiro's Topps cards in Archives a few years ago had to be one of the most unnecessary insert ideas ever, but of course I still want them because that's how player collecting goes.

(No, the sting of seeing Anthony Rizzo as a Yankee hasn't quite worn off yet.)

Greg's always been good about scouring my want lists, and he helped me land a few 2022 needs here - actually check that, because I keep calling 2021 Big League a 2022 set (but can you blame me?).

I often admire Greg for his regimented collecting ways - collecting a specific team and building specific sets - but he can get the randomness engines going sometimes, too.

Coca-Cola cards, stadium giveaway oddballs (with a Ken Griffey Sr. sighting!), and other scattered Cubs and Sox are all the exact kind of madness I love.

Greg also took down one of my Dime Box Dozen needs with this beauty - because how could I not want a card of The Babe with a big bat?

It's hard to know where the line between being a fan and a frontrunner is sometimes. I've always thought of myself as a fan of the game itself more than anything, but it sure helped when my favorite team was even anything approaching a decent ballclub. I just can't get myself too excited over watching a team that seems to make me wonder who's THAT? whenever they bring in a reliever or throw in another outfielder.

Alas, 2016 seems like a long time ago now.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

COMC makes me less of a cheapskate

For a long time, I took pride in being a bit of a cheapskate when it came to buying baseball cards.

Part of this, of course, is because I simply had less money to spend on the hobby when I was 18. But even then, I refused to pony up ten bucks for a single card when I could get 100 dime cards for the same price. The deal was the most important part. Sure, sometimes those 100 dime cards are better than that big $10 splurge. But - and this is something I've only learned recently - not all the time.

Fact is, quite a few cards I need aren't anything I'm gonna find in a dime or quarter box, so not allowing myself to be open to slightly bigger purchases is basically cordoning off a healthy chunk of the cardboard universe. Whether or not the cheapskate part of my brain wants to hear it, loose change can't buy everything I want.

I've become more apt to throw a few bigger purchases (or whatever qualifies as such to me) in my COMC cart lately - stuff like this TCMA Julio Franco minor league gem I've long admired from afar that required a big, whopping $7(!) investment on my part.

This isn't to say that I'm still not a cheapskate at heart - because so often while browsing COMC I can hear my brain go OOH, THAT'S CHEAP - BUY IT!!

Quite a few minor leaguers popped up in my latest order alongside Mr. Franco, and none of these four cost more than a dollar - especially love the minor league cards of Obscure Dime Box Favorites like Todd Pratt and Ross Gload.

SI for Kids cards are an excellent mix of affordable and nostalgic for this '90s kid.

A few for the big player collections - I've wanted that goofy Vlad for a while now, and even the cheapskate in me couldn't bat an eye at paying a whole $2 for that Hoyt oddball!

More from the obscure ranks of my binders with a Bo Hart stadium giveaway & an eTopps Junior Spivey that has since been freed from its ghastly plastic case, as the cardboard gods intended.

Can't slip a cheap mini past me!

That Jack Quinn comes from a fairly recent oddball set that honors the Federal League, and has me wondering why I'm only now hearing about an oddball set that honors the Federal League.

I love cheap Throwback Thursday singles, because where else am I gonna find a card of Babe Ruth on an obscure '80s Duran Duran card design?

You can count the number of online exclusives I've purchased directly from Topps on one hand, but they're sure nice to grab on the cheap (really wish all those SI Magazine covers were as affordable as the 75 cents I paid for that Duke).

As you can see, I'm still fawning over this Super '70s online set - but when you've got stuff like new Ted Williams manager cards and Lou Brock in aviator shades, can you blame me?

Other Topps specialties that caught my eye for whatever reason - happy to finally land a copy of that Heath Bell variation, the first and only card I've ever seen that features a bucket of gumballs.

I seem to say it with every passing order - oddballs will always be my happy place on COMC.

While I love all food oddballs, ones that feature different photos than their standard Topps counterparts (like that '80 Burger King Reggie) are my absolute favorites.

TCMA remains the oddball king.

I've been on a big kick with stadium giveaway oddballs lately - and while I haven't gone to a game in a while, I don't hear about very many card giveaways these days.

Not that I need any more incentive to attend a ballgame, but the prospect of cards would make it a whole lot easier.

Some oddball miscellany here, including a neat box-bottom for my blossoming Dave Stieb collection, and a Japanese pitcher at the plate(!!!) with that Dice-K.

Horizontal heroes for the binders - I hadn't seen those "Flashiest Feet" inserts before, and I admit they're kinda cool.

I never did redeem any of those Diamond Dig inserts from Topps's Diamond Giveaway promotion a while back, but thanks to COMC the Vlad is a pipe dream no more.

Couple that with Hank, Topps TV, and a Gil Hodges Panini insert that I actually really like & you've got a pretty darn nice scan here.

COMC is truly a goldmine for my schizoprenic collection - one minute I'm picking up Sega Card-Gens, the next I'm finding a Mike Piazza Marlins card I needed.

A couple they-aren't-what-they-seem vintage suspects here - the Spaceman is an OPC, and the Simmons is a cloth sticker.

I can commend myself for not being too much of a penny-pincher these days, but I also won't deny there's still a big part of me that goes bonkers when I find a deal like this early Post Boog Powell for $1.50 on COMC.

I might be less of a cheapskate these days, but fact is I'll probably always be a cheapskate when it comes to buying baseball cards - and I guess I'll just have to live with that.

Thursday, August 4, 2022


One of my complaints about the current state of the hobby is that there's simply not enough weird in it.

A lot of what card companies churn out these days seem to generally be the same things regurgitated over and over again. While the '90s were far from an idyllic time for baseball cards, I often miss those years because cards weren't afraid to be weird. Which is good for a collector like myself who embraces the weird in my own collection - I mean, could you see anyone putting out an ornament-shaped card these days? I can't, and I was lucky enough to receive this long sought-after card in a recent PWE from Jeff B. of the "Wax Pack Wonders" blog.

There are lots of ways to say "weird" in the English language - and it's uncanny how aptly a lot of those words seem to fit the cards I've been receiving lately, as well as the collection I've spent my life building.


I never thought player collecting was peculiar - but then again, I recently acquired my 1,000th different Ichiro, and is there any sanity in having that many cards of a single guy?


My lifelong Cubs fandom has meant I've formed attachments to some of the team's bigger names (Javier Baez!) along with more curious dalliances with the obscure (Junior Lake?) over the years.

I never thought of myself as a Junior Lake supercollector, but that snow camo parallel from Jeff has me thinking I've crossed that line.


Perhaps erratic is a better way to describe my collection - it sounds more proper than weird.

I have no way of tying these four cards from Jeff together - including that Dale Berra double dip I couldn't believe I didn't have, and a Vlad numbered to just 31 copies! - but what is this blog if not erratic?


There's really no rhyme or reason to the cards that appear on my Dime Box Dozen list - it's just a quirky mashup of any card I happen to remember I need.

Here, you have a mix of sunset cards (Eck), cards I owned a parallel of without the base card (Wood), pitchers hitting (Glavine), and cards I thought I had that fell to the gremlins (Murray) - all Dime Box Dozen needs no longer thanks to Jeff.


And here's a fifth Dime Box Dozen suspect from Jeff - a needed card of Jim Abbott's brief White Sox tenure on one of those mid '90s Flair designs that always struck me as wacky.


I've been trading with Bo of the "Baseball Cards Come to Life!" blog for a long time now, and he always seems to understand how much my collection teeters on the absurd.

These wild '70s Laughlin cards can be tough finds, so I'm always appreciative of any new ones that fall into my lap.


I've long been a fan of these funny Smokey Bear oddballs, but until Bo sent this batch over I had no idea they extended into the minor league ranks as well. 


A couple more Dime Box Dozen needs, including a perilously common '07 Topps Jim Thome (that design still hasn't grown on me) and a Fleer Sticker of new collection favorite Ted Simmons whose cards always seem gloriously funky to me.


Given that I grew up watching baseball in the late '90s, it's remarkable how much I basically ignored cards of many of the stars from that era.

I'm doing my best to correct that now - in large part thanks to people like Bo - but I shudder at the thought of all the Randy Johnsons and Griffey Jrs. I still need.


Few people I've traded with have sent more quality oddballs my way than Bob of "The Best Bubble" blog.

Bob stumped me with that Ryno oddball - seems to be one of those Broder oddities from the late '80s - and you know I'm here for all the minor league double dips.


Kruks and Stadium Club base I need are cool, but the real star of this scan is obviously that bizarre autograph of equally-bizarre Dime Boxedonia favorite Jim Walewander!


Let's make this as clear as possible: I want all Japanese cards.

There's something far-out in knowing I have cards documenting the game as it's played an ocean over, and it's no accident that I've spent a good deal of time and money collecting cards of some of Japan's finest MLB imports (with Hideo Nomo being near the top of that list).


Bob finished things off by sending what appears to be a real, actual Burleigh Grimes autograph(!) housed inside some kind of custom art project.

I have no idea what exactly I'm holding here, but if you'd have told me I'd one day own an autograph of a Ruthian-era baseball star and HOFer, well...I would've said you're crazy.

But that's my collection for you: crazy, wild, wacky, all of the above - just generally, and proudly, weird.