Dad and I made our semi-annual trek to the big convention hall show last week, and for the first time in the many years we've been going to this thing, I can honestly admit I felt outnumbered.
This show has long been a hub for the higher-end types who I regularly see pull wads of cash from their pockets. But despite the massive size of the place, I've always felt at heart that the majority of the people were there for pure enjoyment - not PSA registries or recouping expenses. I can't say for certain that's the case anymore: I have no substantial proof to back it up, but it just felt like I kept seeing unopened wax and slabs where dime boxes used to be. Kept seeing the same rookie cards under glass cases in every aisle.
While I can't imagine this show will ever be completely overrun by high-dollar stuff, I think I finally felt the teeter-totter tip to the other side of the hobby - the sheer variety of the card show experience I've come to love seemed to take a hit.
Early returns, however, were good: a table in the very first aisle had a dime box!
But little did I know that'd be the only dime box of any substance I'd find in the entire place. Still, if I was only gonna see one dime box, this wasn't a bad one to stumble across - the guy had a lot of those strange '80s Broder oddballs that I find oddly lovable, and even had a few treasured cards of local heroes Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Doolittle.
Gorzelanny attended a community college about five minutes from my house, and Sean Doolittle's a noted book lover who shops at the bookstore I currently work at (though, sadly, I have yet to run into him) - you can even see a couple pictures of him in our bookstore in this SI article.
I saw a lot of 50-cent and dollar boxes that were quite obviously dime boxes in disguise - is anyone seriously buying 1991 Upper Deck Nolan Ryans for a buck?
This, I think, is my main fear of the changing hobby - that cheap cards won't be cheap any more, that inflation will hit the lowest reaches of the totem pole. People buying $500 graded cards doesn't affect me because that's not anything I cared about in the first place. But seeing people asking a buck a piece for regular base cards I saw a year ago for a dime is disheartening.
This blog may be called "Dime Boxes," but I love quarter boxes if the cards inside warrant a quarter each, and thankfully I found a few such boxes on display at this show - including an excellent Johnny Cueto that has to be one of the shiniest cards on the Shiny Card Spectrum.
I was over the moon about landing a gross of these "150 Years" inserts from a few years back for a quarter a pop - I think Topps did a fantastic job with this set, but for whatever reason I've had a hard time finding them in the wild.
Believe me, I don't mean to say this was a bad or disappointing evening in the slightest - few things in this world will ever beat a day at the card show, and as you'll see in this post, I still came home with a fine haul.
The general flux of vendors at shows these days makes it even nicer to see some of the same guys I've been buying from for years - a lot of them even recognize me and my dad by now. One vendor I love has a table that perpetually looks to be in the eye of a hurricane, and all of his stuff is 50 cents a pop - an inventory that includes everything from single cards to unopened oddball sets.
For 50 cents, I'll grab pretty much any minor league set I can get my hands on - finding a few names I recognized was icing on the cake.
Your standard helping of card show minis - I have no idea what that Tim Keefe card is, but I love it.
Our first stop at this show is always a guy right near the entrance with a big 50-cent tub full of random cardboard that seems to have no rhyme or reason to it.
And few things my scratch randomness itch more than treasured '80s oddballs.
One of the vintage vendors I usually buy from didn't have a whole lot of great stuff this time around, but he did have a nice helping of these Reggie oddballs for 50 cents each.
(I'm still not sure why, but finding these weird '80s Star cards excites me more than it probably should.)
A vendor near the end of the hall had a whole box full of loose O'Connell & Son singles, which was a surprise since I don't think I've even seen one of these at a show before.
Though the art sometimes freaks me out (why does Enos Slaughter look like a Neanderthal in a museum exhibit?), I couldn't resist buying a few. They weren't really priced to move - these were $2 each, and the cheapest ones the guy had - so I eventually settled on this quartet because they feature guys I eagerly collect and rarely find new cards of (can't remember the last time I added a new Wes Parker to my binders!).
And while I can take or leave the art on most of these cards, I must admit that Roush is just plain fantastic.
The discount-box randomness may have been down at this show, but it wasn't completely KO'ed.
Some general '90s/early-2000s wackiness, including a nice surprise with that tough Platinum Medallion parallel from what was an otherwise lackluster dime box dig near the end of the evening.
A few more quarter box gets here - my dad tried to argue that phone cards aren't baseball cards, but we all know he's wrong.
Point: as much as I love '70s oddballs, I don't often take the plunge on these food-issue discs - they're a bit clunky to store and I never really know what to do with them.
Counterpoint: I bought about 40 of them at this show. A vendor had a box of cards that were 50 cents each or 50/$20 - with the promise of a deal like that, I just couldn't let these go. The star power was there (Yaz! Stargell!) as well as your '70s fan favorites (Tiant! Hrabosky!) - as fun of a collection of names as you're ever gonna see from an oddball set.
I still don't know how I'm gonna store these, but I think you'll agree that I would've been crazy to pass 'em up.
There's a lot of high-end vintage at this show, but even though I'm (obviously) not in the market for it, it's at least fun to fawn over a T206 Ty Cobb or Goudey Babe Ruth rather than some graded autograph that looks like trash.
Better yet, there's still a good amount of low-end oldies to tide me over - I didn't know I needed the Yost until I started cataloging my cards of his recently (more on my TCDB adventures in a future post), and the Colbert brings me one step closer to having all the '74 "Washington" variations, a quest that once seemed other-worldly but is actually now within reason.
Some smaller-than-your-average vintage here - shelled out $5 a piece for those Milk Duds cards, but knowing me, I would've been kicking myself all day if I left them behind.
Raggedy vintage time!
The Yaz was a card I was specifically targeting at this show, and even though the copy I found has a mysterious blob on it, the 50 cents(!) it cost me is at least good enough to warrant placeholder status until I can find a cleaner one.
I don't know if it was my imagination or what, but it seemed like every vintage table had rows and rows of '60s Post for sale - of course, I couldn't help but buy a few.
From the looks of it, a young collector whittled those '50s Red Man cards down to standard baseball-card size at some point - those were certainly fun grabs for 50 cents a pop.
These four superstars came out of a single handful of cards I randomly grabbed from a box at a vintage table, and they ran about the cost of a blaster combined.
If that doesn't describe the madness of a card show, I don't know what does.
With a little scouring, it's incredible how cheap some vintage star power can be - I think the Killebrew was the most expensive card of this lot, and even that was only seven bucks.
Also, "First Base-Catcher" is a weird position designation in the first place, but why the heck did Topps list that for Gil Hodges in 1961?!
My memory isn't what it used to be, and neither is my collection - I wasn't 100 percent sure I needed that '59 Aparacio when I snagged it for a song early on in the day, and being unsure about a card that huge would've been unheard of as a young collector (happy ending: needed it!).
One could argue that the '63 Drysdale I found near the end of the show was my most satisfying purchase - at about $15, it was the last card I needed to complete my complete 1957-69 Topps run, which is a major accomplishment for this low-end collector!
In adding to the general wackiness of this card show, I'd have to say my biggest purchase of the day - both financially and emotionally - was a card of...Sandy Alomar? A middling infielder best known for fathering two future greats?
Few things elicit more fear in a collector like myself than the term "vintage high-number," because that, of course, means MONEY. And as fate would have it, here we have a key card I needed for the Short Term Stops archives colliding with the dreaded "vintage high-number" train - Alomar played just 10 games for the Mets, and outside of a few later oddballs, this is the only documentation of that brief stint.
Some of you probably know that '67 highs are especially icky - which is why I was overjoyed that a vendor took my $20 offer on this one near the end of the evening, and thus put to rest the growing fear that I'd never find one at a reasonable price. It's probably the most I've spent on a card I specifically wanted for my Short Term Stops collection, and not anything I thought would end up being a "big buy" at a card show, but as they say, times are a'changing.
Card shows may change, as will the masses that attend them, but to me they'll never stop being pure joy.