Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Dime boxes aren't dead (a card show report)

I must admit, I had a bit of an uneasy feeling going into the big convention hall card show Dad and I attended last week.

Dime boxes were almost nonexistent the last time we went to one of these things - I only found one of any substance in the entire place. That was kinda scary to me. The card boom hasn't touched the kind of off-condition vintage I usually chase, and doesn't feel like it's going to - condition worship means cheap beaters will probably always be in supply. But I could see the pendulum starting to swing away from dime boxes. Cards that were once a dime being jacked up to fifty cents, a dollar.

When I was younger, I used to judge the quality of a card show by how many cards I took home that day. I'm not in that mindset anymore, but with the way I collect it doesn't quite feel like a show if I don't get to dig through a few dime boxes. They are the marrow of card shows. Without them, I can't help but get the feeling that something's missing.

So I had to face the uneasy question as Dad and I walked through the off-white gates of the convention hall - are dime boxes dying?

The answer was swift and resounding: NEVER!

We weren't in the place 15 minutes before I spotted a dime box - and then I found another one, and another one, and another one...I saw enough dime boxes for me to lose track of how many I bought from throughout the day - probably at least six or seven. It's hard to express how awesome of a development that was. Slabs and wax were still abound at this show, but seeing dime boxes again was a light in what was starting to feel like a dark tunnel.

Better yet, most of them had the cherished combo of being plentiful and packed with good stuff - I bought over 200 cards a piece from multiple tables throughout the day.

To say I was shocked about some of the stuff I snagged for a dime would be an understatement - I'm not supposed to be finding Topps Now and Heritage action SPs for loose change.

And yes indeed, folks, that's a Marlins Mike Piazza I needed...for a dime!

Oddballs add a zany subplot to the already zany dime box experience -Mother's Cookies cards don't often show up here in the Midwest, but man is it cool when they do.

The late '80s/early '90s were a goldmine for fun oddballs, and that includes the weird off-brand Broder stuff I can't help but fall for (and I still have no idea how they were actually sold and/or distributed).

I mean, you can't tell me that Bo isn't a great baseball card.

One other fun development was the fact that a couple vendors had current singles for sale - I've seen gobs and gobs of wax at the last few shows, but very little actual opened product.

Managed to knock out a hearty chunk of my 2023 Topps insert wants for less than the cost of a blaster, and once again I'm left to wonder if my money isn't better spent doing this than buying pack after pack and getting three cards I need.

Hard to beat Dime Box Dozens and mini-collection hits for a dime.

Most of the dime boxes I saw at this show were heavy on mid-to-late '90s stuff, which meant I managed to do a whole lot of damage to some of my bigger player collections.

(Only the '90s could produce an insert set called "Hammer Team.")

The return of Dime Box Shiny!

I don't specifically collect odd-shaped cards, but I have a hard time passing them up for ten cents.

The horizontals would like a word - and am I the only one who finds those "Frequent Flier" inserts insanely cool?

One of the first tables we stopped at last week was run buy a guy with a quarter box, and if I had to guess, I'd say he's from the Detroit area because he had cool recent Tigers oddballs in there. 

Among the goodies was what appears to be some sort of Tigers stadium giveaway set that included the one and only Tigers card of Dime Boxedonia favorite Tom Gorzelanny!

I don't care what anyone says - the late '90s was a fun time for baseball cards.

Massive dime box hauls like these always prompt me to type the disclaimer that what I've shown so far is really just the tip of the iceberg of all the good stuff I came home with last week. 

I assure you that I could easily write several different posts about dime cards alone...

...but, as usual, the vintage awaits.

Although I've been seeing a lot more slabbed stuff at recent shows, the cheaper low-grade industry still seems to be thriving. As I mentioned before, I feel a certain safety in vintage because the guy at the next table live-streaming his 2023 Topps rip probably isn't gonna be interested in cards cut poorly from a cereal box 60 years ago.

I've never been super enthusiastic about '60s Post, but I scoop cheap ones up when I can, and buying these two fan favorites at $3 a pop was a no-brainer.

I take a certain comfort in shopping from the regular vintage guys at this show, mostly older men who you can tell have spent most of their adult lives dealing in baseball cards.

These were fun cheap buys from one such vendor early in the day, especially the Teke and Monday OPCs - the guy even pointed out that the Monday featured a different shot than his regular '77 Topps card...which is, of course, why I wanted it in the first place.

Some bite-size vintage here - I don't really care about those old Topps Decals, and I have no idea what to do with it, but I can't let a Matty Alou card I don't have slip by me for 50 cents.

I made more concerted effort to add to my Defunct Teams collection at this show - didn't find any Pilots I needed, but I did manage to round up a good amount of Senators and Colt .45s.

Better yet, you can add it to the Cheap Thrills category, because nothing in this scan set me back more than 75 cents.

Now we're starting to get into some of the heavier hitters - the Burgess and Mazeroski were two cards I was specifically targeting at this show (both of which I couldn't believe I didn't already own) and I nabbed 'em for a few bucks each at one of the first tables of the day.

Hard to pass up any '53 Bowman Color for $6 (much less Hank Bauer!), and I don't own nearly enough Duke Snider vintage, so picking up a well-loved '58 for eight bucks was one of the afternoon's better coups.

I didn't really make one high-dollar splash at this show, but I did manage to secure a nice group of stars that didn't break my budget.

These are a couple icky high numbers from '61 Topps, and I was more than happy to shell out $15 a piece for them - the Ford is my very first card from that year's tough All-Star subset.

Kellogg's prices seem to be going up ever so slightly - I don't see a whole lot of cheap ones at shows anymore - but I wasn't gonna argue about forking over ten bucks for that Reggie.

The Conigliaro was definitely one of the major finds of the day - it's a rare Topps test issue of one of my favorite '60s dudes, and I couldn't hand I couldn't hand over my $20 bill fast enough because that's the kind of card I'll probably never see again.

I got these two in a package deal with the Tony C. from a vendor in the very first aisle - the sticker price would've set me back about $80-90 all together, but the vendor let me have 'em for $20 a piece.

This is the kind of stuff that makes me love card shows so much - I never gave much thought to adding a real Johnny Vander Meer to my binders, but the minute I saw one, my collection suddenly seemed...lacking, somehow. Shows are definitely places to get cards I know I need, but they're magical because of all the cards I didn't know I needed.

Despite not being an overwhelmingly elegant card at first glance, the Zimmer combines so many things I love into one piece of cardboard. First off...Don Zimmer! Then add the fact that it's a Short-Term Stop (Zim played exactly 12 games with the Mets) and it's a short-print from the already scarce '62 Bazooka set (I can't even find record of another one for sale).

Plus, I think my dad summed it up well when he said "Zimmer certainly isn't chewing Bazooka there!"

I did have one relatively big card I wanted to nab at this show - a '67 Topps Tim McCarver, the last card I needed to complete my Topps run of the late great backstop.

My dad can attest to the fact that I specifically asked vendor after vendor if they had a '67 McCarver - something I rarely do - and I came up empty each time until I reached the very last table of the day. I'd pretty much given up hope of finding one at that point, so I wasn't expecting much when I started leafing through the guy's small pile of '67s - but, lo and behold, there he was...McCarver! Ten dollars later, and the hallowed card was finally mine, a terrific bow on what was a masterpiece of an afternoon.

I suppose I never lost hope in card shows, but I think coming home with such a treasured mix of dime box fun and elusive vintage would make believers out of any of us all over again.


Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Congrats on the nice haul. I see lots of great cards including that Maddux that I hadn't seen before.

Brett Alan said...

That Tiant Archives Snapshots for a dime? Yowsa!

I've been to some shows where the dimeboxing is minimal, but the good ones still have them. There were at least 3 dealers at the last Garfield NJ show I attended with them, two with recent stuff and one with a really nice mix ranging from 1976 SSPC to recent "ACEO" unlicensed cards (which I ain't paying what they're offered on eBay for, but for a dime, yes please!). Hopefully I'll have similar luck at the local show in a week and a half.

Mike said...

What a great day!.. and I like some vendors know us on sight,good folks!

ned said...

Great buncha cards I love big shows the sellers with slabbed nonsense will always make a deal on "useless" lower grade and /or oddball cards also one of the best places to buy non-sports cards

Mark Zentkovich said...


Nick Vossbrink said...

Nice haul indeed. I should grab some of those Christie Brinkleys at some point.

And holy crap a cheap Milk Duds AND a cheap 60s Bazooka? Very very well done.

bbcardz said...

Congrats on picking up some wonderful oddballs, inserts, vintage and everything else. That's my kind of shopping trip!

beefman said...

Your ability to find incredible dime cards and amazing vintage never fails to astound. I could spend a day digging through one of those late-90s dime boxes... said...

Absolutely awesome to see there are still a handful who continue to promote the hobby positively, this is what being involved in the hobby as a "dealer" is supposed to be, getting cards to your partners at the best possible prices.
We recently acquired another massive amazing collection that will be going up over the next month so there's no shortage of dime fun!

GCA said...

Hope to have similar luck at the Ephrata PA and Chantilly VA shows in the next two weekends. The PA show is mostly older dealers so there aren't nearly as many "mojo" tables (slabs) as at Chantilly and elsewhere.
Glad to hear the <$1 market is still going strong. You hit several of my player collections with the Broder Bo, Julio Franco, Torre, and Bud H. I'm sure I'll hit some of them somewhere. They're always my favorite things to find even if I come across some set killers at the same time.

Matt said...

Amazing pickups! Congrats!

Adam Ryan said...

That is a fantastic haul Nick and a great variety of stuff! My goal at some point this year is to get to a card show of some sort, even if it's a small one.

Laurens said...

I feel like I'm overpaying when I find my odds and ends for a quarter or more each - nice hauls with the dime cards and nice finds with the vintage stuff.

Eric C. Loy said...

Wonder who that is on the Milk Dud card, because it sure doesn't look like Harrelson.

Fuji said...

That Will Clark Mother's Cookies card is from his rookie card year. I went to the game when those envelopes were handed out and it's one of those cards I held onto all these years. I'm so jealous you landed that for a dime. Actually there are so many cool dime cards you landed that I'm jealous of. Congratulations Nick.

Jupiterhill said...

That sounds like an amazing show. I can't believe some of those cards you found for a dime.

Jafronius said...

Great pickups!

Chris said...

So many great pickups here. Love that '61 Golden Press Hornsby in particular.

Jon said...

I don't ever think of Eddie Murray as having still been playing when the kooky 90's cards got going, but here he is... and on a bunch of kooky 90's cards!