Friday, July 21, 2023

Viva Venezuela!

As collectors, I think we all have certain corners of the hobby that, for whatever reason, we've overlooked.

I don't know that I've ever had a specific vision for this blog, but I suppose one thing I've tried to to is throw a floodlight on those hidden corners. But I'm happy to admit I have blind spots of my own. A lot of them. Case in point: I've been seeing a whole lot of Venezuelan card talk on Twitter lately, and a post from fellow blogger Nick really pushed me over the edge in asking myself Why don't I have more of these?!?!

I don't know that I've specifically chosen to ignore Venezuelan cards - I think a long time ago I told myself Oh, those are too expensive and just kinda banished them to the long list of things I can't afford. But Nick's post got me looking again, and while I didn't see any Topps Venezuelans that jumped out at me on eBay, they're nowhere near as pricey as I long thought they were.

By accident, however, I did manage to secure a couple adjacent Venezuelan stickers in my long-overdue travels - including this excellent Jose Cardenal which is the best card I've bought in a while.

Also grabbed this Davey Lopes sticker from the same 1972-73 Venezuelan set, which is doubly interesting because it predates his Topps rookie card.

I paid a shade under four bucks each for the pair - so maybe my younger self was right in thinking Venezuelans aren't cheap enough to buy in bulk, but they're definitely good for a special treat every now and then.

Given those recent pickups, I figured was as good a time as ever to cobble my meager Venezuelan collection into a post.

I somehow don't think I've ever shown the Fidrych on the blog before - it's probably the toughest part of my quest to own every darn version of that card (think I'm only missing the OPC at this point). I'll admit I didn't even know Venezuelans kept going into the '70s until I bought that one - nor did I know they stretch all the way back to the late '50s! (as I learned from Nick's post) - but it's a treasure to have in my binders.

The Concepcion was my first Venezuelan card - found it for 50 cents at a show years ago - and I remember not knowing what the hell it was at the time.

Part of the allure of Venezuelans is that I don't know how any of them survived in the first place - I remember reading once that they were issued with glue to be pasted into an album.

Not surprisingly, they're hard to find in good shape, and thanks to some subpar condition (to say the least) I got these from a card show bargain box for a buck a piece.

And yes, that '67 Staub was physically torn in half and repaired at some point...

...and somehow the back looks even worse than the front (not that I care a lick!).

My oldest Venezuelan is this '62 Jimmy Piersall that I bought on a lark for $10 at a card show a few years ago.

I think I grabbed it thinking more along the lines of Well, here's something I'll never see again more than any specific desire to own an older Topps Venezuelan.

The front looks like your standard '62 Topps fare, but the back features exclusively Spanish text.

I suppose this discovery came at a good time since I'm heading to The National in less than a week. I don't usually go into card shows with specific goals in mind, but now I'm thinking a few Venezuelans might be in the offing if the prices shake out.

It's the least I can do to offset a long history of ignoring our cool Venezuelan counterparts.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

National bound

Last week, after very little deliberation, I bought my tickets for The National.

I live all of ten minutes from where the show happens, which I've always found extraordinary given that people come from all over the country for this thing. Since travel isn't a concern here, the only question that remained was if the money would shake out (small budgets usually die quickly there), and I'm happy to report it has. So I've marked my calendar: I'll be at The National with my dad exactly two weeks from today. 

I've talked about The National many times on this blog, and I don't mean to sound like a broken record about it - but I've long had mixed feelings about the thing, and I think what a lot of it boils down to is the fact that it just feels so darn impersonal to me.

It's hard to argue that The National isn't the best show in the world, because it is - imagine a baseball card, and it's probably somewhere in those aisles.

But yours truly, a dime box scavenger and generally cheap-o aficionado, really isn't the prime audience there. I'm not a very social person in the first place, and worse yet, The National amplifies (embraces?) all the breaker and bro-culture aspects of the hobby that turn me off even further. I've often felt like the cards are my comrades at The National, and not so much the people. 

It's a shame because I know how good a lot of the people in this hobby can be - including a reader named Wes who's been periodically shoveling large quantities of cards on me for much of this blog's history, the latest instance of which saw a nice amount of legends along for the ride (send me all your Topps Tributes!).

It's still crazy knowing that people like Wes are specifically looking out for my crazy mini-collections - that's not the type of brotherhood you're likely to find at The National.

(Dig the exceedingly rare Reliever at the Plate with that Rick White!)

Speaking of which, here's a note I found inside one of the team bags Wes sent me - how cool!

Says a lot about Wes as a parent that his six-year-old son picked out such a killer cavalcade of stars, wouldn't you say?

I can usually still find good deals on vintage at The National (knock on wood), but it takes even more sifting through graded-and-generally-expensive stuff I can't afford and/or have no interest in.

You don't see a lot of beaters at this show because that's not what most people are there for - I find a certain comfort in them, though, because can you imagine the inferno you'd face on Twitter nowadays if you scribbled on a '61 Harmon Killebrew?

Those star-studded beaters were all doubles for me, but Wes did send along a few new oldies for my binders.

I've started picking up more and more of those vintage coach cards lately - Senators ones get extra points! - and while I don't specifically collect Kansas City A's stuff, they're novelties in my kind-of-but-not-really Defunct Teams catalog (see: Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, etc.).

Most trade packages I receive these days have a good amount of Cubs content - I've somehow never seen that beautiful '94 Rick Wilkins before, and Lou Brock Cubs cards are glorious (albeit a bit painful).

Player collection hits are great, and ones that come from off-road brands like Pacific and Fleer Box Score are even better!

Make no mistake: I'm excited for The National, and hopefully the finds will carry the same quirky-but-cool vibes that Wes repeatedly seems to send to me. 

With any luck, maybe I'll bump into a few kindred spirits like myself who find joy in the oddities and that make this hobby the joy that it is - it'll make getting whacked in the knee by someone's black magnetic case for the 27th time more than worth it.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Try a little patience (on COMC)

A situation played out recently that, for a long time, would've been unheard of for my former collecting self.

I came home from work one night a couple weeks ago to find that my recent COMC order had arrived(!). At almost any other point in my card-collecting life, I would've immediately ripped it open and reveled in the contents because....CARDS! But having a couple other things to take care of that evening, and just not generally being in a card-ish state of mind, I somehow willed myself to let the package sit there, knowing I probably wouldn't be able to offer it the same level of excitement and enjoyment such an event deserves.

I actually didn't open it until the following night, a shade over 24 hours since I'd first seen it on my doorstep.

This probably doesn't seem like much to a lot of people out there, and I'll admit this shouldn't be that great of an accomplishment.

Still, I've long been an impatient collector - I need all those cards NOW!, and I need to sort them all NOW! - so letting a box I knew was filled with cardboard treasure sit unopened for an entire day is foreign to me. I suppose it's another small step in the journey to becoming what I hope is A More Patient Collector. 

But the lesson doesn't stop there. I used to think all Japanese Ichiro cards were unattainable and/or way out of my price range, but over the years I've found that, with a little patience, I'm able to find some on the cheap - which explains how I added not one, not two, but three new BBM Ichiros to my binders in this order!

(The one on the left in this scan was all of $1.50, which seemed like a robbery that should've landed me in jail for the night.)

Japanese cards in general have been a testament to my patience lately - people routinely jack up the prices on these, but once in a while you'll find affordable ones pop up.

Although Ichiro is forever the #1 Japanese Dude in my collection, it's always fun tracking down cards of other notable names from across the Pacific.

All the touchstones of my standard COMC browsing history were present in this order - including a fun mess of Throwback Thursdays.

Other online-exclusive stuff I'm content to scavenge off the scrap heap - I always wonder how big of a loss people are taking when I buy a Topps Now card for a dollar.

Sometimes I don't even know about a set until I see the cards on COMC, which was the case with this online-only Topps "Rookie of the Year" offering that apparently came out last year.

With names like Frank Howard and Dick Allen in the mix, this is a set after my own heart.

You can probably count the number of photo variations I've pulled from packs on one hand, but you'd never know it from the amount of 'em I've amassed on the cheap over the years.

I still wish Topps would just give us shots like Kris Bryant signing autographs or Randy Johnson at the plate in base sets without all the SP hullabaloo, but if they're a buck or two on COMC I guess I can't complain much.

More legend short-prints - spent a little more than usual on the Teddy Ballgame (all of $4.50!) but a small price to pay for the old-timey automobile.

One of the unintentional themes of this order was a healthy run of Minor League Cards of Obscure Guys I Collect.

I stumbled upon one dealer in the midst of a fire sale of his minor-league inventory, and you know I'll fork over some loose change for oddballs of Dime Box Favorites like Bud Smith and Boof Bonser.

More minor league obscurity, this time of the position player variety (cool Hershey's ad lurking on that LeCroy).

The many varieties of minor league wheels.

Between Clementes, "42" variations, and generally shiny stuff, I'm glad I waited to fully experience the joy of this COMC order.

(Need more Fan Favorites refractors!)

TCMAs and stadium issues are two of my bigger recent obsessions - that's my first card of Mickey Vernon with the Pirates, and man does Steve Yeager look weird in a Mariners jersey.

A mass of minis and generally odd-shapes pieces of cardboard here.

Unnamed Cardinal is Paul "Daffy" Dean, and that Mickey Cochrane is the first card from the lesser-known '77 Shakey's Pizza set I've had the pleasure of welcoming into my binders.

Hard to beat a good horizontal card, wouldn't you say?

That Fujimoto continues the string of firsts in this order since it's my first look at Topps's 2022 NPB set - moreover, it's just a wonderful baseball card.

A few other random joys that didn't fit anywhere else in this post - including neat a Ray Schalk from the scarce '95 Conlon set, and a Billy Martin tribute card I'd never seen before.

COMC remains a prime treasure trove of unclassifiable fun stuff like a rare card of Frank Robinson on the Indians and sweet Satchel Paige inserts I need.

I seem to have a harder and harder time finding cheap vintage on COMC with each passing order, but I always try to sneak a few older goodies in here and there.

I don't have a good excuse for not owning that '58 Zimmer already - it's not a high-number or anything - but better late than never, and can't resist a good Nu-Scoop!

I didn't plan to double dip on The Duke with this order, but by some coincidence I nabbed these within minutes of one another on a magical evening.

That '63 high-number has been on my "Keep Dreaming" list for a while now - his first card with the Mets! - and I finally managed to find a copy at a reasonable price thanks to a little nibble on the top-left corner. Coupled with a worn (but nifty!) '57 Duke, these ran a bit less than the cost of a blaster together.

For a long time, I thought the pinnacle of this order would be these dueling Dukes...

...but that was before I stumbled upon a cheap '63 Ernie Banks!

Somehow, this completes my '60s run of Mr. Cub's Topps cards, and I'm actually down to needing only three more Ernies to have the whole Topps set (admittedly, those three are the dreaded '54 rookie, '55 Topps & '57 Topps, no easy tasks). I paid $13 for this one, which is nothing considering I routinely see worn copies in the $50-60 range at shows around here. Once again, even the tiniest bit of patience pays off.

Easier said than done sometimes, but sometimes a little restraint goes a long way in this hobby - only took about 25 years of collecting to figure that out.