Friday, July 5, 2024

I spent more in a village hall than I did at The National

A couple weekends ago, I took a Sunday off work to attend the local village hall card show, the first time I'd been there in about three years.

I've said many times before that smaller, calmer shows like this one fit my personality a whole lot better. That said, the money involved usually isn't in the same ballpark. I save more for The National, I bring more to The National, I spend more at The National. That's just how it is. How can a small local gathering about 1/50th the size of The National expect to compete with such prodigiousness?

Yet somehow, against all odds, I actually spent more money in the two moderately-sized rooms at the village hall show than I did in the entirety of last year's National.

I think one of the reasons this is even remotely possible is that vendors don't have to sell as much to pay for their table, thus opening the possibility for me to find more fun cheap stuff.

Granted, I did see a couple dime box vendors I used to love eschew the cheap stuff for five, ten, twenty-dollar cardboard at this show - a lot's changed in the hobby in the three years since I've been able to go. But overall there was still more than enough gold in the discount bins to satisfy this low-end fanatic.

Take that three-card panel issued by the US Department of Transportation at the top of this post that cost me exactly $1 (of course I've already cut it up), or this weird T206-style oddball set that may well feature the earliest appearances of throwback jerseys on cards.

A smaller show also simply allows me more time - time to soak everything in, time to comb through entire tables, time to hit some vendors two, even three times throughout the day (try doing that at The National).

This show lasts until 2 PM, and I arrived at the village hall around 10 AM. I'd made a lap through all the tables by around 11:30, which allowed me the chance for some treats I usually don't have time for when I'm in a time crunch - like 50-cent boxes. 

I snatched that Johnny Washington auto for a couple quarters even though I knew absolutely nothing about it - I'm glad I did, because it turns out Mr. Washington played in the Negro Leagues in the late '40s & is still kicking at 93 years young!

I'm glad to see more current singles for sale at shows these days - there was a little while there where I was finding nothing but wax, wax, and more wax.

Why spend $30 on a 32-card blaster of Platinum Anniversary when you can get a massive stack of hand-picked needs for a quarter a pop?

There weren't a ton of dime boxes at this show - maybe two or three in the entire hall - but the few I found managed to make quite a splash.

Found this quartet of toughies for my big player collections - Vlad is a Heritage SP and the Lofton is from the tough '92 Fleer Update set - but Dime Box Find of the Day honors has to go to that excellent Topps TV Tony Gwynn.

A&G minis are usually in good supply at shows, but it's not every day you find a Shakey's Pizza card in the wild!

Your usual helping of shiny stuff, including a card that reminded me how beautiful those '04 Gold Refractors really are.

More miscellaneous discount bin fun (how often do you see Mike Piazza at first base?), and this is probably the first time in a decade or two that I bought an autograph and a game-used card at the same show.

Eric Munson is high on my list of Failed Prospects I Collect, and I figured I'd toss a couple quarters at a bat card of his for the novelty if nothing else. 

A few cool pre-fame glimpses of future stars - certainly didn't think I'd find a Topps NPB Seiya Suzuki in a dime box here in the greater Chicago area.

More things I can't resist, like food-issued oddballs (Twizzlers!) and Starting Lineup companion cards.

I am, admittedly, also in the market for any non-obnoxiously-priced Michael Jordan baseball cards (that one was a dollar). 

Smaller shows like this make me wonder what I'm missing when I'm otherwise forced to skip over quarter and fifty-cent boxes at bigger gatherings.

While they might not be dime boxes, there's still a lot of gold hidden in these things - take that masterful Mickey Mantle play at the plate, for instance (fifty cents!).

You'd think a relatively small village hall show wouldn't have much in the way of vintage, or at least nothing that could even remotely measure up to The National - but you'd be wrong.

Some of my most prized vintage finds have come at this particular show, and even with a three-year gap since my last trip, it's a trend that I think you'll all agree in due time continued this time around.

For starters, how about a couple absolutely massive names from my beloved Kellogg's - Reggie was a mere $10, and I've gone up the wall trying to find a semi-affordable copy of that '70 Clemente for years now (a very reasonable $35 price tag put that to bed!).

Cheap, fun vintage is a continued thrill for me at shows - these four combined cost less than a single pack of modern cardboard.

Love the rare manager-carrying-bats shot on that Kasko, and for the love of the cardboard gods how have I never seen that '73 Blue Moon Odom before??

In my experience, I've found that smaller shows are generally better for finding vintage bargains - where else am I gonna find a '60 Topps Orlando Cepeda for two bucks?

(And in the latest episode of Nick Has Too Many Cards, I somehow forgot that I already own a copy of that Drysdale...)

These were among my final purchases of the day, made during my third separate trip through the archives of a particularly fruitful table - that '67 Palmer completes my run of his Topps cards.

In a bit of sad happenstance, Orlando Cepeda passed away in the time between buying these cards and writing this post...

...which is particularly odd because my trip to the village hall unwittingly turned into The Day of Orlando Cepeda at some point.

The '60 Topps, '62 All-Star, and '63 Post Cepedas are all fine and good, but they can't light a candle to this '58 rookie I scored from one of the first tables of the day, a card I've wanted for my entire adult collecting life. I fished out a whole $70 from my wallet to put this "Keep Dreaming" need to bed - not a particularly massive steal, but still a good price for a card that's been an unattainable prize for so long.

All in all, you couldn't ask for much more out of a fine day at the village...wait, hold on...what's this...

[record scratch]

One simply does not attend a village hall card show with any intention of walking out with a '58 Mantle, for God's sake. But here we are.

How does this happen? The vendor I bought the Clemente & Reggie Kellogg's from off-handedly showed me a '58 Mantle he'd just picked up about ten minutes prior, more out of affability than with any intention of seeing if I wanted it. He then said something like I think I'll price it at $175. I thought he meant $1,175, because in my experience that seems like a more expected price for a '58 Mantle (probably the most marked-up ballplayer in cardboard history).

But no, I watched the man carefully pen $175 on the tag. I panicked because this was massively cheaper than any '50s Mantle I'd ever seen...but I didn't quite have that amount of cash left at that point in the day. I asked if I'd take $150 (the entirety of my remaining funds), and he said the lowest he could go was $165. Sadly, I told him I didn't have that much cash on me. At which time he said: I take PayPal, too.

I usually try not to venture out into the world of virtual purchases at shows - cold, hard cash keeps me to at least the illusion of a budget - but in this case I think you'll agree it was justified. And somehow, with a few quick taps on a phone, the '58 Mantle was mine. It's the kind of card you shake hands with the vendor after buying.

And that, my friends, is the story of how I spent more money at a local village hall than The National.

Friday, June 21, 2024


I never started this blog with the intention of padding my collection.

Blogging was nothing more than a vehicle to post a few random thoughts here and there, random gibberish I figured I'd be lucky to get three people to read. That was really my only hope for the blog at the time Then, after a while, something magical happened. People started sending me stuff! It's still mind-boggling to think typing a few words a couple times a week ended up having such a profound impact on my collection.

Even though I'm nowhere near the prolific blogger I once was (this is my first post in almost a month!), people still somehow stumble across my blog now and again, and sometimes those people insist on giving cards to me. I recently received one of those precious I've-got-some-cards-for-you emails from a reader named Andrew, who said he had a few things he thought I'd like. 

I, of course, profusely thanked him, and a package showed up on my doorstep later that week - but imagine my surprise when a '57 Ernie Banks fell out!

This presented me with a weird kind of dilemma since Dad actually gifted me the very same '57 Banks for my birthday this year.

So here I am with two copies of a card I so badly wanted for years and years. Certainly not a position I ever thought I'd be in. (Andrew's '57 Banks is actually a slight upgrade over Dad's copy, so I'd love to get the latter to a good home if anyone needs it!)

To surprise me with a '57 Banks would've been more than enough, but Andrew wasn't stopping there, because there were two other cards tucked behind Ernie...

...and I audibly gasped when I shook the first one out.

That, my friends, is a '56 Topps rookie of Mr. Cub's counterpart across town, Luis Aparicio! It's a former "Keep Dreaming" member and a card I've wanted for as long as I've been collecting. HOF rookies are tough finds regardless, but add in the beauty of '56 Topps and the fact that I live near Chicago, and you have a card that has long been out of my price range.

To say that this is one of the greatest cards I've ever received as a blogger would be an understatement. 

And yet, somehow, it didn't even sniff being the biggest of the three cards Andrew sent me.

This being a family blog and all, I can't type the words I said when I saw what was waiting behind Luis Aparicio - I'll let you use your imagination at my reaction in the moment I was holding a real, actual BOB GIBSON ROOKIE CARD in my hands.

After a '55 Clemente rookie, this was probably my #1 most wanted baseball card. It's also one I chose to leave off my "Keep Dreaming" list because there's a remote possibility that dreams come true. That didn't seem applicable here. It has all the shiver-inducing terms for us shallow-pocketed collectors: vintage, Hall of Fame, rookie card, high-number.

I'll just say that every copy I've seen at card shows has ran in the four-figures. Beaters show up online every now and then for $400-500. It's just not anything I thought I'd ever own in this lifetime. But now, against all odds, it's mine thanks to an act I don't even think I can safely define as "generosity." It's something more than that, perhaps a word we haven't even invented yet.

I've always said that my collection wouldn't be the same if I didn't start this blog, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd own a Bob Gibson rookie because of it.

Friday, May 24, 2024


I remember a time when trade packages flowed in my mailbox like wine.

Cards still arrive at Dime Box HQ pretty often these days, but they're mostly Sportlots orders and other miscellaneous purchases. And while buying specific cards is fun, I do often miss the thrill of seeing a package from a fellow blogger and not knowing what awaits. So much of my collection is in debt to those surprises.

It makes sense that a dip in posting would mean a similar scaling back of trade packages - but to my delight I still have a good amount of people who generously send me stuff despite my blogging darkness. And while I try to post them in a (somewhat) timely manner, I still find myself woefully behind in gratitude.

Greg from the illustrious Night Owl Cards sent me a package last year that I hadn't gotten around to posting about till now (sorry!) - a card as cool as this Jackie Robinson has no business sitting in a trade folder for that long.

Greg is always good at parsing through my want lists, and he came up with a few this time around as well.

(Seems like just yesterday I was watching Stephen Strasburg's debut, and now he's completely out of baseball.)

I believe I specifically requested that Baseball Cards Magazine Hershiser from Greg (love, love, love magazine-issued cards!).

I saw that 2023 Platinum Anniversary is out now (here in May of 2024) - I definitely support the set existing, if for no other reason that it gives us shiny cards of dudes like Derrek Lee that don't get many cards these days.

A reader named Alex who's no stranger to massive acts of generosity asked me about a Lance Johnson stadium issue I unearthed at the National last year.

I knew Alex was a big Lance collector, and agreed to send him the said stadium issue without a second thought, despite the fact that Alex promised me "something nice" in return. 

Little did I know that "something" would turn out to be a minor league card signed by LIMA TIME himself(!!!).

Dennis from Too Many Verlanders offered up a surplus of Swell cards he had available, and I took him up on that because I've found that, despite what I'd previously believed, I don't have everything I need from these sets.

A fair amount of the cards Dennis sent were indeed dupes, but a healthy portion were glorious needs like that Andre Thornton (where else are you gonna find guys like Thornton and Honus Wagner in the same set?).

Dennis was nice enough to throw a few extras in with the swell Swells, including new gets for a couple of my bigger player collections and some fun Cubs content which is always appreciated around here.

Laurens of Card Buzz surprised me with a two-card PWE recently...both of which were needs!

First up was this otherwise innocuous Glenallen Hill - a former "Dime Box Dozen" need due to the fact that Hill played all of a half-season with the Mariners and I had the Gold Medallion parallel of it without the base card (I can't emphasize enough how much that bugs me).

Better yet, an Anthony Rizzo relic came along for the ride as well!

I've probably said this before, but despite my dime-box leanings I still welcome autographs/jersey cards - although these days I treat them just like any other insert.

I couldn't tell you how long I've been sending cards back and forth with Jim (aka gcrl) of cards as i see them - but I do know he's one of my oldest and best trading partners.

I also don't keep stats on "Dime Box Dozen" needs, but I feel certain in saying that Jim has taken down more of them than any other blogger - a streak that continued with this painfully common '95 Topps card I somehow still needed of Obscure Favorite Danny Bautista.

It's hard to have a handle on everything I collect - heck, it's a challenge for me to define it a lot of the time - but Jim always seems to know exactly the right mix of stuff to send me.

Along with Darryl Kiles and broken bats came a couple 2023 A&G needs, a set I was admittedly kinda meh about at first but have really come around on lately.

More mini-collection hits - including a parallel of one of the more adorable cards ever made with that Shawon Dunston - and a shiny Tim Anderson (still weird to me that he's not on the White Sox anymore).

I feel like I have to whisper whenever I put an overproduction-era card on my "Dime Box Dozen" list...psst, hey, does anyone have an '89 UD Paul Molitor?

I've been collecting baseball cards for two decades. I shouldn't need anymore so-called "junk wax" at this point, right? Wrong. Jim helped me correct a glaring flaw this time, but I can guarantee you it won't be the last wait, how do I not already have THAT? moment. As is collecting.

There's no excuse for taking seven months to post a trade package, but please don't mistake that for a lack of appreciation - because where else am I gonna find people willing to dig through '89 Upper Deck dupes for me?

Friday, May 10, 2024

The elephant in the room on COMC

I think it's time I addressed the somewhat uncomfortable elephant in the room with COMC: their shipping times have gotten a bit ridiculous.

I placed the order I'm about to showcase here back in January - it finally wound up on my doorstep a few weeks ago. This after the shipping date was pushed back three different times in the process. And the only apology from COMC was a $5 shipping voucher to be used towards my next order.

I don't mean to sound selfish or impatient here - my cards will come when they come, it's really not that important in the grand scheme of things. And I'm not saying we should boycott COMC (I've since placed another order that, with any luck, will arrive sometime this summer). But taking three months to fill an order is a bit much. All I know is that if it routinely took that long to fill an order at my job, we wouldn't get much business.

I get that things are pretty hectic in the card-buying world right now. It makes sense that shipping would take longer. But in that case, one should, I don't know, hire more people. Maybe COMC is already doing this. But either way you shouldn't sell the cards if you can't keep up with the demand.

It doesn't seem like too much to ask.

But that's enough whining from this dime box collector, because the good news is that I did eventually receive this order, and it packed the usual fun odds and ends!

In addition to the hallowed Trevor Hoffman card at the top of this post - which hits a recent obsession of seeing big names at wrong positions - came a healthy slew of other minor league dudes I collect (long live Boof Bonser!).

You really can't go wrong with minis because there's so many different incarnations of 'em out there.

In this scan alone, you've got stadium giveaways, stained Hostess, National Chicle "cards that never were" (that unnamed Pirate is Waite Hoyt), and cards like that Shakey's George Sisler that were given out at pizza joints!

I've come to enjoy grabbing these recent T206 singles on the cheap because a lot of them feature guys you don't see in many modern sets, and/or a lot of legends in rarely-seen uniforms.

(Give me all the Randy Johnson Expos cards!)

A few more contemporary COMC pickups here - I needed to own that Betts the minute after I saw it on Night Owl's blog a while back.

It also saddens me that Jose Quintana's only Cardinals card came in the online-only Topps Living Set, but the good news here is that someone took pity on me and listed a cheap copy right before I placed this order.

As usual, a few new scores for the bigger player collections - I played Backyard Baseball to death as a kid, so that particularly cool Tony Gwynn earns bonus nostalgia points.

I'll never turn down new cards of the Ted Williamses and Cal Ripken Jrs. of the cardboard world, but if I'm being honest I get way more excitement out of landing new Luis Tiants and Joe Pepitones for my binders.

Neat bonus here is that Colorado Silver Bullets Phil Niekro - a lesser-known fact about "Knucksie" is that he was the manager of the first professional all-female professional baseball team.

Horizontal heroes!

I seem to say it in every COMC post, but it always floors me how cheap Topps Now cards can get (I paid a hair under $3 for that excellent Elly De La Cruz).

A couple stars from across the Pacific.

I went on a box-bottom binge on COMC one afternoon, and my collection is the better for it because these will always rule.

Maybe one day I'll be able to point to a specific reason why I especially love cards that were cut from other objects so much - because right now I really can't give you a straight answer.

Sometimes I'll be assembling a post like this for the blog and a scan will leave me confused as to exactly how I found such a random mix of cards buried deep within the COMC archives.

I have absolutely no idea, for example, what led me to discover that Terrence Long card, but I'm sure glad I did since that's a particularly shiny mid '90s insert set I'd never seen before.

Whether consciously or not, it does seem like legends always make up the bulk of my COMC orders.

Cards from the early Topps "legend variation" days can get insanely pricey (2009 was the first year they appeared), so nabbing that neat Tris Speaker for $5 was a steal.

More legends!

I've been after that TCMA Dizzy Dean for a while - Ol' Diz has painfully few Cub cards - and I believe that Nolan Ryan is the last '80s Kellogg's card I needed (the groovy Astros unis go well with the '81 Kellogg's design).

I did manage to scoop up a few vintage goodies this time around, including a very well-loved Jim Perry from the tough '61 Topps high-number series.

I'm also not sure how that '66 Bob Gibson has eluded me all these years - but alas, like my last COMC order, a vintage Gibson has to play second fiddle.

That's because the Hammer himself made an appearance this time around!

I don't know if Hank Aaron has any cards that could be described as "easy," but this is one of the more attainable ones out there (not a high-number, and not a particularly early card). I'd simply never found a copy that fit within the range of what I wanted to pay until now. It's a mighty piece of cardboard I'm thrilled to finally own.

Of course, I'd prefer not to wait months and months for my COMC orders to show up on my doorstep, but all things considered there's not really anything else like it on the internet - where else am I gonna find a '67 Hank Aaron and a bowling Mookie Betts in the same stack of cards?

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Not so common after all

Here's a card I finally welcomed into my collection after damn near (I kid you not) a decade of searching.

One has big ideas for cards they've been wanting for a healthy portion of their adult lives. But this isn't a Roberto Clemente rookie. It's not a '53 Satchel Paige. It's a...1995 Upper Deck Willie McGee? Look it up in your Beckett (if you must) and you'll find it books for a whopping $1.50. I secured my copy on Sportlots for a quarter - I just happened to log on one day and notice that oh my god someone listed one!

It's been a chase card for me because it's one of the extreme few to feature McGee's brief stint with the Red Sox (the only other I know of is from '96 Donruss). This was part of a mail-in exchange program from '95 UD that redeemed a special "Update" set that year. The '90s were filled with such redemption offers, and I own a healthy amount of trade-in cards from other similar sets. So why was this one so impossible?

I don't have an answer for you - all I can say it's a fascinating card that really clouds our notions of "rarity" and "worth."

I think it's an interesting phenomenon that's worth delving into a bit further - though I should warn you, I have few answers for the questions I'm about to ask.

Example: I have yet to hear a good explanation as to why '66 and '67 Topps high-numbers cost an arm and a leg, but '68 and '69 high-numbers, for instance, are pretty easily attainable. There's an aura around a few of those extra-tough high series ('67 especially) that elicits a visible wince from most vintage collectors. I regularly see even no-name '67 high-numbers in the $30-40 range at shows (when vendors have any at all, that is).

Like the Willie McGee, vintage high-numbers at the time were never meant to be "rare" - but thanks to some unexpected glitch over the years, that's exactly what they've become.

In an attempt to mimic this high-number madness, Topps Heritage regularly sprinkles short-prints into their checklist, much to the bane of our communal existences.

I've been able to find a good amount of the Heritage SPs I need over the last 5-10 years without too much of a hassle. But it seems like all the short-prints from before then simply dropped off the face of the earth at some point. Maybe there's a recency bias here - I bet a lot of older Heritage SPs are currently abandoned in garages all over the country - but earlier Heritage short-prints are a real pain.

Paying a whole $2 for this Tony Batista SP from 2005 Heritage - my first card of him on the Nationals - felt like a steal because that's a fraction of what most other short-prints from the era seem to go for.

Call this one the Mike Trout Effect, but I rarely see anything from 2011 Topps Update in the wild.

I bought a good amount of these at the time and luckily had most of what I needed from this set before the Trout-mania started (I even owned a Trout liquorfractor way back when!), but at some point people seemed to squirrel away the rest of their Update in search of the almighty dollar, and specifically the rookies.

It took a long time after I started collecting local hero Jason Kipnis to land his 2011 Update rookie, purely because he had the misfortune to have his first Topps land in the same checklist as the Godly Mike Trout.

Comb through a Hostess checklist and you'll find some SPs - I remember reading that were offered on the backs of less-popular Hostess products (a quick search shows treats such as Big Wheels and Pudding Pies that don't sound too appetizing to this '90s kid).

But even some of the non-SP Hostess have been surprisingly hard to track down for me over the years. I specifically remember searching for this '78 Hostess Len Randle at card show after card show, and no one seemed to have one. It drove me up the wall.

Maybe I was just looking in the wrong places - I eventually bought a copy for something like $1.50 - but the experience left me convinced that some Hostess cards aren't as common as we'd like to think.

I don't have any official data, but I think this '93 Pacific Dale Murphy earns the dubious crown of the card that sat the longest on my "Dime Box Dozen" list, clocking in at about two years!

'93 Pacific as a whole seems to be a tough go - I don't know that the set was widely purchased at the time and I almost never see them now.

I think the ultimate in this why are these so rare? discussion is probably the SP portion of 2002 Topps Traded.

Some genius at Topps decided to short-print the first 100 cards of that '02 Traded, and if I didn't know any better I'd say these were SP'ed to a number you can count on one hand because wow these things are maddening.

This Nomo is actually the only one I own - I stumbled into a copy in a dime box years ago, well before I knew how tough these monstrosities were. The cheapest copies of any 2002 Traded SPs I can find anywhere online are $4-5 each, mostly of guys I've barely heard of. Thankfully, for the sake of all our sanities, it was the first and last time Topps decided to SP a whole chunk of an Flagship checklist.

It's stuff like this that makes me glad I'm not much of a set-builder, because sometimes even the stuff we're told is common turns out to be not so common after all.