Thursday, February 22, 2024

Let's make a deal (on COMC)

I've grown a bit more comfortable with haggling over the years.

I try not to take it to extremes - seeing people trying to negotiate over dime and quarter cards at shows drives me insane - but I like to think there's nothing wrong with trying to get a dealer to shave a few bucks off a card I otherwise might not touch. I give huge points to card sellers here, because I can't imagine the number of negotiations they have to deal with in a single day.

This is one of the many reasons why I continue to use COMC for my card-addict activities - you can make offers, and from my experience, they're accepted more often than not. Couple that with their (relatively) recent Black Friday sale that arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago, and you have potential a sea of good deals.

Which is heaven for me, since I am, admittedly, a collector forever in search of a deal. 

I didn't have to make offers on any of the three gargantuan minor league cards I've showed already - Black Friday sellers marked them down to a price that was already in my wheelhouse.

I've had my sights set on nabbing a minor league Willie McGee for a long time - a rare document of his zero-year tenure in the Yankees system - and the prices were so good that I grabbed a second one for good measure!

Ainge and McGee were the unquestioned minor league kings of this order, but I managed to grab a few other familiar names and Obscure Dime Box Favorites on the cheap as well (pre-beard Brian Wilson!).

I'm still amazed at how cheap I can find Japanese cards on COMC - a new Ichiro manages to sneak into every order nowadays, and they're not as pricey as you might think (this one was about $5).

I also still have a soft spot for the Japanese busts of my childhood like Kazuhisa Ishii, because they can't all be Ichiros and Ohtanis.

I've managed to negotiate my way into scoring quite a few variations and generally fun oddballs on COMC, which is great because I always salivate over stuff like this.

Stadium Club variations are downright impossible to touch, but given that people don't go wild over Billy Hamilton cards these days (he'll always have a spot in my binders!), I was able to nab that one.

Gotta show the big player- and mini-collection hits - I don't make a habit of chasing parallels on COMC, but who among us can resist a shiny Hoyt for 80 cents?

A few fun fan favorites here - been chasing that Madlock for a while because it's one of the extreme few cards you'll see that documents his brief Rangers tenure.

I'm still not exactly sure what that Gates Brown is, and while it's not a particularly great baseball card, anything of Gates Brown I don't already have automatically goes in my cart.

Mini madness!

(I thought I was bad with a pair of scissors until I saw that Milk Duds Cepeda.)

A nice batch for the horizontal files here - I paid more for that Big Klu than I wanted, but a card like that is love at first sight & I couldn't bear the pain of not owning it.

Modern oddballs are cool, but they can't light a candle to the TCMA and Shakey's Pizza days of yore.

Today in the too-frequent episode of Nick Doesn't Know Everything About Baseball Cards - I thought I had all the cards I needed from that '80s Cramer oddball set, only to find that not only was I missing Roger Maris...I was missing Roger Maris on the A's!!

Oddballs from my youth will always have a special place in my heart.

I've documented my love for SI for Kids cards many times (I used to steal them from the magazines in my school library), and I always want Starting Lineup cards even though I've never cared a hoot for the actual figurines.

With my chase for all the '76 SSPCs I need more or less complete, my focus has turned to a few of the tougher SSPC offerings like these various '75s.

The Brooks & Reggie have been thorns in my side for a while, always out there at just a hair over what I want to pay - but thankfully a particularly generous Black Friday price slash took care of that!

Vintage is by far where most of my haggling takes place - which is how a few otherwise unattainable biggies came my way in this COMC order.

It's taken me far too long to discover these '59 Topps "Baseball Thrills" can be had for largely affordable prices - Mr. Kaline is already one of the last few I needed (I'll get the Mantle one day!).

A couple top-notch Dodgers here - I've been going through a minor obsession with those Bell Brand cards ever since procuring my first one at The National last year.

The Podres is a just plain excellent card (dig the Schaefer ad!) from the scary '57 Topps scarce series - the $10 I paid for this one was a steal in my book.

Elroy Face is a guy I collect who makes me happy since his cards go for almost nothing, but he admittedly can't light a candle to his fellow '64 Bob Gibson, a "Keep Dreaming" suspect I finally netted with this order.

Normally, something like that would receive top billing, but not this time because, my friends...


Aside from the Roberto Clemente rookie I'll have to sell a kidney to afford, this '64 Pete Rose has been #1 on my most wanted list for a while now. I've searched for it in earnest at the last few shows I've attended, and the cheapest one I'd seen through all that time was $150 (most were north of $300). 

I noticed a copy (in not-at-all bad condition) sitting in the COMC archives for 100 bucks, a solid price on its own given the glass-case price tags I'd come across again and again. But with a little back-and-forth, I was able to knock the final price down to a mere $70 - still a nice chunk of change for this dime box collector (and by far the most I've spent on a single card on COMC), but a definite steal when you consider the immensity of the purchase.

Again, I try not to make a habit out of haggling with every single purchase I make, but in moderation I've learned that it often doesn't hurt to ask - it might even help land that white whale you've been chasing for the better part of your adult life.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Welcome to the dark side (a box of 2024 Topps)

Baseball cards have made me do weird things over the years.

There's been many a Topps release day where I've traveled far and wide across suburbia, scouring the Targets and Wal-Marts for any trace of the new cards. I've been to parts of town I didn't know existed in search of these tiny pieces of cardboard. It gets to be an obsession that really brings out the darker side of my collecting personality.

I don't do the retail tour anymore - when did I have the time or energy? - but that doesn't mean the prospect of new cards doesn't still trigger the obsessive in me. One of the benefits of having a card shop open up down the block is knowing that the newest stuff will be there if I'm willing to plunk down a bit of cash for a box.

I didn't plan on buying a whole box of 2024 Topps - I didn't last year, either - but alas, here I am, getting ready to unleash the spoils of the box that I so ravenously tore into last night.

I'll join the chorus right away and say that 2024 Topps is awesome - there's just no better way to put it.

It's a colorful shot in the arm to a Flagship run that sorely needed it. I haven't necessarily disliked the designs over the last few years, but they're not wildly distinct and have already started to kinda bleed together in my head. The neon theme reminds me of a '50s diner in the wee hours of the morning, and the borders do actually glow a bit in-hand if you shine them up against a light.

The player selection is the usual crop of stars, rookies (so...many...rookies), and other personal delights like Jose Quintana who for some reason got the shaft from Topps last year (best I can tell, his only 2023 card was a Heritage SP). And they all shine on a wonderful design.

It's simply something we've never seen from Flagship before, and immediately goes right up there on the best Topps looks of my lifetime (easily my favorite one since 2015).

The backs are different enough to warrant mention - I've accepted the fact that Topps has long been phoning these in, but the thicker bar between the team/stat lines is a good touch.

As usual, the inserts aren't anything to write home about - I forget what that Tatis insert set is called, but it's ghastly.

And it looks like '89 is the retro insert honoree this year, not a horrible thing since Topps hasn't crammed that design down our collective throats yet.

The only thing better than a great design is a great photo on a great design.

(Editor's note: Detmers and his stellar Angels throwback was the first card of 2024 to crack the Dime Box Frankenset!)

Really the only bone I have to pick with this year's set is the proliferation of City Connect uniforms - seriously, it seemed like I pulled one or two of these things from every pack.

Listen: I actually like the City Connect idea, and welcomed cards that featured them last year. They're not a universal win - the jerseys range from excellence (Marlins), to indifference (Rangers), to vehemence (Pirates) - but it was different enough to make me pay attention.

Maybe this is a case of MLB taking this idea too far, but I kinda think the whole City Connect thing has run its course at this point. 

It seems like the last few Topps designs have catered to horizontals, and 2024 is no exception (always nice to see personal favorite Anthony Rizzo get a great card).

All in all, I'm genuinely excited to see more of this design across Series 2 and Update, which hasn't happened in a while - a tip of the cap to Topps for a job well done.

If any set could make me return to those odd days of dashing to three Targets and two Wal-Marts across the greater Chicago area, this is it.

Friday, February 2, 2024


Well, it finally happened: I got scammed on a baseball card.

Earlier this week, I thought I had a deal in place on Twitter to secure my '53 Topps Satchel(l) Paige dream card. But after a little back and forth with payments and such, things seemed a bit fishy, and I ultimately declined. Then another user stepped forward and said that he had a Paige for the same price. Things looked to be a bit more kosher this time, and we agreed on a deal. Or so I believed.

To put it shortly, there was a chain of events (including said user blocking me) that made it clearly obvious I'd been taken. Admittedly, I wasn't the smartest buyer here - the way I paid left little recourse for getting my money back, and the alarm bells should've been clanging in my head. So now I'm out what is (or would have been) the most I've ever spent on a card by a good margin.

Losing the money obviously sucks (and it was no small amount), but I think I'm just as frustrated by the humanity of it all. Call me naïve, but I always had it in my head that this world of scammers operated in a cardboard underbelly that would never affect me. I've dealt with so many sellers that have been nothing but excellent, so I suppose I took that trust into other darker places where I should've been more careful.

I suppose everyone gets scammed at some point in their life, and lo and behold, here came my turn.

Still, I truly believe one of the joys of writing is being able to take a shitty situation and make something at least a little joyous out of it.

I've been trying to come up with a way to showcase some odds and ends I've picked up lately on the blog - granted, I wish it didn't take me getting fleeced to do it, but if nothing else it gives me a chance to honor those great sellers who had the decency to send me the cards I bought.

I've been using Sportlots at a record pace these days, so much so that I'm left to wonder why I hadn't made this place a bigger part of my card life a long time ago - it's gone a long way in fueling my recent kick of minor league issues of treasured binder guys.

I think part of why I never used Sportlots much before was that you buy from individual sellers rather than one central website - which can cause shipping prices to skyrocket.

But lately I've taken that as more of a fun challenge - it's been a blast sifting through the inventories of certain sellers and seeing what I can find (while paying just the one shipping cost). It's the closest to a the thrill of a good card show discount box as you're gonna find on the internet.

I've been after the Gulf Coast Dodgers Tiant for a while now, and by some miracle I found a seller who had one for 20 cents(!) - and as a bonus, he also had Tiant's 1993 ProCards issue that I didn't even know about (also for 20 cents!). 

One Sportlots seller had a wild inventory of oddballs I'd never seen before and/or wasn't likely to see again.

A couple good mid-aughts food issues with the Stieb (Sunkist) and Konerko (Frito-Lay), and the Vlad appears to be from some kind of board game that never took off - plus, dig Jim Abbott signing autographs!

Another recent kick of mine is cards from the slew of short-lived early '90s card magazines like RBI Baseball.

I've never seen a copy of the magazine itself - has anyone? - but I knew I needed that Tartabull the minute I laid eyes on it.

I personally think Topps Holiday has ran its course - I haven't sought these out in years & am content to land handfuls a dime box way later.

However, Topps always manages to sneak in a few cards that differ from the standard Flagship issues, which I of course desperately need - didn't think Lucas Giolito's dubious six-game tenure with the Angels would get documented on cardboard.

I don't often use eBay for card purchases, but lately I've been forced to make a few exceptions to that rule.

Yes, I'm one of the suckers who bought the Topps Now Ohtani - I couldn't let the first Dodgers card of one of my favorite baseball dudes slip by! I also finally pulled the trigger on a different Topps Now card that's been torturing me for a while with that Brandon Phillips.

That's the one and only card of Phillips's nine-game sunset stint with the Red Sox, and I'm glad I decided the time was nigh to buy it.

I'm pretty sure I discovered these "Little Big Leaguers" cards through Fuji's blog a while back - apparently they were issued with a book in the early '90s.

I found a generic listing for said book with the common "inserts may not be included" caveat - but either way it was cheap enough that I decided to give it a shot. And it's my pleasure to report that when the book arrived a few days later...the cards were in there!

I spent the better part of that evening separating each card from its perforated sheet, which was a blast since there's nothing quite like discovering a new oddball set.

A couple more random eBay gets - the Fisk was one of the last handful of '78 SSPCs I needed (mostly down to the bigger names at this point).

I overpaid for the Jenkins, but the seller kinda had me over a barrel since it was (at least at the time) the only copy of it I could find for sale on the whole wide internet - still, no price is too steep for a rare Phillies Fergie!

Might as well close with another dream card - one that I actually received upon purchase this time - with this treasured minor league John Smoltz.

It's been a glaring hole in my zero-year collection for a while now. Smoltz pitched in the Tigers' system for two years and was famously dealt to the Braves before ever reaching the bigs with Detroit. This is one of only two cards documenting the future HOFer's zero-year stint, and I can't tell you how satisfying it is to finally cross it off the list.

But I'm still cursed with the mind of a collector, because even after getting scammed - and even with all the fantastic stuff I've shown here - I'm left wanting a '53 Paige even more now!