Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Dime box overtime (a card show report)

I worked overtime at my job last week, which means lately I've been stressed, frustrated, exhausted, and virtually every other work-related adjective out there.

But I did my best to take it all in stride, because there was one major factor getting me through all the minor annoyances: my extra pay would basically fund the big tri-annual card show waiting for me at the end of the overtime week. My customer-service mantra through it all was basically Card show, card show, card show...until finally, last Saturday, that glorious Card Show Day finally arrived after what sure seemed like a couple lifetimes.

At the very least, the extra money covered my dime box digging -- and while there's always a ton of dime gems to be had at this show, my main goal was to get my hands on some cheap 2018 Heritage because I'm damn sick of buying horridly-collated packs of the stuff.

Initially, however, it looked like the card show might lead to even more unwanted stress: one walk around the giant convention hall resulted in absolutely no Heritage commons for sale.

My first reaction was one of rage: you're telling me NOBODY here has ANY Heritage?! 

This thought remained until I stumbled across a vendor I recognized from some of the local shows who had some higher-priced Heritage inserts/parallels for sale. When I asked him if he had any commons, he nodded, pointed to a box stashed under his table, and told me everything in there was ten cents. With a few other Heritage inserts/parallels/SPs I found, my Heritage spree set me back a little less than the cost of a blaster.

And thus the card show was saved!

With Heritage taken care of, I was able to resume my regularly scheduled programming and let the dime boxes work their usual magic.

We might as well start with these beauties from the Ted Williams brand (including a Ted Williams Ted Williams!), which were staggering dime box finds since I have a tough time digging up inserts from this set.

Horizontal greatness comes in many forms.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'll never tire of finding high-end brands in dime boxes.

Dime box minis, including Tulo, Reggie, and Immanuel Kant(!) for all you philosophers out there.

There's been a Blog Bat Around topic making the rounds lately regarding the in-progress projects of those around the blogosphere.

I don't know that I could ever write a post like that because a) it'd turn into a novel with all the different things I collect, and b) I don't really think of my collection in terms of specific projects -- it's more of a Let's see how many of these I can accumulate kind of situation.

My mini-collections would probably be the closest I can come to anything resembling a sane project, and all of these were treasured adds to the various archives (including the interview Ripken, a now-former Dime Box Dozen need).

I don't specifically hunt for shiny cards during my dime box digs, but they sure are fun to find (and scan!).

Same goes for dime box short-prints: not really a conscious quest on my part, but an unexpected treat when they show up (especially ones of Jim Abbott and The Freak).

My main men.

I suppose I'm mostly a player collector at heart, and dime boxes have contributed to the vast majority of those over the many years I've been in this hobby.

Last Saturday was no exception: my player collections -- both new and old -- grew by leaps and bounds thanks to the loaded dime boxes vendors had on display.

I also found a complete 15-card Cubs World Series hanger pack set in a 3/$5 box near the end of the show, which, unbeknownst to me, is actually different than the Cubs box set I purchased around this time last year.

I think these retailed for $9.99 at the time, which makes the $1.66 I paid for it on Saturday look pretty good right about now.

It didn't take long for the day's vendors to pull out the big guns, one of which included a run of old Goudey/Bowman reprints that occupied an entire row of one guy's dime box.

I have a handful of these in my collection, but they've mostly been added one here and one there -- needless to say, I'd never seen anything like the 75-ish Goudeys/Bowmans I'd added to my collection in one fell swoop after the dust had settled at that guy's table.

More random dime box fun, including the Phillie Phanatic in a poncho and the closest thing I've ever seen to a Brawl Card from Topps.

In continuing with the trend from the last time I attended this show, here's some cards I really shouldn't be finding in dime boxes.

Any Campy buyback is a bargain for a dime, much less one from 1966(!). The Bump Wills error is one of those classic cards I'd somehow never added to my collection, though I'd be lying if I said I thought I'd ever find one for anything near ten cents.

And people wonder why I keep going back to the dime boxes.

I found exactly one nickel box on Saturday, and let me tell you I could've spent a lot more time at that Nickel Box Table than I actually did.

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you the guy had at least a dozen huge nickel boxes at his table, and that I could've spent virtually the entire show ransacking those alone. I decided to go through only one of them, since my time and energy were waning at that point.

But even that lone box resulted in 100 new cards for the binders (five dollars!), the stars of which included Vin and another former Dime Box Dozen need with the Mattingly.

While I sometimes do end up finding longtime needs in dime boxes, they're much better at showing me cards I didn't even know I needed in the first place.

But in the end, I think I have to give the Dime Box MVP Award to all the magnificent oddballs I discovered on Saturday.

Seriously, this show alone is basically responsible for creating my current fascination with oddballs and, as this page might indicate, still packs quite a wallop with its selection of oddities.

A couple more brilliant oddities, including a major HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS EXISTED?! moment with that Hall of Shame card.

I read the Baseball Hall of Shame books over and over again as a kid (they're still on my bookshelf to this day), and I had absolutely no idea they printed a cardboard complement to the series.

Here's a new one: a lottery ticket!

(And you better believe I'm counting it as a baseball card.)

The same guy with all the aforementioned Goudey/Bowman reprints also had a whole run of TCMA oddballs in his dime boxes.

I repeat: a whole run of TCMA oddballs! Do I even need to explain how great that is? Ty Cobb and Ray Schalk and even my very first card from the 1979 TCMA Japanese Pro Baseball set (featuring gaijin Dave Hilton of the Yakult Swallows)?!?!?!?!

All for a dime!

But even with all that, I have to say this was the best TCMA find of the show, and perhaps my greatest discount bin score overall.

I forked over $3 for this Mark Fidrych minor league oddball at the very first table of the day, but that's a small price to pay for a card I knew I'd probably never see again considering how annoyingly rare '80s minor league cards can be. I don't often get to add new Birds to my collection these days, much less ones anything near as cool as this.

So, yeah: in the future, if I ever get to thinking about how frustrating working on an off day was, I'll just go back, reread this post, and remind myself that, holy cow, it was totally worth it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bye bye, Beckett

I've been making a (somewhat halfhearted) effort to clear out some excess space in my room, mainly because I live every day in fear of becoming a hoarder.

Among the items I deemed worthy of a purge were my stack of old Becketts, which date from as far back to 2001 (I was nine years old) to around 2011 or so. I've long since stopped buying the magazine -- I honestly don't even know if they still print it anymore -- and my distaste for the Book Value phenomenon Beckett helped popularize has been well-documented on this blog.

But although my Beckett fandom remains a thing of the past, I still felt a pang of something when I moved those old magazines into the trash pile.

I couldn't help but flip through a couple of my treasured old Becketts this afternoon.

There was a time when I intently reviewed every page of every magazine, reading that tiny text, looking for those up and down arrows to see what was hot and cold. Not because I had any of the hot cards themselves, of course -- it was mainly for pleasure more than anything.

At the very least, flipping through old Becketts is often good for a laugh -- Chris Coghlan's Bowman Chrome rookie autograph was on the rise as of this issue...from June 2009.

When I was a kid, "big" cards like these seemed to exist in a different universe, and seeing them all in one place made reading through Beckett's Hot List a monthly pleasure.

These days, I own exactly one of the Hot List cards from June 2009 -- Johan Santana's Fleer Tradition rookie at #20, which I found in a dime box a couple years ago -- but again, it's fun now to relive the absurdity of some of the names here (Jake Fox? Fernando Martinez?).

While my fascination with Book Value died somewhere around 2010 or so, there was a brief period of time in which I still bought Beckett for the articles alone.

Most issues were good for at least a couple fun reads, like this one, which documents the luck of a collector in Kentucky who, thanks to a massive printing error at Topps, pulled dozens and dozens of extremely scarce SPs from a 2009 Heritage blaster. They're valued here at more than $20,000 all together.

While this was almost ten years ago now, I have to say I'm still a bit jealous.

Even though the magazines are gone, remnants of Beckett will always exist in my card collection.

This Jim Beckett came special with one of my Becketts long ago, and you can attribute the giant crease running down the middle of it to my futile efforts to pry this card from that icky booger-like material magazines often use to affix free items (note to Beckett: not a great idea for usage with baseball cards).

I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that a few of my first Becketts came with sample cards like these.

In hindsight, I'm surprised Beckett didn't include cards with more of their publications, because what better way to get someone to buy a baseball card magazine than with FREE BASEBALL CARDS?

This is a reprint of Beckett's first-ever (mimeographed!) publication back in 1984 -- it came special with a 15th anniversary issue in 2001, and yes, I'm keeping this.

I've flipped through this historic reprint many times just to see the inflation of vintage card prices over the years.

Oh, and if anyone has a '52 Mantle they'd be willing to let go for the '84 Beckett value of $1,400, please hang tight while I secure a personal loan.

And while I'm finally due for an update and/or replacement by now, I'll also be keeping my Beckett pride and joy: the volume I refer to as only The Big Book, which contains listings for every known card set as of its 2008 publication.

As you can see by the sorry shape of the tome itself, I've consulted this thing endlessly throughout my collecting career. Not so much for the values, but for the reference: finding SPs, hunting for oddball sets, discerning checklist sizes, etc., etc. And while I may not like what Beckett has done to the hobby in terms of perceived "value," I do thank them with all my heart for this catalog, as it's made my collecting life immensely easier on so many occasions.

But for now, I must part with the Beckett magazines of my youth, a seemingly innocent purge which produced more nostalgia than I ever thought possible.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Top Five: Brooks Robinson

No real reason for featuring Brooks Robinson in this week's "Top Five" other than the fact that he's a guy I collect who received consistently terrific cards throughout his career.

This '73, for example, is one of my favorites from the legendary checklist (and one of Topps's five best sets, I think), but it isn't even one of Brooks's five best cards, in my opinion.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the cards that did manage to crack this week's Top Five.

#5 -- 1978 Topps #4 Brooks Robinson RB

One of the great mysteries of cardboard lore is how Brooks Robinson earned a place in the Record Breaker subset in '78 Topps...but was somehow left out of the regular base checklist.

As a result, this goes down in history as one of the strangest final tributes in recent memory, a definite oddball in my sunset collection.

#4 -- 2017 Stadium Club #126 Brooks Robinson

A rare sighting of the short-lived orange alternates the Orioles wore for a few games in the early '70s, and I think you can see why they didn't last long.

#3 -- 1976 Hostess #36 Brooks Robinson

Still one of the greatest cards I've ever found in a dime box.

#2 -- 1971 Topps #331 Brooks Robinson WS

Perhaps the most zoomed-out (and most sand-filled) image I've seen on a baseball card, which, as a result, makes it looks like poor Brooks is crawling in the last moments of life on a deserted island.

#1 -- 1964 Topps #230 Brooks Robinson

My dad has a lot of stories from his card-collecting youth, but this is the subject of perhaps his most often-told tale.

My dad went to exactly one card show when he was a kid -- shows were still kind of a new thing at the time, and his parents weren't quite as supportive of his hobby as he is of mine. The only thing he really remembers about that show is buying a stack of cards with this very '64 Topps Brooks Robinson at the top of it, where it stayed as a prized possession of his until his collection was given away or thrown out years later.

It's fitting, then, that my dad actually bought this very '64 Brooks for me at a card show a few years ago -- it brought our two collections together over the span of many years and cemented a spot for Brooks at the very pinnacle of my own collection.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Under the influence of COMC

Sometimes I wonder how much influence I truly have over my own collection.

I can't take credit for discovering a lot of the things I currently collect -- a lot of them found their way to me by word-of-mouth (or whatever you call word-of-mouth when it takes place online). Most of my mini-collections are based on others' ideas. A fair amount of my player collections were born out of interesting articles/factoids I'd read in the past. My appreciation for many of my favorite sets were initially kickstarted by the praises of others.

And now, whenever I hear about a new player/set/concept on the infinite ends of the internet, my first reaction is Ooh, I wonder if COMC has any of THOSE?

Take liquorfractors, for instance.

I pulled several of these from packs back in 2011 and enjoyed them, but I don't think I ever really fell in love with them until I started reading blogs. That immaculate term itself -- liquorfractor -- certainly didn't exist in my vocabulary until the blogs came along.

As the trio I've shown thus far might indicate, I throw them into my COMC cart whenever I can these days (especially the legends).

Though 1970s cardboard has long been an obsession of mine, vintage OPC never registered on my radar until recently, and the glorious floating heads of '71 OPC were unknown to me for a long time.

This excellent quartet of OPCs represent new hits to player collections I don't often get to add to, and all of them wound up in my COMC cart for loose change (RIP, Oscar).

COMC itself is a maze of influence: you'll look up one thing on a whim and, before you know it, you'll have killed two hours with five separate tabs opened on your computer.

I don't remember the exact chain of events that led to these two winding up in my cart, but I'm glad they did -- the Ripken is some kind of Burger King oddball, and the Griffey is a glorious "Video Replay" insert from late '90s Stadium Club.

I never clicked on COMC with the intention of buying anything from the one-and-done Topps Marquee brand, but these were too beautiful to pass up for 50-75 cents per.

A couple landmark additions to my Short Term Stops collection here (one of my few interests which I'm pretty sure I discovered all on my own).

The Wynn is something I never thought existed: a card documenting the Toy Cannon's brief 36-game stint with the '77 Brewers (his sunset season). The Paige, on the other hand, has been on my radar for a long time now, a tough find since it's numbered to 575 copies.

But now, thanks to COMC, I own what is (as far as I know) the only card of Satchel Paige with the A's, a team for which he pitched one game in 1965 as part of a publicity stunt at the ripe age of 59.

I sure wouldn't have known about these online-only "Throwback Thursday" Topps sets without various postings on the blogs and Twitter.

It's not a COMC post without a couple cameos from Kellogg's and Hostess.

My Secret Santa can take all the credit for these falling into my COMC cart.

Speaking of Santa, I had no idea baseball card ornaments ever existed until recently (brought to you by Pacific, of course).

The Cueto is a "Diamond Dig" insert from that brief period of time where Topps' online promotions were actually kind of cool -- I never unlocked one of those special inserts at the time, but if it's any consolation, that Cueto cost me just 75 cents.

Mother's Cookies were solely a west-coast promotion, which means they almost never turn up here in the chilly Midwest.

But thankfully, a lot of COMC's sellers seem to be located in the west (as well as COMC itself, I think), which means that these terrific Mother's cards can be had for pennies on the dollar for us poor Midwesterners.

More random oddballs from the COMC archives, including hits from a number of your American fast-food groups (the Trillo is from the Phillies' Burger King set).

A Vida cloth sticker and my very first Desert Shield card (of a HOFer, no less).

While I mostly use COMC to pick up oddballs and parallels I'm not likely to see anywhere else, occasionally I'll stumble upon vintage deals that are just too good to pass up.

Like this one, which I was ecstatic to find for two bucks since Billy Williams cards tend to carry a premium here in the Chicago area.

And finally, here's a card I was just plain sick of not having in my collection and a former member of my "Keep Dreaming" want list: the '57 Topps Ted Kluszewski Gun Show.

The story goes that Big Klu's arms were too big for the sleeves of his Reds jersey, so he simply cut the sleeves off, thus displaying the massive biceps that would make his '57 Topps card the stuff of baseball legend. At eight bucks, it's my priciest COMC purchase to date -- worth every penny, if you ask me.

And so there's another COMC haul, one that displays the melting pot of ideas and concepts that over the years have combined to form the hurricane that is my baseball card collection.