Saturday, June 4, 2011

The day I found out the file cabinet was sold

If you've been reading this blog for at least a couple of years, you know that every year at this time I take a trip to a guy's home and rummage through his file cabinet for a couple of hours.

I know that sounds questionable. It's not. It's part of a giant yard sale, spanning three towns, and his garage happens to feature a file cabinet -- more like a card catalog cabinet -- packed with baseball cards. Each of the last four years I have made a pilgrimage to his garage. It is one of five major card stops every year -- the other four are card shows.

It's tremendous fun. I love sifting through cards and you could stay there forever if you wanted. One year his wife even asked if I wanted something to drink.

I didn't get anything spectacular each year. Most of the cards were from 1985-95. But every once in awhile, I would hit a card from the '60s. And his inventory from the junk wax period was so complete, that you could always find the oddest of the oddballs.

So, on Friday, I headed out. It was a beautiful day, and the streets were packed with rummage shoppers.

Every year I forget what street he lives on, so I do that "wander through town" bit that is as much a tradition as looking through the cards.

But I finally found the house. He and his wife were sitting in the driveway. He was wearing a Yankee cap. I ignored it. He's a crusty old guy, who had a pacemaker put in a year-and-a-half ago. He was smoking. He asked me if I work at Sherwin-Williams. No, I answered. "Well, your twin is working there," he said. "He's a good-looking fella." I thought momentarily of leaving to go to the paint store and see what I look like, but something distracted me.

The file cabinet was not where I remembered it.

I looked around. There was a table with a few baseball cards, and some small binders. Graded cards of basketball players. A grade 10 Shaquille O'Neal rookie thing. "It's not worth nothing anymore," he said. "It cost me more to get it graded." I turned to go to the other section of the garage to find the cabinet, but then the guy said:

"You should've been here last year. I had a whole file cabinet full of cards."

Well ...

1) I was "here" last year.

 I told him that. "Oh," he said. "So you know."

2) I was here the year before that and the year before that. Thanks for remembering.


I do an excellent job of showing that I'm not crushed. So, I merely leafed through the small binders of mostly late '80s cards that were left. All the while I'm thinking, "where did the file cabinet go? Why is it gone? Why would it disappear like that? With all those cards? Why would you get rid of something like that? Why? Why? Why?"

The guy told me I could have the binder for 5 bucks. I shrugged my shoulders and said OK. I had postponed sending out some trade packages in hopes I could find a few cards for a couple of people in the file cabinet. But obviously very little of that was going to happen now.

As I was paying, I managed to get details on the departure of the file cabinet. I live near a military base. The guy said that he would do good business with that file cabinet every year because military folks who were from other parts of the country would come by and be interested in Emmitt Smith cards or Dan Marino or someone. He said he'd make $200 or $300 off the file cabinet each year.

But he said he was getting sick of lugging the file cabinet from wherever it stayed in the house out to the garage every June for the sale.

So when a guy offered $500 for the whole thing, the man in the Yankee cap pulled the trigger.

And there goes my interest in the General Brown field days forever.

I suppose I could go back next year and do what everybody else does, wander through the hundreds and hundreds of sales in hopes someone somewhere had some cards. But I had thought I had found a better way -- a one-stop shop where I knew the cards always were.

The binder I grabbed didn't have much. Some of the highlights:

There were several of these Upper Deck BAT cards. I didn't know the BAT series included bad-ass '70s players. The best part is he had a six-pocket page that fit these cards. It will now house my Dodgers BAT cards.

The earliest Super Star Special cards are the goofiest. I love "moment-in-time" cards like this, so this is the best of the five or so Super Star cards I landed.

In the late '80s UPS drivers could actually play in major league baseball games.

Speaking of Clarks, there were a whole mess of Wills in the binder, which do me absolutely no good. They'll be off to some other collectors. I might keep this one, though. The scan doesn't show, but the border is as bright orange as those Chrome refractors from last year.

See what prospecting does to you? You collect cards of players like this. And then 20 years later, people laugh at you.

The cartoon on the back of this Baseball Card Magazine McGriff card is weird, overdramatic and oddly compelling.

In fact ...

This is how I felt when the guy told me he sold the filing cabinet.

I think this card was what convinced me to buy the binder. There was also a Pacific card of Virgil Trucks and Mel Ott. I love sets of old-timers who aren't the usual superstar folks.

I have never seen anyone so pissed off to be an MVP in all my born days.

The grand finish. It may mean nothing to you, but this was a Nebulous 9 need! And I wasn't even aware it was in the binder until I got it home. The 1990 Bowman Dodgers set is finally complete. Welcome home, Goody.

I'm not sure what the guy who bought the file cabinet will do with all those cards. The vast majority of them were on par with a 1991 Upper Deck Robin Yount card. Not much you can do with that. You really had to search to find something of value. And the value was basically that I needed it for my collection.

The guy who sold it thinks he could've got more than $500, but I'm thinking he got a pretty good deal.

Unfortunately, he won't be seeing me anymore.

Of course, he can just go down to the local Sherwin-Williams. I hear a good-looking fella works there.


  1. Great story although not such a great ending.I always wanted an old library card catalog file to store cards.I wish there were more places around here to go to look for cards.Even the shows are getting smaller and smaller.

  2. A similar thing happened at a shop I used to visit. This guy had a roomful of the best vintage stuff I'd ever seen. Pricey, but he had everything. Went by to pick something up and it had been cleaned out. Somebody (who probably had the better part of a million dollars to spend) walked in and cleaned him out.

    What is that McGriff? Never saw one of those before.

  3. I know someone who collects Will Clark. He lives in my house. It's me. Just in case I wasn't clear.

  4. 67ers ~

    McGriff is from the old Baseball Card Magazine inserts. 1990.

    PATP ~

    You didn't even have to drop a hint. They're already in your stack.

  5. I've got one of those B.A.T. cards and didn't know how I was going to store it. Here is hoping my local shop has 6 pocket pages and will sell me one.

  6. I love the McGriff, and it's totally a cup card. If you ever decide to part with it I am down to trade for it haha.

  7. I'll set it aside for you Mooss.

  8. Wow, that Yaz brings me back. I used to own that Yaz card. I don't think I do anymore, no idea what happened to it. I still remember the story how I originally got it and everything. I might need to go to COMC and see if there is one available. I miss it!

    LOL pulsingf is my word verification.

  9. Ouch-I thought a kick in the gut hurt!

  10. Jeez, I haven't heard the name General Brown in years...

    My JV baseball team played against theirs.

  11. I love that Fleer Youngblood card.

  12. Sorry to hear that man. At least you were able to get to him for several years before he dumped the cabinet.