At card shows, dealers have different set-ups for their discount bins. They're based on price, or they're limited to just a certain span of years or brand of card, etc.
But based on my experience, your general, average, run-of-the-mill discount bin contains an assortment of the following: beat-up cards from the 60s through 80s, 21st century cards of legends, failed Bowman prospects, random inserts and oddballs, and lots and lots and lots of cards of 1990s stars.
Unfortunately, there were so many cards made in the '90s that no one could possibly place a premium on most of them. So, they get discounted, just so people can save themselves from the impending card avalanche.
Caught in this unfortunate devaluation are cards of 1990s superstars. And probably the '90s star I see most often in discount bins is Mike Piazza.
This is a crime. Piazza is too good to be discounted. If he was playing in the '70s or '80s, people would want 5 or 10 bucks for his common, ordinary base card. But because there are so many cards of Piazza, you'll pay a ton only for his rookie cards or certain exclusive inserts. The vast majority are floating around in a discount box near you.
Nick of Dime Boxes backed up that theory recently by sending me a bunch of cards that he found in his alleged dime boxes. There was one player who showed up in the package more than any other. Yup, Mike Piazza.
Piazza has a lot of cool cards that don't seem like they should cost a dime. But fortunately for us collectors with meager salaries, they do.
This card is huge. Based on size alone, it should cost more. But apparently it didn't.
Tilt this card from side to side and you get the unsettling scene of the umpire cozying up to Piazza to whisper sweet rule book obscurities in his ear.
I am certain that if one were to create cards to be displayed at someone's funeral, they would look like this. Dearly beloved ...
Nick also sent me two still-in-their package Mother's Cookies cards from 1994. I have the one on the right already, which means I can keep this one in its package forever.
I also discovered that the packaged card on the left is number 1 of 4. But so is this 1994 Mother's Cookies card of a solo Piazza. That probably means there are two different 1994 Mike Piazza Mother's Cookies sets to collect.
Of course. It was the '90s.
But amid the deluge of Piazzas, Nick was able to sift in between and dig out some other key discount finds.
He likes to test my knowledge with these TCMA finds.
This is a set from the heyday of TCMA that was issued from 1977-80 and commemorating players from the 1940s. I distinctly remember seeing them in baseball card advertising catalogs back then.
This is a Cramer's card, also issued in multiple years, during the early 1980s.
And this is the 1980 TCMA Baseball Immortals set, one of my favorite oddball sets ever.
There, I passed the oddball test ... this time.
But I'm not finished with the oddballs. This is from the 1990 Swell set. You can never have enough cards of pitchers with glasses.
This is proof that Upper Deck did know how to photoshop an unlicensed card. It's from a set issued by gas company Chevron from 2004.
I'm quite certain this guy was kicked out of baseball and told never to come back.
I own a non-cracked 1974 Kellogg's card of Willie Davis to go with this cracked version.
But I had never noticed that Kellogg's had recognized Davis' trade to the Expos in the '73 offseason. It's kind of delightfully vague. No mention of a transaction in the vitals or in the write-up at the bottom. Just -- hello! -- a giant Expos logo.
I know that Topps has killed the thrill of receiving new cards of legends because of the anger I feel when I realize that I don't already have cards like these. Campy and Jackie should never make me angry.
True fact: Chan Ho Park released every pitch with an audible "GUUUUUH!"
Keep taunting me late '80s/early '90s junk wax Dodgers. I'll have you all one day. And I will laugh heartily.
Discount boxes = '90s cards. And especially Karim Garcia cards. It's a fact of life.
Discount boxes = 21st century legends cards, too. But these make me much happier than the ones we're pulling every other card out of packs today.
Nick also sent me two notes in the package. The first is a note that every package should include:
Let's see how accurate your thinking is, Nick.
1981 Fleer stickers? Absolutely. I love these.
A 1980 Kellogg's card of Carlton Fisk? I should stop accepting packages that don't include a Kellogg's card.
On the other note, Nick wrote that he thought I'd be done with the 1975 Topps mini set soon.
He added some mini needs just to underline his point.
Perhaps there's a Hank Aaron or George Brett mini tucked away amid all those Piazzas in some dime box somewhere?
That would be the greatest discount bin find of all-time.