I'm not sure how much longer the card show that I went to on Saturday is going to last.
It's not even really a card show, it's actually a collectibles show that caters to the old money vacationing river people that arrive here every summer. It's mostly lots of elderly people trading coins and combing for postcards.
A year ago, the show was cut from the traditional two days to one day. I missed that show because I didn't know the change was made. This year, I was wise to them and headed up bright and early on a Saturday.
When I walked in, the table where I usually paid my three bucks was empty. In place of people taking money was a donation jar to raise funds for foreign exchange students at the local high school. "That's odd," I thought.
When I turned the corner into the hall, I saw more indifference. There were far fewer people looking over wares than I had seen in past shows. And most noticeably, an entire one-fourth of the hall that once featured tables was now empty. This wasn't good.
I gulped quickly and squinted, anxiously looking for the guy who sold me the '56 Duke Snider card two years ago. I saw him in his usual spot and marched right for his table.
I've picked over his table so much that most of what he has available are either cards I own already or cards that are way too expensive for me.
I settled on two cards:
This was a card I owned when I claimed it out of the large grocery bag of 1950s cards given to us by a friend of my father's in the early 1980s. Then, somewhere along the way, it disappeared. I'm pretty certain I foolishly traded it away, an action that mystifies me to this day. But I don't need to think about that anymore.
I always get Eddie Miksis confused with Eddie Waitkus, the ballplayer shot by an obsessed female fan. I'm sure there was part of me that jumped on this card because I thought it was Waitkus, even though Waitkus never played for the Dodgers.
The other part of me jumped on it because it was a 1951 Bowman. I love these more and more.
From there I wanted to see if I could fill some 1972 Topps set needs or maybe find another random '56 -- something anything, because I had the feeling this might be the only table with baseball cards.
The dealer said he didn't bring anything other than star cards because lugging around full sets of commons was "a pain". Wrong answer. But I agreed to take a tour of the tables and return to at least drop him my email so he could check the '72s he had at home and see if he had some for me.
I left there and ambled around a little bit. It wasn't long before I saw a table with a variety of items (I couldn't tell you what they were, anything that is not a baseball card automatically fades into the background). To the right of the guy manning the table were stacks of vintage cards tied together with rubber bands. A sign on the table said "$5.00 per stack or $12 for three".
The cards were mostly from between 1959-1973, but a good 80 percent of them from the '60s. They were in very good shape. But I could see right away that there was something wrong with most of them:
They had writing on them.
Whoever had these in their collection felt the need to personalize almost all of them with a single letter. In most cases the letter was "W".
Mostly Ws, anyway. There some Rs and some Ss and a few numbers, too.
The previous owner was also obsessed with noting when the position marker on the card needed updating. There were so many cards in the stacks with positions added. I hope this helped the young collector sleep at night.
And sometimes, along with marking his territory with a big "W", he made sure to add the city names, for reasons that I cannot deduce right now, or current major league affiliations.
I also came across several of these cards:
They were stamped with the name "Bill Wetmore", who I am assuming is the "W" on all of these cards.
What would possess somebody to stamp the front of their cards with their name? As a modern card collector, I was baffled.
There was also another name stamped on fewer of the cards.
Someone named "Bob Bolton" insinuating himself on a perfectly fine card of Pumpsie Green.
This was getting discouraging.
I mean this card was a semi-high number from the 1961 set, now scribbled on with the word "Rochester" across it!
Card after vintage card -- all in terrific shape, except for writing or stamping on the front. Shuffling through them, I didn't know whether I would bother with these.
The guy behind the table chuckled as a I picked up the stacks. "A few pen marks," he said.
Then he added with disgust: "I'd like to find the kid that did that. I mean that was a really great collection."
I laughed in agreement, but then I saw something that made me change my mind.
Some of the cards featured no writing on the front at all.
And one of those cards was this one:
It was just sitting there in the middle of one of those rubber-banded stacks. Probably the most iconic card of the early 1960s. Roger Maris' card the year he hit 61 home runs and broke Babe Ruth's record.
Sure the card featured a few rips and wrinkles at the bottom -- and there was a tape stain on the back -- but it was 1961 ROGER MARIS -- IN THE $5 STACKS.
I decided then and there I was buying at least that stack.
Then I saw a handful of unscrawled cards in some of the other stacks. A few of them featured a small "A" on the back, but that was hardly a deal-breaker.
So I bought three of the stacks -- including the Maris one -- for $12.
I did another tour of the remaining tables and saw only one other table with cards and they were horribly overpriced ($8 for one of those Gold Standard inserts from 2012 Topps????). So I decided to go back to the guy with the scrawled-on cards and snagged two more stacks for 10 bucks.
Each stack had around 50 cards. In total I purchased 284 cards from that table for 22 bucks. That averages to a little over 7 cents a card. A 1961 Roger Maris cost 7 cents.
Here are a few other relatively clean cards that cost 7 cents:
A Bobby Murcer second-year card from 1967 Topps. That should make a few Yankees fans jealous.
More 1967 Topps goodies. I'm picking up 1967 cards where I can and 7-cents per '67 card is the best deal I will ever find.
A few more 1966 Topps cards for dirt cheap. I've never been a fan of this set, but seeing a few of them all at once, they don't look that bad. Maybe it's the bargain talking.
These two cards -- sure there are a few creases -- allow me to recreate one of those classic 1975 Topps MVP cards. For cheap.
This is the first '68 All-Star card I've ever owned.
Look: Yaz is open-mouthed aghast over how little his card cost.
Another set that has never thrilled me. But look how nice they look, and I will buy anything short of 1991 Fleer for seven cents.
Two very fine '69s. One has a small "H" on the back and one a small "A". And to that I say "Ha!" I'm still buying them.
Here is another set that I've never cared for, but I am helpless to cheap vintage cardboard with a solitary pen mark on the back.
Yes, I have all these cards already. But for 56 cents, you damn well better believe I'm taking them home again.
This was the only 1973 Topps in the lot. I just like 1970s choke-up cards.
Those were the highlights of the non-scrawled cards. But when I look at some of the marked up cards, I find that a lot of them don't really bother me.
A small "S" at the bottom of super colorful card isn't enough to give me facial ticks, especially since I have virtually no 1964 Topps that aren't Dodgers. These will represent the year well.
And since I want all the '67s I can find, some pen marks on Hondo, Hawk and a rookie cup aren't going to deter me.
Still not bothering me.
I mean look how glorious that card is. I barely see the penmanship.
Sure, this is a little annoying (yes, I acquired another card of Cap Peterson the day after posting about him).
And this is regrettable.
And, damn, I just feel sorry for Mike Fornieles.
But when you get down to it, stamped name or not ...
... pen mark or not ...
... I was pretty happy with what I acquired. Some of these cards that I landed without any expectation of finding something like this, will stay in my collection a good long time.
I was so happy, in fact, that I never went back to that first table to leave my email address.
I walked out of that dying card show full of life.