Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The surprise show stunned me stupid

I was in Vermont over the weekend. I expected it to be the usual family/tourist experience, completely devoid of the hobby. I didn't even have any plans to scope out a big-box store (I wouldn't be surprised if they don't exist in Vermont) or a card shop.

I was going to be plenty busy. I figured I could do without cards for a few days.

As suburbanites do on their first day in a new city, my wife and I strolled through the mall, which sat across the street from our hotel. In full mall-mode, meaning slightly bored, I wandered aimlessly through a couple of stores while looking forward to lunch.

Then my wife said, "that sign says there's a card show here."

I turned and looked to my left. In the middle of the aisle, usually where those annoying kiosks go, was an empty wooden stand with a little roof. Dangling from the roof was a single, small poster that read:

Sports Card Show
May 28-29

I stared at it. The sign was so out of place with what was around it, and the stand so empty and abandoned, that I was fairly certain that this sign was left over from a mall card show from three years ago.

But I looked at the dates and they matched up. It was Friday, May 27. Card shows usually happen on Saturdays and Sundays. May 28 and 29 were a Saturday and Sunday. I explained all this to my wife (as if she didn't know it already -- she did show me the sign) and said I would have to stop at the mall again Saturday morning in the unlikely event there was a card show.

I still didn't believe anything existed. A mall card show? I hadn't witnessed a mall card show since the 1980s.

Of course, by now, I was obsessed. Later that evening I looked up the mall website and scrolled to the events schedule. Sure enough, "sports card, post card and coin show in the JC Penney's court" was on the docket.

It was time to get excited.

The next day I got up early for about the 11th day straight (the kitchen was being remodeled before we left for Vermont), but this time I wanted to get up early. I zipped to the mall and started walking toward JC Penney's.

Within minutes I spotted the certain sign of a card show:

Grown men in shorts stooped over a table.

I couldn't believe my luck. I'm on vacation, in some random spot in America, in 2016 for crying out loud, and I stumble across a card show.

The show was small. Maybe 10 different dealers. But I didn't care. It'd been so long since I was at a mall show. I took my usual tour of the perimeter. The first few tables didn't look promising. Shiny autographed football cards, a table full of framed photos of sports figures. One table -- which made me certain I could be a dealer at a show one day -- displayed a random collection of comic books, NASCAR items and a single binder of star cards from junk wax central.

Then I came to the next table and spotted my kind of cards. This dealer displayed the usual shiny football autographs that you see everywhere at shows now, but next to it were divider boxes of baseball cards separated by year, going back to the '50s. I was home.

As is my habit, I zeroed in on the '70s. I noted that the set that I am collecting -- from 1972 -- featured more cards than any other year in the boxes. This was interesting. But with my wants strictly limited to hard-to-find high numbers, I didn't expect anything I needed.

I poked around at a few cards and decided to ask. The dealer was a 30ish type who was obviously overworked because all he talked about was being burnt out. I asked him whether there were any high numbers. And he said, "I don't know. Baseball is my weak spot."

OK. This could be good or bad.

I decided to hunt for myself. And guess what? I found some high numbers.

I found some in Vermont at a mall show with 10 dealers. I can't find that in the self-proclaimed largest show in Upstate New York half the time.

I pulled these three high numbers off my wants:

I noticed that the Peterson was a bit dinged with a slight crease in the right corner, but it didn't matter. The condition was consistent enough with my collection.

Having exhausted what I needed from the '72s, I looked around at its neighbors, all the while keeping in mind that I still had a couple more tables to check out.

I turned to the '73s because I wanted to make sure I have every appropriate card for the 100 Greatest Cards of the '70s countdown and also because I'm going to complete that set some day.

And I pulled these three '73s:

You'll see the Ellis card on the countdown for sure.

There were plenty of cards still before me, but I had a limited amount of cash since this show was a complete surprise, so I handed the cards to the dealer.

This is what I handed him:

Given the prices on the cards, I expected him to look at them, look back at me and say, "$15". The 25-percent discount is customary.

But this dealer didn't do that. He dropped the cards back down on the table and said, "5 dollars. Is that OK?"

Is that OK?

Can I live in Vermont forever?

Now here is where I got stupid.

Instead of staying in that particular spot until the money was all gone, I paid the 5 dollars, said a few pleasantries and headed on my way. Because stupid me, I have to check out every table.

The next table also featured vintage cards. In fact, it was nothing but vintage cards.

I spotted a binder that was separated by year and the only thing in it was Topps high numbers. High numbers from 1963 to 1973. As tempting as it was to find out how much the 1967 highs were going for, obviously I had to check out the 1972s.

I was successful here, too, pulling these high numbers that I needed:

The dealer here, a soft-spoken, gray-haired fellow in his early 60s, helped me keep a running tally as I pulled the cards. I could tell by the tally that all I would be getting was the 25 percent discount.

At that point I should have dropped these cards and gone running back to the Baseball Is My Weakness Guy and started to see how many cards from 1973 I could get for 5 dollars. But my brain said I Am Collecting 1972s Dammit, and I couldn't walk away from cards I need.

So I paid my money for those cards and I was pretty much out of cash. That ended the show.

Still, I was very excited by this development. This put a whole new face on the trip and everything else from that point was just wonderful -- well, except the torrential thunderstorms I drove through on the way back. I still can't believe my luck.

The next day, I spotted a few extra dollars in the suitcase and headed back to the mall for Day 2 of the show to find Baseball Weakness guy. Unfortunately, it was almost an entirely different group of dealers for Sunday. And there were a lot fewer of them. Baseball Weak Spot wasn't anywhere to be found. I'm sure he had to work.

One dealer who returned was a guy who was selling a bunch of unopened packs for a dollar. That's when I bought the 10 packs that I referred to in yesterday's post (I promise you I published it on Monday).

I could have been smarter with the money that I had, but I'm not on Wall Street and surprise money situations fluster me.

Besides, you couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I was leaving Vermont.

Monday, May 30, 2016

I was on a break

Hello there. Miss me?

I took a little break from blogging but I'm officially back. If you want to know the reasons I disappeared, it's nothing fascinating. Yeah, Blogger's inability to publish posts when I wanted it to was the instigator, but I went away for the weekend, too, and trying to goad Blogger into publishing posts while I was attempting to be on vacation didn't sound attractive. When you can afford to drop inconveniences you should, every time. And so I did.

Those of you on Twitter know I didn't stay away from the community or the hobby totally. You also know I enjoyed a bit of hobby luck. I'll save that for tomorrow's post.

But in the meantime, I did pick up some cheap old packs while I was away!

I'm not in the habit of buying old packs, mostly because the ones most available are often from the last 25-30 years, and in most cases I'm not collecting that stuff. But these were staring me in the face, all for a dollar each, and I was in the card-buying mood.

So I picked up 10 packs, handed the 11-year-old kid my money (they're making card dealers younger and younger these days) and I now have pack-opening material for weeks -- or months, given my posting rate on A Pack To Be Named Later.

Out of the 10 packs, six have never been opened on APTBNL. So I'm saving those for that blog, if I can ever squeeze a post past the Jedi Jeff/cynicalbudda blockade.

The other four I am opening right here, right now. And it's appropriate I'm using '90s references because 3 of the 4 packs are from that time, and one is just beyond that time. I made sure to buy packs that I either never opened or opened rarely. These all fall into the period that was my break from the hobby.

I'll start opening:

1994 Topps, Series 2

I opened maybe 6 packs of 1994 Topps in '94, and I'm pretty sure every one was from Series 1. I remember the generic pitcher that was on Series 1 packs. I don't remember Mike Piazza appearing on the pack at all.

I also don't remember looking forward to Topps Finest cards in '94 Topps. I didn't even know what Finest was at the time.

These cards probably came out just before the strike. I associate '94 Topps with that lost season completely. So let's see if this pack can redeem my memories of this set:

#761 - David Cooper, Draft Pick, Mariners

First card is a player who never made the majors, played just two years in the minors, and posted a career 6.60 ERA (and 1-10 record). Yeah, I dislike 1994 Topps for good reasons.

#454 - Keith Miller, Royals

I'll read the back to you: "Keith's legendary aggressiveness may have been counterproductive in 1993 as he suffered shoulder, elbow, groin and thumb injuries." Topps wants you to dial it down a notch, Keith, you spaz.

#534 - Mike Devereaux, Orioles, top left corner dinged

#523 - Mike Moore, Tigers
#415 - Dave Fleming, Mariners

#490 - Kent Hrbek, Twins

#492 - Jesse Orosco, Brewers, gold

My guaranteed gold parallel. These packs I bought are rife with Brewers, Giants and Marlins. They should have been a dime per pack.

#429 - Bryan Hickerson, Giants

This card was cut so it's slightly taller than the other cards. The quality control with this pack was by far the worst of anything I opened (P.S.: I don't know why anyone thought blister packs was a good idea).

#704 - Archi Cianfrocco, Padres

#465 - Dennis Eckersley, Athletics

#715 - Hank Aaron, Braves, 20th anniversary

One of the best cards -- if not the best card in the entire set. Also one of my favorite night cards.

#521 - Bob Welch, Athletics

Bottom left corner ding.

Nothing here made me sorry I didn't open more of this stuff in 1994. Overall pack grade: C.

1995 Fleer Update

This is a pack that I've never opened. I've never even opened regular '95 Fleer.

The '95 Fleer set has a lot of problems, mostly in the area of design. It's not called the acid trip set for nothing and the Update set continued that same trippy vibe. You can see a hint of what's inside with the thoroughly unreadable red lettering on the wrapper.

Ignore the $1.50 label, I assure you everything was a buck:

#4 of 10 - Charles Johnson, Rookie Update, Marlins

Wow. I guess the mid-'90s didn't waste anytime throwing newbies at you from the moment you opened the pack. Charles Johnson was a big deal ... until he got traded to the Dodgers. Then he wasn't.

#U-51 - David Hulse, Brewers
#U-55 - Joe Oliver, Brewers

Brewers, Giants and Marlins. I am not impressed.

#U-198 - Fleer Update Checklist
#U-130 - Ozzie Timmons, Cubs

#U-26 - Jack McDowell, Yankees

#U-96 - Matt Dunbar, Marlins

#U-194 - Chris Hook, Giants

Everything about this set is unreadable.

#U-192 - Mark Dewey, Giants
#U-167 - Darren Holmes, Rockies
#U-99 - Rich Scheid, Marlins

#U-94 - John Burkett, Marlins

Now that pack stunk. There are guys in there that I didn't know were major leaguers before I opened this. Overall pack grade: D

1995 Topps, Series 1

Welcome to one of the first sets issued after the strike (or maybe it was issued in the final stages of strike, or perhaps that lovely time period when replacement players were roaming the fields).

You can read the desperation in the writing on the front. Topps would like you to pretty please buy their baseball cards because they're POWER PACKED, and every card is foil stamped. This was a selling point then.

Also, you can find Spectra Light insert cards  in every pack. Did anyone know what a Spectra Light card was when '95 Topps first arrived? And, there are Own the Game instant win cards, too, because nobody is buying cards anymore!

As I've said a few times, I bought maybe 3 packs of this stuff in '95 and that was it. But I enjoy the set, so this -- out of the 4 I'm opening -- is the one pack I was most interested in seeing. There may be some needs here:

#334 - John Flaherty, Tigers

#374 - Lenny Webster, Expos

#378 - Mark Dewey, Pirates

#115 - Wally Joyner, Royals

#333 - Mike Jackson, Giants

#310 - Ruben Sierra, Athletics

No longer a big deal, but still hanging on and blinged out.

#57 - Rey Sanchez, Cubs

Another useless fantasy team regular.

#264 - Brent Mayne, Royals
#371 - Orlando Miller, Astros, Star Tracker

#369 - Relief Pitchers Prospects

I'm pretty sure Steve Phoenix is a made-up name and I know Bucky Buckles is  a made-up name. Or maybe not. (Ewww, he's a Cubs fan).

#159 - Bill Wegman, Brewers
#243 - Melvin Nieves, Padres

#199 - Derek Jeter, Yankees, Future Star

That's a pretty good pull, even though these Future Star cards are ugly as sin.

Lance Johnson, White Sox, Cyberstats

This is what Topps referred to on the pack as "Spectralight" cards. The back, as you know, featured projected stats as if the 1994 season was completed.

Good to know One-Dog would've held onto his triples crown.

#38 - Tim Wallach, Dodgers

Not a bad pack. There are 7 or 8 cards here that I need. 1995 Topps gets trashed because the lettering is difficult to read. But the set was issued in a year of unreadable sets. I can't hold it against '95 Toppsy. Overall pack grade: B-minus

2000 Topps, Series 2 (Hobby Edition)

We're exiting the '90s but still have the '90s on our mind with Mark McGwire as the cover boy.

I bought a few packs of this stuff. It was probably the start of my slow transition back into the hobby, although I wouldn't jump back in fully for another five years. This set bored me then and it's even more boring now.

Here, we're into full-on "LOOK FOR ..." mode. Hank Aaron reprints. All-Star Autographs. Topps Combos, MVP Game/Sweepstake cards, and Other Great Inserts. PLEASE BUY OUR CARDS.


#385 - Robb Nen, Giants

If you haven't been keeping track, that is the fifth Giant I've pulled here.

#349 - A.J. Hinch, A's
#263 - Andy Fox, Diamondbacks

#330 - Butch Huskey, Twins

#407 - Steve Parris, Reds

#OTG10 - Larry Walker, Rockies, Own The Game, Stat Stars

Topps in full shiny mode.

#325 - Kirk Rueter, Giants.

Sixth Giant.

#403 - Shawn Estes, Giants

Seventh Giant

#329 - Ray Durham, White Sox

#423 - Dmitri "Da Meat Hook" Young, Reds

#292 - John Franco, Mets

Flimsy checklist, 2 of 2

I spied a number of dupes in that pack, despite not buying a heck of a lot of it in 2000. Overall pack grade: C-minus

Not the greatest packs to open, but I knew that going in. I promise The Pack To Be Named Later packs are slightly more interesting. Slightly.

And now it's time to see if Blogger has fixed its publishing issue. Will you see this post on your blog roll at 7:45 tonight as I planned or will it be another Midnight post? Or maybe 6 a.m. the next morning?

Really hope that's back to normal. Or you may be seeing more of these breaks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Well, lookie there

I've got myself another little recurring series here. It's another one of those time-savers that requires minimal thought. In other words, it's almost a Tumblr post. (Remember my Tumblr page? It was a good idea until I realized the format doesn't think fondly of words and that was the end for me. This also means never expect to find Night Owl Cards on Instagram).

I'm calling it "well, lookie there." It's what one might say as they're going through their collection and spotting something interesting that they are discovering for the first time. ... OK, it's what I might say as I'm going through my collection and spotting something interesting for the first time.

The posts in this series after this one will feature some sort of name or title after the "well, lookie there," intro, at which point I expect readership to plummet dramatically for this particular series. That's usually how it goes.

The debut entry has to do with Juan Samuel and his 1992 Upper Deck card. It's a handsome devil of a card, showing Samuel diving into the base one-handed, perhaps completing one of his 23 stolen bases in 1991.

1992 UD is a rather attractive set and this card is a perfect example.

And sometimes the photo is so good, you get to see something very similar in the same year:

Could be wrong, but I think this is the same play just a second or two before the photo on the Upper Deck card. The Upper Deck photo is better because of the base and the glove hand, but give Triple Play credit for knowing the value of dirt flying. Also, Triple Play let everyone in on the fact that this photo was "Awesome Action," while UD just let that go understood.

There are a number of examples of the same photos, or photos from the same play, appearing on competing baseball card brands. The first one I discovered is the famous 1982 Topps-1982 Fleer Rod Carew debacle in which the exact same photo was used.

Stuff like this is a product of competition and embarrassing when it happens. Today, Topps owns all of Major League Baseball photographically so the only repeat photos that you see are when Topps gets lazy and uses the same picture on different brands. Are they embarrassed? Should be, but probably not.

So that's your eyeful of 1992 Juan Samuel on Well Lookie There.