Night Owl News Service
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The collector Night Owl, who is the writer of the blog "Night Owl Cards" but has said he's never seen a dime box, came across one of the popular discount boxes for the first time Sunday and bought the entire box.
Night Owl said that he was down to his last $10 when he decided to scan the tables in the back of the Science and Industry building on the campus of the state fairgrounds. He said he was surprised to view three successive two-column boxes, all of which featured a blue paper sign that read "10 cents, $20 for box."
"It finally happened," Night Owl told Night Owl News Service. "I had come across another dime box a couple of years ago, but that didn't count because it was just a throwaway box of 2016 Topps. These boxes had a variety of cards and some interesting stuff."
Night Owl said that as he began looking through the dime boxes, the dealer started talking about how he was ready to pack up for the afternoon but wasn't looking forward to loading up all the boxes that he had brought. When the two people he was talking to left, he began cleaning up his table.
"That's when he said to me, 'which box are you looking at?'" Night Owl said. "I thought he was making sure he didn't take the box I was searching through, so I pointed to the one I was looking at and said, 'you can take any box except this one.' That's when he said, 'I'll give that box to you for $10.'"
Night Owl said he pulled his final $10 out of his pocket, handed it over, plopped the few cards he had pulled into the dime box, picked up the box and left.
"I was so excited I tried to get out of there before he changed his mind," he said.
Night Owl said he counted 849 cards in the dime box, and estimated the cost per card in the box, with the dealer's discount, as slightly over a penny per card.
"It was the end of the show so the boxes had been picked over fairly well," Night Owl said. "I could tell because cards of the usual teams that never sell were plentiful in the box -- Marlins, A's, Mariners and Nationals. I'm certainly no expert on dime boxes, but I'd guess this was an average-to-below average dime box, but I can't argue with a penny per card."
"The dime box contained mostly modern cards from the last six or seven years, but there was a good variety in it," Night Owl continued.
"Also when you think of how much we were paying for Stadium Club packs last summer, a penny for an Alex Bregman rookie card is crazy."
Night Owl added that there were several Alex Rodriguez cards from his Mariners days, which he didn't mind because A-Rod wasn't a Yankee.
Night Owl also pointed out several football and nonsports cards he found in the "penny box."
"The scuffed-up 1985 Topps football card is a gem just because it's my favorite football set from the '80s, come at me with your horizontal hate," Night Owl said.
He added: "I didn't really like the Topps American Pie reboot from a few years ago, but I sure do need a card of Seinfeld and Miles Davis. My goal is to get all of the Cooperstown village inserts from a few years ago, mostly because the photos remind me of home."
Night Owl wanted to make specific mention that there are no Hank Aaron junk wax cards, saying that one cent per Hammer card is a steal.
Night Owl said he has lots of other cards from the dime box that he'll end up keeping, distributing to fellow collectors or -- in the case of the Marlins cards -- turn into a paper mache project.
He said that the dime box purchase put a memorable finish onto the card show that began with determined focus. He said his mission was to target some specific set goals.
"I had 1973 Topps and 1956 Topps right at the top of the list," he said. "Unfortunately for '56, '73 Topps kind of won out because I saw it first. And when I see a full binder of a set I'm collecting, you're not going to be able to pull me away."
"I went right for the high numbers in the '73 set because that's where most of my needs were. But it sucked up my cash pretty fast."
"I also made sure to nab a few cards from the set that I had once owned but had traded away because I wasn't trying to complete the set at the time."
Night Owl also pointed out some particular favorites.
"That Rick McKinney card is one of the worst/best baseball cards ever made," he said.
Night Owl said that with the card show additions he's down to under 70 cards to complete the 1973 Topps set.
"It's the usual suspects," he said. "Card No. 1, the Gossage rookie, Mays, Carlton, Brock, the All-Time Greats cards. But I'll get 'em."
Night Owl said he moved from the 1973 Topps table straight to the 1956 Topps table. He said he wanted to make a real effort to find some key '56 cards, in what he says was a mission to defend the honor of '56 Topps from what he described as "scurrilous, misguided bashing of the set on social media."
He added he didn't have much money left to make the dent that he wanted but picked up five key cards.
"I made sure to get the Andy Seminick card because Seminick was the best baseball friend of former major league pitcher Frank Smith, who I wrote several stories about," Night Owl said. "It's about time I got a card of Smith's pal.
"The other '56s, everybody knows those guys' names."
Night Owl said he had just one other set goal for the show, if he saw any of the cards.
Night Owl knew a dealer who was selling 1977 Topps football, which Night Owl said is his favorite football set. The cards were in excellent shape, he added.
"The dealer started telling me that there was a paper shortage in 1977 and it's difficult to find 1977 football in nice shape because the paper quality wasn't as good (he said the same went for '77 Topps baseball). I had never heard of this before, and thought maybe it was a line to get people to pay more for the cards, but he told me this after I already had bought the cards, so who knows?"
Night Owl said he's finding the pursuit of '77 Topps football extra fun because of the photos he never noticed when he was collecting the set as a kid.
"The airbrushing is a hoot," he said. "And there are other crazy details like players wearing trucker caps."
Night Owl said the rest of his card show money went to random purchases.
"Dodgers," he said. "I always have to get my Dodgers. All except the Grandal short-print were in a quarter box. Last year's Gallery in a quarter box with Panini Chronicles. That tells you all you need to know."
Night Owl added that he nabbed all of the 2018 Opening Day Dodgers, except rookies Buehler and Verdugo, from the 25-cent bin before Ohtani Fever sweeps every Opening Day pack off of America's store shelves.
He added to his vintage Dodgers, too.
"I love that Clyde King Bowman card," he said. "Also, I stared and stared and stared at a discounted '53 Johnny Rutherford card before deciding I had it already -- I don't. Stupid reprints messing with my brain."
Night Owl said that his two favorite discount purchases came at the same table as the '73 Topps buys.
"I have wanted this card since the first time I saw it in a floor-level display case at coins and antiques shop almost 15 years ago," Night Owl said.
"I was just getting back into cards and would show up there about once a week to buy mostly 1975 Topps, but sometimes some cards from '74. I'd stare down at that 1967 Cards Clubbers card and think how attractive that card was. I really wanted it, but I automatically consider anything sitting in a glass case as beyond my means. I never bought it and I haven't been in the store in over a decade.
"It's fantastic to finally own it."
"The other card is this 1975 Topps Nolan Ryan card.
"I've owned a Ryan card for the set since I was a teenager. But it's a cock-eyed, diecut version and I've had it on my list to upgrade forever. I've never really thought to pursue an upgrade seriously just because Nolan Ryan cards from before 1980 are bananas prices.
I bought this card, however, for 5 bucks. It's a beauty. And I finally don't have to think about this card again. That's a long time to have something in your brain."
Night Owl added one more observation:
"Dime-box purchase or not, 9-year-old Night Owl thinks you buried the lead on this story."