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A couple more goodbyes

The latest of the many goodbyes I have made since the loss of my parents doesn't include loved ones or even people I know.

Instead, it has to do the with the familiar places in my old hometown. My parents were the last human connections to where I grew up. Most of the people I know from that time scattered to various places long ago. There is no one to visit anymore when I return to the Southern Tier. It's not like I'm going to hang out with my folks' friends.

This is a bit sad because I spent the first 20 years of my life in the area. There are many places and spots that mean a lot to me. For example, I walked through the local mall one morning a couple of weeks ago for the first time in a long time just to retrace the steps during one of the greatest three years of my life (1983-85) when I worked at a store in the mall. That store no longer exists. It's now a Burlington Coat Factory. But I entered the store and then found close to the exact spot where I once worked in the men's department (and chatted up all the girls who also worked in "soft wares"). I looked around, remembering those happy times of learning exactly how unreasonable customers could be.

Yesterday, my brother and I ate at Lupo's, which is an institution in the area for its famed spiedies. We both were craving them because you just can't find spiedies outside of greater Binghamton. We happened to grow up not even 2 miles from the original Lupo's. But you can't sit and eat inside at that particular restaurant, so we drove to the other one off of Chenango Street. Yum. Those subs were marinated miracles. I hope I get a chance to taste them again.

A few hours later, I went to a couple of the antique shops close to my parents' house because it might be the last time I ever visit them. The closest one, I've been to often and I've mentioned several times here. This is where my mom bought my 1972 Topps Carl Yastrzemski. It's where I've found 1984 Fleer and 1995 Score. It's where I discovered some A-Team cards.

For cards, it's kind of hit-and-miss there. And this time was a miss. Not a single trading card. I said goodbye, maybe for the final time.

I then headed over to another antique shop on the main drag in Endicott. I've been there before and found mostly junk wax cards. It's a fairly large facility, especially for a small town, with three levels of people's junk.

I found a small amount of baseball memorabilia on the main level. The cards were mostly minor league issues of the Mets (the Double A Rumble Ponies are the minor league team in the area). No interest there, but I did find a couple of these:

I have a love-hate relationship with oversized cards but here I make an exception. The early 1980s Topps Super glossies are glorious and set off all kinds of teenaged collecting memories. I hit myself in the head every time I remember selling these in a garage sale. I will slowly try to win them all back. These two are from the 1980 set (blank backs, except for name, team and position).

There wasn't much more than that on the main level, so I went downstairs where I was met immediately by stacks of cards packaged in sandwich baggies, some with $2 stickers and some with no stickers (the no-sticker ones turned out to be a buck each). There was a table display of about 20 baggies. Then I found a large plastic grocery bag full of a bunch more. I scolded myself that I didn't have time to sit there rummaging through that grocery bag.

Instead I took just two, one that I knew immediately wasn't your average thrift shop find and one that I thought would be a good sampling of this dealer's wares.

The one baggie contained 49 of this particular set:

I've never had any intention of collecting any of the Turkey Red sets from about a dozen years ago. But how do you turn down 2006 Turkey Reds for 2 cents a card?

Some of the notables in the baggie.

Like I say, no plans to try to complete this -- especially since modern TR is known for variations and other wackiness -- but it's nice to have these. They're classy.

The other baggie was more representative of what was offered. The baggies were loose enough that I could tell almost every card in the baggie if I mushed it around a bit. There were some junk wax cards here and there but it didn't seem to be overwhelmingly so, which is more than I can say for almost any thrift/antique shop I've frequented.

But since I didn't look that close enough, I received a bit of a surprise.

This was the top card:

This was the bottom card:

Not much of a conclusion to draw from that.

Even after looking at the first few cards I didn't sense a theme. A couple Phillies, a couple Tigers. Nothing notable.

Then ...

I probably should have been a Phillies fan at that particular moment.

Pretty good stuff there. Hardly any junk wax plus stuff you don't usually find randomly, like cards from the early 2000s.

If I had the time, I would have combed that grocery bag for baggies that featured a similar Dodgers run. But instead, I moved on to see what the other displays had.

There were no more cards to discover. But I did find a magazine display of note (almost any magazine display is of note to me. If I didn't collect cards, I would be at antique shops for the magazines and/or the record albums).

This display featured various entertainment magazines, including hobby issues from almost two decades ago. I grabbed two of them because each advertised a baseball card inside.

This is a Beckett issue from October 2002. As someone who has appeared in Beckett recently, it's interesting to compare current Beckett with Beckett back then. Both are still almost all about the price guide, but it was more pronounced back then. There are almost no articles in this issue, just a price guide, a couple of hot lists and some notes about what collectors pulled. I didn't miss much.

This is the free card from that magazine:

It's a sample issue from 2002 Leaf Certified of Randy Johnson. This is a lot fancier than the free cards I remember pulling out of Baseball Card Magazine back in the late 1980s.

The other magazine was my first purchase of this particular title.

I just mentioned not even a week ago that I didn't know what Tuff Stuff magazine was until I started a blog. Tuff Stuff came along in the late 1980s, I believe, and my card allegiances were firmly formed along the lines of Baseball Card Magazine and the like. By the time Tuff Stuff really blossomed, I was exiting the hobby to focus on adult matters. Had no idea what the kiddies were into.

Looking at this issue -- which is from July 2001 -- I can see why it was popular. It's more substantial than the Beckett of that same time, with a few different articles. It covers a wider span of the hobby with articles on things I never cared about -- NASCAR collectibles, SLUs, redemption issues -- trying to get a handle on virtually every sport.

But I'm probably not going to read anything in this. I plunked down my dollar just for the Free UD Victory Card Inside.

Likely not the wisest investment even at a buck per magazine, but cards in antique shops are cards in antique shops.

Unlike the Beckett free card, which was sealed to an advertising card, the Tuff Stuff card was inserted free-and-easy between two pages. So when I took the plastic off the magazine, out fell the card ...




Of course, it was a Phillie.

When I went to pay for my card goods, the woman who cashed me out -- yes, she was wearing red -- made the connection that I was out of town and asked me what brought me there. I burdened her with the tale of my parents and she expressed her condolences.

I didn't tell her that I'd probably never appear in that shop again -- not even to track down some more of those baseball card baggies -- because you never know. I still have a few more trips home I need to make.

But as I said another goodbye, I assumed it would be for the last time.


  1. I preferred Tuff Stuff over Beckett back in the 90's.

  2. Ewwwwww, seeing that baggie of Phillies is almost as painful to me as you would feel if it was a baggie of Giants.

  3. I'm diggin' the Phils lot. Anyhow, 'Gold Rush' by Death Cab for Cutie reflects on the similar feelings about one's hometown memories.

  4. I l e wandering through antique stores looking for baseball finds.

  5. I always read Tuff Stuff (and it seemed like they were fairly generous with their free card offers as well). I did a semester's worth of graduate work at the Binghamton U., can't say I enjoyed my time there all that much (part of a 5 hour round trip daily commute) but I do wish I would have found some of those places you knew about to get cards. That would have made the daily drives more bearable.

  6. I always liked Turkey Red, but I have a really tough time finding them out in the wild these days. Certainly not something you see in big stacks like that too often!

  7. My brother and I were just talking a few days ago about a similar topic. Neither of us like hot weather... and didn't think we'd return to Las Vegas after my father passes away. Sure he still has friends there... and I enjoy seeing them when I go and visit. Plus there are a few places I really enjoy eating at. But the main reason Vegas has been my most traveled to destination the past 21 years is my parents. This talk and this post made me realize I better embrace and appreciate each and every Vegas vacation I take from here on out.

  8. I preferred Tuff Stuff because it had more price guides in each issue than just baseball. Also, the columns were a bit easier to read, at least I thought they were.

  9. Belated condolences on your Dad. I've been on vacation and am catching up on things. This kind of thing is in perhaps near future as well. My father passed four and a half years ago and my very aged mother still lives in my childhood home but is declining. I visited today and left with a headache and on the brink of tears. I live within half an hour of my childhood hometown but after she's gone and I get the joy of cleaning out the house and selling it (I'm an only child so I get all the fun) I can't see me wanting to go back there too often at all. Take care and keep writing!

  10. I love reading back issues of Tuff Stuff! Especially the advertisements. It seemed everything back in the 1990s was golden!

  11. It's a shame that whatever has caused many people to say goodbye to the Southern Tier has done so. Still such a beautiful area in some respects, and I still miss it.


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