Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Come From a Land Down Under

I don't follow basketball nearly as much as I used to.  But growing up, it was probably my favorite sport.  And nobody could hold a candle to the 90's Bulls in terms of popularity or on-court excitement.  The teams seemed stacked offensively...except for center.  In comparison, center Luc Longley just seemed...average when surrounded by some of the game's all time greats.  But he did wear my favorite number - 13.

These TSC Dot Matrix parallels look far better in person than the scanner shows.  I pulled this beauty out of a dime box a few months back.  A worthy investment for a little piece of nostalgia.

I have a few of the Dot Matrix basketball cards in my collection, but it seems like the baseball (and football?) versions are a little tougher to find.  If anybody has any they're looking to trade, I know of a good home for them.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Minors Monday

One of the real downsides to the Topps monopoly has been the decreased attention to Minor League cards.  If you were collecting in the late 90's and early 00's, you probably know what I mean.  Sure, Bowman was the crown prince of the prospect game.  But there were a range of minor league products that were big hits as collectors chased the next big thing.  Collectors cou
ld get autographs of top prospects from relatively affordable and hit-centric products like Best.  UD also got in on the action with a few minor league sets that brought high quality design and photography from their mainstream products to minor league cards.

Many of the minor league products were produced on lighter, flimsy card stock.  The designs were...well, for lack of a better term, minor league. Maybe I'm just waxing nostalgically, but I'd much prefer that to the recycling of Flagship and Heritage designs and concepts that we get year after year. C'mon guys, can we at least take the time to come up with a unique base design?

Friday, August 22, 2014

One Out Wonder

Attempting to obtain autographs of every player to play for a team is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor.  But I think anyone undertaking a similar project would tell you that it's also a journey that can take you into the forgotten nooks an crannies of a team's history.  While it's easy to get caught up on getting an autograph from your favorite player or knocking off a high dollar Hall of Famer, it can be just as exciting to knock off the journeyman utility infielder who produced 230 forgettable at bats.  And sometimes you discover a player you never even knew existed.  Ever.

I added about a dozen new Pirate autographs this week between TTM returns and a purchase from Brian at abcunlimited; but none were as interesting as Dennis Konuszewski.  When I first noticed his name on my master list of Pirate players, I had to do a double take.  This must be some minor leaguer who briefly appeared on the 40-man roster but never played in Pittsburgh.  Or perhaps a spring training invite who was cut long before camp broke.  It wasn't out of the question.  The master roster pulled directly from the Pirates site was riddled with Einar Diazs and Rudy Owens,' players who made it just close enough to Pittsburgh to be documented somewhere, somehow, but who never actually wore actually spent a day on the regular season roster.

But a quick google search confirmed that Dennis Insanelyobscureyetcomplexlastname had been a major league baseball pitcher for the Pittsburgh Baseball Club in the year nineteen hundred and ninety-five.

This project has been a fun aspect of my collection, but also a foray into baseball's past.  I have learned about countless players who played, and sometimes died, long before I was even born.  I have committed to memory the trades for Tommy Helms (for Pittsburgh native Art Howe) or AAA home run total of Ted Savage (24 in 1961) as if I had watched the players while growing up.  But here was a player who appeared in 1995 - when I was 7 years old - who I not only didn't remember, but had never even heard some mispronounced abomination of his last name uttered in passing.  No vague recollection of a bad pun or nickname on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight.  Nothing.

And perhaps there's a reason for that.

On August 4th, 1995, Dennis Konuszewski pitched one third of an inning in the Major Leagues.  He recorded exactly one out, on fifteen pitches, while facing five batters.  Of those five, four reached base, scoring two runs.  One out, three hits, one walk, two earned runs.  Add in a pinch of rosin, and bake at 350 degrees, and you come up with a 54.00 ERA.

Konuszewski had been been called up directly from AA after a solid, yet underwhelming season.  A 7th round selection, he pitched to 3.65 ERA for the Carolina Mudcats in his second go-round in AA, with a 48/26 K/BB ration in 61 2/3 innings.

The details of what exactly brought the righty to Pittsburgh seem lost to the vastness of the internet, and perhaps the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's paywall.  Presumably, he was little more than a spare bullpen arm.  The Pirates played a double header that day, blowing a 5 run lead in the first game, but using only two relievers.  The bullpen had seen little action in the days leading up the the double header, so presumably there were fresh arms available.

Still, when starter Steve Parris was lifted after 6 innings trailing 3-2, Jim Leyland turned to the AA callup as the first reliever out of the pen.  Perhaps he wanted the rookie to get his first taste of big league action.  Maybe he thought he could minimize the Konuszewski's exposure against the 8-9-1 hitters, turning to more experienced arms to close out the game.

Regardless, he walked the first hitter, and then gave up a single the pinch hitter.  Leadoff man Brian Hunter advanced the runners on a sacrifice bunt.  Back to back singles to the left side of the infield by ex-Bucco John Cangelosi and HoF'er Craig Biggio brought in two runs, knocking Konuszewski out of the game and out of the majors.  He would pitch only 3 games in AAA in 1996, and would retire from baseball after a 4th stint in AA to begin the 1997 season.

This very well may be the longest writeup on Dennis Konuszewski's baseball career.  But however brief his time in the majors, it may in fact make his accomplishments and the circumstances surrounding them all the more unique and interesting.  Each franchise has scattered occurrences of such players throughout their history - some, like Archibald "Moonlight" Graham or Adam Greenberg take on a life of their own in the telling and retelling of baseball lore.  Others, like Konuszewski, fade into a vast and complex tapestry of baseball history; by no means integral to the history of their team, but yet central to the narrative of that team's history

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Red, White, and Baseball

I've spent way too much time complaining about the glut of Topps parallels in recent years.  There are just. too. many.  But that doesn't mean I'm burnt out on parallels.  I'm just burnt out on hastily and shabbily done parallels.

When I saw the red, white, and blue refractor-esque cards in Prizm basketball, I could only hope they would find their way over to the baseball side.

 Fortunately they did.  Tracking them down, however, was a very different issue.

I was lucky enough to finally find the Pedro Alvarez rw&b card for a little over a buck with free shipping.  Browsing through the other auctions the seller had, I came across two more Buccos.  Better yet, I managed to be the only bid on all three - three glorious cards for a little over $4 shipped right to my door.
 The cards look even better in person - the slight honeycomb pattern you can see on the borders gives the cards a slight x-fractor effect, in addition to the awesome color combo.  It's nice to see a card company tweak existing technology a bit, since it feels like Topps has been recycling the same refractor/xfractor effects since the Blue refractor and Super-fractors were added in 2005.

The down side is all three of these players haven't had the greatest seasons.  Jason Grilli was dumped to the Angels after a rough start to the season, and has excelled on the West Coast.  Pedro has turned into a domestic terrorist, assaulting innocent patrons along the first base line nationwide with errant throws.  And poor Andrew Lambo is stashed away at AAA, while baseball gods Michael Martinez and Brent Morel do their best impression of that kid in t-ball who couldn't get the ball out of the infield if his life depended on it.

It might be time to track down some more Prizm parallels, since this has started to be one of my favorite releases each year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Playoffs? You wanna talk about playoffs?

Timing is everything, folks.  Coming off of a six game (and counting) losing streak that have had had a crushing impact on the Buccos playoff chances, the Pirates released playoff ticket information.

The team was kind enough to inform fans that along with a 35% ticket increase from last season, season ticket holders were no longer guaranteed a chance at playoff tickets.  In fact, us lowly 20 game package folks aren't even guaranteed seats for next year.  Unless, of course, we upgrade to a full or half season plan right this instant - in which case, we can have whatever our hearts desire.

I guess what I really need here is a reality check.  I've been fortunate enough to have some kind of ticket package - fluctuating between ten games and half a season - since PNC Park opened in 2001.  The chance to basically watch major league baseball whenever my heart desires live and in person is something that I'm sure millions of baseball fans across the country would love to have.  Heck, countless folks probably don't even have minor league ball near them.  So in that regard, I realize I'm spoiled.

But a big part of my decision to renew my package for this year and increase the number of seats was to be able to get playoff tickets, should the season break in the Buccos favor.  The team didn't guarantee as much in so many words, but this latest development feels like a pretty major bait and switch.

I think this seals the deal for me.  I've been tiring of the Pirates handling of the roster, free agency, the trade deadline, and just about every other opportunity to either a) improve the on field product  or b) treat loyal STH's well.  They have failed to do either over the past 12 months.  Coupled with a general losing of interest in the current team, it might be time to cut down to just a handful of games for next year.

But I'd love to hear from anyone else who lives in a major league city.  Obviously the Buccos have been pretty terrible for most of my lifetime.  Maybe I've just become too used to watching a team that had to go out of its way to appease the few fans it had.   But I definitely feel very jaded by the way the club has treated its season ticket holders.  Is this par for the course for winning teams?  Anybody else out there a season ticket holder for your respective team?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The National Box Breaks

I gave up my box breaking ways years ago, after realizing that I was throwing away money into $50 boxes without even getting any cards I was interested in.  I've been pretty successful at staying away from wax since 2005, with a short relapse into a box of 2007 SPx that quickly sent me scurrying back to no-wax land.  But...it's the National.  All the talk of discount wax, case breakers pavilion, and exclusive cards was going to make it tough to resist breaking something.

I've had a few close brushes with the Leaf Pete Rose set.  I saw a few boxes at Redsfest in Cincinnati two years ago for $20, and almost pulled the trigger.  But didn't.  I saw quite a few people finding blasters discounted at Target for $12 or $13.  But a search of about half a dozen local targets yielded zip.

I briefly toyed with just buying a Rose auto on ebay, but my bids always came up short and I really wanted some of the awesome base cards.

When I saw a box at the National, with a guaranteed Rose auto in each box, it was a no brainer.

As far as the autograph goes, I think I did pretty well.  The photo is a bit dark, but it's a nice action shot in a Reds uniform.  Not bad, considering many of the cards in the set are clubhouse shots.  The cards all feature a short blurb detailing where and when the photo was shot, which is a nice touch.  My auto is from a game in 1978 against the Phillies.

Even with airbrushed logos, some of the photos just look great.  I still need to add a Rose Expos card to my collection.  Others...not as much.  This photo of Pete Rose reading a newspaper is just a bit bizarre, and a little too oddball even for my taste.  I might have been a bit bummed if that had been my auto.  But overall the box was a great value, and adds one of my most wanted autos at a fantastic price.

I also took a chance on a box of 2008 Upper Deck Documentary for a mere $10.  For that price, the chance to add a few more cards, maybe even a gold parallel, to my Pirates team set was welcomed.

Apparently the box had other ideas.  I went a solid 7 packs before hitting my first Pirate, and didn't get any Pirates gold cards in the box.  I did manage to pull 4 new cards for my Pirates set, as well as a couple others that fit into my various player or mini collections, like the Carlos Delgado card above featuring a photo at PNC Park.

One strange thing about this product is the collation.  I've noticed cards will come in short runs of certain games - for example my box yielded Pirates games 72, 74, 74, 75.  Not pulled in any order, or from any successive string of packs.  But throughout the box there they were, in not so random order.

This set had so much potential when it was announced.  Instead UD recycled photos repeatedly, loaded the product with junk autos, and left this product as one I just want to finish so I don't have to think about it anymore.  But for $10, I really can't complain.  The Josh Hamilton ASG card is fantastic with a beautiful design.  And all things considered, my auto could have been a lot worse.  At least Jerry Blevins is still playing baseball, which can't be said for all the players on the auto checklist.
Still, I think I would have come home much, much happier if I had found a box of 1993 Score.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The National - Dime Box Digs

I went into the National with dreams of finding loaded boxes filled with numbered cards and parallels.  I didn't quite reach that level, but I was perfectly happy to pick out...well...dime cards.  I scored some great new finds for my odds and ends collections.

A few years ago the idea of finding a Strasburg card in a dime box would have been crazy talk.  While he has turned out to be a very solid pitcher when healthy, he hasn't hit the Nolan Ryan eqsue levels that his hobby hype would have indicated.

Strasburg made his much anticipated big league debut against the Pirates, striking 14 Buccos in what was just a fantastic game to watch as a baseball fan, even if my team took a beating.  This card was an absolute must have when I saw it, and instantly becomes one of my favorite Nats cards from a team that I semi collect.

One of the best things about a dime box is the chance to hit random oddball sets.  You don't see many Lou Brock Cubs or Pilots cards, so these went straight into my pile.

One dime box held nearly a complete set of 1995 Topps Cyberstats parallels.  These were some of my favorite cards from my childhood collection. I picked up about two dozen cards, including a few Pirates I needed. But the small stack of cards like this Baerga were unfamiliar to me. A little research once I got home showed that they were a factory set exclusive. And a pretty cool looking one at that.

I also ripped three packs of Topps Series 2 in order to get the exclusive Albert Belle A&G mini card. The packs yielded a few Pirates I needed, and a pull of one of my new favorite players. I got a special offer for mlb.tv for the rest of the season for only $25, and have been making up for all the baseball I didn't watch earlier in the season. I have watched the White Sox a few times this week, and wow is Jose Abreu impressive. The guy just looks like a slugger, and the numbers certainly back that up.

I also picked up a few late career cards from 90's stars, including Nomar, Piazza, and Frank Thomas. My collecting tailed off pretty significantly from 2007-2009, so I missed out on adding cards of these former superstars. But I'm more than happy to make up for lost time for a dime.

Now I just need to order a fresh case of 9 pocket pages to fit all the cards...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The National, Day 2

My adventure to the National on Thursday ended on a bit of a down note, with a broken ATM machine putting a premature end to my day.  I had only planned to spend one day in Cleveland, but I woke up Friday morning jonesing for some cardboard.  I had taken Friday off to make a 4 day weekend, but I shot out of bed at 8:30 on Friday ready for another day at the show.  But at that point I would have arrived at around noon, and needed to restock on granola bars and snacks for the show.

Instead, I decided to plan to go Saturday, rather than rush out the door to go Friday.  I popped out of bed bright and early Saturday morning, and was on the road by 7:30; Kate decided to stay back to go to a family  reunion and peddle her homemade jam to unsuspecting relatives (she ended up selling 19 jars, which offset some of my expenses on the day).

When I got to the I-X Center right before 10:00, the line to pay for parking was backed up.  Still, the parking lot didn't look significantly more full than on Thursday.  I headed into the convention center sporting my early 90's Devil Rays white jersey.  I picked up the jersey a year or two back at a thrift store for $6, but haven't really had a good reason to wear it.  The jersey got me about a dozen compliments during the show, so I may need to try to find a matching hat at some point.
My day Saturday didn't hold nearly as much excitement as my big autograph haul from day.  But I took more time to dig through dime boxes, and also found quite a few dealers with quarter boxes that I hadn't spotted on my first day.  Finding cards was tough in most of the quarter boxes.  I managed to score a partial Pirates team set from last year's Bowman Mini boxed set, and a few numbered inserts and refractors.  But most of my time was spent picking up cards for my various non-Pirate collections from dime boxes.

I also took a little more time to walk the floor and taken in all that was for sale at the National.  From vintage memorabilia to what is probably the most complete Cleveland Browns collection known to man, the National had it all.

I also decided to give a little more attention to the box break area, with the big wax dealers displaying an assortment of new products.  I was almost tempted by a box of Panini Hometown Heroes for $40, but decided to pass.  Instead I came home with a box of Leaf Pete Rose, which includes a Rose auto in each box, for $10 and a box of 2008 Documentary for $10.  I combed every single dealer I could find in search of 1993 Studio with no luck, and decided to pass on a box of 2000 Topps for $30.  But there was an impressive selection of 90's and recent wax.  Not much from the 2000's though.
I also decided to open 3 packs of Topps Series 2 to get an exclusive A&G mini.  I decided to pass on the more popular minis of Trout and Jeter for Albert Belle, one of my favorites from the 90's and a cool keepsake from the National.  I still had money burning a hole in my pocket, but decided to pass on coming home with any more McFarlanes or buying a box or two of junk wax just for the hell of it.

I'm really glad I went back for a second day, and my haul was definitely more impressive in quantity, if not quality, on day two.  I'll show off some of the pickups from days one and two this week, as well as some more commentary on the show itself. But I can certainly see why this is a must-see event for any collector. I'll be anxiously awaiting 2018 when it's back in Cleveland.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The National, The Mini Collections

I'm still in National recovery mode. I did a rough count, and I think it's safe to say I probably sorted through at least 500,000 cards over the course of my two days in Cleveland. I'm usually pretty quick about flipping through boxes, but I needed to up my game even more for this show. Most dealers didn't take the time to sort cards by sport, so I had to get pretty adept at quickly skipping past the 5 or 10 basketball cards mixed into a handful of baseball.

I'm not sure what everybody else's dimebox strategy is, but I'm all about speed. When I walk away from a box, I rarely know what I actually have in my pile. As I'm flipping through, I grab anything that looks interesting and put it in the pile. When I get home and review the finds it's like Christmas all over again. It's not unheard of for me to come home with a few quarter cards I have zero recollection of picking up.

Even with thousanands and thousands of cards to flip through, it was difficult to find cards. I got to the show early Thursday. It's possible some other Pirates collector came through and stripped out all the Pirates. But Buccos haven't seen much love in sets for the better part of the insert/numbered boom over the past two decades, so it also makes sense that they aren't as common as other teams in the boxes.

Still I managed to find some cool cards to fit my various mini collections. The two Triple Threads cards feature photos from the 2006 All-Star game. They aren't all that exciting in and of themselves, but cards featuring the '06 All-Stars aren't particularly common, aside from a few in Topps and Upper Deck flagship sets, so I couldn't pass on the opportunity.

One nice thing about such a large show is that there were plenty of high end dealers blowing out the commons from sets well out of my price range, like Triple Threads or Tribute. My colored glove collection is another one that can be tough to add to, so any addition is welcomed. But the foil certainly makes the cards pop a little bit more.

And sometimes it's just worth the added cost to upgrade. I found a few cards that were already in my collection in the base version, but being able to add a Museum Collection Bullinger or refractor Lynn was worth the upgrade price.

Additions to some of my mini-mini collections like colored gloves of PNC Park/Three Rivers Stadium photos can be pretty tough to find additions for, so big shows are the perfect opportunity to make some new additions.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Other Show Experience

After getting back from the National on Saturday, I now have a hefty pile (or more accurately, piles) of cards to get sorted, entered, and posted.  That work started today, at which point I realized I still had a few piles of cards from the Robert Morris show in May that I never got around to entering.

It's a bit overdue, but here are the pickups from Robert Morris.  I hope you don't mind me being a few months late - tomorrow I'll get back to recapping my experiences from Day 2 of my National getaway. While the National was an amazing experience, and I picked up a year's worth of cards in my two days there, perspective can be interesting.  See, a lot of the online chatter I'm reading about the National is that the show was very vintage heavy.  And don't get me wrong - there was plenty of vintage, and quite a bit of cash changing hands because of it.

But nothing about the show's vintage presence seemed overbearing or unreasonable.  In fact, I'd say I found the amount of vintage there to be underwhelming.  At least my kind of vintage.  See, the Robert Morris show had a similar issue.  I spent most of my money on vintage, with nary a good dimebox or pile of Ginter minis to be seen in the building.  But when in Rome...
I bunkered down, dug in, and went to work on the discount vintage boxes.  Because, you see, there were discount boxes.  The National?  Not so much.  I picked a half dozen cards from two dealers who had 3/$, $1, and $2 boxes that had some League Leader cards that I needed during my two days at the National.  I don't mind shelling out a buck or two for a card of Bob Veale, if it just so happens to feature that Koufax guy too.  But both dealers were regulars at Robert Morris, and their pricing structure was unchanged during the National.  Otherwise, discount vintage didn't seem to be very common.  In fact, I saw quite a few booths advertising $1.50 or $2 commons from mid 60's sets.  I'm sure there are set builders perfectly happy to pay that.  But not this guy.
But Robert Morris was a different story.  One dealer had 5-6 monster boxes of vintage, priced at $3/1.  The cards spanned from 1957-the early 70's, and were exceptionally clean copies.  I filled in most of my Pirate needs for the lower numbered commons, and knocked out quite a few vintage Penguins needs as well.  Vintage hockey seems to be somewhat of a rarity, so making a nice dent on those early Pens team sets was well worth the time spent.  Given the selection and condition, I'd imagine this guy could have made a killing at the National.
But my RMU weekend wasn't totally void of modern cards.  I did manage to pick up a few here and there.
The Aurora Laser Cut Bettis was actually sitting in my COMC card for months, so I was thrilled to grab a copy for a mere $.25, rather than the $.99 cent on COMC.  I busted a box of 1998 Aurora somewhere around 1999, pulling an awesome Peyton Manning from this same insert (along with Moss and Payton RC's), but I absolutely had to add the lone Steeler from the insert.
One thing the National wasn't lacking in were discount gu/auto boxes.  It seemed like every other table had at least a shoebox size box of cheap hit cards.  Robert Morris was surprisingly lacking in those, and I think I came home with maybe 2-3 autos from the show.  Of course it doesn't help that by now I have just about every common Pirates auto from about 1996-2010.
But there is definitely one big perk to large, regional shows.  Dealers tend to make an effort to stock up on local teams and display those cards accordingly.  At Robert Morris in Pittsburgh or the Vets show in Columbus it's always common to see dealers with a box set aside for Reds, Indians, Pirates, Browns, Steelers - whoever the local population base might be looking for.
No such luck at the National.  There were a few dealers who looked to be local who had Indians and Browns pulled.  But for the most part, it seemed like such a large portion of the show-goers were from way out of town that dealers had little care for making life easier on their customers.  In fact, many dealers didn't even have their boxes sorted by sport.  I love digging through a box as much as the next guy, but it sure makes my life easier if you can at least sort the basketball out of the baseball and football.
I guess a little perspective is good.  I loved the National, and can't wait to go back in 2018 - hopefully with a little more play money in pocket by that point in my life.  But finds like those in this post also make me appreciate shows closer to home.  I guess if you look hard enough and long enough you're bound to find a deal somewhere.

I'll be back tomorrow with more goodies from the National, including my first box break of this decade.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hall of a Haul

There aren't a lot of freebies when it comes to the National.  Not really, at least.  Sure, free packs or exclusives are nice if you already rip wax.  But they aren't really freeeeee.

But a couple weeks ago I got a semi-regular email update from Main Line Autographs.  They're the promoter who has taken over the annual Robert Morris show in Pittsburgh, as well as other events.  They bring in some decent autograph guests, and I picked up on the fact that their email list always sends out an email before the Robert Morris show saying "present a copy of this email and get a free signed 8x10."

Well my mamma didn't raise no fool, so sign up I did.  The Robert Morris freebie isn't usually anyone earth shattering - Bob Friend, Grant Jackson, or some other ex-Bucco who they have a ton of back-stock for.

Well I got the same email for the National.  Present this email, get a freebie.  Hey, why not.  So as my day slowed down, I made a point to hunt down their booth and present my email.  A fairly disinterested employee (did I mention how I'm kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel with my nickel and dime purchases while others are throwing around thousands) and said "go pick one of the 8x10's on that table, motioning to their side "wall" of their booth.

So over I went.  The 8x10's were broken down by sport and alphabetized.  I immediately locked in on a Carlos Baerga signed photo, since he has been near the top of my want list for a while, and I missed a free signing with him on Wednesday at the National.  But what the heck...I'll keep looking just to make sure there isn't a Bucco I need in here.

Call me a little crazy, but I did a double take when I saw a Monte Irvin folder, complete with about 20-30 signed photos.  A couple later, Fergie Jenkins.  My pick between two free HoF'ers?  Yes please.

But I kept going, just to be safe.  And boy am I glad I did.

Right in the middle of the N's was Don Newcombe.  Yeah, that one.

He may not have a plaque in upstate New York, but he's a Hall of Famer in my book.  I have an immense appreciation for former Negro League players, and I couldn't be happier to have this autograph in my collection.  For free.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The National Show Review

Going in to my first National, I didn't really know what to expect.  In terms of size, selection, and pricing I went in just looking to enjoy the experience and hopefully add some new cards.

Check on both accounts.

I left the house around 7:30am, getting to the show about 15 minutes after the doors opened at 10:00.  The second I passed through the front doors the sheer scope hit me.  I've been to some pretty large card shows, but the sheer scope and spectacle behind the National is something that really is tough to describe.
I made a point to walk the entire convention floor, even though I undoubtedly skipped over many tables with greats finds that I just never got to.  Large memorabilia pieces, jerseys, autographed books, supplies, McFarlanes, and old wax boxes were pretty easy to come across.  That was a pretty big deviation from the standard card show fare, and was a nice surprise.  

I tried to avoid spending too much time "window shopping" at the higher end pieces in order to maximize my time at the event, and I think I managed a pretty good haul, including the amazing autographs I posted about earlier today.

The same dealer who sold me the autographs was telling me that some of the dealers were already talking about leaving as early as Fri or Sat after a poor showing Wednesday and weak traffic Thursday.  It's hard to judge traffic in a venue so large, but the show was a lot less crowded than I had expected.  When I went out to my car after the show, there were only maybe another two or three rows of vehicles behind where I had parked early in the morning, though VIP parking is on the other side of the convention center.

I do wonder if the mix of dealers was weaker than some larger markets.  I was told the National comes to Cleveland simply because the rent is so cheap.  The IX Center controls the $8 per vehicle parking lot surrounding the venue, and the concessions inside looked like a series of small restaurants lining the wall of the building rather than the standard $5 hot dog at most convention centers.  Oh, and did I mention they have a ferris wheel in the middle of the freaking show floor?

I didn't see a couple dealers who always do the big Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Cincinnati 100-200 table shows, so I wonder if Cleveland isn't known for being a great market.

People were very correct that you need to write down table numbers - there were a few booths I wanted to go back to, and never found since I forgot to take their number.  

In terms of the actual content, I wasn't blown away.  I saw lots of tables with $2 gu/autos, and $5 and $10 boxes.  You can routinely get most of the $2 cards for about half that price on COMC (though I did find a few steals, including a $2 Andruw Jones auto).  The $5 and $10 assortments weren't much better than what I find at local shows - cards priced right at or slightly above ebay values.  Except...you aren't paying anything to ship the card to me.  In fact I'm paying to come to you and buy it.  In short, my goals of snagging some nice mid range cards at solid prices didn't gain any traction.

The dime box assortment also seemed less exciting than reports I read from Chicago last year.  I was able to fill in my team sets from recent 2014 Topps releases, but I didn't see any boxes of minis, Topps parallels, or the like from this year.  It seemed a little strange to me.

Speaking of strange, I didn't see a single Andrew McCutchen card all day.  They were missing from every dime box, quarter, and even dollar box I looked through.  I don't know if he has developed a strong national following or if his cards were being abducted by aliens.  But it seemed very strange.

Another oddity was the glut of cards from 2010-2012 that I came across.  Almost nothing from the 90's-mid 00's, and very little from 2013 and 2014.  But if you wanted Bowman paper cards, you came to the right place.  I think you could have completed entire sets of Bowman Blue cards from one dealer's $.25 box alone.  I know I've had pretty similar gripes about other recent shows, but I had thought the selection might be a little broader at the National.  Guess it just goes to show you that somewhere out there there must be a collector with an entire house full of cards from 1998-2005.

But I see how you could easily spend a year's salary at the National.  I thought I had walked the entire floor, when I realized I hadn't seen anything about the card company exclusives.  Oops!  There was an entire section I completely missed.  There was drool-worthy stuff all over the place.  Most of my purchases were of the $10 and under variety.  It felt like almost everybody around me was dropping $100+ per transaction.

There were dealers everywhere, and it looked like most of them were looking to scoop up whatever deals there were and make even more money off of them.  But there were still plenty of great finds to be had, and I added some nice cards to pretty much all of my collection (except hockey, which seemed almost invisible at the National).

The day did end on a bit of a sour note though.  After going through the cash I had brought on hand, I went to reload at the atm.  This lovely sign greeted me.
The other ATM machine in the venue had the same sign.  I asked the front desk, and apparently there was some problem with the line, and they pretty much said "yep, you're out of luck."  And with absolutely nothing nearby, I couldn't walk elsewhere to get more cash.  It was a pretty shitty end to a great experience, since there were a few small items I wanted to go back for and none of the sellers took cards/paypal for some reason.  I guess it was life's little way of reminding me I was still in Cleveland.

  But maybe it's for the best, since I think those few nagging loose ends might be enough to motivate me to drive back again tomorrow.

The National, Part 1 - The Haul of a Lifetime

The National was an insane experience.  There was pretty much every sports-related piece imaginable available, from books to stadium seats.  I was able to do a complete walk-through of the event floor, but there wasn't nearly enough time to stop and really see everything.

While standing at one booth that had some incredible $.25 boxes, I heard the dealer talking with a guy at the booth next to me.  The dealer had high end memorabilia, and was trying to get the customer to buy a display with a World Series ticket, though I didn't catch the year.  The guy said he loved the piece, but he already dropped $15 grand today, so he would think it over.  And neither man even batted an eye at this statement.

It's another world.

My budget was a little more restrained.  But that didn't stop me from coming home with some amazing additions to my collection.  I'll be posting a more in depth show review (with pictures) later this afternoon.  Kate left the usb adapter at work, so the photos are stuck on my iPod until lunch time.

But that's alright.  Let's jump right into the good stuff.  I've come across some pretty good finds - a Jay Buhner Crusade Green for $1, a Vince Coleman auto for $.10, an awesome $.50 box of nothing but Pirate inserts and numbered cards.  But I feel pretty confident in saying that nothing in my collecting life will top my find at the National.

The second table I stopped at ate up half the cash I had with me.  I was making the rounds after spending the first hour and a half digging through $.25 boxes.  I wanted to get the lay of the land, and then pick out my targets.

A sign saying $2 autographs and game used caught my eye, though I would later find that about half the modern dealers had similar boxes.  But not like this.

The first row looked like a dud - lots of decent game used cards from the early 00's that were cool, but not worth $2.  And then I saw a Josh Hamilton ip autograph - after staring at it for a couple seconds, I flipped past it.  It looked like it could be real, but his autograph is so scribbly that it could also be easily forget.  Not worth the risk.  But I kept going through the box to see if there might be any other ip autos.
I was about to walk away when the dealer said "The box underneath is all autos, if you like that stuff."
  Do I like that stuff?  Sir, if you only knew.

I dug in - the autos looked good, but most were relatively common players.  But I found a few Pirates I needed, a couple Indians that I liked from the 90's.  And then I hit the jackpot.

Michael Jack Schmidt.  The auto looks good.   Spot on, really.

As the dealer and I got to talking, I found out he had recently bought the collection from a guy in his 90's who had been graphing at the stadium since at least the 80's, and the cards clearly showed that.

As I kept flipping through the rows, the star power was there.  HoF'ers, and lesser players.

I picked up all of the HoF'ers I saw - I know I should flip them to recoup some of my investment.  But it's going to be hard to part with some of these new additions.

Apparently earlier in the day (and we're talking the show only being open about an hour and a half at this point), a dealer had come over and bought 400+ autographs.  I can only imagine what must have been in the box if this is what he left behind.

I was able to knock off a who's who of 90's autographs I wanted for a mere $2 each.  Sure beats paying $30+ for a Slammin' Sammy auto.

I ended up picking up 60 autos, ranging from superstars to guys like Erik Hinske and Enrique Wilson that I needed for my Pirates autograph collection.

I asked what it would take to buy out the whole collection, and the price was good.  Really good.  But I didn't want to be spending the next week on the couch.  And while I could have easily doubled my money just selling off the extras, the timing was terrible.

But I'm more than happy to tuck these additions into the collection.  I may sell a couple lesser players whose autos are fairly rare just to recoup a little cash.  But these beauties?  They're not going anywhere.