Saturday, September 26, 2015

It's the Weekend!

Ah, the weekend.  This week has been a little nuts.  I finished up the old job Tuesday, spent Wednesday outlet shopping with Kate, and then started the new gig on Thursday.  It's a great work environment, and even though I have more on my plate than ever I came home with a lot more energy than usual the past two days.  So hopefully I can get back into the blogging spirit on a regular basis soon.

I've been on the prowl for a new addition to my collection to celebrate.  Nothing too crazy, but I'd love to add a Cal Ripken or Junior auto, two of my favorites growing up.  But I'm waiting for a card I absolutely love, since it will probably the only auto of theirs that ends up in my collection.  In the mean time, I won this bad boy on ebay about two weeks ago.  Kiner was a pretty consistent signer up until his death, but I think this is only the third autograph of his I own.  But pretty much any and every card that came out in 2001 holds a special place in my collecting nostalgia, and this is an excellent on card auto.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

RIP, Big Man

I started working on this post this morning, but ended up getting sidetracked half way through when I read about Yogi's death.

You have to be a special kind of tortured, masochistic Pirates fan for the name Walter Young to mean much of anything to you.

Young was drafted in the 31st round in 1999 by the Pirates.  Recently fired Marlins scout Mickey White was overseeing the Pirates drafts.  The Bucs found quite a few gems in the later rounds of the drafts during those years, though the management team that had drafted the played would be sent to pasture by the time the players were close to major league ready.  It's not typical for much to be expected of a 31st round pick.  But Walter Young wasn't exactly a typical baseball player.  Young was listed at 6'5", 320.  He would have fit in on the Steelers offensive line just as well as he would in the Pirates lineup.

He put up impressive numbers in the lower minors, and was one of a limited number of bright spots in a Pirates system that would take such sterling draft picks as Bryan Bullington during the dark days under Dave Littlefield.  Young was moved slowly through the system, but put up some pretty impressive numbers in A ball in 2002 and 2003, smashing 25 and 20 homers.

Did I mention it was the Dave Littlefield era?

The most logical way to reward these accomplishments?  To leave a player exposed to waivers, despite some considering Young one of the top 10 prospects in the system.  This was the same offseason where the Bucs left the likes of Jose Bautista and Chris Shelton off their 40-man roster despite having empty 40-man spots only to lose them to the Rule 5 draft.

Young would get claimed by Baltimore, and would continue putting up strong minor league numbers.  He would get a cup of coffee with the O's and put up solid numbers during his short time with the team.  But that would be the high water mark in his baseball career.

"You Can Observe a Lot By Watching"

I was getting together a post after the reading that former Bucs prospect Walter Young had died when I read the news on Yogi Berra.

Yogi was my dad's favorite player growing up.  We were talking about him when I was home last week.  My dad asked if I knew anything about Berra's health, since he was up there in years.  My dad married late, and was into his 40's when my parents had me.  There were certainly drawbacks to having such a big generational gap growing up.  But it also meant I got to hear some really cool sports stories when we were at Pirate games together, to hear my dad talk about watching Clemente at Forbes Field and seeing Yogi Berra play on tv like the players had retired five years ago.

Yogi certainly left his mark on the game.  But it's the impact he had on my dad that I'll always remember him for.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Catching Up

Last week was a whirlwind, with some pretty big life changes in Battlin' Buc land.

I had an interview for a job on Thursday.  I felt like things went well, but was pretty shocked when they called 45 minutes after I got out of the interview to offer me the position.  I'll be taking on a management role with an education non-profit that work with at-risk youth.  It's a big step forward both for my career and for our bank account, and I'm really excited to be heading to an organization that I can genuinely see myself stick with for a good while.  I've tried to avoid letting work interfere with the card blog, but the last year has been a rough one on the work front and I don't think it's much of a stretch to admit that has had a huge impact on my quality and consistency of writing on the blog.  Lots of stress, long commutes, and uncertainty knowing what career direction I wanted to move in.

So I'm excited about having some more free time (and less stress) to get back to enjoying reading and writing about cards.
These cards were waiting for me in the mailbox the other day.  I won them both on ebay for a total of about $3.50.  At one point, buyback cards were the hottest thing in the hobby.  As people started to realize they're basically glorified IP autos and many of the Topps ones could be easily faked, the market has cooled considerably.

But Bay was one of my favorite players to watch, and I can't pass up on two autographs at that price.  Fun fact: his 2002 rookie cards in Topps products feature him as an Expo, Met, and Padre.

By the way, if anyone else has interest or questions about the team collector group I wrote about last week, don't hesitate to leave a comment or shoot me an email.  I saw we had a couple new signups - hope to hear from you guys soon on the Team Collector forum!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Wanted: Team Collectors

From time to time I mention the group of team collectors I'm a part of.  And with school back in session, it's time to set up our table at the recruitment fair and tell everybody how cool our club is!

But seriously, we have quite a few empty teams that we would love to fill, if for no other reason than to clear out the thousands of cards that are taking up space in our closets that don't have a good home.

The concept is pretty simple: we're a group of team collectors.  As we accumulate cards of other teams, we ship the cards off to the respective team collector, and they do likewise.  It's technically a trading group, but that's a bit too formal.  It's a great bunch of guys (and gals) who chat about life, sports, and cardboard - usually in that order.

Aside from exchanging cards of our teams, we also have group breaks every few months.  It's usually newer products coming out, occasionally with some older stuff sprinkled in.  We split the cost, stream the break live over Google Hangout where everybody can chat, and nobody makes a dime off of it.  It's a cost effective way to get all the new cards of our teams, and a chance at some nice hits, for usually between $15-30 per break depending on whether we're just doing a few boxes or a full case of product.

Once a year, we even try to get together for an annual convention for those who can make it.

Without making this sound like a damn infomercial, being a part of this group has really been one of the most rewarding parts of collecting.  The group has been around over 10 years, forming on the old Beckett message boards.  I joined about 5 years ago after I learned about the group on a message board.  I didn't really know anybody, and didn't even really consider myself a team collector at the time.  I had around 4,000 Pirate cards but mostly just focused on autographs.  Now I have close to 16,000 different Bucco cards, thanks in part to the Team Collectors generosity.

So here's an open invitation.  If you think it might sound cool, come check out our forum.   You can be as active or inactive in the group as you like.  If you wanted to join, chat, and participate in the occasional break that would be totally fine.  Want to be more active?  That's great too.   And we'd love to have you.  It's amazing how hard it is to find collectors for some teams - even big market teams like the Mets seem to be nonexistent.  So don't worry about whether you have enough cards to send out, or if you're noncommittal - if the concept sounds intriguing, at least come check it out.

If anyone is interested in learning more, please either email me or leave a comment with the forum username you register with.  The forum gets dozens of spam-bot registrations every day that our admin purges every so often, so I can pass along your user name to make sure you don't get purged.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Isn't That Strange?

Doug Strange played in parts of 9 seasons in the majors before he wrapped up his career with the Bucs.  He's actually worked in the Pirates front office since 2002, but I've never been able to get his auto.  This signed 8x10 is actually an upgrade over a Leaf Signature certified auto I picked up off COMC that was from Strange's time with the Mariners.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pirate Autograph Project: Running Through Walls

Turner Ward was a bit of a cult hero in Pittsburgh.  He put up some crazy numbers during 1997's Freak Show season and stuck around for 1998 though the results were more in line with his career numbers.

I was thrilled to find this signed 8X10 at a flea market a few weeks back, since I still needed a Ward auto.  And of course no mention of Turner Ward would be complete without this.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bigger is Better

I was going through the piles of stuff that cover what I used to call a desk, and realized I had missed sharing one of my favorite new additions.  During one of my recent flea market hunts, I came across a vendor who had a ton of signed photos and cards.  She had owned a memorabilia store in a mall years back, but at this point was just slowly trying to clear out inventory.  I picked up a few cards that have disappeared into one of my many boxes.  But the real finds were the signed photos.
 I'm typically not a big fan of signed photos.  Cards are easier to store and I can slide them into my binder pages for easy access.  And while I could eventually see myself getting some of my nicer photos framed, the likes of Paul Maholm or Brad Eldred aren't really wall-worthy.  Still...nostalgia!

At 3 for $10, I ended up bringing home six signed photos.  Most were backup Steelers from the mid 00's.  But there were a few gems.  The top photo is former Steelers wideout Yancey Thigpen.  Thigpen had a couple of excellent seasons for the Steelers, but his career quickly fizzled out after leaving Pittsburgh.
 And how can you not love Kordell?  He was the player every kid in my area idolized, and I proudly wore my Kordell jersey while playing backyard football with my friends.  The signature looks like it is probably from earlier in his career, which would make sense with a photo from his Slash days.
 Jim Tracy doesn't exactly give me the warm and fuzzies, doing an atrocious job with some pretty bad teams.  But...2006 All-Star jersey!  Yep, I spent $3 cuse I like pretty jerseys.  Are you surprised?

And finally, one that might actually find its way to a wall.  I have a nice pile of Jumpin Jack Flash photos, but I really like the look of this one.  And you can never go wrong with an autograph of your favorite player.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Yard Sale Junk Wax Gems

I had big plans for Friday.  Sleep in, do nothing, and enjoy a day off.  Those plans went out the window pretty fast when my mother in law sent me a text around 8:30 saying she was at a yard sale with a ton of Pirates stuff.  I called her for the address and hopped in the car.  

It was only about 20 minutes away, and after all...I didn't really have anything better to be doing on my day off.  Adding a little icing on the cake, she sent me as a text as I was driving saying to just stop by her house after and she would reimburse me for whatever I found and save it as a Christmas gift, since she never has any idea what to get me.

As I pulled up to the house, she was right.  There was a lot of stuff.  Lots of SLU's and bobbleheads, some boxes of cards at the back of the driveway.  And the prices were fair.  But the guy, who was pretty friendly, was a small time dealer in the 90's who just couldn't stand parting with the stuff for much less than he paid for it.

I dug through the boxes and found some nice quarter cards of 90's inserts and a few other goodies.  Nothing major, though I will have a box of 1995 Topps S2 and 1996 Pinnacle football waiting for me on Christmas, assuming my MiL doesn't misplace them in the mean time.  But those goodies will have to wait a few months before I can show them off.

But I didn't go home empty handed.  When I stopped over my in-laws to drop off my haul, my mother in law handed me a big bag full of cards that she said he had sold her for $2.  Now I'm not the biggest fan of junk wax.  And it was a safe guess this was mostly junk - almost all the cards I could see in the big comforter zip bag of cards were 1989 Topps - I figured I could at least pluck out some cards for TTM autographs.

 I can't say the bag was gold.  It was mostly as I expected - a near complete set of 1989 Topps, minus all the stars of the day, and assorted commons mostly from 1989 and 1993, but up to 2000.

But all those cards were well worth the $2, even if it does mean I have a small box full of beat up junk wax I have no use for, but don't have the heart to throw out.  I even found a WVU card of a quarter back I had never heard of.  Apparently Kelchner transferred to WVU from Notre Dame after being blocked at QB by Rick Mirer.  And I think we can safely say 1990 was the last time the phrase "blocked by Rick Mirer" was used that wasn't in reference to seating arrangements or pickup basketball.

 The bag 'o fun wasn't without some star power, even if all the 1989 Greg Jefferies had been picked out.
I really wish RJ had stuck with the colored glove for the rest of his career.  But alas, the greatness is captured on cardboard.

 I even found an autographed card in the bag.  Apparently Deon Thomas was a college standout before being picked 28th overall in the 1994 draft, but decided to play internationally and never suited up in the NBA.  His playing career lasted until 2008, and he was one of the most decorated American players in European basketball.  Not bad.
 I don't need to even go into whatever kind of voodoo witchcraft greatness created this gem.  This one has been on my want list for quite a while.

 And how can you not love the striped stirrups on Fernando!  I think that may also be a throwback uni, though I'm not totally sure.
 And I found a few new Marlins to add to my newfound hoarding.  Just look at all that teal!  How can you not love it?
 There were even a few cards from the Action Packed minor league set bringing back all kind of 3-d goodness.  Kevin Millar was the only player of note though.

The only real down side was that I ended up spending hours sorting out the bulk of a 1989 Topps set.  I'll probably go through this coming weekend and see what cards I'm missing, if anyone has some 89T clogging up their closet.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In the Mailbox: Buck Leonard Auto

I'm too thrilled about this pickup to have much to say.  A Buck Leonard autograph has been right near the top of my want list for quite some time.   They're far from the priciest of Hall of Fame autographs, but I tend to wait it out until I can get a real steal.  And at just over $6 for this card, I'm calling it a steal.

Leonard played pretty much his entire career with the dominant Homestead Grays, so this one holds a special place in my collection.  I have a small collection of Negro League cards featuring Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords players, and this is now by far the centerpiece.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cards with Friends: Baltimore Team Collector Convention

There are few things in collecting that I find as rewarding as the chance to share my collection with other folks who share the same interests.  After all, that's why I write this blog.  That and because if I try to show Kate a custom card for the 100th time, or ask her what color font looks better, I may find myself sleeping on the couch one of these days.

I've been fortunate to meet some great people through card collecting.  The hobby tends to attract some of the less reputable (and sometimes stable) people I've met in my life, so I consider it a real accomplishment to have met so many great people through little pieces of cardboard with pictures of grown men.

I've mentioned a few times on the blog the group of Team Collectors I belong to.  It's a great group of team collectors who swap cards, do box and case breaks, and just chat about cards, sports, and life.  The group has been around for over a decade, and I've been fortunate enough to be a part of the group for a little over half that time.  

Each year, we try to have a Team Collector Convention, usually in a city where one of us lives and there is some baseball nearby.  This year, we decided on Baltimore.  It's a small, close knit group with about 20 active participants, and it's nice to just get together in person for a weekend, bust some boxes, and hang out.   

Kate and I drove Saturday, met up with the gang, and then we all headed off to a great BBQ place.  There really isn't any outstanding barbecue food in Pittsburgh, which is a damn shame since it's one of my favorites.  But boy was this place good.  After eating our fill, we headed back to the hotel to break some boxes.  We had a mix of 2015 products and older boxes, 18 boxes in total.
Each box would get passed around and we would each grab a couple packs to open.  The first box, 2009 Topps 206, couldn't have started any better.  In the second pack I opened, I noticed a hit in the middle of the pack.  The first thing that stood out to me was how terrible the picture at the top looked.  Then I noticed the name, and all I could say was "holy shit, Ruth."  I felt like the kids in The Sandlot.  It's by far the most exciting pull I've ever had come out of a pack.  It's headed for our Yankees collector, who couldn't attend the convention.  But still it was absolutely thrilling to pull such an amazing card.  The box was absolutely killer - in addition to the Ruth, the box also had a Ryan Braun auto, which would have been a fantastic hit a few years ago.

But my luck wasn't done for the day.

A few boxes later we were cracking through a box of Moments & Milestones.  You know, the set where everything is serial numbered and kinda worthless?  In my first pack, I could see some red in the middle of the pack, and knew it was a 1/1.  As I slowly pulled back the cards to reveal the player, I saw it was Hanley Ramirez.  Now 1/1's are pretty common in the product, I think falling one every other box.  But this one was a little extra special.  See, we don't have a Marlins collector, and haven't in ages.  A couple months ago, I decided to start up a small Marlins secondary team collection.  Nowhere near my Pirates collection.

But I started playing t-ball in 1993, when the Marlins first came to exist.  Something about the over the top teal logo and cap stuck for me.  I wore a Marlins hat all the time, and they were always my second favorite NL team.  When the team switched to the art deco disaster we all know and ignore today, it felt like the end of a franchise.  And it's sort of unique to me that a team, for all intents and purposes, was created, won two championships, and ended within the first 25 years of my lifetime.

So before the break I had been given a couple big boxes of Marlins cards from some of the guys who drove in and wanted to clear out closet space.  When I saw the hit, I offered to add it to the pot of unclaimed team cards to be sold off to help fund our next break, but everybody insisted I keep the card.  So my first Marlins 1/1!

Breaking that many boxes is a ton of fun, and a lot easier when you can do it as a group.  We had some nice hits, including this Stadium Club case hit.  The card was the only one in the pack, and is insanely thick.  It sort of reminds me of those marbles that had an image encased.
Here's a recap of all the bigger hits from the break.  There were plenty of nice cards, including the Ruth, a Bonds bat card out of 2000 MVP, and I think just about everybody in attendance ended up with a hit or two.  And of course a hefty stack of base cards to add to the collection.
After the break, we took a quick photo and the rest of the gang headed to Camden Yard for an O's game.  I didn't want to torture Kate too much, so we took the opportunity to have a date night going through some of the historic neighborhoods in Baltimore and then having a seafood dinner along the water.  We ended up getting back right as the gang returned from the game, and we all went across the street to a sportsbar for a late night snack.  We had collectors fly in from as far as Minnesota and Texas, and at about 3 hours our drive was one of the shorter ones.

Of course our intentions weren't purely social.  What better opportunity to dump a ton of cards on each other than when we're all together in one place!  I went with the back seat loaded up with boxes for everyone, hoping to clear out some space in my boxes and get some cards to a good home.

But even the best laid plans fail.  We ended up driving back with even more cards than I left with, thanks in large part to my now expansive Marlins collection.  The group was kind enough to load me with some really cards, including a few Miggy relics and some great 90's cards from my friend Tim who knows I appreciate the stuff.

 We had a nice long breakfast with everyone at the hotel, and then Kate and I headed off to a really fantastic outdoor market.  There was a ton of fresh produce (again, a good farmers market is tough to find around Pittsburgh), local vendors.  I was hoping to score some fresh seafood.  That was a little harder than I had hoped, but I did end up coming home with two lobster tails that we grilled up yesterday.
 I couldn't be more thankful to call this group my friends.  It was a great weekend, and I look forward to doing it again next year.
If anyone is interested in joining the group, there are some teams that don't currently have a collector.  It's a very laid back and generous bunch, and I can guarantee your team collection will balloon in no time.  If anyone is interested in joining or learning more about how the group works, leave a comment or shoot me an email.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fruits of My Labor

Hope everyone is having a good Labor Day weekend.  I'm getting ready to fire up the grill and throw on some lobster tails that we bought in Baltimore the other weekend.  But I had some time to play around with some customs this weekend, and I was in a 90's mood.

Watermark aside, Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Flea Market Bobbles

I'm still catching up on the backlog of flea market trips.  And I'll be the first to admit that this one wasn't the most exciting of the lot.  But...bobbles!

I stopped up at the flea market up the street before leaving for Baltimore to meet up with some of my team collecting buddies.  I had hopes of finding a few extra cards to take for them, but ended up striking out pretty bad on that front.

It has been probably a month or two since I've been to the flea market to visit my buddy Ken, and he had majorly rearranged the space in the time between.

There was a large display of bobbleheads that he had apparently bought off someone.  Most were Pirates SGA's I already had, but there were a couple interesting Pens bobbleheads.

I'm not a big hockey guy, but at the right price I have been slowly adding Penguins bobbleheads for my future man cave.  The Johan Hdeberg bobble really caught my eye, since I hadn't seen it before.  Without logos, I figured it wasn't an SGA, but when I asked Ken for a price the $2 price tag was too good to pass up on.  After a little digging, I discovered it was a promo from local restaurant chain King's (an all night diner kind of place...think Denny's, but usually with worse food).  I'm assuming the bobble came during the pinnacle of Hedberg-love in Pittsburgh, which ultimately was short lived.   Goalies always confuse me as a casual hockey observer.  Some guys seem to stick around forever, while others get incredibly hot seemingly out of nowhere, and fade into obscurity just as fast.
Ken also had a Mario Lemieux SGA bobble.  I seen them pretty regularly, but never want to fork out the $15-20 they're usually priced at.  But Ken always cuts me a great deal, and charged me $10 for the Lemieux, which I gladly paid.  I grabbed a couple of Pirate dime cards as well, but nothing overly exciting.

I'm not sure if this weekend will have any flea market trips in store, but regardless this summer has been a great flea market season for my collection.  Now I just need space to display everything...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hobby Staples: Where Have They Gone?

I consider myself pretty involved in the hobby.  Sure, I'm no national dealer or big time box breaker.  But I attend a pretty broad range of shows, from 100+ table regional and national shows to the 15 table hotel variety.  I have thousands of thousands of cards, more than I'd like to admit.  But sometimes the hobby just leaves me scratching my head.

1985 Topps #401 - Mark McGwire - Courtesy of

There are certain cards that, at one time or another, reached iconic status.  1989 UD Griffey.  1985 Topps Big Mac.  1968 Nolan Ryan.  Or the Mattinglys, Nomars, et al that have faded from their one-time icon status.  Whatever the card or era, there was that card that made you the envy of everybody on the playground, hobby store, or card show.

That part I get.  But the part that confuses me?  There are those cards that have or held iconic status in the hobby - the one that just about any real collector would gladly have in their collection for the right price.  And I never see a copy at a card show.

Let's set aside vintage or high grade.  I'm sure if you look hard enough and have the cash you'll find a Ryan RC at a show, and I'm sure every National a small stack of graded 52 Mantles trade hands for more money than I make in a year.  But what about the cards whose hobby luster has dulled?

There are about half a dozen 1985 McGwire USA cards listed on COMC for under $5.  At one point the card was the hottest thing in card collecting, and probably something that collectors and the casual public alike were familiar with.  And I'd think that it's a safe bet that there are over a million copies floating out there, so it isn't particularly rare.  But I honestly don't remember seeing a copy at any card show this side of maybe 2001.

The list goes on.  The Nomar 92 USA card.  Any Griffey rookies, 1989 or otherwise.  Despite having nearly 16,000 Pirate cards, my 1987 team sets are missing both the Fleer and Donruss Bonds cards.  There are 256 Barry Bonds 1987 Donruss cards listed on COMC.  Sure, I could shell out the $1 for a copy online and have it shipped to my door.  But there's something fun and exciting about finding a needed card at a show just like I did as a kid.  But  Even the 87 Topps Bonds is tough to come by, though I have seen a few in $.50 boxes in recent years.

1987 Donruss #361 - Barry Bonds - Courtesy of

I'm stumped.

There have to be plenty of copies of these cards in circulation.  And I'd think that there are probably plenty of collectors, just like me, who would gladly add one of these once-vaunted hobby icons to their collection for a few spare bucks on impulse if they came across it at a show.  And yet...crickets.

Are they just not worth packing into the boxes dealers are bringing to the show?  I know many dealers I talk to say that 90's stuff is worthless, and they only bring vintage or the most recent releases.  Or maybe the bulk of these are with dealers who have packed up, left the hobby, and sit in the basement, presumed to be worthless since the bottom fell out.  I honestly don't know.  But I'd love to hear your take.  Is it a regional thing?  Maybe the Chicago Sun Times or East Coast National has a paradise of McGwire rookies that just never make it to Pittsburgh.  Is there some totally logical explanation I'm missing?  Or do I just never pull my nose out of the dime boxes long enough to find these white whales?

I'm On Twitter! (And Totally Lost)

So...I've taken my cardboard ramblings to Twitter.  I was messing around online last night, and discovered apparently I had made a Battlinbucs Twitter account in 2010, a couple years before this blog ever existed.  I've been reading about how much of the cardboard conversation has moved to social media, so I figured it's time to give it a try.

I was able to track a few bloggers down on twitter, but I'm at a bit of a loss where to start.  I've been using my personal twitter account for years, so I'm not totally lost.  I've perfected fitting my witty quirps and Pirate rants to 140 characters.  But I am still trying to figure out how the whole card collecting thing fits in.

So I'm turning to you, blogosphere.  Who are the "must follows"?  What does twitter offer collectors that blogging, forums, and all the other ways I spend way too much free time on this hobby not?

And if anyone would like to follow me, my twitter account is @battlinbucs

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Flea Market Finds: Alternate History

I posted a little while back about some flea market finds I came across a couple weeks ago.  As always, getting around to posting part two took a good while longer than expected.  But hopefully it's well worth the wait.  This flea market has a good number of regular vendors.  There are probably half a dozen "sports guys" who, more or less, are impossible to deal with.  Their prices are ebay+200%, and just seem to be waiting on a sucker to come along.  I was talking with a vendor Kate bought a couple of metal street signs off of, and he said a lot of the vendors at this flea market basically try to use the flea market as their full time job.  And hey, if you can find people willing to overpay so that you only have to work two days a week, more power to ya I guess.  But for me, it just means that I walk by a lot of tables without even needing to stop and look.

So after my first couple pickups went pretty slow, I made a b-line over to Bob, a regular who always some pretty nice inventory.  His prices are a little higher than I'd like, basically in line with ebay+shipping, but he's usually willing to drop the price when I bundle a few things.

As I was going through some pennants, one immediately jumped out at me.  See that one on the bottom?  The one with the 1991 World Series logo?  In case your history is a little rusty, the Pirates didn't play in the 1991 World Series.  Or in fact any Fall Classic since 1979.

Now the story isn't really a head scratcher.  Every year various commemorative gear gets printed up for the teams that get close to the big dance in each sport.  After all, printing thousands of pieces of merchandise takes time, and then needs to be shipped all over the place.  But I'd imagine most of that stuff ends up in a landfill or shipped off to some developing country.  I've never seen this before, and absolutely had to have it.

It's funny how the world works.  A few different breaks, maybe a few swings of a piece of wood 2 or 3 inches lower over the course of a week, and these pennants could be everywhere.  Maybe some Braves World Series pennant becomes the cast off that wasn't supposed to leave the factory.  And beyond just being a cool and unique conversation piece, this pennant is a little reminder of how strange the world can be.

The $20 price tag seemed a little steep, but when I added in a vintage WVU pennant I was able to get the price to $25 for the pair.
But I can never leave a good bundle go.  Bob had a Ronny Paulino game used bat that had been sitting around for quite a while.  I had debated between the Paulino and a Gary Redus gamer that I ended up buying months and months ago.
 I figured it was time to do a little price check.  And as luck would have it, the bat that had been $35 was now $30.  With a little haggling and packaged in with the pennants, I got the bat for an additional $20.  I actually had to call in reinforcements to have Kate bring me a little more cash, which ended up with me getting the "what are you doing now?" look as she unquestioningly handed me more cash.

I can't be more appreciative of how easy going she is about my collecting habits.  Even though we have very, very different collecting tastes and she really has zero interest in sports memorabilia, I couldn't ask for someone more supportive of my addiction  collection.
 But I wasn't done yet.

I snagged a few SLU's for a dollar each.  The late 90's Pirate Starting Lineups are tough to find.  They were short packed, since...Pirates.  And I have a soft spot for the 90's Marlins that I'll be discussing in an upcoming post.  It's the teal that does it.

Flea Market Finds: Crossing the (State) Line

Friday was a pretty crazy day.  Kate had taken Friday and Monday off to use up some of her vacation days, so I decided to take Friday off as well.  We were going to head to Rogers, Ohio to one of my favorite flea markets with the in-laws in the morning, and then had plans to meet up with one of her friends in Altoona, PA, which is towards central PA, that evening to catch a game of the Pirates AA affiliate.  It was going to be a long day.  Which I unintentionally made even longer.

Kate called her mom Thursday night to finalize the plans.  I said we should probably get an early start and leave around 7.  Apparently she took that to mean we should meet her parents at 7:00...who live a good half hour south of us.  So I was a bit surprised when the alarm started going off the next morning, I opened my eyes, and discovered it was still dark out.  Instead of rolling out of bed at 6:55, throwing on some shorts and a tshirt and hopping in the car, it was 6:00, and we would be on the road by 6:30.  Ugh!

After an hour and a half drive, we reached the flea market, grabbed a couple amazing Amish doughnuts for breakfast, and I was off prowling for deals.  I hit gold early on with one of the regular vendors.  I snagged both of the pennants above for $3 each.  The colors are great, and I haven't seen the 1987 100th Anniversary pennant before.  

A few tables later, a woman had a big bin of PEZ dispensers for $1 each.  Kate seemed really confused when I stopped to look.  I have a large PEZ collection (yes, I collect too many damn things) from when I was a kid/teenager.  I stopped around the time I was in high school, but still have probably a couple hundred dispensers in boxes at my parents'.  But I never realized until we were chatting while I dug through the box that Kate had never actually seen the collection, and probably thought the occasional dispenser I would buy at the supermarket was just for the candy.  Little did she know...

The woman had mostly newer dispensers from the past 10 years or so.  Those are actually the ones I don't have, but I kept myself in check.  I picked up a couple Pixar ones, cause they were awesome, an older Daffy Duck, and to the far left a Jack in the Box exclusive that used to be damn near impossible to find out east.  Kate threw in one of her beloved California Raisin figures to make it an even $5.  Now I just need to make sure I keep my long lost hobby in check and don't go out buying dozens of PEZ.  This was actually the first time I had seen dispensers at a flea market.
 After a wave of finds early on, things slowed down considerably.  Cardboard was slim pickins'.  I found a decent of number of people with cards, but it was almost all either overproduction era or priced at or above full book.  I did find one dealer with some pretty nice quarter boxes, though all the vintage and game used cards he had were full book.
 I plucked out $3 worth of 90's goodness, and couldn't be happier.
 It's definitely a nostalgia factor.  But I also think cards of the mid 90's were just more appealing than the hit-driven hobby of today.
 With the number of companies in the game, everybody was trying to build a better mousetrap to make their products move.  I think it's easy to forget in today's hobby how much one or two hot insert sets could move an entire product off the shelves.  And those cards were actually ones you had a decent chance of pulling.
 Today, we chase the big hits.  Sure.  But even if you are lucky enough to pull a superfractor, or 1/1, there is a good chance that the card will sell for peanuts.  One of my friends pulled a Topps Platinum 1/1 of one of the Devil Rays - maybe Yunel Escobar?.  I think the card sold at auction for about $10-15.  That just seems crazy for a card of an established major leaguer from the most well known baseball set of the year, even if it was a team and collector with a limited fan base.
 If you pulled one of the 1:700 pack inserts, the nature of the insert set made it a safe bet that it would be a decent caliber player.  Sure, the occasional Mo Vaughn or Darin Erstad would slip into a set and sell for a fraction of the Ripken or Junior.
 Not to be the moaning 90's collector again.  I'm thrilled to grab these beauties for a quarter.  I just wish I could have the same excitement for cards coming out in sets today.
 But in the mean time...
I'll settle for these gems.
The trip didn't yield as much as I had hoped or expected, especially after the couple of great finds early on.  There were literally a couple hundred vendors set up, so I had to walk by a lot of rusty tools, vintage advertising memorabilia, and delicious food to find as much as I did.

On the way out, I spotted a woman with some random stuff on a table next to her stand of handbags.  Apparently it had been her sons.  Nothing was priced, which is my biggest pet peeve, but there was a trio of Diamondbacks balls which had apparently been a McDonald's giveaway in 1998.  She said to make an offer, and I was happy to hand over $2 for the trio.  It's the teal and purple one in the middle that was the real prize for me.