There is really only one, regular card show in my neck of the woods. By local, I'm defining this as within half an hour drive of my residence - anything farther than that and the commute starts to feel more like a road trip than a quick jaunt, at least in my mind. Anyway, like I said, within those parameters, there is truly only one game in town.
This show is held monthly, usually on the last or second to last Sunday, and is just about 20 minutes from my house. As such, with it being so close and my only easy option, I can feel the convention's siren-like call pulling at me each and every month.
Unfortunately, the timing of this Civic Center event is frequently terrible and seemingly never lines up with my schedule. I've been actively trying to fit this show into my calendar since January; however, there's always a birthday party, family function, date night or what have you on that Sunday. With each turn of the calendar, I can hear that siren's call getting louder and more powerful as my desire to browse through cards that aren't the same 20 items found at my LCS grows.
Well, this past Sunday was the day I've been waiting for since there was snow on the ground. My fiancee was at work, the family was out of town and I was finally able to wedge an opening in my schedule. Huzzah!
Now, was the show going to be as enjoyable as that wistful siren song made it seem? After all these months of building it up in my head, would it even be worth the time that had, to this point, been so elusive?
I was quite astounded by how many people were packed into this mid-sized hall, I'd never seen it this busy; there people shoulder to shoulder at seemingly every table. So, to bide my time, I spent a good chunk of my first 30min flipping through a quarter box in the front corner of the room. In said box, I was able to come across my first cards of a couple of key prospects. Now, I'll be ready if and when they make the ultimate ascent.
Also found within were these prospect cards of guys who have already scaled the Major League mountain - they'll slot nicely into my newly declared "Nothing Major" collection. The trade of D.J. LeMahieu to Colorado represents a rare misstep in the Theo administration. That said, with the signing of Ben Zobrist, the emergence of Javy Baez and the later acquisition of fellow quarter box find Addison Russell, Chicago is pretty well set up the middle.
Speaking of young talent, the last baseball card to come out of this initial dig featured another one of these young studs; but, it was something that confounded me:
This was a fun little oddball to find in a discount box - bonus, it's numbered to only 500.
Anyway, after some diligent research once I returned to my dwelling, I've discovered that the One Star Chewing Gum Company is the brand name of one Matty Yerkes, a custom card maker who does personal orders and also seems to do a lot of work with "Topshelf Breaks," a popular case/box breaking site.
Unfortunately, I can't find anything information about this card in particular. My best guess is that this was a collaborative promo issued in conjunction with last year's National. I have to say, this is rather expertly crafted with sturdy card stock and a plus design. I especially love the Chicago skyline on the back.
As I said, that was the last "baseball" card I was able to dig out of the quarter box; however, it wasn't the last card entirely:
Marko Dano was supposed to be a young, budding superstar when the Blackhawks acquired him from Columbus in the much-maligned Brandon Saad deal; he was supposed to help us get over the loss of "the Saad-father."
Not so much - that said, he was eventually included in the trade that brought Andrew Ladd back to town.
Last time I was at this show, this gleaming, shiny card was protected in a top-holder with a $3 price sticker on it's front. This time, it was sitting loose in a discount box with the peasant cards - I feel very much vindicated for being patient on crossing Dano's name off of my needs list for my Blackhawks All-Time Roster Collection.
By the time I had finished combing through the quarter deals, the hall appeared to have thinned out a touch, enough for me to feel comfortable moving from table to table.
Sticking with hockey, the next table I hit up had another bunch of quarter boxes. Unlike the previous one, which was a mish-mash of cards from any and all sports, these were much more organized. I was thrilled to find one each dedicated solely to Blackhawks and Bears singles.
Jaroslav Spacek was a short-term, fairly un-notable Chicagoan, but I still needed a card of him for the aforementioned Hawks collection. On the flip side, Steve Montador might be name you all recognize. It was his tragic suicide just a couple of years after he finished his NHL in the Windy City that really brought the concussion issue to light in the hockey world.
As for the Bears box, it too yielded some new names for my All-Time Roster Collection of the Chicago NFL entry.
I didn't have to search very hard to find that Grasu card - you could see that obnoxiously yellow Oregon jersey from ten miles away with squinted eyes. I think it might be so ugly that it's cool. Also, I honestly had no idea that Wizards of the Coast produced a gridiron version of MLB Showdown for the NFL. Even better, like Showdown, it was detailed in it's player selection, providing cards of oft-forgotten players like Holdman.
That wasn't it for my football collection though. Just a few rows over, there was a quiet, meek vendor with a binder full of miscellaneous singles from the past 40 years, including a mess f 1977 Topps. Again, everything contained within was a mere 25 cents. This truly was the quarter show.
All four of these names were new to my Bears All-Time Roster Collection. Even better, all four of these were priced at a buck a pop at my LCS - who doesn't love a 75% decrease in price? Also, can we just take a second to appreciate old Soldier Field in the background of that Adamle card? Nowadays, the former landmark looks like a spaceship crash-landed on top of it.
Unlike everything seen up to this point of the post, this 1958 instantly became the oldest football card in my burgeoning Bears collection. Of course, when we're talking about a piece of vintage-y goodness of a highly collectible team, a quarter wasn't going to cut it... right?
That's because it was FREE! A vendor across the aisle was clearly itching to get out of there and was slashing prices left and right. After flipping through a couple of his $1 stacks, he urged me to just go ahead and take the Dooley.
Um, hot damn - thank you kindly clearance vendor!
So, at this point, I was able to scrounge up some pre-rookie Cubs, a never before seen oddball, 3 new Blackhawks and 9 new Bears for my collection (one of which was everyone's favorite price)... I think it's safe to say that this show definitely turned out to be worth my time, even if I had walked out right then and there. However, as they say in all those late night infomercials, "but wait! There's more!"
What we have above is a "Cubgrade" purchase that I was able to make. While that Topps Gallery card of "Highpockets Kelly" truly is a piece of art, I think that his "only" Cubs card ever produced makes for a much better inclusion - I'm a Cubs man, not a Giants fan, after all.
I have "only" in quotation marks because the All-Time Greats card on the right is an early parallel, courtesy of TCMA. While that set was initially released in 1973 as a full-sized set of postcards, this one is shrunken down to nearly the size of a standard card; however, it's just a tad skinnier and taller.
Being able to narrow in on a short-term Cub's only "proper" card is a pretty momentous occasion in my book. Even still, there was one find that absolutely blew everything else out of the water, a "gray whale" that I've been chasing for a long while now:
Woot! Bob "Dutch" McCall's 1948-49 Leaf issue - not only is this the one year wonder's only Cubs card, it's his only baseball card period.
As I was making my final lap of the room, out of the corner of my eye, an image I'd long seen in my Ebay followed searches caught my attention from a seller's "good stuff" rack. Rarely does a 67 year old card from an iconic set fall into my cheapskate price range.
The top loader it was in carried a $25 price tag - way, way, way to steep of a price for me to bite on. But, there's no harm in asking about it anyway right? After a little bit of hemming and hawing, we settled on a price that was much more me - six bucks. Trigger pulled.
How was I able to negotiate such a decrease? Well, we just have to flip the antique over to find out:
Holy paper loss, Batman! Clearly some youngster pasted this into an album of sorts, way back when.
That sort of defection doesn't bother me in the least. After all, the front was almost pristine and that's really the most important side of the card, isn't it? Besides, without a few bruises, these kind of cards will never wind up in my price range. I love it just the same.
The only down side is that I know next to nothing about Mr. McCall, who pitched in 30 games for the '48 Cubs as the franchise entered their most pitiful years. Obviously, this card didn't shed much more light on the subject and the internet is sorely lacking as well. So, here's the back of the card as it's supposed to look, so you too can know all I know about this obscure hurler:
Anyway, that made for quite the exclamation point on my long-awaited card show experience. I even remarked to that McCall vendor that he pretty much made my show. I'm sure he was quite honored.
And so, the siren's song that had long been tempting me to skip out on responsibilities and make my way to this show turned out to be a pure one - it did not lead me to certain death on obscured rocks or other undersea danger, as the legends and epics warn; in fact, it lead me to a multitude of wonderful discoveries in a land that, as it turns out, I had not actually romanticized at all.
Ok - that's an awful lot of flowery language; bottom line - the show was awesome. Gotta love it when an event not only lives up to expectations, but actually exceeds them. Has anyone else had this happen to them at a card show or similar event? What about in the opposite manner, where they proved to be quite underwhelming?
Now, the only question is how long will it be before I can make it back again?