For the first time in weeks - perhaps since the beginning of 2018 - the wife and I had ourselves a free weekend. No family get-togethers, no friendly shindigs, no extra work commitments, no surprise apartment fumigation (yes, that's happened this year)... nothing, glorious nothing. With such a wide open itinerary, naturally, we took advantage of this unfamiliar situation and enjoyed doing absolutely nothing. I must say, it was quite nice not trying to hurriedly pack up our Kia or frantically shop for a last minute birthday gift, for once.
During this downtime, I was able to sit down at the coffee table, grab a cool beverage, and flip through my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder for the first time in months. It's my favorite cardboard endeavor, the linchpin of this entire blog; however, the behemoth requires a significant amount of free time to page through. Thus, I was kind of excited to dust off the cover of my marquee, six-inch three-ring.
While idly flipping through these Ultra-Pro pages, I noticed something about this collection that hadn't registered with me in a long time and had gone pretty much entirely undiscussed here on Wrigley Roster Jenga. This story involves one of my greatest garage sale finds of all-time, an oddball set of trading cards, and flashback to more than a decade ago:
Sometime in the middle part of the previous decade, I was a broke teenager, sans job, who was just launching his CATRC project - the 2003 "Why Not Us?" Cubs had recently re-ignited my passion for our nation's pastime and it's trading cards. While I did pop into my LCS on occasion, it was during these cash-strapped days that I began mining thrift shops, flea markets, and garage sales for good deals on previously discarded cardboard.
Unsurprisingly, with my previous collecting period having occurred during the tail end of the overproduction era, my pasteboard holdings focused heavily on the 80's and 90's, while new acquisitions began to fill in gaps with the current club. Vintage cards from the 60's and 70's were well out of my minuscule price range and were never seen outside of the sliding-glass display cabinets of the card shop and players from before that might as well have been ancient relics from Mesopotamia. In short, nearly three-quarters of the history of my favorite franchise was almost non-existent in my then much smaller binder.
That is, until one glorious Saturday morning.
As I've mentioned on this blog before, my favorite local tradition is our village's annual Garage Sale Day, where residents are invited to lay their wares out for sale in their driveway or lawn without need of a permit. Since the days of my chasing Beanie Babies in the 90's, I've never missed this Saturday morning festivity and, honestly, it's one of my favorite days of the entire year. You just never know what you're going to find... maybe there'll be a giant Red Bull cooler, or a super cheap Keith Magnuson autograph, or a long sought after LP... it's a community-wide treasure hunt! During one such quest, circa 2005, I happened upon the box you see above.
I might not remember the exact year, but it was at a house on Lawndale Avenue that, hidden among the strewn about junk, I happened upon a complete, reprinted box set of the 1951 Bowman checklist. I couldn't grab that sucker off of the folding table fast enough.
Back in the late-80's, a company known as Card Collectors Company jumped into the burgeoning baseball card market by reproducing iconic sets of decades previous. Colloquially referred to as CCC for short, the group recreated highly-priced and treasured tobacco/bubblegum cards for collectors on a budget, including '51 Bowman in 1988. Fast forward a little bit to 2005-ish and I was a collector on an extremely tight budget, whose blossoming collection of all-time Cubs contained a massive vintage blackhole. In short, this set was basically meant for me!
If I recall correctly, this bad boy only set me back about five dollars, as well; the seller appeared to have once been a big investor in the trading card boom and was looking to rid himself of the clutter. Although created as a cheap alternative to real, super vintage, these reprint sets still often change hands for upwards of thirty bucks and are rarely broken up into affordable singles. Thus, this was an absolute steal of a deal on product already designed for those with light wallets.
Thankfully, this discovery came near the end of the garage sale tour because I recall fighting the urge to immediately dig into the contents of the box. Surely it was going to be a significant boon to my burgeoning Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.
Not only were my lofty expectations met, they were far exceeded! From just one transaction that cost me nothing more than a meager Abraham Lincoln banknote, I added what had to be nearly fifty new names to my All-Time Roster tome. In just one purchase, the decade of Elvis Presley and Sputnik went from nearly completely absent to more than halfway complete. I don't have any recorded statistics to back this claim up; but, this has to have been the greatest one-time addition to my CATRC throughout it's existence.
This massive boost was aided by not only the Cubs team set - as showcased by Bill Serena, Wayne Terwilliger, and all those shown previously - but also by Cubs of a different color. By that, I mean future/former Cubs shown in other uniforms.
After all, since day one of this project, I've accepted such cards as placeholders until a properly-attired card can be acquired. Furthermore, in many cases, several such players never received a genuine Cubs card or only super duper rare regional issues; so, in the interest of completion, I welcome the colors of other clubs to this very day.
During the ensuing decade and a half, many of these cards have since been upgraded in my collection by actual vintage or by cards printed in the more traditional, standard size. I must admit, though I would never have turned down this find, I do have an inherent bias against mini cards, be it modern Allen & Ginter or authentic Bowman dimensions. Even still, a hefty amount of these CCC reprints still rest comfortably in my CATRC accumulation, including all of the cards featured in this post.
All of these years later, a total of 18 Card Collectors Company recreations are still included in my marquee collection. Even if that total represented my initial acquisition, that would still divide out to just over 25-cents per card, an investment which I would easily pull the trigger on right now.
Sadly, this isn't an entirely happy story. While I have no qualms about breaking up the set, I no longer have the fancy-pantsy box that originally stored the brick of cardboard (I lifted that image from Ebay, in all honesty). As a matter of fact, I no longer have ANY of the cards which lacked a connection to the North Side franchise. After initially sorting through my Garage Sale Day bounty, in a short-sighted move I re-packaged all of the non-Cubs into that box and immediately tossed them in the trash. Hell, I didn't even use the damn recycling bin. All of that glorious cardboard, wasted to the great landfill of time.
What a nitwit! At the very least, they would have been fun to include in various trade packages; of course, this was well before I had any communication whatsoever with other collectors.
Oh well, how typical of your average American teenager. At least I was able to hang onto to all of the rest of these oddballs!
All in all, I think I can say, unequivocally, that this box of 1988 CCC '51 Bowman reprints was my greatest Garage Sale Day find of all-time. This five-dollar purchase from 2005 (or thereabouts) continues to provide a significant contribution to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection here in 2018. With that in mind, I know I can't be the only cardboard collector on the blogosphere who has an unbridled love for garage sales. So, I have to ask, what is the best secondhand discovery that you've ever come across at such an event? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.
In the meantime, my lazy weekend has officially run out - it's now Monday morning and it's time for work. And if that wasn't joyous enough, we have a coating of snow to go with the beginning of the work week dread. Thank goodness I was able to unwind with my big ol' binder this weekend!