Therapeutic card digging

What relieves my stress? Digging through sports cards in boxes.

In the few days since my birthday trip to the Quad Cities, the “get back to work” days have been an absolute drag. Work was going miserable. I needed to get away.

During a recent trip to Rockford Coin and Stamp (near the intersection of Charles, Broadway, Alpine and Newburg roads), I had searched for some vintage cards only to discover there were $0.50 and $0.10 boxes that I didn’t have time to dig through.

The fact that I left a card store without digging through such boxes bothered me. For the last couple of weeks, I NEEDED, NEEDED, NEEDED, NEEDED to go back and dig through them. Why does such a thing bother me? The intrigue and discovery of cards that I haven’t seen before is a relieving feeling – it makes me excited to see new cards that I haven’t seen before. It makes me happy to see a card that is on my Interest List.

I’ll get to what all I found in a minute.

Baseball cards were my first interest as a child. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism, and “Aspies” such as myself have that one special interest that they cannot explain the inner workings of in great detail. Mine was baseball cards. I sorted them unique ways. When my friend Aaron tried to mix them up one day, it bothered the living HELL out of 10-year-old me! I’ve learned to mellow down on this as I got older, but the memory of digging through boxes as a kid was just so pleasing that, when the opportunity recently presented itself, it felt like a soothing feeling. Weird, I know, but that’s how it went.

That itch to return to Rockford finally came back today. I was about to dig through a whole bunch of boxes to find some cards, and I just couldn’t wait!

One thing to know about this place’s $0.50 and $0.10 boxes: The boxes are stacked on top of one another. There are no lids. Baseball, football and basketball are all mixed. Card protectors, sleeves and no protection all mixed. Piles of cards were stacked on top of the boxes, some piles scattered about. If I were 10 years old again, and this was my collection, I would have went bezerk! But, I’m 36 now and I can handle these situations with gusto. I did clean up the scattered piles and put the cards in nice, neat stacks, though.

So it became time to dig. What was I looking for?

1) Interest List cards, first and foremost.

2) Any rookie cards of good players that I don’t already have.

3) Interesting cards.

4) Cards to “upgrade” on: I have a pair of binders of PC cards that are valued at less than $1. If I found a card that was worth more than the one I already had in the binder, I got it if the price was right.

5) Cards for my new “single sell stash.” (This is a blog post for another time, but pretty much ones that I think I can flip)

I came away with 60 cards out of all of the boxes I went through. I took a lunch break: That’s how long it took me.

Here goes:

Interest List find

The card pictured above – 1988 Classic Red – is Hall of Famer Phil Niekro’s ONLY card printed of him as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. It was among the Top 20 cards in my search, and this came about 3/4 of the way through my time at the shop, in a dime box.

Persistence reaps rewards.

The card itself is a little beat up, but that’s okay. It was part of a three-card series within the set of Niekro’s stints with three teams in 1987: Indians, Blue Jays and his ONE comeback appearance with the Braves. Niekro’s final year was a disaster, and Classic cards didn’t hold back when printing on the back of the Blue Jays card: “INEFFECTIVE PHIL: Phil is traded to the pennant contending Torondo (sp) Blue Jays, but is ineffective and subsequently released.”

Imagine a baseball card today describing you as “ineffective.” Would you be butt-hurt?

Niekro was a whopping 48 years old when he pitched in 1987. He went 0-2 in three starts before being released. It wouldn’t be until 10 years later that a future Hall of Famer played on three teams in the same season, that being Mike Piazza with his time on the Dodgers, Marlins (1 week) and Mets. Niekro also was the first member of the Hall of Fame to have worn a Blue Jays uniform, but not the first Blue Jay to be a Hall of Famer – that honor goes to former manager Bobby Cox.

YES, you are looking at a basketball card in the middle. I RARELY buy non-baseball, but couldn’t pass up on the value, and the fact that I didn’t have a Stephon Marbury rookie card in my rarely-looked-at non-baseball box. Considering this was from 1996-97 Upper Deck, which became more of a premium set due to a Kobe Bryant rookie being in this set, I said what the heck.

Jackie Robinson had a tremendous impact on the game of baseball, and for the 50th anniversary of his debut, Ken Griffey Jr. wanted to do something interesting. He switched his “24” into a “42” (Robinson’s uniform number) at times during the 1997 season. This card, from 1998 Collector’s Choice, is the first card to have a “42” worn in tribute to Robinson. This led to a time down the road where “42s” would be worn during tribute games. FACT: This Griffey card means more to me than his popular 1996 Upper Deck game jersey card (the “one that started it all”).

Did you know Dale Murphy once was a Colorado Rockies player? I knew for years. This is a 1993 Upper Deck “Rockies” version, hence the gold stamping on the corner, of the late-series Murphy card. I bought this card in a sealed blister pack of the team set. The other cards were duds to me, but the Murphy card was special. I know a Dale Murphy fan, and thought I could sell it to him. Unfortunately, the centering is not well, and there’s no money to be made, so I’ll keep it to myself. BTW: Beckett prices this card at $6 for some reason, well above the $0.20 for the Andres Galarraga. Not sure why.

1999 Pacific Private Stock Vintage, Jeff Bagwell

Probably my most interesting dime box finds in years, this Bagwell is serialed to #99. It’s rare to find anything /100 in a dime box. It became my most expensive Bagwell card. The 76/99 is a little hard to see, but it’s at the bottom.


Three of them are rookies.

An upgrade is when I find a card worth more than the other I may have of that same year, or – in the case of the Steve Carlton Giants card – looks better.

The Yasiel Puig “RC” from 2012 Topps Update actually is a subset, but a parallel one that counts in my book. The most expensive rookie cards of Sandy Alomar Jr. and Marquis Grissom now are in my collection. The Steve Carlton, a 1986 Donruss Highlights, is one of three cards published of him in a Giants uniform, the other two are the 1987 Topps box panel and a 1987 Woolworth’s. The Paul Molitor, a 1998 UD Special Edition, is a slight upgrade in value from the one Twins card I have of him. The hologram is a 1991 Denny’s Dave Parker of him as a Brewers player.

More rookies

(Note: I have a real hard time taking pictures of cards with my cell phone camera, so I apologize for the glare)

Top row, from left:

• 1987 Donruss, Greg Maddux RC: This is just for the PC, as it’s a little beat up.

• 1977 Topps, Dennis Martinez RC: Retired as the winningest Latin American pitcher (Nicaragua) until surpassed by the ageless Bartolo Colon.

• 1982 Fleer, “Jorge” Bell RC: Better known as George.

• 1998 Bowman, Orlando Hernandez RC: This card has risen in value for some reason.

• 1995 Bowman, Bob Abreu RC: Two cards for $0.10 each. One of the cards that I had tried to search for as a young boy.

Bottom row, from left:

• 1997 Fleer, Mike Sweeney RC: I don’t have much 1997 Fleer anything, so here’s one.

• 1999 Topps, Matt Holliday RC: I don’t have much Holliday in my collection since he’s a 21st-century player, but here’s a start.

• 1981 Topps, Tim Raines RC: Not as prolific as his 1981 Topps Traded, but it’s nice to get a Hall of Fame RC for $0.10.

• 1992 Topps Gold, Brad Ausmus RC: He’s the one in the Yankees uniform.

• 1985 Fleer, Eric Davis RC: I stumbled upon several 1985 Orel Hershisers, Bret Saberhagens, Mark Langstons and Shawn Dunstons, but this is my first Eric Davis RC as I have the others.

Coming up next!

Another purchase from Rockford Coin and Stamp was an old 1983 baseball card price guide: “The Official Pete Rose 1983 Price Guide to Baseball Cards,” by The House of Collectibles, Inc.

Granted, this is not a Dr. James Beckett publication, but if people are pricing cards these days off of eBay auctions, then this works.

Rose, a Phillies player at this time, simply lent his name to the book and wrote the foreword.

How much were my vintage cards worth 40 years ago? Stay tuned!


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