Cards Are Always Fun

Years ago, I highlighted a trip to the local card shop* – well, my local for my trips to Nashville, Tennessee. I had stumbled across a blog post at Mark’s Ephemera, which led me to a small, densely cluttered shop called Cards-R-Fun. It was the kind of place that I could get lost in for hours. Recently, we took the kiddo and spent a week in Nashville (a Wednesday through Tuesday) visiting Uncle Bru and Aunt KB – my brother and his wife. It was a nice, relaxing trip – lots of family time, lots of cooking meals and hanging out. I was able to work remotely from there, so I didn’t even really use up vacation, either.
* In searching out this first visit post, I also found two posts about a subsequent visit I’d forgotten about.
On the Sunday morning we were there, I accompanied my brother to join in a pickup baseball game mostly made up of regulars from one of the bars in the area. The game is pretty relaxed – several of the guys are usually nursing themselves back to life following Saturday night, and there’s plenty of light beer being consumed (including some that guys take out to the field whilst manning their positions). It was my first time seeing live pitching that wasn’t softball in probably a decade or more. While the pitcher we were facing wasn’t fast, I was certainly fooled, but I’ll count my 2-for-5 day with 3 strikeouts, 2 singles, 2 RBIs and a run scored as a victory. In the end, my team dropped a one-run lead in the bottom of the 7th and lost 9-8. I had overshifted in center to try and take away any outfield pull hit from my brother, who bats lefty, and he wound up hitting a blooper just over the shortstop on a ball he didn’t square up. That allowed the tying run to score, and from there we just couldn’t put it away. Such is baseball, and such is life.
On Saturday morning, though, the ladies were kind enough to let the two of us – and by us I mean me, really, with my brother tagging along in half-interest, a bit of time to hit up Cards-R-Fun. Lil was napping, so we headed 15 mins south to make the most of it. After about two hours of digging, I had a nice little haul, and we called it a day.
Here’s the bulk of the day’s purchase – a full box of 1991 Swell Baseball Greats packs, and a stack of ~120 dime box cards, which the guy running the shop charged me 10 bucks for. The box of packs was another 10 bucks. I’ve been slowly working on the Pacific/Swell sets from 88-91, so grabbing this box was a no-brainer. I also mistakenly grabbed a three-pack hanger of Gypsy Queen at the end, mistakenly thinking that it was Allen & Ginter for some reason. Whoops. I should have grabbed a couple packs of Stadium Club instead.

A little further glimpse of the haul. Not all of it was for me, as evidenced by the little pile of Mother’s Cookies cards on the right. Hmmmmm, who could those be for?

My first order of business upon entering the shop was to do a cursory sweep for Astros-related oddball stuff. This is primarily because of how the store is laid out – at the very back are two short walls (the width of the shop) absolutely full of semi-sorted long boxes of dime box cards. The front two-thirds of the shop is just, well, cluttered with a vast array of things, from magazines to figurines, to old giveaway stuff, to souvenir cups, and on and on. After spotting a couple oversize items (more on that later), I saw a small box full of stickers. The nice part of having my brother along for the ride was being able to use his hands and eyes to get through it faster. Stickers were just a dime, so I told him “pull any Astros.” These two come from the 1988 Panini set. I like the logo behind Mike Scott and figured it was an All-Star sticker, only to later realize that is the logo for the 1987 All-Star game, which was hosted by Oakland.

It was pretty nice to stumble across this 1986 Topps Sticker of Nolan for just a dime. The Jose Cruz here on the left is also from the 1986 set.

Phil Garner and his shoulder full of bats are also from the 1986 set. But what’s this on the right? Perforations? That’s no sticker, but a Bob Knepper from the 1982 Fleer Stamps issue.

After quickly flipping through a few milk crates of magazines, my brother and I headed for the back wall of the shop – cardboard nirvana. The best part about flipping through boxes with my brother was his slow transition from semi-interested assistant to bantering about cards I needed, weird cards (to come) and more. He found these two from the 1981 Traded set, which I totally forgot was just issued with high numbers instead of the typical “T” numbering. I’m pretty sure that resulted in me missing out on a few needs, but oh well. I’d originally planned to check everything against my needs spreadsheet on my phone, but realizing that time was against us, I opted to just keep pulling and take whatever dupes I found. 

These minor league cards from 1994 were both nice finds – my brother found the Action Packed card of Hunter. The Kevin Gallaher was the final card I needed from the 1994 Classic team set – a great set in my opinion.

Hooo, boy – am I glad I found one of the only 3,000 copies of this Phil Nevin rookie for my collection. Sarcasm aside, it is neat to find a “Mail In Promo.” The typesetting here is pretty bad, though, and I’m sure Nick V. will agree – particularly when it comes to the comma in 3,000. The Derek Bell is actually a Gold parallel, but you never really know when it comes to Pacific.

I found a pile of 2000 Ultra in one box, which is a set where I didn’t have many Astros. Here’s a lovely pair of fan favorites, including a bubble-blowing Billy and a big-swinging Caminiti. What a lovely set.

Another team set where Astros were lacking: 2006 Allen & Ginter. I’m pretty sure that my brother found these two, and they were my first Astros from the set. 

I also managed to find a pair of Bowman Chrome needs from 2006 and 2007.  

Alright, the last of the dime-box ‘Stros for the dig (but far from the end of the post): David found this crazy Jeff Kent game card insert from an Upper Deck Diamond Collection All-Star Lineup – yes, that’s the full set name. The Verlander was my lone Astro pull from my accidental Gypsy Queen purchase.

Unlike my last visit to Cards-R-Fun, I didn’t grab too much vintage. However, I did manage to find a few nice pieces, including this 1976 Dave Concepcion All-Star and a 1977 Bert Blyleven showing him in a Rangers powder blue road uni. I wish ’77 didn’t have facsimile signatures, because otherwise it’s a set that’s really grown on me. 
I did manage to locate a big box of 1978 cards, and while I’m not working on the set I could have really done some damage. There were some serious contenders for random cards to add to the collection, including a couple dozen copies of that infamous Greg Minton card. I was rather happy to add a card of young Mario Mendoza – of the line! Also, when you find a card of a guy named Mike Champion, I think you’re obligated to buy it.

 I did pick up a handful of cards for TTM requests, of course. Grant Jackson has been on my short list – in fact, I was waiting on a trade package to come in that had another Jackson card in it, so this ’78 of him in the phenomenal Pirates warmup jacket is definitely going into that request. Quirk was actually an Astros coach for a hot minute in the 2000’s, serving as the bullpen coach from 2009-2011. I need to whip up a custom of him in uniform, but now I’ll also include this great card of him from the ’78 set as well.

I grabbed a few rookies in my digging as well. I mentioned how much I like that 1994 Classic minor league set, so when I saw this pre-rookie Chan Ho Park I made sure to add it to my stack. The Tim Raines Jr. is from 1999 Bowman Chrome, and will be going out in a request before too long as well.

Here’s a rookie card I definitely had to add when I came across it – Jesse Orosco! Just kidding, of course I picked this up because it’s Mike Scott’s rookie

There was some oddball fun found as well, including a box-set card of the elder Raines, and a 1981 Squirt card of Bill Buckner that’s in pretty good shape. I don’t have many of those yet.

While I’ve got big chunks of the 1988 and 1989 Pacific Legends sets, the 1990 set is fairly lacking in my quest to build them all. I came across two more needs – an absolutely wonderful looking Don Baylor, and a slugging Jesse Barfield – kind of an odd member of the checklist, when you look back at it.
Sometimes, there are cards you buy just for the sheer awesomeness – the 1996 Score Bip Roberts. The 1984 Fleer Glenn Hubbard, etc. Well, I didn’t find either of those, but I did stumble into some cards of similar coolness. I think someone in our blog-world (forgive me for not remembering) has a regular “segment” they run called “This Card Is Awesome” to highlight cards such as these. I thought about calling them WTF cards, for Wow, That’s Fantastic, or something similar. At any rate, here’s Mike Perez about to sign a card of himself signing the same card of himself signing the same card of himself on into the wormhole of infinity. Upper Deck actually did this same sort of thing on Gary Pettis’ 1989 card, where the front shows him holding a copy of the back of the card. Dustin Hermanson, meanwhile, is pretty dang excited about his impending sugar rush on this 2000 Ultra.
My favorite of these cards that I added, though, was one of my brother’s finds. “What the hell is this?” he exclaimed as he pulled out this 1997 Collector’s Choice card of Omar Vizquel from a stack. You don’t see too many cards of guys posing with trophies and a Porsche while wearing a decidedly dated 1990’s shirt, after all. This was definitely a quality add to the collection.

I love ’90s inserts. For a long time, I had one of the Darren Daulton cards from this ’94 Ultra set, and I’ve always liked it for some weird reason. So when I found this, I added it to the stacks as well. I started thinking about how the background text is probably the reason I like it so much, and then started thinking it might make a good custom project. So who knows, maybe I’ll get to that some day.

Here were my other two highlights from that Gypsy Queen pack – a Noah Syndergaard “Tarot of the Diamond” insert (which I’m building) and a Scherzer green parallel that I’ll keep.

We’re almost done, so thanks for hanging in there. I mentioned earlier in the post that there were some oversized items found earlier in the dig. Here’s a quick overview of what I found, before we get into the details. Everything here was found in half off sections, which made it even more enticing. The beaten up copy of Satchel Paige’s autobiography Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever was just a buck.

One of my favorite finds of the day was a 1982 Astros Yearbook. Unlike many teams, the Astros did not issue yearbooks that often. The ’82 yearbook has features of the entire opening day roster, some articles on the team history and memorable moments, and plenty of nice pictures, including a rare color Astros photos of coach Deacon Jones and then-prospect Scott Loucks. I was particularly excited about finding this, given that just a few months back I’d read Maxwell Kates’ guest post at the locally run Pecan Park Eagle blog detailing the yearbook. I paid half the sticker price and twice the cover price – six bucks. 

Early in the dig I rifled through a few small bins of oversized cards. I wound up finding the Toys “R” Us master photo box topper of Eric Anthony, and this Topps Super Chrome of Moises Alou from 1999. Both of these are the only Astros in their respective sets, so I got to cross off two more sets!

The big mystery, though, was this Jim Deshaies postcard. I’m not sure when it dates to, and the usually reliable TCDB listings had no help to offer me either. I know there was an HSE (Home Sports Entertainment) set issued in 1990, as I have one, but those are larger – closer to 6″ x 9″ if I recall correctly. This was a 4″ x 6″ issue, or something close to that. I don’t have it sitting in front of me to measure it right now. It was also the only one I found from the set, which I found a bit surprising. I figured I might luck into a few at once.

Now you may be thinking to yourself – ok, he’s gone over a yearbook magazine, mentioned the autobiography, and highlighted three oversized cards – what are those other two things in the photo?

Those, my friend, are small “Baseball Price Guides” from the early 90s – both date to February 1992, to be precise. They were the size of small novels, and provide a glimpse into the prospecting state of the hobby at the time. As the added stickers claim, each purports to hold 12 “cards” inside (almost, one holds 10 and the other 11). So why the heck did I pick them up?

Well, you see – they have Bagwell cards inside, of course! Hot of his Rookie of the Year campaign, Bagwell was a perfect choice for inclusion in these books. This one comes from the “Ballstreet Journal” (get it – Ballstreet / Wall Street?) pricing guide. As I mentioned, these little guides are a real glimpse into the prospecting of the day – the card back mentions Bagwell’s current cards and declares “his rookie card has continued to climb this year,” although it doesn’t mention which one. Other players featured in this book are David Justice, Kirby Puckett, Phil Plantier, Cecil Fielder, Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch, Bo Jackson, Mark McGwire, and Ryne Sandberg.

Here’s the offering from the other book – the Regional Baseball Index, or RBI. It’s got a more traditional card back. I do believe there are trimmed, normal card size versions of these out there. The rest of the RBI checklist for February 1992 is Frank Thomas, Rickey Henderson, Nolan Ryan, Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Phil Plantier (damn, 1991 must have been his year), Ron Gant, Kirby Puckett, Chuck Knoblauch, and Willie Mays. I had already paid when I spotted these, and David was getting ready to check out. They were marked at 5 bucks, so at half off they should have come to five for the pair. I had three dollars left in my pocket and asked the dealer if he’d take that, and after some slight hesitation he obliged. Score!
Alright, this has been a marathon post. But I can’t leave you without a quick look into the Swell box. As you can see from the sorting photo, the bulk of the box was concentrated in the last third of the checklist – cards 100 to 150 made up about half of the entire box. I probably would have stopped and saved a few packs to mail out if the distribution had looked better earlier in the box, but I kept coming up empty on needs, and I am trying to build the set. In the second photo, you can see the set needs face up, while the massive stack is all dupes. The two small stacks are some TTM fodder and a few PC keepers.

Here were two of the PC guys I dug out. Impel, who put out the set, used the same photo of Satchel for his card in the 50 card Line Drive set they issued that year. Spahn has a special little place in my collection, as I met him at a card show when I was young and got one of my first autographs from him.

Harvey and Harmon were two of the other PC keepers to come out of the box – both dupes in the box too, so I was able to fill set and PC “needs.” Haddix only has 130 cards listed at TCDB, and a good dozen or two of those are printing plates and super-rare cards. I’ve currently got 14 different Haddix cards, so I’m on my way!

I also nabbed extra copies of the two Astros in the set for the team binder. Again, the Cedeño photo is the same as the one used for him in the Line Drive set.

All told, it was another wonderful visit to Cards-R-Fun. Sure, I wish I’d had all day to dig through those boxes in the back, but there’s always next time, right? I had a blast digging with my brother, and he even enjoyed it. Plus, he also found this (probably bootleg) Grateful Dead hat that set him back a total of $3. He immediately texted a photo of it to two of his friends, who both clamored for it – a bit of a texting free-for-all, if you will.

Again, if you’re in Nashville and have some spare time, go hit up this shop!

Oh, and if you’re building (or want to start building) that Swell set, let me know – I can most certainly help.

0 Replies to “Cards Are Always Fun”

  1. Love the Swell sets and actually a couple of them a few years back.
    Lots of glorious oddballs in this post, but my favorite is the RBI Bagwell with hat on sideways. Although, that Caminiti from 2000 Ultra is pretty sweet… look at the follow through on his swing! Awesome!

  2. 1. Using punctuation like that in vertical text is some serious WTFness.
    2. Love the Harry Spilman. I need to figure out what to send him.
    3. A few of those 1978s were taken at Candlestick.
    4. Swell is such good repack material.

  3. It sounds like you might have been here on the weekend of the last card show… just a couple of miles away from the shop!

    Having been in that card shop many a time, I can back up every thing that you said about it… and then some.

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