Last weekend was the big semi-annual card show here in Houston, put together by TriStar. While I love the monthly hotel shows, there’s something about the “big one” that takes over the NRG Arena hall twice a year. Because of its profile, it draws in many out-of-town and out-of-state dealers, which of course increases the odds of finding something new and neat. So, having secured myself a few hours to peruse the wares, I headed out last Sunday with a few goals in mind.
- Try to finish my ’74 set. I needed seven cards, including Winfield.
- Target my early ’70s Astros needs from the Topps sets.
- Pick up any Bill Brubaker stuff I see, within cost considerations.
- Add some ’57s to my eternal set build.
- Keep an eye out for vintage NPB stuff.
- Pick up a 1953 Bowman Color #142 – Larry Miggins.
- Add some signatures to the Astro-graphs collection.
- Meet Tony Kemp.
Let’s take a look at how I did, shall we? I’ve tried to keep this about as close to the order of the day as possible.
My default plan for this show is to take a quick tour of the floor, then circle back to what was interesting. I tend to not stop at the first couple tables, as they’re often littered with pricey vintage and will take a direct hit to my budget for the day. But, I figured that cheap ’57s were on my list, and there was a beater box of $1-$2 50’s cards, so I delayed. I quickly found a few to take home, so I kept looking through the cheap boxes and found more! These two Pirates were big highlights – a ’57 of the recently passed Bob Friend for just a buck, and a two dollar Bill Virdon from the 1960 Leaf set, my first example of those.
When digging through these cheap boxes of older cards, I always try to keep TTM targets in mind. Grabbing these two HOFers for three bucks in total makes it pretty easy to pony up their modest signing fees (Niekro is $20 and Palmer $10), so they’ll be headed out before long.
Any .45s that I can pick up at a low price are no-brainers, so these two Spanglers were well worth the two bucks. I needed the Post, while the Fleer is for a soon-to-be-written TTM request. I need to get him on my 1962 team photo custom, and I should probably go ahead and whip up one of my brucards customs for him as well.
These two ’54s were each a buck. I’ve had another Crandall sitting in my “to write” file forever now, along with an 8×10. Stanky is long passed, but I couldn’t pass up a card of a guy who is the reason behind a rule forbidding fielders from attempting to distract the batter.
The Spinks here is a pesky high-number from the ’71 set, and nabbing it for a dollar was incredibly surprising. The Larsen was two bucks, and while I could try and hunt down another that’s not off-center, I figured I’d just rope it into the fray.
The best part about this table, though? Well, in these cheap boxes I managed to find my big fish.
Yep, I reeled in that Winfield! I found a pretty darn nice copy for just ten bucks, as well. The Gibson was also from that table – an easy $1 pickup of a card that I may or may not already have. I managed to finish off the ’74 set with another pair of stops throughout the day – one for the checklist, and another that brought me all four of my missing “Washington Nat’l Lea.” versions. At least, I think I’ve finished it off now. For some reason, TCDB seems to think I’m still missing the Bucky Dent, but I’m positive I have that around here somewhere. I know the last dozen or so cards need to be filed in the binder, so I’ll have to do an official check soon. I hope this isn’t one of those “almost but not quite” situations.
I took a quick dive into an Astros section of someone’s hits/parallels box a table or two later, and found mostly overinflated prices that weren’t to my liking. However, I couldn’t pass up these two Gold Signature parallels from 1995 Collector’s Choice – they don’t turn up too often. They also turned out to be the newest cards I purchest on the day, save for some signed Astros later on.
I rifled through that section pretty quickly, but turned up another rarity: a Fritsch One-Year Winners card of John Hoffman. Now if I could only track down that Pat House!
After that, I heated up my search and sped past most of the tables, turning my nose up in disinterest at cases of modern hitzzz, graded vintage, and non-baseball stuff. I made a quick pit stop at the hobby supply guys, picking up some sleeves, oversized toploaders, and team bags, with a mental note to go back for pages at the end of my day.* I turned the corner and at the next table I spotted a spread of still-sealed 1979 Burger King cello packs. I scooped up a handful and thumbed through this dealer’s extremely messy table, before putting a couple back for budgetary reasons. That’s my largest regret on the day, as I could have bought 10 or so more, finished the set, and had some trade bait.
* Whoops, totally forgot those.
But, amidst that dealer’s disarray I’d spotted a few signed cards I wanted to pick up. The Five Star of Tyler White is absurdly thick, and I couldn’t pass up an autographed ’81 Fleer of Scoop, seeing as how it can join my other signed ’81s. Now if I write him I can get a proper Pirates card signed – perhaps a ’73 Topps.
WHAT?!? I bought a football card? Well, when you can pick up a signed 1985 Topps Eric Dickerson card of uncertain provenance for a scant three dollars, you grab it. Hello, signed card of one of the most powerful running backs in football history. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a Texan, either.
This was the other card that I absolutely couldn’t leave on the table. How can you not love this?!? I nabbed it without hesitation and tucked it amongst my winnings, only later realizing that this would temporarily fill his spot in my Astro-graphs collection. Apparently you could order your own cards right from Jim for a while
. I’m gonna have to recreate this template. I should make one of Bouton and send it to him, that’d be a hoot.
Nestled in the back corner of the show, amidst dealers peddling football and basketball cards and all those delightful dime boxes I normally dig through, I spotted a table with a 5000 count box of vintage at the low price of fifty cents a pop. I spent my next ten minutes flipping through and came away with a nice pile of cards, including this pair of Pirates.
I caught a pair of Mudcats in there as well. These were in pretty sharp condition for fifty cent cards.
These two semi-high numbers (400s) from ’66 came from an adjacent dollar box. I might not have found much for my early 70’s needs, but if you’re keeping score that’s four 60’s cards for my team collection already.
This Craft makes it five, and was also in the fifty cent box. Gotta love that Boog Powell as well, I couldn’t leave him behind.
I found a couple of blogger favorites, as well. The Veal is one that I’m planning to send off to get signed.
Lastly, another pair of Pirates from the ’60 set – a good year to find, if I may say so. Here’s Ducky Schofield Sr.
And finally the Baron of the Bullpen, Roy Face! Hoo-wee, this one may just have to get inked.
I worked my way around the side of the show, heading back to the front. That’s when I found a dealer with a very reasonably priced oddball binder.
My first grab was this pair of ’67 Posters at two bucks a pop. I could have added a few more to my collection, but I decided to target some of the Astros finds in here instead.
And that’s because I found Hostess panels! For two bucks a piece!
Not just one, and not just two…
Boom! Three Hostess panels! The dealer also had several of the old team-issued black & white photos that were used for signings and fan packs. I added one more to round this out to an even ten bucks, because I just couldn’t leave this behind.
I mean, honestly – who could possibly leave this ridiculous Joe Niekro in some random dealer’s binder? He had to come home with me.
It was time to go meet Tony. The sigining prices at these shows have gotten to be a bit much for my liking, but I really, really like Tony and his was still an empty space in my Astro-graph binder. Naturally, I took some of my 2018 Starchives customs, making a few extras for him to keep. He thought they were really cool and graciously offered to sign an extra card for me. The highlight card here is actually one of my accidental minis.
It was about time to head home, so I circled back to the dealer where I’d picked up the ’74 Washington cards. I forget his name, but he always has tons of oddball Astros stuff, including non-card items, and there were a few things in his case calling my name. I ended up passing on the Houston stuff in favor of something else which had caught my eye earlier, however.
He had a pair of 1963 Marusho Flag Back menko, and for five bucks a pop I didn’t want to pass them up. They were the only NPB cards I saw all day.
I was about to leave when I realized that between heading to the hobby supply table and over to the signing for Tony, I’d whizzed through some 20-30 tables and merely glanced at them. I made one last quick loop through to see if there was anything else of interest. I didn’t see much worth making my day longer, except for one booth.
This dealer was a woman (Wendy, I think?) and was wearing a rainbow-stripe Astros jacket. Her tables were bedecked with Astros memorabilia and signed items, and there upon one table sat three binders that were emanating an angelic glow as a chorus of angels sung. I swear this happened.
So, working as quick as I could, I rifled through the trio, each stuffed to the gills with in-person autographs from assorted Astros, plucking any number of guys whom I was missing. The Bourgeois is one that I’ve wanted to get signed for a while, so it was an easy choice. The Chen left me flabbergasted – I was certain I’d checked and seen that he never had a Houston card, but lo and behold 2003 Upper Deck 40 Man saved the day.
In the end I worked up a hefty pile, just over 30 cards. I expected a little haggling, and to put a few back, but Wendy cut me a deal I couldn’t refuse – a dollar a pop. Here’s a pair of Astros that also played college ball here in Houston.
This J.D. Martinez was the only one that cost me more than a buck (I did wind up putting back a Beltran and a ’63 J.C. Hartman – my other regrets from the day), at a cool five bones. I suppose that’s not a bad price to pay for one of the best power hitters in the game at the moment. I put my stack in my bag and hurried home – I’d already overstayed my budgeted time by about half an hour and didn’t want to upset my lovely wife.
Phew! What a show! So let’s look back at the goals:
- Finish ’74: Check! At least, I think so. Fingers crossed.
- Early ’70s Astros Topps needs: only found the ’71 Spinks, but I did find 60’s cards.
- Bill Brubaker: I checked all the vintage dealers for a ’39 Play Ball, but no luck.
- Add some ’57s: Just the Bob Friend. Could have done more here.
- Vintage NPB: found two more menkos!
- 1953 Bowman Color #142 – Larry Miggins: I found two, and should have bought the first one from Roger, but balked. The other was way overpriced.
- Astro-graphs signatures: Oh hell yes. I added 19 new guys to the collection, replaced 7 certified sigs in the binder (moving those cards to my Houston certified autos & relics box), upgraded 2 from non-Astros (Chen & Humber), and added one non-Astro placeholder (Bouton).
- Meet Tony Kemp: Mission accomplished!
I spent a few hours there, but overall I worked the show pretty quickly – particularly the back two-thirds of it. So, I was caught off guard when I got home and was looking back through my purchases only to find one more autograph I’d missed. Remember that ’60 Wally Moon card of our beloved unibrow-sporting fellow Aggie? When I went to scan it, I noticed some writing on the back.
Great, I thought – I probably could have got an unmarked one from the same box if I’d just paid attention. Then I looked a bit closer – that’s not just writing, that’s an autograph! But who in the heck could that be? It’s certainly not Moon – uh, is that Dick Van Dyke?!?
I took my suspicions to Google, and yep! I accidentally came home with a Dick Van Dyke autograph. What a weird finish to a superb day.