This was not your typical Thursday in California.
The San Francisco Bay Area was facing its “worst storm in five years,” which received a ton of hype and of course failed to live up to the billing. It was windy, the rain was continuous and streets were flooding. But it’s not like homes were being ripped from their foundations or anything. Anywho, that is not what made this particular Thursday atypical.
I work a rotating shift work schedule which allows me to be off on some weekdays, and a day before this fateful Thursday my wife send me text messages about some estate sale that starts on a Thursday. She saw some pictures posted in the online advertisement, including stuff she is interested in, and then stuff she knew I would be into.
The cards I could see in picture didn’t intrigue me much. What I wanted was the sign.
So I took my daughter to school and my 4-year-old son and I ventured through the storm and arrived about 15 minutes before the doors were supposed to open. Due to the weather, they just started letting people in whenever they arrived. By the time we walked in there were a dozen buyers in the house, including a group looking at the aforementioned magazines.
I heard the host of the sale throw out a price point of $15 a magazine, and then the small group dispersed as they laughed at the high price. I knew at that moment that this thrift adventure was not going to end well …. or would it.
Immediately after hearing those words I located the Pabst sign on the wall. Unfortunately it had a $145 price tag on it. No way I was down to pay that much. I then thumbed through the loose cards and two binders of cards nearby and asked how much. I immediately saw a decent shape 1971 Topps Steve Garvey rookie, so I figured I would pounce if the price was right. Then I got the dreaded, “Well, it depends. Some of those cards aren’t supposed to be in there. Like that Garvey rookie.” The host then removes it from the binder. Yeah, no thanks, Pal.
So I take my son through the house hoping to salvage the trip with a little trinket for the boy. This was to no avail. Nothing remotely even kid friendly there … except for the cards of course.
Before we leave the house I take one more look at the card area and decide to blindly ask how much his boxed sets were. I could see one was a 1987 Topps factory set, a 1989 Score factory set, and then two factory Donruss sets, which I just automatically assumed were 1988 and 1989. The host said $25 each. I looked closer at the Donruss sets and saw that one said “’84” and another said “85.” I opened the lids, expecting to see a box of commons but was floored when I saw stacks of sealed bricks of cards — the way Donruss packaged their sets during the mid 1980s. The 1984 set was a no-brainer if it was complete given that Don Mattingly’s best rookie card is a part of the set. The 1985 one was too, but I had my doubts that they were complete, especially when I asked the seller if they were complete and his response was “Yes … well, I think so. That is how they were sold to us.”
I looked through the stacks and the numbering seemed to indicate that the Mattingly rookie should be there. But I had never physically held a mid 1980s Donruss factory set. The puzzle pieces held together with rubber bands increased my doubt. I started to wonder if some savvy collector had removed the brick of cards that contained the Mattingly. The seller said I could have the two Donruss sets for $40 if I wanted them. Part of me wanted to pull two $20 bills from my wallet and hand it to the seller and run, but I started to get that feeling of “this is too good to be true.” I felt that I could stomach a $20 gamble a whole lot better than $40. So I talked the seller into unloading one set (1984) to me for $20. Done deal.
I tucked the box under my arm, grabbed by son and trounced through puddles to get back to the car. Once I buckled my son in I opened the box and located the brick that should have had the Mattingly. And sure enough, there it was … super sharp.
At that moment I had thoughts of running back in to get the 1985 set as well, but by this point dozens of other cars had just pulled up to the neighborhood and people were running into the estate sale. Remember it was raining, and this was the first day of an estate sale.
I located the three key rookie cards to this set, the Mattingly, the Darryl Strawberry and Joe Carter Rated Rookie.
The Mattingly is sharp, but centering might be a slight bit off. The Strawberry and Carter, however, look to be dead center. Fantastic copies for grading purposes.
The sealed set was a bargain at $20. These sets usually go for upward of $100 on eBay as they are broken by people looking to grade the contents. I will say this though, I got really lucky with the quality of the key cards. Factory sets typically offer the best condition cards, but as you can see here, some cards were badly off center. Thankfully they were not the ones I treasured the most.
Total cost of this treasure: $20.
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