Thrift Treasures Part XX: “You’ve got 27 outs to win.”

The smell was putrid. If you’ve ever been around someone who works outside all day and doesn’t wear deodorant, you probably know the odor for which I am speaking. That was the particular scent emanating from within an antique store I stopped at Monday to see if they had any baseball cards. I’d been there before and had good luck. Back in 2003 I saw for sale a complete 1986 Fleer Update set — the one with a Barry Bonds rookie — but was not willing to fork over the requested $29.99. (Still a morale victory for even finding cards.) And just two years later I found a stack of a dozen 1952 Topps cards that cost only a buck a piece. It should be noted that all 12 (including a pair of Red Sox) of the cards were in horrible shape, but they were authentic 1952s, how could I pass on them? So when I went back on Monday, I figured there was a chance there could be something, and boy was I right.

As I walked past the first showcase, I saw two stacks of vintage cards bound with rubber bands. I could tell they were from the 1960s (none of them were oversized) and they appeared to be decent condition.

As I thumbed through them I uncovered what I thought to be a Tony Oliva rookie and figured my trip had been worth it. But just a few cards later I uncovered a 1964 Topps Casey Stengel card that appeared to be signed. Fearing that the shop owner would notice the card was signed and charge me more, I left it in the stack as I quickly shuffled through the rest.

In all there were about 125 cards, more than half of which were Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox cards, not exactly two teams with a ton of talent in the mid 1960s. There were no Harmon  Killebrew or Nellie Fox cards

Knowing that the Casey Stengel card had to be mine, I figured I had to find a few other cards to mask the greatness of the inked one, and to make the purchase worthwhile for the curmudgeon working the counter. This is the kind of place that is not interested in my $2 transaction if I’ve got to use a credit card.

I gathered 10 cards for purchase and headed to the counter when the man told me that I needed to spend $5 more if I was going to leave with the cards. Frustrated, I headed back to the stacks to look for five more cards, half contemplating just leaving the store without the Stengel. I asked the man if he had any more cards; he said he did.

In a drawer under the register he pulled two small stacks also bound by rubber bands. He said these were $5 each, which made me grumble when the first card I saw was  a 1989 Pro Set Deion Sanders rookie. But I saw a 1962 Topps Stan Musial card and a 1968 Topps AL HR Leaders card (w/ Carl Yastrzemski) and figured that one of these two would be worth the bounty he asked. I chose the Musial because it was more appealing. I ended up with these for $15:

1963 and 1964 Topps high numbers

1968 Topps NL HR Leaders w/ Hank Aaron (badly miscut); back has names circled.

1964 Topps Tony Oliva, which I mistook for his rookie. Oliva's expression says it all.

1969 Topps Frank Tarkenton

1970 Topps Gale Sayers

1962 Topps Stan Musial (In Action)

1964 Topps Casey Stengel, autographed

As I said earlier, when I saw the Stengel, I knew it had to be mine, but I was really unaware of how much his signatures go for. If someone would have offered this card to me for $15, I would have balked. And I would have had egg on my face. Stengel signature’s aren’t rare, but they are not exactly common place. Stengel, known for several quotes including the one in the title of this blog, died in 1975 so it’s not like he’s been sitting at home all these years signing baseball cards. And best I can tell, this signature matches all of the ones that are being offered for sale on eBay with prices of more than $100 each. This card, which I assume is real and will keep in my collection, is a treasure in its own right. I mean this is the guy who led the Yankees to SEVEN WORLD SERIES TITLES from 1949 through 1958. Are you kidding me?

5 Responses to “Thrift Treasures Part XX: “You’ve got 27 outs to win.””

  1. Great score. I love stories like this. You never know what you’ll find in an antique shop.

  2. Nice cards. Iv gotten some nice cards from antique shops, including my 53′ Statchel Paige. I enjoy buying vintage cards alot more than rippin packs, just think of what you would of got for 15 bucks in packs. I think ill check my local antique shop this week now, hopefully i found something nice. Last time i went i bought a 8×10 Auto of Carl Erkstine for 10 or 15 bucks.

  3. Holy hell! Nice going dude!

    There’s only 1 antique store near me that sells cards. I don’t bother though, especially since they price their cards like it was still the ’90s. They want $75 for the ’82 Cal rookie.

  4. Amazing pickup! I never would have thought to check an antique store for baseball cards.

  5. Christian Says:

    I don’t blame you for mistaking that as Oliva’s rookie, because his card situation was a bit of a mess to start out with. I had his actual rookie from the 1963 set for a while because I was collecting one of the 3 other guys on it, and when I decided to collect all 4 of them I couldn’t find any cards of someone named ‘Pedro’ Oliva. Apparently he used his younger brother’s name because the Twins thought he was too old, and I’ve always wondered whether he was the first Latin player to ever lie about his age since it’s been pretty notoriously common in recent times.

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