Thrift Treasures 112: I found a treasure chest!

Once upon a time, a Yahoo Sports columnist wrote that I, Ben Aguirre, must consider myself a “real, live Indiana Jones” (read here) after I unearthed the mother of all Thrift Treasures items, a game-used Earl Weaver jersey, that I later had signed and authenticated by Weaver himself.

Well, what should I consider myself today after finding a real, live “treasure chest?”

The answer: perhaps nothing more than a fool.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a Thrift Treasures posts. In fact, it’s been 11 months. Which if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you’d know that’s an asinine amount of time for me, an avid thrift shopper, to write about something I’ve found.

Well, truth be told it’s been slim pickings for a while. Anyone with a cell phone — which is to say that everyone who walks into a thrift store — is an expert, or can at least quickly learn enough to know whether or not to buy an item.  Also, while I still pop into thrift stores, it’s definitely been with less frequency.

I digress, this week I decided to set aside some “Me” time and do something other than laundry, or other adult chores such as run errands and pay bills. I decided to be Indiana Jones — I decided to go hunt treasure.

I walked into a few stores and walked out empty handed. But at one Goodwill in San Jose, Calif., I found something promising: A Baseball Collector’s Treasure Chest. See, it says “treasure” right on the box.

The box, as you might be able to see in the picture, is taped shut.  And while some would say rip the box open and review the contents before purchasing, I found that to lack class — yeah, I used class while writing about a thrift store visit. Also, there was nearby evidence suggesting there may be something worthwhile inside. Beside, it was $5.99 for this big box of cards, or about the same price of three retail packs of 2018 Topps Baseball — which I know releases next week and I will be sure to steer away from as much as possible so as to not get sucked into that rabbit hole.

So, what is this nearby evidence of which I speak? It’s actually a clear, gallon-sized food storage bag also containing cards, including what i could see to be a handful of mid 1980s autographed minor league cards, as well as a personalized signed 1985 Topps Tim Belcher rookie card. The bag was priced at $3.99. The presence of these autographs created this notion in my mind that there could be anything in side the box.

And so the “Treasure Chest” left the store with me and in the car I sliced open the tape and I could immediately see three things:

First, there was a 1968 Topps card included here. That was promising.

Secondly, the cards did not appear to be recently sorted since they were packed fairly tight and in a uniform fashion. That’s also promising.

Thirdly, there’s an awful lot of colored borders here. That’s NOT so promising.

As it turned out, this treasure chest was a real turd.

I immediately grabbed the 1968 Topps card (Jim Merritt, a common) that was sitting on the side of the row and found that there was a 1979 Topps card (Ken Clay, also a common) behind it, as well as a 1990 Topps Special Nolan Ryan card as well. I then thumbed through every card in the box and found that the box contained an assortment of 1986 through 1991, what seemed like opened packs or bricks removed from complete sets, or partial team sets, void of most of the big names. The one highlight from the box was a 1988 Topps Tom Glavine rookie card.

I sat there a second and thought about what exactly this “Treasure Chest” was.  I’d never seen these for sale before, but it was not uncommon in the early 1990s to find random baseball cards for sale either on television shopping channels, or in various magazines. And based on the items that were IN this box, I’m guessing this was a “Treasure chest” offered for sale via one of those avenues, and the description likely pitched this box as containing roughly 1,000 cards, a random assortment from multiple manufactures including Topps, Donruss, Score, Fleer and Upper Deck. Additionally there was likely a guarantee that the box included a card from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a card of Nolan Ryan, who was at the peak of collectibility in 1990 and 1991.

Needless to say, the Treasure Chest was a dud. But thanks to the box I learned about pitcher Jim Merritt, the subject of the 1968 Topps card. He was an all star in 1970 with the Reds, who three years later would be fined as a member of the Texas Rangers for throwing “spitters” in a three-hit shutout against the Cleveland Indians.

And I learned about pitcher Ken Clay, the subject of my 1979 Topps card. Clay apparently was a top pitching prospect who never made it at the MLB level, and was traded by the Yankees after a handful of seasons in which he bombed, but his team still managed to win a pair of World Series rings. Wikipedia also notes that Clay’s struggles at the MLB level was the reason why Yankees owner George Steinbrenner shifted away from building through the draft and rather through free agency and trades.  Additionally, Clay also apparently had some run-ins with the law, all of which you can read on the link added above.

As for the Ziplock bag that I labeled as evidence for this purchase earlier, I’ll break that down in the next edition of Thrift Treasures coming up later. I assure you it’s better than this.

Total cost of this Thrift Treasure: $5.99.

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.

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