Starting in 1972 I devised a card collecting strategy to insure completing sets. I would purchase wax packs for the first two series. After saving my allowance and bottle collection money, I would purchase the later series through mail order. Many of you may remember that hobby companies sold cards by series. I continued this practice in 1973 before deciding to give up over-the-counter collecting and order complete sets starting in 1974. (By which time Topps was putting out every card in a single series.)
Completing the 1973 set came down to finding #154: Jeff Torborg. He was on the Angels that year having come over from the Dodgers in 1971. Torborg is best known for having caught three no hitters including Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965 and Nolen Ryan’s first. He would later go on to manage the Indians, White Sox and Mets. Living in the small town of Selah, Washington limited my access to hobby shops that might carry singles. I’m not sure I knew that “Sports Collectors Digest” existed, where I may have found a “singles” source. Thus, continuing to buy packs was my only recourse.
The Selah Variety Store was a classic small town five-and-dime that served as the town’s sole source for baseball cards. This was an era when kids could ride their bikes or walk for miles around town without anyone being concerned for their safety. One spring Saturday I jumped on my bike and headed off in quest of Jeff Torborg.
Using the dollar my grandpa gave me every Saturday, I purchased nine packs at $0.10 each. I left the store and opened my packs next to the bike stand. Once again I was disappointed as no Jeff Torborg emerged. As I started to leave, a younger kid came out of the store with one pack of cards which he proceeded to open. Although I was a very shy kid, my need for Jeff Torborg overwhelmed my usual reticence. I approached him and ask him if I could see who he got. Sure enough, there was Torborg! Without hesitation, I snatched the card from his hand and gave him my nine packs. I jumped on my bike and rode off before he could register an objection.
The kid probably ended up with some great cards since first two series of the 1973 set contains such Hall-of-Fame players as Clemente, Aaron, Palmer and Frank Robinson. Perhaps the nine extra packs triggered a lifelong passion for collecting. More likely he followed the path of most “normal” people and gave up card collecting as he grew older. Hopefully, he hasn’t held a grudge all these years over losing Jeff Torborg to a chubby, weird kid on a purple stingray bike.
6 thoughts on “The Final Card”
LOL I remember looking through rack packs in my single-card searches since at least you could see 5 of the cards in the pack before you handed over your money.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I remember with some of the cello packs from the 1980’s you could see the card on the front or back and have a good idea which cards were inside.
Great story, thanks for sharing.
This is seriously one of the best card collecting stories I’ve ever heard.
I neglected to mention in the post that the ’73 set contained 660 cards distributed in 5 series. Also I went though some old sports magazines from 1973 and found 3 mail order companies that sold complete sets and individual series. I bought from Larry Fritsch-the venerable Wisconsin dealer-who sold the cards for $13.00 per set or $2.45 per series. He charged $1.25 for postage. The ATC company of NY sold the set for $13.50 and series for $2:50 plus 60 cents for postage. Wholesale Card Co. of CT charged $14.95 and $2.95 for series plus 95 cents postage. Incidently, a blog called Net54baseball.com had posts from people who remember all 5 series being distributed in packs from the beginning. Others remember the cards coming out in series which was the case for me. Does anyone know if Topps experiemented with whole set distribution in selected areas? Was this a trial run for “74? By the way the mail order ads mentioned singles for sale. I could have purchased Jeff Torborg instead of resorting to larceny.
• Series 1 – cards #1-132
• Series 2 – cards #133-264
• Series 3 – cards #265-396
• Series 4 – cards #397-528
• Series 5 – cards #529-660
I seem to remember Topps experimenting with producing cards all in one series in selected areas in 73 (it may have been late 73), but don’t remember which areas.