The vast majority of my collection consists of either (a) complete sets, or (b) sets I am working on. I completed 1968 through 1971 in the 1980s, and in the past 30 years I have managed to push it all the way back to … 1964.
I do not work on one set a time — I work (slowly and randomly) on a bunch of things, which gives me more flexibility when I see an affordable lot. I might go months without buying anything, and then see some 1954 Topps commons that look great. I have no timetable. I would be content not finishing another set. We shall see.
Here is where I stand at the moment on my 1952-63 Topps sets.
I have 23 1952 cards, and I have 543 1963 cards.
Logically, 1963 seems like the next set that I should finish — look how close I am! But it’s just not gonna happen.
One of the cards I need is #537.
I have nothing against Pete Rose. Or, for that matter, Ken McMullen, Al Weis, and Pedro Gonzalez. Heck, I liked Pete Rose as a player, and I wish we had a player like him around today. He gambled a bit? Zzzzz.
But I consider this a rather ordinary card, perhaps even a bit ugly. I like the 1963 base design quite a bit, but I gotta be blunt here: the rookies and leaders subsets, both of which employ the “floating heads” technique, are pretty lame. (Do people disagree? Anyone?)
If I am patient enough, and compromise a bit on condition, I might be able to find this card for $500. We all have our budgets, but I just can’t see myself spending $500 for this. Its probably worth $5-10 to me as a card, and perhaps as much as $50 as a “I must complete this set!” card.
But if I have $500 laying around (spoiler: I really don’t), I could instead buy all of these 1955 cards (also “needed”) in the same condition.
Oh, and I’d have about $250 left over. Not really a difficult call for me.
I first heard of the concept of the “rookie card” almost 40 years ago, when a dealer explained to me why some of his cards seemed to be oddly priced. I thought, and still think, the whole thing is contrived. There was no increased demand for a Rose rookie card until dealers jacked the price up.
Dealers: “This card is scarce and desirable.”
Collectors: “OK, I must buy this card.”
Dealers: “Cool, its now actually a bit scarce.”
Its a not a card anyone would otherwise care about.
But even if there is additional demand for the first Pete Rose card, wouldn’t this be a better choice? For my money, this is actually Pete Rose’s first real card. Isn’t this, objectively, 10 times the card of the 1963 … thing? This is one heck of nice card, to be honest. And it is less than 20% of the price.
I like the multi-person rookie cards that came along later in the decade. They are a fun subset, like the World Series cards or the league leaders cards. But the “demand” for them is way overblown and makes set collecting unnecessarily expensive.
The Nolan Ryan rookie card is a cute little addition to the 1968 set. But the Bob Gibson (the best player in baseball at the time) is absolute magic.