Fork in the Road – Take It?

For the last two years or so, I’ve been on a tear, buying cards, completing sets, having a ball. Usually the road to set completion has taken two forms – 1) I had enough of a critical mass of cards that a push to the finish made sense, in number and in dollars, and 2) I had a good amount of the high priced cards that, even if I needed a lot of cards to get to the end, the cost was right. Add to this a healthy amount of eBay (and other) selling of doubles, triples, crap I don’t even want, and I was (and am) happy. I still can’t believe some of the sets I’ve gotten done.

I see the horizon though. I’m working on five sets right now – 1933 Tattoo Orbit, 1936 Goudey Wide Pens Type 1, 1956 Topps, 1969 Topps Decals and 1972 Fleer Famous Feats. The Tattoo Orbit is a pipe dream; I don’t know that I’ll ever finish. The rest are within my grasp. So what to do when I close the books on these? I don’t want to lose the enthusiasm and fun I’ve been having.

1972 Fleer #1044

I’m torn though. I really don’t know what to do. Part of me says I should start buying complete Topps sets I don’t have and sell the Hall of Famers, stars and commons that I do have for those years to offset the price. That might work for me, but it would also be less fun. A full set, in one swoop? Appealing, in a way.

Or, maybe, I approach it scattershot, picking up cards here and there, some cheap lots, small sets, type cards. The ideal me is cool with that – buy what grabs you. The real me has a hard time with goalless purchasing of random cards. I’m too focused to be comfortable with that.

I’ve always liked non-sports cards too and have some good old sets. Try those? No way I’d put a set like that together from scratch. I imagine it would be impossible to find individual Mod Squad cards at a pace that worked for me. A complete set would be the way to go.

no9 Mod Squad

Or the other sports? There are sets I could definitely fill in, but I don’t like most older football sets, the older basketball sets are out of reach, and hockey, well, I could find a set that didn’t have some super-pricey early Bobby Orr card.

So, I ask all of you for advice. What is this committee, and this blog, if not an open Group Therapy session for the cardboard addicted?

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

16 thoughts on “Fork in the Road – Take It?”

  1. The high price of the 7th series cards in the ’67 set has changed my perspective on completing vintage sets card-by-card. I am placing that set on the back burner, unless I encounter real bargains (not likely). I’m shifting focus to smaller doable projects like the ’72 posters and ’64 “Giants.” Purchasing whole set may be the way to go, particularly if you can offset the cost by selling individual cards. Completing small oddball sets is a very fun way to feed the addiction. By the way, I have some famous facts and don’t plan to complete the set. Send me a want list.
    Very disappointed you didn’t select a Peggy Lipton card from the “Mod Squad” set. Officer Julie Barnes was an adolescents dream!

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      1. This is really not the place for adolescent fantasies, especially discussions about Julie’s pink rodeo outfit in the episode “Fear is the Bucking Horse”. This kind of discussion is totally inappropriate.

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  2. Between our chat on Twitter about evolving projects rather than starting new ones and further developments in my existing projects I’m now contemplating writing a new blogpost rather than leaving things in the comments.

    Until then, as someone who uses his projects to keep the “buy what grabs you” impulse in check, it sounds like you need some sort of sustaining project which is uncompletable. Yes it’s nice to be able to draw a line under a project. But it’s been a lot of fun to have something which, because there are always more cards available, can evolve as I aproach various milestones.

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    1. The Tattoo Orbit set is under that “sustaining, but uncompletable” category. Kind of. It’s only uncompletable based on price of some HOFers. A giant umbrella in that same vein is to get every Topps set. I’ve made some headway recently, but still need enough to make that a long term pursuit.

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  3. Although I was much more into baseball cards, in my youth I also for a time collected football cards (back in the 1960s by the time football season used to roll around, you pretty much knew that you weren’t going to get many new baseball cards as, unlike today, I don’t believe that they were continuously issuing new cards and you had to throw your allowance away on something else.) I do have a certain fondness for football cards because one year it was the only time I ever collected a complete set of cards of any type and I did it during the playing season. Of course, if I recall correctly, the football card sets were much smaller than the baseball ones. They also didn’t seem to take much care with the cards as when I went back and looked at my cards as an adult, I noticed that they used the same team pictures year after year which resulted in their including not only players who had long since been traded but even some who had died.
    Also, the only card I ever had autographed is one of Johnny Unitas. It’s the one that appears in the Boyd and Harris “Great American Baseball Card Book” (I think it’s the only non-baseball card included in it and it’s the one where Johnny looks kind of whacked out.)
    A question: when years later I had Johnny autograph it, he wondered if I wasn’t decreasing its value by his doing so. I wonder if there is any general opinion as to whether getting a card autographed has any effect on its value.

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  4. I agree with Tim. Maybe chase some of the Topps inserts posters etc. Don’t know how you feel about the Early 60’s Fleer sets the two all time greats sets and the 63 set. Maybe the 59Fleer Teddy set. 1960Leaf.

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  5. Have you considered building a different kind of set? Whether it be team sets, gold glove or AS winners, WS champs, best mustaches or crew cuts, Jewish players or some other ethnic choice. There’s plenty more oddball type sets I’ve not mentioned. In fact, I’d love to hear some ideas from people about other ways to collect. One of the things I collect is Hof’s playing or coaching for a PCL team.

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    1. I sort of admire people who come up with their own categories, but it’s not my style. I have friends who end up buying 5 of the same pricey high number Hall of Famer for their various collections. Oddballs have always been an interest of mine, but I may need to look into some in earnest.

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      1. One of the fun things about player and team collections is that you can buy a lot of that player and team and, almost always, get things you don’t have (I say almost always with the players because I’m not getting any Keith Hernandez cards I don’t have in his lots, and I’m pretty much about done getting Tim Raines cards I don’t have in his lots). But with teams … I bought a lot of about 10,000 Mets cards for $100 (including shipping) and while I got a bunch of things I had (a bunch of 1980s and 1990s duplicates … triplicates … whatever the word is for 22 copies of one card – 1988 Score Tim Teufel) I also pulled about 500 cards I didn’t have. The fun thing about that is, because I like the buffet of various 1980s-2000s sets/inserts, I almost alaways come across something I had not seen nor thought about before. Some oddball set from the 90s, or random food card from the 80s.

        The same things happen in player lots too (fresher in my mind because I got some last week). Who knew there was not only a 1994 Church’s Chicken set, but also a gold parallel version (thank you Barry Larkin)? 1994 Pacific Silver Prisms AND a 1994 Pacific Silver Prisms Circular version (courtesy of Andres Galarraga – can you tell I started watching baseball in the 80s and 90s; don’t get me started on Julio Franco and Ruben Sierra and Travis Fryman)?

        I’m never going to complete the player checklists (nor do I even actively search for many of those players, save for Hernandez, Rick Ankiel, Jose Lind, Joe Randa, Danny Klassen, and sometimes Raines) or the Mets checklist, even if I remove the super low numbered cards that might (or might not) have fancy patches and autographs from current years. But if I can find lots for good values I can have some fun discovering “new” sets while filling some gaps.

        And it makes going through 25 cent and 50 cent boxes at shows an adventure because there is always something in there. I found a 1985 Thom McAn disc of Gwynn in a $1 box – that card was on my “impossible to find” list of Hernandez cards for about 15 years, I know I paid more than $1 for the Hernandez, and there’s a Gwynn just sitting in a $1 box. Without having built the Hernandez collection, I probably don’t know how difficult those are to find (go on eBay and put in 1985 Thom McAn and see what comes up – not much).

        Another thing you can try to do is put together some reasonably priced insert sets from some of the newer products (if you dare to walk that path). I liked the 1997 and 1998 Donruss Significant Signatures sets, so I built those. I’m in the process of building the 1997-1999 Topps Stars Rookie Card Autographs set. And the 2000 Skybox Autographics set (I started writing a blog post about that set – now that summer is here perhaps I shall finish it; by “it” I mean the blog post – I’m 5 cards shy of the set and it’s more a matter of finding the cards at all). Those all happen to be autographed cards, but they are generally not that pricey (save for a few cards) and there are non-autographed insert sets to collect as well.

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