Thanksgiving-Time Gluttony

If you’re lucky enough on Thanksgiving, your plate is overflowing. Sometimes too much is good, sometimes it’s, well, too much.

I’m a pretty linear thinker, the “shortest distance between two points is a line” kind of guy, but I find myself taking on more sets to complete than I’m usually comfortable with. I’m a good multi-tasker, but the key to that is keeping the multis- to a minimum. There are different reasons I’m not sticking to this way of living in my card world, but I find myself working on 10! sets, two more if you count variations. Here’s are those different reasons:

1 – These are gonna take some time and have a price component:

I’m halfway through my 1933 Tattoo Orbit set, (31 of 60) and, though I’ve been getting commons in VG, VGEX and EX for around $30-40 each, there are some Hall of Famers I need that’ll run me around $100 per, and a few – Dean, Foxx and Grove, that’ll cost far more. Getting what remains in the condition I want, at a price that makes sense, is going to be a long long process.

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I’m down to the last card I need for my 1956 Topps set and, as planned, it’s Mantle. Can I get a nice enough, raw, Mickey for around $400? Seems so, based on sold listings. It won’t be easy, but it’s doable, and it’s going to take patience. If I waited to get this card and wrap up this set before tackling the next set, I’d be stuck. So I continue.

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2 – These are gonna take some time but don’t have a price problem:

You all know my undying love for 1936 Goudey Wide Pens, Type 1 (of course). The finish line is in sight, with only three to go – Cavaretta, Galan and Hartnett (what’s with the Cubs? Short prints?). Price won’t be an issue. Gabby will likely run me $25-30, the other two, $15-20. Problem is they haven’t been coming up. There was a nice Augie Galan, though with a pin hole, that I was outbid on.

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Ah, the 1953 Bowman Television and Radio Stars of NBC, much-loved topic of my last post. I’m in the home stretch here and will need to wait it out. Who knows how long it will take to get a nice Dennis Day?

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The 1963 Bazooka All Time Greats are a nice diversion and I’m about 50% of the way through this 41 card set. Ruth and Gehrig will set me back around $30-40 each, but I’m hoping to get the others, all commons, though all HOFers, for $5-6 each. Definitely going to take a while.

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I’m whittling away at the 1972 Fleer Famous Feats set, drawn by Laughlin. I should have to spend more than $1.50-2 for each card, and that stubbornness is going to add years to this pursuit. I can buy all six that I need for less than $20 on COMC, but I can’t bring myself to do that. Full sets can be gotten for $25-35. And so I wait.

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3- These shouldn’t take too long or cost too much:

I glommed on to the 1961 Post set because, actually I don’t know why. I had 30, got another 85, and all of a sudden I was on my way. What I want to pay for commons may hold me back, but no too much. The real issue is the short prints – Shaw, Estrada, Stobbs and McMillan, which will set me back $50 or so but don’t appear too often (this is what is meant by short prints).

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1975 Hostess is the only year I cut them out of the boxes, which bugged me for decades but now I see as a blessing. Decent hand cuts are cheap and, though I need 36 to complete, my grand total shouldn’t be more than $25. I just need to find them.

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Announcing the two most recent additions to the set quest – 1970 Topps Super Glossy Football and 1971 Topps Football. I’ll admit these are simply time killers, though I’m waiting for a lot of Glossys that’ll put me with in 10 of the end.  These cards have notoriously bad cuts, which doesn’t bother me much. The 1971s I have put me close enough, in a condition good enough, to get them all at a reasonable price.

4 – The variations:

1964 Wayne Causey All-Star, NL back. Bidding on one now, another is listed as a Buy It Now. $20 is about the going rate, but there’s satisfaction in getting it for $15. Silly, I know. I got the Chuck Hinton NL back for $6, so that became my new price goal, though there’s no way I’ll luck out twice.

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There are two 1973 Johnny Pro Orioles Jim Palmers. I need the windup variation. A lot of five Palmers, three windup and two follow through, was up recently, but it went for more than I was willing to pay, even having an Oriole collector on board to split the cost. Oh well.

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I’m very curious about how you approach set building. Is it the norm to tackle a lot of sets, or is the one or two at a time method most common? If you take a very long time to finish a set, how do you keep it on your radar so it doesn’t get lost?

With that, Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you have a lot of things to be thankful for and that your card pursuits have been gratifying. As we know, that’s what’s really important.

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.

18 thoughts on “Thanksgiving-Time Gluttony”

  1. Gee whiz, Mr. Benny, Dennis Day should have been the first card. I have at least 6 sets I’m slowly finishing, including the ’70 football glossy. I have some ’71 football dupes. Send me a list, and I will show you condition if I have any you need. Also, I have a ’61 Aaron Post card in so-so shape. Let me know if you want to take a look. I’m working on the ’70 football art poster inserts. Some are really pricey. Not one of Topps better products.

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  2. Let me start by saying that my collecting habits are ever-changing, and my particular foci have changed often through the years. Even more so since we started this committee two years ago.

    My main focus for the past 30 years has been Topps flagship, and I have been slowly working on sets forever. I am complete back to 1964, and pick up 50-100 cards a year going backwards (a guess). It is expensive at this point, of course.

    With my love of occasional bulk in mind, I have spent some time of late on 1969-1973 football, hockey, and basketball. This allows me to occasionally spring for 50 cards at a time without breaking the bank, and the less expensive stars and much smaller sets are appealing. The 1969 hockey set is 132 cards!

    I am also looking for various oddballs, mainly from my youth era (late 1960s through 1970s). 1969 Topps stamps and posters, for example. Kellogg, Hostess, Post. All offer the chance to get 20 or 30 cards rather than spending $20 on a 1958 Killebrew.

    This omnivore quality requires better management. A few weeks ago I was on eBay looking at a 1969 basketball lot and before bidding I (naturally) went to look at what I had already. It was then that I realized that I had done the same thing a year ago and was much further along than I had remembered — too far along, in fact, to be looking at lots.

    I have not been to an actual card show in 25 years. If I went to one, I would probably want to focus on 25 or 30 sets that I am building and leave the rest for another day. 🙂

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    1. I like the idea of accumulating cards you don’t have, but I get the willies if I don’t complete a set in a reasonable time. I finished the 1970-71 Hockey set in a few months time, but that was almost two months ago and I’m getting frustrated that I haven’t been able to knock off some other sets.

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  3. It well may be that some folks won’t consider as real “sets” some of things on PSA’s site, such as the MVP or Hall of Famers sets — any card, any year of such players allowed (There are restricted sets, too, from the year the player won — Too rich for my blood.). I enjoy compiling these things, even though with the award-winners, it means updating each year, but often you can use a card for a specific year Topps set, for instance, that you are already working on and have. As with all things PSA, of course, it’s a way for PSA to generate more card grading. At least it’s free to list your sets on the registry, which lets you see where you stand with other collectors.

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  4. I wonder if some of us (Jeff and I, at least) might want to maintain a public (even just a google doc) list of (a) sets we have 90% or more of, (b) sets we have 100% of. This would allow us to get some public gratification for completion, and also might egg us (OK, me) into focusing on getting things a little more wrapped up. I need two cards to complete my 1970 Topps Super set, but I just keep forgetting to get it done.

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    1. Though I’ve found it on a one-to-one personal level, there’s still got to be a way to leverage all of our SABR collectors into a big trading group. I’m up for it, but let’s think of a way to make it work. A Google doc may be the easiest and best way.

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      1. I like your idea, though it is not what I was talking about. A typical thing for collectors to share is “want lists”, which focuses on what is MISSING. What I wanted to do is to list completed sets, or nearly completed sets, which would allow us to focus on what we have accomplished.

        We could then post on Twitter. “Shout-out to Tim Jenkins, who has finally knocked off his Mod Squad set after five decades!” Or, “Jeff Katz has achieved Silver Medal Status (90%) on 1971 Topps — reach out if you think you can help get him over the line!” If we got a few people involved, this could create some enthusiasm.

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      2. I like the idea of a public “complete sets/projects” list. I’ve been putting “completed items” on the bottom of my wantlists but could probably expand on those a bit more.

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  5. Hahaha this is such an amusing contrast to my junk wax focused searchlists (most of which are based around cards I accumulated a lot of when I was a id and would like to try finishing off now). I’m both jealous and amazed at all of you who go after vintage sets though. I am finding the team set quest to be hard enough as it is and can’t image going after complete sets.

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      1. Over the years, probably. But even completing one year of anything pre-1973 has been challenging between Mays and high number stuff that I just can’t imagine trying to get *all* of the HoFers and high numbers in a given set.

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  6. Sets are but a part of my collecting habits – some player collections (Keith Hernandez, Jose Lind – though I’m almost done with that one, and players from where I grew up) take precedence.

    I collect both vintage sets and current sets. For current sets I’m typically collecting “master sets” so I’m looking for inserts, parallels, etc. as the base sets aren’t very challenging to put together (I’m thinking of something like Topps Opening Day, not Bowman Whatever with 46 different parallels of each card and half a base set that is shortprinted – I’m not a prospector). With current sets I’ve found the best thing to do is to be quick (but not too quick – avoid being first or second because those prices can be crazy) when buying the inserts. But if I wait too long I’m waiting forever to cross something off the list (I’m still missing 3 Dugout Peeks cards and 2 variations from 2018 Opening Day; and the Trout autograph, but that’s a not wanting to pay $200+ issue) – and then prices usually tick up a little after the lull because the card is never on the market.

    I have a standard set of searches I do once a week on eBay for cards from the sets I’m currently working on. Every now and then I’ll go to one of the bigger online sellers and buy individual cards I need in bulk. Sometimes I’ll rekindle an old set collecting task (like the 1996 Leaf Signature autographs – but even with that now I’m pretty much looking for shortprints and HOFers).

    For vintage sets I typically buy individual cards at shows once I have gotten past the lot buying stage. I don’t really like buying individual cards online because I like to see vintage cards in person (perhaps I am not patient enough to look at all the details in a picture online). I probably pay a little more but I like knowing what I’m getting. I’m not super concerned about condition with newer stuff because it tends to be in reasonably good shape, or the print runs are so low that I’m not concerned about a dinged corner on a card with a print run of 10 (there are only 10 of them).

    Unlike Jeff, once I’m near the end of the set I’m willing to pay a little more for the last card(s) so I don’t have to keep searching for it (them). If I have to pay an extra $2 for a card so I can stop looking for it then I am fine with that. I just completed the 1997 Topps Stars Rookie Reprints Autographs with a Brooks Robinson auto – opening bid was $40, which probably scared some people off, but the last time one was up it sold for $43, so at $40 I was on it. If I waited I probably could have gotten it for $35. Heck, I’ll buy a lot that has one of the last cards I need and then sell/trade (or hold and store) the extras.

    I’m still building master sets from the late 1990s/early 2000s so I’m reasonably patient if the price isn’t right. I’ve mentioned looking for the 2001 Topps Golden Anniversary Eddy Furniss autograph, but not sure I’ve mentioned the 2000 Skybox Autographics Purple Pokey Reese (numbered to 50). I didn’t really start collecting the 2001 Topps autographs until the mid/late 2000s, but I have been looking for that Pokey Reese autograph since 2000 (regular version can be had for $5-$8 – can’t find the one numbered to 50). It was only maybe a year or so ago that I finally finished the 2002 Topps Total set, though the cards I was missing were the pre-production/samples.

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