We’ve had a few articles on the blog recently dealing with set completion. Three that come to mind are the one from Jeff on which cards do and don’t constitute a complete set, one from Artie on building modern master sets, and “Set Building 101” from Jim.

What each of the articles has in common is the the informed, intentional, and methodical process by which each author defines his goal and progresses toward completion. Then there’s me. When I’m not busy presiding over my glitter empire or doing my day job, I’m writing articles with titles like “The Funnest Dumb Way to Collect (Almost) the Whole set.

As I prepare to dispense my questionable advice on our SABR readership, I’m reminded of the opening line to the Neil Young song “Hippie Dream.” (I have to imagine you all know the song by heart, but in case you’re having a moment, I’ll remind you: “Take my advice. Don’t listen to me…!”)

A set I’m collecting (or perhaps am done collecting) is somewhat typical of the almost aggressively anti-information approach I take to collecting, despite being someone who at times reads and writes almost manically about cards. Heal thyself, physician, as they say!

Some of you have seen from previous posts here or on Twitter/Facebook that I went from having no pre-1933 baseball cards (I have to say “baseball” here since my son and I have about 80 pre-1933 Sir Isaac Newton cards) to taking on the 1911 T205 Gold Borders Brooklyn team set. Here is a pic I posted back in March, with my dozen cards framed nicely by the Cigarbox Cards display.

Go ahead, ask me what I knew about the set before I started collecting it. Glad you asked! I knew the card were pretty, the only Hall of Famer was Zack Wheat, and almost all the other players were terrible. Of course I’m not an idiot, so I also did a quick eBay search and saw that “some guy” on the team could be had in reasonable shape (imagine the raw equivalent of a PSA 2.5) for $40. Okay, cool, I’m in.

Well, that picture from March is still my picture in August. Little did I know going in that three-time 20-game loser Kaiser Wilhelm is practically Walter Johnson in terms of price tag. Good chance I could take all twelve cards in my display–and even throw in the display!–and try to trade them for a Wilhelm in worse shape than all of them…and be refused.

So how bad do I want the card? I’ll answer my own question with a question. How bad do I want the team set? (And yes, I realize the completists out there are already wondering why I only have one of the two Barger poses.)

Whatever words I might offer in the affirmative, the facts of the case speak for themselves. I’ve been one player short for 6 months–the whole pandemic so far–and I’ve done nothing about it. I don’t even click when my saved eBay search turns up a hit. I don’t love being stuck at 12 players out of 13, but I love even less spending my (hopefully someday) 1960 Lake to Lake Dairy Hank Aaron money on a Kaiser Wilhelm. It’s a common limbo I find myself in often, a purgatory without the purgation. Done but not done.

True, it might be totally acceptable to go 79/80 on Fleer Ted Williams or 239/240 on 1933 Goudey. God knows plenty of otherwise respectable collectors are willing to set the remarkably pedestrian goal of 520/524 for T206, just as many modern collectors are able to settle for only the /5, /10, /25, /50, /99, /199, /400, /999, and /2020 Vertigo Refractor Rainbow Dazzle Tiffany versions of Jasson Dominguez “Move Over, Henry Aaron” Transcendent Museum Edition (Retail), foregoing the 1/1 in a last-ditch effort to avoid mortgage foreclosure.

Hobby orthodoxy permits those collectors to declare victory. Not so for a Kaiser-less Superba set. In fact, many collectors would insist I need two, and let’s not even get started about the factory numbers or tobacco brands!

The rational part of my brain recognizes it would have been prudent to do my homework before jumping in with both feet. Then I never would have gotten started on a set I couldn’t finish. I might have chosen something else, something I could do.

Then again, I wouldn’t have these cards, which are without a doubt among the dozen most beautiful in my entire collection. Yes, it was a dumb thing to do, to go in blind. Every now and then, however, you can be so dumb you’re smart.

So no regrets, that’s where I’m at. None at all. The set collector in me may be “suffe ing” 😃 but the card collector in me is doing just fine. In fact, he just picked up his fourth T206 Brooklyn card! Can the complete set be far behind?

Author: jasoncards

I mainly enjoy writing about baseball and baseball cards, but I've also dabbled in the sparsely populated Isaac Newton trading card humor genre. As of January 2019 I'm excited to be part of the SABR Baseball Cards blogging team, and as of May 2019 Co-Chair of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee.

8 thoughts on “Oops”

  1. Went in blind and still don’t have full sight on many sets, 68 Action All Stars, 61 Topps Stamps, 72 Sunoco NFL, 74 Deckle Edge and Puzzles all in various stages. Not all that starts must finish, said Yoda, I think.

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  2. Just because I wrote a post doesn’t mean I always follow my own advice …

    The 2020 Opening Day master set is huge, particularly compared to prior years. And huge in a lot of things being case hits or maybe two to a case. I did homework on the rarity while buying but not so much on the volume beforehand (I just downloaded a checklist and went to work). Had we not gone into a pandemic at just about the same time the product hit I doubt I would have nearly as much as I do. But sitting at home without a lot of other outlets to occupy time … most things got crossed off. The autograph of Mr. Trout will need to wait a decade until he slows down and people grow tired of his autographs or I get ridiculously lucky – so I’ll wait a decade.

    And there’s a point at which price overrules being a completist. I’ve written in comments about my quest for a 2001 Topps Golden Anniversary Autograph of Eddy Furniss. One came up on eBay recently … for $800. That would be more than I paid for Koufax, Mays, Aaron, Bonds, Seaver, Brett, Ryan, and a slew of other HOFers (it’s a strong set. Exclude the Koufax and that’s more than I paid for any three of those cards combined. The Furniss eventually sold for around $200, which is still more than I paid for any single card except the Koufax and Mays and maybe the Ryan and Aaron (they were in the ballpark). Completist or not, there’s still a price comparison to be made. The economist in me thinks about the other cards I could buy for $200 to complete other sets (or the other non-card items that could be purchased), as you did comparing the Wilhelm to the Hank Aaron.

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  3. “just as many modern collectors are able to settle for only the /5, /10, /25, /50, /99, /199, /400, /999, and /2020 Vertigo Refractor Rainbow Dazzle Tiffany versions of Jasson Dominguez “Move Over, Henry Aaron” Transcendent Museum Edition (Retail), foregoing the 1/1 in a last-ditch effort to avoid mortgage foreclosure.”

    I actually laughed out loud. It really is THAT ridiculous now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Technically it’s things like Cracked Ice and Teal Velocity 😉 Though Vertigo Refractor Rainbow Dazzle sounds like a great name. I recall that Topps picked up the term “White Whale” from reading message boards where collectors used the term to describe cards they were looking for. I’ll be waiting for Vertigo Refractor Rainbow Dazzle to hit the shelves soon now, but maybe Jason will claim that for his own productions.

      I think they still number the flagship Topps gold parallel to the current year, but I’m not sure they number much else to 999 (or more) any more. They used to number the Opening Day parallel to the current year but they stopped that a few years ago. Triple Threads used to have the base version numbered to something like 1350, but in 2019 it looks like the base version is not serial numbered and the highest numbered version is Amethyst at 299. To show how out of date I am, it looks like the last time they numbered the base version in Triple Threads was 2011 (to 1500). I’m guessing they stopped numbering cards with such a “high” production run because having one of the 1500 cards wasn’t a selling point to buyers, and not printing the serial number seems like it would be less costly than printing it. People may even think a card without a serial number is rarer than it actually is.

      I don’t do any prospecting in Bowman products, so maybe there are Bowman parallels with serial numbering that high.


      1. “People may even think a card without a serial number is rarer than it actually is.”

        Panini has been able to smash this into basketball collector’s heads with Panini Prizm Silvers.


    1. Not only a short print but there are also two variations: an error that says “suffe ed” on the back and a corrected one that says “suffered.” So you have a player whose card is already rare and then several collectors chasing two vs just one.


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