Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Seismic Shift

Sometime back, I lamented over my ever growing anxiety about card collecting. The unneeded heartache brought on by the incompatibility of being a set completionist and the evil of manufactured short prints. Plus, the soul crushing fact I will never have the financial wherewithal to complete the 50s and 60s Topps sets. Never.

Originally, I wanted to complete each flagship set of the Big 5 (Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps and Upper Deck). I dutifully collated all of my Donruss cards, and placed want lists up. I was hit up for trades on some of my wants, and I even had a blogger who sent me a load of Donruss with the simple request that I pay the favor forward. I was motoring along, and then I got The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, which gave me great pause.

Being out of the mainstream hobby from 2001 to practically yesterday, I was completely unaware of the SP phenomenon. The Catalog opened my eyes and now I am barely into my Big 5 project, and I have been beset by short prints in both the Donruss and Fleer brands. Despondent, I have been juggling ideas on how to proceed with collecting, and reading the advice of my fellow collectors. 

Remember the words that spoke to me? Happiness, simplifying, clarity, surprise, and enjoy? I have heard those words, and have a direction. 

I will continue on my Big 5 odyssey, albeit a much slower pace, and with two caveats:

First, short prints, you can kiss my ass. I will not intentionally collect you, and a set w/o SPs is complete in my book. 

Second, I’m stopping at ’71 for Topps. Ouch, that hurt to type, but it’s true. I have completed back to 1973, and I have a solid grip on ’71 and ’72, but from ’70 and before it’s just not in the cards. I just can’t see myself trying to land gobs of high-numbered cards, especially when they’re “commons.” 

With those goals in mind, I also plan on taking my collecting into an entirely new direction. 

This is the seismic shift… 

I’ve decided to only player collect Topps cards from 1952 to 1970. While this may not seem radical to some of you, this is huge for me. As mentioned earlier in the post, I’ve realized that completing ’52 to ’70 will not be possible given my finances. But what about player collecting, especially Hall of Famers? While this may seem like a pipe dream (and it is with those 52s), but if I knock 50 or so off a year, in 20 years I’d be “theoretically” done. Plus, I’d have a killer HOFer collection, and I would have taken a serious bite out of a set by nabbing HOFers and All-Stars in case I do decide to make a run at a set. 

But who to collect? For the last few days, I’ve been doing “statistical” analyses, number crunching, etc., and I had no luck.  Then I asked myself, what vintage cards did I collect as a child, and why?  Then it dawned on me. The best memory I have of my brother and our childhood is playing this: 

Superstar Baseball was a board game that included star players from the birth of baseball until about 1970, and my brother and I knew every nuance of each of these players. We played this game until the cards were worn. In fact, I still play this game on occasion, and it’s almost 30 years since we starting playing it together.

This game is why when I was a kid, I'd roll into the card shop and search for players who nobody my age knew about.  This is the reason why I have a decent crop of HOFers and All Stars from the 50s and 60s.  While my friends were buying Canseco, I was lapping up Ken Boyer, Tony Oliva, Joe Morgan and Pete Runnels.

Eventually my brother and I began to expand this board game to include additional players.  Newer stars and more relievers.  While my brother was more direct and indiscriminate in his selections, I came up with a process of selecting new players for the game...

1. HOFers were automatically added.
2. Players who appeared on more than one HOF ballot were considered.
3. Players on the Baseball Reference HOF Monitor were considered (for more recent players and relievers).

Which leads me to what vintage cards should I collect?  Well, I think using the above criteria is my framework for chasing 50s and 60s cards.  This means I'll be chasing cards of all the players from my all time favorite board game.  This will be much more enjoyable and meaningful than chasing vintage commons and high-numbered cards! 

Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

Uncle Doc, this is a really great post. Firstly, congratulations clarifying what and how you will focus on your collection and set building this day forward. Being new, again, to collecting, I too have encountered overwhelming options with the direction to go. I don't yet have the focus you do, i.e., I'm happily collecting everything of interest, the writing is on the wall, so to speak, that this approach is not sustainable.

Superstar Baseball sounds awesome. I'd never heard of it. Is there anything like this, aside from fantasy baseball? It'd be pretty fun to use cards in some way in a game...I can't be the first to have that thought!

Let's see the list of those players you're going to collect from the board game!

I take it you still have your copy of the game?


Captain Canuck said...

this is awesome. I love to hear someone happy with their collection.

congrats on the new direction and focus.... and good luck.

Swing And A Pop-up said...

Good luck with your new direction. I'm still trying to collect everything...except SP's. They are evil.

Fuji said...

Best of luck... especially with the 1972 set. It's one of my favorites.

Matthew R said...

That was my first baseball game. My dad bought it for me in 1974 when I was 7 years old. Like you, we wore out a lot of the cards (especially Wagner, Ruth, and Cobb). Some other cards didn't get much use (Killebrew, Hippo Vaughan, Ray Schalk). I still have the cards and the dice, but the board is long gone.

GCA said...

Amen on the short prints! I occasionally still go for a Heritage set, but also do several hockey sets that seperate the rookies into the last series that are SPs. I am content to skip them more often than not.
I think you could pioneer a movement to persuade the companies to dial back or eliminate SPs as a basic part of a set. I often wonder what the sales figures would look like of a Heritage set with no short prints. I bet there would be a few times more buyers than now, because it would include the people that are deterred by SPs.
As for the vintage sets, I don't attempt them more than one or two at a time. I have to finish '70 and '72, but then I'll have '69 thru '84 complete. I am working on '59 and will probably start amassing dollar common '60s at the National. But the sets in between are contained on one or two sheets in the same binder so far. I've had good luck with high numbers for vintage, especially at the Nat. I think they're easier to get than Heritage and flagship SPs, if you're not looking for gradeable mint condition.

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