Thursday, July 17, 2008

Answering A Comment From the Baseball Card Cyber Museum Blog.

As you know, I've been talking up The Baseball Card Cyber Museum website. When you go through the site, and look at the cards, you can display them by year, by team, by set, by player, and it's fantastic. My one wish is that they could set it up so that you could sort a set by number, or the cards by number. Imagine seeing all the players that were assigned card number #325 or #516, for example.

Joe McAnally, the creator of the site, and of the Museum's new blog, posted that readers could leave comments about enhancements, or requests on what improvements to make as long as "you take the time to explain the reason behind the enhancement request." Fair enough. I commented on his post here, asking, "Are you able to program it so that you can sort the cards by card number? It's great to see the cards in every set in alphabetical order, but I'd like to be able to sort them by numberical order."

His reply was, "I'm curious as to why you'd like viewing cards that way. Over the years, I've never understood the randomness that card companies use to number the cards in the first place. It seems quite helter-skelter and the fact that most people sort them that way when they put them into a card album (probably to be sure they are all there) - well that was the one thing I was trying to avoid with the online version. Any insights?"

His reply made me think. The question, "Why would I want the ability to have the cards sorted by number on the site?" turned into, "Why are my sets sorted by number?" I was about to leave a lengthy post about it. But then I thought, instead of leaving a huge comment within his post, I could just write my response here. So here goes...

Dear Mr. McAnally,

As you mentioned, most people have their cards sorted by card number when putting them in binders. For me, sorting by card number is the quickest way to tell not only if I have every card in the set, but the numbers give me a semblance of order that sorting cards by team order (where would you put that combo card with players from two to three different teams) or by alphabetical order (first name or last name, and again with the combo cards), does not provide.

Classic example. As you know, for the first 12 years of its existence as a product sold exclusively in hobby stores, the Topps Traded sets were numbered in alphabetical order by player's last name (Don Aase was card 1, Jim Abbott was card 2 in 1989, and so on). I always thought that this was done to distinguish the regular cards from the traded cards.

In 1993, Topps began assigning the numbers randomly, instead of by alphabetical order as they had in years prior. To offset this new found "dilemma," I thought that the best way to continue the "traded tradition" was to sort the cards in alphabetical order, just like the traded sets before it. I found it took much longer to sort the cards in alphabetical order than it was by number. I did this for about three years, as it was easy to do this with 132 card sets (165 for 1995), and then again with the 1999 and 2000 Topps Traded sets when Topps brought this product back into production.

In 2001, Topps Traded set had 265 in it, with those reprint cards in the middle. I then decided that there was no way I'd have time to sort these in alphabetical order, so I caved and sorted them numerically. Didn't take long at all. I eventually went back and re-sorted my 1993-2000 traded sets in numerical order too. And I'm glad I did because since 2005, the Updates and Highlights sets have 330 cards in it!!!

With Topps and their numbering, I have always noticed that those who were the "stars" of the game often had a "0" at the end of the number. If the player was a "superstar," then his card number would have two zeros (100, 200, 300, The "lesser" stars (if you could call them that) would be assigned a number that ended in "5." And all the rest would be assigned numbers in between, probably so that the "star" cards weren't bunched together in one part of the set. Makes sense. Spread out the stars so that you wouldn't have the best players in the beginning of the set, followed by guys most collectors could care less about at the end.

To me, the randomness of having the cards sorted by number makes it much more pleasant to look at my cards through books. When the cards had colorful designs, it was more fun to see the different color schemes of each team when seperated from each other than it was if I had them sorted out by team. In fact, it would strike a nerve in me whenever teammates were consecutively numbered within a set. I don't know why that is, but it does. It's the same feeling I get when anybody puts the prongs of two forks together (just thinking about it is making me shiver).

That's about as good an explanation as I can give as to why I have my cards sorted by number instead of by team or in alphabetical order by player. It may look like a lot of unorganized thoughts just thrown together...well, that's what they really are...but those are the things I was thinking about when coming up with a response. Hope it makes sense.

Whether you're able to accomodate my request or not, I really like the job you've done on the site. Let me know when you have 2008 Topps Series 2 scanned. And if you need it, I can send a scan of card #661 for you.


JayBee Anama


Joe McAnally said...

I put my cards in numerical order in the books also for the same reasons. I'm not sure I enjoy looking at them that way very often, but it is kind of a fun, pseudo-random walk through a set's cards, and for that reason it will be worth looking into next time I am in the code.

Also it would be a quick way to find card 137 in the Topps 1992 set... if it ever comes up. In my management system (the back end of the display card system), I do view the cards in a particular set by number, again, primarily to make sure they are all there, and to easily track down which numbers I need when the set is not yet complete.

I do remember vaguely having all my cards by team for about the first 10 years or so of collecting, but they weren't in books so I also recall doing a lot of resorting.

GCA said...

I usually keep sets I'm building boxed in numerical order until they're finished. Then, if it's an older set (I don't have anything younger than 1980 in a binder yet.) I'll sheet 'em up and put 'em in a binder. Most of the time, I'll sort them by team at that point. Then I have to decide how to order the teams. I've put them in alphabetically by city, or in the order that they finished that season. There are one or two sets that I put in numerical order, but it always feels so scattered compared to the ones sorted by team.
Of course, all this is moot if you're talking about late model Fleer or Upper Deck sets that are already numbered by team.