Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If You Really Want to See What the Largest Baseball Card Set in History Looks Like

Contrary to what the header of my blog says, I am biased when it comes to Topps vs. Upper Deck. This is a Topps baseball card blog after all. But I read this Wax Heaven post about UD's Yankee Stadium Legacy insert set, and how Upper Deck is claiming it as the largest set ever...then I read Chris Harris' comment on it. And for once, I actually agree with him.

If you really want to see, hear, or know the largest baseball card set in history, all one has to do is contact a certain Carl Tompkins in Texas. He is the first (and only person I know of) who completed the behemoth called 1998 Topps Tek set. This was the set that had 90 players in the set, but had 90 different pattern variations for each card. And if my third grade math is correct, 90 players with 90 cards each comes up to a whopping 8,100 baseball cards!!!

When Topps Tek first hit the shelves in 1998, the concept was that this set could be collected in a myriad of ways:
  • 90 cards, one of each player, regardless of pattern
  • 90 cards, one of each pattern (which would make the extra challenge of finding one player in a pattern you didn't have already)
  • 1 player, 90 patterns
  • 1 pattern, 90 players
  • 8,100 cards, 90 players, 90 patterns.
This was a player collectors dream. But the idea of collecting all 8,100 cards seemed to be a daunting task. And many people who bought the cards where happy to consider 90 cards, regardless of pattern, as a complete set. But Carl Tompkins had other ideas.

For many years on the Topps Message Boards, Carl, known as togatx, would ask the members of the boards if they had any 1998 Topps Tek cards for sale or trade. He would scour the internet sites, go to shows, visit shops, trade online on various message and trading boards, etc, in search of these cards. And he would update us each time he got one card closer to completion. Then, on November 28, 2004, he announced that he had traded for the last card he needed (a Paul O'Neill #37, pattern #56) to reach 8,100 cards. In comparison to that UD set, if these cards were placed end to end, the cards would measure 2,362.5 feet.

He keeps each "set" in 90-card books (you know, those with the 9-card sheets attached to the book), one for each player. They must look really nice on a bookshelf.

If this set was created in 1988, nobody in the world would be able to achieve the completion of a set like this. But thanks to the internet, this has become a more possible feat.

Mr. Tompkins has moved on to bigger and better things, but still has over 1,000 extra cards from this set. And from time to time, he will see if there is any interest from various message boards for them. But when all is said and done, Carl Tompkins completed the Largest Baseball Card Set in History. And even if and when someone completes that Yankee set, it's not going to compare to this amazing accomplishment. My hat is off to you Carl. Congratulations!!!


JayBee Anama


Big Daddy said...

I think the 98 Topps Tek set is the largest baseball card set, but the Upper Deck Yankee set is being billed as the largest baseball card INSERT set.

No post yesterday...getting lazy? just kidding.

Wax Heaven said...

Good point but I'll take different cards any day of the week instead of the same card with 90 different small backgrounds.