Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blog Bat Around - Sports Card Bloggers Unite

I don't know if Gellman at the SCU was inspired by the big Blogger's Unite event that happened last week (and there is another one happening on the first of December...I'm debating about joining this time, but am thinking I will anyway...stay tuned), but I think he has the right idea. To see what he wants to accomplish click here. I think it's a good idea to get different opinions from people who share our Hobby in common.

So the topic of discussion is this:

"Most of us classify ourselves as some type of collector in this industry. Player collector, team collector, set collector, auto collector, first world, second world, among thousands of other labels. As you have navigated the hobby, what are the biggest challenges you face as that type of collector or label of hobby enthusiast? What have been your biggest successes/failures? What would you like to see the manufacturers focus on to make your type of collector flourish in the hobby? Feel free to provide blog examples, scans, poems, haikus, bar napkin messages, medical prescriptions, etc as complements to your posts. If you feel your type has been covered on another blog, tell us how you do things the same or differently. If you don't identify yourself as a type, explain why, or explain how you think of yourself. You do not have to answer any or all of the questions asked here."

If you haven't read anything I've written so far on this blog (and why haven't you???! Ego, shut it will you), just based on the title of this blog you can tell that I am a Topps Baseball Card collector. My main focus is on base and traded Topps cards sets. I've never been interested in many of their other brands (Finest, Heritage, Chrome, any Bowman stuff, so forth) nor do I actively pursue other companies products (the dreaded Upper Deck, Donruss, and the like), although I do have their cards from the mass-produced era of 1987-1993.

I am a set collector. I love completing full sets of cards. I love opening huge binders full of cards from the same series and look at all of them together. I have been actively collecting Topps baseball cards since 1988. Since 2001, my collection has grown to the overwhelming size of 42,072 cards in my active collection, from 1976 Topps to 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights, and other sets in between (to see what else I have, check out my first ever post on this humble little blog).

I am a big fan of the Cubs, and my all time favorite player is Ryne Sandberg. But I think the reason why I never became a player collector or a team set collector is that I just couldn't get into the idea of just collecting one team or one player. I blame the fact that every card has a number. And the feeling of not having every card in a set that my favorite team or player was in left me empty...make that incomplete (pardon the pun). I had to have one of every card in a set, regardless if I had never heard of the player, or if he plays for that other team in Chicago (I think they're called the Blue Socks, or the Green Sox, or some other colored piece of clothing, claimed to have won a World Series title recently, let me think...I'm kidding of course).

When I was formally introduced to card collecting by the neighborhood kids, I was just in awe of these pieces of 2½ by 3½ pictures of athletes with the team name in bold letters above, and the person's name on a diagonal banner (if you can't tell I'm talking about 1988 Topps, then something is wrong with you...ego, get away from the computer). I was fascinated by the these piles of cards, and they said I could have them (these were their extras).

From that point on, I was hooked. There must have been at least 300 cards that they said I could have. I sorted each card by the number on the back, and when I noticed that there were large gaps between the numbers, I knew I needed more. It didn't matter if the players were from teams I'd never heard of, or if I'd never seen them on TV before (understand that this was more than 20 years ago, and the only baseball I was exposed to at the time was the Cubs on WGN). I had to get them all. Every card. Period. End of story. It was that feeling of "I MUST have them ALL" that made me become the collector I am.

Back then it was easy. There was one set for me to focus my energies on, and then the Traded set at the end of the year. My life was complete once that last card was put in the binder. Then as the next year came, the chase continued. And that's how I went about collecting the first 12 years in the Hobby. Mind you, as I got older, there were other things going on in my life (college, work, dating). But I never left the Hobby and continued collecting Topps cards and buying packs here and there, still managing to complete that year's Topps set, and anticipating next year's product. That was my attitude about my collection until I met "The World's Greatest Marketplace." And my life has not been the same since.

When I was introduced to the wonderful world of eBay a decade later, I realized that there was more to life than basic Topps cards. In 2001, when I first laid eyes on the 50 card "Through the Years" set, I knew I wanted them. The reason, I said to myself, was that so I had some representation of what the older cards (than 1986) looked like. Thus began my purchasing spree on eBay. I mean, I had these insert cards, and at the time, I thought there was no way to complete them, so I just either gave them away, or left them in a pile that I'd never really look at, and focus on the base set.

Once I acquired the 50 card behemoth, I thought I could try for more. And since then, I've been able to get almost every insert set Topps put out from 1996 to now. Nowadays, I don't consider having a completed series (I, II, U & H) unless I have all the basic insert sets as well as the main eponymous set. I know it's physically, and financially impossible to try for the autographs and relic cards, so I don't worry about those. If I get them, great. If not, I don't lose sleep over it.

Over the course of this blog, I've recounted the successes I have had so far. I could call piecing together the 2001 Topps Archives Future Archives cards my biggest success because not only did I have a full set of cards not too many people have, but one that not too many knew about. Later on, I even spent money on factory sets just to get these bonus "Never See the Light of Day...EVER" cards. Unfortunately, money was diverted to more important matters (bills, kids, mortgage, life in general), so I couldn't continue my binge of factory set buying. Once in a while, I'll but a factory set or two, but not in the quantities I did before, especially now that there are so many different factory sets to buy. So if you happen to have any bonus cards from 2006 Topps onwards, please let me know...

I guess the biggest challenges for me as a set collector is not the product so much, but how much of it I really need. Since they started putting out those the retail exclusive inserts in 2006, I've found that I've spent way too much money on blasters just so I can get my hands on them. I find nothing wrong with blaster boxes. I mean, unless you can find a card shop, and you don't look online, the best way to get cards are to shop at a retailer like WalMart, Target, or KMart. But because Topps started putting different insert sets for different stores, I now have a stockpile full of packs from all three retailers that have been unopened, save for the foil bonus pack that contained the cards I really wanted. The number of products both Topps and UD put out don't bother me so much. I remind myself that I'm only here for the basics. The extra stuff looks nice, but I don't need it. Although that Allen & Ginter set looks really good...

About or six paragraphs ago, I wrote, "It was that feeling of 'I MUST have them ALL' that made me become the collector I am." This way of thinking does come with a caveat that I can never seem to shake. I consider myself a patient person in most aspects of my life. Even with two kids aged 8 and 6, I believe I am a patient human being. Except when it comes to the Hobby. I know I could wait until prices go down. I know that I have a full year to work with. But I find that I have a hard time just sitting there while collector after collector completes their sets before I do. And I find that I have to get everything now. I even bought a full master set (base and inserts) of the last two Topps series just because I thought it was the only way to get the insert sets without having to search for them separately. That Buy it Now feature on eBay is going to be the death of me yet. I hit the button, agree to pay, only to find that down the line, another person (or more frustratingly, the same person) has the same sets at a cheaper BIN price.

Many times I wish that we could go back to the glory days where there was only one or two sets each of the manufacturers put out. But alas, as long as there is a market for them, there will always be those products that I'll admire, but never get for myself. Does that mean that I'll give up? Of course not. As long as the eponymous brand comes out with something, I'll buy it.

Are there things I'd like to see in the flagship product? Absolutely. Bring back the 792 card sets. Or since Topps produces 110 card sheets instead of the 132, how about two series of 440 cards? Put in the players who don't see card action anymore. Those would be the third string catchers and the mop up relievers, the pinch hitters, the 24th man on the roster. There are 25 men on a team. With 30 teams, that's 750 players, and that doesn't even include the players who go on the DL. Bring back the Major League Debut Sets last seen circa 1990-1992. If you have to follow those MLBPA rules, then at least put the players who debuted until the cutoff (what is it, September 1) in the basic set, and make cards of those who debuted after the date (those who would qualify for that Rookie Card Logo the following year) insert cards akin to the Bowman Prospect cards. That would make a set collector like me really, truly happy.

I'm glad that someone stepped up to organize such an undertaking as this. The Blogger Unite thing I did made me feel that I belonged to the blogosph...I mean the blogging community in general. When Gellman (congratulations on getting married. Let me just say that life as you know it is over...take it from someone who's been at it for ten plus years now...I'm kidding of course. I love being married, and I'm sure you will too) thought of getting bloggers together to write about a certain topic, I thought...why not. So here is my take on the subject matter. It may look like random, disorganized thoughts. But I think many will understand what I mean. Until the next one...Sports Card Bloggers Unite!!!


JayBee Anama

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