January 19, 2010

And now things get interesting

It's mostly because I didn't get one single League Leaders sticker in Packs 1 through 46, and Packs 48 through 57 yielded a whole bunch. So: is there really a tangible collation going on with the sequencing of the stickers in these packs? I'm beginning to think so, especially since now, when I get stickers that I need, they come in packs with other stickers that I need (see Pack 48 for example). This leads to another question: Why would Topps care if a whole album could be completed from a single box? Wouldn't it have made more sense for them to make the pack cycle less than 20?

I believe I've brought this up before, but there doesn't seem like there would have been a very good chance that someone in 1982 would buy an entire box of sticker packs, simply because it would cost $20 to buy a whole box and not many kids had that kind of cash to spend on stickers. So then, if we follow this theory, Topps could have made the pack cycle less than 20, and by pack cycle I mean the number of different packs to a box. If there's a pack cycle of 20 in a box of 100 packs, then there would be 20 different packs in the entire box, each pack appearing 5 times.

Of course, bringing in the finite pack cycle idea to any box proves problematic, simply because Topps produced hundreds, if not thousands, of boxes, and they can't all be the same in terms of collation. But let's look at this closely: There are 260 different stickers in the set. The minimum amount of packs to buy would be 52 (each containing 5 new stickers).

If you look at a whole box of 1982 Topps Stickers, the pack cycle is probably right around 52 (this is something we can confirm as we move through the box). If that turns out to be true, then I should end up with a completed album and doubles of almost every sticker – 240 total doubles. And not one triple.

But let's say that, in order to maximize the number of packs a child had to buy to complete the set, you installed a pack cycle of 20. Then the child can't complete a set by purchasing all their packs from one box. It would be impossible. The child would have to purchase packs from at least three boxes. Depending upon the child's proximity to three different purchase points (or three different boxes), completing the album could take him or her all summer, if not longer.

From the company's view, you'd create a collation by assigning stickers to three routes (A, B, C). If Route A has 100 stickers, and Route B has 100 stickers, then Route C would be left with 60 stickers, plus 40 stickers from Route A to complete the pack cycle of 20. So then the second incarnation of Route A would really be Route AB, to fill in to meet 100 stickers, and so on.

Route A = 100 stickers
Route B = 100 stickers
Route C = 60 stickers + 40 stickers from A
Route AB = 60 stickers from A + 40 stickers from B
Route BC = 60 stickers from B + 40 stickers from C
Route CA = 20 stickers from C + 80 stickers from A
Route AB1 = 20 stickers from A + 80 stickers from B
Route BCA = 20 from B + 60 from C + 20 from A
Route AB2 = 80 from A + 20 from B
Route BC1 = 80 from B + 20 from C
Route CA1 = 40 from C + 60 from A
Route AB3 = 40 from A + 60 from B
Route BC2 = 40 from B + 60 from C

In this scenario, there's only 13 possible configurations. With a pack cycle of or around 52, the hypothetical collation is much less complex, if not just completely random (or as random as they appeared on uncut sheets during the printing process).

Of course, I may have it all backwards, and the collation was determined by sticker placement on uncut sheets. The Uncut Sheet theory would explain why some packs contain one or two needed stickers and three or four doubles (single versus double prints).

Pack 47: Eddie Murray Leaders, Fernando Valenzuela Leaders, Keith Hernandez, NL All-Star Manny Trillo, Dave Collins

Pack 48: Lenny Randle, Buddy Bell, Rollie Fingers Leaders, Phil Niekro, Carney Lansford Leaders

Pack 49: Ernie Whitt, Joel Youngblood, Tom Hume, Lenny Randle, Graig Nettles

Pack 50: Gary Carter, Ken Reitz, Tom Paciorek, Bruce Sutter, Dwayne Murphy

Pack 51: Mike Flanagan, Bump Wills, Pedro Guerrero, Ted Simmons, Cecil Cooper

Pack 52: AL All-Star Jack Morris, 1981 World Champions (one half), NL All-Star Dave Concepcion, John Wathan, Garry Templeton

Pack 53: Damaso Garcia, Jorge Orta, Floyd Bannister, NL All-Star Gary Carter, Pete Rose

Pack 54: Willie Aikens, Garry Maddox, Tom Seaver Leaders, 1981 NL Championship, Jeff Burroughs

Pack 55: Keith Hernandez, Dave Parker, Willie Aikens, Tim Raines Leaders, Jim Rice

Pack 56: Willie Wilson, Bob Grich, Steve Garvey, Carney Lansford, Reggie Jackson

Notes. I got 25/50 new stickers, and 25 doubles. Of those 25 doubles, three were of new stickers (Willie Aikens, Keith Hernandez, Lenny Randle). So, why no Willie Aikens for 53 packs, and then two Willie Aikenses in the next two packs? I find the laws of collation utterly fascinating, and yet so complex that my mind has a hard time figuring any of it out.

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