You've caught me in a lyrical mood tonight. Maybe it's the chilled autumn air of my walk home from work tonight. Or maybe it's that we're finally able to tuck away our political differences and focus on the season of giving.
And as far as giving is concerned, I've decided to give myself more time to write. About what, you ask? Why, those cardboard rectangles that so dominate my life. Yes, many years have passed since we thrived here together, but lo, the cardboard sea calls to me still.
I saw a friend yesterday and he expressed interest in putting together a vintage set from childhood. Of course, he's not alone in this idea—like clockwork, you hit a certain age and find yourself on eBay, buying boxes of 1987 Fleer, or 1991 Topps Stadium Club, or whatever your Holy Grail set was when you were 8 years old.
The conversation got me thinking... Is that all there is? Endless pining over the card or set that got away? The one we couldn't afford on a $4-a-week allowance? Maybe so. But I've known and loved a lot of sets over the years, and, like some of you, never threw away my cards or had a parent who did. I've bought and sold sets, given away thousands upon thousands of cards to strangers and friends, and made lopsided trades just to empty my collection down to the barest of bones. (And I've documented most of it, over the years, on this blog.) So for me, the existential hole that only owning Will Clark's rookie card might
fill is not so very big. In fact, it may not be there at all. But to my friend, that hole is very real, and a couple Will Clark and Bo Jackson rookies would help fill it in quite nicely, thank you very much.
We talked about which set to collect. For him, it's the greatest hobby hits of the 1980s: 1983 Topps, 1984 Donruss, 1987 Fleer. For me, it was a bit more complicated: 1977 Topps, plus the cloth cards, the regional Burger King Yankees set and any additional O-Pee-Chee cards featuring players in different unis, photos, or teams. And I'd probably create my own customs once it was all said and done.
Talking out loud about collecting a new set got me excited, but it also got me thinking about what sort of collector I really am. My friend was excited by the idea of buying packs until he had completed a set that had eluded him as a kid. I was going on a more complicated, multi-step track: buying individual packs would probably be too cost-prohibitive. My route to a complete mini-mega-master set was going to be a series of eBay wins, Sportlots.com bulk purchases, and possibly a few cards picked up at a show or through my trading group.
I'm staring at that last sentence. Maybe to rekindle my love of collecting is just completing a set I can still buy in packs, or boxes. There are so few sets I'd want to collect from my childhood that I don't already have. I can count them on one hand: 1989 Topps, 1989 Score, 1985 Topps, 1994 Fleer. This friend and I have done Junk Wax Battles in the past, and those were a lot of fun. Maybe what I need is a true junk wax set... 1991 Fleer? The ugliest banana-yellow cards you've ever seen? Or all 10,000 cards from 1991 Score? If I'm going to do a junk wax set, it's got to have subsets, so that rules out 1990 Upper Deck and 1991 Fleer, despite the Pro Visions. Maybe 1990 Topps? I hated those cards as a kid, but 9 Nolan Ryans and a Greg Vaughn Future Stars card can't be wrong (plus all those recent Archives cards!)...