Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What I miss the most

As we all know, the hobby hits a bit of a lull during the winter months.

Because of that, I find myself flipping through my binders quite a bit this time of year, trying to keep myself in the "swing" of things.

It's also my little way of "taking inventory" of my collection.

It's how I make sure there aren't any mistakes in the organizational process. It's how I review some of my latest additions to a particular binder. Mostly, it's how I find out just how many cards I own of a certain player.

Today was no different. As I was totaling up my 37 different cards of Joey Gathright as a Devil Ray, I began to notice the sheer variety of them.

Fleer Hot Prospects. Classic Clippings. Bazooka. Donruss Rookies.

I've never been one to repeatedly bash the whole "Topps monopoly" thing. Its had its ups and downs.

Still, how much better would Target's card aisles be if Fleer and Donruss were still in the picture?

I can't help but wonder how different our hobby would be with more choices nowadays. Even if Fleer or Upper Deck were around, I probably wouldn't drop money on a pack of Fleer Hot Prospects or Sweet Spot or something.

However, it'd be good to know that they were there, just in case I should get the itch.

Something far worse is starting to happen, though.

I'm starting to forget what it was even like to have a choice. My memories of seeing Fleer and Donruss packs on the shelves are getting a bit fuzzy.

Seeing all those different Joey Gathright cards got me thinking.

What do I really miss most from the pre-monopoly era?

There's probably a number of different answers to this question. They'd probably vary from collector to collector.

In my book, the simple sight of variety in the Wal-Mart or Target card aisles is one of the top reasons.

Aside from that, I was able to come up with a few other big ones.

I'll start with the obvious one.

Topps just hasn't been as creative since the whole monopoly thing began.

I can't think of a more appropriate example than these "Blockbusters" inserts from 2012 Topps Update, something that's already been well-chronicled in the blogosphere.

Once I saw the addition of newspaper-themed inserts, I was excited. I'd loved Topps' "Year In Review" cards from a few years back.

When I finally pulled a few from my Update box, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. Unlike, you know, actual newspapers, every single "headline" was exactly the same.

"[Insert team] [confusingly gigantic trademark] GET [Insert player name]".

While I still like the overall design of these, they were a bit of a bust in my book.

It wouldn't have taken much to get me to enjoy them. Just a little variety would've been all.

But Topps couldn't even be bothered to do that.

In a way, I guess it perfectly sums up the last few years of this hobby as a whole.

I'll let you in on a little secret.

For the most part, the "set needs" tab on the side of this blog do not contain any actual set needs. They're mainly just player needs in disguise.

As a result, my way of "completing" a set is by getting all the base cards of all the different players I collect.

Despite my relative indifference towards actual set building, I still get quite a rush when I can knock out that last player need from a given set. In my eyes, it was a major victory when my last 2012 Update base need arrived in the mail. (Card #45, Eric Chavez. If anyone cares.)

Why is that feeling so special?

I like "chasing" cards. Plain and simple.

The inserts are basically icing on the cake for me. Whichever ones I can get are a huge plus, but it's no big deal if I have to wait a while to acquire them.

The base cards are the main source of interest for me.

With the limited number of sets on the shelves these days, that quest for the "chase" isn't as big. That feeling doesn't come around too often anymore.

Although it was a bit strenuous at the time, I do miss the days where three different gigantic base sets were on the shelves.

Between Fleer, Upper Deck, and Topps, I certainly had a lot to choose from back in 2006.

I'm only now starting to track down some of those six year-old Fleer cards. I just nabbed this long-lost interleague shot of Mr. Podsednik from a dime box a few months ago.

Again, though, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's all about the "chase".

It's one of the purest forms of enjoyment in being a collector.

Lately, I've been finding a few glaring omissions in Topps' checklists.

This afternoon's "Quarry Unlimited" post reminded me of their biggest oversight in 2012.

Given that Omar Vizquel is possibly a future-Hall of Famer, I find it unbelievable that Topps didn't grant him a single card this year.

It's not just because I want to have a new "sunset" card for my collection. It's because a guy like Vizquel should always get checklist honors over some unknown rookie, like an Erasmo Ramirez or Donovan Solano.

I always thought it was basic common sense.

It's no coincidence that I've only started noticing these "gaps" over the past few years.

There's a simple reason for that.

Whether intentionally or not, everyone's checklist seemed to supplement each other.

Although he played in Philadelphia for over a year, Topps never issued a card of Scott Eyre as a Phillie. Thankfully, Upper Deck was there to fill that void in 2009. The same goes for Richie Sexson as a Yankee.

The flip side of it has been true as well. Bowman (owned by Topps) was the only company to issue a card of Craig Counsell as a Colorado Rockie. Every other company in existence during the '90s missed out on that.

That balance is gone these days.

Sadly, Omar Vizquel may never get an official card as a Toronto Blue Jay.

I've always been an avid supporter of the "all-legend" sets over the years, as I noted in this afternoon's post.

I know some collectors don't like the mix of "throwback" and current players in today's releases. Although I've always liked the combination, I can see where those people are coming from.

It can get a bit confusing and just unsightly to have inserts of Josh Hamilton and Roger Maris together in the same set. I get it.

That's part of why the "all-legend" sets were so great.

All other collectors with the same mindset as myself could bask in the glory of a Fan Favorites-type "throwback" set. Anyone why didn't like the "legends" could simply ignore them if they wanted.

No harm, no foul.

Unfortunately, the dreaded "Topps monopoly" did away with all those.

The few slots that are allotted for "throwback" players these days go to the Mickey Mantles and Jackie Robinsons of the game.

No more Bert Campaneris cards for collectors like me.

I've been getting desperate for anything outside the "big names" lately. So desperate, in fact, that I might just put a box of the logo-less Panini Cooperstown set on my Christmas "wish list" this year.

I don't even like the design all that much. And I've never been a huge fan of cards without logos.

Design and logos aside, though, you don't see cards of Rabbit Maranville and Rube Marquard that often anymore.

Oh, and Hoyt Wilhelm, of course.

It's simply been way too long since something like this has been on the market.

Once this whole monopoly thing ends, I'm praying to see a revival with these types of sets. They're what I miss most about the hobby these days.

A return of the SP Legendary Cuts, Upper Deck Legends, Topps Fan Favorites of this hobby.

All of them. 

Especially Fan Favorites, though.


arpsmith said...

I miss those sets as well. Here's hoping that Panini gets an official license and brings back some of those sets.

hiflew said...

You hit my biggest problem with the monopoly, the variety of checklists. In doing my project, when I hit the Orioles I realized one thing...I had no idea what Matt Wieters looked like. I don't normally watch Orioles games, so cards are basically the only way I get to know most AL teams.

Sure it would be a tad bothersome to add 75 more Troy Tulowitzki cards to the want list this year, but it would have been cool to maybe get a Josh Roenicke or a Tyler Colvin for my Rockies collection.

Pacific was the best for the odd addition to a team checklist. 1998 Pacific Online alone has 4 different "only card of a Rockie" players.

AdamE said...

You won't see a new Fan Favorites set because when MLB put the rule in that card companies had to have a RC logo another rule that the put in was that they couldn't produce sets of just throwback players. Each set has to have a certain percent of regular players and a certain percent of RCs. Stupid I know. But since when has Selig listened to what fans want.