Monday, May 20, 2013

How I build sets

If you're using the conventional sense of the term, I've never been much of a set builder.

Don't get me wrong, though. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who make set building a prime part of their collecting "resume". I'm not sure I'd ever have the patience for the task.

For the most part, however, set building simply doesn't fit in with the way I like to collect. While I won't rule out the possibility of trying my hand at it down the road, I don't see it coming onto the table anytime soon.

Still, that's not to say that I don't have my own unconventional ways of building "sets", so to speak. I've been doing it for years.

One of the set building tasks I've undertaken involves what I like to call "team sets".

The concept is simple enough. My goal is to acquire at least one card that features my various "binder guys" in every uniform they wore throughout the course of their career. (The inclusion of "zero-year" cards is still up in the air.)

With one-team stars like Brooks Robinson, it's not that daunting of a task. Any and all of my "Brooks" cards complete the "team set".

Now, with some other, more well-traveled players, well...

...that's where the real fun starts.

While certainly one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, Rickey Henderson gained some notoriety for wearing quite a few different uniforms throughout the course of his HOF career.

Nine, to be exact.

In order, we have him in A's, Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres, Angels, Mets, Mariners, Red Sox, and Dodgers garb. Henderson's shortest stop was his 32-game tenure with the Angels in '97.

To top it off, "Rickey" made multiple appearances in a couple different uniforms. He enjoyed three different stints with the A's and two with the Padres during his illustrious career.

While not required, I do prefer to have at least one card from each of those multiple stints.

Still, if you ask me for my absolute favorite "team set", it's not much of a contest.

It's Kenny Lofton.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet inducted twelve-team players Mike Morgan, Matt Stairs, and Ron Villone into my binders.

And, yes, thirteen-teamer Octavio Dotel is indeed a "binder guy". However, he never had cards issued during his time with the Pirates or Rockies, so my hopes of ever building a complete Dotel "team set" is nil.

Mr. Lofton is the focus of my largest "team set" to date.

It all started with a brief 20-game stint with the Astros in 1991.

From there, he went on to play for a slew of different franchises.

Here, in order, we have cards from his Indians, Braves, White Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, and...

...Rangers tenures.

Like Henderson's multiple Oakland stops, Lofton played for the Indians on three different occasions. He ended up closing out his career in Cleveland during the 2008 season.

While it hasn't been easy, I've been lucky enough to find a handful of cards from each of Lofton's eleven teams. I think the White Sox was the last one I needed to complete the "set".

Finally putting the lid on things was certainly a remarkable feeling.

All this Indians talk brings me to the other type of "sets" I strive to build.

My "team set" concept has long been an obsession of mine. This one, on the other hand, is a far more recent binder phenomenon.

I refer to these as "Topps sets".

Again, the name is pretty self-explanitory. My goal here is to get every single Topps card my major "binder guys" had issued during their respective careers.

In comparison to "team sets", these are quite a bit tougher. There just aren't many Herb Washington-esque players in my binders.

After all, most of my "binder guys" had more than one Topps card issued during their careers.

With the current hobby, things can get a bit convoluted.

Given all the variations, super short-prints, and other gimmicks we've seen lately, it's hard to nail down what exactly entails a "Topps set" these days.

As far as I'm concerned, an official "set" consists of a player's base Flagship issues. Offshoot Topps sets (like Gypsy Queen or Heritage) aren't required. Multi-player and All-Star cards are preferred, but not needed.

And, for the sake of both my wallet and my sanity, gimmicky issues are not part of an official "set".

My "Topps set" for longtime binder inductee Casey Kotchman, for example, begins with his 2003 Topps Traded release.

As far as these "sets" go, anything from Traded/Update sets are required for true completion.

That's why Kotchman's "Topps set" has multiple cards from 2008, 2009, and...


Incidentally, this 2012 Topps Update issue is probably my favorite Flagship Kotchman to date.

I fear that my Casey Kotchman "Topps set" may be complete.

After a dreadful year in Cleveland last season, he's currently rotting away on the 60-day DL with the lowly Marlins.

I sure hope I'm wrong on that front.

Highlight cards are still a topic of debate around here at "Dime Boxes" headquarters.

I'm still not sure if they should be counted amongst the official "Topps set" ranks. Either way, they're nice supplements for a few of my already-completed sets.

For most of my vintage focuses, the prospect of building a full "Topps set" will most likely stay a dream. While I'd love to, I doubt I'll ever have the money for complete Roberto Clemente or Roger Maris sets.

That's what makes my collections of more "under-the-radar" guys like Manny Sanguillen so special to me.

Though he was one of the better catchers of his era, you don't hear Sanguillen's name mentioned too often these days.

As far as honoring Sanguillen's legacy goes, it's a downright shame. But, when we're talking cardboard, it's all the better for me.

Because of his "minor star" status, most of his cards can be had on the cheap.

I only paid about a buck or two for his '68 Topps rookie card. The rest of his Flagship issues weren't all that hard to find, either.

This page takes us up to his '76 Topps card, the last from his initial tenure with the Pirates.

Sanguillen spent one year with the A's in '77 before returning to his old stomping grounds in Pittsburgh.

Ironically, the final piece to this "Topps set" puzzle was his relatively common 1980 Topps issue. I finally tracked it down at the local flea market last year.

Funny how things work out sometimes.

So, no, I'm not what you'd call a conventional set builder.

But, if my "Topps" and "team" sets are any indication, I can still get on board with the underlying passion that set builders have.

It's all about the thrill of the chase.


hiflew said...

Depending on how active the trade market is this year, Kotchman might warrant a 2013 Update card. He was playing well before getting hurt and the Marlins don't have a quality replacement ready. He might just be there for a year or two.

petethan said...

That's funny, I've always loved Sanguillen too, though I became a fan too late to remember ever seeing him play. On his cards he just always looked so happy to be playing ball.

Backstop Cards said...

Those are some sweet pages there Nick! Man, I didn't even know that Rickey played for the Dodgers.