Thursday, April 24, 2014

Come one, come all

I feel like card companies have rewritten the rules on checklists recently.

In the past, there was a certain understanding that the design of every set would be distinct from one another. Though they were issued just a year apart, there's no confusing '74 and '75 Topps.

More so than ever before, a lot of today's sets are virtually indistinguishable. I know I still have problems placing each respective year of Gypsy Queen.

At one point, I feel that there was the possibility that virtually any player could pop up in a checklist. Everyone from stars like Mariano Rivera to backup catchers like Chris Widger were fair game.

Again, not so much these days. Perhaps my biggest problem with today's Topps is the fact that the same batch of players seem to appear in every single set. What we really need is something like Topps Total, but that's another topic for another day. (And something I've mentioned countless times in the past.)

At the very least, at least there's the guarantee that checklists will feature a decent amount of players. Sure, guys like Yasiel Puig and Miguel Cabrera may receive multiple cards in a set. Even with that, I'd guess there were about 320 different players in this year's 330-card Series 1 checklist.

I mean, no set can revolve around just one guy.


I guess Pacific didn't get the memo.

They created not one, but two all-Nolan Ryan sets in the early '90s. Each checklist featured 110 cards of the "Ryan Express", which comes out to a grand total of 220 cards of one guy.

That's insane.

Not surprisingly, these are easy to find in dime boxes. I seem to come home with at least a couple after every show.

As I said before, I'm all about player variety. I want to see as many different guys featured as possible. I really shouldn't like sets like this.

In reality, though...

...I do.

That Nolan Ryan set features a ton of awesome shots that you wouldn't see in a normal checklist. It's also helped boost my "Ryan Express" collection to well above the 100-card mark.

And Pacific didn't even stop there.

In 1992, they pushed yet another one-player set. This time, the golden boy was Tom Seaver. All 110 cards devoted exclusively to "Tom Terrific".

Yes, I like these as well.

Don't ask me why.

As far as these types of checklists go, we can thank Fleer for the inspiration.

Or you can blame them, depending on which side you want to take.

Though they strived to be an upstart card company back in the late '50s, Fleer had trouble luring any players away from Topps. Their one big coup, however, was landing Ted Williams.

And they weren't scared to let the collector know it.

In 1959, Fleer released an 80-card set exclusive to the "Splendid Splinter". Though the company would obviously go on to achieve greater fame in the '80s and beyond, I'm not sure many collectors know about their Williams-based beginnings.

Some of them, as shown above, are quite beautiful. Others I've seen, not so much.

At the very least, Fleer understood that a one-player set wasn't entirely out of the realm of possibility.

I have a suspicion that at least one brand was inspired by the efforts of Pacific.

In 1992, Conlon released a 165-card set entirely dedicated to Babe Ruth. I guess if there was one guy worthy of something like this, it's the "Great Bambino".

Like most other one-player sets, I've warmed up to this one over the years. Again, there are a decent amount of forgettable shots.

Others, however, are tremendous. I doubt you'd find a shot of Ruth and former president Warren Harding anywhere else in my collection.

Oh, and this very same shot just so happened to pop up in my history textbook from this semester.

I can't say that about any other cards I own.

The tactic of single-player sets pretty much died down after the early '90s.

Leaf, however, recently tried to revive it with a 50-card set revolving around Pete Rose. Because Leaf is currently unlicensed, they're free to print anything of "Charlie Hustle", something that Topps can't do.

Still, if I were going to hate on a set, this would be the one. All one guy and no logos? I want to say a set like this shouldn't exist, but...

It's actually not bad.

I've found quite a few goldmines from it during my dime box digs. I'm especially fond of this one featuring a shot of a young Pete Rose, Jr., who'd get his own cup of coffee in the bigs many years later.

Though he did leave a black mark on the game of baseball, I'll admit that it's nice to see Pete Rose cards again.

I'm by no means suggesting that every set should be devoted to a single guy. I'd probably stop collecting if that ever happened.

All I'm saying is that these types of releases aren't too bad every once in a while. Even though I should hate them, I have a begrudging respect for brands that could pull off these one-player sets.

I honestly can't understand why I like them, but I do.

It's one of the bigger mysteries in my card collecting universe.


Hackenbush said...

There was also this set honoring Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline,

petethan said...

There was also that Fleer Cal Ripken thing sometime in the '90s or early 00s. Who's next? I can see a very compelling all-Jeter set to be explored...

Mark Hoyle said...

The Williams set is still pretty easy to find at reasonable prices.,the one thing Fleer did was pull one card for contractural reasons. Card # 68 . It is the precursor to Topps short prints. Nearly impossible to find for under $800.00. It's the only card I need to complete the set

Anonymous said...

I'm tempted to say that sets based on a particular team could be cool... but then that team would likely be the Yankees, and nobody wants to see that.

The Junior Junkie said...

Ever since I spent some time examining the Fleer and Fleer Tradition design timelines I've wondered why they didn't make anything in the "throwback era" of the early aughts inspired by that Ted Williams set. They wouldn't even have to make it about one player. The again, if they did I'd have a suggestion.

The Junior Junkie said...

(It would be Griffey.)

Adam Kaningher said...

Surely some of your American Pie card photos showed up in history class.