That is the question.
A question that came to light once again this afternoon.
Back in the seemingly ancient days when Listia was rockin' and rollin' across the blogosphere, I saw a couple people pick up copies of this spectacular Black Sox set.
Being an Black Sox nut and everything, I went off to Listia to try and find one of my own. I got massively outbid each time and kind of forgot about it after that.
Flash forward to present day. I was reminded of the set again during a recent Black Sox kick and went off to Ebay to see how much real dollars I'd have to fork over to get one. It's apparently not as rare as I originally thought.
I found one for five bucks shipped. That's twenty-five cards, all about the 1919 Sox, for five dollars. A deal if I've ever seen one.
I was a bit worried when the set arrived today. The bubble mailer it came in was way smaller than I had anticipated.
For a moment, I thought the seller may have sent me something else by mistake.
What I didn't realize was that these Black Sox cards were actually minis.
There's the set next to a standard-sized box of 1983 Drake's. They're officially listed as 1992 Manning 1919 Black Sox Reprints. I don't know that I have any other cards with dimensions quite like these.
I knew I was in for a treat from the moment I cracked open the box.
The checklist covers just about anything and everything you'd want to know about the 1919 White Sox.
I don't know exactly what these are supposed to be reprints of, but they look absolutely terrific in-person.The fronts are appropriate to the time period.
Simple, clean, and about as old-timey as it gets.
The people in charge of producing these did a great job with their research.
While they included a lot of the more notable non-crooked members of the 1919 roster, such as Eddie Collins and Red Faber, they also dug deep and featured relievers and backups as well.
I can honestly say that these are my first cards of Byrd Lynn and Harry Liebold.
Of course, the Eight Men Out are the real draw of the set.
Each are denoted by a black box around the border. And, while the non-Black Sox cards have blank backs, these eight feature a brief bio paragraph on the flip side.
One of the many great things about this set is that it chose to feature the real names of each player, such as George "Buck" Weaver and Arnold "Chick" Gandil.
Even after years and years of being obsessed with the Black Sox, these are only my second or third cards of a lot of these guys.
This is probably the crown jewel of them all.
Because of his fame, "Shoeless Joe" is the only player to receive a second card in the set. He was spliced into this color drawing with cornfields in the backdrop, an obvious homage to his likeness in Field of Dreams.
It's a great way to cap off a spectacular set.
That's when I asked myself that age-old question.
To break or not to break?
Should break the set up and disperse them individually throughout my White Sox binder? Or should I just leave them intact inside the box?
It's not the first time I've had to make such a decision.
It's easier for checklists that feature more recent players.
I don't claim to be a set builder, which means you can count the number of complete modern sets I've bought on one hand. If I see one cheap at a flea market or something, I'll buy it. But it doesn't happen often.
Luck was on my side when I picked up an unopened set of 1990 Classic Yellow at my local flea market for two bucks. It came with the spinner and everything. (I never tried to play the game.)
This wasn't much of a challenge for me.
I broke it up.
I took the cards of my "binder guys" and dispersed them accordingly, leaving the others in the original packaging.
The opportunity to have great cards like this in a nine-pocket page was something I wasn't about to let slip past me.
It'd be great if the decision was always that easy.
Sadly, it isn't.
Take something like this, for instance. These panels were inserted into the Chicago Tribune for a few weeks in 2008. They issued four different sheets in all, although I only have two of them.
The urge to piece out each individual card has been tempting since day one. I don't have a lot of cards of guys like Neal Cotts or Daryle Ward in Cubs uniforms. I've been close to piecing it out a few times.
As of right now, though, I've kept it intact.
The sane part of me knows that it looks better as a whole.
Here are two awesome old-timey sets I've found over the years.
The "Origins of Baseball" cards on the left showcase pretty much everything there is to feature about pre-1900 baseball, an era which has always been of particular interest to me. It was one of my first and perhaps greatest impulse buys ever.
On the right is the 1994 UD Ken Burns set, released in accordance with the massive TV series that premiered that same year. I received it as a Christmas gift from my parents a long, long time ago.
And, yes, as the sticker shows, it did come with an exclusive Michael Jordan card. Back when that sort of thing was all the rage.
Only one of the two sets managed to survive the peril of the break.
Though the Origins of Baseball set smartly remained intact, I pieced out the Ken Burns one long ago.
I wouldn't say I regret the decision to break it up, but part of me thinks they would look better back in their original box. That said, a lot of the players featured didn't receive a whole lot of other issues, which makes them look especially nice in their individual binders.
Now, a sane collector would wonder why I don't simply gather all the Ken Burns cards back together and put them back in the box. A perfectly reasonable request.
Trouble is, I have this weird quirk where it's almost impossible for me to take cards out of my binders.
Once it's in, it's usually in for good.
This card of the drunken "Royal Rooters" has a good home in my Red Sox binder. Maybe it might look better as part of a boxed set. Maybe not.
I guess I'm just partial to the binder method.
I've detailed this flea market score once before around here.
One of my regular vendors had a binder of old reprints available in a binder at a dime a piece. I was tempted to peck away and buy the ones I really wanted a dime at a time. But, wanting to preserve the entire binder, I asked the vendor how much he'd want for the lot.
He started at twenty, but I talked him down to ten. The piece has been a premier part of my collection ever since.
Granted, I still get the urge from time to time to distribute the cards among my individual team binders, but I've managed to quell it.
I know they look better together as a collection.
I'll probably piece out this Black Sox set in the end.
The way I see it, I'll get more enjoyment out of flipping through them in my binder, even if they are all separated within it.
Keeping such beautiful cards in a box isn't all that exciting to me.
I couldn't tell you for certain what makes me want to keep sets separate or together. It's a case-by-case thing.
Just another of the many quirks that come along with being a binder guy.