Friday, March 24, 2017

5150 + 1986 = Perfection

I read today that Van Halen’s 5150 was released 31 years ago today, which got me to thinking about 1986 in general, which in turn reminded me that 1986 was truly my last great year of card collecting. I suspect several factors combine into the reason why, none of which really have anything to do with the hobby itself. OK, maybe one, just a little bit.

Love Walks In

I still have such fond, vivid memories of collecting in 1986. Memories like walking a mile or so down snow covered train tracks to the local card shop on a blustery Maine Saturday morning to pick up a shiny new box of Topps (with bright red cards on the box bottom!). Or swinging by that same shop on my way to my after school job at Service Merchandise to pick up a box of Fleer (a box that had ZERO doubles!). Or walking into Grand City and finding what looked like thousands of packs of Donruss dumped into a barrel near the cash registers (the number of packs it seemed like anyways before I pulled a Canseco!).

I’ve never been able to duplicate those memories at Target or Walmart. Luckily the memories of opening a Topps box with my buddy while his mom made us grilled cheese sandwiches never faded. Nor did buying a pack of Fleer later one afternoon and getting ALL 7 cards I was missing for my set. Nor the dizziness I felt rifling through each pack of Donruss looking at that crazy design. Who knows, maybe now there's some kid somewhere who has similar stories, but I'm not holding my breath.

Best Of Both Worlds

I think a large part of it also has to do with the fact that I graduated high school that summer. As I went off to college that fall, discretionary spending habits changed considerably over the next few years. Schaefer, Lucky Strike, and numerous record shops started getting a lot of my money that had once been earmarked for cards. I was an avid football card collector as well, and I have no memory of buying any that fall. Probably why I still don’t have that damn Jerry Rice card.

Why Can’t This Be Love

Obviously the brutal changes the hobby was about to undergo in 1987 played a part as well. When everybody started trying to fund retirement portfolios, my “hobby” lost some of its luster.  I have continued collecting in the years following, but never again was it as much “fun” as it was in 1986. It became more like a dutiful chore.

Good Enough

So what really happened? Basically, I grew up. Well, got older anyway.  It happens. But when you think about it, is anything as good as it was when you were a kid? Probably not.


PS: When 5150 was released, I was working as a sporting goods clerk at the local Service Merchandise (pictured above, it's now a Chinese restaurant). One of the guys who worked in the “Sight & Sound” department hatched a plan: a handful of us each chipped in a couple of bucks, he went up to the record store and bought the cassette and a box full of blank tapes, then came back to the store and dubbed copies for everybody ALL DAY LONG. I swear I remember hearing that album ten times that day. Much to the dismay of Van Halen fans, it remains my favorite VH album.

Monday, March 6, 2017


     I'm always quick to tell anyone who will listen that I started collecting baseball cards in 1978, but it really wasn’t until the summer of 1981 that it fully kicked into gear and I became a dedicated collector. 1978 was the year that I fulfilled every father’s dream and began playing Little League. As an avid collector of Star Wars cards the year before, it didn’t take long once I discovered they made cards for baseball too that I fell madly in love with them. I still fondly recall getting some packs here and there that summer, devouring the info on the backs of the cards along with the sweet pink rectangle in each pack. I can only wish to relive the hours I spent stacking my deck to whoop my little brother in the PLAY BALL game on the backs of each card that we would play every day of that summer.

     Unfortunately for a budding nine year old collector, at the end of the summer we were stationed in Spain, where baseball cards could no longer be found on every corner! Save the occasional box of cards my grandma sent me for a birthday or Christmas, card collecting took a back seat to comics, which were readily available at the Navy Exchange bookstore. Our cards then only came back out when a new kid moved to the base, the rest of us picking his collection over like vultures, as that would be the only supply of new stuff until the next kid moved to the base.

     But then in the glorious summer of 1981 we were transferred back to the good old US of A! We would spend the summer in Arkansas with relatives before moving on to Florida at summer's end. The date we arrived back in the US was June 9th to be exact, and boy howdy how I couldn’t wait to watch baseball all summer after three years without television in Spain. Well if you’ve read this far and remember any baseball history at all, it’s pretty easy to piece together the events that happened three days later (on my 12th birthday no less) and brought my dreams crashing down. Thankfully though, I still had baseball cards to collect to fill the void.

     With three card companies instead of one, it didn’t take long for my plastic card locker to outlive its usefulness, so I “upgraded” to rubber bands and a Coca Cola crate. Despite the crudeness of my storage system, I was extremely meticulous in my sorting and filing methods. Each rubber banded “bundle” was sorted by team in the following order:
1.     Topps Team Checklist on top (marked appropriately of course)
2.     Topps players in alphabetical order
3.     Fleer players in alphabetical order, with the manager card on top
4.     Donruss players in alphabetical order, with the manager card on top
     Any multi-player, record breaker, post season, set checklists, and Fleer Checklists (marked appropriately of course) were banded into their own bundle.
     The team bundles were then placed in the box in the following order:
1.     AL East in alphabetical order
2.     AL West in alphabetical order
3.     NL East in alphabetical order
4.     NL West in alphabetical order
5.     Multi-player, etc. bundle
     I ended up getting on a Little League team in Arkansas (McGehee Bank), and despite the absence of Major League Baseball that summer, that and collecting fixed my baseball jones.

     By 1981 I was a Houston Astros fan, solely due to my having been a pitcher for my Little League team in 1979, the Angels. I knew Nolan Ryan was a bad ass (with his 1978 Topps Record Breaker card as my primary evidence) and so I became a Ryan fan. I carried on again the next year toiling with the Angels, even though Ryan had moved on to Houston, but I never stopped rooting for him, and by the time the Astros made their playoff run in 1980, I’d become a fan of the team as well.

     Throughout that summer, my first ever collecting goal was to finish the Topps Astros team set. Each week I'd narrow it down by a few cards until there was only one card remaining. Card #534, Dave Smith. For the rest of the summer, every time my grandma went to Walmart, I'd ride with her so I could search all the rack packs for Dave Smith. Never once did I see him. Never once did I come home with a pack that had him inside

     At the end of the summer, we left Arkansas and headed towards our new home in Florida. On a rainy morning of Day 2 of the drive, we stopped for gas at a 7-Eleven somewhere near Pensacola, FL. I asked my dad if I could have a dollar to go in and get a Coke. I bought that Coke, and one pack of 1981 Topps baseball cards. I got back in the U-Haul truck, riding shotgun along with my crate full of cards. We headed back down the highway and I went to work on that pack of cards. I still remember freezing up as I sorted through them and suddenly there before my eyes was card #534, Dave Smith. I did it! I finally completed the Astros team set!! I was on cloud nine the rest of the trip. I must have spent hours staring at that card. I still love seeing it 36 years later. 

     To this day the cards of 1981 hold a special place in my heart for the great memories of collecting that summer, and more importantly, the great memories of life that summer. I hope that all the collectors out there have similar memories themselves. But without a $%@#$&%^ two month baseball strike for crying out loud! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Farewell To Heritage

I wish I had a clever or humorous way to start off this story, but I don't. Around lunchtime today I started thinking about giving up collecting Heritage sets. Within an hour I'd made up my mind.

I'm calling it quits.

I was late getting into Heritage. I gave a valiant effort collecting 2001 Bowman Heritage (2 boxes) but never really came close to finishing the set. I bought a few packs of Topps Heritage in 2002, 2006, and  2007. I bought a couple of blasters in 2008 and 2009, and bought a lot more a couple of years ago when I found some heavily marked down. I also added most of the base cards from 2006 and 2007 by picking up lots on the ebay.

I went full bore in 2010. I probably spent in the neighborhood of $500 that year buying packs, boxes, and SP singles, and I'm still 8 cards shy of the set.  I tried again in 2011, spending around $300 that year and still coming up short by about 40 or so SP. In 2012 I just bought a base set on the ebay and spent the rest of the summer trying to hunt down the SP at shows. I'm probably short 30 SP of that set.

I know now that I'm never going to finish any of these sets. So in a great moment of clarity today, I gave up. Which is too bad, because quite frankly I like the concept of Heritage. But I'm no longer going to be a slave to the execution of them.

Oh, I'll continue putting together Heritage Tigers team sets every year. That's not such an enormous undertaking that it can't be completed. In fact I have almost all the base, SP, and Variations that have ever been released. I still get great enjoyment from collecting Tigers, especially those that are appearing for the first time as Tigers.

I'll also continue putting together a couple of the Heritage insert sets I really dig: Baseball Flashbacks and Then & Now. I think these are the cards where Heritage shines. In fact one of the things I would've loved to have seen was for these players to have actual cards in the Heritage set, similar to how they're handled with Archives. How you can produce a set that harkens back to 1961, but not include base cards of Maris or Mantle is beyond me, but I digress.

I fancy myself as a dinosaur in today's collecting world. One of last of the set builders. I came from a time when building a set was fun and more than just about collecting cards and making a buck. A set was also a yearbook. My yearbook. It marked the season before, which was chronicled on the backs of each card, as well as the season at hand, when you chased the rookie cards and blooming superstars that had never been sought after before.

Now there are no more rookie cards. Only autographed chrome inserts, never pulled from exorbitantly priced packs and boxes. And by the time a player becomes a star today, there have already been dozens of cards issued in dozens of sets that have had scans plastered across the internet an infinite amount of times for all to see, so that by the time I finally got one it felt like I was just dutifully crossing that name off a list of must have cards, instead of savoring it as I had done with so many cards in my youth.

It's not all doom and gloom though. In that same moment of clarity, while I reminisced about how much more fun it was back then, that I realized it could still be fun again. This time by going backwards from the cards I collected as a kid, instead of going forward with the ones I laboriously collect as an adult.

I started collecting in the summer of 1978. My oldest complete set is a 1979 Topps set. Over the last couple of years, I started fishing through bins of old cards buying up nice condition cards from 1974-1978. Within a couple years, I've added a couple hundred cards from each year. So I'm off to a nice start towards building attainable sets. Sets with rookie cards. Sets without inserts. Sets without parallels. Sets without short prints. Sets without variations (some 1974 Padres and a 1979 Bump Wills notwithstanding.....)

I've always had a fervor for set building. I always will. I've spent too much time enjoying it to give it up completely. I have too many memories of opening that first pack or box of that year, as well as finding that last card needed to finish that year's set. Now the time has come to make new memories by rediscovering old cards, and for the first time in a long time, I'm eagerly looking forward to collecting again. By looking backwards.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Collecting Resolutions for the New Year

1. I resolve to blog more. Which should be challenging since.....

2. I resolve to collect a lot less 2013 product. I'm tired of paying hundreds of dollars to put together a set, only to see it listed on ebay for a fraction of the price that I spent. I'll let the rippers & flippers build my sets for me from now on. (My only exception would be holding out on Heritage and waiting to see if they hit $35 a box again by summer. My guess is yes.) I'll gladly let others pay the exorbitant prices to chase hits that I'm not the least bit interested in. I'll miss my favorite part of card collecting, set building, but that's how it goes now I guess.

3. I resolve to spend more of my collecting time/resources/$$$ on the vintage sets I've been working on: 1974-1978 Topps Baseball and 1978-1986 Topps Football. To poorly paraphrase Gordy LaChance, nothing will ever beat collecting the cards you collected when you were a kid.

4. I resolve to collect more 90's sets. My collection as it stands is pretty much just Topps Flagship. I'm think I'm going to add some combination of Collector's Choice, Donruss, Fleer, Leaf, OPC, Score, Studio, & Ultra to the mix. I couldn't afford ALL this stuff in the 90's. Today it's cheaper than it was then. If John Lennon were still around, I'm sure he'd agree: Happiness is a warm, $8 90's box.

5. I resolve to finally get a complete wantlist compiled, printed, and published on the internet. Really.

6. I resolve to finally finish all my 80's Flagship sets. I'm only about fifty total cards away from finishing at least a dozen sets. It'll be nice to pull that page OUT of my wantlist.

7. I resolve to take up online trading. I'm about to get a couple underway & I'm really looking forward to it.

8. I resolve to collect a lot more Tigers autographed cards. I was never a big auto collector, but I was bitten by the bug in 2012. I'd like to really beef up my collection by adding Kaline, Morris, Trammell, Polanco, Guillen, Magglio, Austin Jackson, Cabrera, Fielder, and Verlander in 2013, this year in which the Detroit Tigers will be World Series Champions.

9. I resolve to go to my third NSCC this year in Rosemont. I've met a lot of great folks on twitter over the last year (you can find me @RobbyT86) and I'm looking forward to putting some faces with some names. I'm also looking forward to picking up a lot of 50's & 60's Tigers cards, 80's oddball stuff, and visiting with old friends from my old stomping grounds in the Northwest Suburbs.

10. I resolve to have a lot of fun collecting in 2013 by sticking to my other nine resolutions!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2013 Topps Classic sell sheet (sounds amazing!)

Topps Classic Set!

Classic stock like Heritage, but with an original design like Lineage.

6 Series, 180 cards per series.

Each Series will be released approximately every 8 weeks during a year.

Most Series will feature 4-6 cards per team plus misc subsets (listed below).

Series 1 February

Subset: Previous year award winners (MVP, CY Young, ROY, & All-Rookie team)

Series 2 April

Subset: Players on new teams (with actual NEW photos, no photoshopped photos)

Series 3 June

Subset: HOF Class of ‘13 (2013 HOF inductees on base cards using photos from all the teams he played for)

Series 4 August

Subset: All-Stars (starters, combos, highlights, and MVP)

Series 5 October

Subset: September call ups/prospects (old-fashioned 2-3 players from one team on one card)

Series 6 November

Subset: Postseason Highlights

Subset: League Leaders

All Series will include a few Classic Combos, HOF veterans, and managers as well as any highlights, MLB debuts, and trades that occur since the previous series.

No SP or variations. NONE!

One insert set per series of 9 cards (approx 1:4). One parallel set numbered to that year (approx 1:1). One “hit” (approx 1:72)

Insert sets:

Series 1: Award Winner Reprints (cards of HOF players from award winning seasons)

Series 2: Then & Now (star players rookie photo and current photo)

Series 3: Hello & Goodbye (HOF players rookie and last card reprints)

Series 4: All-Time Leaders (multi-photo cards of all-time leaders)

Series 5: Artists Renditions (classic cards painted by various artists)

Series 6: Fall Classics Reprints (reprint cards of HOF players from classic postseason years)

12 cards to a $2 pack (11 base cards and one parallel, insert, or hit)

WOW! This set sounds amazing. Pays homage to so many sets yet offers so much to so many different collectors.

Too bad I just made the entire thing up. But I would TOTALLY collect this. Discuss. Maybe if this gets passed around the internet enough it will inspire Topps to finally come out with a great set!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Buyer Beware: 2012 Topps '87 Minis

I was able to to put together the 50 card set of '87 minis Sunday at a show for a grand total of $11.50.

I got home from work tonight and the cards are already starting to curl like '10 Chrome.

No Tigers in Series 1, but no Prince Fielder either, which means Series 2 ought to be loaded with Tigers. I'm guessing Fielder, Verlander, Cabrera, and Avila.

Topps fucking sucks.

Friday, February 3, 2012

2012 Topps Series 1 Detroit Tigers

I've posted the scans on facebook for anybody who might be interested. Search for the group "Detroit Tigers Cards and Stuff." Prepare to be underwhelmed. Or just go here: