For years now I've paged my Topps flagship sets with complete disregard to the numbers that are on the back of the cards. The haphazard order of these sets has always bothered me. I think of my Topps sets not just as a collection of cards, but instead a yearbook, that flows from one year to the next. I can pull a binder off the shelf and it's an orderly review of the year that was in baseball as well as card collecting. Because I absolutely love my system of paging cards, I've decided to share it in detail with the rest of the #collectfam. I hope you enjoy, and even better, come up with a system of your own to share. As you will see, I borrow heavily from the beloved method that Fleer used to organize their sets in the 80's, but with a few changes of my own. Here are 12 easy steps to take your flagship album to greater heights.
1. DO NOT DRINK ANY ALCOHOL WHILE ATTEMPTING TO PAGE YOUR SET. TRUST ME. I CAN'T FUCKING STRESS THIS ENOUGH.
2. Purchase this binder at your local Target, Walmart, Office Depot, etc. This binder will PERFECTLY hold a 1,000 to 1,100 paged set of Series 1, 2, & 3. It will also hold a customizable spine so you don’t have an endless wall of blank binders spines on your binder shelves.
3. I use these pages because these are readily available at my local Target. A couple of bags will do. If you have another source of pages, I'm sure that will work just fine too. But I'm no longer responsible for the outcome if they don't. It's kinda like a chili recipe. If you want to add beans, that's on you.
4. Take your SERIES 1 & 2 SETS ONLY and sort them into teams and subsets. (Set Series 3 aside for later) In 2016, there were 4 subsets: World Series, Team Cards, Highlights/Checklists, and League Leaders.
5. Once you’ve sorted everything as shown, alphabetize all your team piles before paging. This also works as a great double check to make sure you don’t have an Indians card in the Twins pile. Yes, this does happen. Frequently in fact, if you don’t follow step #1.
6. Page in the following order (all according to the previous season, in this case 2015)
a. World Series winning team
b. World Series losing team
c. LCS losing team with better record
d. LCS losing team with worse record
e. Four LDS losing teams starting with best record to worst record
f. Wild Card losing team with best record
g. Wild Card losing team with worse record
h. The rest of the remaining teams starting with best record to worst record.
7. With the remaining subset cards, I’m fluid about the order I put them in. To me, the whole point of paging a set this way is to give it a nice visual continuity. Preferably, the subsets would all consist of 9 cards each so they could all be on one page, but it’s never that easy, is it? I do the best I can then to arrange them so they are not broken up across pages. 2016 actually worked out well for this. There were 4 slots left on the page after placing all the teams, and there were 4 World Series Highlights cards. Well there you go. After that it flowed nicely with the 30 Team cards, 6 AL Leaders cards, 6 NL Leaders cards, and the 10 Highlights Checklists cards.
8. Taking a break here for a FAQ.
a. Why isn’t the front page in alphabetical order? Taking a cue from 1981 Fleer, which instead of just alphabetizing the cards by team, more or less had the best player on the team first, working down the worst player on the team last, I thought it would make for a great look to have the biggest stars of the World Champs staring at me when I opened the binder to page 1. I've even altered it in recent years to have the World Series MVP be the first card in the binder. Now I could’ve easily put those 9 cards in alphabetical order, but as long as Topps keeps putting horizontally laid out cards in their sets, I cannot do that. So I mix them up to make it visually appealing to me. Vertical cards together and horizontal cards together. (Hey Topps! Pick one or the other!! Even if it's horizontal, which looks horrible paged!!!)
b. What do you do when teams have the same record? This is very easy to answer. I just pick the team l like better and page them first. Obviously, the Tigers break all ties and the Red Sox lose all ties. The Marlins win most ties and the Indians lose most ties. You can see where I'm going with this.
9. OK, so now it’s time for Series 3. This will be short and sweet. It mostly works the same way as Series 1 & 2, but this time paging according to the results of the current season, and not the last one (in this case, 2016).
a. Thinking of my flagship set as a yearbook of sorts, this method allows the binder to “flow” from one season into the next. I put the Rookie Debut cards first as their own subset, since they are not true rookie cards anyway that should be with the teams. Then go the Home Run Derby cards, followed by the All-Star starting lineups and the reserves. Then the World Series winning team down to 2016’s worst team. I like breaking it up this way so that when I’m looking at this series I can see who the big pickups were, as opposed to mixing them with Series 1 & 2 and not being able to tell (I guess I could look at the numbering on the back, but I’ve already come this far and besides, I like it this way)
b. This method also allows you to go ahead and get Series 1 & 2 paged up as soon as you complete them during the season.
10. BACK TO THE IMPORTANCE OF STEP 1. Since Topps is hell bent on designing every card in a 1000 card set to look almost identical, it’s very easy to get cards in the wrong piles and screw the whole thing up and have to go back and fix it. I have not followed Step 1 in the past and have always ended up screwing up somewhere. Case in point, with only a few pages left to go, I found that I missed the goddamned All-Star logo on Stephen Vogt and had to unpage TWENTY ONE PAGES to put him in the correct slot. (Note to Topps, or any employees who might be reading: PLEASE give the subsets different designs than the base cards. For some reason this was stopped around 2007 and it’s AWFUL. Look how beautiful that turned out in 1983 vs. 2013. Please help an old man out here.)
11. Another FAQ. What about inserts/gimmicks/parallels? Put them in a penny sleeve and a monster box. You're likely never going to get all of these anyway, and really, a binder with empty pockets just looks bad.
12. Sit back now and disregard Step 1. You did it my friend! You can enjoy the weightlessness of being unencumbered by the arbitrary numbering system on the backs of the cards. Enjoy looking at that first page and not having to stare at a blank pocket in the bottom left corner where #7 would usually go. Disregard Step 1 even more as you turn the pages of your binder and enjoy the “order." And finally, if you are so inclined, disregard Step 1 even further, and write a blog post about it.
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