Work, work, work

23 03 2010

As my puppy (Griffey) would say, gggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……

Work is too busy, and I keep postponing opening the 1980 Topps box (slash – beginning this project). Hopefully next week at some point.

1980 Topps Overview

21 03 2010

So, I’m ready to start this project off with the first set – 1980 Topps. I did a little research on this set, and here’s some of the stuff I came up with, already knew, or some combination of both.

  • 726 cards in the set.
  • Subsets: Season Highlights (1-6), Team Checklists (26 cards throughout, manager on front), League Leaders (201-207), Future Stars (661-686). The Future Stars were 3-player cards, 1 for each team.  66 cards in the set are double printed.
  • Set design: The card front features a white border, a small flag featuring the player’s un-abbreviated position in the top left corner, player name across the top, another flag with the team name on the bottom right, and a facsimile autograph somewhere on top of the player picture. The blue card back features season stats and career totals and a highlighted moment from the player’s career along with a comic-type depiction of the moment.
  • Packs: Cards were issued in 15 card wax packs (25¢ SRP) that came 36 packs per box and 20 per case.  Also available in 42 card rack packs (69¢ SRP), 25 card cello packs (39¢ SRP) 28 card super cello packs with 3 sticks of gum (59¢ SRP), and 3-card cello packs (I’d guess a nickel?).
  • Rookies: Key rookie is Rickey Henderson.  Other rookies include Rick Sutcliffe, Dan Quisenberry, Jesse Orosco and Dave Stieb.
  • Hall of Fame: Johnny Bench, Bert Blyleven, George Brett, Rod Carew, Steve Carlton, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Carlton Fisk, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Kaat, Willie McCovey, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Jack Morris, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Gaylord Perry, Jim Rice, Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, Ted Simmons, Ozzie Smith, Willie Stargell, Bruce Sutter, Don Sutton, Alan Trammell, Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski, Robin Yount, Earl Weaver (manager), Tommy LaSorda (manager), Dick Williams (manager), Sparky Anderson (manager), Joe Torre (manager), Bobby Cox (manager), Tony LaRussa (manager), Lou Brock (HL). Wow, that’s 37 38 41 42 44 45HOF-ers, I’m betting that’s the most of any set I’ll do.  Interesting tidbit: Whitey Herzog was fired from the Royals after the 1979 season and hired by the Cardinals in 1980, thus has no manager checklist card this year.  This set featured the last Topps cards (LTC) for both McCovey and Brock.
  • Guys who will or should be in the Hall could be in the HOF in the future include Pete Rose (BRM), Dave Concepcion (BRM – ok, this guys a stretch, but Marty Brennaman thinks he should be in), Jack Morris, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Tony LaRussa (as White Sox manager – the steroid enabler and my least favorite person in all of baseball), Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Alan Trammel/Dale Murphy (travesty these two aren’t getting more consideration), Dwight Evans, Lou Piniella, Bill Buckner (just wait, he’ll be a vet committee guy someday), Tim McCarver (could make it as an announcer? – eesh, I hope not).
  • Variation: Originally, Yankees manager Billy Martin was intended to be included on the Yankees team checklist card.  Early proof sheets have Martin’s inset picture and name on card #424.  However, Martin was fired in October 1979, and the actual set contains Dick Howser.
  • Last Active Player: Jesse Orosco and Rickey Henderson were both active through the end of 2003.  Henderson’s last game was 9/17/03, while Orosco’s was 9/27/03.  Henderson, of course, tried to stay on and played after 2003 with a couple minor league teams.

The box has a picture of an Astros hitter on the front, stepping into a swing at the plate. There is a baseball pictured with notation that there are “Now 15 cards in every pack”. The word “Topps” is in a pennant in the top left, while the words “Major League BASEBALL picture cards bubble gum” is in a pennant below the Astros player (kind of built like the card design). I’m not sure who this player is? Something to research.

A couple other things that are relevant for this set.  First, this is the last year that Topps didn’t issue an “update” set (Topps Traded), so there are only RC’s this year of players who debuted in 1979, not the XRC’s you’d get for guys like Ripken, Gwynn, etc. in future years.  Second, more importantly, this was the last year Topps had a complete monopoly, basically since 1963 Fleer. Even 2010 is going to still have a 600-card upper deck issue, so I would say that is still true until 2011 (and who knows what will happen between now and then). So since Topps only issued one set – if you discount the 60-card Topps Super foray – there was only one set released this year. This means only one Pete Rose card, only one 2nd year Ozzie Smith, only one Rickey Henderson rookie.

This makes this set somewhat of a watershed set in the hobby. Add the factors above to the fact that there is only 1 Hall-of-Famer with a RC in this set, and the fact that he is truly a best-of-the-best all-time great, and the Henderson card is one of the more iconic cards in history. Take away the ’89 UD Griffey (which has to be at least the 2nd most famous card of all time), I’d struggle to think of a more familiar card in the 80’s. Cards that jump to mind are the ’82 Ripken Topps RC, the Bo Jackson ’88 score fb/bb card. Other famous 80’s cards could be Don Mattingly ’84 Donruss, Bonds ’87 Fleer, or McGwire ’84 Topps Traded Olympic XRC.  I’d put the Hendo card above all but the Bo Jackson in notoriety.

Parallel Set

As it had done since 1965, Canadian-based O-Pee-Chee issued a set that was a partial parallel to the Topps base set.  Each of the cards in the 374-card set had the same design and photographs as the Topps set, with lighter card stock and bi-lingual backs (French and English).  As always, the set leaned toward the Canadian teams; the Manager and Future Stars card for the Expos and Blue Jays were the only subsets included as part of this set.  The Rickey Henderson rookie was not included in the set.


  • You could send in for information on personalized trading cards, “just like cards in this pack”, except supposedly “with your personal data on the back”.
  • For 1 Topps baseball wrapper and 50 ¢, you could send in for an uncut sheet of all the Team Checklist cards.
  • Topps also issued some “test” wrappers with the “Hit to Win” promotion that was available in every wax pack in 1981 – I would presume this was issued later in the release run.
  • You could send in 1 Topps wrapper (any sport), plus $5.25 plus 75 ¢ S&H to receive a Topps Sports Card Locker that held 1300+ cards.

Other releases associated with the Topps flagship

#1 – Topps issued a 23-card team set for the Phillies and distributed it as a promotion in the areas surrounding Philadelphia.  The design and photos are the same as the base Topps set, however there is a Burger King logo on the back where the Topps logo is.  There are 3 players (Keith Moreland, Lonnie Smith, John Vukovich) who aren’t in the base Topps set.  Kevin Saucier is on the Phillies Prospect card, but the Phillies card is a solo picture.  Manager Dallas Green also has a different picture – as he’s featured on the Team Checklist / Team Photo card in the base set.

#2 – Topps issued another set as a Burger King promotion nationally called “Pinch, Hit & Run”.  The 34-set contained, in order, 11 pitchers, 11 “hitters”, 11 “runners” and a checklist card.  Some cards have the same photos as the base set, but some are different.  The design is similar, except the Burger King logo replaces the flag with the position at the top of the cards.  This set has the first cards of Joe Morgan and Nolan Ryan pictured with the Astros.

#3 – Topps planned on a 22-card “Pepsi All-Star” set that was never actually released.  Topps later sold what was printed of these cards on-line in 2005.  They are extremely rare and very expensive.  Like the Burger King set, a Pepsi Logo replaces the top flag.  The flag on the bottom is white with blue letters.  All of the cards have the same picture as the 1980 set, except the Mike Schmidt photo is actually the one from his 1979 Topps card.

Over the next week, I’m going to pretend its spring 1980, I’m a really intelligent newborn wondering why Pete Rose is playing for the Phillies, and I’ll begin breaking my brand new box of 1980 Topps.

Rules of engagement

14 03 2010

I’ve established my goal – collect every Topps card since 1980. So the next thing are some general rules/guidelines I’m going to try to follow.

First rule – I’m going to go in chronological order. For each set year, I’m going to buy one wax box. For the first decade-plus, there aren’t multiple series, and one box will net me 540 cards. Less any doubles (and there will be plenty, I’m sure), there will still be at least 300 cards or more left. How I accumulate those remaining cards in the set will vary. Mostly, I may buy a second vending box, other than that, I’ll try to trade.

Second rule – I’ll have some level of a budget. I’ve got somewhat of an idea of how much I want to spend each month, and I’ve already bought the wax box for the 1980 set. This may be adjusted month to month; for example, the 1980 box is more than my budget for one month – so that’s going toward the first box. When I get to the late 80’s – I may scale back and not open 10 boxes that month. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not overly worried about how much I spend from what I pull out of the boxes – if I spend more than high Beckett I won’t be ticked off. The point is to have fun, but I need to be a little careful what I spend.

Third rule – I’ve want to have some level of completion on the previous set until I move on to the next set. It may take a little while to get the last few cards of the set, so this percentage won’t be 100%, but it will probably around 90. I think? Anyways, the point is to make this fun, so I’ll see how it goes.

Another thing to note – the main idea is to collect the main set. When I get into the 90’s,  I’ll start getting insert sets in the packs I buy. I may decide to collect some of those, we’ll see about that when the time comes. For now, that’s about 13 years of Topps away.

Anyways, I’ve ordered and received the first box, 1980. Hoping for a pristine Rickey Henderson (or 4). I’m out of town for work and get back Tuesday, but still pretty busy with work right now (I’m an accountant, so this is busy times). I’ll try to get to opening next weekend, maybe while watching some NCAA hoops. Looking forward to it.

My lifetime topps project part 2

14 03 2010

So during the time periods when I’ve collected cards, I’ve never really collected too much Topps. In fact, I’ve pretty much been a strictly Upper Deck collector. It’s not that I didn’t like Topps; I think the history of the sets since 1952 are awesome. But as a 13-year old kid getting back into the hobby – Upper Deck definitely seemed the best thing since sliced bread. Or at least the best thing since the Super NES.

The last few years seem to have been big years in the baseball card collecting hobby (business). I remember in the mid 90s when there seemed to be too many companies (Topps, UD, Donruss, Fleer, Pinnacle) producing way too many sets. The last few years you’ve basically just had 2 companies producing way too many sets. This is one of the few industries where the sellers can ignore listening to their core consumers. I think the card companies have a similar problem as MLB itself. They make a lot of decisions that are probably marginally more profitable in the short-term, but in doing so they sacrifice longer-term success. This is what drove me (and the ~$500 I spent annually) away after high school.

Well, so I’ve got more disposable income now, and I’ve been collecting some upper deck stuff with modified expectations.And maybe I’m old enough to realize that, oh well, it’s a business, and if they’re greedy, well, I would be too. Maybe I should look at it with a sense of humor, like these guys…  


Anyways, this is a big year in the hobby, particularly the baseball side – Upper Deck just lost its MLB license, and seems to have agreed to play by baseballs rules after settling out of court. So a lot of what I collect won’t be getting produced now. In some ways, this sucks – I’m still holding out some hope that they’ll think of a way to make SP Authentic again. But, on the other side, it should give me some time to catch up on the “in-between-years” I didn’t collect. Or, I could modify what I collect again. I’m choosing, for now, to do both.

So my new collecting project is to catch back up on the Topps cards I didn’t collect. My goal will be to collect every single Topps set since the year I was born. I’m going to start with year 1, which would be 1980. This is a good project for me for a number of reasons. First, the 1980 set has one pretty famous rookie card – Rickey Henderson. Who, as I mentioned in my first post, is my favorite player never to wear a reds uniform. Also, if you factor out the 1980 set, buying a wax box for each set won’t be ridiculously expensive. At the same time, it will be easy to spread out over time; it will be fun to go through the years and remember, say, who was playing 2nd base for the Reds in 1990 (Mariano Duncan), or who was the closer for the Royals in 1986 (Dan Quisenberry???).

My lifetime topps project – part 1

2 03 2010

Hello, this is my baseball card blog. For the purpose of this blog / project, please see the next post. If you would like to read some of the background, see below.

In the past 6 months, I’ve started collecting baseball cards again after being an on-and-off collector (mostly off) since 1995. I’m doing so in Columbus, Ohio, but I originally hail from Cincinnati – so I’m a big reds fan, and a bigger Ken Griffey Jr fan. The years I collected cards as a kid were primarily two periods. From 1986-88, I pretty much bought a bunch of Topps cards (the wood-grain 1987 set was my likely my most frequent purchase). I also remember buying the ’88 Score set when it came out, and my brother’s friend swiped my Bo Jackson dual card right out of the factory box.

At the time, Eric Davis was my favorite player. Chris Sabo was right up there as the ROY and our representative to the all-star game at Riverfront – which I attended with my dad. The Reds seemed to get 2nd place every year with Pete Rose as their manager. Full disclaimer – I loved Charlie Hustle growing up. Hometown hero, all-time hits king, non-stop hustle, blue-collar living legend. Today, I hate the guy. That may be for a later post. I also loved Rickey Henderson, so I was strangely torn during the 1990 World Series – which I also attended with my dad for game 2.

Anyways, when I picked collecting back up from 1993-96, Upper Deck had changed the hobby, and I loved their cards in comparison to all the others. 1993 was a big year hobby-wise: three of the five big baseball manufacturers at the time came out with super-premium sets that had face values around $4-5 a pack. I remember Topps Finest seeming completely untouchable, as its price per pack was going for more like 20 bucks than the suggested retail. Fleer came out with the super-thick Flair set (I did buy a number of packs of this). And Upper Deck came out with what is probably my favorite set of all-time, SP Authentic.

This was the scene when I came back to the hobby; my mother and brother and I went around to card shows. My brother was a fan of Barry Bonds, and he also collected Leaf. My mom would buy up Roberto Alomar cards just to keep busy while we ran around the shows. I decided at the time that my goal was to buy every single Upper Deck baseball card in existence. Consider the time-frame: in 1992, this would have been an attainable goal. In 1993, the new sets coming out made it more difficult for a 13-year old on an allowance and lawn-mowing money. I remember when Collector’s Choice came out in 1994, the full-set Gold Signatures being introduced at 1 per box pretty much smashed any thought I had. So what I settled on is what I’ve been doing since I sort-of left the hobby in 1995. My overall collecting goal has been to collect each year’s SP Authentic set. This became more and more difficult when they started including numbered cards in 1999, so I’m collecting it as I can. I’ve also always tried to put together the base upper deck set, though I really didn’t do this from ’96-’08.

So that’s my background as a collector. I’m still trying to fill those goals, but will do so a little bit more slowly now, as a new idea has popped into my head…