One of the things that a lot of guys my age on card twitter have been doing is pursuing their birth-year sets. There’s a bunch of things going on here. My generation of collectors having a midlife crisis of sorts and rediscovering cards is a large part of it. But that sets of the late-70s are the right mix of achievable yet challenging—not junk wax but not quite “vintage” either—also makes this sort of project very appealing. If you’re patient you can find bulk lots of hundreds of cards for ~$10. There aren’t any high numbers or short prints to deal with. There aren’t even that many expensive rookies.
And many of the previous generation of collectors often have a ton of duplicates still lying around. Mark Hoyle is one such collector. Mark’s a Red Sox/Boston guy who seems to have everything. Seriously. Every morning on Twitter he’s posting a photo of something I’ve never seen from before my parents were born. It’s a lot of fun to see and he’s been a great guy to chat with and learn about all kinds of products.
When Mark found my set needlist he realized he could fill a bunch of holes and late last week a bubble mailer arrived with a bunch of 1978 Topps cards inside.
Since most of my 1978 build has come via cheap commons lots* my set build has been pretty thin on star power. Mark included a very nice assortment of big-name cards in the set. The Nolan Ryan is probably the best of the bunch (I have very few card numbers ending in 0 let alone 00) but it’s always nice to see a stack of Hall of Famers.
I think this might also be my first vintage Thurman Munson and Jim Palmer cards too. Also, George Hendrick’s photo is at Candlestick. Just seeing that old press box in the background makes me smile.
I love the Bobby Bonds card here. The tight cropping is often a bad idea on baseball cards but it really works here. I also always like seeing Duane Kuiper in that caveman Indians uniform.
The Dave Kingman in its airbrushed glory always weirds me out. It’s not as bad as the Greg Minton but it sure is something. This is also my first checklist of the set—which kind of weirds me out since you’d think those would always end up in commons lots. Nice to see Rick Dempsey and Al Oliver. And the Roger Metzger photo was also taken at Candlestick.
All told a super batch of 1978s which took my set build past 60% and close to the ⅔ mark. Pretty soon I’m going to have to start searching for stars and rookies. But Mark did not stop there and included a couple extras.
In some ways these are best kind of extras in that they represent my first samples of sets. It’s one thing (and great fun) to build a set and approach a finish line of sorts which each new card. There’s a different kind of thrill when you encounter a set for the first time. You get to see what kind of cardboard it’s printed on, how it was printed, etc.
The two 1963 Fleers represent my first exposure to this set. I’ve been meaning to get some of these at some point so this surprise is very much appreciated. This is a good-looking set with photography that’s distinct from the usual Topps look and in many ways presages the speedlight-dominated look that Topps sort of abused in the mid-80s.
Anyway, seeing medium format fill flash work that results in a slightly-underexposed background is a look which pops pretty well and is perfectly served by the clean geometric design. The way Fleer moves the team/position line around so it fits in the space is less impressive however. And I like seeing photos of the Giants taken in the Polo Grounds. Even though it was the Mets’ stadium in the early 60s, it will always be the Giants’ ancestral home.
Mark also included a 1939 Billy Jurges Play Ball card. Play Ball is one of those sets/manufacturers which is completely off my radar. I grew up a Topps guy. I’m beginning to get to know Bowman now since for much of the 1950s it was the card of record along with Topps. I have only a cursory awareness of pre-war (really pre-1948) cards.
I’m aware of Play Ball as representing sort of the first modern baseball card. Real photography. Real information on the back. Roughly the same size and form factor of current-day cards. That it debuts in 1939 and doesn’t survive the war makes it an easy issue to forget.
All of which means that I’m very excited to see and have one of these now. It’s my oldest Giants card by a decade and one of only ~40 New York Giants cards in my collection.
For the kids
The bubble mailer was not just for me though. Inside was a team bag of ~50 cards with a small note instructing me to give them to my sons. I went through and sorted everything by team so I could break up the giveaway into a couple sessions. It was a fun mix of cards with a few old ones (one 1973 Blue Moon Odom and a handful of early-90s junk wax) and a bunch of more-recent issues.
The first session involved just the Giants and A’s cards and the boys, despite getting 9 cards each (I put them all on the table and had them take turns picking) managed to use those to trigger a complete binder overhaul. The second session was the balance of ~30 cards (they cleaned the house before having their draft) and they were both very happy with their haul.
It’s fun to watch what they like. The youngest likes the shiny chrome stuff. The eldest likes vintage. They both like facsimile autographs. Neither of them is taken with the stickers. I was just impressed that they took turns and didn’t fight at all.