A month ago, Jeff Katz had a post where he wonders what to do next after he completes his projects. This reminded me of a similar post of mine reflecting on how one of my projects is evolving as I near completion of its initial scope. I started to comment on his post but quickly realized that this deserves to be a post of its own.
A big difference between how Jeff and I collect is that Jeff’s projects are set-building and mine are more thematic. With setbuilding, you have a clear checklist and can draw a line under it when it’s all checked off. There’s not much room for mission creep. Yes some sets are “lifetime” builds which no one ever expects to actually complete, but even there—or if you’re one of those “master set” guys who’s trying to get a copy of every variant produced—you’re still working off a finite checklist and there’s always an end in sight.
A thematic project on the other hand evolves as I complete each phase of collecting. Yes I create checklists but they’re not comprehensive. They can’t be. Instead I’ll research a direction I want to collect, run down as much of that searchlist as I can, then take a look at the resulting project and see what the logical next steps and holes are.
So like with my pursuit of Giants cards, the obvious first phase was going after the Topps run. As I’ve started to hit a point where those collections are stabilizing,* I’ve had to think about how I want to keep them paged in the album. I really like the idea of doing them by lineup** and as I’ve looked on Baseball Reference to get a sense of who the starters should be, I start noticing things like how with my 1968 set none of the Giants second basemen really played for the Giants that year.
*To where I’m just missing high numbers and a few key stars.
**Mark Armour is nodding in approval while Jeff Katz is headdesking now.
And yup. One of the next phases of this project will be to flesh out the “guys who also played on the team this year” aspect of things. I’m also expanding into oddballs—food issues, inserts, team issues, etc.—since those give a different picture of who the popular stars of the team are each year as well as giving me a reasonable focus in terms of what to search for.
Once I get well along that phase of collecting something else will open up. Maybe it will be non-Topps sets. I’m woefully inexperienced with vintage Bowman and can already see myself wanting to flesh out some of those meager Topps checklists in the 1950s. Maybe it’ll be international stuff like Venezuelan issues or O Pee Chee as I go down the rabbit hole of non-English cards. There’s always pre-war stuff and more-modern stuff to get into. The sky’s the limit and the project will get there eventually. But just not right now.
Yes, sometimes I envy the concept of being able to actually finish a project. But the idea of these thematic projects isn’t to get everything or even finish anything. Instead they’re a way for me to focus my collecting and see where the journey takes me.
It’s easy to get up in just acquiring cards to acquire them. And yes that’s plenty of fun in its own right. But having to look through my collection and think about what it wants? Then doing the research to figure out if those wants are feasible? That’s a whole different level of fun which requires me to really know what I have and be in-tune with how I react to it.