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Rich’s Ramblings: Let’s Make Some Better Base Sets

I received this email From Bobby Davis of Winter Park,  Florida recently.  I have some comments of my own after you read his thoughts on collecting current sports card sets.

Richs Ramblings “I have collected cards for 45 years and am an unabashed set builder. I want as many “common” cards as I can get, because I know and care about the players, whether stars or role players. I love getting my favorite star players, but I also want to have my collection reflect the history of the different teams and the guys who played key roles. I don’t care about 90% of the “special” cards, and I see the proliferation of these extra cards like I see an invasion of weeds. There are too many cards celebrating a handful of superstars. I like special sets that reflect great players of the past and the up-and-coming rookies, but I don’t need four or five “special” sets of the same few people. The Topps baseball sets have gotten completely out of control with this, and football is getting worse and worse, in my opinion.

Topps has improved the past three years in creating balance between offensive and defensive players (for a few years, two-third of the cards were offensive players), but there are still way too many second-string QBs, RBs, and WRs while deserving defensive lineman, offensive linemen, and specialists don’t even get a card. It’s pretty ridiculous that my collection doesn’t include, or includes (only) one or two cards of, people like Janikowski, Lechler, Akers, Zeuerlein, Zastudil, Cribbs, Colquitt, Succop, Kaeding, Scifres, Weatherford, etc.

I also like getting cards of guys who played a long time for one team and then changed teams, one of the better features of the free agency era, but they do a poor job of showing those players.

I also find Topps management utterly impervious to collector suggestions or complaints. I have written three or four letters expressing these complaints in a respectful manner and have never received a reply, and their web site is not user-friendly for communication with management. I feel bound to collect them because I have for so long, but every year it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I also like to collect Score, which was even worse this year, with five to nine players from each team represented, while a few guys had an Airmail and a Future Franchise card (including, laughably, John Skelton and Tavaris Jackson). What a waste.” 

Yep, I too would like to see a really comprehensive football card set with no short prints or other inserts. Just a straight up 36 packs per box, 10 cards per pack with no inserts at a cheap price.  Topps tried this with Total for awhile and while there’s some skepticism about collectors not buying basic set builder throwback products anymore, I hope there’s a way to get it done and make it profitable.

How many cards should be in this set? I would figure the 22 starters (or as close as we can get based on lineup changes), the kickers and punters and yes, a few of the back-up offensive skill players.

King Dunlap Sp AuthenticSo, I would figure approximately 30 cards per team with 32 teams that would be 960 cards. If we wanted to keep the sheets at 132 cards we could probably make that set 1024 cards in the set. There is a woman I work with and her boyfriends’ nephew is King Dunlap of the San Diego Chargers. Just think how thrilled she would be if more cards of Mr. Dunlap actually existed. There was exactly one card of the King in the Beckett data base which was a 2008 SP Authentic Retail card.

And for this set why don’t we need any short prints?, Well you should not get any card more than once in every four boxes and that would make any card more valuable even in a cheap product. Personally, I happen to like the extra card of the skilled players as you never know who might explode out of nowhere this season.

Topps 2011 KaepernickSome players just did not get as many rookie cards as others, usually by virtue of being drafted later. Think about how few 2000-2001 Tom Brady cards there are or how few Tony Romo rookie cards were made as well. There is nothing wrong with not having players in every set either. That can create more interest in both short and long-term if someone breaks out as usually happens. Even though he was a second round pick in 2011, Colin Kapernick is another more recent example of a non-first round pick becoming a potential superstar.

In the mid 1990’s, you could almost guarantee the composition of any Pinnacle brand set in any given year. The basic 100 players were repeated in just about every set and even with the different designs it just doesn’t excite. And let’s face it, other than a few players who need to be in every current set (Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, etc.) do you really want to see the same players in every set or should the card companies try to mix and match them a bit more?

And, I will repeat this formula until we discover if there are going to be any breakout rookies or just as a safety play, I would, if I were a card company, go back to the future this year and have at least one or two sets almost completely focused on retired players and not just the Hall of Famers or recently retired major stars. To give an example, I’d try to feature late 1980’s-early 1990’s stars such as Andre “Bad Moon” Rison or Joe Morris to go with the Joe Montana and Steve Young types.  Look, the early 1990’s Cowboys were a mini-dynasty and wouldn’t it be nice to get some Alvin Harper autographs to go with Michael Irvin signed cards?  Or how about Cornelius “Biscuit” Bennett to go with Bruce Smith signed cards.

Just a thought or two.

More importantly, what are your thoughts?

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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