A seller in a collector group to which I belong made the offer. Up for grabs was about 175 panels from the 1980-81 Topps basketball set along with a dozen ‘intact’ cards.
The asking price was $20 delivered, which seemed low enough as it was. But the last thing I needed was to be sucked into another collecting project. Anyway, I’m mostly a pre-War guy, for gosh sakes. Still (and against my better judgment), I remarked back to the seller that I’d thought about collecting them for some time. He replied indicating they were still for sale – and now at $15.
Now, in case you’re unfamiliar with this little slice of heaven called the 1980-81 Topps basketball set, let me fill you in. These cards had three players (generally referred to as panels) making up each card with each one separated by a perforation. They initially were printed together but kids back in 1980 did what kids do – they separated them.
Separating them generally kills the value. Sure, they’re worth something, I suppose. But that something is a heck of a lot less than when the cards were intact.
Despite all of that, they’re still around today, and in fairly large quantities. Turns out collectors like dumb stuff, even if said dumb stuff has relatively little value. There are also collectors for separated T202 Hassan Triple Folders cards, too, which had a somewhat similar concept. Those are older, so the value is a little higher. But it’s still a fraction of what they would be worth if they were not separated. Somewhere, there’s a market for just about anything and even though there’s no real shortage of the fully intact cards, it’s the individual panels that have piqued my interest.
The cards recently arrived in all of their glorious splendor. And honestly, I was just as excited to open them as I am when I get a package containing a rare pre-war card. I didn’t care about the value — only the pictures. And pictures there were.
As promised, there were perforated panels featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dr. J, Bill Walton, George Gervin, Pete Maravich, and plenty more stars. Beyond the big names, there was history. There was coach/analyst Doug Collins when he was a player. There was Kermit Washington, who famously punched Rudy Tomjanovich during a game and, by some accounts, nearly killing him. The rookie card of the less heralded Michael Cooper was there. And there was Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant, father of the legendary Kobe Bryant. It was a hodgepodge of basketball history with some of the guys still being active in the sport in some capacity nearly 40 years later. No Magic Johnson or Larry Bird rookie cards but for $15, beggars can’t be choosers.
Also, carefully packaged were the 12 promised cards that somehow avoided the hands of mischievous children. These cards were not separated, in tremendous shape, and, I reasoned, probably worth almost the $15 alone.
Thing is, they just looked odd. Like they didn’t belong. Something had to be done and, well, something was done.
I will not be bound by your rules, earthlings. pic.twitter.com/6logmm0dDC
— Pre-War Cards (@prewarcards) November 6, 2018
Ultimately, I separated them. Why would I do that? I can almost hear the wheels turning in your collective minds. The answer, it turns out, is quite simple. In that moment, I enjoyed the worthless singles over the more valuable intact trio cards. Plus, I needed some of them for my ultimate plan of assembling the complete set, separated and all. It just seemed like the right thing to do, despite the fact that I know some purist is probably out there losing his/her mind.
Now, let’s be clear here. Would I separate a Magic/Bird rookie card? Of course not. I wanted to have fun not border on the insanity. But separating the likes of less valuable Pistol Pete, Bob Lanier, and Rick Barry cards with a value of, I don’t know, a buck each, was totally inbounds.
So what’s the plan now? They’re going to be collated (so I can see which ones I’m missing) and then will likely be headed into the tobacco-card pages I use for actual tobacco cards. That will be the best way to view them and I didn’t buy them to throw in a box somewhere.
Collecting is fun. At least it’s what it’s supposed to be. Sometimes, the least valuable stuff is needed to remind us of that.