Usually, by this point of the year, I’m still scrambling to complete the sets I started building earlier in the year, along with those from the previous few years that I never fully completed (which is most of them). This year, because I was pissed off at MLB for allowing only Topps to make cards … because I was looking to save a little money over what I typically spend on cards … because I was pissed off at Topps for the endless stupid gimmicks that drive up the price of boxes … I decided I was done with wasting my money on boxes and never completing the sets. This year, I’ve purchased the complete sets for Heritage, Allen & Ginter and Topps Series 1 and 2. How has this worked out for me?
I’ve certainly saved money. I paid $19 for the complete series 1 and $22 for the complete series 2. True, I didn’t get any of the inserts but I rarely collect the insert sets from base Topps anyway. Usually, I purchase a jumbo each from a local card shop which would have run me what … around a $100 each? What did I lose? A few worthless relics? Another Felix Pie auto? I’ll live. (The savings carried over to the other sets as well: $189 for the master Heritage Set versus $210 for three hobby boxes and an endless number of loose packs and blasters … $99 for an A&G master set versus three more hobby boxes for $270. If I had waited, I might have gotten even better deals.)
Look, I miss opening packs. I miss getting a fresh supply of relics and autographs I can use to trade for other cards I need. Still, I can get these thrills some other way. I’ll buy an occasional pack just to rip. I’ve started participating in a lot of the group breaks that go on around the web and I’ve gotten some great cards. Even better, I’ve started using some of the money I’ve saved to start completing my other sets.
You see, the single greatest thrill of a set collector is filling in those empty slots in a nearly full binder. Yeah, I won’t be creating any new “empty slots” in the near future, but I’m just getting started building the Topps sets from the 1970s. I still need to complete all the 80s sets. I don’t really have anything from 1993 to 2004. I can still build these sets the old fashioned way without spending myself into bankruptcy trying to stay caught up with all the new stuff. Buying sets is working pretty damn well for me so far.
(I should also thank Stephen Strasburg … thanks to the hysteria over his cards, there are a lot of people busting product who have no interest in the other cards, and have built sets to sell cheap on eBay. Nice.)