Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Bittersweet Joy Of A Completed Set

See this? 

This Tom Veryzer card ended a 32 year long odyssey. 

It's the last card I needed to complete my 1980 Topps set.

I got it a couple of months ago, along with this Bob Shirley and this Gene Richards card...

I'd placed a Sportlots order some months prior, which I thought had finished off my '80 set, but when I went through it, after getting the last few cards I thought I was missing, I couldn't find Tom, Bob or Gene. So, eventually, I ended up at Monmouth Stamp And Coin (which is actually experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to Bill, their new card guy; worth a visit if you're in or near Red Bank, NJ, but call ahead to see if Bill's going to be there), and I bought all 3 of these cards.

After I bought them, in part because of everything else I've had going on lately, in part because I didn't want to sort them in, go through the set, and find something else missing, and in part because I'm not sure I was ready, I hadn't put the cards away or scanned them until yesterday. Finally, as I've been on an organization binge this week, I got them scanned, and just now, I worked on making the '80 set complete.

Just to be sure, I went through the set quickly and counted each card, mostly just checking names and numbers. Topps' numbering system was such back then that all the "stars" were on the fives and the tens, so this went fairly quickly. Tom Veryzer was indeed missing from spot #276, so I put the card in its proper place. However, as I continued onward, I did come across a card in the wrong place...

This is the same scan as the one above, but it was a second copy of the card. I thought it'd be a little sillier than this already is if I scanned 2 different 1980 Topps Bob Shirley cards to make a point. But no, my mind hadn't played tricks on me when ordering, on at least this card. Apparently, it'd just played tricks on me as I was sorting the remaining cards in, perhaps as I said earlier because on some level, I didn't want this set to be done for some reason. Maybe the set wasn't ready to be done with me, I don't know. 

Now, if that sounds like psychobabble to you, check out what showed up about 100 cards later, also in the wrong spot...

(Again, I didn't scan two different copies of the card. I think you'll live.)

I've no idea why those two cards ended up in the wrong spot, beyond my "the set wasn't ready to be finished, or I wasn't ready to be finished with it" theories. Why didn't I get a Tom Veryzer, if I got the other two? Was Sportlots out at the time? (There's actually no record of me ordering any of these three cards from them. Maybe I got Shirley and Richards from Bo when he bombed me out with '80s.) Perhaps the Padres were revolting. (There's a school of thought that suggests that their 1979 uniforms certainly were.) I don't know. Weird stuff. Dennis Eckersley and Rick Miller went missing on me at some point too, but I got those and they were in the set when I just went through it, so that's settled, at least. 

However, there was still one card I didn't have with the rest of my 1980 Topps, because I had it in a screwdown for the longest time. It was time for that card to come home.

As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned on here before, I'm reasonably sure this very well-loved Rickey Henderson rookie was in the first pack of cards I ever bought (Dwight Evans was in there too, maybe the first card in the pack). I've never owned another one that I can remember (though, as I got my '80s when I was 6, a lot of my '80s got trashed so anything's possible). It's one of the material possessions I've owned the longest, and it's been through a lot with me. I even went through a period in the early '90s, after that gaudy stop-the-game ceremony when Rickey set the stolen base record, when I was kinda mad at this card for a while. I wouldn't trade it for the world now, or "upgrade" it unless you bought me a '52 Mantle or something to do it. Even then, I'd probably sell the Mantle when you weren't looking and sneak my old Rickey back into my set. I've got this attitude about a number of the cards I can tell were "original" to my collection. You can spot them in this set by how well-worn they are. I was going to upgrade a bunch at one point, but I brought the stack of '80s home and didn't have the heart to swap most of them in.

Anyway, I took it out of the screwdown, scanned it, and then sat in my chair for a while, looking at it and thinking about what putting it in the set meant, since, while I hadn't put the Gene Richards card in its proper spot yet, I knew I had it. 32 years is a long time to take to finish anything in this life. This was always kind of a "someday" proposition for me, this set, and here I was, finishing it. I don't "finish" a lot of things in this life. It's not something I'm wired for, usually. It took time, patience, and effort to do (surprisingly enough, not that much money in the grand scheme of things, as I bought all the keys on either end of lukewarm markets), and while it's "just stuff", I am really proud of myself for doing this, in a "have some perspective, but enjoy what you did" kinda way.

After I put Rickey in the box and Gene Richards in the box, along with the rest of the cards that I'd taken out to count and look at, I closed the box up and, I am unashamed to say, I hugged it for a few seconds. Again, weird feeling, kinda gaudy at a time when I'm finding myself at odds with materialism despite a lifelong collector mentality, but like I said, this was essentially a lifetime coming.

What will I do with it now? I'm weighing my options. On one hand, I don't want a set that I've spent a lifetime building to sit in a nondescript white box in the back of my closet until I die and never see sunlight again, but on the other, I still haven't made peace with the idea of putting full Topps issues (not the smaller sets, but the flagship set) in binders. I might make an exception for this one, though, as these cards are old friends and I will want to visit them and introduce them to new people who've never seen a Rickey Henderson rookie card and have no idea who Bob Shirley, Gene Richards and Tom Veryzer are.

Where do I go from here, from a collecting point of view? Well, there are always more cards, I'm finding. I've been working on the '70s lately, and I'm within spitting distance of '75, '78 and '79 already, with pretty strong '70, '71 (you'll see how strong I am on '71 on a post soon) and '77 sets. The only '70s set I'm under 300 cards on right now is '72, and that set has been known to ruin lives and damn souls.

And as for life? Well, as Tom Veryzer told me tonight, if you're patient, you stick to your guns, you endure some disappointment and you put the time in, eventually, you can complete things. Thanks for that, Tom, wherever you are.

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