Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Stuff I didn't bother to look for at the card show

Since I was so focused on one thing at the card show, I felt like I missed a bunch of stuff that could have fit into my collection.

But even though it's a pretty large show and there are plenty of items, from the very old to the very mojo, there are just some things that one doesn't bother to look for at the show -- you're probably not going to find them.

That's where trading through blogs comes in handy. There are all kinds of items that I receive through the mail that I wouldn't find at a show.

For example, I received a package from Lifetime Topps a week or two ago with plenty of cards that I never would have found at that 150-table show.

Chrome cards from a dozen years ago. There's no way you'll find those at the show, unless it's a superstar player or randomly inserted into a discount box.

A gold parallel from seven years ago? It might be in a 10- or 25-cent discount box. But since I almost never find those, I wouldn't find this.

Bizarre Goodwin minis from 2014. I nearly do a happy dance right there on the show floor if I find a box of mini cards. It rarely happens. And these weird things? I don't know if a dealer would dare put these on his table.

But I'm thrilled to have the mini version of almost the worst-best Ron Cey card of all-time. And I'm also thrilled to own a mini of Oyster Burns, who played for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and was described as having "an irritating voice and personality."

Reprints. You can find reprints at the show I got to, again mostly in discount boxes. These are reprints of 1953 Bowman cards from 1983.

This is the first time I've ever seen any of these. I don't even know who reprinted them.

Buybacks. I know these are at my show. I've purchased at least one there. In fact, I had intended to see if I could find some '75 buybacks for my quest, but once I zeroed in on the '72s, I forgot all about it.

This brings my buyback total to 37. And it's still as amusing as ever.

So anyway, that's why there are card shows and card blogs, retail outlets and card shops, ebay and COMC. It takes ALL THE TOOLS to build a collection.

Especially if you're dumb enough to collect Dodger cards of Andruw Jones.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Biting the bullet

It's interesting how a card show can color your entire day.

Last night, while driving the busiest road in the entire town, the back end of my vehicle was hit by a deer. Despite the jolt, everyone inside was OK, and except for a shattered back window and some other minor damage, the car made it back home. You know the rest: fun with forms and claims and repairs.

But, you know what? None of it really bothered me. Because earlier in the day I had gone to a card show. Everything after that was la-di-da. If you were to do medical research on card show attendees, you'd probably find their dopamine release rates off the charts.

As for the card show itself, I can't say it was the most exciting venture. That's kind of a disappointment because I'm probably not going to get to another show for six months. But that's what happens when you're a set collector and you have to bite the bullet.

You know what I mean if you collect vintage sets. Just about every one of those sets has a card, or several cards, that cost a good amount of money. And if you're anything like me, you don't have much money, so you usually leave cards like that for last while you accumulate a bunch of commons. And then you try to trick yourself into thinking that you had a great show. Look at the quantity! I brought home 120 cards today!

But those high-ticket items are still staring at you, hovering. They're saying: "you're going to have to bite the bullet someday."

Well, Sunday was that day.

With not a lot of money and determined to knock off some more cards from 1972 Topps high numbers, I went straight to the table that had them and started pulling cards.

#636 - The Spaceman.

#677 - Ivan The Terrible (I made that nickname up, but, come on, he was a Padre from the '70s).

#681 - Bobby Pfeil and his pfaux Red Sox cap.

#590 - Puff. This replaces my very mangled version of this card.

#585 - Boomer.

#693 - Dirty Al Gallagher.

#654 - High-capped Horacio.

#685 - Diamond-cut Horlen.

#611 - Rich Reese. Another upgrade.

#600 - And Mr. Tiger.

I got a little bit of a deal on this card, but nothing like Dimebox Nick in his magical flea market world. I don't live in cardboard nirvana, so I handed over my dollars.

At that point, I decided I better look at some other interests, maybe pick up some random 1956 Topps needs.

So I went over to that binder and started pulling cards of Topps' greatest set. Minnie Minoso and Larry Doby and Eddie Miksis and Andy Seminick.

But something didn't feel right. And the more I pulled the '56s, the more I felt like that wasn't what I should be doing. I wasn't biting the bullet. I was merely accumulating because landing a LOT of cards felt better than traveling one hour and coming back with only a handful.

I took the pulled '56s with me -- just in case -- and returned to the other side of the table where the '72 binder was.

Then I flipped open the '72 binder, not to the high numbers, but to the middle of the set.

And I pulled out one card.

Good thing I was reimbursed for gas mileage three days earlier. That paid for this card.

This is easily Clemente's best card, and I am always equating it with his last card, even though his last card is in the 1973 Topps set. This just seems like it should be his last card.

This was biting the bullet. This felt like what I should be doing.

Since I didn't have the cash for those '56s anymore, I returned them to their proper spots and paid my money for a tiny stack of 11 cards.

With not much money left, and every discount box I saw dominated by dudes who thought nothing of standing over the box for an hour, I decided to get some pages for my unusually shaped cards. I desperately need some four-pocket, eight-pocket and 12-pocket pages.

But I couldn't buy just a few pages of each, they wanted me to get a full box. I don't need a full box of four-pocket pages, so I had a little bit of money left for a few cards after all.

Blocked from discount boxes at every turn, I finally spied a sign that said "blowout prices, everything in the box $1 each." This is the best I could find in non-dime box land, and I saw a sign that said Dodgers rookies, so I started pulling.

OK, Yasmani Grandal is not a Dodger rookie. But I was so happy to find Joc Pederson and Corey Seager cards from products that I had not even seen in person (2015 Finest and Bowman Chrome for example) that I grabbed those, too.

Those Seager and Urias Bowman Chrome inserts are interesting. Kind of a cross between tall boys and A&G minis.

And that was the end of my card show.

I probably wasn't there for more than an hour, which always seems like not enough time for me. But I just can't browse when I have no money. That goes for cards, clothes, anything.

It'll probably be like this until I finish the 1972 Topps set, but really that's OK.

It's all OK.

Because I was at a card show.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Trading card alchemy

I went to a card show today. You'll see what I landed in the next post, but I wanted to write today about something I heard there.

I was at my usual table, hunting vintage cards while in set-completing mode. Since this dealer caters to set collectors, he has binders and binders of different vintage sets everywhere. And he attracts slightly older customers, because as much as I don't want to admit it:

a) I'm old
b) set collectors are old

Those are relative statements, of course, but there was no mistaking the gray-haired gentlemen paging through cards along with me.

There was one man talking to the dealer mainly. It was a high-level discussion: T206s and Honus Wagner and running into trimmed tobacco cards. It's stuff I'll probably never worry about in my life.

Another gray-haired man joined the conversation and the discussion turned to removing stains from cards, and soaking cards, something that both the dealer and the gray-haired man had apparently done many times without a hint of regret. This is considered a "gray area" in the world of cardboard alteration, with many saying it's OK, but few shouting it to the rooftops.

Then the talk turned to a collector/dealer who apparently lives just north of Syracuse, where the show was. The dealer said he knew the name and called him "notorious in the hobby."  That intrigued the two gray-haired men, and me, of course, and here we go:

The dealer said this man, whose name was mentioned but I won't mention it here because some of this might be hearsay, is sort of an expert at "fixing" flawed memorabilia. He is known for taking creases out of cards, and the dealer was not keen on people doing that. One of the gray-haired men wasn't either. "What if the crease comes back?" he said.

This was interesting to me because I had never heard of it. (I'm still such a newbie). And I had never considered it. The 1952 Rocky Bridges up top has a major crease in it down the middle from top to bottom. Not once have I thought, "I wonder if that could be fixed?" It's always been "what's done is done."

But the dealer went on. He said that this guy's newest thing is to claim that he can erase autographs off of balls so that there is no trace of that autograph on the ball. The dealer was very much against this. He said that this would allow someone with a ball that featured autographs of a mega star and four nobodies to suddenly because a ball with a single mega star's autograph. And that ball would sell for a lot more money.

Then it became apparent to me why fixing a crease would be something that someone would want to do.

The dealer called the guy "an alchemist," like it was his area of expertise. I didn't know alchemists existed anymore, except in the beer-brewing world. Maybe the guy actually has a chemistry background and that was what the dealer meant. But the word was interesting to ponder. Alchemy seemed appropriate -- performing science that seemed impossible, the obliteration of creases, the erasing of signatures.

It was then during the conversation that a younger guy walked by and stopped when he heard the discussion. It turned out the cardboard alchemist was his uncle. And that got the dealer excited.

He started asking him about removing creases and the nephew said, yes, his uncle does do that. But he said it wasn't really removing them. He said once the work was performed, you could still see a line where the crease was. But when one of the guys asked if those fixed crease cards are submitted for grading, the nephew said "sure."

Then the dealer asked the nephew about removing signatures. The nephew said he had never heard of that one.

That's where the conversation ended. But it made me think, what is acceptable when altering a card? The older guys there seemed to think soaking cards was a tried-and-true practice to remove excess glue and maybe lessen wrinkles. They agreed that trimming was bad (yet an accepted part of the hobby). The dealer was adamant about full disclosure when a card been altered. Good for him. And removing creases and autographs seemed way out of line, I was relieved to learn.

But I was raised to believe -- by the good bloggers who came before me -- that any altering of the card to make it appear better than what it was, is not acceptable.

Yet if someone could actually remove a crease from a card -- I mean get rid of it as if it never existed, not even a line -- then wouldn't that be improving the card, like restoring a piece of furniture? I suppose the key questions is: do you plan to sell it?

I admit the conversation confused me with the contradictions. It was as if the lines were being blurred. I just know that coloring in chipping on 1971 Topps with black magic marker is not cool.  And to make things easier on myself, I simply lump any altering of a card to improve the sale price as not cool, too.

How about you?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sucker for a pretty face

I like women. I've never hid that fact on this blog.

True, this is mostly a blog about baseball cards, which means 98.9999999 percent of the posts here display young men in the prime of their lives. Most of the time I'm elated to be collecting cards of these men. But then some girl on cardboard will clip-clop across my line of vision and ... what were we talking about again? What am I collecting? Dudes? WTF?

It doesn't make a lot of sense when I'm staring at a card of the beautiful Katrina Bowden, who if you ever watched 30 Rock, you know as Cerie Xerox, the desirable-yet-clueless assistant to Tina Fey's character. And this is how I got suckered into 2015 Panini Americana.

In the past, Panini Americana has been a joke of a set for me. Although I have a slight interest in TV celebrities, one pack of P-A was enough to scare me away from the product for years. The design was horrible, the pictures of celebrities too distant, the selection of subjects rarely interesting.

Then I saw this year's offering.

The cards are well-designed, and, no, I'm not referring to THAT. I'm referring to the actual design, you pervert. It is a spare border and background, the better to highlight the subject. I mean, they're a celebrity. They're accustomed to being, um, highlighted.

Best of all, the celebrities are featured close up. That's what drew me to this set. And I've got to admit, it's because I'm a sucker for a pretty face. I suppose that's not unusual at all, but I've always been that way. Some guys sing the praises of legs, busts, booties. I've always fallen for the face. No girl has had to tell me "I'm up here." Oh, baby, I know you are.

So, with that in mind -- and aren't you glad I got into all of that -- you could see why this was not your average Americana set for me.

What a cutie.

After seeing a couple of offerings on blogs, I decided that when I was out buying baseball cards, I'd pick up a pack or two of Panini Americana. And not just for the ladies, either. Because although P-A gets trashed for its B-list checklist, it's really not all that minor league.

That right there is one of the greatest actors of my era, one of the few people who can make me laugh in virtually any situation, the man I still think of as James Bond, and Darth G-D Vader, you guys.

I don't know how people like that can be considered B-listers.

It's quite possible this set is made for vintage guys like me. Molly Ringwald may not be instant box-office success anymore, but she was when I was watching movies regularly back in the '80s. Don't you dare call Claire Standish washed up.

So after making 2 or 3 Target trips and grabbing a couple Americana packs each time, I got suckered into thinking about completing the set. It's a small set. I could do it. As long as I didn't turn the cards over and look at the backs (Panini still hasn't made a decent card back in anything), I could see myself collecting this ... casually.

Yep, casually. No strings attached. Just a cardboard fling. Something on the side. Nobody needs to know.

Yes, I'm still talking about cards.

I didn't even care if I didn't know who the actor was. There is still plenty of that in Americana. People like Chris Jericho and Vanilla Ice and worse -- the ugly reality show characters that made you wish not only that you never turned on the show but that you never bought a television.

But I could even get past those cards because of the pretty faces.

Now, as I was grabbing a pack here and there, I quickly realized that I was the only one doing this. The box sitting on the shelf at Target showed only the signs of me being there each time I returned. Two more packs missing -- the packs I bought the last time.

And, then, on Friday, when I returned, to maybe snag a pack of Heritage High Numbers (although why would I want to look at the 1966 design again?), I looked where the Panini Americana box was, and it wasn't there anymore.

I looked up and down over all the shelves. It had been removed. Gone forever. To wherever cards that don't sell go.

No more pretty faces.

Of course, I'm completely suckered now. There's no going back. I've already added some cards from the set online (I'll be the worst guy in the world if my collection never has a Danica McKellar card). Target may not want to showcase pretty faces anymore, but there's other places for that.

I don't expect this post to interest many regular readers. I know you're all about baseball or at the very least, sports.

But I decided awhile ago that I just can't have a collection that's 100 percent dudes in scripted pajamas.

There's got to be a pretty face in there, too.

And that's not Jose Canseco with his shirt off.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

'56 of the month: Don Newcombe

Since I've just finished proclaiming 1956 Topps as the greatest baseball set ever made, I figured I'd extend the '56 Topps love for at least one more post.

Yesterday on Twitter there was a commotion. Yeah, I know, how uncharacteristic of Twitter, right?

The Twitter folks were in a bunch because Padres pitcher Bud Norris said some things that were along the lines of: "foreigners, learn how to play the game right." You can see how some people might take that the wrong way.

Although I don't find Twitter's habit of unearthing something it disagrees with and then nailing the person who said it to the wall repeatedly for the next 8 hours charming, I do agree that the "play the game the right way" mantra is stodgy at best and xenophobic at worst. Most of the complaints are lodged by white players against players of color or players from another country.

Yeah, I don't like demonstrative displays on the baseball field all the time, but I've never had an issue with a bat flip, or staring at your home run for a long time, or celebrating a strikeout on the mound. Some people are more emotional than others, baseball is an emotional game, you keep that stuff inside of you, you're going to hurt yourself.

The complaints about Latin American players makes me wonder if we're going through what baseball went through in the '40s and '50s, when African-American players joined the major leagues. A number of teams took awhile to allow black players on their teams and it couldn't have been simply the color of their skin (although that had a lot to do with it). It probably also had to do with how some people perceived the behavior of black players.

This is why -- again -- I am so proud of my favorite team. The Dodgers could have stopped with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and said, "there, a black player is in the major leagues. He's pretty good, right?"

But they didn't stop. Four months after Robinson became the first black player in the majors, the Brooklyn Dodgers' Dan Bankhead became the first black pitcher in the majors. A year later, the Dodgers' Roy Campanella became the first black catcher in the majors.

And the year after that, Don Newcombe arrived on the team and became the first black pitcher to win Rookie of the Year honors.

That was just the start of the firsts for Newcombe.

He was the first black pitcher to face a black hitter (the Giants' Hank Thompson) in a major league game.

He was the first black pitcher to be a National League All-Star.

He was the first black pitcher to lead the league in strikeouts.

He was the first black pitcher to win 20 games.

He was the first black pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. He was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award, period.

What Newcombe did, out there on the mound by himself, no doubt in the face of blatant racism, is amazing to me. Newcombe has always been a favorite of mine and I don't think he gets enough credit when people are looking back at players from the '50s.

Newcombe had a well-known problem with alcoholism. I've often wondered if the difficulty for a black man in the major leagues exacerbated his addiction. But everything I've read says that he had issues with alcohol even in the Negro Leagues. As for bigotry, Newcombe has said, "I never worried about racists. I could throw a pitch 100 miles an hour." So, good for him for rising above.

Newcombe got sober in the late '60s. For most of my life I've known Newcombe as a counselor for baseball players, someone who has used his history with alcoholism to help others in their struggles. I've admired him for that mission as well.

These players now that are being lectured about playing the game right way, the Yasiel Puigs, the Carlos Gomezes, you never know what will happen in their future. Maybe Puig will be a community leader, a respected teacher of young Cuban ball players struggling to find their way in a new culture. Then, won't you feel silly that you treated him as a know-nothing foreigner.

Bud Norris has apologized for his comments, saying they were misconstrued. I don't doubt that he really is sorry. Whether he's sincere, I don't know. I'm sure none of the Twitter people or bloggers have apologized for some of their out-of-line comments about Norris. They probably should.

But I understand why they're upset.

It's been almost 70 years since Robinson showed up in a Dodgers uniform. Seventy years.

And we're still dealing with "culture wars".

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Night owl's all-time Topps set countdown (4-1)

We've made it.

When I first started this countdown at the beginning of March, I knew how I wanted to do it. I wanted it in-depth, I wanted it to last a long time, I wanted each set to get equal time, and I wanted at least some element of suspense.

I think all of that was achieved. And the best part of it is I had a great time doing it. This kind of thing is in my sweet spot. I've been making lists since before a good chunk of you were born. This was not taxing or difficult. As usual, the worst part was scanning all of the cards.

The only thing I slipped on was compiling the full list separately so people can view it on the sidebar. I wanted to get that done before the countdown ended. I didn't, and now who knows when that will be done? But I hope to finish it sometime soon.

All right, that's all the intro I want for the final episode. What is to come are the four best sets that Topps ever made. These sets are so good that I have no doubts about where they are ranked. I don't care if a mob comes to my house with pitchforks to tell me I'm wrong. I'm right. These sets are too great. Everything clicked for these four sets and I consider them perfection.

OK, they're not actually perfection. All it takes is someone like me to look at it for 3 minutes and I'll find something wrong. But when you stack them up against every other Topps set? Yeah, they're perfection.

So, let's see Topps on a good day ... make that a good year:

4. 1983 Topps

There is a temptation to write off 1983 Topps as an updated version of 1963 Topps, the beginning of the '80s Topps homage to itself. But 1983 Topps is so much more than that.

Sure, 1983 Topps resembles '63 Topps, but as I stated before, it is a vast improvement over '63 Topps. The '63 set may have had the vision, but '83 Topps had the harmony. It had the good sense to place the head shot not in the main photo, but in the inset. And once the head shot was out of the way, that cleared the path for what was the most thrilling set that I had collected in years.

You're going to have to place yourself in my collecting world for a moment. The sets that I collected as a kid, and some of the ones that arrived before I was a kid, were all leading up to 1983 Topps.

Think of it. Topps experimented with action photos here and there in the '50s and '60s. But by the late '60s your action shots were confined to World Series highlights or maybe some All-Star cards. Then, in the early '70s, action shots appeared on select players' cards. That continued through the decade. And as we collected, we could see a few more action shots gradually each year. We relished those action shots -- those were indisputably the coolest cards in the set.

So, now, we're in 1983. I'm a senior in high school. Collecting cards is for babies. But I'm hooked and I still do it, hoping that no one I know in school will see me walk into the Monroe Market and go right for the card section.

I open those first cards of 1983 Topps and all I see is all-out action. Card after card of players in action. There is a tendency to dismiss this these days after we've gone through the '90s and '00s with set after set after set of nothing but action. But this was brand new, exciting, and most of all COOL!

I wasn't worried anymore that someone from school might see me opening packs. Look at the shots. Every player looked like a superhero! These cards were awesome.

I haven't done an exact count, but somewhere around 75-80 percent of the players' cards in 1983 Topps are action shots. This was unheard of at the time. And that, by itself, makes 1983 Topps one of the greatest sets ever made.

The '83 Topps set gives you both worlds. Player in action, and a nice look at what that player would look like on a 1960s card. It's almost two cards in one. The card is balanced. It makes sense. And it's colorful without being loud. I love two-tone designs and '83's is simple and very easy to read.

The 1983 set gives you photos that collectors probably hadn't seen since 1973 or 1971 Topps. The cards are exciting to view, and there are some that are my favorites of the entire decade.

To me, 1983 Topps is easily the best set of the decade. By any card company. It is an iconic set that not only hit all the right notes, but enjoyed some fortune that only some of the greatest sets enjoy.

All three of these rookies appear in '83 Topps. And every one features action from a game (or at least a practice).

1983 Topps also marked the return of manager cards in Topps sets. It would become a staple of '80s sets, but up until '83, I had only seen manager cards in '78 Topps and -- in the recesses of my mind -- 1974 Topps.

The worst that I can say about '83 Topps is the backs are a typical '80s borefest. Also, when Topps was unable to get an action photo of a player, sometimes the posed shots it used were almost identical to the inset photo.

But that is quibbling. The '83 set was the pinnacle for Topps in the '80s. After 1983, it would be a slow regression until we were left with 1989 Topps. And it would take another card company to issue a set with the same amount of "wow" factor as '83 Topps to revive the collecting game again.

Yeah, I just compared 1989 Upper Deck to 1983 Topps.

You had to be there in '83.

3. 1971 Topps

Maybe a handful of sets bring out the curiosity in me:

"Who was the genius who designed this?"

You're looking at the set that prompts this question time and again. What wizard, what cardboard shaman came up with this design, convinced everyone else at Topps that this was a good idea, and then saw it to conclusion? Why isn't there a plaque of this person?

The '71 set is bad-ass. The most bad-ass set that was ever made. When I was a kid, '71 was unquestionably cool. It's not like we saw many around, but you could see the unspoken thoughts bouncing between our heads as we stared transfixed over a couple of '71 cards that someone obtained no doubt by climbing a beanstalk and snagging them from some sleeping giant. SO COOL!

Sleek, pitch-black borders. Bold team names that almost blinded you coming off the midnight background. Multi-colored player names and position names that gave a neon glow to the entire card. It was that individual player's marquee lit up for the collector to see! 1971 Topps was dressed in a leather jacket riding a motorcycle.

No other set looked like 1971 Topps, and it stayed that way until the retro craze hit more than 25 years later. The '71 set was mystical and instantly desirable. I remember thinking as a youngster what I wouldn't do to have 50 or so '71 cards in my collection.

The '71 set features quite a few appealing elements outside of its design. The set boasts the first full-action player photos in a Topps flagship set. The set is huge, 752 cards, with the high numbers rather difficult to track.

It's a set that forces you to collect, but by natural, not artificial means.

The '71 set is branded as difficult not only because of the high numbers but because of how fragile it is. Black borders chip easily, some say, almost as if it's a reason not to collect it.

This was never a thought for me. 1985 Donruss hadn't been created yet. Nor '87 Donruss. There were no other black border sets when I first saw '71 Topps. It was unique. And a little border chipping wasn't going to prevent me from lusting after a unique set.

The '71 set added one more innovation -- head shot photos on the back. Pretty striking at the time. As someone who grew up with cartoons and complete stats on the back, I wasn't impressed with '71 backs, but I can see it for what it meant in '71. It was different, maybe good, maybe bad, but definitely different.

Today, I write a blog devoted to the 1971 Topps set. It's recognition of my continued amazement that I completed this set. But it's also to let that kid on the porch who was staring longingly at those few '71 Topps wondering if he could ever get some in his collection, that yeah, you were right, kid.

These cards are the epitome of cool.

2. 1975 Topps

I know.

Some of you didn't see this coming.

"What? 1975 Topps is No. 2 on Night Owl's list? Doesn't he freak out over everything 1975?"

Yeah, settle down. I'm trying to stick with what I think is the "best" set here, not necessarily my favorite. The adjectives get muddled when you get to this point in the countdown, but really I do think this is where this set belongs. At No. 2.

The 1975 Topps set is iconic for a lot of reasons: its bright-as-the-70s two-tone design, possibly the most blatant disregard for team colors in cardboard history, its historic number of well-known rookie cards, and a once-in-a-generation clash of the old and the new -- from Aaron to Yount.

The set features the most memorable All-Star cards ever made. And it threw an entire subset at collectors that was almost entirely new:

Except the pictures on them were pretty old.

Yes, for many reasons, the '75 set is one of the most beloved and collectible of all-time.

And maybe all of that is good enough for it to reach No. 2 on this list. But, as you know there is another reason why it's here.

The 1975 set is the only set that I have encountered where I can look at certain cards in the set -- stare at them just for a few seconds just to get the brain to go back to that particular point in time -- and then there it is: exactly what I was thinking, where I was when this card was first in my hands.

There are many cards from this set that can take me there. George Foster, for instance. I'm on the playground at school, not over by the pavement, but on the grass, sort of in the back of the school, close to the highway. I'm facing toward the highway, and I have this George Foster card in my hand, and, I really love the colors on this card, I mean really, really love them, but doesn't this George Foster (I don't really know who he is), look like the Grinch?

These are the memories from the '75 set.

And there are ones for Willie Horton ...

... and Dan Spillner ...

... and Carl Morton.

Requisite card back!

And there are so many others. And you know all that, because I wrote an entire blog about the set, that I finished four years ago almost to this day. And there really isn't anything here that somebody else couldn't say about the first set that they ever collected.

But there's something about the vibrant colors in 1975 that makes the memories seem more alive than if it was a plain, white bordered set from say, 1991. Maybe there isn't anything to that and some scientist would debunk my theory in a couple of seconds.

But I don't care. 1975 Topps did something to collectors that was unique to that year.

After all, here I am, 40 years later, writing a blog about cards as enthusiastically as if I was 9 years old opening my first packs.

OK, now, why isn't this set at No. 1 again?

1. 1956 Topps

I have said this before:

If I grew up in the 1950s and collected 1956 Topps, it would be my favorite set of all-time. Too bad for you, 1975 Topps, I saw '56 Topps coming out of packs with my own eyes. It wins.

There is no more pleasing set than 1956 Topps. It's almost a shame that Topps created its very best five years out of the box. But at least they did it, right?

The '56 set has everything that you need. Large cards (why'd we go with 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 anyway?). Full color. Prominent player head shots. And they're superimposed on action of the player on the field! What a concept!

The '56 set introduced me to the idea of collecting for the love of the look of a set. For years, I had to know who was on the cards. That's why I was collecting the cards. But when my dad brought home those '56s donated by his co-worker, I knew maybe 5 percent of the players on the cards. And I didn't care! They looked so great, I just had to have them.

Besides, all you had to do was turn over the card and there was plenty of information on the back. These are the greatest card backs ever made (that was another countdown). I'm telling you, this set has everything.

1956 marks the start of the Topps monopoly. Bowman was gone, and except for a few upstart attempts in the early '60s, Topps had its way with collectors until the early '80s. Maybe that's a bad thing, but it sure was great for Topps in 1956.

The handicap of the years that preceded '56 were gone. Topps now had control of almost all the players it wanted to feature in the set. Guys like Roy Campanella and Mickey Mantle returned to Topps, making the '56 set one of the most powerful ever created.

The set is 340 cards, which is maybe on the small side, but probably just about right for a 16-team league.

This countdown has focused quite a bit on visual appeal. I'm not much for minor details, like whether a position designation is on the front or if there's a facsimile autograph crowding the photo. I try to look at the big picture, and it's obvious that 1956 is beautiful, probably the most beautiful set that Topps -- or anybody -- has ever made.

And that is why I'm attempting to collect a set created 10 years before I was born. I may never finish it off, but I know that I will appreciate every single card that I obtain. Because each card in the '56 set is worth studying, front and back.

I hope you've enjoyed this countdown.

We're done.

Up next: Wait, hold up! The top 100 cards of the 1970s is on its way! But give me a few weeks or months to catch my breath.