Card collectors know that at one point or another they are going to reach the inevitable: there will exist one, elusive card that they must obtain to complete the set.
Perhaps this is a bit too old-school for some of you. I keep reading about people who just buy an entire set. No need to chase one final card with that method. Others buy a case, or a couple of boxes, and try to finish off the set in a flurry of binge wrapper-opening.
Some never get to that one final card because they buy a lot on ebay and take care of the final 50 that they needed in one, tidy swoop.
All fiscally responsible choices. But dare I say, not as fun.
I like my packs and blasters, and if I'm completing a set, I'll go that route. Throw in the trading that I do with the fine bloggers and readers across the country, and I feel that is fiscally responsible enough. And it's still wildly interesting enough for my tastes.
But on to the point of the post.
If you're completing an entire base set, you come across that elusive final card maybe only a couple of times a year. However, if you're completing a team set, you are chasing the elusive card multiple times a year, especially if you want to get those team sets done from the late '90s and early '00s. It gets a little involved.
In the beginning of my collecting career, there was only one team set to complete. It was Topps. I remember trying to obtain the Stan Wall card to finish off the 1976 Topps Dodgers set. I never did obtain it in 1976. Then 1977 came and went, I obtained the '77 Wall card -- newly grown mustache and all -- and I still hadn't obtained the '76 Wall card.
Wall didn't play much for the Dodgers, so I didn't know a lot about him. By the time I finally did gain the '76 Wall card in the early '80s, I looked at it and said aloud, "That's Wall?" His hippie vibe totally threw me.
A more established reliever ended up as the elusive final card for my '75 Topps Dodger set. This was Brewer's final Dodger card, and by the time I knew who all the Dodgers were, Brewer was off the team and retired.
So it didn't really bother me that I didn't have his '75 card. In fact, his absence from the game lulled me into complacency. I didn't see him on TV, so I didn't remember I needed him. It wasn't until my obsessive collecting habits kicked in, and I began to acquire checklist books, that I made it my mission to finally gain the Brewer card. And I did.
The pattern repeated itself each year. But I must have completed the late '70s Dodgers in relatively painless fashion because I don't remember which card was the last in my possession.
I do remember that in 1980, the last card was yet another reliever, Lerrin LaGrow. Again, he made but a brief appearance for the Dodgers in '79. I always enjoyed seeing new players in Dodger blue, so trying to get this card weighed on my mind for awhile. As anticipation LaGrew inside me, I finally LeLanded LaGrow.
In 1981, there were three Dodger team sets to chase with the addition of Donruss and Fleer. I instantly threw up my hands and said, "well, there's no way I'll finish off all of those."
Actually, there was a way, but it would take about three decades. I completed the Fleer set with three final cards I needed. I finally landed the Jay Johnstone card to finish off the Topps set.
And after a moment of terror when I thought I already had all the '81 Donruss Dodgers only to discover that there was a Mickey Hatcher card missing, I wrapped up the Donruss Dodgers.
This pattern continued throughout the '80s and '90s. Completing multiple team sets each year meant I would have to wait years in some cases to finish off the one final card. Walking away from collecting in the '90s, didn't help my completion success rate much either.
But as you might have noted, there was something in common about the final cards that I needed, and that is that they didn't have much in common at all, other than that they were Dodgers.
Then this guy came along:
During my return to collecting modern cards in 2006, Odalis Perez became one of the last Dodgers that I needed for the team set. I bought mountains of '06 cards, which made unearthing a Perez card all the more frustrating.
Then, when I started blogging, I quickly wrapped up some of the sets that escaped me when I wasn't collecting. Easy stuff, like '04 and '05 Topps.
Here is the second-to-last Dodger I needed from the '05 Topps set:
And here is the last Dodger I needed for the '04 Topps set:
I don't think that Odalis guy likes me.
Recently, my new Dodger trading bud, Michael, set me some cards off my want lists. Here are three of them:
I find it a little irksome that this guy keeps avoiding me. Perhaps he picked up some anti-social behavior while in the Braves organization. But the objective for cards should be to find the appropriate team collector and make him happy by hopping into the packs that he purchases.
Fortunately, Odalis didn't turn out to be much after a couple of pretty good years for L.A., and there are no more cards of him to collect -- other than those ones from around 02-06 that I might be missing.
So, I'm wondering if any other team collectors keep coming across a guy who avoids them year after year when they're trying to complete their team sets.
Is it someone frustratingly worthless? Perhaps Yuniesky Betancourt? Geoff Blum? Ross Gload? Or are you one of the smarter folks who just buys the team lot online and says "what the hell are you talking about?"
While you're thinking it over, here are some other Dodger wants sent by Michael:
Thanks man! Some Dodger blue is headed your way this week.