Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The forgotten set
Like many set collectors, I have almost perfect recollection of sets of the past. I know what they look like down to the tiniest detail.
Even before the advent of the internet and the ability to call up any card from any year, I could lie in bed and drift off to sleep by picturing the images of each set from every year, in order.
1979? The colored ribbon stripped across the bottom.
1980? Pennant flags. Small one for the position and big one for the team name.
1981? Well, there were three card sets that year, but no problem. Topps had the ballcaps in the bottom left corner and the wild colored borders that didn't seem to correspond with any team colors. Fleer had the giant baseball in the bottom left and loads and loads of yellow. And Donruss had the yellow block lettering for the team name, and the tiny '81 in the top corner.
It was almost like reciting the alphabet. Name a year and I knew the corresponding design. And I knew the year after that and the year after that.
I could do this from 1968 Topps all the way to 1991 Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Upper Deck and Score.
Before '68, things got a little hazy for me because the cards were so old. After 1991? Well, I still have problems. Just too many damn sets. A year like 1997 will take me 30 minutes to sort out. Way too much going on in the late '90s.
But as I became more of a veteran collector, I could even recall the older years instantly. I even have straightened myself out on some of the newer years, although I think I'll forever mix up sets between '97-99.
But there is one set that I will always forget.
It's my blind spot. My weakness. My missing link.
It's 1986 Fleer.
I always, always forget about '86 Fleer.
Partly it is because it was a set I never collected. 1986 was a year of collecting indifference for me. I bought some '86 Topps, but that was it.
To this day, you could throw me a 1986 Fleer card and ask me to name the year and chances are 50-50, that I will say:
"Ummmmmmmm ... 1985?"
I have a huge mental block about this set.
I know of only one cure for ridding myself of that mental block forever.
If I try to collect the whole set, then this will not be a problem for me anymore.
But before you get ready to unload your '86 Fleer dupes on me, let me say that I doubt I will ever do that.
I'll probably just continue through life with '86 Fleer as the gap in my collecting knowledge. Someday, I'll go on Jeopardy and be cruising to an astronomical lead. I'll draw the Daily Double. Under the potpourri category, of course. Alex Trebek will show a picture of Barry Bonds' rookie card and ask what year it was issued. It'll be the Fleer card, not the Topps card, which will cause me to mentally freak. I will answer, not so confidently, "What is 1985?" Trebek will give me a piteous, Canadian-accented, "Oh, no. Sorry." And my money total will plunge into negative numbers. Shame will follow me home and I will never be able to write on this blog again.
But I'm sure I'm not the only one. Right? Please tell me you don't have instant recall of every set when someone mentions the year? Is there one set that you always forget?
For me, '86 Fleer will always be this set collector's Achilles Heel. Plus, all those gold-embossed sets from '97. Or is it '96? No, no, it's '98. Yup. '98. ... I think.