Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I was adding a few of my recent card acquisitions to their respective binders the other day. Once I receive cards, they go in a stack to be cataloged. Then the older cards go in another stack to wait to be added to a binder during one of my binder binge sessions (there's one coming up very soon). The new cards -- 2012 cards -- I add instantly to the binder because it's easy to do. Just plug them in at the end.

As I was adding those 2012 cards, it struck me how many Matt Kemp cards I have from 2012. And then it amused me that I often complain about not being able to obtain Kemp cards because other collectors hang on to his cards a lot more than they did a couple of years ago.

It amused me because I have no right to complain when I've already accumulated 43 cards of Kemp from 2012.

That's right. 43. From this year alone. And there are many, many, many, many, many more that I have not obtained.

This is not a surprise to anyone I'm sure. With the multiple sets issued by Topps and the parallel madness that's gone on for years, producing multiple cards of every player is a fact of life. Topps needs to keep the player collectors throwing money at its products, and this how it ensures that it happens.

But I started to think about how different life was in collecting years ago. I began to wonder that if Matt Kemp was a major star in baseball 10, 20, 30 years ago, how many cards would he have in a given year?

So I looked into it -- in the vague, slipshod way I do things around here. I promise, when I'm getting paid for research, I'm much more thorough.

I looked at the card sets for 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, etc. and guess-timated how many cards Kemp might have for each of those years, if all things were equal, namely that he was a star player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and among the league leaders.

This is how it might go:


Sets where you would probably find a Matt Kemp card:

Topps base, Topps base insert, Topps Limited Edition, Topps HTA, Topps Chrome, Topps gold Chrome parallel, Topps Finest, Topps Gallery, Topps Gold Label, Topps Heritage, Topps Heritage Chrome, Topps Opening Day, Topps Pristine, Topps Reserve, Topps Stadium Club, Topps Stadium Club gold, Topps Top 10, Topps Total, Topps Total insert, Topps 206, Bowman, Bowman gold, Bowman's Best, Bowman Chrome, Bowman Heritage, Fleer, Fleer Authentix, Fleer Authentix insert, Fleer Boxscore, Fleer EX, Fleer Focus, Fleer Genuine, Fleer Maximum, Fleer Platinum, Fleer Premium, Fleer Showcase, Fleer Tradition, Fleer Tradition insert, Fleer Tradition all-star, Fleer Triple Crown, Fleer Ultra, Flair, Donruss, Donruss Classics, Donruss Diamond King, Donruss Diamond King parallel, Donruss Elite, Donruss Fan Club, Donruss Originals, Donruss Studio, Donruss Estrellas, Donruss Estrellas insert, Etopps, Leaf, Leaf Press Proof, Leaf Certified, Leaf Rookies and Stars, Playoff Absolute Memorabilia, Upper Deck, Upper Deck insert, Upper Deck Authentics, Upper Deck 40man, Upper Deck MVP, Upper Deck Ovation, Upper Deck Piece of History, Upper Deck Plus, Upper Deck Plus gold, Upper Deck Vintage, Upper Deck SP-Authentic, Upper Deck SP-X, Upper Deck Sweet Spot, Upper Deck Victory, Upper Deck Victory gold, MLB Showdown

Total Kemp cards: 73

Comment: It was a crazy time in the card world 10 years ago, eh? I'm sure there are a number of inserts or parallels I missed. And I'm not even including any potential relic cards Kemp could have had at this time. But this gives you a good idea of what was available.

Even with all that, I'm still saying that there is the potential for me to exceed the mythical 2002 total with my 2012 Kemps just because there are so many parallels. It's a little crazy that there are much fewer companies producing cards but just as many cards available for a particular player.


Sets where you would probably find a Kemp card:

Topps base, Topps base gold, Topps base award winner, Topps micro, Topps Kids, Topps Stadium Club, Topps Stadium Club Members Only, Bowman, Fleer, Fleer superstar special, Fleer all-stars, Fleer performers, Fleer team leaders, Fleer Ultra, Fleer Ultra all-star, Donruss, Donruss Diamond King, Donruss McDonald's MVP, Donruss Triple Play, Leaf, Leaf black gold parallel, Leaf Studio, Score, Score all-star, Score impact player, Pinnacle, Pinnacle shades, Pinnacle team 2000, Upper Deck, Upper Deck all-star heroes, Classic, Denny's All-Stars, OPC, OPC Premier, Post, Playing Cards, Starting Lineup, MooTown Snackers

Total Kemp cards: 38

Comment: Again, I'm probably missing some regional or food issues in which Kemp would make an appearance. But it's pretty safe to say that there wasn't nearly as many cards available of a particular player 20 years ago. And relics or autographs? Forget it.


Sets where you would probably find a Kemp card:

Topps base, Topps all-star, Topps in action, Topps HR leaders, Topps RBI leaders, OPC, OPC all-star, OPC in action, Fleer, Donruss, Donruss diamond king, Drake's, Kellogg's, Perma-Graphics, Squirt, Topps stickers

Total Kemp cards: 16

Comment: The early 1980s is really the genesis of "multiple cards of the same player in the same set" concept. In 1981, Fleer and Donruss issued two different cards of certain star players in their debut sets and -- take it from me -- it was mind-blowing. Forget about 43 different cards of the same player. You're telling me there are TWO cards of Steve Garvey in the SAME set?

The world would never be the same.


Sets where you would probably find a Kemp card:

Topps base, Topps in action, Topps HR leaders, Topps RBI leaders, Topps average leaders, Kellogg's, Milton Bradley, OPC

Total Kemp cards: 8

Comment: 1972 is a different animal from some of the sets immediately before it. The Topps set was so large that year that it was forced to throw in cards with players that had already appeared in the set. In-action cards debuted. There was also Boyhood Photos of the Stars. (But I didn't include Kemp there). This was also when the Topps monopoly was in major effect. Very few off-brands at this time.


Sets where you would probably find a Kemp card:

Topps base, Topps NL All-Star, Topps HR leaders, Topps batting leaders, Bazooka, Jello, Post

Total Kemp cards: 7

Comment: Seven whole cards. I'm sure kids were thrilled with it, too.


Sets where you would probably find a Kemp card:

Topps base, Bowman, Berk Ross, Red Man, Tip Top Bread

Total Kemp cards: 5

Comment: There were a lot more regional/odd ball issues back in the '50s, many of which I can't speculate as to whether they would have had a Kemp card or not. But even with those sets, there just wasn't a lot of opportunity to get multiple versions of your favorite player.

So what you're looking at over the last 60 years, really, is a line graph that travels directly uphill without any indication of hitting a down slope in the future (I fully realize that if I had picked a year in which Topps Tek entered the equation than the last sentence would no longer be true). Ten years from now, you may be able to own a million different cards of the same player in a single year.

But take it from me, as a kid who grew up in the '70s, even in these days of 40, 70, 100, 200 versions of the same player in a single year, even as I squawk about not receiving as many Kemp cards as I used to, there is a part of me that still thinks:

"WOW, you're telling me there are two different cards of Kemp in the SAME set?"


  1. Wow, I'm glad to not be a player collector. It was easy to do in 1972. None of my favorite players had more than 18 mainstream cards in their careers unless I counted the league leader cards.

  2. Kemp would have had a classic 70s card. One of the cards that every baseball card collector wants to own even if they don't collect Dodgers.

  3. Wow, that must have took a ton of research, unless you know all of that off the top of your head, which I wouldn't doubt. Theres really a ton of information in there! Great work!!!

  4. I bet he would have signed with Bowman and not Topps in '52. I demand a recount!

  5. I know just what you mean about the whole "back-of-the-binder" deal. Speaking of which, I probably need to start looking at a binder binge too...