The release date for 2017 Topps flagship is less than a week away. I happen to have that day off and will probably be driving myself crazy that day trying to find it in local stores, which is usually an impossible task.
I'm happy that I'm still excited after all of these years -- even though I don't intend to collect the set, even though I already see things I don't like about it, even though I fully plan to mention those things on this blog -- but I wonder if the whole modern card collecting thing has passed me by.
For instance, Topps released the checklist for Series 1 today, complete with announcing that Kris Bryant is card #1 in the set, which means almost nothing to me. What does still mean something to me is how later cards in the set are oriented.
Once upon a time, card No. 100 in the set meant something. Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Mike Schmidt, Mike Piazza, those were the players who received card No. 100 -- for decades.
I had to look up who Nate Jones was. And when I did, I was even less impressed. I'm not sure why sticking with the "superstar gets the double zero" treatment is so difficult these days. It's three cards in Series 1. I'm not even asking for the return of the "stars get cards ending in zero and semi-stars get cards ending in 5" format, although it would be nice. But to be dismissive of the double zero? I can't help but take it a little bit personally.
Perhaps I'm too old for this modern collecting.
I am in the middle of cataloguing my complete 2015 Topps set. Yes, I know it is 2017. It's taking me awhile because it's Series 1, Series 2, Update, and, oh, yeah, I have a life. But I'm finally in the Update set and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That's when I came across this card:
It's card number #US240 in the set. Those of you who are very up on cards from every year probably noticed something different about this card right away. But I didn't.
Nope. I started typing in the card into my list and then my brain said, "Hey, didn't you just come across a Jonathan Papelbon card?"
I had, it was card number #US215.
Puzzled, I tried to figure out what this meant. Is it possible that there was a base card of Papelbon as a National AND a Phillie in the Update set? What the hell?
I took another look at card #US240:
Mostly I was looking to see if Papelbon was actually wearing a Phillies hat and then seeing ... of course, the Phillies logo. And then, I noticed ... shouldn't this have an All-Star Game logo, too?
Turning over the card, I saw this:
Crap. This was a sabermetric stats variation.
Yeah, I said, "crap," because this meant I had a variation in my base set and who knows if I had the base card? This is how a set collector thinks.
I know people think these cards are interesting and I probably once did, too, when I was their age. But I treat saber stats like I do modern card inventions (I'd really like to learn, but where's the time, and ... I'm too old for this!). I've already got someone after me on Twitter for this card and I'll get to that transaction ... eventually.
But in the meantime there was something much more pressing: DID I HAVE THE BASE CARD OF US240?
I went down to the basement where the 2015 dupes are stacked up and started shuffling. Two stacks down and no Papelbon All-Star base card. Half of another stack down and still nothing. Only the other half of the last stack to go and ...
My set was complete again.
Here are the cards side-by-side.
And the backs:
Now, the key part of this is, I had no idea there were saber-stat variations in 2015 Topps. I pulled one of those in 2014 and I was well-aware of what they were then.
But as I've pulled away from current cards more and more, these kinds of things happen. I had a variation sitting in my binder for a year-and-a-half without any clue of what it was.
The 1981 version of me is now hitting me on the noggin like I'm McFly.
I'm simply too old -- or just don't care is more like it -- about collecting in the variation way. I'd rather just collect like I collected in 1981. And I do. And I'm happy doing that. It's just very weird when variations slip into my set when I'm collecting the way I did in 1981. I have no clue. I used to have a clue.
I now put my old-world spin on any current product I collect. It's the way I make sense of card set changes. Another example: In the modern world, vintage cards with foil stamps on them are considered "hits." But I don't. I consider them old base cards with a stamp on them.
It still pains me to see some of these old cards with stamps on them. And the only way I can make it right in my brain is to attempt to collect those old stamped cards the way I'm used to collecting cards, by trying to complete a set.
These are the latest three cards to enter my 1975 Topps buyback set. I'm now up to 115 cards in the set, with plenty more in my online cart.
Even as I collect these -- thereby finding some meaning in cards tarnished by a stupid stamp -- I still wince at some of them. Just look at that stamp on the Bob Coluccio card. Was anyone aware that Coluccio's head was in the way and maybe put the stamp somewhere else?
But nobody down at the Topps plant is thinking of that because a machine just plants the stamp wherever the machine is set up to plant the stamp. Baseball card photo be damned. Because who cares about a photo on a baseball card?
Anyway, I'm getting too riled up over these modern changes to a very old hobby.
I will be buying some 2017 Topps next week, or whatever week it comes out near me, and I will be observing that set and all of the latest sets in my very 1981 filter.
Actually, I think I'm doing pretty good for a 50-year-old guy, still buying these things.
But I don't have anymore time.
I need to go back through my entire 2015 Topps set again and see if there are any other variations tucked in there.