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The last card

I swear I was already in the middle of constructing this post when Fuji's post about looking for the last card in a set popped up in my reader.

"Crap," I said. "Well, everything's scanned and cropped, no going back."

Besides, this post is more for me than anyone else.

I've long wanted to put together a post highlighting the final card I needed from sets I have completed. It seems that some of those cards are burned in my brain while others are completely forgotten. If I have a post for these cards, then I won't ever forget about these elusive birds. I will simply consult the post!

So that's what I'll do here. Much like this post, I will update it as I complete sets. But this time it will be a much less orderly exercise.

Searching for that last card is what all set collectors have in common. It is what bonds us together. Sure, team collectors must find a "last card," too, but the sets are smaller and therefore the final card isn't as memorable. There are "last cards" in parallel set chases and insert chases as well, but again, a full, at-least- 600-plus-card set is where unforgettable memories are created.

To go through all that effort, often covering an entire season or year -- sometimes dragging into the next year and the next year and the next -- produces a particularly exultant moment when that final card is placed in its slot.

And each of us set-collectors know that feeling. That's why we're always so eager to help some else out when they're down to that final card. That's why the One-Card Challenge I created eight years ago was so successful. We share in that quest and we know the travails and triumphs. We know the dedication it takes and the collation foisted upon us.

OK, so down to business. I've completed a lot of sets. And there's no way I'm going to show the last card needed for all of them now. That will take hours and days of researching old posts and wracking my brain. I'll get to a lot of those other sets later. Right now, I'll start with these ones:

1975 Topps - Rod Carew, #600

I completed the '75 set in 2004. Once I reacquired the Robin Yount card that I owned as a 9-year-old, most of the other cards were equally attainable. (I already had the George Brett, purchased as a teenager). As I completed my set with the columns of cards at the pawn shop downtown, Carew was the last to show up.

1989 Topps - Craig Biggio, #49; Mike Scott, #180; Claudell Washington, #185; Gary Ward, #302

The "benefit," if you could call it that, of trying to complete a set solely through buying packs -- no ordering online, no buying the whole set -- is you will remember the cards that eluded you forever.

I bought so much 1989 Topps in 1989, all at one drug store in the Buffalo suburbs, and it became clear to me as I pulled out the 20th card of Moose Stubing, that two Yankees and two Astros would be my lasting curse. Those were the only four cards I could not get that year.

I ended up acquiring all four at once many years later. It's interesting that one of them was Craig Biggio. Today, for sure, I can see some card company making a rookie less available than the other cards (see Kris Bryant), but not then. People barely knew who Craig Biggio was!

2006 Topps - Andy Pettitte, #95

Another Astro, another set I tried to complete through only store pack purchases. This time I succeeded.

Pettitte is from the first series and with all the cards I accumulated from that set, I found some of the cards in the first series to be the trickiest (Greg Maddux was another one). But I pulled that Pettitte card out of a pack and you should have seen the size of my smile.

1973 Topps - Leo Durocher, #624

One more Astro and then I'll lay off.

As of the initial writing of this post, this is the most recent set I've completed. Leo Durocher is from the last high series Topps ever made, which is why it was the final card I needed.

1976 Topps - NL Batting Leaders, #201; Fergie Jenkins, #250

The next group of sets here were all completed within the first few years of the blog. I was sent both cards #201 and #250 by the same person and then the second set I ever collected was complete.

1978 Topps - Lou Piniella, #159; Bruce Bochte, #537; George Mitterwald, #688

One of the first sets I completed through blog trades.

There is mention on my blog about these being the last three cards I needed, but there is no mention that I can find that I had obtained those cards. Yet, there they are in my binder!

Both Botche and Piniella I owned as a kid before they disappeared from me, so if Mitterwald wants to claim he's the final card, I won't argue.

1983 Topps - Jack Clark, #210

The last of the early blog set completions.

I feel fortunate that the remaining cards from this set came fast and furious, I barely had time to process that Clark was the final card. If it took me years, decades to find that last card, no doubt I'd despise Clark more than I already do.

1971 Topps - Roberto Clemente, #630

The generosity of other bloggers was never more apparent than when Captain Canuck sent me the final card I needed to finish the '71 Topps set, none other than semi-high number and baseball god, Roberto Clemente.

I was looking at a $30-plus purchase and I needed the card doubly as I had just started a set blog on 1971 Topps. The Canadian mail came to the rescue. I won't forget this last card.

1972 Topps - Tim Foli, In Action, #708

Of course, it was a high-number card, but it wasn't Bobby Murcer and it wasn't Rod Carew, it was Tim Foli.

1977 Topps - Dennis Eckersley, #525

As every set collector knows, sometimes you think you've completed the set but you really haven't. What a terrible discovery that is.

For me and 1977, Larry Parrish's card (#526) was filed twice in my '77 binder and neither was in the right spot. One of them was in Eckersley's spot and that meant I now had to find an Eckersley. But no worries, Eck's here with me now.

2008 Allen & Ginter - Harriet Beecher Stowe, #313; Wily Mo Pena, #319

I don't think you could've convinced me even 20 years ago that I'd need a card of Harriet Beecher Stowe to complete a set. But I'm certainly not complaining. The 2008 Allen & Ginter set is my favorite A&G set and the first I completed.

Harriet Beecher Stowe and Wily Mo Pena -- both three-namers, hmmm -- landed in the short-printed portion of A&G that year, making them elusive. Looking at the prices now, both can be retrieved on COMC for under a buck, meaning nobody should ever collect a set in the year it was issued.

1980 Topps - Ralph Garr, #272

Along with 1989 and 2006 Topps, 1980 represents a quest I'll never forget. It was the first time I seriously tried to complete a set.

Looking back, it was a good time to try. The following year, the number of cards you needed to buy tripled with the addition of Donruss and Fleer, and who was going to complete all that? (Me, three decades later, that's who).

But I still fell around 16 cards short of finishing 1980 Topps in 1980. Then after landing each, one by one, Ralph Garr -- one of my favorite non-Dodgers at the time -- became the final one. My eyes still light up seeing this card in the binder.

OK. That's all I have for now. But there are so many other completed sets to get to.

I will add them all to this post when I find spare moments. Perhaps I'll alert you when I do, in case you want to revel in the glory of a set collector's greatest achievement.


Scott Crawford said…
Didn't I send you the Foli In Action, only to have you immediately send me a Foli In Action as, by the time mine got there, it was an upgrade for your Foli In Action? Life comes at you fast.

Some of the ones I remember from the stuff you've posted so far:

'75 was, I thought, Joe Torre, though Aaron was really close to the end, too. I got the Torre card from a flea market dealer who set up not far from me at the Route 70 Flea Market named Charlie, who's sadly not with us anymore. That market lost a few good guys (Laser Ray, the comic book guy was one of 'em, too) in a short span of time, but John, one of the other card guys (who I bought my '82-'84 Topps sets from, and who was also my mailman for a while) is still with us and back delivering mail to my mom, last I heard. But nope, the last 2 were Bob Robertson and Mike Cuellar, in a Monmouth Coin and Stamp purchase where I also finished '78 (see below), '93 (Steve Wilson and Lamont/Baylor Managers) and '10 (Lucroy and Freese). As I remember it, the '75 set had like 2 or 3 false finishes, but I did make a note of finishing, exactly 8 years ago today!

Bo Rosny sent me '89 complete in one of our monster trades, so I guess Rafael Santana was my last card there.

Derek Jeter was the last from '06, and I think I got Derek in a Bo trade, too!

'73's still a work in progress, but I'm within 58, 19 of which are checklists, and unfortunately, 1 of which is the Schmidt. I only need 5 cards out the first 500, though. That's something, right?

I genuinely have no recollection of what card finished '76, and my website was no immediate help there, either. No respect, I tells ye.

'78 was Steve Carlton, from, as mentioned, Bill at Monmouth Coin and Stamp in Red Bank, NJ.

I had '83 mostly done, and then, like I said, I got a deal from John, my mailman, at the flea market for complete '82-'84 sets, so I'm gonna do what I did with '89 and go with Chris Chambliss as my finisher, as he was #792.

'71 was Brooks Robinson, and I came very close to dying before I got to even see it. I had my mail in the car when I got in a car wreck that I and the card were very lucky to walk away from.

'72's still in progress, 67 to go, only 2 more from the first 500, though. I think the Garvey's gonna be the hardest.

'77, I don't remember for sure, but I think it was another Monmouth Coin and Stamp purchase, and it might've been a team set (either the Red Sox or Cardinals).

'08 Ginter, still in progress, but I'm 55 out. Madding from Cards on Cards sent me a chunk recently, if I'm remembering correctly.

And, like you, '80 Topps was the first set I tried to complete. I got off to a great start, as Rickey was in the first pack I ever opened (I didn't get another '80 Rickey for at least 30 years, but I've got a couple now, if anyone's looking), but it took me nearly 32 years to finish it. Tom Veryzer was the last holdout.

So, yeah, there's a novella for your comments section.
Elliptical Man said…
Who doesn't think of Harriet and Willy Mo together?
Commishbob said…
I had a list I kept of finals set/collection cards but it's gone. Last ones I remember making a splash were the Pilots team card for the '70T set, the '57 Kubek rookie, and the Two Hal Smiths card from the 1960 Leaf set earlier this year. That was one I figured I'd never come up with.
hockey kazi said…
At first glance, that Ralph Garr remends me of Topps 2020 Series 2 #467 Andrew McCutchen SP/SSP--throwback uni, funky glasses, open neck top and chain.
Billy Kingsley said…
If it makes you feel any better about having the post already written, I've been documenting the last card number needed and the date I acquired it since 2004, sharing it publicly on the Trading Card Database since it's not like your concept really got sniped, hah.
night owl said…
It's not the snipe, I don't care about "first" anymore. It was the timing. I try not to post on the same thing others are posting about.
Mark Hoyle said…
I think John Ellis May have been my last Card for 73. Can’t remember any of the others
GCA said…
Sign me up for the 1980-was-the-first-set club. (After '79 football). Not sure who finished it though.
'71 was Vida Blue (a 2nd copy after my PC).
'74 was Jack Billingham of the Reds.
'73 was that pesky last checklist.
And I've documented that '70 was Oscar Gamble+2 RC, and two groups for '72 and '60.
But my friend Stuart and I still refer to Micah Bowie from the massive 2003 UD 40-Man set as the symbolic set killer.
Fuji said…
The One-Card Challenge! That's what it was called. I racked my brain for at least a few minutes trying to think of who started it... and what the name was. That just made my day.

I was curious to see what card I listed and if I had ever acquired it. It was a Favre redemption card... and I did eventually find a copy for my set.
Bo said…
The first two sets I completed were '87 and '88 Topps. I think Gary Gaetti was the next-to-last card for both.
My last card for the 1972 set was Bill Russell. I got all the others in 1972, but Russell's was more than a decade later.

I also remember that the Cardinals Team card was the last 1967 low-number I needed, having collected all the other low numbers that year.

The only sets I've completed (except for factory sets in '81 and the junk wax era) are 68, 69, and 72. I had all the 68 and 69 low numbers during those years, and got all the high numbers during the 1980s, but don't remember who was last.

My last 1967 high number will be either Tom Seaver, Rod Carew, or Tommy John. :)
bryan was here said…
The year was 1981. My first year collecting wax packs. My dad would stop at the little corner store on his way home to pick up his afternoon paper, and a wax pack for me and my sister. Just from wax packs, I came within 2 cards of a complete set that year. My one neighbour had the two cars I needed. Duffy Dyer and Tom Veryzer. He knew I needed them and wouldn't trade them to me for anything.
I ended up getting them later that fall when a card shop opened up in my town.

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