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Degree of difficulty

Here's another story about "the good in Twitter".

I was having a conversation over there with a few like-minded collectors, fans of vintage cards, in which one of us displayed the entirety of the sixth series of 1972 Topps. The difficulty of obtaining all of the cards in that final series is well-known, so seeing that series all at once, even though all of those cards are sitting in a binder next to me right now, was impressive.

Seeing that image brought back all of the trials and tribulations that went into completing that last series, which also completed the entire 1972 set for me. It was a grind. It was an obstacle course. It was a treasure hunt. It was nothing like I had ever collected before.

So I said:

It certainly feels like a club. I'm aware, from being a blogger a number of years, that not just anybody can complete a set. A lot of people don't have that gene. And completing a set with high numbers? THOSE kind of high numbers? That takes a specific kind of crazy. I prefer to call it "dedication," but call it what you wish.

The folks in the conversation who had completed the '72 set liked that idea and the guy who showed off the high numbers in the first place had another idea:

This is a reference to Gio, who if you don't know, and you should, is one of the first and best custom-card creators that I've known. He's pretty damn prolific, I see new images on new spins on classic designs all the time from him. And he loves the '70s.

Gio, also a member of that '72 club, quickly whipped up a custom membership card in the style of '72 Topps and we all laughed to ourselves about the thought of having a fancy membership card of our collecting feat.

Then Gio lowered the hammer:

Well, well, those were actual membership cards with our names on them!

I received mine in the mail yesterday. It's fantastic.

I'm not much for "exclusive clubs" in general, but I'm thrilled to show off this membership card. There aren't really any benefits to having one except that you've COMPLETED THE 1972 TOPPS SET!

As someone who has, I can tell already there's something different about Gio's '72 Topps set. The page scanned shows Steve Braun's card in the bottom right corner. Steve Braun is card No. 244 in the '72 set and No. 244 is not divisible by nine (every card in the bottom right corner of a set organized by card number is). The No. 243 card, the Cardinals' Frank Linzy, is divisible by nine and sits in the bottom right corner on the page in my set. I honestly don't know what this means for Gio's set. Is he missing a card? Can I help a fellow member of the club?

Anyway, let's take a look at the back of this membership card:

That is so 1972 that I can hear "Popcorn"  by Hot Butter in the background.

I'm proud of my 1972 Topps membership as you can tell. It is, without a doubt, the most challenging card completion task that I have finished.

It is a joy that I can show off my achievement on this blog in such a manner (this is the last full completed page in the set).

It also got me thinking. What are some of the other more challenging set quests that I have completed? Which ones had a certain degree of difficulty -- maybe not as high as the '72 Topps set -- but still took a considerable effort? How about a countdown of some of them?

Lord knows there are much more difficult completion quests in my future. But I can list those in another post. Here is the most difficult of what I've completed so far:

7. A complete run of Hostess Ron Cey cards

Somebody is going to tell me there is some rare variation of a Cey Hostess card and I'm already going to say I don't care. It's feat enough that I have each year of Cey's Hostess cards. He is one of the few players to appear in all five '70s Hostess sets and the 1979 card here is a short-print.

It was not easy to find. It took me years until an alert reader discovered it on ebay and I finally landed it.

Now I have them all and I get to do things like this.

 6. The 1976 Topps Dodgers team set

Some of these were a challenge because of the time period. I completed this set at least 15 years before most people knew what the internet was. But it took me a long time to do so because this Stan Wall card was so elusive. It drove me nuts that I couldn't find it (I was maybe 15 at the time when I completed it). I had finished the '77, '78 and '79 Dodgers team sets, probably the '80 one, too, before I found that Wall card.

5. 1980 Topps set

I've told this story a few times already. The 1980 Topps set was the first one I really attempted to complete. All my previous efforts were simple "grab as much as you can" missions with no real end game. 1980 was no different than the previous years in terms of how I could complete sets. It was still "go to the drug store down the block as many times as you can." My money came from allowance and snow shoveling jobs. But I was more determined.

I ended up 16 cards short at the end of 1980. This set was the pride-and-joy of my life at the time and it hurt to get so close with no way to track down those remaining 16. It wasn't until years later that I gathered in all the remaining cards.

4. 1975 Topps mini set

Completing this set actually was easier than it should have been.

Thanks to the blog's reach and a number of generous collectors, I finished this set in 2014. Yeah, that was almost 40 years after I first pulled '75 minis out of packs but I wasn't collecting for several of those years and '75 minis didn't show up much at card shows, which at the time was my main means of finding old cards.

Blogging was my answer to finishing off what was a previously inconceivable quest for what is still my all-time favorite set.

3. 1989 Topps set

You laugh.

Again, think of the time period.

No ebay. No internet. No card shop anywhere that I knew. My only means, again, was a drug store in a plaza in suburban Buffalo. Between working two jobs, I'd stop by this drug store once a week to buy Topps cards in 1989.

How was I to know it would be one of the most overproduced sets of all-time? It didn't seem like it at the time!

My goal was to complete a set solely through pack purchasing that I had failed to do nine years before.

I failed this time, too, coming just four cards short. It sat incomplete for years, until I returned to collecting and picked up Craig Biggio, Mike Scott, Gary Ward and Claudell Washington for mere change. It felt good to finish that set.

And now I have two complete 1989 Topps sets. And I could probably have 10 next week if I wanted. But it was a different world in '89.

2. 1971 Topps set

This set also is known for its elusive high numbers and it is the only thing that I have completed that comes close to the '72 Topps set quest in terms of difficulty.

This is probably the set that told me that I could complete anything with the power of the internet. The amount of '71 cards that came to me unannounced was amazing. Close to the end of my quest, I started a 1971 Topps set blog even though I was still a couple cards away from finishing the set. I was that confident that it would be done.

And it was.

But not before it cost me a fair amount of cash.

1. 1972 Topps set

Traditional set collecting in 2020 is a bit prehistoric, I admit.

A number of people simply can't conceive of taking on such a task. I think set-collecting shows an inner drive that doesn't exist in every person and is actually a positive personality trait. "Anything worth doing is worth doing well" is the old quote. But times have changed. Just type that phrase into Google and see what you get:

But I still think completing a set is doing something well, an admirable feat.

Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it takes a lot of money sometimes.

1972 Topps was a slog at the end. I would go to card shows with a certain amount of cash in my pocket and those 1972 highs would take ALL OF IT. I'd be fishing '72 high numbers out of some dealer's binder and feel like I was being buffeted about the head by dollar signs. 15 bucks for this card. 20 bucks for that one. And no hope of talking anybody down on the price.

But I wanted them. I had to have them. It was a mission.

And now it's done. I can look at that binder full of colorful cards that evoke a time when I was a kid and those specific cards were the template for what a card should look like. Those were the older, elusive cards that some of the big kids had. Those '72 cards could only come from the '70s and that's why I like them so much.

I deserve to be in the club. So does anybody else who has completed this set.

"Hello there. I've completed the 1972 Topps set.

"Here's my card."


Jeremya1um said…
That is awesome! I’ve done a few sets by hand, but nothing really before 1990. Anyone feel like doing a 2001 Topps club?
Adam said…
Congrats on completing the 1972 set!

At one point I was going after the 1980 set as well, mainly because it's the last Topps set before Donruss and Fleer swooped in.
Robert said…
Saw those on twitter the other day. It's going to be a while, but I'll be a member of the '72 Topps complete set club sometime down the road.
acrackedbat said…
I love the design, one of my all time faves. Also know it's unrealistic set build for me. I pick up 72s here and there, enough to make me happy. You are part of the cool kids club. Gio is definitely the fellow for the customs.
I love the idea. but I'd have 2 issues of getting one of those excellent membership cards.

1) don't do twitter

2) here is my needed 72's:

1972 TOPPS: 270, 299, 338, 400, 413, 434, 435, 440, 470, 498, 515, 529, 530, 539, 544, 547, 557, 559, 560, 567, 573, 574, 575, 576, 580, 581, 582, 584, 585, 586,

588, 589, 590, 591, 593, 594, 596, 597, 601, 602, 606, 607, 610, 613, 616, 617, 619, 621, 622, 629, 630, 631, 635, 638, 639, 644, 646, 648,

650, 651, 652, 654, 656, 657, 659, 660, 662, 66x, 667, 669, 673, 674, 683, 686, 688, 691, 694, 695, 696, 699, 700, 704, 707, 708, 711, 712, 721, 724, 736, 738, 741, 746,

749, 750, 751, 752, 754, 755, 760, 761, 763, 764, 771, 777, 778, 784, 786.

Yeah.. it will be awhile. I wish I had kept the set the first time.
Old Cards said…
Completing a set is an excellent accomplishment. Your membership card is well deserved. I read Gio's blog too and I agree he does great work.
That membership card was hard-earned, and it looks cool too. I'm looking forward to someday soon reading your post about a completed 56 set.
bryan was here said…
That is a cool membership card. Like the old American Express tagline, "Membership has its privileges".

I'm also a fan of Gio's blog. It's part of my go-to routine every morning.

Someday, I hope to complete my '77 Topps set. But then again, half the fun is finding cards you don't have yet.
bbcardz said…
Awesome membership card! I'm also in the process of completing this set and I agree, it can take lots of $, especially for NM cards. Only 101 more cards before I attain set completion.
Matt said…
Gio's custom's are a thing of wonder, and he nailed those membership cards!
Brett Alan said…
"That is so 1972 that I can hear "Popcorn" by Hot Butter in the background."

Man, that's just great writing. Although I suppose anyone not as old as I am won't appreciate it fully.

I'm lucky enough to have bought some packs of the 1972 high numbers when they were new, but I still can't imagine completing them. And the ones I have certainly don't look as pristine as yours. Quite an accomplishment, and well worthy of a membership card.
Fuji said…
I struggled to build the A's team set... so I know how pricey this set build can be. Congratulations to all of those who did it the old fashion way.
I also have completed the 1972 set, but am not on Twitter. I had all the '72 cards in 1972 except for Bill Russell, which I got sometime in the 1980s.

I have also completed the '68 and '69 sets, and (as I mentioned here last week) am 3 cards away from completing the '67 set.

I also have complete 81T and 81F sets, but since they were bought as factory sets, that's not a significant accomplishment.
JediJeff said…
Did Gio explain why his discrepancy in the sleeving of the set? Cuz I will be up for DAYS until I get the answer.
29Collector said…
I need an answer on Gio's paging. The math of "9" is branded into every set builders brain.
DMA said…
I just finished my 1972 Topps set, and just posted about it! Funny timing.
Anonymous said…
There were a few variations, I'm guessing that was the reason for the numbering not working out normally.