(A quote about appreciation from Mark Twain: "To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with." I think that translates to card collecting and this community of collectors quite well. This is Cardboard Appreciation, the 188th in a series):
That nagging cough. You've had it for weeks. You really should go to the doctor. But it's just a cough, it'll go away eventually, right? Or it could be a sign of a terminal illness.
Fortunately, the consequences of ignoring the warning signs in baseball card collecting aren't quite as dire. But they can be frustrating.
For me, a freshly completed set, just placed in a binder, is akin to that nagging cough. I complete sets in a certain way. When I'm fairly certain that I want to complete a set and am a couple hundred cards away from finishing it, I'll go ahead and put the cards that I have in a binder, leaving spaces for where the missing cards will go. Then as I acquire cards, I add them to the slots. It's an enjoyable and very satisfying way to complete sets. I like it much better than acquiring all the cards in a box, or wherever first, and then adding them to a binder all at once.
But because I do it that way, there's always the chance that in paging out the set, I didn't count correctly and put a card in the wrong slot. All those empty spaces can confuse.
And then, when my want list says I've completed the set and I've placed all the cards in the binder that I have, I do that thing when people avoid going to the doctor.
"The set's complete. I don't have to look at all the pages again."
What nagging cough?
But there's always that hounding voice talking back to me. "Check it, check it, check it."
And I always break down. I have to check it.
I know what's coming. Because it's happened to me before, and I've written about it before on this blog. More than once.
Five months ago I was pretty certain I had completed the 1977 Topps set. I wrote a tribute post and everything. Because I had been burned before, I was pretty confident that I had dotted my eyes and accounted for every last card. So I added the last few cards that I had received into their corresponding page pockets and shut the door tight on the binder.
One of the cards was this one:
Larry Parrish's second-year card. Pay attention to that card. We'll come back to it.
I was receiving so many '77 cards at this time that a number of them were dupes. I'd get a package in the mail, and then two days later I'd get another package in the mail. And some of the '77s were the same. I can't possibly update my want list on a daily basis and I know that nobody in the world is checking it on a daily basis, so that's going to happen.
Add this to the fact that some of my '77s wants were merely upgrades -- meaning I was actively looking for doubles -- and an error in inventorying was bound to occur.
Months after completion, I was looking through my '77 binder for some other reason -- probably relating to the cartoons on the back -- when I happened upon the page that houses the Parrish card.
Parrish is card No. 526. He sits in the middle row on the left-hand side -- looking into the page, which is something that would make any newspaper layout person happy.
I double-bag my pages because I'm not made of money, so when you open the binder, there are 9 cards on the left-hand side and nine cards on the right-hand side. Parrish was sitting on the right-hand side in his required spot, middle row, left.
Then I happened to look to the cards on the facing page.
There was the Larry Parrish card AGAIN. It was sitting in the bottom row, left-hand side. Two Parrish's in my complete 1977 set!
This obviously meant that one of my Parrish's was taking the place of another card that should be there. I took out the extra Parrish and looked at the cards nearby and determined that the card that was supposed to be in the slot was No. 520.
No. 520 is Garry Maddox. I had the Garry Maddox card. It was sitting in the top right-hand corner, just before the Larry Parrish ca ...
Maddox is No. 520 and Parrish is No. 526. That's not right.
I took out the Garry Maddox card and the extra Larry Parrish card, and then I started doing that thing:
"It's just a cough, it'll go away by itself, it's just a cough, it'll go away by itself, it's just one card I probably have it in a dupes stack somewhere."
But knowing that the card I was missing was No. 525 -- a so-called semi-star number -- I had that feeling of dread: I still needed a card to complete the set.
I dutifully looked up the number and knew:
The Dennis Eckersley card wasn't in my collection yet.
I decided to put it on the Nebulous 9 list, because people look at that thing a lot more than my want lists. But the card sat there for a month or two and I couldn't stand it anymore.
I went ahead and bought the card online.
And now it's mine, and the '77 set is complete and I've checked to make sure there aren't two Jim Holts or Tom Veryzers sitting in the pages in my binder.
So, let this be a warning.
Like they say in the public service ads:
DON'T WAIT UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE.