A couple of months ago, I posted this thought on the occasion of getting down to the final 10 cards needed to complete the 1956 Topps set.
As you can see, I still didn't really think finishing this set was a certainty. It's been my line of thinking ever since I first knew that the '56 Topps set existed and realized how beautiful it was.
But something about that Harmon Killebrew card, now in my possession, flipped a switch. There was something about that card, about this moment, that seemed like the right time. This was the time. If I'm ever going to complete the 1956 Topps set I better get moving right now!
Actually that momentum began with the card I obtained before I acquired the Killebrew.
I added the '56 Yankees team card earlier in January. This was my chance to own something with Mickey Mantle on it in the set. Mantle is standing there in the middle of the back row, seventh from the left, quietly chortling over how much money people are still paying for his cards.
So this mighty team card and the second-year Killebrew really got the cardboard ball rolling, and the next card dispelled any doubts that I was now riding a runaway train speeding toward only one direction, to mix metaphors, which I've always wanted to do.
You saw this card in a post about three weeks ago. Willie Mays, once considered one of the "big three" from this set that I would probably never get, brought me down to single digits in terms of cards I needed.
The ride was getting more and more fun and I started looking around for something else on my want list that could keep that momentum going.
The Scooter arrived on my wife's birthday less than two weeks ago. Eight cards to go now. I am liking the way these cards look. Sure, they're not cheap but they're just the right kind of scuffed and dinged that I'm not paying stupid prices.
This is partly why I'm in "the time is now" mode. I've heard a lot of stories about how card prices are inflated everywhere and how crazy it is. These people make it seem like every card has skyrocketed in price, but that's not the case. I haven't seen it with the cards I want, at all. But it's only a matter of time. And I suspect stuff like this is where I'll see it first.
So that was two big cards in a row off my '56 want list. But there are still some lesser-known folks on the list and I thought I probably should take a breather.
Bob Cerv brought me down to seven cards to go. Cerv was still a couple years away from his one big season in 1958 with this card. I don't know what the deal is with the giant baseball in the foreground. Strange image. But, no matter, another one of the Yankees was in my possession.
So, now, this is where it really gets engrossing.
I started thinking about how I should probably just get that Roberto Clemente card now. The longer I waited, the crazier collectors were getting, the more likely every '56 Clemente in the world would be graded and I could never afford any of them, the more I knew I better get one, like immediately.
So I looked around. Steep prices. I decided I'd buy something only from one of the fairly well-known online sellers just to make sure I didn't encounter any weirdness around the card.
I settled on one well-handled card that still looked nice. Yes, it was priced for more than I had ever paid for a card. I had just set that personal record a few weeks earlier with the Mays and now I was topping it.
But I took a deep breath and ordered. And waited.
The package arrived Friday. With butterflies fluttering everywhere, I opened it, saw the "1956 Topps Roberto Clemente" label and pulled out the card.
It was Alvin Dark?
I looked on the back of the card, thinking Dark had been added as an extra. All I saw was the back of the Dark card. I looked in the envelope. Nothing. I could feel panic rising inside of me. I HAD BEEN SENT THE WRONG CARD!!!!!
I HAD JUST PAID MORE FOR A CARD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE AND I DIDN'T EVEN GET IT!!!!!
This is what I was writing about in that post on Friday. People guessed that it was a shipping delay or a damaged card. No, no, no, this felt so much worse, much, much, much WORSE.
I almost wished I had video of the whole experience, me pulling the Alvin Dark card (which I already have by the way), staring at it in disbelief, jaw then dropping to the floor, the blood-curdling scream, it would have been some kind of movie drama.
Obviously, I quickly messages the seller and conveyed my pain as vividly as possible. They got right back to me and I had the correct card the very next day.
Down to six cards needed.
It turns out someone mixed up the serial numbers and submitted the Dark card instead. I really wish people would be more careful around cards of legends. I could've had a heart attack.
But everything's good now. This wonderful card that I never guessed I would own, certainly never this soon, is now mine forever. (The image for this photo was taken from a play in 1955 when Clemente leaped to snag a line drive by Pee Wee Reese at Ebbets Field).
I now need five other cards ... and the Mickey Mantle.
I'm pretty confident I can snag all those other cards in the months to come. I have my eye on a couple right now.
As for the Mantle?
I'm sort of hoping to get a super beat-up copy (probably all I'll be able to afford anyway), so it will be the most beat-up card in my entire '56 Topps set. That will show Mantle, always overcharging collectors.