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One game-changer to writing my own blog was that no cards seemed to be out of my reach anymore.
What had seemed unattainable before was surprisingly doable, thanks to reader generosity and simply the publicity the blog has given me.
I've reminded myself of that blog phenomenon over and over and tried to rid myself of the "oh, I'll never be able to finish that" mind-set that has been my safety net against disappointment in this hobby for decades.
But there are still impossible quests. No one will be able to convince me that they are not.
The main one is completing the 1952 Topps Dodgers team set.
Supposedly it can be done. It's not like one of the cards is a 1 of 1. But it's still impossible to me.
Every collector knows about cards 311-407 in the 1952 Topps set, the high-number series in which many of the cards were off-loaded into the ocean because all the unsold cases were taking up warehouse space. The surviving fourth-series cards, already rare because the final series was always printed in fewer quantities, are not cheap.
If I collected a team like, say, the A's or the Tigers, I might be able to land the couple of high-numbers that feature those teams in that set. But as a Dodgers fan, I can forget about owning them all. That's because the Dodgers have more high numbers in the '52 set than any other team. By kind of a lot. Here is the count:
1. Dodgers - 16
2. Giants - 12
3. Pirates - 10
4. Cubs - 9
4. Red Sox - 9
4. Reds - 9
7. Yankees - 7
8. Braves - 5
9. Cardinals - 4
9. Phillies - 4
11. Athletics - 3
11. Browns - 3
11. Indians - 3
14. Tigers - 2
15. Senators - 1
16. White Sox - 0 (lucky bastards)
I haven't even gotten a single Dodgers high-number from '52, let alone 16 of them. A couple of other teams have their own problems (i.e. Yankees/Mantle), but getting 16 near-impossible cards on a writer's salary is right up there.
Even when I land a 1952 Dodger that is not a high-number it feels like an accomplishment. The Billy Cox at the top of the post is my most recent. It's my 10th Dodger from this set and there are still a fair number of lower numbers to go (including Hodges and Snider).
When I add a '52 Dodger to my collection, I do feel like anything is possible, that's how cool those cards are. But in more rational moments, I know that it's terribly unlikely.
This is why the reprint/archives sets of the 1980s and '90s are so useful. I have all of the 1952 Topps Dodgers from the 1995 Archives Brooklyn Dodgers set and that will get me through the rest of my days as far as "having" the '52 high numbers. Here they all are, all 16:

Sure, they're not the right size, they're too slick and none of them feature the card condition that I'm accustomed to for early '50s cards.

But I get to hold them in my hands and look at them and that's the important part. If someone comes to my house and asks me "what do all of the 1952 Topps Brooklyn Dodgers cards look like?" I'll be able to show them physical copies.

That's not going to happen. But this still makes me happy. And it's the best I can do when the task is impossible.


AdamE said…
I don't even really look at 52 Red Sox cards anymore, they are always too ridiculously priced. If I see one at a show in a case I don't even bother asking. On top of the price, to me, 52 is the worst looking vintage Topps set by far. I just don't get why is is anyone's favorite. (and it isn't even the first set really either)
I have a "Red Sox Low Grade" search saved in my ebay. Sometimes one will get listed with a .99 starting price so I will bid low on those and every now and then I get lucky. I do way better with old low grade Bowman, Playball, and oddballs. I would rather get three or four 1930-1950 cards than a single 52 at the same price.
Nick said…
I remember, not too long ago, when the thought of having a complete Topps run of Hoyt Wilhelm cards was one of those "that'll never happen" projects. But here I am now with that same complete run of Hoys sitting in my binders as we speak. I've landed a lot of cards I never, ever thought I'd own in a million years.

...but some cards/projects are still totally "never gonna happen" material. Like owning a T206 Ty Cobb, or having a real card of each of the eight Black Sox. (But I can dream, can't I?)
Nick Vossbrink said…
I say "aspirational" instead of "impossible" but yeah I totally know what you mean. I have all the non-high/non-Mays 1952T Giants now (well one is at COMC) and am pretty sure I'll never be crossing off anything else from that searchlist. Is funny. I don't like the set that much but it still hits me in the feels since it was so special when I was a kid.
I need 5 high #d Braves including the last card in the set Eddie Mathews RC! Probably always will need them too, lol. Thank goodness for that 83 Topps reprint set. Of course it took years like up until the last few years to get those. Now that I think about it, I may need to double check 407.
Michael D said…
That is exactly the reason I changed my collecting to 1972 to present. I still pick up the random vintage card as I find them in my price range at a show, but it's not something that I go looking for. Wish I could happen on an old box of cards that somebody wants to get rid of cheap and find some gems. I'm not holding my breath though.
Michael Ott said…
That Cox is in really great shape!
I have admit I've never worried about what I would do if someone came to my house and asked what the 1952 Topps Brooklyn Dodgers cards look like, but now I can just pull up this blog post and at least show them the fronts ;)

GCA said…
I have a team photo of the 1909 New York Giants that was in my father's hunting cabin. Early on I got a batch of the reprints. Never thought I'd own any of the real ones.
Haven't obtained any thru the blog, but I do actually own some of the real T205s now. Down to less than ten for all of them. It's amazing how you can progress....
1984 Tigers said…
Night owl,

Did Andy Pafco not have a card in the dodgers reprint set? Back in the late 90s, pre kids, I was a regular buyer from dealer in Florida. Bought a fair amount of 50s and 60s from him. I remember getting a small lot, maybe 40, 1952s from him. None of the 311 and up though. He said that he could probably put together a near run of the pre 311 numbers for about 3 grand in vg condition, minus the Mays, pafco, and most of the hofs. I wish I had bit on that offer. I was so worried about the highs that I got scared off building something.

The 52 set isn't everyone's cup of tea but I always like this 52 and 53 topps bigger size and paintings.
night owl said…
Pafko's in the reprint set. I just showed the high-number Dodgers.
Fuji said…
Best of luck completing your team set. This will be quite the challenge.

High numbers or not... attempting the 52T A's team set has never crossed my mine. But I did target and purchase the Gus Zernial... because he has a unique photo. I'd grab singles if they were super cheap, but I've never stumbled across 52T singles in bargain boxes.
Jon said…
Dick Groat's rookie is a high number in that set. It's a card that I've wanted for a while now, and was already expensive before the boom, but now it's so far out of my range I don't even ever bother looking for it anymore.