I am a set builder, but I'll be the first to admit I'm not a very good set builder. I'm great at going through each of my sets and meticulously noting which cards I need, writing my lists down on a piece of paper, losing the paper, writing it down again, not labeling the paper so I don't know which set it's for, losing the paper again, writing it down in a notebook, not updating the notebook when I get some cards I need so I have to go through the set again for a reality check, doing it all over again in a different notebook that looks better than the original notebook and then going through them just one more time to put it in a word document so I can e-mail it. I'm not that good at actually getting that last card to finish the set. I'll spend hours scrounging through a common box with a wad of checklists picking out cards I need, but when it comes down to the last few I need I usually get stuck. Part of the problem is most of the new stuff I collect has the artificial short prints meant to provide a challenge to us set builders. For me they mostly provide an excuse. The 2002 Heritage set is one of my favorites of all time, but I am a couple of dozen or so short prints away from a complete set. I have all the base cards though, so I don't feel any urgency to find those scarce cards even though I could probably find most of them right now online with one search.
I have no excuse for not completing the base brand sets I collect. For me that primarily means Topps, but there are a few others I try to complete. My sets from the 80's and early '90s are particularly disgraceful as there is absolutely no reason why I can't finish them when complete sets are selling for ten bucks or less. Case in point: 1990 Upper Deck. I need a Mark McGwire, Nolan Ryan special card and Chris Sabo for that set. I have known that I need those cards for at least a decade, but I can't be arsed to go find them. With all the commons I have floating around I'll bet they are all somewhere in my house right now. Recent Topps sets are another pain for me. I have a lot of them completed but still more that aren't. For last years set I'm only missing a league leader card in Series One and I have all of Series Two. But for some reason I got bored with the Updates and Highlights set and still I'm missing a bunch from that set. I probably got distracted by Bowman Heritage on that one to be honest. My attention span isn't that grea- hey look, shiny thing! Part of the problem is I only have three real suppliers for commons: one who is only open near me once or twice a month, one who doesn't have a good selection of common cards and packs. Buying commons online is a pain in the ass and the other dealers around here like to charge a buck each for commons. Hey, if you need it, it's worth the price right? Meh.
I've got lots of excuses, but I think part of it comes down to a mental block I have on finishing sets. I love opening packs as you can tell my my prolific posting* on A Pack A Day. As long as I still need a card from a set, well I can still open packs from that set! What is the point in opening a pack of '87 Topps when I have two sets already, or an '88 or '89 Fleer pack when I already have the factory sets. Opening a pack of 1990 Upper deck is A-OK though. Gotta find that Chris Sabo! That's got to be why I'm not finishing that '06 Update set, I can still find packs everywhere. There has to be some deep-seated neurosis there where I'm terrified of the finality of completion or some such nonsense. In the past couple of years though, my attitude has been slowly changing. Might be because I'm growing up, might be because I'm sick of all the unfinished sets surrounding me, might be because between the license bloodbath and my disaffection with Upper Deck, there's less for me to try to collect and I no longer try to collect everything. Could be that the sheer thrill of finally finishing that sonuvabitch is finally overriding my laziness. One of my collecting goals this year was to complete each series of Topps before the next one came out. that didn't happen with Series One for a myriad of reasons (more excuses!) including the Jeter freakout, a general lack of commons out there and shifting focus to Topps Heritage. However, I've made my goal for Series Three (Updates and Highlights shall now be referred to as Series Three forevermore - pass it on) and finished up both Series One and Two with this week's Card of The Week:
Yep, #60 John Smoltz was the absolute last card I needed for my Topps set. Somehow despite knowing I needed Smoltzie for months and actively looking for him, I still couldn't find his card in Atlanta. Braves boxes, nope. Common boxes, hell nope. Piles of all John Smoltz cards, not there. Bricks with Braves cards on the front and back, nada. Dozens of packs, uh uh. Looking through Rack packs and those goofy packs with 21 cards and a stick of gum for one showing on the front or back, still no luck. I had even downloaded the Smoltz Topps card wallpaper from the web site of that game card that was in every other pack and I still didn't have the actual card. I had checked all the other ones off my list, but still couldn't find a Smoltz card IN ATLANTA. Finally I had my favorite dealer look through the stuff at his house and got this little beauty for free, no less. Hey, it never hurts to ask. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that after doing a reality check, I found that my set was missing #93 Mike Napoli (really irksome since I had his stupid Generation Now inserts) and #436 Ricky Nolasco so they are technically the last cards I needed for the set. I'm not counting those however because I remember buying them out of a common box and they went sideways somewhere in between the shop and my set. They are likely hiding in a pile of doubles thinking they are being sneaky. I simply got two more from the same place I picked them up in the first place as they had several of each. The Smoltz was the one I really had to dig for, so he gets to be the one to finish it off. Bring on Series Three, I'm ready for you now!
*I originally typed posing instead of posting in this sentence before I went through one last proofread. My Freudian slip is showing.