Monday, April 15, 2013


I've realized one simple thing in my short time blogging: I rarely write about what I intend to write about. 

That's not something new to me.  I've been a writer, in some way, shape, or form pretty much since I can remember.  My dad is in the newspaper business (yes, kids, they still make those), and I can remember writing a sports "newsletter" about player stats and my oh-so-well formed sports opinions almost as soon as I learned my letters.  Needless to say my analysis was not particularly complex at 5 or 6, but I'm pretty sure I was adept enough to realize that the Pirates weren't particularly good.  My writing has (I hope) grown since then, and I've found my writing see the light of day as a published journalist, essayist, historian, literary critic, and occasional poet.  And if there's one thing that's always held true it's that my writing takes on a life of its own.

I opened up my laptop intending to post some awesome cards from an ebay lot I won last week, to be followed up tomorrow by my show pickups from this weekend.  I guess those posts are getting pushed back a day.  Sorry blogosphere.

Before writing, I was drawn in by two fantastic posts about tangentially related topics.  Night Owl posted on his multifaceted interests while Nick strayed from the Dime Box to work through his relationship with Gypsy Queen.  Both posts took me to the same place: set building.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, the dime boxes were my solitary playground.  I never saw anyone else dig through them; set builders were nowhere to be found at local shows.  Since moving to Ohio, I've been lucky enough to be close to a fairly large monthly show outside of Dayton that seems to attract a large crowd of set builders.  Every month I see a dozen or so guys digging through the dime boxes of Heritage or Gypsy Queen looking to finish off their sets or pick up a few more SP's.  But it's not just the new stuff.  Their binders of checklists have countless sets, and any stray dime box might yield that elusive 2001 Topps Fusion common.

But I'll be honest.  I just don't get set building.

I mean I get it.  I get how it works (pretty straightforward).  I get the appeal of having every single base card from a single set, of a single year all neatly organized in your binder (a little less straightforward).  But I just don't get where the fun is.

That isn't a dig at set builders.  I've built a few sets myself, and enjoyed the journey.  But I was always left with the feeling of "Now what?" after finishing the set.  Maybe that's the appeal of Heritage, Qypsy, and Ginter, which I have often bemoaned are almost the exact same set.  Topps has generously answered that now what question for set builders.  "Here, this is pretty much the same.  You like that.  But it's different.  Go build, my child."

And the finality certainly has undeniable appeal.  Under no circumstances, even with a Powerball jackpot or two, could I ever call my Pirate collection complete.  There will always be cards to chase.  The closure of completing a set would be nice at times.

I find myself in a position where I am surrounded by set builders.  Or at least I feel like I am.  At the monthly show, countless blogs devoted to a single set or people chasing many sets, and autograph collecting, which has its own large community of dedicated (read: frighteningly obsessed) autographed set builders.  But I just don't get it.

It feels so confining.  Buy these cards, put them in this order, they all have this design.  I'm a rebel, dammit!  If I want to own a random Andy Benes auto, then I will, and I reuse to feel as if that card is out of place in my collection.  I like the freedom to always have a new Pirate card to chase, to have he flexibility to be as excited about picking up a new Kordell Stewart dime card as I would be about a $45 Lynn Swann auto.

Maybe it's just a matter of picking your poison.  Instead of collecting a full set, I collect just a portion of it, one specific team instead of all 30. 

And quite honestly, I could see a time where I might collect sets in the future.  Not exclusively, of course.  But I would enjoy building a set or two.  They might just be a little more off the wall, a little less conventional than the typical set builder.  Like Topps Fusion.  But in the mean time, I'll enjoy the flexibility.  And the insanity.  And the madness.

I enjoy being able to say that I both collect very specific things, while also collecting just about everything.  My collecting mindset has always been simple:  If I like it, it's in my collection.  It's never that simple, of course.  But where's the fun in that?

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