Where Four Years Of Nonsense Got Me, Pt. 3: Don’t Let “The Man” Tell You What To Collect

In observance of the 4th anniversary of The Shlabotnik Report (this past Sunday), I’m doing a series of posts on the minor epiphanies I’ve had while writing this blog and interacting with all of you.

I share these thoughts in the hope that it might be helpful and/or interesting to you.


Although the point I’m about to make applies to any recent set, I’m going to use Topps Heritage as the punching bag.

Heritage sets over the past few years are numbered from 1 to 500, with the last 75 cards being shortprinted. I don’t think I’m dropping any bombshells here.

If you open a pack of Heritage, you’ll find all the inserts in the middle of the pack.

Among those cards in the middle, you might find variations that are numbered like a base card, but are considered inserts.

You might also find a parallel that is numbered like a base card, but considered an insert.

You might also find a short print that is numbered like a base card… but isn’t considered an insert.

When you think about it, it doesn’t quite make sense.

Just to labor the point a little more, this year’s Heritage High Numbers set has numbering that picks up where the original set left off. Is *that* part of the Heritage set? Yes, no, maybe so?

I know, I know, I’d just admitted in another post that I no longer consider myself to be a set collector, but just hear me out.

The Product code # on the back of the card indicates that Topps regards short prints as being a separate animal from the base cards. They’re inserted into packs like a variation or parallel.

So why is a short print part of the set but a variation is not? Because Topps says it’s so? Do you do everything Topps tells you to do? If Topps jumped off a bridge, would you too?

I’m being a smart ass because it comes naturally to me, and because I’m trying to make a point, but please be assured that I’m not saying this to mock anyone who enjoys completing a Heritage set complete with short prints.

My point is that you don’t need to follow someone else’s definition of what you want to collect, especially when that “someone else” benefits from you chasing as many cards as possible.

Here’s a another take on “make your own set” from a different angle, this one comes from my recent experiences collecting 1970’s hockey cards.

When I was a kid, I collected Topps hockey cards from 1977 to 1981. A few years ago, when the love of 1970’s hockey cards was rekindled in me, I started picking up more Topps hockey cards from these years, and then I spread out a bit into other years of the 1970’s.

Back then, both Topps and O-Pee-Chee produced a hockey sets with identical designs. O-Pee-Chee’s set was larger, containing a lot of players who weren’t in the Topps hockey set.

I started buying hockey cards at shows, and then sometimes would realize that the card I just bought was an O-Pee-Chee card rather than Topps. More often than not, you can’t tell by looking at the front, you have to check out the back as well.

But that brought up a dilemma for me… For those other years where I didn’t have a head start, do I try to work towards a Topps set, which would generally be cheaper on a card-by-card basis, or do I go for the OPC and the larger checklist?

After pondering this for a bit, I realized that I didn’t really care whether the card was Topps or O-Pee-Chee, I just wanted the different photos and the design on the front. I figured that if I’ve got a Topps card of Jean Ratelle from a set, I don’t need the OPC with the same photo, and if I have an OPC of Darryl Sittler, I don’t need the identical Topps. This makes it more difficult to generate wantlists, but that’s outweighed by the fact that I can fill my “O-Pee-Topps” Frankenset wants with whichever cards come my way first and/or more cheaply.

To bring it all back to my original point… This is not about me telling you how to collect… You shouldn’t let me tell you how to collect, you shouldn’t let anyone tell you how to collect… And you especially shouldn’t let the card companies tell you how to collect.

Collect whatever makes you happy, in a way that makes you happy. That’s all that matters.

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4 thoughts on “Where Four Years Of Nonsense Got Me, Pt. 3: Don’t Let “The Man” Tell You What To Collect

  1. Well said. Definitely should collect what makes you enjoy the hobby.

    Personally, I tend to collect by the standard idea – where short prints are part of the set to me. The reason being that the variations are just different pictures of the same player. So Miguel Cabrera’s SP #426 is part of the set, because there is no Cabrera in cards numbered 1-425. But I don’t consider Robinson Cano’s action image variation #100 to be part of the set, because I already have a Robinson Cano (which is #100).

  2. I go by mostly standards too, but modified for my own aesthetic taste and availability. If I have no chance of pulling or finding SP’s (looking at you Archives), or if they’re all irrelevant rookies (older hockey sets), then I’ll skip them. I’ll also let go of certain insert sets because they’re too ridiculous looking or poorly designed (Walk Offs from 2012 Topps). Now I guess I’m digressing into what makes a master set instead of just the base.
    As for your example, Heritage has the exact same insert sets every year. Granted some of them are based on annual history, so the content changes, but otherwise, it’s an exact repeat. I’m too bored to bother with them most of the time. I’ve picked up base Heritage sets just for fun, sometimes eschewing the SPs until a later miraculous cheap bulk find that never happens….

  3. Noone ever has the right to tell another person what to collect. Baseball card collecting, at its core, is supposed to be a HOBBY, for fun. Collect what you want, and have fun with it. If someone wants to collect every card of Mario Mendoza, that is their right and I say have fun with it! And that’s the bottom line.

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