When I was a kid in the 1970’s, when a loaf of bread cost a nickel and we walked two miles uphill in the snow to get to school, we didn’t have year-round baseball sets to collect. If you wanted to buy some cards in the fall or winter, you had to go with other sports or non-sports.
I started off with Football as my winter vice, but from 1977 to 1982 it was hockey that fulfilled my pack-opening needs…. And yet, I’ve never completed a hockey set.
Over the past couple of years I’ve thought of working on one of those hockey sets, but the effort never really gets any momentum behind it… Partly because I have too many goals, but an even bigger reason is because I can never decide which hockey set should be the target of my efforts.
I thought maybe someone could offer insights in to the sets in question, perhaps someone had fun completing the set, or found it to be more trouble than it’s worth… probably somewhere in between.
Just to be clear, I don’t see anything happening with these anytime soon, if it happens at all. I need to finish some other stuff before I could give this a go, but I wanted to at least start thinking about it.
So here we go, starting with…
Current Status: I’ve got 111 out of 264 (42%)
Pros: This is the first hockey set I collected, so it has some emotional cachet. It’s also the only Topps set to have Cleveland Barons cards, a favorite “Forgotten Franchise” of mine. Finally, there are several photo variations to make things a little more interesting.
Cons: Some of my needs are a little pricey, but not deal-breakers. The design might be a little too reminiscent of 1977 Topps Baseball (with the team name on the bottom and a team logo instead of a pennant).
Even if I never complete the 1977/78 set itself, I’d love to complete the glossy insert set.
Current Status: 136 out of 264 (51.5%)
Pros: The second set I collected, obviously.
Cons: I can’t think of much to say about it, which doesn’t bode well for this set’s chances. It’s not a bad design but it’s not a great design. As it’s the second hockey set I collected, it seems I should love it more than I do.
Current status: 172 out of 264 (65%)
Pros: Probably my favorite all-time hockey set; I’ve always loved this design. It’s also the first set after the WHA was merged in to the NHL, so you’ve got the Whalers, Nordiques, Jets and Oilers in an NHL set for the first time.
And right now you’re saying “Wait a minute… If you love this set so much, why are you even asking us for input?”
The reason is…
Cons: I don’t have the Wayne Gretzky rookie card. Even if I came across a Gretzky rookie that someone had put in their bicycle spokes and then used it to pick up their dog’s BM, that card would still be out of my budget.
I suppose I could collect everything *but* the Gretzky rookie, but that feels like an empty achievement… and that’s why we’re discussing which set I maybe possibly should work to complete.
Hot on the heels of my favorite hockey set comes a set at the other end of the scale…
I won’t even get into “pros” and “cons” with this; I hate this set. Out of the pack, the player names are covered with a scratch-off puck, so you can play “Who am I?” with the cards. Words cannot convey my disdain for this gimmick.
As you might have guessed, my Mike Gartner rookie is of the “already scratched” variety.
This set is a non-starter and I only mention it so that people don’t say “Hey, what about 1980/81?”
Current Status: 114 of 132 (86%)
In the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Ted said “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K”, and he could have been talking about this set. Rather than issuing one national hockey set in 1981, Topps issued two regional sets; both sets had the same big names for cards 1 – 66, but for cards 67 to 132 there was an “East” set which included only players with Wales Conference teams, and a “West” set which included only players from Campbell Conference teams. At the time I lived on Long Island, so the wax packs I opened had the East cards. Meanwhile, Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan and William S. Preson, Esq. would’ve found the most triumphant West packs at their San Dimas Circle K. Excellent!
Pros: I like the design of this set, it’s kind of like 1967 baseball redesigned for the 1980’s.
Cons: If you disregard the West (which wouldn’t be part of “finishing” a set), then I’m closer to finishing than I’d realized. I’ve only 18 commons to get, so this feels more like “I should just go ahead and complete it” than a fun challenge.
So, again, the whole point of this is “Which would you complete if you were in my shoes?”
…Or would I be better off sticking with my baseball goals? …Especially considering that I live in an area that even an optimistic Gary Bettman in full spin mode would never confuse with “hockey country”.