The SSPC set: 1975 or 1976?

One thing that’s bugged me for a long time, and especially since I bought my haul of SSPC cards, is what to call the main 630-card set. Is it 1975 SSPC or 1976 SSPC? As Shawn Spencer on “Psych” would say, “I’ve heard it both ways”.

I think a lot of people use the 1975 copyright on the back as the basis for calling it “1975 SSPC”. In addition, the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards refers to it as “1975 SSPC”, and I’ve run across prominent auction houses selling the cards as “1975 SSPC”.

On the other side of the debate are COMC and BaseballCardPedia, which both list it as a 1976 set. Everything I’ve seen regarding the selling of the set indicates that it went on the market in 1976. The card backs reference the past 1975 season, the upcoming 1976 season and in some cases had been updated to reflect offseason player movement. Wouldn’t that indicate that it’s a 1976 set?

As I was sorting through my cards, my interest was further piqued when I ran across this Joe Lovitto card:

1976 SSPC #271 Joe Lovitto

I noticed that it listed him as a New York Met, something which caught my attention for two reasons…

First off, I didn’t remember him being with the Mets… and as it turns out, the Mets traded for him in December, 1975 and released him towards the end of Spring Training, so he never played in a regular season game for them.

The second reason it caught my attention was because card back included something else of interest:
1976 SSPC #271 Joe Lovitto back

It starts right off by saying he was traded on 12/12/75.  That’s a much later update than you’d see in the Topps set, but right in line with some of the 1976 Topps Traded cards.

As I kept going through my cards I tried to find later transactions, but most of what I found was from December 9th through the 12th.  Some online thingamajiggery revealed that 12/12/75 was a Friday… A bunch of transactions all at once and concluding on a Friday?  Sounds like that was the week of the Winter Meetings.

Then I had another idea; I’d go to baseball-reference.com, look up transactions starting in December, 1975 and see how far the transactions go before one fails to be acknowledged on an SSPC card back.

After December 12th, there’s a bit of a gap, which is understandable. Back to business, preparing for the Holidays and all that.

Then I found this deal…
December 22, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Mick Kelleher to the Chicago Cubs for Vic Harris.

I found that I have a Vic Harris card…
1976 SSPC #321 Vic Harris

…and this is very notable in that,  unlike the other cards, the trade is acknowledged with an O-Pee-Chee-like line at the top:
1976 SSPC #321 Vic Harris back

Verrrry interesting.  Looks pretty last-minute to me.

Finally, I ran across this deal…
January 9, 1976: The New York Mets traded Jerry Cram to the Kansas City Royals

I’d started looking for Mets as soon as I started going through my cards, so I knew I had Jerry Cram.
1976 SSPC #559 Jerry Cram

…and the back of that card doesn’t acknowledge his Kansas City Royalty.
1976 SSPC #559 Jerry Cram back

Just to review… (he said, as he looked pensively out the window) … A trade on 12/22/75 was mentioned, but a trade on 1/9/76 was not… Clearly, this set was “put to bed” very late in 1975, if not actually in 1976. The cards may have been printed in 1975, but there would’ve been very little time to ship any out before the end of 1975.

At this point what really started to bother me is why anyone would think that the people selling SSPC would have called it a 1975 set.  Calling a set “1975” and selling it in 1976 is not just poor marketing, that’s plain ol’ stupid. If I introduced a 2012 set now, would you buy it?  The only way I can see “1975” happening is if it was intended all along to be a document of the just-passed season… but if you were doing that, you wouldn’t update it for offseason trades.

At this point I’d convinced myself that it was a 1976 set… but I had to do my due diligence, I’ve been burned on things like that before.

So I kept flipping through books for this, Googling for that, when I had a small epiphany; there were several smaller sets generated before the main set came out, and one of those was a promo set. If a small set of cards were made to promote an upcoming set, wouldn’t those promos include the set year on them?

Well, DUH.

I don’t have any of the promos, but I borrowed an image from COMC.

1976 SSPC Promos #6 - Tom Seaver - Courtesy of COMC.com

1976 SSPC Promos #6 – Tom Seaver – Courtesy of COMC.com

…and there you go. A promotional card for the set says that it’s a 1976 set. Wish I thought of that up front.

But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that from this point on, this set shall be referred to on this blog as the 1976 SSPC set.

SHLABOTNIK HAS SPOKEN!