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Collecting to get the #1 set...or not...

I've been away from collecting since the early 80's, so graded cards are a new area for me.

When you, or others collect on the Registry, is it your goal to get the #1 set? Is it a "friendly" competition or is it kind of serious? I put up the start of my team set, sent some emails to the other collectors to say hello, but didn't get one response. Not sure what to make of that.

A friend of a friend has a pretty nice 40's basketball set he is breaking up. He sold three cards to the #2 guy for something like $4k. Thing is, he will never be close to the #1 set. I guess to me, that would kind of take the fun out of it from the get go.

And when you decide to collect a set, is completion the object? I see lots of "sets" that are 20% complete. Not sure if these guys are really looking to complete their sets?

Are a lot of these sets, sold off eventually? In one lot or do they do set breaks?

Thoughts? Just trying to get into the mind of the collector. :)


  • JoeBanzaiJoeBanzai Posts: 11,095 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Having the top set is great! It's not always possible, so even though my run at the top is over, I still enjoy improving my set when I can.

    My collection started long before the registry was created and has hundreds of items that aren't graded. The registry is fun, but does not define my collection.

    I only collect my favorite player I watched as a kid growing up in Minneapolis, so I'll always enjoy the hobby.

    I have bought and sold from the other guys I "compete" against. No hard feelings.

    Completing the set is also a goal, but new items get added and some are very hard to find. Anyone have a 1964 complete Bazooka box with Killebrew for sale? ;-)

    I will probably never sell my set unless I was really in need of the money or if someone was willing to pay BIG!

    2013,14 and 15 Certificate Award Winner Harmon Killebrew Master Set and Master Topps Set
  • PaulMaulPaulMaul Posts: 4,670 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My goal is definitely not to have the number one set, because I feel that goal is inconsistent with having the nicest set I can. To be number one on the registry, you pretty much have to be a "flip collector," taking any numerical upgrade that presents itself. But I have passed on countless "upgrades" when I didn't feel the higher graded card looked nicer. So my goal is to have the set I'm happiest with, and the registry is really just a fun tool for keeping track of things and comparing my set to others.

  • LarkinCollectorLarkinCollector Posts: 8,975 ✭✭✭✭✭

    There are a lot of different kinds of collectors and the registry is used for many different things:

    • Yes, there are some aggressively pursuing #1 at all costs
    • Friendly or serious is up to you. I am friends with several of my 'competitors' and frequently communicate, send spares that will help upgrade their sets, etc. Others are far more serious.
    • There are many just looking to complete
    • There are many just looking to sell and waiting for someone to contact about an item in their set
    • I use it for inventory as much as anything, to keep track of what I've got in one place
    • I've started many registry sets I have no plan of ever completing, in quite a few cases I'm only interested in a subset of the full registry set.
  • electrodeelectrode Posts: 209 ✭✭✭
    edited September 12, 2017 6:49AM

    collecting favourite players or one team adds to the fun of our hobby . rocket52

  • MCMLVToppsMCMLVTopps Posts: 4,554 ✭✭✭✭✭

    my 2 cents...

    *The whole thing is personal and subjective.

    *The majority, if not all collectors, collect for the enjoyment of having a card(s) of players they've enjoyed over the years, or one that generates a memory.

    *As for making it to the #1 set...in many cases, that can easily be a bridge too far. Many rarer cards in high grade are "locked up" in the Registry already. You may have to settle for a much lower graded card, it will bring you to 100%, but not #1 in that set. It's a simple supply and demand issue.

    *You'll have to work on establishing a relationship with other collectors, who collect what you are collecting. Generally, I'd say they're friendly but in some cases not so much. Don't expect a lot of responses to inquiries, some guys just can't be bothered.

    *Selling of complete sets (IMO) are done as a whole...once you sell one card, you no longer have a set. The intrinsic value of a complete set should far outweigh the value of selling a tough star card you've obtain and have in your set. Once you sell that card, you then have a handful of stuff that you are now compelled to sell individually.

    *If you take the leap, do your homework. Is the set really worth pursuing? Can you stick to it over YEARS to get it done? Will other personal issues come up that stifle your funds to keep going? All personal and subjective.

    *Get a membership to VCP (Vintage Card Prices)...this will enable you to obtain a TON of information about the set you are seeking to complete. You can set up a file wherein they (VCP) will generate an email to you alerting you to the fact that a card you are seeking, and its grade are up on eBay...invaluable!! You can also set up a file to "park" your cards and then see how the values go up or down.

    *Make it fun, don't make it too serious, it's only cardboard with pictures.

    The pic is of my "once upon a time" 1955 Topps complete set, about 20 cards short of a straight PSA 8 set. It took me over 2 years to do, but I was a very avid collector and was buying heavily. BUT, as you can see, the journey, once completed, really speaks for itself! Oh yeah, it cost well over $50k.

    That piece of yellow fiberglass in the upper left corner is the biggest piece of the nose of my beloved corvette after a truck hit me...almost made angel status that morning!

    (https://us.v-cdn.net/6027503/uploads/editor/ky/l3ywhz7ts0kd.jpg "")


  • LarkinCollectorLarkinCollector Posts: 8,975 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Incredible display and great post, Al!

    My only comment would be on VCP, depending what years/sports you collect it may or may not be useful. For anything outside of the 4 major sports and whatever year their cutoff is, it's essentially useless. A day pass to test drive would be recommended.

  • countdouglascountdouglas Posts: 2,251 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have 3 sets at 100% completion. One is the 660 card 1975 Topps baseball set, the other 2 are much smaller, being the 60 card 1964 Topps Giants and the 35 card 1970 Topps Supers Football. I then have several 1970s baseball sets between 10%-20% complete, then several more in the late 70s- early 80s that are around 30%-50% complete.

    I can attest, as mentioned, that it takes a lot of dedication to complete even one set. Depending on the size of the set, scarcity of the cards/grade you're looking for, and star power of the players/popularity of the set, you could end up waiting a long time for certain cards to even make an appearance as available for sale, at the price that fits your budget. Quite often, the competition desires the same card, and is willing to be more aggressive with their bids.

    I can't speak with certainty why everyone else has partial sets, but for me, I have a wide variety of collecting interests that include both graded and raw cards, as well as non - card memorabilia. So sometimes, it's just a matter of my finances sporadically being allocated for other things besides the registry. Other times, I'm focused on looking for a big card in a high grade, so saving my money up for that vs buying a lot of cheap no name commons just to improve my completion percentage. I don't know other's motivations, but I like to take my time building the sets. I focus first on certain stars, or players on my favorite teams, or team photos, or league leader, record breaker, highlights, etc., then fill in the others as they become available at good prices. If one wanted to just rapidly buy whatever they could find, at any grade, at any cost, most sets could be at or near 100% rather quickly.

    My goal is not to be #1. The 75 set, my personal goal was a complete set in PSA 8+. At the time I acquired the final card to finish it, I believe I was ranked 23rd with a GPA of roughly 8.30. I've since upgraded sporadically, and my GPA is roughly 8.40 now, but other collectors have passed me up, and I'm now 27th, which is fine by me. I use the registry to keep track of my items, and I do in some way compare what I have in relation to others, but the competition isn't particularly a driving force for me.

    The other 2 sets that I have completed, I just liked the look of them, and they were small enough that they were completed rather easily. I didn't focus on a particular grade, but have since upgraded a few of the cards after initial completion. I'm still way down the rankings on both of those sets, though, and intend to stay there.

    I could ramble on and on... sometimes people don't realize how much space a 100% complete graded set will take up, and at 20 or 40 percent, start to realize what they've gotten themselves into. Others don't realize when they start, that in order to complete their set, they may have to pay through the nose for some assortment of no name journeyman players that happen to be low pop in high grade, or short print, etc, and given a choice between using their funds for that vs some other collecting pursuit that is much more desirable, they choose the latter. Others are waiting on a big set break, so they can knock out a bunch of cards at once with combined shipping charges vs buying one card at a time and $3+ shipping every time...the reasons vary.

    My main takeaway from my use of the registry is that I have a checklist of inventory, with everything in one place. I can easily see both what I own and what I would still like to own. I can follow both my own rankings, and the rankings of fellow collectors that are collecting similar items. It is fun and I can add to it, or not, at my own convenience. Maybe I get to 100% on everything I've started, and maybe I don't. As long as I'm enjoying myself along the way, that's all that matters to me.

  • SlipCSlipC Posts: 99 ✭✭✭

    Countdouglas - First of all, congratulations on completing a 1975 Topps set in slabs. That's an incredible achievement and you cannot downplay the patience and fortitude it requires to complete a set of that size. Its incredible.
    To answer the thread question; the Registry is a drug. If you find your passion in a set, it can be an adrenalin rush to continue the process of adding cards as you watch the results of that "climb up the charts".
    We collectors are somewhat competitive by nature and this Registry drug is intoxicating.
    After almost 15 years since completing a grade 1969 Topps set I am back to pursue assorted slabbed sets once again.
    It's a sickness that keeps on giving.
    Make sure, most of all, that you have fun with it.
    Good luck to all in the quest to be #1.
    Slip C.

    It's been a long, long time!
  • countdouglascountdouglas Posts: 2,251 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @SlipC said:
    Countdouglas - First of all, congratulations on completing a 1975 Topps set in slabs. That's an incredible achievement and you cannot downplay the patience and fortitude it requires to complete a set of that size. Its incredible.

    Thank you! Oh for sure, I'm not downplaying it at all. It took me about two and a half years to complete the 1975 set, and that was only with each card requiring a minimum grade of PSA 8. That's a popular set, though, and there were always plenty of cards available for sale, and I was quite focused with my efforts on the 75 set at the time. There are those that collect this set with much deeper pockets and an eye on much better cards than me, so I was never collecting with the intent to be number 1, and I knew that from the get go. Some of the most difficult cards, for me anyway, were just random commons, and again, I'm only collecting in 8+. I can only imagine the difficulty of the all 9s+ sets at the top of the 1975 leaderboard. Also, all of my cards were purchased already graded. I'm sure the time and dedication to complete sets with self submitted cards is something beyond any abilities that I'd have to undertake and stick with.

    Likewise, congratulations on your graded 1969 set. I can certainly appreciate your efforts there, for sure! I recently put a 69 set together raw. I had bought a number of stars perhaps 20+ years ago, and some various common lots since then. Perhaps a year and a half ago, I decided in earnest to see what I really had, what I was missing, and what needed upgrading. It took well over a year to fill in the gaps, and the final card that I acquired to complete the set was a Bobby Cox rookie. I still need maybe 20 or so upgrades to satisfy my eye, but I certainly feel a sense of accomplishment on every set I complete, graded or not.

    My next goal is to complete the 1981 Topps Baseball set in PSA 9+. I've been working on it off and on for over 4 years, and am just shy of 50%. I could certainly expedite the process by using BIN sellers, as well as focusing on the 1981 set exclusively. But I have mostly stuck to auctions, with sellers that have multiple items for me to buy at once. I then often times find myself buying various items that aren't 1981s, hence the other partial sets and simultaneous projects. I do enjoy the "hunting" aspect of collecting. That's one thing the internet has sullied a bit for me, personally. With just about everything available at any one time for a price, it seems to have been made "too easy", at times. Anyway, I believe that most are in agreement with the idea that as long as you're collecting what you like, and you're enjoying the process, that's all that matters in the end. Good luck on your next project!

  • prgsdwprgsdw Posts: 503 ✭✭✭✭
    edited September 23, 2017 4:48AM

    I have tremendous respect for folks that can complete a 660 card set (or higher) graded. A single set takes up s tremendous amount of space vs. Raw or raw with some graded.

    I've tended to stick with player set runs of Dallas Cowboys defensive players and the Cowboys rookies sets like the hall of fame, all-time cowboys and ring of honor sets. I started to collect the 1969 topps football set, which at 263 cards is small compared to some of the other sets mentioned here, but much larger than anything else I've completed thus far.

    It's been an interesting experience so far. I have just under 40% of the set in raw plus graded and a little over 15% graded. My interest is more in the first series with the color to the edges and no border. So I find myself more willing to bid on those than the second series with white border. I've also bought a number of items with an eye to submit them to PSA. The first round of submissions received 8's and 9's, so I was happy with that.

    Of course the 1969 set has a HOF PSA set at the top with more than 60 10's. So I knew from the beginning I would not be #1 with this set. With the Cowboys sets I collect I'm competitive and have a number of top ranked sets or highly ranked sets. It's refreshing to collect the set because I like the colors, player selection and it feels like it represents my mental model of the time period- and not to try and get the number 1 spot. Many people seem to be trying to collect this set in high grade, specifically 9. I've found a lot of value in the eye appeal of 8.5's, so the bulk of my graded items for this set are in that grade. It's interesting to read other folks thoughts on how and why they are assembling sets.

    For me, this is a side project so when I have the temptation to want to buy a card and no cowboys upgrades are available, I go back and work on the 1969 set. I don't think I will do another set of this size graded. It will take up too much space and cost too much. But I am working on a couple of mid 1960's philadelphia gum sets in raw plus graded cowboys. That seems to be working out nicely. I can still store the complete set in an album with a few pages of graded at the front. Nice to thumb through to look at the set.


  • countdouglascountdouglas Posts: 2,251 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Space definitely becomes an issue. I'm lucky to have plenty of it at the moment, though I am up to over 2500 PSA cards total. While I don't actively pursue cards from other grading companies, I have acquired a mix of well over 100 of those, also.

    I have lots of complete raw sets, but have a bit of an OCD complex about collecting sets that are mixed with both raw and graded cards. I just can't have blank spaces! Haha! I have to fill the empty slots in the album with either low end examples, or perhaps a reprint from the Topps Cards Your Mom Threw Out inserts. Then I keep my nicer graded example with the rest of my graded cards.

    I've mostly stuck with baseball, except for the 70 Football Supers. I've considered starting the regular 1970 football set for awhile, now, in perhaps PSA 8. I just have too many other projects, already!

    Anyway, keep going on your 69 Football set. It doesn't have to be rushed to completion. As I've said earlier, sometimes the "hunt" is the best part. I enjoy looking for deals, or for the card that has the most eye appeal compared to others in the same grade. From my experience, you'll feel various levels of accomplishment as you hit various mile markers, such as round numbers like card 100 or 150 etc, as well as percentage marks such as 25%, 50%, 67%, etc. And then finally, there's nothing like looking for those last couple of cards. Even years later, I remember the last few that I was missing, and every time I see one available for sale, I'm reminded of that euphoria that I felt when I finally acquired it and finished off the set. It truly is a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. Good luck on getting there!

  • bens4778bens4778 Posts: 112 ✭✭✭

    I have a complete 1972 Topps set, and while I am not pursuing the number one spot, I do try to rise in the rankings when I can.

    I don’t pursue the number one spot because of cost. I imagine the #1 1972 Topps set is worth over $250,000, maybe over $500,000, and I just don’t have that type of cash.

  • RipublicaninMassRipublicaninMass Posts: 10,051 ✭✭✭

    Rather than be #1, I'm striving for 100%, or at least 95% completion for a few freebie grades, and if I am at #1, a registry award would an added bonus.

    There is always someone out there who has a bigger, better collection. I'd enjoy the ride, and the seat atop the mountain, but again I won't get hung up on it if another set bumped me off.

    As far as selling, I'd like to keep the set whole. However, one of those hated auctions where cards are listed separately or in lots, as well as the set in its entirety, might be my best bet.

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