Most of our collecting habits stem from boredom, I’m convinced. At least mine do.
Often, I’m sucked into side projects. That’s generally because, as a set collector, I can go relatively long stretches without acquiring a lot of cards when I’m near completion. Take, for example, the T207 set. I’m down to about 15 cards left and anytime I add a new one, it’s cause for major celebration. I feel like I’m not making progress and, to avoid collector boredom setting in, I find something to do.
So I side project myself to death. Earlier this year, I started collecting wrestling rookie cards, for example. Also this year, I added my first pair of meaningful modern baseball cards in, I don’t know, several years.
I caught another case of the side projects last week.
The Good Doctor
As I mentioned before in this fine space, Dwight Gooden was my favorite player growing up as a kid when I first got into baseball. Anything Mets, really, was important to me but Doc was No. 1 by a wide margin. Forget baseball. Aside from Magic Johnson, Gooden may be my favorite athlete in any sport.
I once took a bus trip with my parents to see my beloved Mets and remember an overly enthusiastic girl that was, by her account, the biggest Gary Carter fan in the world. I wasn’t so much impressed with her choice in player as I was that she was a living, breathing fanatic of a specific player like I was. But while I collected Gooden a little bit as a player, my love for him didn’t really carry over into cards.
That changed this year when I bought an autographed rookie card and, while I’ve been pulled in a million different directions with regards to pre-war cards, I found myself checking out Gooden cards this week.
It all started when I found one of his newer insert cards that looked really nice. I didn’t have any desire to get it, really. But I began to think about the cards from his career when I was a kid. Even though he played for 16 years in the majors, I reasoned that it couldn’t be an impossible feat to track down most of the cards from his playing days. First, they were affordable. Second, they were from the junk era. And third, he played in a time when there weren’t a million different inserts, parallels, and such. Heck, this could be done with little effort, even. Right?
A check of PSA’s outstanding registry tool shows a total of 512 Gooden cards needed for his master set. This includes only cards from his playing days, which is exactly what I was looking for. I’ll admit that that total was higher than I expected. Excluding 1983 (he had a lone minor league card) and 2001 (where he had three cards that show in the registry after his career had ended), that’s an average of more than 30 Gooden cards a year. That’s nothing these days. But I was a little surprised to see him on that many cards. 1986 Dorman’s Cheese? 1987 Red Foley Sticker? I mean, what are these?
While Gooden has some really nice looking current cards, I’m not real focused on them. I don’t want to be chasing down expensive inserts, parallels, or autos. The bulk of my spending money is going to pre-war cards, which obviously are my focal point. So you $100 autos numbered to five and such can hit the road.
So I did it. I looked for Gooden lots.
My objective here, like it is with set collecting, is to try to bang this sucker out as quickly as possible. None of us live forever and I like achieving collecting goals quickly when I can. It wasn’t hard to locate a few lots of cards advertising several hundred Goodens in one shot.
About a half hour later, I’d successfully purchased a total of five lots consisting of about 1,100 cards at a price point of about six cents per card.
That cost, admittedly, is still a little more than I’d like to have paid. When I used to collect modern cards, I’d hit up dime boxes looking for cards that booked for at least a buck or two. But I’m also not willing to spend the amount of time necessary looking for individual cards and such to save a few pennies.
The first cards arrived in only two days and I’d anticipated looking at them all day long.
A lot of about 350 cards yielded about 200 unique ones and 150 dupes, which I considered reasonable. I started sorting them by year, as that’s the way I decided to arrange them in a binder. For a while, it was just fun seeing pictures I’d remembered as a kid. But even more fun was seeing new stuff I’d never even realized was out there. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Memories started flooding back. Not even necessarily about the cards, but thoughts of Doc that I remembered as a kid. I remembered the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Remembered trying to copy his inimitable pitching style as a pitcher in Little League. Remembered the disappointment of traveling on that aforementioned bus trip and finding out he wasn’t the starter that day. Remembered the crispness of those home Mets uniforms and the somewhat flamboyant blue and orange color combination. Remembered getting his 1988 Starting Lineup as a birthday present.
As cards often do, it just took me back to a different time.
I figured the next lots would obviously provide a more minimal return in terms of original cards I needed and that proved to be the case. Out of the other lots, I hauled in about 100 ‘new’ cards. So after 1,100 cards in the mail, I ended up with about 800 dupes.
That’s about what I expected, to be honest. I think I held out hope for maybe getting to about 400 original cards but no real complaints here. By the way, if you’re looking for a 1987 Gooden Topps, I’ve got your back.
Growing up in that time period as a young card collector, I was familiar with most of the cards. But I was also surprised at the number of cards I’d never seen or heard of. Even early ones that can be considered rookies.
That really drove home the point for me that, while we look back on those days and appreciate the relative simplicity of having only a few main sets, collecting was really much larger than that. There were a ton of oddball sets around in those days, even fully licensed ones. Much of that was not known to us in those pre-internet times. But man, there’s a lot of stuff I’d just frankly never seen or heard of.
For example, I knew Gooden had pre-major league issues from the minors. But what I didn’t know is that he shows up in a few minor league sets well after his major league career had started due to brief rehab stints, like the TCMA and ProCards 1987 Tidewater Tides cards shown here that look like the same images, only reversed. Gooden pitched only four games for that team after testing positive for cocaine earlier in the year. There’s just a lot of stuff out there for Gooden that I never knew, or at least didn’t remember, existed.
So what now? Well, I definitely want to go for the other 200 or whatever cards I need on that PSA registry list. But I’m also keeping in mind that this just a diversion, really. I won’t be spending big bucks on these cards at all. It’s going to be one of those things where I will add the cards when I find them at really inexpensive prices.
With so many pre-war sets up in the air, it seems like I hardly need another thing to do. But I’m also excited at the prospect of collecting something with no real financial ramifications. After all, at its core, that’s really what collecting is all about.