Saturday, July 11, 2009

1986 Topps and the Quest for the Holy Grail

The first set I ever tried to put together (and, if you saw the last post, FAILED to complete) was 1986 Topps.

I bought boxes and boxes of the stuff. Dwight Gooden dominated pitchers, and dominated my collection as well. I seemed to pull him every other pack.

We're not talking the heyday of the junkwax era, but by 1986 things were definitely trending in that direction. Overproduction and poor collation were the orders of the day, but my friends and I still had a great time. We traded, thought we'd be millionaires with our Pete Rose flashback cards, and put everything into top loaders that have long sense turned yellow.

Like I said, I was after the set. Whether it was collation or karma, trading with my friends only got me so far. In '86 there was only one card shop in the city where I lived, and is was about a 30 minute card ride away. I was 9 and utterly dependent on my parents to get to the great cardboard Mecca in Northwoods Mall. I begged, I pleaded, I saved my allowance. My parents finally acquiesced, and I got to go, '86 needs list in hand.

When our valiant knight arrived, the card shop punched him in the face and took his money. Innocently enough I asked if they could fill my list (I think it was only five or six cards then), thinking I'd grab the cards I needed for a pittance and have about 13 or so dollars left over to indulge in other thing.

This shop did not sell individual commons, but 100 card bags of commons at high book value. I had planned on getting my needs list filled and ogling the other cards I could buy until my parents picked me up 20 minutes later, but instead was confronted with either fulfilling the purpose of the trip or not.

It was pre-intertoobs so book value ruled by default. 100 commons was $5, so I bought $15 worth of '86 Topps commons and only got one of the cards I needed, Karl Best if I remember correctly. This was one of the worst disaster of my 9 y.o. life, and to make matters worse these weren't even all different cards. Each bag had multiples on top of multiples of the same card.

Any way, now 30-something and fully recovered, 23 years later, I'm going to finish the set. Suspiciously enough there are a few more cards missing than I remember, which gives me a good laugh. Guess my pre-teen organizational skills weren't quite up to the task!

Is anyone else going back to sets like this? And better, were all card shops like that one?

And I almost forgot: it has this gem of a card, #792 Charles Hudson.
Check out the outfielder behind him, throwing in the OTHER direction. Don't see that every day.


  1. I just finally completed 1990 Donruss about three weeks ago, and '91 Score last week.
    If that answers your question...

  2. I just finished my 81 Fleer baseball and 87 Fleer baseball sets. I cheated though, b/c I bought the remaining cards on Next up... 83 Fleer baseball.

    I remember my local card shop sold commons (I think for a 5 cents each). They would also sell grab bags, which had a bunch of commons too, with a few stars thrown in here or there. However... 100 commons for $5... that included multiples is just wrong. I think packs of 86 Topps were probably 50 cents each anyways... and you probably got 15 cards... so that's already less than 5 cents a piece. But don't feel least you didn't spend hundreds of dollars on Bobby Bonilla & Vince Coleman rookies... like I did.

  3. @ Capt'n: '90 Donruss and '91 Score, sweet! Let me know what I can send you for that 3-D Blue. I've never even heard of something like that!

    @ Fuji: '81 Fleer is an awesome set! And yeah, in retrospect it's not as bad as paying through the nose for Colemans and Bonillas.

    I guess you guys worked most of the set collecting out through trades?

  4. I just bought a rack pack box last month of '86 Topps. If you would of got that list up just a few days earlier I'm pretty sure I could of knocked it out and sent it with the trade. I have the box opened and sorted into hundreds. When I get it sorted down and my binder filled I'll let you know what I have.