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Exhaustive List of Cards Poses Eternal Hobby Hunting

by Paul Angilly
March 15, 2005

Thereís no question that there are some very sweet sports cards being made these days. But as many of us know, while sweets can be a nice treat when enjoyed sparingly, too much can be a very bad thing -- and when it comes to trading cards, collectors are being served up a diet that focuses way too heavily on the sweets.

The increasing proliferation of game-used and autographed insert cards in literally dozens of different varieties has recently caused me to become extremely discouraged in one of my own collecting pursuits -- to the point that Iím feeling the need to give up on that part of my collection.

Since the late 1980s, Iíve been trying to get a copy of every Dwight Evans card ever made. I started the collection in part because he was one of my favorite players and seemed at the time to be a potential future Hall-of-Famer, but also because I thought focusing on a single player would be a fun and relatively inexpensive way to obtain at least one sample card from each of the dozens of different sets being issued even back then.

At the time, that goal seemed a lot more reasonable than it does now. When I first started, the biggest hurdles were trying to track down cards such as O-Pee-Chee issues dating back to 1973, assorted appearances in Fleer retail-exclusive boxed sets, singles from the Topps and Panini sticker sets, various variations like the Topps "Tiffany" issues and assorted other "oddball" cards such as his 1977 Burger Chef disc.

It has been a fun challenge for more than a dozen years. But with the dawn of the 21st century, it has seemed more like a burden to try to keep up with all the different Evans cards being produced.

And yes -- even a player such as Evans, who has been retired for 13 years and who has gotten very little support in terms of Hall of Fame voting, is still featured on numerous new cards each year.

On the positive side, there are plenty of different cards available picturing Evans with pieces of game-worn jersey, game-used bat and/or an autograph, most numbered to quantities of less than 100 and available at reasonable prices (around $5 to $10 each).

But the negative side is that there are far too many such cards for an average collector to keep up with, and the fact that there are numerous versions of the same basic card with only subtle changes makes that chase a lot less fun.

Consider the 2005 Leaf Century Collection issue, which includes what has proven to be a popular insert series of memorabilia cards that include a vintage postage stamp. There are no less than 22 different Evans cards available, most numbered to 39 copies or less, including one card numbered 1-of-1.

Then thereís the 2004 Donruss World Series set, including 21 different Evans cards: the base card with red (numbered out of 100), silver (#/50), blue (#/25) and gold (#/10) parallels; two different game-used jersey versions and a game-used bat version (numbered to 250, 24 and 100, respectively); and an autograph version (numbered to 25).

Then thereís a series of "Face Off" inserts, in which heís pictured with Dwight Gooden. Thereís a regular version (#500), a "materials World Series year" version (#50) and a parallel version (#25).

Finally, thereís a series of "Playoff All-Stars" inserts: the regular version (#/500), a parallel version (#/25), an autograph version (#/25), a game-worn jersey version (#/50), an autographed jersey version (#/50), a bat and jersey version (#/50), an autographed bat and jersey version (#/50), a bat/hat/jersey version (#/100), and finally, a version that includes an autograph, bat piece, jersey piece and part of a game-worn hat, numbered out of 100 copies.

Can you imagine trying to track down all of those cards? And would you really want to chase after a "Playoff All-Stars" insert with just the bat and jersey pieces when you already have the version with bat, jersey and hat pieces along with an autograph?

The last time I tried to track down all the different versions of a multiple-version game-used insert came with the release of the 2004 Leaf Certified Materials set, which included seven different versions of Evansí "Fabric of the Game" insert. All seven versions included a piece of game-worn jersey, but in each version the cut-out area of the card displaying the jersey was in a different shape. There is a square version (#/100), an "OF" version (#/100), an "A" version (#/100), an "87" version (#/87), a trophy version (#/50), an "HR" version (#/34) and a "24" version (#/24).

Keep in mind that Evans is a fairly common player. Imagine trying to track down all the cards made of someone like Reggie Jackson or Carl Yastrzemski, or current players such as Derek Jeter or Nomar Garciaparra. All four of those players were included in the 2004 Leaf Sportscasters insert set I described in a previous column, with each player appearing on 140 different versions of those cards, all numbered to 70 or less (with some as low as 5 copies).

For better or worse, Donruss/Playoff has established itself as the king of multiple-version, low-numbered memorabilia inserts. But it was actually Upper Deck that first obliterated my dream of getting one copy of every Evans card made when it released its 2002 Sweet Spot set. That issue included a game-used bat barrel card for Evans limited to just one copy made. Such 1-of-1 cards have been around for several years now and are just one more nail in the coffin for single-player collectors.

Cards limited to less than 100 copies are rapidly becoming cheaper and cheaper, except for the most popular players and issues. I have no doubt that part of the reason is that more and more single-player collectors such as myself are throwing in the towel.

Card companies should know that the ultimate goal of any collector -- whatever they collect -- is to have one of everything, within whatever bounds they set. When it becomes obvious that itís not possible to do that, it takes away any incentive to try. When that happens, interest in these kinds of limited insert cards drops, with prices soon to follow.

Itís just unfortunate that for collectors such as myself, too many sweets have spoiled our appetite.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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