In my three decades in the sports card hobby, I have mainly focused on buying single cards of players I enjoy watching or think have investment potential. However, recently I have been considering the merits of constructing full sets. The idea of a long-term, focused goal is appealing to me. In addition, in the modern sports card era, where there seems to be a new product release every three days, the concept of developing expertise in something static from a specific year sounds refreshing. Finally, individuals, who have spent years or even decades tracking down cards from a set they have grown to love, report that there are few things in the hobby that bring greater joy and fulfillment than completing a project of this nature.
Below are four pre-1990 sets I would consider completing if I had unlimited time and money. In selecting these sets, I considered eye-appeal of the design, star power of the checklist, and collector demand.
1952 Topps Baseball
Number of Cards: 407
Key Rookies: #175 Billy Martin, #392 Hoyt Wilhelm, and #407 Eddie Matthews
Key Hall of Famers: #11 Phil Rizzuto, #33 Warren Spahn, #37 Duke Snider, #88 Bob Feller, #191 Yogi Berra, #261 Willie Mays, #311 Mickey Mantle, #312 Jackie Robinson, #314 Roy Campanella, and #333 Pee Wee Reese
1952 Topps is one of the most recognizable sets in the hobby. With a dynamite checklist and a design that includes artistic depictions of the players and facsimile autographs, it is a gorgeous set. Although well before the era of inserts, there is even a “chase” element with this edition, as the high numbers (cards 311 to 407) are so rare that many collectors consider a set with cards 1 to 310 “virtually complete”. When this set was released in 1952 a pack of 5 cards cost 5 cents. How times change. Now, even low-grade Mantle cards from this set can sell for more than $100,000.