Card Collecting as Archeology, Part 2

Featured Cards: 2011 Phillies Team Issue #2, #(4), Joe Blanton; 1999 Stadium League Phillies Finest #8, Curt Schilling; 1992 Fleer Ultra #541, Andy Ashby; 2007 Upper Deck Majestic Phillies Alumni Night #14, Carlos Ruiz

Yesterday, I posted the 2009 Phillies Team Issue Home Run Derby checklist. Here’s the thing about that: it’s another set for which I cannot find any information online. I actually got the Jayson Werth card (the only card that I know is in the set) a month or so ago off of eBay — if you want to pick one up for your collection, other copies are actually still available. Unlike the 2010 Topps Attax Champions card I posted about a few days ago, however, I was able to piece together enough information to confidently include a detailed description of the card when I posted the checklist.

I’ve given some more thought to the notion of card collecting as a form of archeology since writing the first part of this post the other night, and it really doesn’t amaze me that there still isn’t a true definitive catalog (paper or online) one can use for identifying all cards. Team and regional issues present the biggest challenge in assembling such a beast. Beckett and SCD rely on collectors to send them this information, but that only works if the collectors diligently provide information on any new sets they encounter and the information they provide can be easily confirmed. I feel fairly safe when I state that I believe that there are probably hundreds of regional issues missing from Beckett’s and/or SCD’s checklists. Another issue is that neither SCD nor Beckett provide sample scans of every set. Yes, the plethora of inserts and parallels out there don’t make this feasible for the old-fashioned paper catalogs, but in the digital age, there’s no space premium. This is the reason why I am attempting to include a sample scan with every checklist posted to the online database — it should be easier than ever to find a sample scan that assists in the identification of the card one is researching. But there’s one other complication that may very well trump all this: inconsistency and differences when referencing and assigning names to sets.

For the overwhelming majority of sets, SCD and Beckett concur on the name of the set and how to list it if it’s unnumbered. However, I don’t know if anyone else has noticed yet, but I do not stick solely to either the Beckett or SCD naming conventions for particular sets. I usually just choose the one that I think suits the set better. Furthermore, there are times I use my own naming convention, because I feel that the names SCD and Beckett use do not accurately reflect how someone might try to find a set. I’m going to use an overly simplex example to prove my point: the Fleer Ultra sets. Just about every set incorporates the Fleer name into Ultra logo on the card, which I believe leads to the logical conclusion that the set’s name is “Fleer Ultra.” However, both Beckett and SCD just list the set as “Ultra.” If you type “1991 Fleer Ultra” into the Beckett online database, you get 0 results returned. Similarly, if you try to look up “Fleer Ultra” in the SCD Standard Catalog there is no indication that you need to just look up “Ultra.” Furthermore, there’s no intuitive rhyme or reason behind how SCD and Beckett determine which sets include the manufacturer in the set name and which sets don’t.

All this comes back to my It occurs to my assertion that the modern baseball card collector in engaging in a form of archeology. Card collecting involves a lot of research when you find a card from a set you’ve never heard about or seen before. There are a lot of legitimate baseball cards out there that are uncatalogued, just as there are a lot of cards that are vanity/unlicensed issues (without double-checking, I believe Beckett uses the term “collector’s issue”). Part of the challenge in encontering a card that you cannot find any sort of documentation for — which probably happens far more often than any of use would like to admit — is determining its legitimacy and/or ensuring that you’re not just looking in the wrong place for relevant information that is actually out there. As much as I like the idea of putting together what I hope becomes a key online source of information for Phillies collectibles (and not just a collection of checklists), I don’t know if it can ever be absolutely comprehensive. I just don’t think that anyone can truly properly annotate everything that’s out there.

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2 responses to “Card Collecting as Archeology, Part 2

  1. Seeing that 2007 Upper Deck Majestic Phillies Alumni Night #14, Carlos Ruiz pictured reminds me that the night they gave those out, there was some sort of problem in the too many “hit” cards were issued that entitled the recipient to a free signed M&N jersey. From what I recall, the Phillies stopped the distribution of the packs and told people to bring their ticket stubs back to a later game to get a corrected pack.

    The other interesting thing was that there were chase cards of Phillies alumni seeded one per team set. (i.e., everyone’s pack contained a full set of the current players plus a single alumnus). I think there were 10 alumni cards issued. Someone on eBay soon afterward was selling the whole set of 10 alumni for something like $5. I suspect that person had some inside connection as he sold quite a few. With perfect collation, it would have taken his 10 game tickets just to get one alumni set. Anyway, I’m glad I bought one from him at the time and wish I had bought an extra.

    • I was able to put an alumni insert set together, but it wasn’t easy. I have at least a dozen extra complete base sets gathering dust in my closet. One of these days, I’ll find a good home for some of them.

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