Sunday, January 17, 2016

1968 Topps Set Formation

Excited about closing in on the last 75 cards needed to complete the 1968 Topps set (523 of 598 total), I wanted to share a little bit on how I've been going about completing this vintage set.

My 1968 Topps set is divided into two 1" binders that I purchased at Wal-Mart for $0.99 each.  Since I intended to fill the binders with 598 base cards plus 33 insert cards, I put 71 total pages divided into the two binders to fill my collection.

I organize each of my sets by team, with all the "special" cards at the end.  When beginning a new set, I'll start a new page for each team while storing all of the extra pages needed to complete the set at the end of the binder. I'll continue pulling blank pages from the end of the binder as needed to build my team sets.  Eventually, I'll start to run out of pages of course.  That's when I put my set into what I call "set formation".

First, a little more on how I organize my teams.  Below is a printscreen of 1968 MLB standings that I obtained from, which is organized by team winning percentage.

I'll start with the playoff teams first when organizing my cards, which means for pre-1969 sets I only have to consider the World Series, the LCS for 1969-1993 sets, and the DS/WC for 1994-present sets.  After the playoffs, I simply organize the teams by winning percentage.  When teams have the same winning percentage, I get to choose the team I like the best (for whatever reason).

Individual players on a team are organized by age, with the team card up front.  Managers are typically next, but not always.  When two or more players are shown on the card (such as for rookies), I use the age of the youngest person to organize the player.

I've tried a few different organization patterns like team ranking within the divisions, or player position of the team to help make my sets more functional, but I continue to come back to this pattern--not saying that it won't change again.  I used to put the special cards in the front, but now I like them in the back.

This is the fun in collecting baseball cards for me; I'm always busy studying and organizing my sets.

The Mickey Mantle card below is part of the 1996 Topps Mantle Commemorative set.  I actually have the original coming in the mail (I think), so this one is not considered one of my 75 missing cards.  I tend to use reprints as fillers until I can afford to get the originals.  As far as the 1968 set goes, the only other reprint currently in my collection is the Nolan Ryan rookie card.

Now, back to set formation.  I seem to have too many checklists used to inventory my sets--so every once in a while I'll make a mistake--which is often discovered during the set formation reorganization.  Below, is a portion of my pocket price guide that I take on my travels.  It's the 2010 Beckett that has all the non-Topps pages ripped out and retaped into a much thinner book (less than 1/2" thick).  It said I was missing 76 cards, but I discovered the mistake through the following process.

Remember the huge picture binder from one of my previous posts?  I don't use it so much for inventorying my cards since discovering the Trading Card Database online, but the book still helps out a lot for classifying my missing cards.  

Below, is how I checked off the missing cards using the book above.  When I went through this the first time, I came up with 3 missing Orioles instead of only 2, so my total missing cards came up as 76.  I had to go back through all of the cards I listed as missing and find the one that actually wasn't.  It turned out to be Tom Phoebus #97.  Since I started with high-numbers first, this process seemed to take forever.

Once I've determine where all of my missing cards come from, I  begin leaving the appropriate number of spaces after each team beginning with the front of my binder, remembering not to leave a space where reprint cards are present.

What you end up with is something that looks like the pages scanned on this post.  Each team no longer starts at the top of each page, but could start anywhere.  I know exactly how many cards I'm missing to complete each team, and don't have to move the cards around too much to add new cards after set formation has been accomplished.

For this post, I chose to display the three teams that I'm missing the least amount of cards:  Giants, Cubs, and Dodgers.  I'm missing only 1 card to complete each of these three team sets.  Organizing my collection this way also tends to provide a little extra motivation to get cards for those mini set accomplishments.  

The pre-1970 sets that I now have organized this way include: 1969, 1968, 1966, 1962, and '54T, and '50B.  Actually, my '53T, '52T, '49B, and '48B sets are also organized this way too because I own reprint sets for them.  The next sets to go into set formation will probably be 1967 and 1960, but probably not by the end of this year.

This process certainly won't work for everyone.  What I'm looking to achieve by sharing this is to inspire others to become more creative with how they store and display their sets.  I recently purchased a 1981 Topps+Traded and a 1983 Topps set that came in a collector's binder with pages.  I could tell the sets were part of someone's personal collection, but the sets were in numerical order.  I just don't see how anything can be gained from a Topps set numerically organized in a binder.  I'd quit collecting and sell off my cards too.  Here's how my 1968 Topps set is being stored.

I have 12 of these boxes containing all of my sets from 1939-2016.  I'm beginning to add Cracker Jack stickers to them for the World Series and other playoff contenders ($0.33/box).  My dog loves Cracker Jacks.


  1. I also organize my yearly sets by teams (not by card number, although by card # seems how most people do it).

    Unlike you, I organize the teams alphabetically by team name (not city) and NL first, then AL, so that no matter which year's binder I'm looking at (65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 72) all the teams are in the same order. (So it's Astros, Braves, etc, Reds, Angels, Athletics, etc, Yankees.)

    In the front before the NL teams are the checklists, leaders, world Series, All-Star cards, and any multi-team rookie cards usually found in the 7th series.

    Having said all the above, my Phillies team sets are in separate binders, with all cards for a decade in 1 binder.

    1. Oh, and within each team, they are organized by: team card, manager, multi-player card (if any), P, C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, INF, OF, rookie stars.

    2. I did attempt a very time-consuming method of organizing each team by player position once that I've since given up on. I'd determine the starting nine based on inning played at each position on baseball-reference. I'd put the ace in the center of a 9-pocket page; LF, CF, RF along the top edge, the catcher directly below the ace, and then 1B, 2B, SS, 3B counterclockwise around the catcher. This would give me a perspective of the field for any given team. On another page I'd line up the rest of the starting rotation in order followed by the middle relief, set-up men, and finally the closer. This took a lot of work, for me and required a lot of subjectivity, so I eventually went back to oldest to youngest.

  2. That's interesting. I never really thought about alternative ways to store my complete sets in binders. I guess I just did numerical and assumed that was how it was 'supposed' to be. I see Jim did something similar to you so maybe that's not as unusual as I thought.

  3. I also sort my older sets by team. I put them in the old four division format. All checklist and "special" cards first. Then American League east and west then National League east and west. Some of the newer stuff I sort by number.