My first complete set
I started acquiring baseball cards in 1985.
I started collecting baseball cards in 1986. The first packs I remember opening were 1986 Topps. I received some cards here and there in 1985 but didn’t really know what I was doing at all. In 1986, though, that all changed. Not only did I open packs, but I also traded with friends. I read box scores. I researched card prices in Beckett. I became a fanatic. Finding Reds cards of Eric Davis, Tony Perez, Mario Soto, Dave Parker, and Buddy Bell became an obsession.
My parents gave me the complete factory set of 1986 Topps ordered from the JC Penney at Christmas, and I was over the moon. Seven hundred ninety-two pristine, gem mint baseball cards. This was before the era of graded cards, and I knew little about printing defects or off-centering. All I knew was that I had the complete factory set in the yellow box.
Pete Rose was likely a big reason for my initial interest in baseball. In 1985 he was chasing Ty Cobb‘s all-time hits record and every Cincinnati news outlet covered the milestone. He was a Cincinnati kid, he epitomized the value of hustle and hard work. Topps honored Rose with a special subset in the 1986 base set. The legend was featured on card #1, while cards #2-7 showed all of Pete’s base cards through the years. Topps also featured him as a manager on a separate card (#741), featuring a checklist of all the 1986 Topps Reds cards on the back. And then there was the Record Breaker” (#206).
That’s nine different cards of one player. Complete insanity at the time. Also completely worth it to honor such a legend. Bear in mind this was a couple of years before the whispers of gambling and betting on baseball. To Reds fans, Pete Rose could do no wrong.
There is one other card Topps produced for Rose in conjunction with their standard set, but it was not a part of the complete factory set. Rather, you had to be one of the last kids buying a pack at the convenience store to get this card.
The box bottom cards were not easy to come by. Most stores, after selling all the packs, would pitch the box in the trash. If you knew about the special cards you could cut out then you could ask for the box but if it wasn’t close to empty, most store clerks would deny your request. It was difficult to cut the cards out properly because of the thickness of the box and the fear of getting caught with Mom’s good scissors.
There may not have been a lot of great rookie cards in the 1986 Topps set, but it will always hold a special place in my collection and in my heart.