Tag Archives: quests

A Topps Quest 40 Years in the Making

Through the years, I have collected everything from Matchbox Cars and comics, to ticket stubs and books from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. It has often been said that my collections have collections.

One of the earliest things that I collected was baseball cards.

I started collecting baseball cards in elementary school back when packs could be purchased for pocket change and included a stick of card staining bubble gum.

One of my greatest joys back then came from riding my bike to the neighborhood 7-Eleven to spend some of my allowance on a pack of baseball cards, a comic book, some powdered doughnuts and a Sunny Delight.

On special occasions, my mom would drive me to one of three baseball card and comic book stores where I would thumb through the boxes of comics and binders of cards looking for items to add to my collections.

Once I was able to drive and was earning money from working, I would still go to the card shops on the weekends. My trips became less frequent once I was in college.

Eventually, as other priorities and interests emerged, my card collecting was relegated to occasionally buying a pack here and there out of nostalgia.

Way back in 1983 I started collecting baseball cards. This binder, complete with dot matrix label printed on a Commodore 128, was the first time I tried to complete a full set. The set has remained 125 cards short of being complete for 40 years.
Photo R. Anderson

Back on August 19, 2013, I wrote a column about wanting to finish the 1983 Topps baseball card set that I had started 30 years earlier.

In that column, I made a bold prediction that I would finish the set by the end of the year by procuring the missing 125 cards that I needed out of the 792-card set.

Despite starting the quest in the fourth quarter of 2013, it seemed like a very doable thing to complete.

In reality, the quest to finish the set would take another decade.

Paraphrasing a song about black eyed peas and homicide, as spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall, I found out that the 1983 Topps baseball set might be the set that was not completed at all.

I cannot really say why the set was not finished back in 2013.

When I wrote the column, I really had the intention and desire to finish the set that year.

In the years since 2013, I had mostly forgotten about the incomplete set of cards despite walking past the binders of baseball cards nearly every day.

That all changed in January. While I was moving my baseball card binders, I was once again reminded of the incomplete set.

At the time, I did not take any action to finish the set.

Then in late February as I was looking through some old writings, I was reminded of the column about the 30-year quest.

So, determined not to wait another 10 years, I decided that I would make completing the set an early birthday gift to myself.

Back in the latter half of the 20th Century when I was actively collecting baseball cards, I carried around checklists in my wallet for each set I was working on. The checklist was numbered from 1 to 792, or however many cards that particular set had. As I found a card, I would cross it off of the list.

This system was extremely helpful in providing an exact snapshot of the status of every set of cards I was working on at any given time.

Back in 2013 when I first came up with the grand idea to complete the set, I could not find my checklist from 1983. So, I was forced to sit on the living room floor and thumb through the binder with the cards I did have crossing off the corresponding number on the checklist one by one to determine just how many cards I needed.

One would think that realizing how tedious that task was that I would put my 2013 checklist somewhere safe.

This was the thought that ran through my head on a continuous loop as I found myself in 2023 once again sitting on my living room floor creating a checklist for the cards that I needed.

Having lost both the 1983 original, as well as the 2013 version, I once again found myself painstakingly checking off cards one by one in 2023 as I sought to complete the 1983 Topps baseball set.
Photo R. Anderson

With my list of missing cards completed once more, the question now was how to best procure the 125 cards.

Back in 2013, complete 1983 Topps sets were selling for around $50 on eBay. At the time, I decided against buying 792 cards when I only needed 125.

In my mind I thought that it would be way more fun and economical to procure 125 cards on a card by card basis to mimic the old days of thumbing through the cards at Ye Olde Baseball Card Shop.

Of course, in 2013 Ye Olde Baseball Card shops were hard to find. Many of the shops had either closed altogether or consisted of people who used to run baseball card shops selling their stock online.

When I resumed the quest last week, I had the same mindset that it would be cheaper to buy the 125 cards I needed individually compared to buying a whole set.

I also ran into the same problem as I did in 2013 that the days of driving to a strip mall and looking for baseball cards at a baseball card shop have come and gone.

So, it was off to Ye Olde world wide web and the virtual baseball card shop to find those pesky missing cards that had eluded me for four decades.

After spending several hours online carefully selecting the cards from a vendor who was selling singles, I watched as the price soared well past the complete set price.

I was about to give up hope until I saw a listing on another site for a mostly complete set of 1983 Topps baseball cards. By mostly complete, I mean that the set had every card in it except for the five most expensive cards including the rookie cards of Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg.

As luck would have it, I already had those cards from my trips to 7-Eleven back in 1983.

So, I was able to by a mostly complete set of 1983 Topps Baseball cards for far less than a full set price, and way less than the 125 card a la carte price. This approach also allowed me to claim a technicality that I did not buy a complete set to only find 125 cards.

Sure, I bought 667 cards that I already had, but what a bargain compared to paying the per card price for the 125 cards that I did not have.

Best of all, I can finally say that the first set of baseball cards that I ever tried to finish, has now been completed.

Happy early birthday to me indeed.

When the cards arrived in the mail, bringing an end to my quest to complete the 1983 Topps baseball set, I was hit by a range of emotions.

While I was both happy and sad that the quest was completed, the emotion that was most impactful as I stared at a cardboard box filed with cardboard baseball cards was the feeling of being transported back in time to the sunken living room of my parents’ house in Florida.

In 2013, I wrote a column about wanting to complete my 1983 Topps baseball set. The column was inspired in part by being reminded of the set when Ryne Sandberg was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2023, I was able to add the 125 missing cards thanks to buying a mostly complete set that did not include Ryne Sandberg’s rookie card and three other rookie cards that I thankfully already had.
Photo R. Anderson

As I placed the finally completed set of 1983 Topps baseball cards on the shelf, I was also reminded that I will be ending another 40-year quest in December when I graduate from the University of Florida.

Two 40-year-old goals completed within nine months of each other. Not too shabby.

Back when I was riding my Diamondback bike to the 7-Eleven to buy baseball cards that I sorted while sitting on the sunken living room floor of my parents’ house while watching the Gators play football on TV, I never would have imagined that I would find myself accomplishing two goals 40-years after they first formed in my head.

Back then, I likely also would have thought that 40-years is a very, very long time.

And while my bike is now a Mongoose instead of a Diamondback, it really does seem that the more things change the more they stay the same.

While I do not think that my recent baseball card purchase will fully reignite the passion I once had for collecting baseball cards, it was nice to revisit younger me for a bit and to be reminded of a simpler time filled with bike rides to the 7-Eleven and Saturday trips to a baseball card shop.

I guess the morale of the story is, one is never too old to accomplish a goal. Also, if you ever find yourself sitting on the living room floor making checklists of baseball card sets, by all means make sure you remember where you put the list in case you need to find it years later.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide on what my next 40-year quest will be.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

The Taco Versus Burrito Principle

Not too long ago, I decided I needed a quest to mark my place in history. A lofty goal I know but I have always been one that dreams big.

So with my goal of finding a quest in mind, I sat down in a thinking position with pen and paper in hand, along with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea close by to try to come up with what my mark on society could be.

Just like Jean Luc Picard I do some of my best thinking when the Earl is involved. Photo R. Anderson
Just like Jean Luc Picard I do some of my best thinking when the Earl is involved.
Photo R. Anderson

As I thought about quests, two people naturally came to mind; Bono and Oprah.

While Bono’s quests are genuinely aimed at helping all mankind they really seem to be time-consuming and tend to happen in far away lands so I figured I would aim a little more domestically at seeking my first quest and try to look at what Oprah would do.

Sadly, the more I thought about quests, the more I realized that Oprah seems to have a monopoly on look at me type endeavors.

From giving people cars, to building schools in South Africa and hosting Legend’s Balls on her front lawn the woman really likes her quests. If one ever doubts her commitment to being known as a giver, one need only travel to the local newsstand where the media queen gives her readers a glimpse into her wonderful life each month on the cover of her magazine.

Realizing my meditation on finding the perfect quest was going to require more than sipping tea in the thinking position, I ventured forth to the local Taco Bell to get the kind of nourishment only really cheap faux Mexican food can provide.

Now, I have been known to eat my fair share of Taco Bell however I really don’t like their namesake food item. My dislike of the Taco Bell taco most likely stems from binge eating boxes of tacos back in college.

Another factor in losing my love of the taco centers around the day I learned just what exactly they put in the tacos. But that is another story for another day. While I dislike the tacos, I absolutely love the bean burritos. So I normally get a bean burrito with whatever else I order.

So while I was waiting to order, I realized that the bean burrito and the soft taco were the same price on the menu. With this realization in mind, I told the order taker that I would like to substitute a burrito for my soft taco in the combo meal.

From the look I received you would have thought I had uttered the most absurd statement she had ever heard. After gathering her thoughts for a moment she told me, “Sir, you cannot substitute a burrito for a taco.”

Not willing to give up so easily on my perfectly thought out reasoning I retorted, “but they are both the same price on the menu, it should be very easy to make the switch.”

You can learn a lot from reading a sauce packet but you cannot swap a burrito out for a taco. Photo R. Anderson
You can learn a lot from reading a sauce packet but you cannot swap a burrito out for a taco.
Photo R. Anderson

At this point, the manager came up to see what the fuss was about and I offered her my very carefully reasoned out logical thesis on burrito versus taco combo economics.

I could see that my reasoning was not getting through so I thought about what Oprah would do and raised my voice while repeating the same reasoning I had just stated using my indoor voice.

My use of the “Oprah voice” did not seem to sway the manager any more than my indoor voice did. While this was going on I could hear people talking in line behind me and along with the “hurry up you’re holding up the line” were a mixed in a few, “wow, that kind of makes sense I had never thought of that before.”

So I left the line having planted the seed of civil burrito disobedience in a few brave souls behind me.

So while I went in looking for lunch I left armed with a quest. I vowed that day to do all that I could to ensure the freedom of choice between soft taco and bean burrito.

Racing sauce packets used to be a staple of Houston Astros games.  Photo R Anderson
Racing sauce packets used to be a staple of Houston Astros games.
Photo R Anderson

I know the burrito movement will be slow and there will be some casualties along the way but I am committed to seeing it through to the end, or at least to the point where I get tired of eating bean burritos.

So, let Bono have his quest to end hunger and global poverty and Oprah have her quest to basically brand everything with her likeness and show the world how important we all should think she is.

At long last I have a quest. Granted it is not as far reaching as giving away cars, building schools, or hosting balls but everyone has to start somewhere. Who knows, maybe one of Oprah’s first quests was food related.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to do some more field research on my quest, I just hope Oprah doesn’t beat me to it and start her own chain of Oprah Bell.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson