This post is about my furthest journey out into the collecting wilderness, Topps Tek. In the late '90s, it seems card companies could not draw the line on what wacky crap they would put out. Cards escalated with gold, shiny, gold and shiny, then thick, then plastic, then 1998 brought us the first set of Topps Tek. It was plastic, thick, AND shiny; a set that had 90 players, 90 patterns, which means a master set of these badboys would be 8,100 cards. Eight Thousand One Hundred Cards. And I know collectors who attempted this. I sold them boxes and boxes of this stuff. I watched them trade and use a website called eBay to augment their collections. It was a major obsession for some and I thought they were nuts. 1999 brought a second round of Tek - 45 players, this time with home and away variations, making 90 cards total and 30 patterns each. This is a more manageable 2,700 cards for the master set ("manageable" being a very loose term here). Having watched the insanity the year before, I anticipated a similar crazy push and bought a lot of it for the store. Turns out, people had come to their senses and I way over-ordered this product from Topps and ended up having 3-4 cases of this stuff laying around for months. During a late season lull in product, I got the bright idea "hey, why don't I buy all this Tek stuff and try to put together a set myself?" As usual, I was way ahead or (in this case) way behind the curve. I bought it all, busted it and was, um, not even close. At only 80 cards per box, 6 boxes per case, and less than perfect collation, I wasn't even half done. Oh, I went the eBay route and sold the gold cards (numbered to 10! - they actually still bring good money) and inserts (FantasTEK Phenoms and TEKnicians - oh those punsters at Topps) and bought some other lots and everything, but after a year, I was still only about 2,000 cards in.
The cards sat in a jumbo shoebox for a few years, nearly forgotten as I focused most of my energy in those years to vintage sets. Then in 2003, the madness returned and I was like "hey, why don't I finish that Topps Tek set?" Yes, in retrospect, it was a poor decision. I went back to eBay and after 6 months only got another 300 cards. 2,300 out of 2,700 would seem like way too much to turn your back on. But I did. My girlfriend at the time was a very kind and understanding woman, but she never understood my love of baseball cards and really REALLY did not understand my obsession with finding the same card over and over and over again (yes, I made the mistake of explaining it to her one day when she asked me "whatcha doin'?" Let that be a lesson to all the boys and girls out there - never ask that question and never answer it). So when we decided to move in together, one thing I did was pare down my card collection and one big casualty was the '99 Tek near set. I don't regret dumping the set - even though, later on, the girl dumped me - and I cannot imagine what people who tried to put together the '98 set are like. I suppose there is a wing in asylums everywhere for the 1998 Topps Tek set builders. I mean, the 2,700 cards beat me, a devout (if recovering) completist...I cannot imagine what 8,100 cards has done to the psyche of some men.
In my binders lies a few reminders of my insanity tango with Tek. Enjoy.
As a post script, Tek went out with a whimper in 2000 with a set I don't think anyone remembers.
If anyone knows of anyone who has completed a master set of Topps Tek, please let me see the link. And the phone number of their psychiatrist.