Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz

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Chasing a 1949 Bowman Braves Team Set

From my first days in the hobby, until fairly recently, my collecting obsession was finishing Topps sets. I had set a goal somewhat similar to Charlie over at Lifetime Topps in that I wanted to complete every base Topps set released from the day I was born. At this point, I'm less than a 1000 cards from completing this goal. To my everlasting shock, I managed to complete the 1971 and 1972 Topps sets, and frankly, I thought this was the most exciting thing I could accomplish as a collector. I spent years staring at listings and price guides and I believed that those high numbers, those damned high numbers, would prevent me from ever realizing my goal.

The great thing about those two great sets, 1971 and 1972, is that they are both very different and yet, they are two of the all-time greats. The 1971 set is a classy design that's as timeless as it is elegant. The 1972 set is very much of its time and place. I love these sets and I thought that these cards would be the highlight of my collection until the day I die or leave the hobby.

It's no secret that I'm one of those grumpy set collectors who finds most aspects of the modern hobby lacking. When I see a great baseball card like the 2012 Topps Tim Hudson card, I marvel at the idea that neither Topps nor the majority of collectors think it is good enough. It has to be diluted with parallels and stuffed in boxes where the only thing people care about are the hits and the variations and other assorted gimmicks. I don't begrudge anyone who enjoys the hobby, but right now, the modern set isn't made for someone like me. 2015 Topps is, to my mind, the finest Topps set in many, many years, and yet, unlike so many other collectors, I don't find myself looking to open boxes of it.

I'm still spending money on baseball cards of course, I've just decided that for me, right now, vintage is the way to go. I'm no longer sure that I consider myself a set collector. Right now, there are no cards that mean more to me than vintage Braves. So, while I'd still love to (finally) finish up that 73 set, I'd rather get at a 1951 Earl Torgeson.

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So, now that I'm chasing vintage Braves, I'm faced with the decision of deciding what to collect. Until recently, I lacked cards from almost all of the classic Bowman sets of the late 1940s and early 1950s. I knew I needed a card to kickstart my 1949 Bowman team set and I had 16 Braves from which to choose. I think it's safe to say that most collectors would choose to chase that cheap commons first. For a lot of my team sets, that's exactly what I've done. That didn't seem good enough for my 1949 Bowman Braves team set. I wanted the best card in the set.

All of the original Bowman sets are great, but the 1949 set is one of my favorites. Essentially, the cards are the same as the inaugural 1948 Bowman set. It's the differences that set it apart though. The 1948 set used simple black and white photography. The 1949 set used the same type of picture, but cropped the players onto colorful backgrounds. Additionally, Bowman added colors to many of the details on the card itself. It's a fun set.

Obviously, the one player you'd most want from a pre-Aaron, pre-Mathews Braves team set is the great Warren Spahn. Spahn cards are great because Spahn is a strange looking dude. Numerous stories make Spahn out to be a strange and silly character and his mischievous personality is captured on seemingly every photograph that has ever been taken of the lefty. He is the second best pitcher to ever wear the Braves uniform, one of the game's all-time greats, and I find myself shocked that I own this baseball card.

So, my chase for the 1949 Bowman Braves team set is underway, and I think we can all agree, I'm off to a hell of a start.

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