By Drew Pelto aka *censored*

What is a super collector? Apparently, not me, at least not at Sports Card Forum.

The definition of Super Collector varies from person to person. To one person, it’s he or she who is trying to collect everything of their favorite team or player. I was that way for a while with Jaromir Jagr. I even had a cat named Jaromir, and a copy of his autobiography (Jagr’s, not the cat’s). Unfortunately, his health was failing and we had to have him put to sleep about 7 years ago (the cat, not Jagr). But the proliferation of parallel cards, inserts worth several hundred dollars, and 1/1 cards in the late 90′s and early 00′s made it too hard and pricey for me to continue, and I abandoned my quest. That, and the Penguins moved him for a bunch of never-will-bes in a salary dump. As soon as I saw they acquired Beach, Sivek, and a guy named Loopy-Schnook or something of the sort, I knew they got hosed.

That’s how it works at SCF. You build an awesome collection of a player or team, you might get Super Collector status, a pat on the head for a job well done, and a cookie.

But I believe there are more honest to goodness “super collectors” out there than just those.

What about someone who painstakingly collected every Topps set from the 1970′s to the present? And not buy buying factory sets, but by busting packs and boxes and chewing the gum inside. Wax stained fingers, gum-riddled breath, missing en eye from the once-razor-sharp corner of the Frank Thomas rookie card they pulled from a pack and accidentally stabbed themselves with in the eye… Shouldn’t they be a super collector?

What about those who try to get entire sets autographed? That’s something that takes even more time and effort. You have to get your set compiled, and then figure out how to get it signed. You need to be able to get to the players, or hope mailing works. And when it comes to big name stars, you need to add in a lot of patience or a lot of luck.

This is why I consider myself to be a Super Collector, even if SCF does not. In 2003, I started collecting autographs in person, hounding hotels for hockey teams. And that year, Topps came out with one of my favorite sets in recent memory, Topps Total. You may remember in my last column, I lamented the fact that sets are getting smaller and player representation repetitive. Topps Total was an attempt to fix this. The set was popular in baseball as a rival to Upper Deck’s 40-Man set, and it was big in football as well. Thus a hockey attempt was made. It only lasted one year, but it was something the hockey world needed. While the big set took off briefly after that with In The Game Action and Pacific Complete, those sets lacked a few things that Topps Total had. First off, Pacific Complete was made mostly as an insert in Pacific’s other products. Topps Total stood alone. ITG Action was marred by poor photography, rivalling only that of 1990-91 Pro Set hockey (you’ve seen the cards there, with 6 players on a card at times, and the guy for whom the card was printed is looking off to the side and framed slightly to the left in a blurry shot). Topps Total’s photography wouldn’t be confused for any artsy-fartsy early 90s Stadium Club shots, but they were effective and clean. And best of all, no gloss. I wouldn’t have to spend a billion years counteracting a shiny surface before getting the cards signed.

I bought a box of it soon after it came out. I remember the first cards I got signed in that set. Hounding the Flyers on February 28, Jeremy Roenick, Eric Weinrich, and Dennis Seidenberg all put Sharpie to Topps Total card and signed, kicking off my quest. A 440-player set wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the world to get signed– especially with players like Scott Stevens, Steve Yzerman, Paul Kariya, and Patrick Roy. But little by little, I chipped away at the set. A couple in person here, a couple through mail there, and the occasional trade, and eight years later I find myself about 70% of the way through the set. Of course I have lost the occasional card. Sending through mail has its risks, but the rewards have surpassed them.

I feel that autographed set collectors are deserving of Super Collector status. It’s a specific, yet attainable goal. It doesn’t get repetitive the way that an individual player collection can. And it involves a lot of time, patience, and even luck. I only got Scott Stevens’ autograph once in my time collecting. I handed him a board with six cards, and he just so happened to sign my Topps Total one. I was never able to get him again before retirement.

There are other sets I have tried to get signed through the years (none yet completed), but Topps Total was my first attempt and will always be my primary one until I get that 440th card signed.

So while SCF may not let me be crowned as a super collector, I consider myself and my fellow signed set collectors to be Super Collectors just as much. We have put in our time, money, and effort toward a project that is just as hard to finish as a complete collection of a player.

About the author: Drew Pelto is the radio and internet voice of the NAHL’s Wichita Falls Wildcats. He is a long-suffering Cleveland fan with all the baggage that comes with the lifestyle. He has a very understanding wife of three years and a herd of cats who put up with the card, autograph, and memorabilia collection he has built over 20 years. His signed Topps Total hockey set is the stuff of legends, and only twenty six and seven-eighths people have been allowed to look at it. You can reach Drew via e-mail at drewpelto@gmail.com.