Collecting the Impossible: A Look at the Bob Fisk Collection

Oct 25, 2005

Chances are that if you have heard that a particular baseball card exists but have never seen one, this collector probably has it. Not just one example but, in many cases, the entire set!

Bob Fisk is a sportscard collector specializing in the ultra rare, oddball and test cards dating back to the early 1950s. He has amassed what must be one of the more unique yet advanced collections in the hobby, owning several cards so rare that many collectors never knew they actually existed - until now!

While others put together a specific year or are type-set collectors, Fisk has been working on locating cards that may have only one known example. In many cases, value has little to do with Fisk's collection. It's the thrill of the hunt and delight in finding these gems that makes collecting fun and adventurous for Fisk. He has set his personal collecting bar very high by striving to collect every baseball card issued between 1951 and 1991 in high-grade. Surprisingly, he isn't far from reaching that goal.

To give you an example, here are some of the more interesting cards and complete sets in Fisk's vast collection:

1967 Topps Giant Stand-Ups set

1970 Topps Cloth Stickers near set

1970, 1972, and 1973 Topps Candy Lid sets

1968 Topps 3-D set and wrapper

1961 Topps Dice Game partial set

1990 Donruss Aqueous Test near set

1973 Topps Pin-Ups set and pack

1959-1971 Bazooka panels sets

1980 Topps Pepsi near set

1989 Topps Head's Up Test set and pack

1984 Topps Encased Variation Proofs near set

1990 Topps Experimental Mylar Sticker set

1991 Score Mickey Mantle Autograph set

1964 Topps Rookies All-Star Banquet set

1955-1960 Kahn's near sets

1973 Topps Comics set and pack

1969 Topps Super set and pack

1982 Topps Blackless set

1988 Topps Cloth Experimental near set

1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF

1990 Topps George Bush card

1991 Topps Desert Shield set and pack

1985 Topps Mini set

1958 Topps Pancho Herrera error card

1968 Topps Deckle Edge Test Proofs

1968 Topps Plak's checklist set

1967 Topps SF Giants Test Discs set

1982 Fleer Test cards near set

1961-1968 Kahn's sets

1967 Topps Test Discs set

The best word to describe this collection is "Wow"! Many collectors have not been fortunate enough to see even a single example of some of the cards mentioned above. While this list might seem large, keep in mind this is by no means the extent of his collection. Fisk has obtained over 900 PSA graded cards, 1,600 complete sets and 677 assorted full albums. Fisk's inventory list goes from A-Z, starting with sets such as 1970 Action Cartridge and continuing through a huge variety of sets until it reaches 1977 Zip'z Discs.

With a collection that size, Fisk has become fairly well known in the card collecting world. "In my hunt to complete these sets, I have run into several collectors and dealers at one time or another," Fisk said. Many have benefited from his knowledge and friendly demeanor. He eagerly shares the information he has obtained throughout the years with everyone from the beginning collector to the hobby's most elite. As one advanced collector explains, "Bob's knowledge base is simply incredible. If you have a question about an unknown card, he usually knows the answer and can probably show it to you since, chances are, he owns it."

What started out as a childhood hobby has blossomed into a passion for Fisk. In the following paragraphs, Fisk explains how he came to be so involved with collecting these rarities:

I started collecting seriously in 1969. My first big trade was a 1968 Pete Rose for a 1969 Wayne Granger…if I had only known. At the time I preferred regular issue cards but with one insert in each pack, you couldn't escape the supplemental issues. I gave most of those away to friends and family.

I kept purchasing the annual Topps sets up through 1983. At that point, I began going to card shows and was amazed that those insert cards I so eagerly gave away were actually quite collectible. I also noticed several issues I had never seen before such as the 1969 Topps Supers, 1964 Topps Stand Ups, and 1971 Topps Greatest Moments. I decided I wanted them all.

Once the SCD Standard Catalog was published, it made it easier to see what was out there. Unfortunately, it also added more sets and cards to collect. Now Donruss, Fleer, Score, Sportflics and others produced sets, subsets, promotional, experimental and test cards. Since this book had the most comprehensive listing of cards, it served as an excellent checklist and reference guide for cards I knew nothing about. The birth of the Internet and the growth of online auctions was what I needed to find those really tough cards.

I discovered the PSA Set Registry and forum early in 2004. I consider PSA to be the cornerstone of the card collecting community, bringing collectors from all over the world together. I had no idea that there were guys like me out there. Since many of the rare sets are packed with HOF players, I've found that I have a lot in common with hobbyists working on single player master sets. They share my interest in the cards that are, let's say, somewhat obscure to many mainstream collectors.

So, one might wonder, just what is the rarest of the rare? Fisk ranks his Top 5 in this order:

Fisk's Top 5 Rarities

1966 Topps Punchouts (he has only seen two) 2. 1963 Topps Mantle Plaque/Mask (has only seen one) 3. 1955 Test Stamps 4. 1961 Topps Dice Game 5. 1970 Topps Cloth Experimental Stickers

Some of his personal favorites in his collection include; the 1970 Topps Cloth Sticker Nolan Ryan (possibly the only one), the 1961 Topps Dice Game Mickey Mantle card (few known), the elusive but desirable 1958 Pancho Herrera error card (has two), and the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds error card showing Johnny Ray (owns more than ten).

Fisk is fairly new to the PSA Set Registry and currently ranks #1 for 1957 Kahn's baseball and #2 for 1968 Topps 3-D, both sets are quite difficult to complete. It goes without saying that many of the cards in these sets are the highest graded examples. Keep watching the PSA Set Registry though.

In the near future, Fisk will be sending many of his rare sets to PSA for authentication and grading. It should make quite a splash in the PSA Set Registry listings and turn many heads in the hobby. Of course, he plans to display pictures of all of the cards in his registry sets so that others may enjoy the cards that few have ever seen.