THE SET BUILDER
PAUL JOHNSON FIRST APPLIED HIS LOVE OF SET BUILDING TO VINTAGE SERIES. NOW, THE FATHER OF TWO HAS A MORE MODERN PERSPECTIVE ON THE HOBBY.
MEET PAUL: “My name is Paul Johnson and I’ve been collecting since I was a kid. I’m now 55 years old and live in London, Ontario with my wife Karen, my daughter Taylor, and my son Bradley.”
GETTING STARTED: “My father got me started collecting cards. He’s now 87 years old and I’m glad to have shared some of my collecting exploits with him.
“Like most kids, I started by trading with others and discovered the enjoyment of completing sets at a young age. When my older brother was sticking his Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards to the wall, I was preserving them in binders. Eventually I found a great local store that had some 1960s cards that I started to acquire. I purchased my first Parkhurst cards there and started to get interested in vintage sets.”
THE COLLECTION: “I became a serious set collector in the ‘80s, eventually acquiring every Parkhurst set from 1951-52 to 1963-64, as well as Topps/O-Pee-Chee sets from 1954-55 on. When Upper Deck came on the scene in the ‘90s I built the latest sets with all the hot rookies. By the time the 2000s came around there were some great Between the Pipes memorabilia sets from In The Game that piqued my interest. The 2001-02 and 2002-03 BTP sets were the first big memorabilia sets that I was able to complete. Those sets, and eBay, really stoked my collecting passion. I later focused on SPx as well as SP Authentic. I also have an extensive Darryl Sittler player collection as he was my idol while growing up.”
FAVORITE CARDS: “All the key post-war RCs are right at the top of my list: The 1951-52 Parkhurst and 1954-55 Topps Gordie Howe; the 1951-52 Parkhurst Rocket Richard; the 1966-67 Topps Bobby Orr; the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky that I pulled from a pack. I’m also pretty proud of three sets I’ve completed that are fully graded: 1954-55 Topps, 1960-61 Topps with a minimum PSA 5, and 1962-63 Topps. Some of my favorite newer sets have been the SP Authentic sets with the great patches and Sign of the Times cards.”
ONLINE ASSISTS: “I joined my first hockey message board with Beckett in 2003, and soon found Sports Card Forum and Hobby Insider as well. I’ve made many online hobby friends over the years, and I enjoy showing off my collection to others as much as I like seeing theirs. One of the great things about these different forums is that when you are close to completing a set you can show what you have collected so far and so many people are willing to step up and help you find those last cards you need. Some of the great collectors that have helped out over the years include Gabbyguy, Bimola, Sluggo87, Hammerhawks, M35Richter, and Quincy, and I know there are many more who have chipped in along the way.”
WHITE WHALE: “There are three cards that have eluded me over the years. One that I need to complete my 2001-02 SP Game Used set is a Peter Bondra/Olaf Kolzig Inked Sweaters /10. I’m also looking for a 2003-04 SP Game Used Limited Threads Marty Turco, and a 2017-18 SP Authentic Sign Of The Times Marc-Andre Fleury.”
GETTING DOWN TO THE WIRE: “Like many collectors, finding that last card in the set is always the hardest thing for me. Many times that card is a short print, so I’m scrambling against player
collectors who are just as desperate to track it down. Having contacts throughout the hobby is key. Occasionally I’ll get a random e-mail from a fellow collector who has noticed the card I’m searching for is available somewhere. That happened recently when a fellow set collector who online goes by the name BrookIsland noticed a Guy Lafleur SP Authentic Auto Patch that I needed to finish that set was up for sale. People like that make the hobby great.
“I also want to point out that my family has played a huge part with the collection. They sometimes wonder about my passion for the hobby, but if it weren’t for their support and understanding my collection would not be possible. Some day I would love to have a man cave where I can display some of my cards as well as a bunch of signed jerseys that I’ve collected over the years.”
BRUSHES WITH GREATNESS: “Although I was never good enough to go pro, I did get the chance to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni team back in 2018. The team was playing an exhibition game against the St. Thomas (Ont.) Police and a roster spot was up for bids with the proceeds going to Special Olympics and mental health organizations. It was great to be able to mingle and talk with people like Wendel Clark, Shayne Corson, Darcy Tucker, and Al Iafrate. Unfortunately, I was unable to score during the game despite how often the guys tried to set me up. My kids got a kick out of seeing their father have that opportunity and enjoyed giving me a hard time about my hands of stone. It was great though to get such enjoyment while helping others.
“I’ve also been heavily involved in the St.Thomas Sports Spectacular, which brings sports celebrities to town to speak, with the proceeds going to Special Olympics. We’ve had some fantastic guests over the years, including Howe, Sittler, Phil and Tony Esposito, Grant Fuhr, Dennis Hull, and other stars from the worlds of baseball, wrestling, and the Olympic games. It was a thrill when Boston legend Terry O’Reilly – a bit of an enforcer during his playing days – referred to me as his bodyguard during a recent event.”