My at-bat in the “Blog Bat Around”

November 21, 2008 at 12:55 am | Posted in Blogs, Personal | 1 Comment

I’d like to thank Gellman from Sports Cards Uncensored for contributing yet another great idea to the sports card blogosphere.  By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard about the Blog Bat Around.  This post is my contribution to that effort.

Gellman asks us to identify what type of collector we are.  Whether you’re a player collector, team collector, set collector, first world, or second world collector, it’s not hard for most of us to label ourselves.  So what am I?  I’m still figuring that out.  For now, I think I’m all of the above.

Most of the participants in the “Bat Around” have written about their personal history of collecting to explain how they got to where they are now.  Here’s my story.  For even more details, you can check out my very first post back in June.  Basically, my formative years in card collecting were from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s.  I remember looking through Beckett price guides when I was a kid and wanting to own every single card that was ever made, which was a lot more feasible back then than it is now.  I spent almost every cent that I earned on buying cards.  Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck – I collected it all.  I also collected vintage cards (which I define as anything that was produced before I was born in 1979), and eventually I focused my collection on the New York Yankees, especially Don Mattingly cards.  By the early 90s, the number of sets produced each year started to grow exponentially, and eventually I couldn’t keep up with it anymore.  You can read about all of the reasons why I left the hobby in this post.

The second stage of my collecting life occurred between 2001 and 2007.  After I graduated from college and began a full-time job, I had some disposable income, so I decided to continue building my collection of Don Mattingly cards.  I also began to buy some PSA-graded vintage cards that I thought would hold their value through the years, ensuring that I’d have some valuable cards to pass down to my kids one day.  During this period, I totally ignored new cards, except for a few relic and autograph cards of Mattingly that intrigued me.  I’d check out eBay every couple of months and make a couple of purchases at a time.  Then I’d think very little about my card collection until the next time I had some free time and cash, and I’d head to eBay again.

In 2008, I unwittingly began my third stage of collecting.  It started when I innocently began searching eBay for some autographed Tampa Bay Rays cards.  I bought a few and when I received them, I became very intrigued by a 2007 Goudey Graphs card of Carl Crawford.  The idea of “retro” sets was new to me, and I was curious enough that I bought two retail boxes (I didn’t know the difference between retail and hobby at that point) of 2007 Goudey baseball cards on eBay.  These were the first new cards that I had bought in 14 years.  Opening the packs of cards brought back many happy memories for me, and it wasn’t long before I started reading card blogs to get information on the current state of the hobby, watching video box breaks on YouTube, and buying more packs and boxes of cards, as well as single cards of my favorite Rays players.  I was hooked on the hobby like never before.  Less than four months after opening those Goudey boxes, I began this blog.

Throughout this year, I’ve been in the process of educating myself about the hobby.  I’ve bought a ton of cards, and I’m only now starting to really discover what I like and don’t like.  I’ve also continued to build my Mattingly collection to the point where I now have over 1000 different Mattingly cards, I’ve added to my graded vintage card collection, I’ve started a big collection of Rays autograph, relic, and base cards, and I’ve bought way too many packs and boxes of cards.  I even bought a case of 2008 Goudey, which I now consider to be a waste of money and a mistake.  I’ve completed a few sets and I’m close to completing a few others.  I’m trying to figure out what my main collecting goals are, but at this point I am all of the following:

  • A set builder.
  • An addicted hobby box breaker.
  • A Tampa Bay Rays team collector.
  • A Don Mattingly player collector.
  • An Evan Longoria player collector.
  • A collector of autograph and relic cards.
  • A collector of base, insert, and some parallel cards.
  • A collector of “first world” products like Topps Heritage and Upper Deck Goudey.
  • A collector of “second world” products like Upper Deck Ballpark Collection and Sweet Spot.
  • A collector of Topps, Upper Deck, and even Donruss products.
  • A collector of graded vintage cards.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I’m not collecting or organizing my collection, I’m blogging about cards.  That’s quite a transformation for a guy who barely gave a second thought to cards one year ago.  At least I’m focusing on just baseball cards and not other sports.  OK, so I did recently buy a hobby box of hockey cards, which you’ll be reading about in a few days.  But that’s a one-time thing.  Or at least I think it is…

My biggest goal as I continue my life as a collector is to try to identify what types of cards I really want to focus my collection on.  This “Bat Around” actually comes at a good time because it makes me think about that.  My Mattingly collection and my graded vintage card collection are here to stay.  If I knew that my house would be destroyed by a bomb in five minutes, those would be the first cards that I’d grab.  Next would be my Evan Longoria cards and my Rays autographed cards.   So those are all my top priorities.

At this point, I’m having so much fun opening hobby boxes and building sets, that I know that I won’t be stopping those activities any time soon.  However, now that I’ve seen a full year of 2008 products come out, I know what I like the most.  In 2009, I’ll know what to buy and what to stay away from.  I won’t hesitate to buy Topps Heritage, Allen & Ginter, Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, Upper Deck flagship, Goudey (if Upper Deck continues it), and Masterpieces.  I’d have to see some great reviews and video box breaks before buying anything else.

So that brings me to a pretty good point that I can make with this post.  What constitutes a set that I want to collect?  For me, it has to have great base cards.  If I don’t like the base cards, I’ll simply look for the hits of the players that I collect on eBay and I won’t buy any packs or boxes.  The base cards must be well-designed and have a substantial checklist.  I hate 100-card base sets.  Give me something that actually takes some effort to collect.  Short prints are fine, but they should never make up more than 10-20% of a set’s checklist.  2008 Goudey is one example of a set that went way overboard with its short prints.  Parallels are fine if they’re chrome, refractors, or mini cards.  Anything else is boring.  And avoid having too many types of parallels.  In general, I’d like to see one type of parallel that is seeded one per pack or one every two packs and one that is rare (maybe one per box).  Different variations of the rare parallels are OK only if they’re refractors.  Throw in at least some autographs and relics of good players to add some extra fun to the product.

Keep in mind that I’m a “second world” collector too.  However, I rarely buy second-world packs or boxes because the value of the cards that you get is usually much less than what you pay for the pack or the box.  One exception this year was Ballpark Collection.  It contained 12 hits per box, including many desirable players, for a reasonable price.  Compare that to Topps Triple Threads, which provides only two hits for a similar price.  The key to a good “second world” set is to give collectors a good value for the price that they pay.  They should only contain genuine star players and top rookies.  Base cards are not important in second world sets, and I wouldn’t mind if they were completely eliminated from them.

So, to conclude, my biggest challenge as a collector this year has been that I haven’t been able to focus or narrow down on any one type of card or even on a few types of cards.  I’ve just been throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks.  I’m slowly starting to see what’s leaving a permanent brown spot on the wall and what’s sliding off without a trace.  Check back with me in six months or a year, and I’ll probably be a lot more focused in my collecting habits than I am now.  Until then, keep reading my blog and enjoy the adventure with me!


1 Comment »

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  1. I’m with you. I’m too new and there’s too much that I like to be able to narrow it down. I figure I’ll eventualy have to, but it’s early yet.

    Great post.

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