My collecting strategy for 2009

February 6, 2009 at 12:48 am | Posted in My Cards, Personal | 20 Comments

So I think I’ve finally figured it out.  Back when I wrote my post for the first Blog Bat Around in November, I was all over the map in what I was collecting.  I didn’t know how to classify myself as a collector.  As you may know, I returned to the baseball card hobby in 2008 and started buying new card products for the first time in 14 years.  I now understand that I went way overboard with all of the cards that I collected.  Consider that in 2008 alone, I purchased hobby boxes and/or retail blasters of all of the following products, including multiples of many of them:

  • Topps Heritage
  • Topps Heritage High Numbers
  • Topps Updates & Highlights
  • Topps Chrome
  • Topps Allen & Ginter
  • Topps Finest
  • Topps Co-Signers
  • Topps Stadium Club
  • Topps Triple Threads
  • Bowman
  • Bowman Chrome
  • Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
  • Donruss Threads
  • Razor Signature Series
  • Upper Deck Series 1
  • Upper Deck Series 2
  • Upper Deck Goudey
  • Upper Deck Masterpieces
  • Upper Deck Heroes
  • Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts
  • Upper Deck Ballpark Collection

That’s 21 different products, and I also bought individual packs of many others.  In addition to that, I bought hobby boxes of many 2007 products in 2008:  Topps Allen & Ginter, Topps Heritage, Upper Deck Goudey, Upper Deck Masterpieces, Upper Deck SP Authentic, Upper Deck Sweet Spot, and Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic.  There was also an Upper Deck SP Rookie Edition hobby box that I got for free.

Some people might say that I went overboard, and others would call me insane, but I was really excited to try out a bunch of different products in order to reacquaint myself with the hobby and figure out what I really wanted to collect.  Anyway, as I opened all of these boxes, I began to do what seemed natural; I started making trades and buying singles in order to complete the sets.  So now I have a bunch of sets sitting around the bonus room of my house.  Some are completed, and others are close.

But what I’ve started to realize is that there was really only one set in 2008 that I truly loved collecting.  It’s the only one that I go back and look at almost every single day.  Sure, I enjoyed building other sets, like Allen & Ginter, Goudey, and Masterpieces, but the one that stands head and shoulders above all of the rest is Topps Heritage.

Topps Heritage is simply the perfect set for me.  This might be a bad analogy, but when I opened my first box of Heritage, it was almost like my first date with my wife (which coincidentally will be 5 years ago this Saturday).  Everything went perfectly, and I knew that she was the right girl for me.  And so it was with Topps Heritage.  There was just something about it that made it unbelievably fun for me to collect.

Maybe it was that the cards are produced on actual cardboard.  Maybe it’s the retro design.  Maybe it’s the fact that there is gum in the packs, and the cards actually smell a little bit like gum.  Maybe it’s the challenge of getting all the short prints.  Maybe it’s the wide variety of players.  Maybe it’s the amazing refractors, or all of the great inserts.  Maybe it’s the fact that I pulled my best hit ever from a box of Heritage.  I like all of it.  And yes, I like Heritage High Numbers too.

When I look at all of the card releases that are scheduled for 2009, there is really only one that I am excited about, and that’s Topps Heritage.  As you can probably tell from the countdown that I have on my sidebar, I absolutely cannot wait until 2009 Topps Heritage is released on February 23.  I will be buying a hobby box, or maybe two, as soon as possible.  I will be focused throughout the year on building my 2009 Topps Heritage set, and then Heritage High Numbers when it comes out in the fall.

Will I buy boxes of other products?  Probably.  But I don’t have immediate plans to do so.  I’ll probably eventually start collecting either the Topps or Upper Deck flagship set.  From what I’ve read about both of them on other blogs, I’m leaning toward Topps.  But I’m in no hurry.  And I’m definitely not going to rush out to Target to buy retail packs.  I’ll just wait a couple of months until the hobby boxes are selling for half of what they are now.  I’ll probably collect Allen & Ginter.  And I’m sure that I’ll be tempted by a few other products too – maybe Topps Finest or Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts.  Or maybe something new will interest me.  I’m starting to develop a mild interest in the new Topps American Heritage product.  But there’s no way that I’ll be buying 21 different products this year.  I think it will be closer to 5.

Here are some other guidelines that I’ve set for myself in 2009:

  • I’m going to try my hardest to not buy a single retail pack or blaster all year.  As tempting as they might be whenever I walk into Target or Wal Mart, they are simply a huge waste of money.  First, there’s the fact that the odds of pulling a hit, or even an insert, parallel, or short print, are greatly reduced in retail packs.  And second, in most cases I can get hobby packs for less money anyway.  For example, with 2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers, I could buy a retail blaster with 8 packs for a fixed price of $19.99, or I could buy a hobby box with 24 packs for around $50 (with no sales tax and free shipping).  That seems like a no-brainer to me.
  • I’ve also set a goal for myself to completely avoid my local hobby shop.  I know that this idea will seem sacrilegious to some people, but there’s really no good reason for me to go there.  All of their singles are overpriced, they don’t sell individual hobby packs, and they overcharge significantly for hobby boxes, compared to the price that I can pay on eBay or on online stores like Dave & Adam’s Card World or Blowout Cards.
  • I plan to buy the majority of my hobby boxes from Dave & Adam’s Card World on Thursdays in order to get free shipping and I’ll try to purchase multiple boxes at once in order to qualify for free packs or boxes with my order.  The only exception will be when they’re selling something for more than the market value on eBay, which is rare.
  • Since I won’t be buying as many boxes of new products, I’m going to buy more old stuff.  I’m thinking about trying to build older Topps Heritage sets (2001 – 2007).  I’m also intrigued by the Topps Cracker Jack retro sets from 4-5 years ago, Topps Fan Favorites, Topps Gold Label, Donruss Diamond Kings, and the Fleer Platinum set that looks like 1984 Fleer.  I’m also considering the possibility of buying a wax box of 1984 Donruss.
  • I will try to buy or trade for all of the Rays cards, especially Evan Longoria and David Price, from all of the 2009 products that I’m not actively collecting.  I’ve discovered that it’s much smarter to simply buy the cards that I want from most products than to buy an entire hobby box and get cards that I don’t care about.  I expect my David Price collection to grow even faster in 2009 than my Evan Longoria collection did in 2008.
  • Now that I only need 7 more Don Mattingly cards from his playing career (6 that I have a realistic chance of getting), I’m going to focus more on collecting Mattingly cards from the 21st century, especially autographs and relic cards.
  • Finally, I am going to continue building my collection of graded vintage cards.  I really love the history of baseball, especially now that I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary weekly on MLB Network.  I’ve started to take an interest in many different legendary Hall of Famers.  In addition to adding vintage cards to my collection, I’ll also be looking for autograph and game-used relic cards.  I’ve recently acquired some really amazing cards for really low prices that I’ll be sharing with you on my blog in the coming days.  If you try hard enough, you can find some truly valuable things for much less than you’d think.

So I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’m very comfortable with my strategy for collecting in 2009.  Nothing is set in stone, and I’m sure that I’ll make some tweaks to this plan as the year goes on, but it feels really good to have a clear purpose with my collecting habits.  Through all of my experience in 2008, I now know exactly how to maximize the enjoyment that I get from the hobby.  I’m looking forward to a great year!



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  1. 04/05 Cracker Jack were AWESOME sets. When I was looking for them, boxes weren’t all that cheap or easy to come by, but they were out there. If you ever do get around to doing them, I have a bunch of dupes from the 04 set.

  2. Good luck.

    Speaking of luck, two of your favorite bloggers did not list a certain gold card on eBay because we knew a certain blogger would appreciate the chance to pick it up from us….

  3. Marie, wow, that was really nice of Mario and Gellman 🙂

    Just kidding – you and Sooz are definitely among my favorites too. Let’s talk over email about what it’ll take to get that certain gold card to fly south to NC…

  4. Nothing wrong with overbuying in 2008 to get back into the hobby. And I agree with your strategy of going after 09 Heritage. I chose to build Topps 08 base, but wish I would have gone after Heritage.

    I will likely go after a lot of the early stuff this year. Just because of all the Phillies stuff. And I think 09 Topps looks much better than it did a year ago.

    Perhaps you would like to build a vintage set. most stuff from the 70s is pretty reasonable. It could be more of a 5/10 yr project rather than an 09 goal.

  5. It sounds like you’ve thought this out really well. I’m eager to hear about which HOF players you’re going to go after. And I cannot wait to see the vintage sutff you’ve picked up!!!

  6. Hey Dave,

    Great job man. I can totally empathize. I’ve just gotten back into the hobby in January 2009! In that month I went way overboard, buying single packs, blasters and retail boxes from walmart and the like. It’s way too expensive considering what you get. However, the nice thing was I discovered what I would like to collect and what I wouldn’t, which hopefully will help me save lots of money for the rest of the year! Great blog! And thank you it gave me a few ideas and even, in a way, answered some questions that I raised in my blog. Cheap blog promotion

  7. Yeah man, I’m right there with you on buying too much to re-enter, but at the same time, I had to buy blasters of First Edition and Spectrum to get a feel for things again.

    It’s funny you posted your collecting plans for 09 because mine are damn near a mirror to what you said. I can’t promise I won’t buy blasters, because that’s just foolish talk. I do know that I won’t be buying many blasters of product I don’t care about however. Also, aside from chasing Pettitte and a few other Yankees, I am limiting my non-NYY collections to Mauer and Morneau, as well as a couple sets that I will build (definitely A&G and Heritage… jury is out on Goudey). And, also like you, I’m going to try to build my vintage collection a little too – my goal by the end of ’09 is a vintage graded Mantle and Thurman Munson’s rookie.

    Now, after laying all of this out, when April rolls around, you can no doubt expect a package from Minnesota full of David Price Artifacts and Evan Longoria Spectrum cards, while I hang my head in shame and disbelief that I was unable to stick to a plan.

  8. Best of luck Dave!And I love the crackerjack sets also!

  9. Nice post Dave. Isaac dragged me back into the hobby in 2008 and we fell victim to much of what you mentioned, high end stuff being the only exception. We bought way, way too much retail of Topps I & II, A & G, and even Turkey Red 07 and have loads of doubles to prove it. We didn’t discover Heritage until December and even then it was only Heritage High.

    Its a love / hate relationship between pack buying (hobby or retail) vs box buying. Santa left Isaac a jumbo box of U & H in his stocking and he ripped it open like a mad men. Thing is, he was done with the set and missed the thrill of the chase. Of course, Santa’s wallet was much better off in the long run as the jumbo was way, way less expensive than all the packs for Series I & II.

    This has all been offset by the discovery of blog trades. Isaac love getting the packages and I love that they only cost us postage & supplies, he gets cards he wants, and we get rid of stacks of doubles or unwanted cards.

    We’ll limit it to 3 – 4 sets with the occaisional “fun pack” tossed in here and there.

  10. Dave,

    Enjoy your blog. You mentioned this, “I’ll just wait a couple of months until the hobby boxes are selling for half of what they are now.”

    Is this realy true? Can I expect that? I’m just getting back into the hobby after many years away. I am thinking of going after Topps and Topps Heritage this year, but I want to know the best way/times to buy the hobby boxes.

    Yours and anyone else’s advice would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Halos17 – the demand for hobby boxes is usually the greatest right after a product’s release date. You might not be able to find a hobby box for half the current price in a few months, but it’ll probably be close to that. It looks like the 2009 Topps Series 1 hobby boxes are selling for $60 or more on eBay right now. I can find 2008 Topps Series 1 hobby boxes for less than $40. If a product is really “hot”, then hobby boxes might increase in value, but I’d be really surprised if that happened with Topps Series 1.

  12. Howdy – If I was only going to pick up one box of either 08 Heritage or 08 Heritage High Numbers, which would you recommend and why? I’ve been back in the hobby for about a year and have not opened a pack of Heritage yet. Also, I collect very similar types of cards as you, Dave, and totally agree with your strategy for 2009…(except replace Longoria & Price with Sizemore and Lincecum). 🙂

  13. Gavin – I’d definitely recommend regular Heritage, which contained all of the star players. Heritage High Numbers contains rookies and players who missed the cut for the regular Heritage product. If you’re mainly looking for rookies, High Numbers would be a good way to go though. Another point is that Heritage High Numbers is watered down with 2 Topps U&H cards per pack.

  14. Thanks Dave! Totally unrelated, but do you know why vending boxes seem to sell so much cheaper than a wax box when they usually contain so many more cards? Is it just a sense that the vending boxes could be tampered with? Thanks so much!

  15. Halos17 – I think that Topps stopped making vending boxes sometime in the 1990s. But for the older vending boxes, I think that they’re cheaper because they could be tampered with, and it’s not as much fun as opening packs of cards.

  16. Hey,
    I just bought a box of 2009 topps – i am going to send you a longoria & price card from the set….I am a huge of these two guys and thank god for MLB TV and the MLB baseball package…..

    ill send the card on monday ……

  17. I may be the only one who comments here on this post and actually CHALLENGES you to stick with what you said. Let’s save this post and re-look at it in November or so. I don’t believe that you can contain yourself! I have the same goals as you do, Dave – we’ve chatted about this before – and I am going to try VERY hard but I am in Target 3 times a week!! Can I resist the Piece of History blasters????? PLEASE GOD HELP ME ON THIS!!!!!! Uggh. It’s a longshot but I am going to try like heck. Ahhhh, whatever, it’ll make for more YouTube breaks, right?

  18. Fan Favorites and Cracker Jack are good stuff. If you decide to go the Gold Label route let me know. I completed the 1999 set long ago and have TONS of doubles for you if you ever need them.


  19. Dave, this post seems to resonate with a lot of people. In 2005 I parted with over $20K doing exactly what you did last year (and got divorced the next year – a trade perfectly acceptable to me where I came out ahead). I’m all baseball all the time, and Heritage came out on Topp for me, too. I got EVERYTHING I could get my hands on that was produced from 2002 to 2005, including plenty of high-end singles off ePay (cringe). So you know the story, but two things I do differently. 1 – Whenever I get a chance to stop my a local card shop (perhaps only 6X/year) I’ll buy a box or two merely for the good of the order – help out the little schmuck. He’s overpriced but he has no alternative if he’s to stay in business, and I think it’ll be a stone cold drag when we no longer have the shops to go hang out at, talk shop, cruise singles. So I choose to prolong his misery for my own gratification. 2 – Blasters have their purpose: you can get a flavor of a line for $20 without commitment. Like picking up a girl in a bar. I saved over $100 by getting two blasters of Stadium Club in December (nearly two identical boxes, by the way – 90% of my SC cards are dupes; thanks a lot). So Cracker Jack is the bomb like they’re saying, Clubhouse Collection and Real One’s are fun to collect, and I’ve focused on three areas: retros like Heritage, prospects, and certain individuals like Maddux and Pujols.

  20. This post resonates with me as well…I spent way too much in 2008 trying to find what was out there, and only really liked a few products that I bought. This year I am limiting myself to those few that I really enjoyed putting together. I love building sets so of course one of those will be Topps Heritage…funnest set to collect IMO, and also I’ll probably go after A&G again. I am glad they are released at different times of the year…works out perfect!

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