Today marks the end of my first full year of blogging.
It's been fun, to say the least.
Starting this blog is part of what made 2012 such an utterly fantastic year for me. Seeing as how my 2011 was less than ideal, it couldn't have come at a better time.
And I still can't believe that I've been at this thing for over a whole year now. It really doesn't seem like it's been that long at all.
Although I've said it many times in the past, it deserves another mention.
This has been the most revolutionary year of my card collecting life.
No doubt about it.
Way back in March, I wrote a post entitled "What I've Learned". As the title implied, I filled the post with the lessons I'd learned from the blogosphere.
But that post came just three months into my blogging "career".
After over a year in this thing, I've come to learn a whole lot more.
Seeing as how my blogroll currently consists of a whopping 170 different blogs, a number of different bloggers have helped play a role in teaching me these much-needed "lessons".
I know dozens of you out there helped contribute to this first one.
Thanks to the blogosphere, I've learned to have a deeper appreciation for my vast vintage collection.
Although I have some good ones, most of my best card-related stories involve a Target or a giant convention hall filled with thousands of people.
But none of them can compare to the number of heartwarming stories I've heard of collecting in the past generations.
The tales some of you have behind some of your most prized possessions are nothing short of incredible.
Because of that, I can't help but wonder about the stories behind my '58 Topps Rocky Colavito. Or my '60 Topps Harmon Killebrew.
Who knows where they've been?
That question in itself makes any piece of vintage infinitely special.
As far as trading goes, I've learned one very important lesson.
Never, ever think you've got it all figured out.
Because sooner or later, a blogger is going to send something that'll completely sweep you off your feet.
William over at "Foul Bunt" has added not one, but two new vintage Hoyts to my collection over the past year.
Those, coupled with all the other tremendous pieces I've received from fellow bloggers, have taught me to cherish each and every blogosphere trade package.
You just never know what might come next.
Before I joined the blogosphere, I wasn't very confident in the strength of this hobby.
Unfortunately, I can pretty much trace that back to my trading forum days.
I just wasn't altogether sure how long companies would continue to produce cards if everyone was collecting the same five guys.
I was basically a skeptic.
Again, the blogosphere helped to change that.
Although not everyone liked Archives or Heritage or whatever else came on the market this year, it was refreshing to actually see some analysis out of each product outside of simply want lists or trade lists.
I enjoyed reading about what everyone liked or didn't like about A&G or Flagship.
It made me realize that perhaps people really do care about these innocent little pieces of cardboard, enough for this hobby to survive over the long haul.
Although collecting might sometimes be generalized as a "dying" hobby, I look at it as anything but these days.
I'm confident that we'll see the Heritage designs carry on well into the '70s.
Even as far as 2024.
That's when we'll get to see the '75 Topps design featured, after all.
Before I joined the blogosphere, I wasn't exactly open to change.
As far as my collection goes, at least.
Yes, I still had my hundreds of different player collections, but they'd been the same couple hundred for a few years at that point.
I just couldn't bring myself to "induct" a new player into my binders.
On top of that, I didn't have a place for simply "cool" pieces of cardboard.
If I came across a neat card of someone who wasn't in my binders, my pre-blogger self simply put it back in the box. If the guy wasn't in my binders, it was of no use to me.
I think that's part of what life on a trading forum does to you.
There's not a whole lot of variety.
I was led to believe that 99 percent of all collectors in existence hoarded cards of Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, or Alex Rodriguez.
From there, I figured that if they weren't going to change, why should I?
The blogosphere put an end to that thought process.
The amount of different collecting focuses I've seen during my time here has simply been unbelievable.
As with the Dodgers and Blue Jays blogs out there, I've witnessed a number of different team collectors.
As with Hideo Nomo and Tony Gwynn, the blogosphere is home to many different player collections.
And whether it's night card or serial numbered "frankensets", the many different "miscellaneous" collections out there have continually kept me interested in what else is to come on a day-to-day basis around here.
Because of that, the blogosphere has been an inspiration to me.
My readings over the past year have shown me that change can indeed be a good thing.
I've "inducted" over a dozen new players into my binders during my time as a blogger.
And, if the above Augie Ojeda is any indication, I'm starting to buy cards that are simply "cool".
Even though he's not in my binders, I couldn't help but pluck that one from that "Hilton show" dime box from a few weeks back. I'm not sure I'd ever seen quite a photo angle like that on a baseball card before.
It's almost like we're seeing the play develop from the dugout.
That alone made it worth a spot in my collection.
After all, what fun is collecting without a little change every now and then?
But the lessons of the blogosphere go further than which cards I decide to welcome into my binders.
It carries over to the already existing pieces of my collection as well.
The blogosphere has taught me to take a deeper look at the hobby as a whole.
The first time this particular lesson really hit me came from everyone's favorite blogger, none other than Mr. Night Owl.
I remember going back through some of his older posts and coming across the amazing tale of Manny Ramirez and the "disappearing umpire".
I couldn't believe it. I'd had that Stadium Club card in my collection for a couple of years, yet I'd somehow never noticed the lack of an umpire on the front of it. (Much less the rest of the photoshopped backdrop.)
It all seemed so obvious. Yet, I probably would've gone the rest of my card collecting life without noting the glaring omission.
Ever since then, I've made dozens of new little "discoveries" with my own collection. Whether it's simply an odd camera angle or a unnaturally high uniform number, I've loved every minute of it.
And I could never possibly learn everything there is to know about my collection. There's always something new, something waiting to be "discovered".
That's the best part.
In the end, though, the most important lesson I've learned from the blogosphere extends further than baseball cards.
As I've trucked further and further along with my writings, something special has begun to happen.
I've started to realize some of the major aspects of being a part of a community.
It's been amazing to read the encouragement I've gotten during my time as a blogger.
Whether it's from a quick "look at this card!" type of post or a long-winded, more in-depth write-up, I've appreciated the amount of readership and each and every single one of the comments I've received over the past year.
It really means a lot.
On top of that, I've learned how to "give back" to the community. I've done my best to return the favor with comments lately.
It's the least I can do for the great feedback I've received from all of you.
Unlike the simple "Thanks for the trade!" slips I put into my trade packages during my time on the forums, I try to include more personal and appreciative notes in my mailers to fellow bloggers.
They can certainly go a long ways.
Plus, I try to add in a couple "extras" with every trade I make these days.
I, like everyone else, have a great deal of "outcast" cards that don't really serve a purpose in my household.
I can't think of a better use for them than to send them to a better home. A home where they'll hopefully help put a smile on another collector's face.
Here in the blogosphere, we support each other.
We encourage each other.
We inspire each other.
It has the true makings of a community.
And that's a special thing.
I am truly thankful for everything I've discussed in this post.
And every post I've written throughout the course of this past year.
Needless to say, I couldn't have done it without all the great folks out there who have helped teach me these important lessons in cardboard.
And some beyond cardboard, for that matter.
I tip my cap to you, fellow readers and bloggers.
Have a safe and happy new year!
I'll see you in 2013.