Last night, I revealed the first part of my attempt to crown "the greatest thing in the hobby".
It's one of the few positive results of Beckett's entry into the world of baseball cards, as I found it in one of their magazines from a few years ago. After revealing the 32 original individual aspects of the hobby (with a few changes of my own where needed), I narrowed the field down to 16.
Tonight, I will go through the "Sweet 16", "Elite Eight", "Final Four", to eventually advance to a "championship", which will finally crown a winner.
Here is my Sweet 16, in case you missed last night's post:
#2 "Trading" vs. #3 "Pulling Key Card of Favorite Player/Team"
#6 "Legible Autos" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos"
#10 "Bargain Bins" vs. #11 "Your Hobby Room"
#13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend" vs. #16 "The National"
#2 "Mail Days" vs. #4 "Buying Cards Online"
#6 "Bustin' Wax" vs. #7 "Rookie Cards"
#9 "Vintage" vs. #12 "In-Person Autos"
#14 "Your Local Card Dealer/Shop" vs. #15 "Shows"
It gets a lot harder from here on out. Some of the ones from last night were easy choices.
I hope no one picked graded cards over an understanding wife/girlfriend (from yesterday's "matchup").
At the end of this post, I will have crowned "the greatest thing in the hobby". Here we go!
To kick off the Sweet 16, we've got #2 "Trading" vs. #3 "Pulling Key Card of Favorite Player/Team".
It's an easy choice from my perspective.
About a month after I started this blog, I put out a plea for a new player collection I was starting of Ryan Dempster.
I started out with five Dempster cards. Thanks to trading (especially with members of the blogosphere), I'm up to 58 different Dempster issues as we speak.
While pulling a card of a guy or team you like is exciting, it's a lot less efficient. I think I've pulled exactly one Dempster card from a pack since I decided to start collecting him.
Trading moves on to the "Elite Eight".
Next, we have #6 "Legible Autos" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos".
Legible autos only moved on because it faced "pack wars" in the first round. I've never participated in a pack war, so non-chickenscratch autos won by default.
While my fascination with autos is far less than what it used to be, I still love on-card signatures. Imagine this fantastic Vida Blue auto with one of those unsightly stickers on it. (It's one of the few auto/game used cards with an awesome action shot as well.)
I'll take on-card autos in this matchup.
Next up is a tough one. #10 "Bargain Bins" vs. #11 "Your Hobby Room".
If my hobby room was matched up with almost anything else in this region, it would've prevailed.
But I can't eliminate the bargain bins. They're just too much of a part of me. Cards of John Kruk when he was still under 200 pounds are impossible to turn down.
Bargain bins move on.
For the final matchup in the first region, we have #13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend" vs. #16 "The National".
When I first did this bracket about four or five years ago, I picked the National.
Not any more.
I don't know that it would be much fun having a wife or girlfriend who doesn't at least tolerate this hobby that all of us are a part of. I'm still looking for one.
The National is easily the best card show I've ever attended, but a wife or girlfriend that understands the excitement of a show like that would be even better.
The understanding wife or girlfriend advances to the "Sweet 16".
Now on to the first matchup of the second region, #2 "Mail Days" vs. #4 "Buying Cards Online".
These are a bit similar, but I give the edge to mail days. Completing a trade with another fellow hobbyist is a much better feeling than buying a card off a random seller online, at least in my view.
One of my "geeky" pleasures is going downstairs to check the mail each day, even if I'm not really expecting anything. The look on Eric Byrnes's face is much like my look of anticipation once I open the mail box.
For that reason, mail days advance.
Next, we've got #6 "Bustin' Wax" vs. #7 "Rookie Cards".
Although it's not a regular occurrence in my baseball card life, "bustin' wax" is one of my favorite things about the hobby.
As I've mentioned before, it's become a ritual of mine to buy a box of Topps Update each year. The day it finally arrives in the mail one of my favorites as a collector.
I love rookie cards, but they can't compare with tearing the seal off a brand-new box of baseball cards.
"Bustin' wax" moves on.
Next up is the easiest choice of the Sweet 16, #9 "Vintage" vs. #12 "In-Person Autos".
IP autos are great, but they don't even come close to the awesomeness of a 53 year-old piece of cardboard.
Vintage advances without much of a fight.
Now for the final matchup of the Sweet 16, #14 "Your Local Card Dealer/Shop" vs. #15 "Shows".
I love brick-and-mortar card shops, but shows have a special aura. Moving from table to table in search of that next big "gem" is one of the best things about baseball cards. The moment when you finally find it, like the above card of "The Duke", is one worthy of celebration.
Plus, even with the best shops, you kind of know what to expect after a while. The opposite is true with card shows.
While I hate to see card shops eliminated, I have to give shows the edge here.
So before we start with the next round, here's my "Elite Eight":
#2 "Trading" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos"
#10 "Bargain Boxes" vs. #13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend"
#2 "Mail Days" vs. #6 "Bustin' Wax"
#9 "Vintage" vs. #15 "Shows"
The first matchup of the Elite Eight is #2 "Trading" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos".
I love on-card autos, but they faced a couple weak contestants in the first two rounds (1-of-1's and legible autos).
My collection would be nowhere near what it is today without the invention of online trading, within the blogosphere. My 2012 Topps needs were knocked out quicker than ever before, thanks in large part to my fellow bloggers.
Trading easily moves on to the "Final Four".
Next, we have #10 "Bargain Boxes" vs. #13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend".
This is probably the toughest matchup so far.
On the one hand, an understanding wife or girlfriend would be awesome. A woman that understands the consistent purchasing of what is just basically pieces of cardboard (if you're a fan of simplicity) is something to be treasured.
On the other hand, I've loved the dime boxes ever since I first entered the hobby as a kid. Something has always drawn me to them. The stories behind each card make them all special in their own way.
Graig Nettles as a Minnesota Twin? "It's got to be a result of those dime boxes", you may think.
I've got to give the slight nod to bargain bins in this situation. It might change as I get older, but bargain bins have been with me since the beginning, pretty much.
Not that I don't want an understanding wife or girlfriend. Because I really do.
The next matchup is #2 "Mail Days" vs. #6 "Bustin' Wax".
I love ripping open a box, but that's a feeling that only comes around a couple times a year.
I'd say I receive baseball card-related mail about 100 times a year, perhaps more. And whether it's a small envelope or a packed bubble mailer, it elicits the same response once I see it poking out of the mailbox. It's a feeling similar to the Brad Lidge is showing on that card. (Maybe not that intense.)
Mail days once again advance.
The final matchup of the "Elite Eight" is #9 "Vintage" vs. #15 "Shows".
If vintage was paired with almost any other contestant in this bracket, it would easily move on to the Final Four.
I own quite a few vintage cards, a whole lot more than I could have ever dreamed of. I owe about 95 percent of those to card shows. I don't trade for a ton of vintage, and almost all you see at card shops, flea markets, garage sales, etc. are quite overpriced.
Card shows are the one place where I can instantly add 600 new cards to my collection within a few hours, with stuff from about every era imaginable. Even cards of Ozzie Guillen as a Devil Ray.
While it pains me to say it, vintage has been eliminated.
Shows advance to the Final Four, which looks as follows:
#2 "Trading" vs. #10 "Bargain Bins"
#2 "Mail Days" vs. #15 "Shows"
This is going to be tough.
For the first spot in the championship matchup, we have #2 "Trading" vs. #10 "Bargain Bins".
Tough, tough, tough.
I've added so much to my collection via both means, and I don't know that I'd still even have a collection to admire without either of them.
But I have to give the nod to bargain bins. They're just so great.
Each one holds a surprise. I may not find hundreds and hundreds of cards from each one, but they're all special in their own way.
I only came away with ten cards from a dime box I dug through a couple years ago. But one of those cards was the above '72 Topps Denny McLain, a great addition and quite possibly my favorite card from the 1972 set. It's Denny McLain, and it might well be a night card. Plus, that's an airbrushed Senators hat he's wearing.
Bargain bins occupy the first spot in the championship.
For the second spot in the championship, it's #2 "Mail Days" vs. #15 "Shows".
Again, I love mail days. It's always a pleasant surprise to see a brand new bubble mailer, waiting to be opened.
But that feeling doesn't even compare to the one I get when I step foot into a card show. It's a feeling of excitement, happiness, anticipation, and mystery, all in one.
Perhaps I'll find that card that I've always wanted. Perhaps I'll find that card to complete my Bobby Bonds "team set". One of my personal goals of a collector getting at least one card of certain player on every team he suited up for. Bonds played for eight teams during the course of his career, and until last year, I had a card of him on every single one except the hometown White Sox. (I'd like to see a Matt Stairs "set" one day.)
But then, in a fifty-cent bin of all places, I finally found it. The coveted card I needed to complete the Bonds "set".
It wouldn't have been possible without the good ol' card show.
And so we have the championship matchup. #10 "Bargain Bins" vs. #15 "Shows".
They both fought their way here, but only one can emerge victorious.
Now, to crown "The Greatest Thing in the Hobby"...
Without shows, there wouldn't be many bargain bins.
I've found some great cards from various discount boxes from other means before, but even all of those combined wouldn't even touch the staggering amount of greatness I've found from card show bargain bins.
I said that a flea market is like walking through aisles of American history.
Well, a card show is like walking through my favorite part of history.
At some shows, you'll find everything from tobacco issues to last week's new releases. It's all there. There's names from Cap Anson to Carlos Ruiz. Teams from the Boston Red Stockings to the Washington Nationals.
Every part of baseball history is covered. And if you're lucky, you can take some of it home with you. When you buy a baseball card, you're not just getting a piece of cardboard.
You're getting a piece of history.
And there's no better place to find these "pieces of history" than at a card show.
They are indeed "The Greatest Thing in the Hobby" to me.
But that asks the question that was really the purpose of this whole concept, a chance to see just how similar or different we all are as collectors.
Are they yours?