Wednesday, November 7, 2012
It's not an easy gig
To a lot of people, collecting baseball cards probably doesn't seem too difficult.
We buy cards. Maybe we even sell cards. We buy more cards. We throw them into a binder or box. Repeat.
Not a whole lot of work at all.
As "collectors", we know how tough it can be to stick with and maintain this hobby of ours.
It's not an easy gig, by any means.
When I go through the routine of "collecting", I tend to forget just how much effort I put into these simple pieces of cardboard.
Occasionally, I'll take a step back and analyze the tremendous lengths I go to for this hobby.
It's an eye-opener, I'll tell you that.
One of the few tangible ways I can track the "effort" I've put into my collection is through my spending habits.
While I've never specifically tallied up the amount of money I've spent on cardboard in a given week, month, or year, I'm sure it's a nice chunk of change, even for a dime box "junkie" such as myself.
Packs and blasters from Target. New pages or binders. The occasional flea market excursion. Shipping costs for us online traders.
And card shows.
Ah, yes, card shows.
I'll be hitting a show next Saturday. In preparation for it, I've been scraping together anything I can during the last month or so.
A couple bucks here. A couple bucks there. Every little bit helps.
While dime cards are about as cheap as they come, even those can add up after a while. A single, legendary dime box knocked out a third of my budget the last time I attended this particular show.
For a while, I was steadfast on not spending more than about a buck on any single card at a show. Only on rare occasions would I do so.
Looking back, I'll be the first to admit what a crazy train of thought that was.
Sometimes you have to "treat" yourself.
Dropping five bucks on a '55 Bowman Richie Ashburn was a terrific buy, even if it wasn't one I could've bout with loose change.
A seven-dollar "Boog" Powell rookie card may have been an even greater steal.
Would I like to "treat" myself more?
I just don't have the budget for it, though.
These things add up.
If you don't have somewhere to put your collection, you're pretty much screwed.
Luckily, I've always had an allotted amount of space to store and display my collection. I've heard horror stories from those who haven't, though.
Recently, I've been pretty good about not keeping miscellaneous cards scattered on my desk or wherever.
That's because the rest of my collection already takes up enough space.
As I've mentioned before, the only downside to binders is that they can take up quite a bit of real estate. Storing my 621 different Vladimir Guerrero cards hasn't been an easy project over the years.
The more cards I get, the more room I need. I went from having five binders to over fifty in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
Someday, I'll be on the lookout for my own place to live.
Which means I'll have to move all those binders and baseball cards.
I don't even want to think about that.
In life, we sometimes tend to over-amplify the "little" things.
Things that aren't all that important in the big picture.
It's no different with baseball cards. Believe it or not, collectors have those "little" aggravations, just like everyone else.
I know I have quite a few.
Take this Endy Chavez card, for instance.
His 2007 Topps copper parallel was limited to just 56 copies, and I'm lucky enough to own one. It's one of the more "rare" cards in my collection.
Yet, all this time, the base version of this particular issue has eluded me. I have Chavez's copper, gold, and red back parallels in my binder, but not the base card.
To date, it has never turned up anywhere. For the life of me, I cannot find a single, solitary copy. Every time I look through my Mets binder, that gaping hole stares up at me. Parallels...but no base card.
Why are the collecting gods doing this to me?
Am I making too much of it?
As a collector, it comes with the territory.
Every collector needs to sort their "finds" in one way or another.
Otherwise, you'd be drawing a fine line between "collector" and "hoarder".
In order to not classify myself in the "hoarder" category, I've devoted quite a bit of effort to organizing and sorting my collection. Every new card I get needs to be filed under the appropriate section.
This Willie Mays card can be found inside my second of two Giants binders. Since I own more cards of "Say Hey" than any other Giants outfielder, he leads off the "outfielders" portion of the franchise.
As you might guess, that can sometimes take quite a bit of time.
Which brings us to possibly the biggest roadblock in the life of a collector.
Non-collectors have no idea how much time we put into this hobby.
It's not something you can measure in dollars and cents.
On a normal day, I probably put about an hour-and-a-half into my collection.
I usually spend about a half-hour a day just browsing or analyzing my baseball cards. That increases if I happen to receive a couple packages in the mail, with all the sorting and everything.
Plus, it takes me about an hour to write these longer posts for the blog.
I end up working a lot of "overtime" on card show days.
My average card show length is about three or four hours. Dime boxes require that extra chunk of time, after all.
Once I get home, I have to sort, document, and file my purchases. That usually takes a few hours in itself.
As you might guess, I try to keep "card show days" free on my calendar.
I wouldn't have time to do anything else.
Between everything I've mentioned in this post, I'm sure the non-collectors would have a few questions.
I probably know what the most common one would be, though.
"Is collecting really worth it? All that time, money, and general effort?"
My answer is quite simple.
Any collector will tell you the same.
Sure, there are those big "white whales" that most of us have. Our most coveted pieces. I've been lucky enough to "spear" a couple of those over the years, like my '71 Thurman Munson.
Let's face it, though.
"White whales" in this hobby are fairly rare.
So, what makes it all worth it?
Where's the payoff?
It's the little things.
While my lack of a 2007 Topps Endy Chavez base card may be a bit aggravating, I've had more than my share of "little victories" to make me forget about the negatives.
Maybe it's just finding a generally great card that had previously flown under my radar. Maybe it's pulling a base card of one of my favorite players from a two-dollar pack of cards.
Or maybe it's finding a cheap '73 Topps Reggie Jackson amongst a rubble of overpriced vintage and overproduction era cardboard. (For what it's worth, I paid a dollar-fifty for it.)
That's the payoff.
Sure, I've devoted a nice chunk of money and time to collecting baseball cards. All longtime collectors have.
Yet, while it might not be all that easy, I've never regretted my decision to become a permanent member of this hobby.
It's been worth every second.