Thursday, October 18, 2012

Living with a budget

A couple days ago, I was ready to stand up and applaud for Topps.

That's because I'd read that the Heritage High Number series was making a comeback.

High Numbers was one of Topps' greatest recent innovations, in my view. As much as set collectors might hate them, high numbers are a vital part of the overall awesomeness of vintage.

It's only appropriate that Heritage would seek to replicate them through a sort of "bonus" Update set, if you will.

In today's extremely limited Jeter and Pujols-filled checklists, High Numbers was there to provide the collector with a few new names that other sets may have missed.

With a parallel-filled set like Topps Update, I could probably own about seven or eight different variations of Ryan Theriot's base card if I really set my mind and budget to do so.

One of the great things about High Numbers is that much of the base set started and ended with the base card. While different Chrome parallels were dispersed throughout the checklist, most base cards stood alone.

To a lot of collectors, this may just look like an ordinary Glendon Rusch card. (He's in my binders, although I couldn't tell you exactly why.)

What makes it neat to me is that it's his only card as a Colorado Rockie. No parallels numbered to 55 copies, no sepia-toned variations, no printing plates, nothing.

That's a pretty special thing when you stop and think about it.

Because of all that, I was ecstatic when I heard about its dramatic comeback, although the fact that it would only be available in set form disappointed me a bit.

Still, for a 100-card set, I figured the price would've been at around twenty, maybe thirty bucks. I probably would've gone up to $40 if I had to.

This morning, I woke up to find a post on the topic, written by none other than Mr. Night Owl.

That's when I first saw how much the set was.

A hundred bucks. Not even close to my estimate. As I mentioned in the comments of Night Owl's post, I guess I should've known better than to get my hopes up like that.

Safe to say, I won't be purchasing any. It's not worth a hundred bucks to me.

Still, if this were a few years ago, things might've been different.

It's always interesting to look back and see how I've "matured" as a collector.

One of the major ways I've changed is through my budget.

During much of my pre-college collecting days, I didn't have anything resembling a "plan" when it came to spending money on cardboard.

Most of the time, I have a little extra cash set to the side, just in case I happen to really, really need it for something.

I haven't had to touch that money in years. (It helps that I stopped playing video games a few years ago as well. Those can eat up a ton of cash.)

If this were 2009, I probably would've dipped into it to buy the hundred-dollar Heritage High Numbers series, even if it wasn't necessarily something I absolutely had to have.

Nowadays, it's a fairly big event for me to fall victim to an "impulse buy". It doesn't happen all that often anymore. If it does, it's usually only a buck here or there, nothing resembling a hundred-dollar set.

A few years ago, it was pretty much commonplace. I'd make about a dozen "impulse buys" a month.

While I absolutely love this Ed Delahanty card, it's a good representation of how not to go about collecting on a budget.

I don't blame myself for wanting it. I blame myself for not being smart about it.

You see, this was one of the last single cards I bought off Ebay, which means that I paid the obnoxious three-dollar shipping charge that came along with it. The final price for the Delahanty totaled at around five bucks.

Had I held out a bit longer, I'm sure I could've found a copy somewhere for about half that, if not less.

In terms of my collecting habits, I guess I was a bit of a "reckless teen".

For a lot of us, our collecting budget goes beyond the purchasing of packs and cards.

Shipping costs need to be factored in as well.

During my seven-year stint on a couple different trading forums, I racked up about three thousand trades.

You could quantify a lot of those as "impulse trades". For about half of them, I traded simply for trading's sake.

When I initially found the world of online trading, I think the base rate for a package was around $1.30. At the time, I thought that was excessive. These days, it costs at least $1.95 to mail something, if not more.

Yet through all the postage increases, I stuck with my usual array of trades.

Thankfully, I've rethought my trading impulses as of late.

On the fairly rare event that I do still trade on the forums, I make sure it's for something I really want.

Back in the day, I spent the required postage needed to obtain this copper refractor of Ronnie Belliard, even though I've never full-on collected his cards.

I like it and everything, but I doubt I'd do the same today.

It's just not worth it, especially while trying to maintain a budget.

Looking back, my sudden need to develop a budget seemed to come out of nowhere.

I could only come up with one reasonable explanation.

Those glorious dime boxes.

I can't help but think that they played the biggest role in controlling my spending habits. Just another reason to love them so much, I guess.

As I've previously mentioned, much of my budget was devoted towards jersey and autograph cards for a while. Those don't exactly come cheap. (Compared to dime boxes, anyways.)

If I saw a box of two-dollar jersey cards, I'd rifle through them and pick out ten or twenty at a time. Safe to say, it did a number on what little spending cash I already had, and I didn't even get all that much to show for it.

If I were to pick out ten or twenty dime cards, it wouldn't even make a dent.

Plus, dime cards are just flat out better than those two-dollar pieces of fabric in most cases. Just take a look at that awesome Satchel Paige card for proof, a former dime box cast-off. (How often do you see a guy's last name on the front of his jersey?)

Given their bargain-basement price, dime boxes have gone a tremendously long ways in helping shrink my budget without any complications.

Less money, better cards.

It's the best of both worlds.

Still, I'd be lying if I said that I structure my entire collection around a budget.

I can't help but "live a little" sometimes. As a collector, it's in my nature.

As far as card shows go, you can't stop me. You can only hope to contain me.

When card show day comes, I always tell myself that I'm not going to spend over a certain amount. I've never managed to keep that promise.

Luckily, I've got a family who understands that as well. Both of my parents have always been there to loan me a little extra spending cash when it comes to shows. (Needless to say, they both get a huge amount of thanks for being so gracious towards my hobby.)

Otherwise, I would've run out of money halfway through the last few.

It's hard to stop myself from digging through dime box after dime box. It's even harder to stop myself from purchasing bargain vintage, especially when a table has a '64 Juan Marichal in a three-for-a-dollar box.

Can you blame me?

I will always be weak when it comes to the power of card shows. It's something I realized a long, long time ago.

I doubt that will ever change.

So, Topps, you were saying something about an overpriced High Numbers set?

Thanks, but I think I'll pass.

I'm on a budget.


TTG said...

I just got rid of a copy of that Rusch card on Listia today. Small world.

beefman said...

Great card of Rusch - so there's only one issue of him in a Rockies Uni? No wonder I don't have one! Time to search for a copy...


Nick J

P-town Tom said...

Good post. I think budgets are the worst part of becoming an adult. I could always bum a few extra dollars from my parents when something cool popped up, but now all that responsibility falls on me. Bleck.

Loved this line also: "As far as card shows go, you can't stop me. You can only hope to contain me."