Obviously, today's hobby isn't what it was thirty years ago.
Like nearly everything else in the world, collecting has been subject to a vast amount of changes over the past few decades.
Now, whether those changes have affected the hobby for better or worse is your own opinion. I'm probably not the best source for comparison, as I wasn't around in 1983.
Still, despite the understandable complaints I keep hearing about the "Topps monopoly", I've always found today's hobby to be an enjoyable one. There's still plenty for me to appreciate these days, no doubt about it.
That's not to say I don't have gripes with today's collecting universe. Because I do. Quite a few, actually.
For now, though, I'll focus on probably my most pressing concern these days, which is the watered-down excitement of past greats of the game.
It's what I like to call the "recycling phenomenon".
Of course, I probably don't have to tell you about that. You've probably noticed names like Mantle, Ruth, and Mays repeatedly popping up in today's checklists. Perhaps you're even downright sick of them by now.
Since I'm a Hall of Fame collector, I'm not sure if I could ever totally tire of seeing greats in current sets. But, I'll admit, there is a major problem on the horizon.
So, just how bad is it?
As of right now, companies seem to be running out of photos to use.
Now, whether that's due to a shortage or just plain laziness is something I'll try and answer in this post.
In the case of Bill Mazeroski, though, I'll give card companies a pass.
While I'm sure thousands of "Maz" photos were taken during his playing career, ones chronicling his famous game-winning homer in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series pop up on a substantial chunk of his cardboard.
True, Mazeroski was a perennial Gold Glove winner during his hallowed career. And, yes, he is enshrined in Cooperstown.
But, to most fans (including myself), he'll forever be known for that famous dinger.
For that reason, I don't have much of a problem with companies recycling these photos over and over again.
Besides, they make for some of the best celebration shots in existence, if you ask me.
While laziness probably does play into it, I generally give card companies a pass for repeatedly recycling the same Honus Wagner photos as well.
Then again, that pretty much goes for any stars of the dead-ball era.
Photography was still a fairly primitive form of media during the turn of the century. Compared to later greats, there simply aren't as many photos of guys like Wagner, Cobb, and "Wahoo" Sam Crawford around these days.
Although using the same photo for nine different cards is a bit extreme, I can't get too upset over this batch of Wagner cardboard.
Card companies don't really have much of a choice when it comes to the dead-ball era.
This, however, is just madness.
Although he's probably one of the lesser-known inductees, Enos "Country" Slaughter is indeed a Hall of Famer.
Unlike "The Flying Dutchman", photography was widely used during Slaughter's playing career. For many fans, it was the dominating aspect of the game.
And, although his "Mad Dash" in the 1946 World Series was his defining moment in the sun, he's known for a lot more than that single play.
Given all that, why do card companies continue to use this same shot of "Country" over and over again?
It's a neat photo, no doubt. But, to me, the fact that it pops up as often as it does is a sign of pure laziness.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
My main man Hoyt Wilhelm has fallen victim to "recycling" quite often in recent years.
Given that he played in the bigs from 1952 to '72, card companies have 21 years' worth of photos at their disposal.
Yet, over and over again, they keep going back to this rather unspectacular shot of the Hoyt-ster in Giants garb.
It's really a shame.
Perhaps the most cited subject of the "recycling phenomenon" is none other than Jackie Robinson.
He's in almost literally every single set released these days.
Believe me, Topps, I get that you want to honor the guy's legacy. I get it. A player as inspiring as him certainly deserves recognition in the hobby.
But, although it pains me to say it, I think it's time to cool it with the Jackie Robinson cards. At least for a little while.
Especially if you're just going to keep on recycling this photo. It looked absolutely perfect in its first appearance on Robinson's 1950 Bowman issue. (Featured on the reprint in the center.)
Now, though, such a previously awesome shot simply feels like old hat. It's gotten to the point where I'm not all that excited to pull a Robinson card anymore.
IT SUCKS. It really does. I certainly don't want to feel that way. Jackie Robinson is easily one of my favorite figures from baseball history, without a doubt.
But all this "recycling" has really watered things down for me.
Still, I'm starting to see a faint glimmer of optimism.
For all the Gyspy Queen bashing I've done thus far, I was indeed excited upon my initial review of the brand's 2013 checklist.
I was happy to find names like Vida Blue, Bill Buckner, and Jim Abbott scattered amongst the base set. Guys like Buckner and Blue certainly deserve to be recognized in the hobby, but haven't due to that annoying "recycling" thing.
Maybe there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe "recycling" fad is actually coming to a close.
I certainly hope so.