Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My name is Nick, and I collect baseball cards

Hello there.

My name is Nick, and I collect baseball cards.

If you read this blog at all, you probably know that already. But you're in a select class.

Outside of my family, not a lot of people know that I collect cards. In fact, I have a presentation due next week for one of my classes that involves talking about an important hobby or just a general interest of mine. (Yes, it's kind of a blow-off class.)

I was thinking about bringing in one of my Cubs binders and discussing that with the class. I've never done anything like that in the past. I'm certainly excited to have the opportunity to be graded on talking about my baseball cards for once.

But, if I'm being completely honest, I'm a tad nervous about it, too. I'm trying to figure out why that is. In the process, there's one question I have to ask myself, one that I'm sure we've all admittedly pondered at some point.

Am I ashamed about collecting baseball cards?

As you probably know, this hobby isn't a popular one amongst people my age. All the conversations I hear these days have to do with cars or the Kardashians or video games or something. And I can't understand a lick of it.

I still have yet to meet anyone my age who collects baseball cards. That's part of the reason why it's not exactly a hot conversation-starter when I'm introduced to new people.

Then again, even some of my most distant acquaintances know I love baseball. But not that I collect baseball cards.

Why is that?

I think some of it has to do with the stereotypes that face us.

Not to go all "after-school special" on you here, but stereotyping is obviously wrong. Yet there are a lot of people that have misconceptions about the collecting type.

The image of a middle-aged guy living in his mom's basement seems to be a common (and completely false, of course) stereotype amongst people outside the hobby.

Plus, any time a story about baseball cards hits the national news outlets, there's always some wiseass in the comments that says something along the lines of "Get a life, people."

I don't pay a second of attention to idiots like that, but I do think it's hard for people to imagine a 21-year-old college student like myself so engrossed with a hobby of collecting pieces of cardboard sometimes. Age-wise, I'm way in the minority here in the blogosphere.

I've noticed the looks on some people's faces when they see my room. It's kind of a hybrid between disbelief and contemplation. They just can't figure out why a person my age would spend a great deal of time and money seeking out cards of guys turning a double play or wearing throwback uniforms.

They don't get the commitment people like us have to this hobby.

Speaking of my room and all, it's not like I try and hide my collection or anything.

Frankly, the topic of baseball cards doesn't exactly come up too much in social circles these days. People don't ask about collecting, so I don't have much of an opportunity to talk about it.

Anyone who has come over to my house, however, has likely seen the man cave that is my room. I don't board it up when I have company around.

People are free to dig through my White Sox binders if they'd like. Perhaps I'd even point out my cards of new Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. And maybe I'd specifically lead them to this awesome cartoon rendering of "Big Frank".

But no one does.

And that's okay, because the few conversations I've tried to have about cards with non-close friends have been disasters.

The ones I've had usually start out with probably the most prevalent hobby amongst people my age.

Do you play video games?


Then what do you do for fun?

I collect baseball cards.

YOU collect baseball cards?

Yes. (And then the million-dollar question comes.)

What's your most valuable card?

I don't know. There's not really a way to place a value on most of my cards. (And then the two-million-dollar question comes.)

What's your rarest card?

Um, well...I have these printing plate things. There's only one of each in existence. Well, they're actually not that rare because card companies have really flooded the market with them and...

Oh, cool.

Can I copy your homework for the next class?

Another response I get is one that I'm sure a few of us have heard at some point.

I didn't even know they still made baseball cards.

Yes, people, they do. They're really doing wonderful things with them nowadays. 3-D stuff and everything.

This, I think, is the biggest boundary between people like ourselves and non-collectors. Nobody seems to know anything about them besides us. It's like we're on our own little island or something.

I mean, when's the last time you saw a TV commercial advertising baseball cards?

Companies like Topps don't seem to be too intent on roping new collectors into the hobby. They seem to be more focused on keeping the existing ones around. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But maybe, just maybe, if Topps were to really make a push at it, a little publicity might give them a whole new outlook on this hobby. Perhaps it'd even convince a few people my age to get into the whole collecting thing.

I'd certainly be on board with that.

Happily, though, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

If I may, I'd like to recount one of my favorite stories about my hobby.

When I was away from home during my short stint in on-campus college housing, me, my roommate, and one of our friends went to a local Target to kill some time.

We were fast approaching the card aisle. Now, my roommate knew I collected, but our other friend didn't.

Keep in mind that this was in late 2010. I wanted to see if that particular Target had anything of the newest product at the time, 2010 Topps Chrome. (Only later would I find out about the whole "pancaking" fiasco.)

Since I'm always a little hesitant to bring up baseball cards in conversation, I wasn't sure what to do. Eventually, I simply flat-out asked if they wouldn't mind stopping in the card aisle. That's when I got the common "YOU collect baseball cards?" response from our mutual friend. I prepared for the familiar barrage of questioning.

What my friend said next totally caught me off-guard.

That's neat! I used to collect action hero cards, so I know how that one goes. I don't mind stopping in the card aisle at all.

So we went to the card aisle. And it was great. As it happens, they didn't even have any 2010 Topps Chrome, but my friend's reaction was enough to make my night.

I guess if you surround yourself with the right people, the fact that you collect baseball cards won't matter in the slightest. And I'm proud to say that I have quite a few friends right now who are fine and encouraging about it.

So, no, I'm not ashamed to be a part of this hobby. Anyone who thinks I should be can shove it.

Next week, I'll be proud to get up in front of the class with that familiar lead-in.

My name is Nick, and I collect baseball cards.


P-town Tom said...

Great post. The way it started out though it almost sounded as though you were at an addiction meeting or something.

Hi, Nick!

When I got back into the hobby in 2010 I kept it on the down low because I was afraid of what people would think. Word has gotten out and everyone's been real positive about it.

night owl said...

I wrote about something along these lines a few years ago.

It still applies.

Mike said...

NEVER be ashamed of anything you enjoy,kid!....

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Nick, GREAT post, maybe consider talking also about your blog, as part of the Hobby that you have. Maybe the instructor will have a projector, so you can show your blog to the whole class. Your writing is why I have jumped head first fully back into this wonderful hobby of ours,(only being out of it for 8 years) collecting the cards "we" like not because of value or its rarity, but because we like them, we want them, and of course the chase of certain sets or players or teams. I am 47 years old and the majority of the people I trade with outside the blogosphere (online trade groups)are in their 60s. Your posts have such insight (perspective) into the cards that anyone reading, whether a collector of anything or not, or a writer, or whatever will appreciate the passion that speaks for itself. Good Luck next week. You don't need it. Maybe print out a few of your favorite posts to handout to the class. Remember, this is FUN, so have FUN with the speech. (Sounds like the "Effective Speaking" course I took in college. Sorry to ramble so long.

Daniel Wilson said...

Great post! I've felt the same way at times, but I've actually never had a bad experience when I've shared with people about my love of baseball and baseball cards. It can be a little awkward sometimes and they do always ask those two questions, but it's always ended well. In fact, I've gotten some really cool items from people just because they know I like baseball and baseball cards. For example, I had an employee that worked for me for a while whose cousin was married to an MLB umpire. I asked her to ask him some questions for me the next time she saw him and she ended up getting a signed game-used 2009 World Series ball for me.

Chuck's Used Cards said...


Well said. One of the things that strikes me, is that I seldom find younger card collector whi don't exhibit some higher intellegence. [yes, there may be some]. Card collectors are organizers, identifyers and mostly persons who appreciate history.

No matter, you have my respect and best wishes.

petethan said...

None of my close friends, as a kid or since, collects baseball cards. I think that's one of the reasons this blog thing is so important to many of us, and why it's so much fun. It's great to finally have people to communicate with who care about the crazy little things just as much. Good luck with your presentation. Hope you let us know how it goes.

Swing And A Pop-up said...

Good luck with your presentation. I don't think I ever brought up my card collecting in any of my college classes, but I did open a box of 91 Upper Deck the first night I was there.
But anybody that came over to my apartment knew, because I always had cards out somewhere.
Besides, I'm sure you are going to be as surprised about someone elses hobby as they might be of yours.

Alex Markle said...

Great post Nick!

I am also a young card collector, only 20 years young. I have only been seriously collecting for about a year, but I used to buy cards as a kid. There are very few people to talk to when it comes to cards, but blogging definitely helps that. I talked my best friend into buying a pack of cards and now he is hooked on the hobby as well.

Good luck on your presentation!

Ana Lu said... my case people usually ask 'What is baseball'.. I rest my case.

But what truly counts in the end is that we enjoy what we do.

Mark Hoyle said...

Great post Nck, I would incorporate your blog posts into your presentation somehow.

Jinxo56 said...

There is never shame in doing something that you enjoy. I tell people that I not only collect baseball cards but comic books too. I am 57. My standard tag line is I haven't grown up yet and I'm too old to do it now.

DaddyMike said...

You have passion in this hobby and that will rush out when you do your presentation. I just did a presentation on Nintendo's business strategy in a Leadership class at my job. I'm talking in front of the President and Vice President of my company among others. It was my best presentation all year- why? It was all passion. You will be amazed and will probably find a few collectors in your class. Keep up the great blog, it brought back my card collecting passion that I had back in the 80s and 90s.

(...Joe) said...

It's no different than collecting stamps or coins and it's a hell of alot more productive than investing all my time and money into tricking out a used '04 Civic that will end up in a junk yard in a couple years anyways. Now THAT I've never understood...

Fuji said...

Great post. Outside of card shop/card show acquaintances, there are only two people I know who collect cards. As for the non-collectors in my life, most of the people close to me know I collect... although sometimes I get the feeling that some of them think it's weird that a 41 year old guy collects pieces of cardboard. Not too concerned though... collecting cards is one of my sources of entertainment and it's not going to change anytime soon.