True collectors

8 10 2015

OK, I’m officially done with 2003 now.  And I can always tell by the number of views that those season summaries and statistics aren’t the most popular of the posts I do :).  That’s OK, I like doing them, and it kind of gets me in the right mindset to open 2003 Topps, then read up on what happened in baseball in 2003.

But I’m done with those now, and I can write about something from the world of baseball cards.

There’s an article over at Beckett by Ryan Cracknell that caught my eye, and it seems like it caught a lot of hobbyists eyes at well.  Most Beckett articles that don’t give away something have 0-5 comments, and this one had double digits as of early this morning (including one from me).  Ryan is new at Beckett, he has written some interesting reads.  I don’t agree with everything in the article, but not in a bad way.  He seems like someone who wants the hobby to stay around and thrive as much as possible, so when I say I disagree I mean I “reflectively disagree” as opposed to “that guy’s a moron”.  It’s an interesting article, enough so to get me to write a post about the topic.  I thought I’d build a post around my comment on the article; anything in italics is something I posted in the comments on the article.

The article is called “Why the Term True Collector is dangerous to the hobby“.  And if you read the whole article, the theme is that at times the sports card hobby has a lot of negativity between/among its constituents.  I’ve seen that at card shows, for example when a dealer tells someone their cards are a bunch of junk as the reason he won’t buy them.  I’ve seen it on message boards, on twitter and even on card blogs.  The point is, condescension doesn’t help the hobby.

I’ll start out with my overall impression.  Because I like to start with the positive, and overall I get his point (but will point out some of the stuff I didn’t like in a few paragraphs).

I believe the heart of the article is in the right place, in that the sports card hobby would be more enjoyable for everyone if its different factions didn’t fight or condescend as much. So I 100% agree with Ryan’s point:
“The amount of bickering and talking down I see in the hobby is one of the saddest things about the hobby… and might one day lead me to not want to collect cards anymore, not the products.”  

I thought his comment was well said.  It’s something I’ve probably thought, but never been able to put into words that well.  And I think it’s important to keep in mind as someone who participates in this hobby.  The more positivity you can bring to the hobby, the more I think you’ll get out of it.  If someone who collects vintage Topps cards implied someone collects 2015 Bowman cards was not a “true collector” – they would be wrong. I agree with the article from this standpoint – not every product is made for everybody, and the Bowman collector is no more or less worthy of anything than the Topps collector.

At the end of the day, you should collect what you like, and do so in a way that makes you get enjoyment out of it.  If you can’t find a way to get enjoyment out of a hobby, you won’t be in the hobby for long, and I’m not sure why you’d start in the first place!

Now to the disagreement side.  In the article Ryan states that “a case breaker who shreds tons of product and ends up selling 99 percent of what they pull” is just as much a collector as anyone else.  I have to disagree with that aspect.

The applicable definition of a collector according to Merriam-Webster is:


OK, in fairness, need a bit more.  Here’s the verb collect:


So a collector is “a person who gathers an accumulation of objects”.

A case breaker who rips packs and sells everything is not a collector. To be a collector, you have to, you know, COLLECT. It means the thing was KEPT, that it was held on to. I’m not saying the case breaker doesn’t have a place in the hobby – but to call that person/company a collector is not accurate in fact or in spirit.  In the article’s example, the case breaker is a collector for that 1% he/she keeps.  But for the rest of it, he’s a distributor.  Not a collector.  Again, not saying that person isn’t an important part of the hobby.   Case breakers aren’t necessarily bad – the ones like Brent and Becca actually help a lot of hobbyists get their cards in an affordable and manageable way.  But the reason many more traditional collectors look down on the case breakers is because they often aren’t like Brent and Becca – they are often doing things against the long-term best interest of the hobby.  And as someone who is a traditional collector, I want the hobby to continue.

One final thought.  I do think part of the reason there’s more divisiveness in the hobby has to do with all the options out there.  Ryan points out how different it is from 25 years ago.  In 1987, it wouldn’t have been all that difficult to put together a master set of all the Topps cards, or Fleer cards, or Donruss cards, or all the Topps, Fleer and Donruss cards!  Even in 1992, this would have been pretty feasible. Side note – I think 1993 (Finest Refractors, Upper Deck SP) really was the turning points where this was no longer true.

More options means more choices, but it also leads to less common ground. If you were a collector in the mid-90s and went to a card shop or a show, you would likely find a bunch of people who were collecting the exact same thing as you.  Going after the 1993 Upper Deck set?  There might be 3 other people at a show doing the same thing.  Or had just finished theirs.  If you were a kid, you could go to each other’s house and trade your doubles for cards you need.  Common ground.  So while more choice and more options is great in theory, it inherently creates less camaraderie.

Anyways, that’s about all I’ve got.  One thing I like about the card blogosphere, it is a medium where card hobbyists can share their collection.  So even though I’m a Topps set collector, I can see this year’s Bowman cards, and appreciate them (or laugh at how silly the are 😉 ).

Thanks for reading!




2 responses

8 10 2015

I agree with your statement on the case breaker. I would not term them collectors. The only breakers that are collectors are the ones that rip a case, keeps a specific team and sells the rest. To me, they are collectors because they hope for the best in regard to the team they desire, and maybe look to recollect some of the money spent on what they don’t want.

But the breakers that sell 99% of the case – not a collector. Those are “investors”.

8 10 2015

Yeh good call. Should have thought of that word. Investor.

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