Friday, December 12, 2014

Responding to an Anonymous Commenter: "The Need to Scale Back."

Okay, so I haven't posted since Thanksgiving. And there has been so much happening in MLB that is going to rock the Hobby in 2015 with the Winter Meetings over.

But when I was clearing out some emails the other day, I caught this one that really made me want to come back and respond. I normally don't respond in comments (which is a fault of mine because if I did, then great conversations would be had...but I digress), but this one made me think. After a couple of days to gather my thoughts, here goes.

An anonymous commenter sent this comment to me on the blog:

"You'll have to write another post explaining the need to 'scale back'! After having some cards when I was a kid, I didn't really start collecting card seriously until I was 44, well older than anyone playing the game. Players half my age continue to do impressively heroic things on the ballfield, it doesn't bother me than they are young.

"Another point is you won't believe how much money you will have when the kids are grown and on their own - not to mention all the extra free time!"

If you have read the blog lately, I have started to think about my place in the Hobby and when would it be time to "scale back" a bit. My reasoning, as I wrote on my Thanksgiving post was this:

"I do realize that while the game remains the same, the names have changed. Almost all of my childhood heroes are out of the game, and there are so few now who are older than me. It won't be long before everyone in the game is younger than I am, and kids my children's ages will be making their first appearances on pieces of cardboard. I have begun to wonder when would it be the right time to begin scaling back, as eventually that time will come."

Here's the thing. I always believed, and continue to support the idea, that the concept of card collecting is for kids. I've always collected things, from coins to buttons, stickers (the only thing I will ever claim I bought from Panini) to of course, Topps baseball cards. When I was learning about the game, baseball cards were my way of learning who the players are. The stats on the back were how I learned which players were good, and thanks to Topps numbering system, I learned who were the best in the game.

But that was in 1988.

The players I first watched were now beginning second careers as broadcasters, coaches, managers. Some would go on to induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Others, would live in infamy as the shadow of steroids would blanket the game's landscape, and in effect, shadow many of the stars who I grew up watching.

Over the years as the players of my youth would leave, players of my age, my generation, started taking their place. From the mid 90's through the end of the 2000's, the game was populated by Generation X stars. They were my age. I could relate to them...kinda. As I was growing as an adult, many of the players my age were too. But now, as with everything else, they were starting to move on too. Now, many of the players in the game are way younger than I am. Players coming up were born in the late 80's, early 90's...the NINETIES!!! There are athletes coming up in the coming years that are younger than the JUNK WAX ERA.

Where did the time go?

Eventually, the game will be populated by kids who are my kids' ages. There are so few players who are still in the game who are older than me or my age now, that they are now entering the final stages of their careers. Soon, these guys will begin their second careers as coaches, managers, executives, and broadcasters. And eventually, every player in the game will be younger than me.

And that's where this thought of scaling back comes in.

I have been collecting cards 1988 in some form or fashion. That would mean that I have been a baseball card collector for 26 years now. It was when I started working that I began building my collection regularly. Even through the aftermath of the strike (1994-1997), I collected to complete my regular sets. Inserts sets were so far from my mind back then.

Then I discovered eBay in 2000, and that's when it all changed.

Over the last 15 years, my collection has grown exponentially large. Not only have I collected the eponymous Topps sets, but I made it my goal to get all of the basic insert sets to go with the base sets as well. For the most part, it's been "Mission Accomplished." What sets I couldn't buy on eBay, I was able to build through shows, stores, and the Bay.

Not only did my collection of regular Topps cards begin to grow, but thanks to the Bay, I also have most of the retro sets, and as Topps kept on churning them out, I've been buying them as well. I have this completist mentality that I must have every card in a set or a series. I have complete runs base sets of Allen & Ginter's, Gypsy Queen, Pro Debut, and the Retail sets. And as long as Topps still makes them, I still want to add them to my collection as a complement to my base Topps set. I could probably stop collecting this current incarnation of Topps Archives as it is disappointing at best. Taking current players and putting them in past card designs have been done to death (Topps Heritage anyone??!). The only cards worth collecting in that set are the short printed "All-Time Fan Favorites," and even in 2014, Topps ruined it for me by mixing current players with the FF's as short prints. Somehow though, I still wouldn't mind getting it...maybe next year.

Another thing that I have to think about, for now anyway, is the expense. This is not by any means a cheap Hobby. There is a lot of money that has been spent not only on cards, but on supplies. Sheets, binders, boxes, sleeves, top-loaders...those all add up monetarily. With my children getting older, and their activities, from school or outside of it, getting more expensive, priorities have shifted as to where money goes. I'd love to continue to spend on my Hobby, but it wouldn't be right of me to just think of myself. As a dad, my kids needs are more important. And, yes, there's that thing about college...(praying for scholarships).

But the biggest reason as to why I started thinking about scaling back was because the names of the players are changing, as they continue to do, to the point that now it just feels strange to begin collecting cards of players who so much younger than I am. It used to be that I was collecting cards of players much older than me. Now, it's the other way around.

Don't get me wrong. I've been following the game a lot more closely now than I ever have before. Thanks to MLB Network, I recognize the names of the players a lot more easily. And although baseball has been tough to watch these past couple of years, on both sides of the city, things are beginning to improve. If the winter meetings are any indication, it should be a very fun 2015 for baseball.

Should I cut back on my collecting? I'm sure there are products that I regret pressing the Buy it Now button on the Bay, and maybe in 2015, I'll stick to the basics. It's not as if I buy everything (can't afford high-end), but maybe be more patient as to when to pull the trigger on the mid-end sets (like the A&G and GQ). I could be a bit more fiscally responsible and wait until prices go down, even if it means waiting a few months after the products go live.

The anonymous collector said

" won't believe how much money you will have when the kids are grown and on their own - not to mention all the extra free time!"

I'm sure that's true. Once the kids are done with school and begin their journeys away from their mother and me that there will be a bit more money available. And maybe by then I'll be ready to spend more. Who really knows.

But for now, my goals are simple for 2015:
  • Collect the eponymous Topps set for 2015, including the traded, retail, and MiLB sets.
  • Find A&G and Gypsy Queen sets at reasonable prices. If I have to wait a while before prices go down, I will. No need to rush.
  • Really make an effort to sell or trade off the cards I have that I do not need. It would clean up the clutter that has taken over the computer table downstairs.
  • Another important effort to make is to clear out all of the old Beckett magazines to issues I don't want. I really haven't bought the magazine in a while, and the only ones I will probably want to keep are the Rookie Rolodex issues, the mags that have my name on it (because Chris Olds was nice enough to put my name in the magazine a couple of times), and the Topps commemorative issues. Everything else, can go.
I don't think I can ever give up on the Hobby of baseball card collecting entirely. But I do have to think about adapting to the changes in it as well and make better decisions regarding monetary and time commitments when it comes to the Hobby.

Do I need to scale back? Perhaps. And eventually, I will. Until that time comes, though, I will do what I have always done when it comes to baseball baseball card collecting:

Enjoy it. Be a part of it. And as long as I have this humble, little blog, write about it.


JayBee Anama


The Junior Junkie said...

Scaling back is a lofty goal. I've been in simplification mode for over a year now, and my collection only seems to get bigger. I figure as long as I can keep the horde organized I'm ahead of the game.

Billy Kingsley said...

I suspect you will change your mind when you actually try it. I've been forced to scale back due to medical reasons- medicine has to come before cards- and it's far more depressing than relieving to get less cards.

I will say that I do appreciate the ones I can still get more now, though. Back in the day, I was bringing in so many that I didn't truly appreciate them, or even have the time to read the text on the back. Bringing in 1000 new a week was not unusual. Now I average about 2500 a year total, instead of monthly. And I know it could be much worse!

I am now finally appreciating what I do have, more than I did before, not just the new additions.

But, each collector is different, and if that's the path the appeals to you, there's nothing inherently wrong with it.