By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

Gone are the days where all sports cards collectors only had one goal in mind: completing their sets. Today, the habitual assortment of base cards is (to most people) little more than an afterthought and as a result our collecting habits have changed. Whether we like it or not, most of us are very conscious of the value of each and every single card we pull. While some of us get excited at the idea of trading that super pull for an awesome personal collection card others’ eyes light up at the thought of the profit to be made on the open market.

For those of us looking to trade our latest pull, what are we trading for? Well the answer varies from one collector to the next. Around the world you will find your team, players or insert/memorabilia set collectors but do they all chase the same thing? Is it still possible today to complete a collection? Is it even the aim any more? The answer is simple for those chasing a certain memorabilia set, yes it is possible although trickier then it once was. While some of the cards companies are short printing cards to just 5 copies in certain cases, it is still possible to chase and get all the cards in a particular set. However, the picture is a lot less rosy for team or player collectors.

  While by definition the aim of collecting was once to complete an assortment of cards, the reality is very much different today. This is probably nothing new to team collectors, after all with so many companies saturating the market with multiple releases year in year out, they learned quite a long time ago that they just could not get them all. For player collectors however it was possible in the past to get every card produced of the subject of your collection, now? Not so much. As mentioned earlier, there are more and more releases every year and the size of those releases seem to increase as well. For instance, take Upper Deck’s high-end monster product: The Cup. The product includes a base set, a few autographs sets (Enshrinements, Chirography, Signature Patches, Signature Logos etc..) and a few memorabilia sets (Cup Foundations, NHL Shields, Cup Trios, Cup Foursomes etc…)  result? Where there was once a handful of cards of your chosen player in each release now, you’re looking at what can only be described as a truckload of cards.

Worst still, if you are truly a purist of a collector, you will want to get every single card produced of your player and that will include the dreaded parallel versions. With the arrival of Panini on the hockey scene, hockey collectors are getting hammered by an incredible amount of parallel versions. Take the first of Panini’s release: 2010 Certified. How many cards can a player have in that product including all parallel versions? Eric Staal has a total of 45 cards in the said product. That’s only one product you say? Very true it is….but how many does he have in say Upper Deck’s Artifacts? A staggering 62 cards…No offense to Eric Staal but he is not even one of the most popular players collection wise…The situation is even worst if you are looking to collect Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. So with that in  mind, is it even possible anymore to be a “completist” as a collector?

For my part, I collect two players, two of the greatest goaltenders of all time; Patirck Roy and Martin Brodeur. As you can imagine, both of those guys have got not only an insane amount of cards in circulation but also a very important following. When I came back to collecting in 2006, I soon realized that because of the number of cards both of those athletes had, it would be nearly impossible for me to collect them all and as the years passed, it became even less likely with new releases boosting the numbers to new heights. I’ve learned to accept this over time and appreciate my collection for what it is, an impressive gathering of many cards and not a percentage of a final target. For other collectors though, those who started their collection of a new players a few years ago and managed to get most of the cards issues thus far, the start of the Panini era is somewhat of a wake up call.

On sportscardforum, there is a program called Hockey Super Collector, people can apply to be considered a Super Collector by submitting their collection to the consideration of the moderators of the hockey boards. One of the criteria to be met to receive a player Super Collector badge is to have a certain percentage of the player’s cards. A scale was created depending on how many cards the player actually has which makes it a bit easier for those collecting well established players with a high number of cards. Nevertheless, if your player has 4500 cards, you still need to have %35 of those to be considered. Fast maths will tell you that this means a collection of over 1500 cards. With the new parallel trend, it becomes increasingly likely that all players will soon have an impressive number of cards. This brings the question, what to you makes a super collection? Is it the amount of cards possessed? Is it how much the collection is worth? Is it rather how impressive the collection is? And while we’re at it, what is a Super Collector? Is it someone who has all the cards of their player? Is it a person who is devoted to their player collection, trading and buying solely for it? Or is it someone who takes great pride in their collection, taking the time to display it in many ways? I guess there is not one single answer but personally, I do not see it as a percentage related notion anymore…

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing about nice looking parallel cards but at the end of the day I would much rather get two completely different looking cards than two who are exactly the same aside from their print run and a little color variation. So everyone, enjoy collecting for yourself and be glad to have the cards you have no matter how many more there are left for you to chase. The aim of the game is not to have them all but to enjoy yourself while picking them up.