By Michael Barton aka MonticelloCards

As someone who began collecting cards in 1986, I have seen this hobby change on numerous occasions. I have had wonderful opportunities in this hobby – from working shows as a teenager to being in charge of the entire sporting collectibles department of a hobby shop. To keep it brief – I have seen a lot in my 25 years. There were times this was a business for me, although I am no longer involved at any level other than as a collector. I implore you to learn from my mistakes and my experiences, as there are many. What I want to lay out in this article is a guide that will help you enjoy this wonderful hobby of card collecting and to find the passion that I and many others have.

In today’s card collecting world, it is important to develop a plan of action before jumping in with both feet. With the litany of products produced, you can spend a lot of money chasing cards. So I would suggest that you outline what your interests are and do some research before you start buying or trading. Last year, I had to do this, after my life changed and my priorities had to be reevaluated.

The first thing I did was to set a firm starting budget, and placedmyself on a weekly allowance that I could put towards cards and memorabilia. Through my collecting journey, there have been times where I have seriously overspent money on cards and collectibles, and I knew that I had to make some changes in order to find my love for this hobby again. After I set my budget and allowance up, I then began taking a look at the products one by one. Thanks to the internet, this is something that is fairly easy to do, although it does take some time. I recently did this again, and set up my plan of action. I placed my collecting interests in tiers. I have provided you with a sample sheet as an appendix to this article.

The tier system worked for me, as I have found my primary interest (Paul Konerko) as well as secondary interests (Bowman Baseball, Donruss Basketball, Rookie Cards from the late 80s). So, my primary interest is a player collection of one player, although you can do anything you want with your collecting interests. I am also working on the sets in my secondary interests, mainly because I love to put together sets and these are fun challenges that I can devote some time to. It also allows me more freedom when it comes to trading cards online. I knew that by being a player collector alone it would limit my ability to trade, so I added a few sets and another project so I could have more things to trade for.

It’s important to set goals, and to have a plan in place. I will admit, I used to be a wax junkie, and I would drop money on box after box looking for nothing more than the hits in the product and not caring about anything else. On the occasion where I pulled the big hit, I merely sold it to buy more boxes. It became a never ending cycle that left me with nothing but boxes upon boxes of unsorted cards. Having no rhyme or reason to what I was doing, I got to the point where I was not enjoying this as a hobby, and I did take a short amount of time off. That’s when I decided to get back to basics.

This hobby isn’t what it used to be. Products costing upwards of five hundred dollars for a pack? That type of stuff isn’t for me. But each of us has a different disposable income. What I am trying to get across is to use that disposable income in a way that you can maximize your enjoyment, instead of going in blind and wasting money on things you will never look at again. There are many positives to the hobby today versus yesterday. I always share the Rickey Henderson rookie card story with my friends as a lesson.

I wanted the 1980 Topps Henderson rookie when I was a child. With no internet, I went to a few hobby shops near where I lived and had no success. I eventually found the card through a mail order advertisement, and saved money and purchased it for 80 percent of book value. It took close to a month to get my hands on this card. As a collector today, I can just make a post on Sports Card Forum or an online auction site such as eBay, and there are numerous Henderson rookies available at the tip of my fingers. As a seller in today’s market, it can be tough because the internet has severely affected supply and demand within the hobby, but as a buyer the internet gives you a cornucopia of options to collect and amass quite a collection in a very short period of time. The entire key to today’s hobby and marketplace is doing your homework. Price Guides are nice to have and can be used as a reference point, but the values can be very off base, and, unlike 15 years ago, you cannot really use the pricing structure in the guides as a be all, end all. If you have a card and the guide says it is worth 10 dollars, that does not mean you will get that from a buyer. The guides are much better to use when trading, but I would suggest checking out completed listings on eBay as a buyer to see what you can get, and how much it will cost you.

At the end of the day, I want anyone who reads this to remember a lesson I have often forgotten in the past – HAVE FUN! Find what your collecting passion is, and go forward. Take the time to learn about what you are collecting. Get involved online with trading sites, support your local hobby shop – there are so many avenues available to you these days, and all of them are good. Talk to experienced people and learn from them. Most of the old timers are more than happy to help educate new collectors. You are the future of this hobby…

My collection worksheet appendix one

My Collecting Worksheet

Weekly Budget
50 every two weeks plus ebay sales. If you sell 20 in cards, that period is 70, etc.

Collections

Tier One
Paul Konerko Chicago White Sox
My main player collection, and my goal is to acquire as many different cards of Konerko as possible.

Tier Two
2010 Bowman Draft Set
I love prospects, especially reading the cards on these youngsters. I am going to start with this years (2010) set, and see where it all goes. Look for base, chrome and gold parallels. Once completed, I may begin to work on past years sets as well.

2010-11 Donruss Basketball
I love this set design, and the 1984 Donruss concept totally works. It is a nice set with reasonable prices.

Tier Three
Rookie Cards From My Youth
Yes, I want to obtain as many of those old rookie cards from yesterday. It is a nostalgia trip for me to pick up a 1988 Tom Glavine RC and look back at his early years. Plus, a lot of people will let these go for good prices, and they can make trades even due to the mainly low prices on these.