By Guy Mitchell aka sweetg1

Let me start by saying what I like about the hobby of card collecting. I like that I can collect (and research) things that interest me. For me in this hobby, it’s mostly about collecting Negro League memorabilia and cards. Obviously, not everyone is interested in my type of collection and that is okay. My interest in such a collection began when I learned that my great-uncle played in the Negro Leagues, so I began researching the Negro Leagues and began wanting to know more about them. I then started focusing a collection towards the players that played during this era. Perhaps your own collecting uniqueness lies in collecting significant to you and that’s what makes the hobby fun.

While the uniqueness of everyone’s collection makes the hobby fun, it can also be a cause of frustration on different levels.

Everyone has the right to collect whomever they want. I get that. However, it sometimes appears that there isn’t any loyalty towards a player or a team. Recently, I was trying to trade a particular card of value. I searched on SCF for individuals who collected that individual. Since that player wasn’t a particularly highly sought after player, there weren’t many collectors. In fact, the previous post of someone looking for that player was about 9 months ago. When I contacted the collector to see if they were interested in trading for my card, they told me that they didn’t collect that player any more. They were now collecting who was “hot”. They weren’t rude about my inquiry, but I could tell by his response that he was wondering why I was contacting him from a 9 month old request. My thought was, I’ve been collecting the same thing for the last 20 years, so any WTTF (Want To Trade For) request from me would be valid from the day that I first posted it. “Where’s the loyalty?”, I wondered aloud. But to each his own way, I concluded.

While I’m not knocking that type of collection, it does seem to create a few other problems. Everyone chases who is “hot”. That’s not only a problem in hobby, but it seems to be a problem in life. We all want the latest model cell phone, whether it’s actually better or not. My silver 2 slot toaster from 1975 beats the new Cuisnart 4 slot toaster/bagel warmer every single time (so much so that I’m thinking about going to an antique store to find that old toaster, but that’s another story) and I’ll apologize for all the high school boys who dump their girlfriends for the new hot girl. But who or what is “hot” does not imply that it’s better. Where is the loyalty, I ask?

What’s equally wrong about this, in my opinion, is that the card companies understand this about the collectors. They know that, no matter what, today’s collectors will be chasers. We chase what’s new, no matter the cost. I find it extremely odd that a card like 2000 Topps Chrome Allegiance Refractor Tony Gwynn books for about $80. There were only 100 of these made! It’s fallen off the collector’s radar because the card is 10 years old. However, every kid in America is trying to chase the latest Steven Strasburg card and the value of these Strasburg cards is over $100. It just doesn’t seem right to me. If Strasburg were to suffer the fate of 1980 ROY Joe Charboneau (c’mon kids, look him up), then his $100 cards will fall to $1.00 and all of his fans will “drop it like it’s hot”. This is the sort of thing that turns some collectors away from the hobby. If they spent more time chasing people for the right reason (not because he’s the latest phenomenon, but perhaps someone from your home town), then they wouldn’t be turned off from the hobby. How many chasers of Barry Bonds were disappointed after the steroids scandal? And what happened to the value of his cards? It was one of the things that turned collectors away from the hobby, as well as turning them away from baseball.

Because collectors today chase the current cards, most tend to stay away from the older cards. It used to be that when the cards were old, then they were worth something. It was the low number of Honus Wagner’s T206 cards that helped increase the value of it (or at least, one of the reasons). To think that there are only 50-70 more of the aforementioned Gwynn cards around is amazing to me, and both are Hall of Famers. The very mention of 100 Gwynn cards should make it triple digits. What has Strasburg done thus far to warrant triple digits at such a young age, especially when there are 10 times as many cards? That’s not to pick on Strasburg, as he’s a wonderful talent. However, the card companies understand this and they exploit it, perpetuating the problem.

I think it would be great if the companies sparked interest in older sets or older players. We do see some of the older players (Turn Back The Clock, Cards Your Mom Threw Out, What Could Have Been type set, etc), and those sets are pretty cool. But people don’t always seem to understand the history of the game. To wit, I remembered telling a fellow baseball collector about collecting Negro League cards. They had never heard of the Negro Leagues and they weren’t familiar with whom might have played during that time. I was 10-20 years older than this collector (I’m 44). I don’t mind educating people about that era, but….REALLY? I can understand if folks never heard of Harry “Suitcase” Simpson or James “Cool Papa” Bell (that’s who I would have super-collected in the day), but shouldn’t we, as baseball fans, have heard of Jackie Robinson? I’m claiming that part of the problem is that nobody is encouraged to look up the history. They are not encouraged to stay loyal to a player or team (even my nephew stated that his new 2nd favorite team is the Heat after LeBron left – Oh brother!), and they’re off chasing today’s hottest stars. This is what free agency and the Me-Generation of players has brought us and to be honest, I think it stinks. Am I the only one who thinks this way? However, collectors should be encouraged to look up the historical players. Then they might understand something about the game and something about the older cards. I love the fact that collectors can get old cards through the give-away program. I just hope that it encourages them to look up that player and understand their contributions to the game. I often think the players in the game should research the history of the game.

That’s just my two cents. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest! Now who wants my huge Joe Charboneau lot? I’ll get back to you right after I go pick up my vintage toaster.

Happy trading everyone!

P.S. I’d love to hear if others agree or disagree with me.