Are we the Problem or the Solution?
By Michael Barton aka Monticellocards
How do you think we can get the younger generation interested in card collecting? What should the manufacturers do to ensure the continuity of the hobby? What can we, as individuals, do?
Upper Deck recently ran a promotion on Facebook where they wanted collectors to give away cards to their friends or even to strangers as a gift, for nothing in return. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and when this question was posted on Sports Card Forum, I knew this was the article that I had to write this month. As someone with a few decades of experience in this hobby on many different levels, I have seen a lot. I would like to give you my thoughts on some of the good and bad I have seen from individuals during my time involved.
When I first started collecting heavily, the year was 1987. Packs were fifty cents and it was the Topps wood border design that captivated me. Friends and I traded cards, not so much by using a price guide, just by who we wanted. Trading was easy, and it was such a fun hobby at the time. Fast forward to 2011, and so much has changed in this hobby now. With the advent of the internet in the 1990s, the entire landscape of all collectible industries changed dramatically. eBay, while a wonderful tool in and of itself, absolutely destroyed the supply and demand levels for any collectible. If I wanted a card as a child, it sometimes took me weeks to acquire one. Today, I type in a player name and there are thousands of single cards available at my fingertips. The price guide, once a hobby mainstay, has become practically useless as a real tool due to the discrepancies between the prices listed within and actual online sales figures. However, these problems all are secondary in my opinion. Things change and evolve all the time. The real problem, and this is truly sad to say, is not the companies or the guides or even eBay. The main problem is US. Please allow me a few moments of your time to discuss why I feel this way.
Going back to my youth, I was very fortunate to live near a hobby shop. The owner was one of those special people who would sit and talk all day about collecting, giving us younger folks a great education. I sat and listened intently. When I got a little bit older, I began to rent tables and do shows myself. Thanks to the owner of that shop (which has long since been closed), I took his advice and also his way of teaching those who didn’t understand a lot about the hobby. I was always kind to people. While not everyone involved in the hobby is a nice person, we have truly reached a critical stage in regards to the future of collecting.
Look at our message boards, look at card sites, look at anything involved with collecting today, and I can guarantee you that you will find one thing no matter where you go – rude and inconsiderate folks who only care about coming out on the better end of a deal. This does not apply to everyone, but there are more people who treat this hobby – and others involved in it – inappropriately then there are good folks. I have gotten many messages over the years from collectors who would constantly make low ball offers on items, and who would get angry when I told them how I felt about this. I will not conduct myself in this manner. And that is one of the things that people forget – as collectors or even sellers, we have an obligation to help the new people in the hobby, but many are too busy to show them the ins and outs today.
It is high time that we all stand up and say “I am going to be a responsible collector”. What does that mean to me? Here are a few bullet points that I believe we should all follow to make this a better hobby for all:
- Always be kind to other traders and collectors. We are all at different stages, and some know more than others.
- Take a moment and think before you type or speak. This is supposed to be a fun hobby, not a cutthroat atmosphere.
- Be kind and willing to help new collectors at all costs. There is nothing worse than being rude and turning someone off to the hobby.
- Always remember that you too, were new to this once, and if you have experience, use it to educate and inform, not to mock and hurt others.
- Every once in a while, give something away to a new collector. It doesn’t have to be an expensive item, but a new collector will remember this kindness long after you have forgotten about it.
- Resolve your issues that come up with dignity and respect. Never resort to name calling.
- When you have a complaint or a rant, approach it with dignity and self-respect. We all have been there and understand, but act like a man (or woman), not a little child.
- You will always get more by giving back to this wonderful hobby. Do more to make it a better place so those that are new actually want to stick around.
There are always going to be people who are disingenuous in any hobby. It is just the way it goes. But we all as individuals have a choice to act in a responsible and encouraging manner to those who are new. Even those who are in this hobby to strictly make money, the way you conduct yourselves has an effect on people who are just starting out. And although this is a capital making venture to you, I know from experience that you will make more money and more sales with kindness than you will by being rude. A smile and a moment of kindness to a new collector is something we all need to pay more attention to. The way we act towards someone new does have an affect on them, and it is up to us to make it a positive one.
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