By Pat Murphy aka yankeesfan1324

It seems like there is always a pattern in collecting. Buy a box or case, get half of what you bought the box for in cards, and repeat. Even if you don’t care about the value of your cards, it is disappointing knowing that you could have bought the contents of your box and saved a whole lot of money. It seems like it is almost impossible to have fun collecting without losing lots of money. All you need to do is think outside the box.

- Collect a new player

Find a young player that doesn’t have much of a following and start collecting their cards. They can be from your favorite team, your college, your city, or have similar political or religious views as you. You don’t even need a reason, you can just choose someone. One of the best parts of this is that younger players who aren’t top prospects are often more friendly with their fans. You can contact them on Twitter and show them your collection. If you are lucky, they will be willing to trade for some of their cards or sign through the mail for free (hint – they get their equipment and uniforms for free, your chances of getting a hat, bat, or jersey in a trade are good)

 - Start a TTM project

If you don’t do TTM, you would be surprised to see how many players will sign cards and pictures for just the price of 2 stamps. It can be as big or as small as you want – your favorite minor league team, your favorite set, a cool insert set, living hall of famers, alumni from your college, or players from a historic team. If you don’t have cards, print out some pictures. In your letter of request, you can also ask the player some questions and a decent number (especially retired players) will answer your questions.

 - Collect a new A or AA team

If you graph MLB teams, you will often find large crowds and players unwilling to sign. However, if you go down to A or AA baseball, you will find a much different situation. Some players will be almost honored that you want their autograph, and unless there are top prospects, the only time you should get turned down will be starting pitchers when they are starting. If you get autos in person, you will also over time become friends with the players. Getting a picture signed by a whole team could potentially take only a few games, rather than nearly the entire season.

 - Go for cheaper products

If you can’t get away from breaking boxes, go for the cheaper boxes. Higher end collectors may laugh at products like opening day or older products (late 80s and early 90s) but for the price, they are a lot of fun to open. If you still like the hits, go for products that aren’t popular. There are so many products from just a few years ago from minor companies like Razor, Tristar, ITG, and Just Minors that are really cheap and come with hits. You might even hit some autos of players who are solid players in the majors now.

 - Just ask

Especially with lower level teams (MiLB, NBA D-League, AHL, ECHL, CFL, etc.), you would be surprised what they are willing to do if you just ask. Did a player break a bat or a stick that you want? Why not ask for it? There is a decent chance that they will give it to you, and the worst thing they can do is say no. Want an autograph from a player? Contact them on Twitter and ask them if they would sign stuff you send to them. Do you live away from a team and want the items they give away for free (such as schedules, magnets, cards, and promotional items they didn’t give away)? Just send them an email or a large SASE and ask. The most important thing here is to be honest. Don’t tell every player and team that they are your favorite.

I hope these tips help. Collecting is getting more expensive as the economy is getting worse, and more collectors are finding they need to cut down on their purchases. Make sure you know your option, it is possible to have a bunch of fun collecting with nearly no cost.