CONTEST ENTRY: Growth as a Collector
Growth as a Collector
I cannot remember a time as a child when I didnít have sports on my mind. It started with baseball and summers full of afternoon backyard games with friends and nights camped out in front of the TV watching Yankees and Phillies games. I still remember laying on the floor in front of the TV in a muggy house without air conditioning eating Freezepops and waiting for Mike Schmidtís next at bat. I didnít get into card collecting until one day when those afternoon backyard games turned into a card show off and swap event. I had no cards at the time, but knew that this was something right up my alley.
We never had much money, so my card collecting started with begging for dollar packs whenever I went with my parents to the local Kmart. My first big score was a wood-bordered 1987 Topps Lenny Dykstra. I traded with a neighbor for it, and got completely ripped off in the trade. I canít remember what I traded for it, but I can recall letting go of several cards for that dog-eared Dykstra card. I eventually upgraded by pulling a fresh one from a pack, and there was nothing sweeter than having two copies of my most sought after card.
As I got older, I began to earn my own money by mowing lawns and shoveling snow. I still didnít have much money to spend on cards, and I would frugally spend my hard earned dollars at the card shop at the mall or at the twice yearly card show at that same mall. I would spend hours visiting every table deciding exactly what cards I would buy with the few dollars I had in my pocket. I never came away with much Ė usually just inserts of my favorite players or base singles from before I started collecting. I still have most of those old cards today, and most of them have little to no value, but they still meant the world to me then and I can still smile at them today and wouldnít let go of them for anything.
I got away from collecting as the priorities of a teenager can change how one spends their money. I have only recently revisited the hobby. I am in no way a rich man, but I live quite comfortably. I am now able to collect in a way I could have only dreamed of as a child, and still there are a million obstacles and roadblocks to ever completing that dream collection I can envision. This is when I realized that the growth of a collector is not unlike the trip of a baseball player from the minor leagues to major leagues and beyond.
The parallels are undeniable. At each new level, both as a collector or athlete, a person and hobby or sport have goals and milestones attached. In collecting, it might just be collecting base of your favorite player, just like a young player is searching for that starting spot on a team. At the same time, each goal or milestone reached doesnít have to be, and most likely isnít, a stopping point. Itís that drive to keep collecting Ė to keep playing. As available cash, time, or skill increase, so do those goals and milestones. Itís that next dream that keeps all of us pushing forward. The same instincts that push collectors to complete their next set or find that elusive one of one superfractor are the same things that push the greats in sports. Even with a studded resume, players like Cal Ripken Jr. and Brett Favre still had that itch to keep playing Ė to keep going Ė to become the greatest ever.
Collecting for me isnít just something to spend my money on. I could certainly find more practical ways to spend a paycheck. We all could. It also doesnít have to be just about collecting cards and memorabilia from favorite players, teams, and sports. Collecting offers us a way to live similarly to our favorite athletes Ė all with our own ideals of what makes the perfect collection, the perfect athlete. Rarely do we ever finish the way we imagined or hoped, but itís the journey and goals that keep us going.