The Spirit of the Season
By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

If you’re on you must like collecting and are probably part of your very own hobby family. You know, that group of collectors you regularly trade with, that guy from Kelowna who gets first shot at every Price card you don’t need, that friend in Montreal who’s as crazy about the Canadiens as you are or even that guy in Texas that painted a Guy Lafleur pop art and sent it your way without asking for anything in return?

It’s easy to build a good network in this hobby and increasingly we’re seeing a lot of great initiatives such as PIF “Pay it Forward” which is essentially giving a card away that someone else can claim no question asked as long as they put a card up for claim themselves in return, huge razzes to entice membership of different Facebook collecting groups and even secret Santa in some groups over the Christmas period. All of these initiative are great until some people decide to abuse them.

This year, I decided to take part in a secret Santa initiative in one of my Facebook collecting groups. I figured it’s always fun to give a gift to someone and to be surprised with one as well. The guidelines were rather simple:
-$30 USD minimum value;
- Ship before December 1st; and
- Try to make it fit in the recipient’s personal collection.

The guy who organized it matched everyone with someone else and sent us the address of the person we had to send to. As this is a keepers’ group on Facebook (a group where people show off their personal collection items) it was quite easy to find out what your recipient collected. I did a searched with my recipient’s name and quickly found out that he was heavily into the Pittsburgh Penguins and more precisely, he seemed to prefer current players and nice colourful patches. It wasn’t going to be hard to find cards that he would like but it would not necessarily be cheap either. I went on eBay and watched (for the first time in my life) numerous Penguins cards, mainly Malkin and Crosby because those seemed to be the players he preferred. I’ll admit that I would have loved to get him a patch auto but that just wasn't possible without breaking the bank. In the end, I settled on an Upper Deck SPGU 3 colours/6 breaks patch of Evgeni Malkin which set me back $50. Once it got here, I had a look at my traders and added a couple of SPGU Penguins Winter Classic cards knowing full well that he wouldn't like those as much but that they could be a nice extra. So I sent it to him, safe in the knowledge that I had done my best to make his day.

From then on, all I could do was wait to receive my own secret Santa gift and also to see if he would be happy with his once he received. The days passed and 2 weeks after I sent (I’m in Canada and he is in the USA), he commented on the secret Santa thread thanking his mystery sender. More time passed and I started anticipating the arrival of mine even more, opening the mailbox wishing and hoping...Christmas came and went and no secret Santa arrived...So I waited some more because what else can you do...

A week after Christmas, my secret santa finally turned up. The enveloppe was quite big, 8 by 10 to be exact and my mind started racing trying to guess what was in there! I opened it with haste and reached in...Inside I could feel a top loader so I pulled that out to reveal a Nathan Beaulieu Ice rookie card (for those not familiar with the Canadiens’ line-up, Beaulieu was shipped out to Buffalo this summer for a draft pick)... I figured OK that’s the extra like I did for my guy. I put my hand back in the enveloppe and I felt a number, you know one of those jersey numbers that people sometimes get autographed? That got me very excited and I pulled it out to reveal a number 4 autographed by Guillaume Latendresse. Latendresse played 3 and a half seasons in Montreal and was traded in 2009-2010 before playing for 3 seasons with the Wild and one with the Senators each of these season plagued by head injuries. Needless to say, Latendresse is not a really sought after player these days (and with respect he never really was). While it was interesting to get something beside cards, I must admit I felt let down. Clearly, my secret Santa didn’t think it was necessary to find out what my PC was. If they had done, they would have seen that I collect current Habs, Patrick Roy and legends that have marked the franchise. Unfortunately, I suspect they saw my profile picture, which as usual depicted me in some Canadiens gear, and figured they’d send anything Habs.


I know that Latendresse autographed numbers retail at $100 on Frameworth but judging by the state of the certificate of authenticity of the one I got, it certainly wasn't bought from there but from a second-hand dealer or just fished out of someone’s collection as an expendable. Perhaps, the empty feeling I’m left with is my own fault, after all I did go over the book value requirement and ensured that my gift would match my fellow collector’s PC requirement but I genuinely thought that was the way everyone would do it.

This sort of reminds me of the effort some people put in the Pay it Forward events while others just look to unload cards they have no use for. Just like in the secret Santa, there’s normally a minimum set book value in these events and some just take that quite literally. While the value is a requirement, people should also be mindful or whether or not someone else will want the card they are putting up. For instance, an old game used jersey card of the “great” Roman Chechmanek may well book $20, you will be hard pressed to find someone who actually collects the guy. A Pay it Forward even is an act of goodwill not a way to get rid of cards you consider useless and have tried to trade time and time again. If you do not wish to part with sought after cards, just don’t enter those events.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is: if you decide to enter such great initiatives, please make sure you are ready to commit to them and you’re not just thinking “yeah, I could do with some free stuff”. Ill advised participation may just result in bitter disappointment for others and in them just not participating anymore as they feel like they’ve been taken advantage of.