Sunday, June 6, 2021

I've Been Keeping Busy

I think it's pretty safe to say that any full-time return to blogging is off the table at this point.  But hey, let's get on the board for 2021 if any of my old blogging pals are still out there.  Or if blogs are even still a thing?

It's been a pretty eventful few months since my last post.  I've been collecting pretty aggressively, or at least as aggressively as one can in today's card market.  And I feel like my blogging absence has been at least semi-justified.  Not too long after my last blog post of 2020, I found out that I was going to be involved in some pretty ambitious expansion projects at work that has basically had me doing 3 jobs and managing a territory that stretches from Central PA deep into Ohio.  It's been a lot of fun (and stress, but mostly fun), but in typical non-profit fashion...that has quite literally meant me trying to do three jobs in addition to my existing, slightly exhausting, job.  During a global pandemic. 

But hey, some extra staffing is finally here and my sanity is...debatable.  But luckily collecting has been a great avenue to blow off some steam.  Revisiting TCDB in late 2020 has been a real game-changer for me.  As my Pirates collection grew and grew, tracking new additions on my good ole spreadsheet was  becoming a daunting task.  Equally daunting were the growing boxes of doubles that I would receive or mistakenly buy at shows thinking they were new to me.

I spent a few months getting my Pirates collection completely loaded into TCDB - the ability to just click a new addition or not have to look up the proper name of a silver wave spiral doodad refractor holo prizm magigger has been a real lifesaver.

And from there?  Ah, the trades!  As my doubles slowly took up more and more space over the years, I tried to find another Pirates collector who might be able to give them a good home.  At this point my doubles collection alone is, in and of itself, a massive Pirates collection.  Easily 10,000 cards, including hundreds of parallels, vintage, autos - everything under the sun.  

But finding Pirates collectors isn't exactly an easy thing.  Two decades of losing will do that, and not everyone these days has a fine appreciation for a 1998 Jermaine Allensworth card.  I slowly dipped a toe into the trade waters, adding my want list to the site and starting to enter some of the doubles that I thought might be more desirable to other collectors.

It's been a real shot in the arm for my collection.  I love adding new Pirate cards, no matter how seemingly inconsequential.  And if I can move some of those duplicates on to a good home, I feel like the cardboard gods will look favorably upon me.  I've even started trading for Steelers and Penguins cards and growing those collections when there are no Pirates to be had.

And that's sort of a funny thing to say these days.  But whatever voodoo that is going on in the card market, which I don't fully understand, shows no signs of slowing down.  I still struggle to find cards I want on ebay, and then find them at what I consider a reasonable price?  Good luck.

I have gotten lucky and added some gems in recent months, including a few new Jack Wilsons.  But overall?  I lose a lot more than I win, and the days of adding new cards for $.99+shipping seem long gone.

Adapt and adjust, right?  I've started buying up some minor league team sets.  And my trade reservoirs have kept a decent stream of new Buccos headed into the mailbox.

Speaking of which, that's the whole reason I'm here.  Or at least a big part of it.  As life slows down again a little bit, I had some time to reflect back on where things on this blog started.  I was reading through some old posts from my first year of blogging, 2013.  I closed out the year writing that I had 11,592 Pirates cards.  

At the time, it was a pretty crazy sum.  And probably about double where I was just a few years earlier.  

Well, here I am again.  And apparently I've somehow doubled THAT.  According to TCDB, I'm sitting at 21,634 unique Pirates cards.  I'm not exactly sure what to do with that information, aside from hide it from my wife.

There are a lot of reason why I sometimes feel like I'm in hobby no-man's-land.  Maybe I'll get into them in a later post, but I've also probably written myself in circles over them in the past few years.  Too many parallels.  Adulthood, and not having the time to follow baseball or baseball cards like I could in my teens and 20's.  And a Pirates franchise that broke my heart in ways that don't seem like they're healing any time soon. 

But forget that - I look at those 10,000 new cards and think of all the amazing things that have happened since December 2013.  Group breaks with friends.  Trade partners new and old.  Digging through boxes at shows, the National, and wonderful flea market memories.  I still haven't made heads or tails of where the hobby is heading or how my collecting habits fit into it.  But I know this much - I'm looking forward to the next 10,000.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Dealing in Pairs

I've been keeping the mailman busy over the last few weeks.  There has been a pretty steady stream of mail heading into my house.  It definitely seems like a less than ideal time to jump into buying.  Prices seem to be surging, or at least sellers are pricing cards like they *wish* they were surging.  

Shipping prices have jumped through the roof.  Anybody else remember when $2 shipping would get you a card in a bubble mailer?  It seems like $3-5 shipping is the norm these days.  Sometimes it gets you a well packed card in a bubble mailer, but I've also found that $3 shipping may mean I'm getting a toploader in a PWE these days.  

And with whatever mess de jour is going on over at COMC and who knows the next time I'll actually see the inside of a card show, options are limited right now.  But it's made for a fun game of cat and mouse to find cards that I actually want at a price I'll pay.

My Pirates collection will always be the bulk of my collecting focus.  Though there were some points where my more frequent readers definitely would have noticed that this blog would have been more aptly titled "A Bunch of Shiny Cards from the 90's."  But there have been a few projects that have been on my collecting back burner for years that I'm finally starting to put some hobby dollars behind.  And it's been really rewarding to see a range of sets and cards trickling in, rather than just feeling like I'm compulsively buying Pirates.

And it just so happens that I seem to buying in pairs.  None of these cards came from the same seller, making it that much more unusual.  But sometimes life just works out that way.

I've been slowly plugging away at the 1998 Donruss Signature autograph set for years now.  Due to some low print run cards of some of the stars, I'll never officially complete the base version, let alone any of the parallel sets.  But boy is it a nice set.

I added the Palmeiro for a measly $4-something shipped.  The man has 3,020 hits, and 569 home runs.  I don't care how you cut it, or whether you're for against him making his way to Cooperstown.  That's an absolutely absurd price to pay for his autograph.

And speaking of 90's stars...

The 2001 Donruss master set is another set that I've been picking up cards here and there over the years.  I'll never finish any of it - base, parallels, or any inset sets due to the star power and some of the low print runs.  But the Stat Line parallels are among my favorite parts of the set, and I couldn't complain about adding two decent names from the set.
But like I said, my Pirates will always be my primary focus.  I've been on a bit of a Jason Bay buying streak recently.  Now that his playing days are over, his prices have settled.  For a while, his stints in Boston and New York had driven prices to the point that I stopped even searching for his cards.

But those days are over, and now he's just pretty good player who had a couple of really good years.  Those are some of my favorite guys to buy - the Jason Bays and Brian Giles of the world who had a couple of magic years, but can be had for a song after they retire.  Sometimes I hate the "latest and greatest" attitude of this hobby.  From what I hear there is some big hoopla over the current crop of rookies, and prices are insane.  I honestly can't tell you how many baseball games I have watched over the last few years, so I'm willfully ignorant.  And I'm a-okay with that.  And when it comes to buying?  I'm perfectly fine waiting to pick up cards once the hype has come and gone.

Both these Bay autos are /25, and the X-Fractor in particular looks amazing in person.  Part of me wonders how many how many times a card traded hands, and what prices people paid before it makes a home in my collection.  

Mail keeps trickling in, and I have a few other pairs on the way.  So who knows, this may become an unintentional ongoing theme.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The One(s) That Got Away

 Call it a second wind, but being back in the routine of collecting has been a lot of fun.  I'm sitting around waiting for my mailman to arrive each day in a way that's starting to feel borderline canine.  

There are a lot of different irons in the fire right now.  I'm headed into the home stretch of getting my Pirate collection logged on TCDB, and have even struck up my first trades on the site.  I started browsing around the artist formerly known as Just Commons, which apparently has a new name and slightly better search interface.  And I've been taking a deep dive back into my own collection, and enjoying the thousands of cards I already have.

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the highlight is the mail. 

As I mentioned in my last post, if I was going to collect, it needed to be fun.  I missed that rush of each new pickup being its own event to be excited about.  And truth be told, one of the big things that burnt me out on collecting was the way the hobby has evolved.  Collecting started to feel harder than studying for a 10th grade chemistry test.  Just keeping straight which card I owned was a complex exercise in mental gymnastics.

Was it the blue shimmer sparkle wave refractor that I had, or the baby blue shimmer dot refractor?  

Logging the card into my collection became a scavenger hunt that ended up with 3 tabs open, 5 reference photos, and Scotland Yard on the phone.  

Ain't nobody got time for that.  So let's stick with the classics.

The 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game set has always had special memories for me.  2000 was the year I really started feeling like a "collector."  My mom would take me to the LCS to buy a few packs every week or two, and another shop opened in the local mall.

I mostly stuck to the low end products.  Fleer Impact.  Topps.  Maybe we'd get real wild and go for a pack of Upper Deck MVP.  

But one afternoon we were in the mall, and while I was browsing the dime boxes (I was a young convert), the owner was telling my mom about the new product - Greats of the Game - with an unheard of 4 autographs in each box.  At this point I don't think I had ever so much as held and auto or game used card.  They were just eye candy in my monthly Beckett.

My mom has always been budget conscious.  I got it from her, she got it from my grandfather.  My wife says I'm cheap.  But I prefer frugal.

But my mom must have been feeling a wild streak that night.  She decided to try a pack from the half empty box.  I asked her if she was sure.  The packs were marked at $5 or 6 a piece.  For that price I could have a small mountain of Topps packs.

The first pack was a dud.  So was the next one.  And the next one.  We swung and missed.

But it's always been a set that's been in my mind.  Maybe it's the one that got away.  Who knows what else might have been in those packs?

It felt like the right place to start as I restarted collecting.  Even though prices are probably a bit elevated, most of the non-stars in the set can be hard for under $10.  The common HoF'ers under $20.  And damn the cards are *beautiful,* with a simple yet stately design.  The gold borders just frame the cards perfectly, the slight offwhite background and distortion on the player photos framing the autograph perfectly.

I'll never complete the set.  Some of the bigger names were SP's, and go for big money.  But I'm ok with that.  I'll chip away here and there, recapturing the cards I never pulled in the mall.  

Heck, I have a box-worth of autos right here.  And even if you don't factor in inflation, they cost me a heck of a lot less than what a box ran in 2000.

But I can't help but wonder what might have happened if we had opened just oneeeee more pack.

Anyone else have a "one that got away" set?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Finding Some Direction

While in many ways it feels like I never left collecting, a lot can change in two years.  I was read to be back on the wagon and post two days in a row until my scanner had different plans.  I had been using the same all-in-one printer/scanner since before my blogging days, but we bought a new printer in late 2018.  I've scanned some things for work, but never had to give much thought to resolution, quality, etc.

So after an hour and a half of fighting with the scanner, trying out different settings, and getting my image game back on point, here we are.  A day late, but at least the cards won't look like they're in a grainy ad for STAR baseball cards from 1992.

My biggest priority in coming back to collecting is making sure I'm having *fun* again.  By the time I stepped away from collecting, I was burnt out and dealing with new cards coming in felt more like a chore than a hobby.  

My collecting evolved over the years.  In my teens, my collection was subsidized by my mom slipping me a $20 before I drove to the local mall show, or maybe a few boxes of cards for Christmas.  My focus was pretty narrow, because so was my budget.  It was semi-easy to be a player collector on a terrible, small market team.  Jack Wilson was my favorite Pirate, but he wasn't somebody who was going to attract a lot of hobby dollars.  Even Jason Bay was out of my price range back then.

In college, I started branching out to trying to get an autograph of every Pirate who had a certified auto.  A pretty easy task at the time, relatively speaking.  The only guys you were going to pay above $10 for was Willie Stargell, Kiner, or Maz.  And even then, it wasn't by much except for Stargell.

The dime box diving started in college and continued through grad school, and I started building my collection from COMC and ebay.  I call those the "eat tacos for 5 straight meals" years.  I was living on my own, making what at the time felt like a decent wage from my grad school stipend (it wasn't), and cost of living was absurdly low for a guy living on his own.  Spoiler: tacos are cheap and let you buy more baseball cards.

I started this blog shortly after finishing grad school.  And my collection grew by leaps and bounds.

But at some point it just got to be too much to manage.  Cards were coming in faster than I could enjoy and appreciate them.  I'm still finishing up migrating my Pirate collection over to TCDB to get a final count.  But I have over 19,000 different Pirate cards.  I think the final tally should be around 20,000.  That doesn't count doubles, triples, and "half a row of 1994 Fleer Jeff Kings."

The feeling of realizing you were burnt out on a hobby that you had loved since you were a little kid absolutely sucked.  But the time away has been wonderful in many ways.  As I started to dip my toes back into the collecting waters these last few weeks, I really wanted to take a hard look at *how* I was collecting.

I was buying quantity over quality.  Sure, I was still buying some higher end cards here and there. But when push came to shove, I was far more likely to come away with 50 dime cards than I was to drop $5 on a nicer single.

When it was a mailer here and a card show there, it was manageable.  But at some point the quantity coming in was just too much to keep up with or appreciate.

My plan is to focus more on quality over quantity.  I'll always be a team collector, and I'm sure I'll continue adding plenty of lower end cards.  But I wanted to add some cards that felt like they were missing from my collection.  And where better to start than some of the all time greats.

I grabbed all of these cards from the same ebay seller.  I may have overpaid a little bit - maybe 10% or so - but it's worth it after being away for so long.  The Parker SI auto is his first certified auto.  How can you go wrong with an on card auto and the classic bumblebee uniform?  

I only had one certified Maz auto in my collection - 01 Fleer GotG.  I have a handful of in person and TTM autos from Maz over the years.  But these two beauties are welcomed additions.  I was like a kid on Christmas opening up the bubble mailer.  And all for less than the going rate of a box these days.

I'm still feeling out exactly where my collection is going to go from here.  But these new pickups were a nice reminder of just how much fun you can have when you have the time to take in each and every card.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Cardboard Therapy

I'm not really sure where to start this one.  Hell, I'm not really sure IF to start this one.

It's been two years since I've blogged, and pretty much two years since I collected cards.  I'm not really sure what to call it.  I wouldn't say that I quit collecting.  To me that implies there would be some kind of active decision.  It's more just that I sort of...forgot to collect.

For the guy who had been collecting uninterrupted since he was old enough to read the box scores in the newspaper, it's a strange feeling only in retrospect.  I had seen people quit collecting cold turkey, sell off their collections, and move on beyond baseball cards.  And my reaction was always, "I could never do that."  And well, I was half right.  For all intents and purposes I did quit collecting.  I didn't sell my cards.  Or look at my cards.  Or even think about my cards, even though they occupy a pretty decent chunk of my basement.

In fact, the pile of cards that I showed off in my last blog post some two years ago from the 2018 National stayed piled up, totally untouched, unsorted, un-anythinged for about a year and a half until I finally rounded up all the stray stacks of cards into a monster box.

The why is complicated.  More complicated than it's worth getting into in a blog post on a long-dead blog.  But the long and short of it that I was burnt out on collecting, and on my 20's.  I was sick of the cookie cutter products that card companies were releasing, had fallen out of love with my hometown baseball team, and dealing with all the real-life shit that hits you like a ton of bricks when you move into your 30's.

I honestly would have been perfectly content to leave it all in the rear view mirror quite a while longer.  After all, it's not like there has been any shortage of time to think about busting out the old collection over the past few months.  But life sometimes has its own ideas.

I was scrolling through Facebook (something I try to avoid these days) a couple of weeks ago, when I saw a post to the Team Collector's group I've been in for almost a decade asking if the Pirates collector was still active.  That's me.  I've been scarce from a group I considered friends.  People who I've traveled far and wide to get together with, share meals, catch a ball game, all from a shared love of cards.  And I pretty much dropped off the face of the planet, save for the occasional cards I'd send out or a quick hello.  But the gang was nice enough to keep my spot.  Or maybe it's just even harder than ever to find a Pirates collector these days...

Either way, I started thinking about collecting.  Not just the cards, but all the other stuff that comes with it.  The friendships, the interactions.  The best part of this blog was never about showing off my cards, but finding content that I knew my regular commenters would enjoy.  Reading posts on other blogs, and commenting back and forth.  And even the occasional unexpected package from a reader.

I burnt myself out on collecting.  I was obsessively trying to add more and more Pirate cards, and went down a rabbit hole with custom cards that was an arts and crafts project on steroids.  And with cards pouring in, cataloging and organizing my collection became its own anxiety inducing task.  Hence those NSCC cards that sat for 18 months.  

I realized I missed collecting, and I missed the community that comes with it.  My patience was tested early.  I came across a Jack Wilson card I didn't have, put in what I thought was an "win at all costs bid."  About double what the card would have sold for 2 years ago.  I was the third highest bidder.  That was almost enough to have me throw in the towel and leave my binders be.  

But I think I can truthfully say that I'm back collecting, and having fun doing it again.  I'm working on getting my collection logged on TCDB (username battlinbucs, if you want to be pals).  I'm finding it to be a much better site than it was 2 years ago.  I've been working on building out my Pirate haves/wants, and logging some of my oddball side collections as well.  I'm finding it so much faster and less stressful than my old system of multiple spreadsheets.  

So I guess this is Phase II of dipping my toes back into the cardboard waters.  I've missed writing.  When I started this blog, it's what I thought I'd be doing as a career (not penning the Great American Novel or anything).  I've carved out a career that I'm very happy with and proud of, but some weeks the most writing I do is the odd email.  

Who knows if anyone will read this.  I think blogs were passe when I started in 2013.  But it's a form that works for me.  I tried Twitter a few years ago, but I think my attention span is too long and my appetite for drama too short to be able to handle that community.  So in the mean time, who wants to get me caught up on the last two years worth of cardboard?  So far I've figured out that a) there is zero product in stores b) prices online are laughably high and c) I will do whatever it takes to own every Lloyd McClendon card from 2020 Archives I possibly can.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The National, Part 1

So things have been a little quiet on the blog.  It's been a busy summer and my stacks of cards from the big Pittsburgh show in May are still waiting to be dealt with.  But with the National only a little more than a 2 hour drive away in Cleveland, there was no way I was going to miss it.

This was my second National experience, the first coming in 2014 the last time it was in Cleveland.  It was an amazing experience, and I came away with an absolutely loaded haul.  I went in with high expectations.  And honestly, this show fell a little short.  Overall it was a great experience, and I came away with plenty of new cards.  But on the whole the show fell a little flat for me.

For those who have never been, imagine the biggest card show you've seen and multiply by three.  Cleveland's I-X Center is a huge venue, which from what I heard allowed for more space in the isles and between booths than in Chicago or Atlantic City.  It's a massive space, and navigating is an adventure at best.
My show plans ended up being pretty fluid.  Originally Kate and I had planned to go out together Saturday and Sunday, her exploring Cleveland while I hit the show.  But she recently took a (great) new job working the national news desk for Hearst Media (and getting out of newspapers, yaaaay!) that has a Tuesday-Saturday schedule.  So there went that.  Ultimately I decided to drive out Thursday and again on Saturday.  Yeah, it was extra driving and gas, but I wanted to get a jump on Pirate cards before they were all picked over and had plans to meet up with a bunch of my Team Collector pals on Saturday.

There are a lot of positives.  The show is literally a pop up museum inside a card show.  There were numerous dealers with lit standing glass cases just like you'd see at a museum filled with jerseys of Hall of Famers and other high end memorabilia that probably sell for as much as my house. 
The photo at the top of this post is my two day haul.  Overall, I definitely found plenty of new cards for my collections.  And in terms of overall scope, I was able to find something for all of my team and set collections, something I haven't been able to say about any prior show, even the 2014 National.

The boxes in the back are all from my Team Collector buddies.  As I've mentioned before, I'm part of a group of team collectors that has been together for over a decade now.  The concept is pretty straightforward: I send cards of the respective teams out to those collectors, and they ship Pirates to me.  We also do group breaks every couple months at cost.
After so many years we're friends first and card collectors second.  We typically have an annual in person meetup, since we're scattered across the country where we get together, hang out, and have a big box break.  This year we decided to get together in Cleveland for the National. 

We met up at the National Saturday afternoon for our break.  I lost track of how many boxes we had, but it was easily over 20.  It was great getting to spend some in person time with folks you usually only talk to online or via Google Hangouts.  And even though the Bucs didn't do great in the break, we pulled some real beauties.

Getting to spend some time at the show with some friends, some of whom I've met in person numerous times and others who were newer to the group and meeting for the first time, was by far the highlight of the week for me.  Plus I was about to clear out a couple thousand cards, bringing boxes for all eight of our group that was in attendance.  I came home with fewer cards than I left the house with, so that along was a huge win.  And cheap plug: if anyone is interested we currently have openings for the Braves, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Marlins, O's, Phillies, and Rays.  If you're interested, drop me a line or you can reach us on twitter @team_collectors.
As for the show itself?  I found myself a little disappointed.  When I've hit major shows in the past, there have almost always been a couple dealers who had boxes upon boxes of low end auto/gu blowout boxes in the $1-2 range.  The selection was always great, and I would find myself adding new Pirates and some other autos to my collection.  This time?  Maybe a stray box here or there.  But most of the "junk" autos were priced in the $3-5 range. 

I realize they're on the low, low end of the spectrum.  But you'd figure there are plenty of case breakers and resellers who are overrunning with less desired gu/autos from the last two decades.  I did find a few gems.  The Felipe Rivero/Vasquez auto was a steal at $1, and Glasnow was $2.
And my favorite pickup of the show was this Rice/Parker dual.  I love the 2005 Ultimate Collection autos, and this card has long been among my most wanted.  It was $3, presumably due to a crease in the card right near the "e" in Dave.  But it's barely noticeable, and I was more than happy to add this for that price.

The low end product on the whole was lacking.  Last time I hit the NSCC, I came across absolutely loaded quarter and fifty cent boxes.  There were dealers with tables of nothing but blowout low end product, and the boxes were loaded with serial numbered cards from the last 15 years or so.

This year basically every $.25 box I came across had nearly identical inventory of unnumbered Bowman/Bowman Chrome inserts from the past 2-3 years.  I needed basically any Pirates from those sets, since I rarely seek out Bowman cards.  But after one table, I was set. 

Finding cards that weren't vintage or older than 2015 or so was a legitimate struggle.
I was able to find a nice run of recent unnumbered refractors and some of those pesky Topps foil parallels from recent years.  But on the whole I wasn't able to find nearly as much as I had hoped.  Though I was able to find a dealer with a stack of 2000 Chrome Refractors for my set at dirt cheap prices, so that was fantastic.  I can't recall ever finding a card from my set at a show until the National.
The other thing that jumped out at me was just how disinterested the dealers seemed.  Even four years ago, I had some nice conversations with dealers during the show.  I usually wear a rotating cast of jerseys, including Mariners, Marlins, a 1999 All-Star game jersey, and of course Pirates jerseys.  So even a "are you looking for Mariners cards" comment can easily lead to conversation about how, no, I just have way too many jerseys.  I mentioned in my Robert Morris recap how chatting with dealers led to some of my best finds at that show when they pulled out cards not on display.

But the National?  I had to repeated scream "excuse me" to get dealers to look up from their phones so I could pay for my cards.  Maybe one or two dealers engaged me in conversation, and of the few I tried to engage most made it pretty clear they weren't the talkative types.

Personally I can't imagine standing around at a show in near silence for the better part of a week.  But at the very least, general sales techniques say to engage your customer.  A simple "hi" or "anything specific you're looking for?" goes a long way with me.  There was a general attitude of "just find what you want and give me money" that I found very off-putting.
I've mentioned it before, but there's just this sort of growing feeling that what the hobby is currently is no longer in line with who I am as a collector.  I get it.  Chrome is King.  Dealers are far more interested in someone who is looking to drop $800 on their graded rookie auto than the guy digging $20 in cards out of their quarter box. 

Everywhere I looked, tables were overflowing with Bowman.  A product I have zero interest in.  Nowhere did I see a Starling Marte or Jamison Taillon auto, even an overpriced one.  At one table, I was buying $2 in quarter cards while a kid who couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 was trying to haggle with the dealer to sell some cards.  He had a small box, quoting off chapter and verse the ebay prices on cards, all of which were $100, $200, or more.  When I was 11 I was happy to hit a Cliff Floyd jersey card out of a box.
Speculation has always been a part of collecting.  But it seems like that's the primary focus of the hobby now.  Or at least the one that draws the show crowds.  And that was sort of the lingering emotion of the weekend as I made the drive home on Saturday.  While there are still products like Big League or Stadium Club that get me excited, I feel like an old highway after the national interstate system was built.  Sure, cars still drive on the road.  But all the traffic is going a different direction now.

But there was a silver lining: I came home well under my budget for the show.  I don't know if that has ever happened at any show, ever.  COMC was running some sales to coincide with the National, and I spent some time Sunday morning doing some COMC shopping.  I hate to say it, but COMC had the cards and prices that I expected to find at the National.  Cool autos of uncool players for under $2, some gorgeous gold refractors for $2 or so, and filling in some parallels from the 2001 Donruss and 2000 Ultimate Victory sets I'm working on.

And that's the thing that keeps me collecting.  Even if I'm losing interest in the current product, there are still literally tens of thousands of cards for me to keep chasing out there.

Did anyone else make it out to the National?  How was your experience?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Regional Flavor

One of my side hobbies over the last few months has been working on improving my talents in the kitchen.  I've always enjoyed cooking, and have always been able to put together a pretty decent meal.  But recently I've been trying to reconnect with my Italian roots a little better through my stomach.

Both my dad's parents were Italian immigrants, but growing up in my house my mom's cooking was more likely to be burgers, meat loaf, or tuna noodle casserole than hand rolled pastas.  For me cooking has been a way to reconnect with grandparents who died when I was young, and a cultural history that got quickly forgotten in the push to "Americanize."  But the thing I really love about Italian food?  How different each region's cuisine is, and how the foods they cook tell the story of the people, resources, and location.

And in some weird ways, I see card collecting to be very similar.  If you've been fortunate enough to attend card shows in different parts of the county, you quickly realized that collectors in different areas collect very differently.
Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, shows were always a fairly consistent recipe.  Some dime boxes, where it always felt like I was the only buyer, dollar boxes of toploadered star cards, a showcase of higher end stuff - usually Pittsburgh autographs with the occasional national star, and memorabilia.  Autographed helmets, programs, photos, bobbleheads, VHS tapes, McFarlane figures.  You name it, and it would probably pop up at a show in the area.
It's the old nature/nurture debate.  I have to think that my collecting interests are a product of my environment.  See, as a teen when I started going to shows, jumping into the otherwise unoccupied dime boxes was the easiest entry point.  I didn't have to jockey for position with grown men like I would have needed to in the higher end boxes, and at that age it fit my budget perfectly.  And while much of the memorabilia was out of my price range, McFarlane figures were the natural evolution to the SLU figures I loved as a kid.  And from 2003-2006 I built up a sizable collection that covered the shelves in my bedroom.  Vintage was almost never seen, and never at prices below near full book.

But I was the exception, not the rule.  Memorabilia is huge in this area.  At the Pittsburgh show, there were lots of people who only came for the autograph guests, never even bothering to leave the autograph room to look at the hundreds of dealer tables.  They would just sit on the floor (often right in the middle of the floor...) waiting for the next autograph line they needed.  And showcase cards seem to sell well, as long as it's a Steeler, Penguin, or well...that's about it now.  For a while McCutchen was in that category as well.  The big show seems to bring out the vintage set guys, but they're rarely seen at any other shows throughout the year. There's a decided flavor to collectors here, but I always just figured it wasn't all that different from the rest of the collecting communities across the country.

I grew up in the area, moved to the city for college, and down to West Virginia for grad school.  So my collecting world never really went beyond the Pittsburgh metro area.  Sure, ebay and COMC came into my life.  As I aged I had more money in my pockets.
But it wasn't until we moved to western Ohio, a few months before I started this blog, that I found that the collecting wasn't nearly as homogenous as I thought.  The Ohio card scene was completely different than my experiences in Pittsburgh.  Dime and nickel (!) boxes were packed with collectors, to the point it was tough to even get a spot.  Where I think I was literally the only Pirates collector going to shows in Pittsburgh, there were suddenly team collectors for Reds, Indians, and Tigers digging through boxes alongside me.  Often we'd agree to pull all the cards of the other team we found in boxes for each other to save time.  And vintage!  Oh the vintage!
Ohio was my first introduction to the glory of discount vintage bins.  You mean...I can add 1954 Topps cards for $1?  Fifty cents for '75 Mini's? 

I never quite put my finger on why, but the collecting communities in these areas, only a few hours apart, had developed quite differently.  And as I started blogging and seeing the hauls other bloggers would bring back from their shows, I started to get a sense of their collecting worlds as well.

After the show, I had some nice exchanges on twitter with other collectors about how different regions collect.  And it really isn't something you'd ever notice unless you are a dealer or have lived in different areas.  Some are hit-centric, and dime boxes would sit untouched for a full weekend.  Other areas go wild for the low end stuff but showcase cards rarely get an eyeball on them.  I'm sure local teams, the economy, and any other number of factors influence how collectors collect.

But it's just one more thing that makes the hobby that much more interesting.  For me?  I'm happy where I'm at and how I collect.  Everything in this post except the Clemente (which only ran me $3) came from dime boxes.  Most of them were found on the second day of the show.  In other markets, those cards would have been long gone.  And in some markets they would have been in those boxes the whole weekend, unsold.  Luckily for me they were there for me to add to my pile, part of a great weekend of finds for my collection.

So what's the collecting community like in your area?  Has anyone found completely different collecting habits in the places they've lived?