This guest post came through our Article Submission Program. Thoughts and opinions are those of the author.
Like many of you reading this post, the words “childhood” and “card collecting” are inextricably linked for me. Growing up in the early ’90s, my Mom couldn’t stop at a Wal-Mart or a gas station without me running inside to buy another pack. And while those cards didn’t end up making me rich as I had planned, I wouldn’t trade my memories of buying, sorting, and trading cards for anything.
So you can appreciate my excitement when my nine-year-old son started getting into cards last year. It started innocently enough, with a single pack of baseball cards from his uncle. The momentum continued to build as we began chasing cards from this year’s NBA rookie class. But the tipping point came during quarantine, when—aided by extra time and booming prices—we decided to start our own card shop on eBay. And on the whole, it’s been a positive experience. But to be honest, it’s also been somewhat disorienting.
I quickly learned that collecting cards in 2020 is more complicated than collecting cards in 1990. And, in some ways, more contentious. No sooner had I re-joined the hobby than I started feeling pressure to pick “sides” on several issues:
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- Are we primarily going to be collectors or investors?
- Should we trust PSA, BGS, or SGC for our grading needs?
- Are we in a market “bubble” or is this growth sustainable?
- Is it OK to clear out every box at Wal-Mart or should we leave a few for someone else?
- And perhaps most importantly, is Gary Vee the hobby savior or antichrist?
I’m the type of person who always wants to feel like I’m “doing it right,” so I found all the noise to be somewhat unnerving. And on one unfortunate evening, I let my nerves get the best of me, buying $2,000 of Project 2020 cards because I was afraid of missing out on an opportunity…only to see those cards lose half their value the next day (insert an “I told you so” from Geoff). It was a tough night. But it paved the way for a major breakthrough in my experience of the hobby that I wanted to share with you.
You see, by day, I run a management consulting firm that helps companies get clear on their “why.” We start there because clarifying your “why” enables you to navigate the endless stream of “how’s” and “what’s” that inevitably follow. I’m not sure why it took me so long to connect the dots, but all at once, the answer to my internal tension became clear. We felt disoriented by all the options in front of us because we hadn’t taken the time to nail down our fundamental purpose for doing cards in the first place.
This realization prompted several days of constructive dialogue between myself, my son, and, most importantly, my wife. When the dust settled on those conversations, we concluded that the “why” behind our card business was twofold: creating family memories and teaching our kids about business. With that clarity in hand, we were then able to answer a series of related questions about our business, forming our Card Collecting Playbook (which you can view here if you’re interested). We’ve been operating with this playbook for about a month now, and I can’t tell how much more freedom and fun we’ve experienced as a result.
My point here is not for you to engage with the hobby in the same way we do. Your “why” may be entirely different than ours. But whatever it is, I would encourage you to give it careful thought and clear definition. You might be amazed at how much easier your day-to-day hobby-related decisions become when you do. And it will keep you from buying a bunch of overpriced cards in the middle of the night out of some vague notion that you’re missing out like some other guy I know.
You all know Sports Card Investor loves the family aspect of sports card collecting. This was a great article reminding us that we all have different reasons “why” or how we started collecting, but it’s important sometimes to look back and remember this is fun. We would love to hear some great stories of “why” you started collecting.
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