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Finding Your “Why” in the Hobby

Finding Your “Why” in the Hobby

This guest post came through our Article Submission Program. Thoughts and opinions are those of the author.

Introduction

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:

  • 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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View Comments (13)
  • My sons. It started as collecting and ripping and breaking. Then we learned to sell on ebay, comc, starstock, etc. Now we enjoy the experience of ripping and buying cards; grading them and selling. It’s a family business and hobby now.

  • My 8 yr old son cannot physically stop talking about Pokemon cards, so I had to buy some cheap junk wax packs to open up together… What a trip down memory lane! In the current market conditions, there seems to be room to buy what you like, keep what you love, sell off the rest and still come out ahead (and give back to charity too 🙏). Figure as long as you’re happy with the card you bought at the price you paid for it, you’re doing something right! 🤙😁

    • Sounds crazy, but your 8 year old is on to something…don’t underestimate that Pokemon market!! Those cards are on fire and getting huge returns!! I never got into them, but wish I did with those types of returns. Either way just ripping wax is fun.

    • This post has my attention. Have long loved sports cards, but have always rolled my eyes at the Pokemon cards that show up in our house. Has me wondering how many valuable Pokemon cards I’ve thrown away over the past few years. 😬

  • Thank you John! Great article and very timely! I’m just coming back into the hobby after collecting during my childhood. My nephews enjoy cards and got me to buy them some packs and that was all it took for the bug to grab me. My wife and I have been trying to figure out where we go from here and your article helped draw us to a starting point instead of continuing to invest (time and money) without a defined purpose.

  • New to the hobby myself but have came up with some opinions about the market.

    Currently I think there’s alot of room for counterfeit cards to be introduced to the market in massive amounts just like any booming market it’s a giant money grab when attention from mainstream media brings large amounts of money to it. I’m worried about counterfeit cards or the reputable companies deciding to print larger runs.

    That being said I’ll be sticking to grading thru PSA for a while.

    Finally I believe Gary V’s passion for the hobby is authentic but the size of his platform and influence could have an impact on the market intentionally or not .

    • Agree, Eric. All the more important to have sources of hobby information you can trust. Honestly, I would put Geoff and this website right up there when it comes to “protectors” of the hobby. And I say that as someone who has not formal connection with them.

  • I love these articles. I am a long time collector and love the hobby. I have migrated away from Sportscards and into gaming cards. I am looking to get back into Sportscards and have my first eBay store. I have a 9 year old daughter and 7 year old son and they are getting into the hobby with me. Please keep sharing stories like this and doing encouraging videos. My goal is to eventually open a brick and mortar storefront. Until then the eBay store will by my landing pad when I am not being a high school teacher and Almond farmer.

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