Has the Hobby vs Retail Argument Changed?

When I first started this blog, I could not understand why people bought retail cards, especially from hit focused products. Although I still do not condone buying retail in most cases, it’s a VERY different animal these days, as opposed to the flat and terrible products it used to have.

In the past, I had a rule, and I still follow it now, with a few exceptions. Usually, I wont buy a retail product unless it has Chrome somewhere in the set, especially for products that can easily be purchased at a hobby store or online retailer with much better auto and relic odds. 2010 Bowman is a great example of why it is almost a better idea to buy the retail product in every case, as the hobby boxes are so expensive, that the Target blasters are already worth the 20 dollar purchase price if you can find them. Not only is Stras readily available in retail, but the USA cards are easier to pull than in hobby, as are a few other things. The bad thing is that there is no prospect autos, but with prospect auto prices for people not named Heyward or Strasburg dropping, giving them up isnt a deal breaker for anyone.

Chrome for football isnt bad as well, as the base cards do have some value, even though the hobby boxes are much better shots for the autos. Retail Chrome also has the blue refractors and xfracs in the packs, where hobby does not, so to collect those player rainbows, retail is a given in many of our conquests. Plus, the rack packs do deliver a few more cards for a comparable price to hobby packs, and you can pick some up with the diapers you have to get every other day.

Ginter is another exception to the rule, especially because so many people collect the base cards more than the relics or autos. You can also pull Stras minis from it, and the autos and relics have okay odds in the blasters, so its not a bad idea to try one for 20 bucks. 7 packs with a bunch of cards, including retail only minis lead to some pretty good results for set collectors.

Despite the success of the Chromes, not every blaster is created equal. Panini released blasters of the much improved Elite product from this year, but the price is absolutely ridiculous. For a guaranteed hit, you have to pay 30 dollars, even though most of the time the hits arent even worth what some of the base cards are valued at. I think a lot of the people who buy the blasters would much rather pay 20 bucks with lesser hit odds, as long as more of the numbered parallels are included. I know I definitely would, if I were collecting the sets.

It still remains a complete moronic move to buy any lose packs at any place if you are looking for hits, because Pack Searchers still stupidly search out the packs with the 2 dollar hits in them. Im not sure why anyone would buy retail for this reason, but Im sure it still happens. I think its funny that pack searchers still exist because of how common jersey cards have become, but they still do it and do it A LOT. Stick to blasters and you wont have this problem.

All in all, I would never buy retail unless I had something to gain from it that could not be obtained through hobby means, like in the case of 2010 Bowman, or even in the case of the success people were having with 2009 Topps Platinum football. Because online retailers can get you practically anything you want, even if there isnt a local shop in your area, wax breakers who bust for hits should not even think about buying packs at target. Yet, as with anything, there is always an exception, its just a matter of finding the exceptions to exploit.

Taking Another Look At Hoarding Versus Collecting

A few months ago, I commented on the ways that card collectors resemble hoarders in some respect, mainly focusing on a lot of people who’s goal is quantity over quality. The “I have to get every type of X” mentality has left many people with a garage filled to the brim, a room filled with cardboard boxes, or even a basement that is more card storage than anything. Because collecting cards usually extends to other parts of collecting sports memorabilia in general, it can get pretty crazy for a lot of people in our beloved hobby.

Recently, I went through the tedious task of cleaning out my collection, because for someone like me, having a card that you cant display is not worth the time. I have sold parts of my Joe Mauer Collection, my Adrian Peterson collection and my Vikings/Twins collection with reckless abandon, just to make room for things that have more immediate importance to my life. I even listed a huge lot of junk that I have pulled from boxes over the last few years. Really, cards sitting in box, most that will never see the light of day don’t serve a purpose right now, especially when our apartment is soon to be filled with toys and orther Noah related items.

Funny enough, while cleaning everything out and posting on eBay, I watched an episode of American Pickers after an episode of Pawn Stars had ended, and I had some interesting feelings about what was going on in the show. For American Pickers, two gentlemen scour the south for backwoods farms filled with old junk that they can sell at elevated premiums for people who want to decorate their homes, stores, or whatever. Its really a novel concept, especially when you see the stuff they buy and how much they pay. To them, hoarders/collectors are the meat of their business, and it drew some very interesting parallels to our hobby. First, I established from this show that if you are organized and knowledgable, you are a collector, but if you are in a state of disarray, you are pretty much a hoarder. But in all reality, is there much of a difference? We are called collectors because we keep everything organized (mostly) in small boxes arranged by a metric that we deem worthy? I think its borderline at best, and I am wondering how many collectors out there really collect just for the fun of it, rather than just acquiring as much as possible to fill some hole that collectors usually have. Even if it isnt conscious, I have a feeling there is something to that theory. Secondly, if you have a bunch of nice stuff, you are definitely a collector, whereas a hoarder has loads and loads of worthless junk. Sound familiar? Lastly, if you have the space to display, and do display your collection you are a collector, where hoarders just pile everything in any open space, or keep excess amounts of stuff regardless of space issues. Again, sounds a lot like people I know.

Trust me, I am not free from judgment myself, as I have to consciously avoid gathering too much. Unlike the past, when I buy packs now, I don’t keep the junk that’s not a hit anymore, mainly because the shop owners almost always give the cards to people at the store. I mean, what is the point of keeping all of those? They take up space, they arent/will not be worth anything in the future, and like many of us, I already have space issues trying to fit the stuff into a space in my house. I have strictly become a quality over quantity guy, even more classified as an autograph collector rather than a card collector. I think that type of switch in my habits have led to a lot of changes to the collection that I have. If its just going to sit in a box, its not worth keeping anymore. As a result, I have a shelf that is filled with cool items and half a box filled with autographs of my favorite players only.

I want to explain now that I don’t really get what drives someone to collect in excess. When I did it, I just did it without regard for much of anything. I just knew that if it fit my wants, I had to have it without a rational thought telling me not to do it. Eventually, I boiled it down to a combination of unconscious personal vanity, or wanting to have the best “X” collection in the world, and a need to fill free time. Now that I have something to fill my free time and then some, and my personal vanity of needing that best collection has subsided. Honestly, when I started this blog, a lot of my card hoarding habits stopped. Instead of plundering eBay for deals and venturing to shows and shops for forgotten treasures, I spent time writing and making this blog better. Now, a combination of this blog and my son have forced me to re-evaluate a second time, this time with me trimming more fat from my collection than ever before. I hadnt sold a Mauer card in three years, and it was tough to see some of the rarer ones go. But now that I have a lot of extra space and some extra coin in my pocket, I feel better about my station in this hobby.

For you super-collectors out there, I would frequently evaluate why you do what you do. Is it really worth your time to acquire what you acquire even though you know that most of what you buy is not something that needs to be bought? Instead of buying that extra hobby box or making that trip to target, maybe its time to start organizing and stop hoarding. Its definitely worth the time to think about it, and who knows, you may come to the realization that quality may be much more important to the well-being of your life than quantity.

High End Set Collecting Is Always Impressive

Sometimes when searching eBay, I come across an item that just makes my mouth water. One of those crazy pieces that will only be available once or twice in its form, a true spectacle. One of my favorite ones to stumble upon are complete sets of high end products that I could never fathom putting together. This item is one of those things that really take a stretch of the mind to think of the money and time it would take to put together. When you factor in the popularity of the product, and the cost of the cards, and the rarity of some of the subjects it is truly epic to see this in action.

Back in 2002, Legendary cuts was a relatively new idea for a set, as the cut autograph was not where it is now. When you think that a company released a set with autographs of Wagner, Mantle, Cobb, Ruth, Maris, and others, its very simple to see why collectors went nuts for this product. This seller obviously got caught up in the craziness, and managed to put together close to 90% of the set, including some of the extremely rare ones like the Babe, Wagner, and Cobb.

The price itself is ridiculous, as it would mean that each card would have to average more than $1,000 per. Pretty crazy. However, to know that there are sets like this out there is just as crazy, mainly because of the rarity of some of these cards. Kind of makes you wonder just how much went into it. Im guessing at least the price of a mid range car.

Check it out.

Please Leave The Mayo To Hellman’s

Most of you know that I am not a fan of retro sets. Personally, I think it’s a sign of laziness and lack of creativity to just redo an old set for today’s market. Of course, for people unlike me, Retro sets are a must buy, mostly because they are designed to play to a collector’s set building side as well as their nostalgic sentiments about a product from their childhood or earlier.

So far, Magic and Philadelphia were the only slated retro sets of the year, and that was more than enough for me, but not for everyone else. Obviously, Topps finally realized that they were going to have a tough sell for everything not named Chrome or something similar, so they put Mayo football back on the calendar for 2009. After last year, many people lost faith in the product after checklist and collation snafus, so this year they basically decided to remake Allen and Ginter baseball into a football product and call it a day. They have now announced Rip Cards, minis, tons of parallels, framed autos, and box loaders, all of which make this a set that they knew could sell very well, instead of actually making a worthwhile product based on an original idea. Mayo’s current release information is frustrating and boring to me, as I would much rather have something completely different from what is out there already. Why not just insert mayo cards into an existing set? That would be much better.

Im sure that Mayo football wont be awful, retro products never are (except for Magic), but it stinks of stale formats, and makes me want to scream. Im sure that once collectors get bored with buying modernized versions of older cards, there wont be many more retro products that are made. Don’t get me wrong, collectors WILL get bored, as we all know that card companies never get the “too much of a good thing” idea down. When the calendar is stuffed to the seems with old products that have been updated, people will want the creativity back. Until then, I guess Ill have to suffer through all the ones on the calendar this year. Although Im guessing that UD Philadelphia will be the best of the bunch this year due to the inscriptions, on card autos, and use of the most popular retro designs on the market, Im not going to buy any of it. Same with Magic, same with Mayo, same with all the retro sets they make.

I want more sets with simple designs like SP Authentic and Topps Chrome, products that focus on the layout and design of a card as the selling point rather than a gimmick or a stale idea like the retro sets. Both Chrome and SPA have been around for years, but neither seem outdated to me. Its because the cards are focused on as the way to show off the brands, resulting in awesome cards that collectors love.

H/T Matt for the Mayo Pic.

More Unbelievable Adventures In Set Collecting

When Exquisite was first produced in 03-04, people had two reactions. They either shit their pants with excitement, or they shit their pants wondering why something like it was ever considered. Personally, I wasnt really into collecting at that point, but I still heard rumblings, and I was a little of column A and a little of column B. 

The collector who put this set together obviously picked the right set to collect. This set is widely considered to be the most unbelievable and most valuable modern set ever. LeBron, Wade, and Anthony all had cards that are worth a ton, and this guy has them all with ridiculous patches in each one. He wants a lot of money for it, without a doubt, but I cant really blame him. 
I am always impressed with the people who manage these things, and I will never hesitate to post about it. Who knows what this will be worth 20 years down the road when James and Wade are retiring. Then again, its still relatively early in their career, lots can happen.