Tips for starting a baseball card collection

19 Feb

My introduction to collecting baseball cards was much the same of everyone of my generation. Quite simply I had a quarter and wanted to see what that wax pack might hold, and yes I wanted that chalky piece of gum guaranteed to break teeth too. That first pack was the beginning of collecting for me.

Before long I was buying a few packs each week and receiving them for rewards when I brought home good grades, put in extra help at home, or just because. As the pile of cards grew I began taking my first real step into building a lasting comprehensive collection. Thirty years later it’s still going strong.

Many collectors are very intent on building collections which reflect high monetary value alone. That is fine for some but it isn’t very realistic for the average collector just starting out. With so many choices available where does one start?

A tried and true method that has worked for many young and old collectors coming through our shop is to above all else be reasonable. Don’t go crazy jumping on every fad product being put out. Identify a budget for your collecting which is within your means. Decide what it is exactly you enjoy collecting.

A wonderful way to get started is to begin collecting your favorite team. This is highly cost effective as compared to going for complete sets. You already know you like the players and will find enjoyment owning a piece of their memorabilia. You can choose to buy just one or all of the several manufacturers products to have added diversity. One of the nice things about this approach is that once you finish one year you can begin working on another or several years simultaneously. When My father and I began the goal was to collect each Yankee team back to 1970 when I was born in effect creating a “Life” collection.

Before long we accomplished the Yankee team set series and began adding in the cards which reflected all star status for players regardless of team. Next we began collecting the top stars like Yaz, Bench, Pete Rose, George Brett, etc… Then we added in the league leaders and before long we began pursuing the full sets. What was so nice about this is we didn’t overextend buying full sets outright and we had the added pleasure of spending time together actually sorting the cards, making checklists, and eventually placing them in albums so we could actually look at them rather than being housed in boxes. Needless to say eventually my dad wanted to begin collecting his childhood heroes which allowed the passion Another enjoyable way to start collecting is to identify one or several players and begin collecting their career. What I mean by this is quite simply locating one example of each card and compiling them. While it sounds easy that is far from the truth and almost never actually completed. The chase this style provides is incredible and makes acquisitions very satisfying. For example I have collected Rickey Henderson cards for nearly 26 years and still haven’t gotten one of each. Regional cards, insert cards, minor league cards and even cards on food packages make this a daunting but fun task. Even if you reach a point where there is a stall you can easily begin working on another player.

These are far from the only ways to begin collecting. Just as there are countless cards floating around there are countless options for beginning your collection. You may choose to collect only one manufacturer, one year at a time, or even players from your home state. You can do anything you want.

The best piece of advice I can give is to love what you collect. A person that buys cards for the purpose of seeing their value appreciate isn’t a collector, they are an investor. A collector will chase a 1974 jack Billingham for example simply because they liked him. An investor would only do so if it provided a profit motive. See the difference? Neither way is wrong and you can be part of each.

If you are interested in compiling a collection which holds the best odds of maintaining maximum value then it is almost always necessary to go the route of buying sealed complete sets and then never opening them. It’s not much fun mind you as you’ll never actually see or handle these cards but this method retains value the best. Usually I suggest collectors that can afford to do so identify one factory set each year to buy and put away in addition to a hand collated set they can enjoy. This provides a taste of the best of both worlds.

Whether you are young or old, collecting on your own or with a partner, these are wonderful cost effective ways to begin your collection. As your knowledge grows and tastes develop over time you can always change your collecting style. In conclusion: Be reasonable, identify what you like, and above all else have fun! If it isn’t fun it just isn’t collecting.


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