I collect sports cards, or at least I think I do. 😕
When I was much younger, there were basically three companies that made baseball cards – Topps, Donruss and Fleer. All through the Ronald Reagan Presidency I could count on those companies producing one set of cards (plus update) each year. I knew where to find cards and what to look for to complete the sets. I knew what to expect, and I was happy about all of this!
Rickey and Raines. Rose and Ryan. Darryl and Dwight. Mark and Clark. Horner and Murphy. These were star players during my teenage years. Saw them all play. I knew I wanted to be like them one day, so I did the next best thing – I collected all their cards.
Check me out from April 1982!
But this all changed in the late 1980s – early 1990s, Bowman and Leaf began producing cards again, followed by new guys – Upper Deck, Score, Sportflix, and some other companies I have long since forgotten. By this point (1994-ish) life got in the way, so I stopped collecting for almost 25 years.
Then lightning struck – in a good way.
About ten months ago, I found my cards again.They were upstairs in a storage room full of long-forgotten stuff. One evening, I started looking through them, and two hours later the interest to collect had returned. The cards were still organized in cardboard boxes and three-ring binders. Reggie. Hank. Roberto. Thurman. Lemke. MY guys! MY cards! Virtually untouched for more than 20 years. I even found a Beckett guide from May 1993 (Greg Maddux!). That evening I was not yet sure what I was going to do with the collection, but then …
(📸: Paul Katcher, Target near Fenway)
… a few days later I happened to be in a local Target near the checkout aisles and saw tons of boxes and packs on the shelf. (Very similar to Paul’s photo above.) What I saw actually confused me. I chuckled because I did not recognize what I was looking at except I knew they were baseball cards manufactured by Topps. There were so many different sets and packs. (Series 1. Series 2. Heritage. Chrome. Bowman. Allen & Ginter. Archives. So many!) I bought 3-4 different packs, not really knowing what I was buying at the time. My enthusiasm to collect had returned, but I had no direction or focus on how to do it! I felt a little like Nuke LaLoosh – full of potential, but in need of lots of coaching in a hurry. (“Well, he really hit the sh@! outta that one, didn’t he?” Love Crash, but that will have to hold for another day.)
Once I got home and ripped open the packs, I went to the Internet to figure out what I had purchased. I recognized most of the players (Judge, Scherzer, Altuve, and a few other recognizables) because I am an avid baseball fan, but I truly didn’t know any values or what was preferred from each pack.
The more I read, the more I became confused. An actual headache found me, so I went to bed. Prior to purchasing those few packs, I had not read much of anything on the Internet, joined any Facebook groups, or really been involved in the modern hobby. Although I had grown up going to local card shops in several cities, I had not been in a store since the early 1990s. (A quick Google search showed there are currently only five card stores in the entire state of Alabama.) I recall there being more than a dozen when I was a teenager. This is what I was used to seeing in local card shops…
(📷: Tyler Nay)
During the following few weeks I found Facebook groups, podcasts, and YouTube channels so I could catch up with the modern hobby. Too much, too soon! However, one of the best things I learned in those first few weeks was to start focusing on what my collection goals would become. Since my entire collection at that time was vintage and raw (For hobby terms and other thoughts about getting (re)started :Tips on Getting Back into Sports Card Collecting), I decided to stay in my comfort zone with older cards. I learned the importance of slabbed cards and found the current prices in the eBay sold section. I also really like many of the modern cards, so I also focus on just the ones I really like. Since I am a lifelong Braves fan, I now concentrate on their current stars and prospects. Also, with the White Sox AA squad (Birmingham Barons) in my hometown, I focus on these players, too.
Here is where I really made my move into the hobby …
I soon learned how to list and sell cards on eBay. However, I quickly realized I did not like the monthly eBay tax bill, so I created an Instagram page (BudsBallCards) to sell my cards. While I still purchase cards through eBay, I sell through IG. There are pros (no tax, easier to list and communicate) and cons (no auctions, smaller marketplace, less protection from shady deals) on IG, but since I started the page in June, I am pleased with it so far. Ball card listings and trades on IG are growing, and so is my page. I have averaged 5-6 sales each month and have reached almost 500 followers. Slow and steady – I am in no hurry. Consistency is the key. Regularly listing cards. Interacting with others. Commenting on their comments. Deleting the negative posts. Using IG Highlights and Stories, combined with the occasional video, have helped increase the page’s presence in a rapidly growing market. Since many pages I have seen concentrate on the popularity of modern cards with their inserts, autos, numbered relics, etc., I have pivoted in a different direction. The majority of my page (and collection) targets vintage raw cards. While I am adding more graded cards as they roll in from PSA, 90% of what I have is ungraded. I do throw in some hot modern cards, but that really is not my main focus. I am just trying to stand out a little bit.
My education during the past several months has largely come from joining hobby-related Facebook groups and subscribing to podcasts and YouTube channels that focus on collecting. I quickly learned that some FB groups are filled with some really mean spirited folks who are quick to criticize when basic collecting questions are asked. (I did not stay in those groups very long. Who needs that garbage?) My main group is hosted by David Reyes from New York. I happened upon his page (SVA Card Collectors) in February. David is quick to tell you that he recently returned to the hobby and wanted to create a page where others can learn about collecting without being harassed or intimidated. I visit this page daily and have made some new friends (and trades!) from around the country. I interviewed David a few months ago, and he shared some strategies about getting back into collecting (David Reyes). David also has a podcast that is growing. In between sips of (no sponsor) coffee, each morning David shares his research, insight, and thoughts about collecting.
One great thing about YouTube videos is that I get to see the newest cards hitting the market when hosts hold “breaks”–when sealed cases, boxes or packs are opened on video. Viewers often can buy into the break (by purchasing packs for x$ per pack that the breaker offers the viewers) and see cards being opened in the live video. Breaks have become very popular and have helped to modernize and rejuvenate the hobby. Watch a bunch of these breaks to get an idea of how they work. It’s like playing the lottery – you never know when a pack will contain the next Trout or Zion auto rookie!
I have also begun visiting my LCS (local card shop). Mike with All Star Sports Cards Emporium near downtown Birmingham is a great fellow and is quick to discuss anything and everything card related! He recently hosted a trade night that was a lot of fun. My next goal is to attend a regional card show, and hopefully The National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City next summer. The national convention hosts a few thousand dealers over most of a week when 200k+ people attend.
If you have read this far …
… thank you. There is so much to share, but this has gone on long enough. I am enthusiastic about the hobby. It seems I am in a fast growing community. I hope to interact with you sometime. Please find me!
IG: BudsBallCards / I’m just a fan back in the hobby. Go Braves!