I collected baseball cards pretty seriously from 1986–1993. I got into the hobby at the same time I got into baseball…and I got out of it once the number of sets and subsets and insert sets and premium sets became overwhelming.* Sort of amazingly I never even looked back. I stayed a baseball fan. I picked up other hobbies—specifically printing and photography. The Giants even won three World Series. But I never felt the itch to buy a pack of cards until this year.
*Plus we had a strike which served as the coup de grâce and my last years of high school to keep me plenty busy without that hobby.
What changed? I started reading the SABR Baseball Cards blog. It’s not focused on any of the things which drove me out of the hobby,* instead it reminds me of everything I loved about it. Looking at the cards and the photos. Studying the backs and comparing stats. Completing sets rather than finding rarities. Discussing particularly beautiful—or particularly awful—designs. Thinking about which ones will work well with autographs. It’s a blog which is about the cards as they relate to fandom and baseball.
*The focus on scarcity and individual-card value and condition both swamped me and priced me out of the hobby.
So I’ve found myself wandering by the card aisles again to check out how much the landscape has changed in the past 25 years. And I find myself in disbelief that my collection is as old now as the mid-60s cards were when I was collecting. Those cards were always my dream cards when I was little. I wanted to see them and handle them and connect with baseball history through them. Eventually I managed to acquire one or two from each year but couldn’t afford more than that.
Meanwhile a lot of the guys on the SABR blog have complete Topps sets going back that far—or at least through the 70s. I can’t imagine. I have sets from 1987 through 1992—accurately capturing my peak collecting years—but I can’t even fathom completing the 1986 set let alone working back toward my dream cards. All the same, I have started thinking about what I would do if I were to start collecting again.
While focusing on complete sets is too much, I can imagine just focusing on the Giants. This wouldn’t even be expensive for the 70s or 80s but I’d expect the 60s, with Mays and company, to get a bit spendy. I can also imagine trying to complete the various weird sets I collected in the late 80s and early 90s. Getting that last missing Mothers Cookies card. Filling out my Dennys Grand Slam holograms. Completing the King B Disc set. Weird projects just appeal to me.
The bigger question for me is what I want to do if, or when, my kids get interested in card collecting. They’ve already shown an interest in soccer cards.* They also have a tendency to be interested in what I’ve collected. So in many ways it’s only be a matter of time.
*This interest probably planted the first seed of my renewed interest in the hobby.
I know that sharing a hobby with them could be a lot of fun. I also know that I want to give them room to do their own collecting, make their own choices, and balance their own allowance budgets. A large part of that is going to involve staying out of what they’ve chosen to collect. And to do that I need to leave territory undiscovered and free for them to have choices.
So maybe that’s a sign I should stop thinking about getting back into collecting and instead just enjoy the conversation and memories. Or maybe it’s a sign that my initial instincts about what to focus on are the extent of what I should do. All I do know is that the next time I’m at my parents’ house I’m going to go dig up my albums and take a good look through. I haven’t really looked at them for 20 years. It’s going to be nice to see some old friends again.