Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My New Collecting Philosophy

I have recently commented upon having a new collecting philosophy and have been asked (by Dinged Corners) what prompted the change. In this blog I will try to answer that question. My baseball card collecting started in 1986 along with my son, Zack who was 10-years-old at the time. Actually, I had a small collection in 1963. Back then you could collect every card that was made for any year. It became obvious in 1986 that we could not collect every card that was being printed, so we decided to only collect one complete set (Topps) and then collect all of the cards of one team - the Cleveland Indians. Over the past two decades we have acquired several thousand Indians' cards. We have gone back to the early 1950's and collected a few Bowman and Topps. We have just about everything from 1957 to the present for major regular sets. We started collecting minor league sets for Tribe affiliates, and had 85 different sets going back to 1981. Essentially, everything that was Cleveland and reasonably affordable, we tried to obtain. Before the mid 1990's, Tribe cards were pretty inexpensive, since there were not many stars on the team. With cards stored in over thirty 3-ring binders, I started noticing that I enjoyed looking at some cards more than others and I began to think that collecting everything related to the Tribe wasn't really what I needed to be doing. So, once I started blogging and realized I could find trading partners for some of the cards I no longer wanted, I thought about new criteria for what I wanted to collect. Cost was one factor. Even though I could afford a lot more cards than I had, I have always been aware that baseball cards are just pieces of cardboard without much value except to those who collect them. The only people making money on cards are dealers and manufacturers. Charging inflated prices for rookie cards, star cards and short prints are just ways to increase profits for those in the business. So, I stay away from expensive cards. When I can get several common cards from a set for 25 cents each, I don't need the $1 or $2 star card. One or two parallel cards are enough, I don't need the whole parallel set.

The first Indians' game I attended was in 1959. I can still remember that game: Mudcat Grant beat the Senators 6-1. I remember most of the starting players from that year, but not many from before that. So, why collect cards from previous years, if I have never seen and don't know any of the players? There have been a lot of interesting players wearing a Cleveland uniform over the past 50 years! I have recently made a couple of trades of my early '50's cards and received many great recent cards in return.

The more I thought about which cards I liked and why I liked them, the more criteria I began to formulate. It was as if a card had to pass certain standards before I would accept it for my collection. I like cards that are the standard size 3 1/2" by 2 1/2". That applies to most cards anyway, but not all. I am not collecting any mini, jumbo, or other odd sized sets. This makes it easier to store in standard 9-pocket pages. And, since the Topps 1957 set started the standard size, and it is close to the year I first started following the team, 1959, I have chosen to only collect cards made since 1957.

Minor league sets used to cost about $5 for a set of about 30 cards and now are $8 to 10. If the set had a star like Thome or Ramirez the price may have jumped to $50 or more. So, if I didn't get the set when it first came out, it would be too expensive now if it contained a star. If it didn't have a star, the price would be the same or even lower. A lot of minor league cards are of players that never got anywhere near to making the big leagues. I thought a long time about trading my minor league sets. Some days I was ready and others I wasn't sure, but finally I made a large trade with "Baseball Dad" for over 400 recent cards and now I am certain: no more minor league cards for me! That means no minor league sets. But it also means no "rookie" cards of players who never played for Cleveland, either because they never made it to the majors or they were with some other team when they finally made it.

Since I follow the Indians, I want my cards to show the players in a Cleveland uniform. If he has been recently traded to the Tribe, but is still wearing his old team's uniform, I don't want the card. Or, if he is wearing a minor league uniform, he doesn't make the cut. But, if he has been traded by the Indians to another team and is in a Cleveland uniform and the card has the new team's logo, still no good.

Some players get traded to Cleveland in the fall after the season has ended and are gone by the start of the next season, thus never playing a game for the team. Sometimes cards come out with the player in an Indian's uniform. These are not for me. If a player hasn't played a single game for Cleveland, why would I want his card?

I have also started applying several other criteria that don't necessarily have rational arguments associated with them other than the aesthetic look of the cards. I dislike multi-player cards - one card, one player. I especially don't want team cards where "you can't tell the players without a microscope." I prefer the player on a card to be in uniform rather than in street clothes or the uniform of another sport. I know baseball is a game, but I don't want a card of a player with bubble gum on his head, wearing a rally cap, taking a photo or helping his young son swing a plastic fat bat.

I prefer cards that have a vertical orientation, but I have not been able to convince myself to get rid of all my horizontally oriented cards. Some sets are entirely horizontal and I can't bring myself to part with them.

Even eliminating all the cards that don't qualify for my new collecting standards, there are plenty of cards that I am looking for and there will always be plenty of new ones being produced by the manufacturers. My new philosophy is to look at each card more critically to see what makes it interesting to me and why it should be in my collection. Then, flipping through the pages of my collection will be even more enjoyable than ever.

I have a few more thoughts on my philosophy of collecting, but they will have to wait for another post.


  1. What an incredible evaluation process! This was entertaining and very informative. I am hoping that one day, I will also take a long hard look and decide exactly what Tribe cards I am collecting. As for now, though, my goal is at least one 'type' of every Tribe card. :-)

  2. The Cleveland Indians should be always competitive enough to keep pace with the others. I really like them; they’ve always been my favourite teams in MLB.Just read about them here: